Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Waning Days of Greece: Santorini and Farewell to Athens

So due to the horrible act of procrastination, I have yet to tell you about, or show you pictures from my school-led trip to Northern Greece (Delphi, Meteora, Thessoloniki, and a handful of other locations). It was an amazing trip, and I promise that someday I will tell you all about it. However, if I don’t move on with my life, you’ll never know any of it.

The first of these exciting adventures is Santorini: home of the epic volcano of about 1600 BC which wiped out the Minoan civilization and sent tsunamis halfway across the world. Half of the huge island sank into the ocean, creating the fable of Atlantis, leaving beautiful stratified cliffs along the western half of the island. I went with a few friends and met up with some others in our hostel in Fira (Thira). Decided to rent a car to tour the island and ventured to the black sand beaches, white sand beach, and Red beach (which had huge red cliffs behind the beach and crystal clear water). One of the days, we took a one-day cruise on a motorized sailboat to the mini-island in the middle of the caldera which held the creators of the volcano (which we hiked down into). It then brought us to another little island in the middle of the caldera where we jumped out into the middle of the sea and swam up an inlet where there were hot springs of vibrant yellow sulfur. Then we stopped at a little town on another island for lunch and back to port for the evening. Santorini, or specifically Oia (Ia) is the stereotypical Greece of the imagination: white-washed buildings interspersed with bright blue domes of churches overlooking the beautiful Aegean Sea. We ended up going to this town (where Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was filmed) for the infamous sunset and a nice dinner to end the 4 day weekend. We stumbled on a great bookshop run by a few young American ex-pats who, in addition to smoking at a cluttered desk including a mug of scotch, invited us to dinner for their extra borscht. Had I been with less people, I would have gladly taken them up on their offer for some fun conversations that were bound to be sophisticated and intellectual. But, alas, we were stuck petting their little puppy and browsing the amazing collection of used books which were scattered around on the homemade shelves inside the tree-house-looking room. Everybody left that shop with a calm and content attitude about life and our vacation, to go with whatever item we purchased (I got the Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver in French (Les Yeux dans les Arbres) to help me improve before going back to la France.) We then finished off the trip the next day with a memorable ride up the side of the cliff in Fira—on a donkey.

Going to Santorini was a nice way to go out with a bang, because as soon as we got back to Athens, it was back to the books. Exams were even closer than around the corner, and I had quite a bit of studying to do on top of planning my trip with Tenaya and saying goodbye to all of my friends and Athenian landmarks. Luckily, I made it through. Picked Tenaya up from the airport, toured her around for a bit, and then went to the CYA farewell dinner. It was reminiscent of a high school dance: everybody was dolled up and running around taking pictures like they hadn’t seen each other in years, or were trying to fit in as many pictures before they all left… understandable. However, it was really weird saying good bye to all of these people that I realistically know that I will most likely not see again.

Overall, I am really glad I chose to study abroad in Greece. Not only did I gain exposure to another culture, it was one that I probably would not have explored on my own. By studying in Greece, I was able to get a taste of Europe, but see where it mixed with the eastern influences, and witness the results of ancient history firsthand. On the bright side, I was here during a historical turning point, not only for Greece itself, but also for Europe. The political and economic reforms which are taking place in Greece will soon be sweeping the EU. Even though I did not get much personal exposure with the Greeks (other than a bit at marble carving), I made many American friends who I would like to stay in touch with in the future.

Sorry for the extremely long blog, but I had to kind of tie things up a bit. Soon, I’ll try to post more about our Northern Greece trip, since it was so beautiful and I learned so much. However, from here on out, I will be sharing this blog with my lovely sister Tenaya in our travels and conquests around Europe.

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