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Hutton Honors College

 — Indiana University

Laura Gonzales
Summer 2001

My trip to Greece was my first time overseas and out of America. I had so many wonderful experiences and I finally was able to see sights that I had only seen pictures of before. I went with a program called "Discovering Ancient Athens on Site," and stayed for three wonderful weeks.

My favorite thing was the food! It was so fresh and delicious, especially the fruits. I went to the farmer's market one Friday and it was stocked with fruits, bread, nuts, vegetables, and the nicest people. One man, when he saw I was about to take a picture, started walking on his hands so that I would take a picture of him Others were trying to figure out how large this one guy's feet were in my class, as he was six feet high and had big feet. I went to numerous tavernas and fell in love with spanakopita, gyros, moussaka, and gelato.

I was thrilled to be able to see many sites I had learned about in classes. I finally went to Acropolis and saw the Parthenon (unfortunately under reconstruction), the Erektheion, and the huge gateway, the Propylaea. I was able to walk around on a road not open to the public with my class, cohere I saw many caves and niches for cult statues. I also went to Sounion where a beautiful temple to Poseidon still stood on a promontory, and I stayed to watch the sunset. At Brauron I saw the remains of a temple to Artemis and what was once a sacred spring. The water still looked fresh and it felt cool. Delphi was another place I enjoyed. There the remains of a temple to Apollo stood, where many oracles had been told, as well as a well-preserved theatre, and a stadium. Nafplio is a wonderful town that I stayed in for a weekend. It had the best shopping and so many areas to eat outside. It also had the first pebble beach I have ever been to (though the rocks hurt my feet).

But my favorite site was Mycenae, which was famous as the bronze-age site where Agamemnon lived. There I was finally able to view a throne room and the shaft graves where numerous golden and household objects were found. I ventured into an underground cistern, which was about ten degrees cooler than outside, but very dark. I had brought a flashlight and was with companions; otherwise I wouldn't have had the courage to go down, because though it wasn't deep, it was very tight and creepy. I also saw a few tholos (beehive shaped) tombs, two of which were well preserved. They were so beautifully worked that I think I could have spent hours in one. Inside everything echoed and the construction was so intricate, like nothing I had seen before.

In addition to sites, I saw many artifacts I had previously only seen slides of. I loved the statues of girls (korai) and boys (kouroi), and the artifacts from Mycenae. I finally saw the original caryatids (from the Erektheion on the Acropolis), numerous vases (such as the Dipylon Vase), the Tower of the Winds (in the Roman Agora), the temple to Hephaistos (in the Agora), a wonderful bronze statue of Athena in Piraeus, and much more. We went to so many museums I lost count.

Getting around was interesting. They had a nice new metro system that was clean and efficient. I loved learning how to use it without the help of the teacher, although it really wasn't hard. There was an old metro as well that reminded me of the subway at New York. I learned to use the bus system, even though everyone else seemed against it, and somehow rode it to the airport without having to pay. The driver never asked me (or any other passengers) for money. But I mostly had to walk. To get to the "College Year in Athens" building from my apartment was an approximate 15-minute walk. It took me past the national guards who were so much fun to watch when they strutted around, probably doing their unique walk for exercise rather than amusement. I can't really describe their walk without a demonstration, though it was similar to the guards march in the Wizard of Oz. Walking was a pain, but it was increasingly better than hailing a taxi. In America, taxis take you where you need to go, but in Greece if the driver doesn't want to take you, he will refuse and drive off. (You have to call out where you're going as they drive by.) It was awful when I needed a ride to the bus stop with four companions and no taxi would accept. We finally had to call to get a taxi, which sent two cars out, since we wouldn't fit into one. Eventually they pulled over and stuffed us into just one car, though I still don't know why.

One thing that made me proud was learning to read the alphabet. I don't speak Greek, although now I know a few words, but I did learn to pronounce and recognize the letters. In that manner, the knowledge was helpful when I spent a weekend without a native speaker, and discovered which was the right bus or city by sounding out the letters. It also helped on menus when there was no English text attached, making me sound out the names of the dishes. I was so happy to decode the words for shops, eateries, newspapers, and such throughout Greece.

So much more happened on the trip that I haven't put down, but it would take up too many pages. As you can see I had a wonderful time and gained many memories.