Friday, March 5, 2010

Athens Greece/Αθήνα, Ελλάδα!

Finally, I have left the country! I packed my things and my roommate Zach and I went to Greece. I was anticipating a tiring weekend full of new language and experiences, and it all started on the thursday night when we left for Fiumicino Airport. Leaving our building with backpacks and smiling faces we encountered our door woman who jumped up and gave us both kisses goodbye. Then walking down our street our bread store came out and shouted goodbye and I told them how baklava was on the menu! Then we passed our cafe we frequented and they got so excited about our trip! It really feelt already like this was our community! I was laughing so much because it was like a movie!!

We flew Alitalia who switched our gate at the last second and was an hour late. While we were waiting at the gate, stupid me hadn't realized that people were not all italian anymore because we were waiting for a plane to GREECE. That is why I turned to the young couple sitting next to us and started chatting in italian...only to receive blank looks...I was shocked and uncomfortable...what do I do? Why aren't they responding? So then, I did something insane, I SPOKE GREEK! Haha, wow what a sight. I started two days earlier with basic phrases and structure, and it worked! The couple immediately started chatting with me(in english) and helping me with greek! We spent about 30 minutes writing greek down learning! So alrready at the airport I experienced what I feared already, inadequacy and inability to function in a language. I did not like it.

The plane landed in Athens at 2 in the morning and we boarded the bus to get to the terminal. On the bus an old man was standing and I was sitting, so I stood up and said παρακαλώ, which means 'please'. He immediately responds ευχαριστώ which means 'thank you'! It worked! I was already speaking greek! Once we go to the terminal I stepped off the bus and looked around...Greek script, letters, everywhere. I got chills. I started immediatley reading everything and figuring out the letters and their corresponding english equivalents. I took pictures of signs and read them again and again. It was like a game! I realted words to Latin and english, there were roots everywhere in these words! I was not even thinking about how to get to the hostel.But we got to our hostel at 3AM and went to bed.

We woke up the next morning to an absoutely beautiful sunshine and started our journey by looking at a map! Once we had something planned we hit up the first bakery we saw...for me of course, and I got BAKLAVA! Wow, it was very good, but very sweet! With it of course we had to try greek coffee...absolutely least that is checked off the list. Anyway, we then ventured to the famous acropolis of athens! We passed monuments and temples along the way and tried to figure out what everything was! We got into the acropolis for free because we were students and then began our hike to the top. Ascending this ancient hill, we were astounded at the age of everything! Greece is 5000 years old! WHAT! But as we got higher and higher Athens began to lay our before our eyes in every direction. Then the sea showed its horizontal beauty in the distant port. We stopped many times to take pictures and Zach go the one of me looking out at Athens on top of the Acropolis. I loved every second of this because the country was completelety different than Italy! The houses were different structure and color, and the noise was different as well. The sun shown differently and the wind smelled of the cool blue sea. We reached the top of the Acropolis and I was feeling a little depressed that I couldn't understand anything...It was not fun and strange. It was like my silent thought was answered when I heard italian in the first I thought it was a trick, but no...there was an italian class taking a tour here! I rushed over longing for the comfort of the beautifully energetic language I call home. I arrived at the group and started talking to one of the students immediately...they were from the Venice region and here on a class trip! It was amazing how that one thing lifted my spirits so much! Then, just when I thought it couldn't get better, another student tour group passed, could it be? I heard silk, the sweet smooth silk of the french language. I detached from one group and went to the next. Blending in the back I just listened, then asked where they were from...Paris region. Zach was just laughing at my actions but my mood immediately changed and I was ready to tackle Athens some more!

After the Acropolis we went to lunch and obviously we ordered greek salads and rice wrapped in grape leaves. I almost died because the salad was so good! There was no lettuce just tomato, onion, cucumber, olives, and feta cheese with olive oil! I could not believe how good it was! Anyway, after the great lunch we went on to this great part of the city with lots of monuments and shops as well. It was about 65-70 degrees and we were loving it! We spent the rest of the afternoon in the sun and walking. We returned to our hostel for a breif respite before dinner. Then we went to dinner at a restaurant that overlooked the Acropolis and this other temple. Then after we walked some more then went to bed early because we were going to an island the next day!

Waking up very tired but excited, I used the greek I knew to get us on a bus to the Port and then we ran to a ferry boat and were off to Aegina island! The sun was just in the sky and burning off the morning layer of fog. I could tell the day was going to be brilliant because I saw a rainbow off the boat. An hour later we got off and decided to look for a place to rent bikes! Really easy and cheap...5Euros and we had the bikes for the day! Then, we began our journey south. Rising along the coast we immediately exited civilization and were engulfed by nature on the left and the sea on the right. This water, this cool crisp water was so blue I thought it was a trick. We couldn't stop taking pictures! By this time, I bought a new scarf of the Greek colors so I would blend more...haha, ya right, already my skin was turning red from the two minutes in the sun, no greek would be fooled.

Our bike ride to a small southern town was so enjoyable that we needed to eat and rest. It was about 12 and the sun was at its zenith. We chose the main street of the town which happend to be on the port. There was no one there. Only us and some locals. Tourists would not be found here yet for anther couple of months. So we picked our table and sat at the edge of the water overlooking the bay. The sun was shining on us as we ordered our greek salads and chicken souvlaki. We both turned our chairs and just looked out over the sea. We were both schocked into silence and just sat there. Now, we stayed here for the whole afternoon, literally at this reatuarant for three hours eating, drinking, and laughing. There must be something in the air on islands because they are just a completely different feeling from anywhere else! I had not a care in the world other than when my next bread and oil plate was coming.

It was so quiet there. Closing my eyes I felt the cool salty breeze grazing my cheeks then warmed by the perfect sun. It touched my arms and shoulders, warming me gently. The rythmic lapping of the waves on the shore brought peace and a calming background. The rocky island cliffs off the shore whispered of a time of wooden boats and angry jeaolous gods. You could almost hear Homer reccounting the Odyssey as the winds of Aelious brought a storm of Poseindon. I have never felt that calm in my life. I would say without a doubt, one of the most enjoyable afternoons/lunches of my life, if not the most. No one cared about anything, we ordered the greek frappe at a cafe and sat outside some more for about an hour and a half. The sea mesmerized us with the sun dancing of its surface. The trees gently swayed all around us from the push of the wind. Birds were in the backround as well adding a sweet sound to the already gorgeous afternoon. I literally cannot describe how absolutely amazing this island was. We tore ourselves away and biked in the direction of the port. Then we stumbled upon this dirt path veering to the left...we took it. It wound us around to the top of a hill that overlooked the bay and the town. The wind had picked up and white caps appeared on the water as it began to thrust and pull against the cliffs. We were on top of the world on that hill, the wind whipping us about, but the whole island and its neighbors surrounding us. What beauty and power! It was an unforgettable experience. Sadly though, we had to leave to catch our ferry boat to Athens.

We returned to Athens and went to dinner. I ate for my first time a Kebap! It was so good! I loved how I ate it in Greece too, haha what a dinner! After that though, we were so tired from the biking we had to go to bed.

We slept in the next day and slowly woke up and went to the bakery again for some great cookies! Then we saw the Acropolis museum and learned a ton about the history of it and how it came to be. We ate lunch at a small local place and had greek salad with stuffed tomatoes and some meat and potatoes. Then we decided to climb the talles hill in Athens. The hike took us about 30 minutes, but it was really worth it as we arrived at the surface panting and thirsty. The Acropolis looked tiny from up on the hill. It was so high the sea looked large. Again, since we had nothing pressing to do we sat up here overlooking the city with the sun on our faces for a couple hours. Then we walked around some monuments and went home to change and get dinner. Of course we got Kebabs again but at a new place, and a different kind! Still, they were really good!

Our trip to Greece was ending, and I had already figured the alphabet and could read quite quickly words and phrases. I learned my words by just listening and mimicking everyone I heard. I already began conjugating words and forming complete thoughts...yet my comprehension was still very small, although I got more than I thought! It is such an interesting language, and hard to believe it was what everyone spoke in ancient times if you were educated! Greece now seems poor and in hardship. Riot police were everywhere, and in general people seemed more alert or suspiscious. We left Athens behind as Alitalia took off towards
Ρώμη(Rome). The lights of the ancient city where philosophical thought was matured and taught was slowly getting farther and farther away. Zach and I were both dead tired and immensely content at our trip. I learned so much in 3 days that I couldn't believe it had only been that long! Our faces were burned and our bellies full of baklava, salad, and kebab. What could be better? Greece was a dream, and can now claim one of my most fulfilling afternoons in my life. Congrats. Now though, back to the "young" Rome and seeing what new adventures await me here. Thanks to all, and until next time, αντίο(goodbye)!

Βλακε(Haha, this looked a lot cooler in my head)