I never thought I would see so much of Athens! I had spent one day in Athens when I was 13 but I hadn’t seen much other than the Acropolis. Going back to the Acropolis almost 7 years later and I saw a complete change in the ancient buildings. The temple of Athena was completely different as well as the Theaters. It added a beauty that I did not appreciate as a teenager. Then seeing how much the Greek people loved their country was astonishing too. Men willingly join the Military and wear frilly little dresses and stomp around with such honor and dignity. I showed photos and video to my mother and she said that she could not believe that these men let themselves be recorded in their uniforms let alone get photographed. Watching the changing of the guard these men stomped and strutted with such detail that I could not believe it. They stepped very harshly on their left legs that I almost think that the soldiers must have really strong left calves. Of course not all the Greeks were perfect country loving soldiers. Being a kid no one expects to sell anything to you so they leave you alone. Of course being the adult I am I got harassed to buy things and even had a man grab my arm and force a bracelet onto me even though I told him that I didn’t have any money. It was trying and a little annoying to say ohee, no thank you, or even a get away from me over and over again. But even the souvenir pushers didn’t prevent me from buying amazing things that I could not buy in the US. Out of everything that I bought in Greece, my favorite thing were the two pairs of Poet sandals I had made. One pair looked very Ancient Hellanic while the other has a modern twist and even a flower on it. I have worn them nonstop since I’ve gotten home and they have become my go to shoes for everything. They are so well fit and seeing them being changed just to fit my own feet made them all that special. No one else not only in the group or the US but even in existence will have the same sandals that I own right now. I just had to get more than one pair they were so cute and unique. I wish I could live there nonstop.
Traveling to Greece was a once in a life time opportunity, and I absolutely loved every minute of it. It was interesting and exciting to experience another culture, especially one that is so different from the United States.
The place that impacted me the most and the one that I enjoyed the most was the Greek island Agistri. Agistri is a small island that not many tourists know of and it is probably one that is not visited as frequently. However, I loved it as well as the ferry ride to get there. I had never been on a ferry ride and my preconceived notions of it made me think that it was going to be terrible and miserable. This was not the case at all. We each had our own seats and we were lucky enough to sit in a secluded area with just enough seats for our group. I had so much fun sailing pass several of the islands and taking in all of the scenery. Taking the ferry was definitely an experience of its own.
When we reached Agistri the first thing that I noticed was how clear and clean the water was. At first the island seemed deserted because we hardly passed anyone as we walked through the streets. However, after talking with a local I learned how small the island and population really was. I was told that there was only about ten cafes and ten restaurants on the whole island; you could practically see all the way across the island no matter where you are. What I learned was not to let the size of the island impact how great my experience would be. Although Agistri did not have as many historical or tourist attractions as other islands did, the island was still beautiful and was exactly what I was looking for. I got to enjoy lunch right next to the beach, and after that I got to relax on the beach. The beach was so different from the ones that I have visited in the United States. The sand was clean, the water was extremely clean, clear, and cool, and there were not a lot of people on the beach. It was so peaceful and calm. It was relaxing to just sit there and listen to the waves. There was something about that island, and I don’t know what it was, but I left feeling so refreshed and relaxed. I was happy with my decision to spend the day on Agistri Island.
One characteristic seemed to be consistent with several local Greeks that I encountered, and that was friendliness. I honestly was a little scared of interacting with local Greeks, but the ones that I got to talk to were really friendly and loved talking. They were so willing and in fact excited to exchange stories and experiences between our different cultures. On different occasions I noticed that the locals that we had encountered were really excited to see us multiple times. During my stay in Athens we went to one restaurant called Maidrano’s at least four different times and each time the seating host was so excited to see us. He would always ask how we were and how our day was. On the outside looking in it would seem as if we were long-time friends, but that was just his personality and he was like that with all of his customers. His personality was part of the reason why we kept going back.
While souvenir shopping we came across this small shop full of figurines and small gifts, which was run by a family. They were so friendly and helpful with everything that I needed. What really shocked me was when it was time to pay for my souvenirs I needed one more euro than I had, and instead of making a big deal about it one of the older owners just said that the amount that I had was okay. Nowhere else have I experience this, not even in the United States. The total is usually the total and if you can’t afford it then too bad. This wasn’t the case though, and even today I’m still shocked. The older owner was so nice, and everyone in the store had some type of conversation with me. I was so pleased with the prices and the customer service that I went back again the following day, and once the older owner saw us she got the biggest smile on her face and yelled, “My friends! You came back!” I can’t describe it but being welcomed like that, especially in a foreign country, made me feel so welcomed.
The friendliest Greek that I met was our tour guide Christina. I can honestly say that my trip would not have been the same without her. All of my great experiences were because of her and I am so thankful. One night I got lost in Gazi along with a few friends and she came and helped us out even though she was getting ready for bed. She always went out of her way throughout our whole trip to make sure that we had a good time. I loved talking with her and not only exchanging stories with her, but getting to know her as well. She is someone that makes strong bonds with others, and it was hard to say goodbye. I miss her already and hope to see her again one day.
The activity that I loved that most was hanging out with everyone and eating meals, specifically in the night. Eating dinner or any other meal in Greece is definitely an experience of its own. Eating meals in Greece is so different from eating meals in the United States, and it was something that I noticed on the first night. Greeks value their time together, and even if their day is busy and hectic they always make times for others at dinner time. Greeks spend their time eating dinner together and can even spend up to several hours sitting at one restaurant just talking and eating. This was hard for me to get accustomed to, especially in restaurants. In the United States it is expected that one eats their meal and leaves within a timely manner, especially since the amount of time spent at a restaurant correlates with the amount of tip that is given to the waiter/waitress. Waiters/waitress’ paychecks depend on the amount of people that they get in and out per shift as well as the tips they get so it makes sense that they don’t want you to be sitting around for hours at a time. This is the opposite in Greece. People can spend as much time as they want at a restaurant, and it’s actually expected that you spend a while there eating and talking. I wasn’t used to this so I was actually worried on the first night that we were being rude and inconsiderate, and kept looking around to see if anyone would say anything. No one ever said anything.
The waiters/waitresses are also different in Greece compared to the United States because they aren’t constantly checking up on you; in fact they leave you alone and usually come to you only when you ask for them. This is because they don’t want to interrupt your meal nor the socializing that is going on. I really liked this and felt that this was better because I didn’t feel rushed and the waiter/waitress didn’t waste their time checking up on me when I didn’t need anything.
The most important factor about dinner is the food, and I loved the food in Greece! Everything was so fresh and delicious; the different flavors were unbelievable. I was open to trying new things and I’m glad that I was.
I loved my time in Greece, and I will never forget the experiences that I had or the bonds and friends that I made. I am so thankful for this opportunity and I hope to go back some day.
- Jazmin Willie
While visiting Athens I saw many interesting sights that impressed me. This trip was my first time outside of the United States and was very excited to experience a completely new culture, especially once with such a rich history as Greece possesses. The sight that left the greatest impression was beholding the Parthenon in person. I honestly was expecting to be underwhelmed, similar to the disappointment that tourists visiting Texas feel when they see how small and unimpressive the Alamo actually is. Fortunately this turned out not to be the case as the Parthenon was truly a marvel that left me filled with wonder and awe. To think that a structure of such brobdingnagian proportions was built thousands of years ago made me feel deep respect and reverence toward the ancient Greeks. I learned that an effort to restore the Parthenon has been ongoing for the past fifty years and much has been improved. I was a little saddened to see the beauty of this structure marred by the presence of modern construction equipment but am eager to make a trek back to Greece when the renovations are complete; which is projected to last an additional fifty years!
Another sight that I found intriguing was the changing of the guards in front of the parliament. Personally, I found this event in and of itself uninteresting and failed to see why anyone would be intent on watching their awkward march. However, the fact that this event did garner so much attention and excitement fascinated me. The roads had to be blocked due to the sheer multitude of tourists and natives alike gathered to witness this event on a brutally hot day. Trumpets were blown, pigeons were scattered, and it was difficult for one to maneuver in such congested confounds. The spectacle lasted several minutes and once the guards took their proper places, the crowd retreated and order was restored to the street. I cannot think of any similar event in the United States that would have this effect on the populace: http://youtu.be/PiEnd6JOBTw
The characteristic of Athens was very laid back and friendly. Most of the people were eager to communicate with us whether or not they were well versed in the English language. It didn’t seem that the people were in a mad rush to get to a place and took their time on activities that we would normally get done quickly. For instance their culture of eating is very different from ours. The Greeks take their time while eating and will lounge around for about an hour while enjoying something as simple as coffee. The change in culture was evident the day of our arrival when we were invited to eat dinner at a local Greek restaurant. The food was delicious and the ingredients were fresher and tastier than anything I’ve ever had back in the States and they were very generous in the portions they dealt us. However when we were full and thinking about moving on to finding our hotel the servers kept us longer and served us even more food. The Greeks taking eating more seriously than we do and will take much more time to savor and enjoy a meal with the company of others. I am the type that eats food quickly so as I can move on to another activity. Getting used to spending longer time on meals was a bit of a culture shock for me. They were also very generous and gave us free drinks on the house just for our group displaying an amicable disposition towards them. We were very grateful and impressed by their hospitality and frequented this particular restaurant multiple times during our stay.
An activity we did in Greece was visit museums. There were many interesting and beautiful relics to see and I was able to learn so much about Greece’s past culture through these trips. Our guide Nena was very well organized and knew the facts like the back of her hand. She showed us all the important sites that had a relevant impact on the shaping of Grecian history and culture and it was a shame that we couldn’t have stayed a little longer to see everything Athens had to offer. I felt extremely fortunate and grateful that I had the opportunity to stay a little over a week in that ancient city and hope it will not be last time I see it.
Ancient Greece gave birth to myth, theater, philosophy, and democracy. This is a country of great importance when it comes to our modern society in such that they have influenced most aspects of our lives. From the theater of Dionysus to the first academy the Greeks influenced government, entertainment, religion and the expressive ability to think critically and constructively. How could a country with such immense influence go unnoticed in today’s world? During my time in Greece I was determined to dig deep and uncover the beauty and richness that is hidden from the eyes of a typical American.
Upon arrival your world begins to change immediately after your step off the airplane. The air is fresh, the noise level is lower, and everywhere you look there are strange unrecognizable words all over the place! You have officially stepped out of your comfort zone. After obtaining our luggage meeting our city tour guide we climbed aboard our ride to where we would be staying for the next 10 days. Apart from the occasional nap, the view of the city of Athens was completely astonishing. In every direction there were buildings upon buildings as far as the eye could see. No joke, look!
Beauty had already pierced the veil, ready to be discovered.
During the first few days we traveled around Athens and explored the ancient and archeological sites; each one more impressive than the last. It was important to the ancient Athenians that the city of Athens be built in such a way that from every street you have a nice view of the Parthenon. Even to this day Athenians still follow this philosophy when expanding their city. This is the reason for the wide spread urban sprawl since buildings are no taller than 8 stories tall. The whole concept of translating an ancient philosophy into modern development baffled me. How could this be? Why not just grow like the rest of the world? Through the days and nights no matter where I was I’d look up to check if I could see the magnificent Parthenon as the ancients had, and every time I did.
From lectures to blending in there was a lot to learn in such little time. Everyday you learn something new, but in Athens you learned something every 20 minutes. The amount of stuff you could talk about in relation to Athens is incredible! Having been a civilization thousands of years before Christ makes it really hard to not have something to talk about. No matter where we were or what we were doing our tour guide could give a speech about our environment. One thing that got me was how the city of Athens developed over the years. There is so much history about the individual neighborhoods, districts, squares and those who occupy them. One particular neighborhood in Psiri caught my attention with its old unique style. The neighborhood had once been the most popular place to live in Athens, but now it was nearly abandoned, a ghost “town” of sorts. However, with recent events young wealthy people are buying out the houses to renovate and recreate the atmosphere the neighborhood once possessed.
Although Athens has a lot to give in culture, ancient sites, and knowledge, the most beautiful part of Greece is the people. No matter where or when there was always a sense of hospitality that was commonly shared amongst the people. Whether you were Greek or American everyone was treated with the same respect. This was a whole different change coming from America where everyone lacks patience and sets expectations for just about everything. In Greece the people would take their time, relax, and enjoy their surroundings and company they had. It was rare to see any Greeks eating lunch by themselves or browsing their phones during a meal. Conversations were a lot quieter as if to give everyone the same opportunity to speak; as a soft spoken person this was great! If you needed help just about anyone would stop and take a moment out of their time to help you out. This was a huge shock since most of my experiences in large cities had been the complete opposite. My time in Greece and within the city of Athens I was able to make friends whom I will never forget, and will always miss. That is the real beauty a typical American cannot see.
The place I enjoyed the most was a restaurant called Maidrano’s. The place was an outside and inside, but I like to eat outside to enjoy the scenery of Greece. This restaurant made you feel so welcomed whenever you arrived. They staff was so friendly and kind, they wanted every guest they had to feel like they were at home. They made conversation with us and let us know that the culture isn’t so unfriendly. They let us know that even though we are from another culture they still like us and respect us. I loved how they didn’t rush us out of the pace and they wanted us to take our time. They let us talk and just enjoy our food. What helped with the family atmosphere was that the restaurant was family owned. That made it feel more special that you knew you were being treated as well as their family. Family is really important to them so, it was awesome that we got to experience a little of what they have. If the family atmosphere doesn’t draw you in the food definitely will. The food is amazing and is it cheap. The food portions are huge and it’s more bang for your buck. The food was like nothing I had ever tasted before. The ingredients they used were fresh, they always used what they grew in their garden.
A characteristic I noticed was how helpful they were. The place I first noticed it was at Maidrano’s. If we didn’t know how to pronounce a word they would help us. They were always ready to move stuff out of our way on the table. They directed us to the bathrooms, even though it was kind of creepy in that basement. Some other Greeks we meet told us not to be afraid to try new things no matter what people had said. They said that yes the place has changed but, it is still a good place to be. The other people we got to interact with us these little old shop ladies and they always made us feel welcomed. They made me feel like I was being taken care of, whenever we were in their shop they were so helpful telling us the prices and making sure to help us if we needed anything. They always gave us the same advice keep your money close, because a pretty girl like you shouldn’t get it stolen. They were always so happy when we walked in their shop, they would say, “Oh our girls are back!” I liked how people we didn’t even make friends with would help us, they were always willing to hold open the metro for us or just shoo away the venders. They weren’t the typical greek and it showed that us that some are different.
An activity was visit the Archeological site and Museum of Kerameikos, I absolutely loved this site. It was exactly the trip I wanted to take. I wanted to know how the dead were honored when they passed. I learned so much, the bigger the monument you had built the richer you were. At the site they had built a real life bull next to someone site. It would have been nice if you would have read who the person was and they passed. It would have been really helpful if they put it in English, so people from another country could read it. I liked how on the graves there were pictures, to me it almost looked gospel like because there would be a “Christ” figure and two other people around or next to him. I thought that was interesting, and there were a lot of tall picture less tombs. Another thing I was learned was the richer were the closer you got to be buried by the street so as you were leaving Athens people would see your grave and were hopefully impressed. I learned that they bury the women with jewelry and/or cooking materials. I liked how the women wanted to still be dresses up even when they passed. It amazes me how much they cared about their image, even when they are no longer there.