Thursday, December 15, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
I spent this past weekend in the beautiful city of Budapest, Hungary. My trip began with a phone call from one of my travel buddies at 2:25am informing me that the taxi was waiting. Unfortunately, my alarm had failed to go off, I jumped out of bed, changed, grabbed my bag and coat, and ran out the door. So after a frazzled start, I began my journey to Budapest. Because the buses were on strike for the day, we had to take a taxi to the airport. We hung out there for a while and then took the short flight to Budapest. When we landed, it was 6:00am and -4 degrees Celsius. I had a long, cold day ahead of me.
We took a bus and the metro to our hostel where we were met by the owner, a soft-spoken Hungarian woman. She showed us our room, and we quickly decided to nap before beginning our excursions. Around ten, we went out into the freezing city. We visited the market hall down by the Liberty Bridge, walked through the Christmas market for the first of many times (my two travel companions both bought extra socks here to help insulate their freezing toes), ate a late lunch in a Hungarian café, and then crossed over the Chain Bridge to the Buda side of Budapest. By this point it was dark and I could see a little bit of snow on the bridge. The city all lit up was beautiful. We went up to the top of Castle Hill where the views of the city were best, and went to a wine tasting at the Faust Wine Cellar under Buda Castle. The walk back to our hostel was very icy, but I was enjoying the city nonetheless.
Saturday we went up Andrassy ut to the Museum of Fine Arts where we saw an exhibition on mummies and a huge collection of el Greco paintings. We walked past Heroes Square and the State Opera House on our way to St. Stephen’s Basilica. It was beautiful on the inside and outside. In the square right outside was another Christmas market.
I loved the Christmas markets. They were so spirited with the wooden stalls, smells of cinnamon, sounds of holiday music, lights strung in the trees, and people milling about. I got my only apple cider of the season, mulled wine, the cinnamon chimney stack, and a gingerbread cookie.
That evening we went to a Hungarian folk dance show followed by a dinner cruise on the Danube. It was a ton of fun.
Sunday morning, after a delicious breakfast, we returned to Athens. When I stepped off the plane, I couldn’t help but think oh, what gorgeous weather. It’s like spring! There was such a sharp contrast between the dark, cold Hungarian weather and warm, sunny Greece. I’ll definitely be enjoying this weather for the little time I have left here.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Just a quick update this week since papers and exams abound!
Sunday, November 27, 2011
When the train finally made it to the Irini stop, almost everyone on the train rushed off of the train and down the stairs out of the station. I saw small carts of souvlaki and others with PAO souvenirs. I was with five of my classmates and we headed over to the ticket booth. Of course, there was no line, but a giant swarm of people pushing and shoving to get up to the window. The booth appeared to have around 10 windows, but of course only 1 or two were open. Randomly one would open and the crowd would shift, but it would close after only one or two sales. It was quite a struggle just to get the tickets. Luckily, the tickets were not nearly as expensive as professional sports teams in America. We also each purchased a PAO scarf from a vendor to show our support for the home team. As I walked into the Olympic complex, I was in awe of the beauty of this structure; with its white metal curves and modern architecture, it stands in contrast to other buildings I am used to in the Athenian concrete jungle.
Once we took our seats in the stadium, I was immediately drawn towards the packed section behind the goal. It was filled with Panathenaikos fans, and as it would turn out, also the liveliest section of the stadium. They held enormous signs, displayed four massive flags throughout the game, and set off multiple flares (kind of like fireworks) during the game. They always started the songs and constantly stood and danced. The entire section seemed to pulse. That is not to say the fans in my section were not into the game- they joined in with many of the songs, shouted profanities, and showed the offensive open hand gesture.
The game reminded me of American sports games I have been to (at Fenway or TD Garden); I even had a hot dog during half time! Major differences between American sports games and this one are that in Greece, flares and smoking are allowed in the stadium. The game was a ton of fun. Panathenaikos beat OFI 3-1 and the atmosphere was wonderful. I highly recommend attending a soccer game.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Generally, writing a research paper involves hiding away in the library for several weeks while laboring over what seems like a small academic miracle. That is often a rewarding experience, but I just completed a research paper for my ancient Athenian democracy class, not while living in the stacks for a month, and gained a new perspective.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Monday, November 7, 2011
Saturday, November 5, 2011
Upon our return from the Peloponnese, our week-long fall break began. I, along with VJ and Katie, went off to Istanbul early Monday morning. Istanbul was unlike anywhere I had ever been before. The culture of Istanbul was totally unique- a mixture of European with what I imagine is Middle Eastern. On our first day walking to the Grand Bazaar we heard the call of prayer played throughout the city from the loudspeakers atop the minarets. It was so cool to be able to hear this. The Grand Bazaar is this huge indoor market where vendors lure you to their stalls with their go-to phrase “how can I help you spend your money?” There were scarves, lamps, carpets, towels, hookahs, shoes, tea, and more. On the other side of the Golden Horn, there was even more shopping. There were tons of shops lining the street from the Galata Tower up to Taksim Square. We went up the Galata Tower and had a bird’s eye view of the entire city. Our dinner in the new city was delicious- couscous, eggplant tahini, hummus, fried zucchini, and soup. The next day we went to the Basilica Cisterns, the archaeological museum, the blue mosque, and took the boat over to the Asian side of Istanbul. There wasn’t too much for us to do over there and it was clearly less touristy. On our third day in Istanbul, we finally entered the Hagia Sophia. It was beautiful, but I think I liked the Blue Mosque better because it still is a place of worship while the Hagia Sophia is just a museum. We also went to the Tokapi Palace which was also beautiful. It has this really fascinating weapon room with all these different maces, swords, and suits of armor were on display. I really enjoyed seeing Istanbul.
Thursday morning Katie and I moved onto Berlin (VJ returned to Athens). Berlin was a breath of fresh air-literally: it is one of the cleanest cities and is surrounded by pine forests. There was very little traffic, bikes were abundant, and everything was so new! I loved the city, but it did make me miss home a little with its cooler weather and autumn leaves. We went to the DDR museum, a hands-on, interactive museum about East (Soviet) Berlin, the Jewish Museum which had a really cool Holocaust section of the building, and the Museum of German History. We went on a walking tour where we learned all about the history of the city and saw Checkpoint Charlie, the Holocaust Memorial, and Brandenburg Gate. We went up the dome of the Reichstag Friday night and saw the city all lit up. We visited the East Side Gallery, the largest remaining section of the Berlin Wall. It is covered with murals by artists from all over the globe. Most of the murals were very interesting. Berlin was a wonderful city and really made me want to see more of Germany.
I have been back in Athens for almost a week now. This morning I hiked to the top of Lykavittos Hill, the highest hill in Athens. I often forget how large Athens actually is, but when I reached the top of the hill, I could see just how many buildings are in the city. There must be a ton, for there are nearly 5 million people in the city.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Monday, October 17, 2011
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
When I walk out of my apartment building, my nose instantly wrinkles up as it senses the smells reeking from the dumpster on the corner. The municipal workers have been on strike now for too long. Whenever I get within 15 yards of a dumpster (and they are on just about every street corner), I am overcome by the rotten stench of the garbage. There is more trash than the dumpsters can hold so piles have accumulated around the dumpsters, sometimes even making it difficult to pass by. The latest word I have heard is that the strike is expected to extend for another week. This poses a huge health issue and I hope it is resolved sooner. Here is a Greek news article about it: http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite1_1_12/10/2011_410589
The garbage workers are not the only ones on strike though. The ministry of culture and archaeologists started a 48 hour strike and will not reopen until Friday. This means that I will not be able to give my presentation for class, the Archaeology of Athens, at the National Museum tomorrow morning for the museum will be closed.
A general public transportation strike begins tomorrow and will last two days. This has the possibility of messing up some of my weekend plans.
The number of strikes here seems to have increased. I have also heard more talk about the tax raises and the debt problems. Athenians always seem very willing to talk about the economic situation. My Greek professor went off in class one day about all the taxes and how the middle class are the ones that will suffer. On Mount Olympus a Greek hiker started a conversation with one of my classmates about the crisis. This evening Petros Doukas, the former deputy minister of finance, gave a lecture at CYA. Unfortunately I did not make it, but many of my professors expressed their dislike with him having been invited here. They were visibly angry with this man who is, according to them, personally responsible for the Greek debt crisis.
This evening I spent a couple hours at a U.S. university fair as a Tufts representative. I spoke with a Tufts alum a little bit about the situation. He was a) disgusted by the garbage and b) telling me about how the politicians are corrupt. According to him, the politicians promised people jobs in return for their support. This led to too many jobs in the public sector, which the government cannot afford. The politicians cannot fire these people or else they will lose power.
I find it fascinating to be in Greece watching firsthand how this economic crisis is affecting the people. People are certainly talking about it and are visibly upset. The strikes, however, are at times a bit inconvenient.
Sunday, October 9, 2011
As I hurried through bustling Plaka with my Athenian Democracy class, trying to keep up with our Professor, Nigel Kennel, I was hit with sounds of tourists preparing for lunch, museum goers marveling at the glass floor of the Acropolis Museum, and street musicians belting out atmospheric tunes. Upon finally reaching our destination, the Pnyx Hill, I was shocked to find that we were the only ones there and the only noise to be heard was that of our own voices. I believe it is the first place I have been in Athens where it is possible to escape from the activity of the city. I am a lover of city hustle and bustle, but it's always somewhat magical to find that one place where it's possible to be in, but disappear from, the city at the same time. I could see why the Pnyx, situated just behind the Acropolis, was the hill on which the Athenian Assembly met. It is a great place to gain some distance from Athens, but the Pnyx also offers a bird's eye view of the city. Here, reflecting on the city from a quiet distance, I thought about some of the unique aspects of ancient Athenian democracy.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
I am also taking Greek dance lessons. I have attended two classes so far and I have thoroughly enjoyed learning to dance. Some dances are fairly simple while others are very quick and complicated. Both times I ended class out of breath and with a smile on my face. While I doubt I will be able to master the dances by the end of this next lesson, I have definitely gained a greater appreciation for all dancers.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
There seemed to be a general mood of hesitance on the way to our meeting with Crete's branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). My group of about thirty students, led by Professors Karavas and Doxiadis and Activities Director, Nadia Meliniotis, had spent our first day in Crete exploring Heraklion's Venetian Walls, the archaeological museum, and the grave of author, Nikos Kazantakis. After an all night boat ride and an early morning start, my group appeared unsure of the next event on our itinerary: help the WWF clean up Malia's (a popular tourist destination on Crete, 23 kilometers from the major city of Heraklion) wetlands. Yet, after just a few minutes with the WWF, public opinion changed and there was not a doubt in anyone's mind that our experience would help define our trip to Crete. What was it that lead to this change? Our time with the WWF employees and locals who taught us that globalization can mean something as simple as helping another country with what appears to be a small, local problem for the betterment of the entire world.