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Gorge-ing Myself in Greece

28 May

Gorge-ing Myself in Greece

Just making my way through the largest gorge in Europe

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It’s all Chinese to Me

27 May

Our waiter last night told us that here in Crete instead of saying “it’s all Greek to me,” they instead say “it’s all Chinese to me.”  Something I never would have thought of.

It is pretty Greek here.  I could get used to it, though.  In fact I fit in pretty well— two Greeks so far have asked me if I was from Greece or where in Greece I was from, which of course made my day.  I would be happy to be grouped in with the Greeks I have met so far: from the police officer who gave me his number on the bus in case I got into any trouble (don’t know if I looked like trouble or something?) to the shop owner who wished me the best life to the waiter who walked me to get a cake for my friend Molly’s birthday.  They are the kindest, most engaging people I have met on my journey so far.

An example: Today is my friend Molly’s birthday.  As we are in the Mediterranian region, dinner is late here.  So during dinner last night, as the time approached midnight and Molly’s birthday, I asked the waiter privately if there was any Greek tradition for birthdays that I should make happen.  He said no, but we should get a cake.  Without any prompting he told me where a bakery was and then said, “wait, I will escort you there.”  And not only did he escort me there, but he spoke to the bakery owner in Greek for me, found candles, and hid the cake until I gave him the signal to bring it out.  After all this was done, he said, “Can I ask you a question?”  to which I replied, “Of course!”  He wanted to know if he was correct earlier when he asked if he could “escort me” to find a cake because he knew from watching the American TV show “Prison Break,” that escort has more than one meaning.  I informed him that I did not think that he was involved in prostitution.

Beyond these invested, interesting individuals, the island of Crete is spectacular.  Yesterday we visited ruins from 1900 BC and today we hiked through the largest Gorge in Europe.  So much to do!  And the scenery is amazing between the clear water and the dominant mountain backdrop.  As we drove in to the city we are staying in here in Crete in the car we rented (looked like a clown car once we got all our baggage inside), Molly stared out the left window toward the mountains and pointed out every goat she saw chilling on the slopes while I “oohed” and “awed” over the expansive Mediterranean scenery outside the right side. 

Tomorrow we are taking on the beach.  I think it is well-deserved after hiking 8 miles over boulders and rivers today (took us 5 + hours to give you an image of how tough the hike was).

Marathon before Parthanon

26 May

The Greeks have a saying “You must have a Marathon before a Parthanon.”  What they are

referring to is the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C., wherethe Greeks held back the Eastern forces and preserved their dominance for  the time being (and where the modern day marathon comes from).  This allowed them to then focus on the Arts, and create beautiful, lasting monuments like the Parthanon in the Acropolis.

I believe this is true.  For this trip, for example, I had to get through school and save up money before having time to enjoy the sights and sounds of Europe.  I appreciate that they did the same, winning that battle, because then they did create some amazing pieces of art that I have been able to enjoy here in Athens.

Today I did a historical walking tour, toured the Parthenon, went to the museums and walked through other ruins throughout the city.  The Parthenon might be one of my favorite visits yet.  The historical significance, historical stories and mythical stories that surround it are fascinating.  And for something built in 8 years, I would say they did a spectacular job.

The Eternal City Pt. 2

24 May

This is going to turn into a blog of confessions.  First, I confessed that I had a bite of fish in the south of Spain, then I shared with you my love of Gregory Peck and  “Roman Holiday”, but now, I have to admit to one more embarrassing thing… I cried in Vatican City.

But can you really blame me?  Who wouldn’t tear up in a place as beautiful as St. Peter’s Basilica?

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Wednesday we went on a tour of the Vatican Museum and visited St. Peter’s (San Pietro) Basilica.  While the tour itself was less than average, the museum was something to gawk at.  From my estimate, the museum must hold approximately 100,000 marble statues, 500 ornate tapestries and is covered in beautiful frescoes by the likes of Michealangelo and his comrades.  I could have spent weeks visiting the various rooms of the Museum itself but as I only had two days in Rome, I had to move on.

From the museum, we made our way into the largest Catholic Parish there is: St. Peter’s.  Now, I don’t know how else to explain it except, “Wow.”  The history (see the list of past Popes below), the wealth, the size… it was breathtaking.  I can’t think of a better place to pause and offer up a prayer.

We visited many other churches throughout Rome (I lost count at some point), but some of the more notable visits were to the Pantheon, (one by the capitol building, St. Maria’s of Cosmidan.  Each was wonderful in it’s own unique way and each had a mind-blowing history.  For

instance, one of my favorite, yet smaller, churches we visited was St. Maria’s of Cosmidan.  St. Maria’s was home to a few must-sees such as the Bocce de Verite, seen here, relics of St. Valentine and a crypt with Hercules’s alter.  The legend says that if you put your hand in the mouth of the Bocce de Verite and lie, your hand will be chopped off.  This is also, of course, a scene in the movie “A Roman Holiday.”

We also made our way to the typical, yet stunning, sights of Rome: the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and the Roman Ruins.  We did a lot in the 2 ½ days we were there—- but the history of this unique city could have kept me there for an eternity.

The Eternal City

23 May

I am currently visit the eternal city—just chilling with the Pope.

But really, I visited the Vatican today, which was amazing, and can’t wait for more.  I am essentially following the “Roman Holiday” plan for this trip.  The only problem is I am not Audrey Hepburn, a princess and I can’t find anyone nearly as handsome as Gregory Peck…. but I am trying none the less.

I made a wish in the Fontaine de Trevi today, and if that comes true, my movie fantasy could become more of a reality.  Cross your fingers for me.

Look for an extensive Rome overview and pics in the next day or two. I also am going to relay my language experience thus far.  I will be in Greece by Friday morning and will make my way back home mid-next week!

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

23 May

It was travel time in Italy after we left Spain.  Due to rain and some train miscommunications, we didn’t make it to Cinque Terre (will happen someday…).  We did, however, already make it to Milan and Florence after 5 hours on the train.

In Milan, we meandered through the streets, checking out the central cathedral, the first mall ever  built (wish you were there to see this, Mom) and an observatory before hopping back onto the train.

In Florence, we had more time to visit some of the impressive renssance sights.  A highlight was hiking up to the top of the dome of the Duomo, a famous Cathedral built in the 1200’s that took over 150 years to build.  It was 426 windy steps up, but worth the trip.  Not only did we get to see the entire layout of the historical city from the top of the dome, but we also saw  the frescos on the inside of the dome up close and personal.  The frightening images of demons and angels were quite impressive.

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After making the climb, we thought it was fitting to treat ourselves to gelato as we had burned quite a few calories to reach the top.  We enjoyed, greatly, our gelato as we walked toward and over the Ponte Vecchio.  Now, I won’t annoy you with the historical significance of this bridge in relation to the plague as I did to my travel buddies (thanks to my Black Death class at IU), but I will tell you one interesting fact about this bridge.  It was the only bridge to survive the bombings of WWII.

 

Now, the bridge houses jewelry shop upon jewelry shop.  If I wasn’t a budget traveller, I would be sparkling from head to toe with the extravagant selection offered on this bridge alone.

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Finally, we enjoyed the art of Florence as well.  Florence was home to and hosted many Renessance geniuses.  Examples of what came out of these great individuals can be seen all across the city such as:

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Oh and I almost forgot to mention the pesto…. That’s important.

Barcelona follow-up

22 May

To finish off my visit in Barcelona, I hit a few last tourist sites. We visited the site of the Olympics, which was a massive park of buildings. We also visited a large fort just up the hill from there that had a spectacular view of the bay. We also checked out a bit more art (Picasso of course) and then headed to the beach.

I spent the next day or so in Ibiza just chilling on the beach (really too cold for a swim, but what can you do) and getting to know some locals. Of course I also took some time out of the day for a café and a few churros to fit in with the culture. Overall, it was a nice, relaxed finish to my time in Barcelona.