A closing thought.

July 7, 2009

Thanks to the Boston Globe and a mortifying amount of attention from BC about the article, a closing entry to this blog has become essential.

First of all, I want everyone to know who is coming to this website that these notes and observations were nothing more than passing thoughts that I chose to put down. I did not mean to offend anyone with any of the comments I made and I certainly do not think any of the conclusions I came to are permanent- my mind is as open (if not more so) than ever. Greece (and all of the other places I was lucky enough to travel to) will always have a special place in my memory and the second I have the chance to go back- I will.

Next I think it is important for me to take a little bit of time to thank the people who made my experience possible. To my parents, who have footed the bill for 21 years of my life, not to mention given me this expensive passion of travel in the first place, I love you and I hope that one day I will be able to send you both around the world at MY expense. You have been nothing but supportive of every adventure I’ve ever had and I will never be able to repay you. To the study abroad staff at ACT, most importantly Kate Diedrick and Stepan: you guys made the experience of ALL the students in our program positive. I can’t imagine those four months without all of the trips and activities the two of you organized- so thank you and please just know how much we all appreciated all your hard work. Of course also the OIP staff at BC and my advisor Christina at BC- the transition to Greece was made so easily thanks to your efforts and I always knew if I needed anything you would be easy to get a hold of.

Last but not least of course I need to appreciate all the amazing people I was lucky enough to meet at school, around Thessaloniki, in hostels and bars, on airplanes and in stores: each one of you helped make my time so perfect. Honestly, there isn’t a day that has gone by since I’ve been back in the States that I haven’t wished I was back in Thessaloniki. I hope I am lucky enough to get back sooner rather than later.

“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” -Miriam Beard

The Greek/Turkish tension is one of the cultural issues I noticed right away when I first arrived, so I wondered how my Greek classmates would respond when I informed my teachers that I would be missing their classes on Friday to go to Istanbul.  One reaction in particular both amused and surprised me.  One of my most vocal fellow students (who uses the phrase “malaka” (Greek for asshole) every time he has something to say about the Turks),said to me “Allie, I won’t lie to you.  You know I don’t like the Turks, but my family is from Istanbul.  It is a HUGE, dirty city, but it is amazing- and you will have an amazing time.”

And we did.  Everything about it surprised me.  The food was unbelievable.  (I’m pretty sure every time we sat down at a restaurant I ordered the Turkish meze plate- which is like a sampler of vegetables, dips, and vine leaves- and I was never dissapointed.)  The people were friendly too, though the men were comparably aggressive to those in Cairo.  Traveling the first day with ten girls and only one boy didn’t help.  If my friend had a euro for every man that called him a “sultan” this weekend or told him he was “being selfish” and that he should “share with them,”  he’d be really freaking rich.

We took the overnight train from Thessaloniki to Istanbul on Thursday night.  It left at 7pm and with the exception of the hours between 2:45 am and 4:30 am where they banged on our doors every other second, it was quite pleasant.  When we reached the Greek/Turkish border we had to hand over our passports first to be stamped out of Greece, and then again to be stamped into Turkey.  The most amusing part was when a man in a full doctor-esque scrub suit (masque and all) came to the door asking if we had swine flu.  We also spent a glorious half hour shivering in our pajamas waiting to purchase our Turkish visas  (a bargain at 15 euro, the poor Canadians next to us had to pay 45!).

We arrived around 9:30am on Friday and spent the day wandering the Grand Bazaar, scaring the two other boys that were stuck in the 13 person room with all of us, taking in the Agia Sofia and the Blue Mosque (which were only a 3 minute walk from our hostel) and eating a lot of awesome food.

The Grand Bazaar: "Let me help you spend your money!"

The Grand Bazaar: "Let me help you spend your money!"

Some of the funniest things said to us throughout our time in this underground maze of shops included: “Let me help you to buy things you don’t need.”  “Hey look, it’s the spice girls!”  “You were in my dreams last night!”  “I give you a good price because you are so beautiful”  “I sold goat’s neck fur to Laura Bush”  (He really did, he had a picture? Weird?)  “Everything here is almost free!”  “Charlie’s Angels!”  “Hey Sultan, why are you so selfish, why don’t you give one to me?”

Our responses got more and more ludicrous as the day went on.  We were finally lying when people asked where we were from depending on our mood-  I chose Australian most often and there was one particularly entertaining span of ten minutes when Lizzy had a man actually convinced her and our friend Taki were married and from Birmingham, England.  It was interesting to see how no one’s first guess was ever that we were American.  I got Dutch a LOT which was appropriate I suppose, but if they heard us speaking English well they always guessed Australian or English- It seemed absurd to them that American kids would come to Istanbul for fun.  There really were tons of tourists throughout the city so I guess it just isn’t somewhere frequented by Americans ever.

The bartering in the Bazaar was addicting.  I almost bought several scarves (even after buying about 10 in Cairo for much less) just because it was so fun driving the price down and even as I would walk away having the store owners shout lower and lower prices at me.  I did pick up the one thing I really wanted for myself though, the traditional evil eye bracelet.  It is supposed to protect the wearer from the evil eye or ‘bad vibes’ as one store owner described it to me.

The next two days we spent exploring the Blue Mosque (which was really cool, but not quite blue and not as cool as the Hussien mosque at the citadel in Cairo- probably partially due to how many tourists there were inside), Agia Sofia, and taking a boat tour of the Bosporus (and walking on Asia!).  We even managed to get out to a club on Friday night and had our fair share of lying on pillows outside smoking traditional sheesha (flavored tabacco smoked from a water pipe- just like hookah in the states).

My favorite touristy landmark was easily the Agia Sofia.  We were mesmerized by the grandeur of it from the oustide only to go in and discover even more amazing things.  When this massive church (built between 532 and 537) was converted into a mosque in 1453 all of the elaborate Orthodox mosaics and decorations were covered in plaster and replaced with Islamic writing, drawings and decor.  Since it was turned into a museum in 1935 the mosaics have been uncovered and the Islamic parts of the building left in place- so the two faiths sit right next to each other in this magnificent building. There is no way to describe how moving seeing them next to each other was.  The two faiths that have caused more trouble with each other over their history than all the other religions (in my opinion anywas) there, together, at peace in that amazing building- bah, I hope everyone that walks in there had the time to take note of it.

Inside Ayasofia: Mary right next to some Arabic. No Big Deal.

Inside Ayasofia: Mary right next to some Arabic. No Big Deal.

More inside Ayasofia

More inside Ayasofia

Our experiences in Agia Sofia (which I am spelling in the Greek fashion, in English I think it is Hagia Sophia and in Turkish it is Ayasofia) was made all the more amusing when a gaggle of five young (maybe 10 year old) boys came up to my two friends Jen, Cara and me and oo-ed and aw-ed over our foreign-ess.  One even exclaimed “LOok! A MODEL!”  (They start them young over there it seems- though I will never be opposed to being referred to as a model I guess)  Taki, our protector/evil instigator in this case, offered to the boys to take their photograph with us so somewhere in Istanbul five very happy young boys very may well have a picture of some American girls they saw in Ayasofia on their computers/on their walls?!  Haha.

Anyways I haven’t updated this in forever so I figured I should get to it as soon as possible.  I need to go get some schoolwork done now though so I’ll try to write more later but if not, enjoy the pictures!

My mother is a nag!

April 29, 2009

I’ve been given quite a bit of grief over not updating this thing often enough… so I figure I better get down to it and talk about my ACTUAL Spring Break as soon as possible (especially considering I leave on another adventure in 48 hours to Mykonos with the school!)

The break began, as tradition now seems to require, in the Athens airport on Friday night.  On Saturday morning Mom got on her 6:00am flight to the good ole’ US of A and Lizzy and I boarded our flight to Munich (final destination: Madrid).  To be frank, it was the choppiest flight I’ve been on in years and I’m not sure which one of us left more nail marks in the other’s hand.

Two planes, six hours, and one very messy gate-mix up later, we arrived in the Madrid airport.  It is always refreshing for me to see the latin alphabet now, no matter what language it is garbled into, I still find some comfort in naturally knowing what the letters sound like!  Since we were attempting to budget ourselves still at this point, we took the metro downtown to our hostel for the first night.  We promptly fell straight into our bunkbeds and slept for the next four hours (when we say we slept at the Athens Airport the night before- it’s really more like we spent the night- there was very little sleeping involved in the process).

One of my best friends from Boston, MB, and one of Lizzy’s best friends, Alex, are both studying in Madrid for the semester (hence the extended visit).  The girls picked us up outside of our hostel around 6pm that evening and gave us a walking tour of Grand Via, Plaza Mayor and eventually we ended up at a fantastic restaurant in Cheuca, one of the more alternative/young districts of the city.  I certainly can understand how these girls, who are both living with Spanish families while they are here, have become slightly sick of Spanish food, but for me on my first night- it was fantastic.  Other BC-in-Madrid-ers joined us for dinner and over several bottles of wine, lots of croquettes (pardon my spelling), salads, and lots of ham we debated all the pros and cons of being abroad, what we miss most about home, and what we will miss the most once we leave.  The things we will miss certainly outweighed the things we won’t miss- though it was so refreshing for me to be surrounded by people I truly had something distinct in common with.  I have a nagging feeling that for the rest of my life I will always be able to have abnormally long conversations with fellow BC alums, strangers or not.  That night we stopped at a few different bars before making our way to Madrid’s famous Teatro Kapital which is a seven (!!!!!) story club with a roof deck complete with palm trees.  It was overwhelming but wholly enjoying.  I am proud to say I didn’t leave Kapital until 6:15 am Sunday morning (dancing counts as exercise, right?) because when in Spain, eh?

The next day Lizzy and I switched hostels (five nights in a row is a difficult thing to achieve so we had to settle for one and four) at the obscenely early hour of 10am.  We found out that our new hostel, located seconds from the Cheuca metro stop, was actually doubling as a dormitory/residence for study abroad students.  One of my friends from BC, Jenna, was actually living the floor above us (which we did not discover until the second day!).  It was Sunday so most stores and restaurants were closed so we took advantage and did some more sleeping before meeting up with Alex and MB again for more wandering around Madrid.  This time we saw the outside of the Palace, the Banco de Espana and parts of Parque de El Retiro.  We bravely attempted one of their favorite lounges that night but found we were just too exhausted from the day before to keep our eyes open any longer.

The Palace!

The Palace!

Monday found the four of us on a rowboat in the middle of the lake at Parque de El Retiro for about four and a half hours (we paid for one and a half hours, teehee).  It will go down in my memory as one of the most enjoyable days of my time abroad, hell, even in my life!  The weather was spectacular, 75 degrees and not a cloud in the sky.

MB and me having a good laugh on the lake

MB and me having a good laugh on the lake

ARGH I just finished this entire post and it went and deleted itself so pardon me if this next update is a little late in coming.

No words.

April 25, 2009

Every single person that I talked to about going abroad before I left said the same thing, “You’re going to have the most amazing time/It’s going to change your life/It will be the best months of your life.”  Having been priviledged enough to study abroad in Paris for a summer before, along with my experiences traveling with my family when I was in high school- I took all of these comments with a grain of salt.  I knew I loved Europe and experiencing new cultures, but even a few weeks into my program here I couldn’t quite imagine my entire life being changed by this experience.

Alas, I have to eat those words.  Though, to be fair, I didn’t even know a person could be THIS happy.  I didn’t know it was possible to be this excited and at peace at the same time.

That being said, I should talk about my spring break.  And as soon as I finish with this post, I promise I will get to work on updating on the last month or so that is absent from the blog.

I can’t believe it is almost May.  I feel like YESTERDAY was April 1st.  The last day I was in classes at ACT feels like a decade ago (and in a way- it sort of was, it was April 7th!).  Spring break for me started pretty much when Mom arrived on the 5th in Athens.  Christine was still in town for the night so the two of us got to live in the lap of luxury for the night at the Hilton in Athens.  It was literally the best shower I’ve had in three months!  That night after getting lost trying to find an open restaurant on a Sunday (always a bit of a challenge)  we gave up and ended up pigging out at the hotel buffet, which was AMAZING.  The next morning Christine left and Mom and I journeyed on to Delphi in the POURING rain.

Now when I say pouring rain I’m not sure if it adequately gets my point across.  Not only were the sheets of rain soaking through my ever-so-inappropriate $10 flats from target- I had no umbrella. Thankfully mom had the foresight to at least bring a rain jacket, so we ended up sharing it between the two of us as we wandered some of the most famous (not to mention beautiful) ruins in Greece.  The rain ended up making everything even more amazing to look at though I think, when I could forget about my numb feet, you could see how vibrantly green the rain made the surrounding wildlife.

A moment with no rain!

A moment with no rain!

This doesn't really need a caption, haha.

This doesn't really need a caption, haha.

The ruins of the altar at Delphi

The ruins of the altar at Delphi

After surviving the HORRENDOUS night train back to Thessaloniki, I went to my one an only day of classes in the last three weeks and Mom wandered along the boardwalk (she even navigated the bus system on her own!) .  The rest of the week we filled with two trips to one of the Halkidiki beaches, a visit to the Museum of Byzantine Culture (which was AWESOME) and best of all a trip to the top of the White Tower (which had an awesome museum about the history of Thessaloniki in it) to take advantage of the extremely nice weather.  Our trip to Kalikratika (the beach town) was probably the most notable, we were the only people in the entire town that wasn’t donning a leather or fur coat (in 65/70 degree SUNNY weather? …your guess is as good as mine).  We ended up going to a really fantastic taverna though and picking our own fresh fish out for the meal.  It was the perfect week to start my break and I still feel lucky every day that I have such fantastic parents that have given all off these amazing opportunities.  I only wish Emily and Dad could have been there also!

My cityyyyy.

My cityyyyy.

At the top of the White Tower with Mom.  East side of the city in the background (my side!)

At the top of the White Tower with Mom. East side of the city in the background (my side!)

YUM

YUM

Sunset at the harbor

Sunset at the harbor

Prahahaha

April 8, 2009

The wall. We wrote on it, obviously.

The wall. We wrote on it, obviously.

The Main Square, view from the clock tower

The Main Square, view from the clock tower

The castle and the charles bridge!

The castle and the charles bridge!

Figure on the Charles Bridge

Figure on the Charles Bridge

Eagles Take Action

Eagles Take Action

img_0472

I should have learned this lesson in like the 4th grade with keeping a journal, write it down right away or you’re going to forget. But I’m going to do my best!

So Friday afternoon we trekked with Nana (our tourguide) over to the Egyptian Museum.  It holds probably the most impressive collection of artifacts I’ve ever seen, but on the whole I was a little dissapointed with the museum.  If we hadn’t had Nana telling us what everything was and guiding us through the maze of rooms- I would have had no cluse what was going on.  It’s a museum that is in desperate need of a rennovation and some technology.  We joked that it’s probably been planned for the near future, which to the Egyptians could be anywhere from five to 200 years from now.

The coolest things we got to see were all the parts of Tutenkamen’s tomb.  I really have no idea if I’m spelling that right though so just deal with it.  I wish I could have taken my camerica into the museum because it’s hard to put words to express how impressive some of this stuff was.  I had JUST wrapped my mind around all of the old stuff in Greece.  After Vergina I was finally starting to comprehend the age of the area here in Macedonian, and now I go to Egypt and literally cannot comprehend how they did this stuff that many thousands of years ago.  The history of that city, the country and the culture is beyond anything my tiny little brain can absorb.

After the museum they took us back to Khan el-Kalili and we spent some time talking with Nana over coffee.  We braved the market and it’s abrasive salesmen long enough to buy another 82 scarves each (at less than 2 dollars for each, can you blame me? in the states the SAME EXACT THING would be at least 19.99).  We parted ways with our driver and Nana when they dropped us off at our new home (Hostel Brothers Cairo- find it on hostelworld.com- it was great, I’d definitely recommend it).  That evening we made getting shwarma and falafel our goals, which was made inifinitely easier by the AMAZING chain right around the corner from our place.  We stuffed our faces and joined what seemed like every other person in Cairo in walking around with an ice cream cone for the rest of the evening.

Saturday morning found the three of us with VERY sore legs eating our hot-dog-bun-free-breakfast at the hostel.  We met two girls flying solo through the city for the day and decided to show them our superior bargaining skills back at Khan el-Kalili (yes that is our third trip there- the girls went once more on Sunday morning haha- I couldn’t bring myself to do it.)  We had a great time wandering around and finally collapsed back at the main square for some lunch and sheesha (hookah/water pipe).  The other girls had to get back to catch a flight so the three of us stuck around a bit longer and then made our way over to the Citadel of Cairo. 

Being ignorant foreigners, we paid a bit too much for the cab and completely ran out of Egyptian pounds for the entry fee- but the trading money with sketchy men in shop stalls was worth it.  The citadel is on the Eastern side of the city (if my internal compass remembers correctly) and has an amazing view of the whole metropolis.  We could even see the pyramids through the smog in the distance.  We got a chance to go into the Mosque of Muhammad Ali (one of three I think in the citadel) and it was amazing.  Even though I’m a less-than-religious person (to put it mildly) I’ve always loved places of worship- and I’m pretty sure this was my favorite so far.  Giant ornate cathedrals like Notre Dame and the Duomo in Milan are always impressive with their vaulted ceilings and colorful stained glass windows- but I have never felt more spiritual or connected to a ‘divine’ presence than I did in this mosque.  Iit was a combination of the beautiful outdoor section with its amazing peeling paint texture, the sitting on the floor inside and the simplicity of the decor that made me feel so in awe and at peace.

We explored around the citadel for the rest of the afternoon, laughing at the macho displays outside of the Military Museum and the Police Museum.  It took us a bit longer to find a taxi back and once we finally did it was still another hour home because of all the lovely Cairo traffic.  We pit stopped at the hostel and then rushed to the Nile (only like an eight minute walk) to catch a Felucca ride out onto the water for the sunset.  We were the only foriegners on the boat (that was FULL of young people and loud music haha) and it was hilarious watching them dance and laugh (and stare at us).  I don’t think I spent quite enough time appreciating the fact that i was sailing on THE NILE only the most famous river perhaps in history.  Sigh.

That night we made it our mission to find the kosheri place from the first night agian- which turned out to be much easier than we expected.  We even found Muhammad Ali’s and, despite the 5 EGP massive bowl of kosheri only ten minutes before (that I had eaten in about five), I managed to fit three more glasses of juice into my stomach.  We rolled ourselves back to the hostel and were lazy until I got a call from Jessie to meet up with her in the circle down the street from our hostel.  Jeni and Deirdre decided to stay in so Jessie and I went to her favorite open air sheesha place and got to catch up on the last two months of our lives. 

I got home in time to get a few hours of sleep before the girls roused me for breakfast.  We made big moves and only had one of our two hot dog rolls for breakfast since we were planning a grand farewell to egyptian food for lunch before our flight.  The girls went to Khan el-Kalili and I went to sun myself outside of the Egyptian museum which was glorious.  We ate our weight in falafel and shwarma around the corner from our hostel and then bartered our way to the airport.

I was sad to leave, but excited to get back to Thess and clean(er) air.  You know how sometimes you just know things?  I know I’ll go back.  (and hopefully next time as not quite such an obvious tourist). 

Pictures to come this evening when I’m home!

I hardly know where to begin.  Deirdre, Jeni and I had been talking about this trip for so long that by the time it finally arrived it felt very much like a dream.  Our flight left Thessaloniki at 9 am on Thursday and we had a glorious two hour layover in Athens.  (Which, if you’ve noticed a trend yet- involved the McCafe and our one-euro cappuccinos)  It was my second trip on Aegean Airlines and I am still thrilled with them, the cookie they give out on the 50 minute short-hop from Thess to Athens was basically heaven in 500 calories.  (I talk about food too much I think).  The flight was smooth and gave us a spectacular view of the blue, blue Med.  When we finally saw land I got the chills, I’ve been all over Europe but FINALLY I got another continent under my belt.  I already can’t wait to go back.

Arriving in Cairo was overwhelming, as I expected.  We had to purchase our visas there for about $15 USD and then hop on the customs line.  I won’t lie, the visa looks pretty cool all stamped up in my passport.  We were immediately pegged as foreigners and had no trouble finding a cab- although our haggling skills were severely limited at first and paid far too much for the trip (75 EGP- which is about 14 USD- most people pay no more than 50 EGP for the trip).  Still, we were relieved to be in a car and on our way.

My first impression of the city (from our flight over it) didn’t change during that cab ride.  Cairo is dirty.  By far the dirtiest place I’ve ever been.  Jessie swears she heard somewhere that a day of breathing the air in Cairo is equivalent to smoking half a pack of cigarettes.  The smog was unbelievable.  Not to mention I’m coming from Greece where clean air/handling pollution is not exactly their specialty, and I was still stunned by how bad it was.

Our cab turned out to be worth the extra change.  Our driver had pretty decent english and explained to us all the things we were passing.  As we drove down one of the cities nicest boulevards we began noticing police officers standing every thirty feet.  Normally I am not so easily intimidated, but I was relieved when our driver explained that this was the street of President Mubarak’s house, hence the extra guard.

We arrived at the hotel expedia had gotten Deirdre “for free” only to have our fears confirmed, nothing in life is free of course.  Expedia had messed up the booking and only done it for one person so we forked the extra cash over for another room for Jeni and me.  We dropped our bags and relaxed just long enough to work up the courage to go back outside.  Throughout this time I had been trying to get a call through to Jessie Sobrino (one of my best friends from BC who is studying at the American University in Cairo for the semester) without success.  We wandered down our street to the Nile (the NILE!!!!! … I still can’t believe it) and just as we were crossing the bridge and wondering what to do next, Jessie finally got through.  Turns out we had been trying to call each other the whole afternoon without any success- for the rest of the weekend too it seemed like one in three calls went through.

After getting slightly lost we met up with Jessie and some of her family members that were visiting the same weekend outside of the Egyptian Museum.  Her friend Mark joined her in showing us hopeless Americans (and Peurto Ricans- her family) around the some of the main areas downtown.  First we cabbed it to Khan el-Kalili market- the largest in Cairo- and got a tour of the most popular parts of the market.  More on that later though.  Eventually we made it back closer to the museum and were delivered by Jessie and Mark to the GREATEST FOOD EXPERIENCE I HAVE HAD ABROAD also known as kosheri.  It’s a pretty classic Egyptian meal that is death by carbs- rice, two kinds of pasta, grains, fried onions, tomato sauce and a special spicier sauce if you’re adventurous.  I have never been so happy in my whole life (mild exxageration).  Afterwards, for the perfect dessert, Mark took us to their favorite juice bar (see photos) down the street.  Over the weekend I had six glasses of the Muhammad Ali special (which changes every day- it has whatever fruit the mixer feels like putting into it) and it never failed me once.  Around the corner from Muhammad Ali’s was the bar the study abroad kids usually frequent with 10 EGP big bottles of Stella and a very international crowd.  After a beer each we decided to crash early after a long day and thanked Jessie and Mark excessively.

Jeni and Deirdre and KOSHERI awesomeness

Jeni and Deirdre and KOSHERI awesomeness

Drinking our Muhammad Ali specials

Drinking our Muhammad Ali specials

For the next day we booked a tour online through the same company as the one I did in Milan. We  got ourselves to breakfast by 8am and downstairs waiting for the car by 9.  Again, we were immeasurably satisfied.  The woman who was our tourguide was not only knowledgeable and gave great advice about the city- she was just REALLY nice and open.  It turned out to be a private (!!!) tour so she learned our names and offered a thousand times to take pictures of us with all the sights, we even discussed boyfriends at one point.  (All three of us did a double take when she said, “Why would I want a boyfriend, I want a husband!”)

Jeni, Me, Deirdre

Jeni, Me, DeirdreSphinx and Pyramid #2 🙂

Our first stop was Giza to see the pyramids.  Thinking back on this memory, it still doesn’t feel quite real.  After wandering around the outsides, we got to go inside the second pyramid since rooms in the ‘Great’ pyramid are closed.  I wish I could have brought my camera in, it was SO creepy.  The title of this post of course comes from Jeni,  who  yelled it back to me when we were stooped completely over crawling down the tunnel to chamber where the tomb was kept.  It’s true though, being buried under thousands of tons of rock in sweltering heat is NOT my idea of a satisfying final resting place.  Our driver and tour guide then took us  to the classic scenic view  of the three pyramids  about a mile away.  While we were there, the three of us just kept looking at each other and asking “is this real?”  After having grown up learning about the pyramids (and being terrified of them, thanks Sesame Street and Bert and Ernie’s adventure inside one with mummies!) for as long as I can remember, seeing them in person/being able to TOUCH them was beyond surreal.

Token tourist picture!

Token tourist picture!

Our next stop was a perfumerie (spelling?) where the Egyptians brag about selling all the ‘essential oils’ of flowers/fruits/etc to France where they are mixed together and repackaged under fancy designer names.  I won’t lie though, the stuff did smell good.  We also pit-stopped at a papyrus store where they showed us how it’s actually made- pretty freakin cool if you ask me, Deirdre kept joking ‘I NEVER WOULD HAVE THOUGHT OF THIS’… haha.

Alright more to come but I have to go get stuff done!

Makrynitsa

March 11, 2009

Makrynitsa SignThe village of Makrynitsa is located about 12 km from Volos.  This 12km took our bus, however, over a half an hour thanks to the narrow roads (whose edges were hardly feet from rather steep cliffs).

The town was well worth the wait.  Our bus dropped us off about a km from the center, since no vehicle traffic is allowed in or out, and we walked the rest of the way with our bags with someone stopping practically every other foot to take a picture of this new, magnificent view.  Every street in Mkrynitsa was paved in cobblestones (often quite UNEVEN cobble stones, my feet were killing me the next day).  There were paths that ran up and down the hillside in all directions.  I explored with a small group for almost the entire evening.

The stones were as uneven as they look

The stones were as uneven as they look

We actually ended up eating at the taverna you can see the tables of in this photo ^.  I shared dishes with a friend of mine and both were unbelievable.  Lamb with pasta, tomato sauce and cheese along with veal, potatoes, carrots, and cheese.  (Cheese is really in everything here I don’t know why I bother listing it)  YUM.  We then raided the kiosk of all of its amstel and went to go hang out on the boys’ hotel porch, which had the most unbelievable view of the night sky.

The view :)

The view 🙂

The girls!

The girls!

After crashing early, Jeni and I woke up to watch the sunrise over the mountains.

Sunrise

Sunrise

All around the village there are fresh water fountains that are rumored to spout water that makes the drinker immortal.  Naturally, we were all interested in immortality so everyone tried it.  I even bottled some to take home as an insurance policy,  haha.

This nalgene is currently in my fridge- I'm thinking a sip every day will keep the doctor away?

This nalgene is currently in my fridge- I'm thinking a sip every day will keep the doctor away?

The rest of the day we spent re-exploring, shopping at the small stores (renowned for their spices- which of course I had to try) and visiting the folklore museum of the town.

"downtown" ha

"downtown" ha

All in all it was a beautiful, relaxing weekend- being immortal now is only a plus.  We hopped on the bus in time to make it back by sunset to Thess, stopping for gyros along the way (which I should devote an entire post to because they are SO AMAZING).

Egypt tomorrow. THAT will be some entry.  It’ll probably take me at least six.  Cheers!

Volos/Mt. Pilio

March 10, 2009

If this is a dream, I would like not to wake up from it.

Last week was fantastic.  I decided to take Greek pass/fail, a great bar called Dogs hosted a ‘Spring Party’ for ACT students on Wednesday night that was amazing, and we figured out how to go to the movies here!  Then on Saturday morning I got myself up unusually early (8am, gasp!) to get on a bus with about 35 other study abroad students to drive south about three hours to a town called Volos.

Me, Jeni, Sarah, Deirdre, Jenna

Me, Jeni, Sarah, Deirdre, Jenna

Volos in many ways was like a small Thessaloniki, it’s waterfront was actually a great deal more modern but it provided the same kind of function as ours here.  In ancient times Volos was supposedly where Jason left on the Argo for his quest for the Golden Fleece.  The city is in the providence of Thessaly, which over the years has provided to be one of the richest areas in the world for Paleolithic age artifact discoveries.  We went to the Archeological museum of Volos which was pretty interesting (though I won’t lie- once you have seen more than one archeological museum, you’ve seen stuff that looks pretty much all the same).  My favorite part was definitely the pottery from the later ages, I really want to buy a nice replica before I leave, I love the geometric patterns.I want the top one!

Afterward we had some free time for lunch and wandering the waterfront.  Since food is ALWAYS our first priority we sat down right away at a taverna and ordered the usual, greek salads and tstasiki (still not sure if im spelling that right) among other things.  Now Daphne (my art appreciation teacher- the class i have a TEST in today actually- and our tour guide for the weekend) had told us of course Volos is a port city so check out the seafood.  Jacquie, another Boston friend- she goes to Babson, and I decided to be adventurous and ordered a fish called Dorado (I still have no clue what kind of fish it was.)  After waiting a half hour longer than everyone else for our food (we decided they must be catching it fresh) we were rewarded when it came out on a bed of lettuce, completely whole (but grilled!).  Though the eyeballs (and erm, teeth) freak some people out- including many of the girls at our table- we both agreed that sometimes it’s nice to eat something whole.  I know exactly where it’s coming from/what it is/there are no artificial ingredients/etc etc.  Plus, it was DELICIOUS.

Jacquie and I and our (finished) Dorado- Note the bones! haha

Jacquie and I and our (finished) Dorado- Note the bones! haha

The rest of the afternoon we spent walking the boardwalk.  There was a pier that stretched all the way out to the center of the gulf with the most breathtaking view of the city and the mountains behind it.  I can’t really describe how beautiful it was with words, so I’ll just let the pictures try to do that!We found this graffiti on the pier. Perfect huh?

The girls on the pier

The girls on the pier

In heaven

In heaven

A mini version of Thessaloniki's waterfront!  (With better blue water!)

A mini version of Thessaloniki's waterfront! (With better blue water!)

Next up: That night/next day in Makrynitsa!