Thursday, December 15, 2011

The End is Near

My time here in Athens is finally coming to an end. When I turned in my last final on Wednesday morning, my school work was complete for the semester. These past two weeks I had several papers and multiple tests to do, but now I am done. No more modern Greek classes, no more reading Seneca, no more Hellenistic history, and no more archaeology of Athens excursions. I enjoyed my classes for the most part, but I am also thankful to have the last couple days in Athens free of work.
Yesterday I traveled up to the Acropolis for the final time. This time, however, was arguably the coolest experience, yet. This time I got to go INSIDE the Parthenon. Professor Scahill knows the archaeologist working on the building, so she gave us a little tour of it. I was so excited.

I have also been taking the time to go places I haven't been yet. I went to the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum. It was very small and not quite what I was expecting. Not one of my favorites. Today I went to the Benaki Museum which houses a private collection of art work. It had some interesting pieces and some beautiful costumes.
I also went shopping in Plaka and I am trying to eat all my favorite Greek foods again before I leave. I think I will miss the food and sunshine the most.

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!

On Friday I was able to go on a rare tour of Parliament! CYA organized the tour for about thirty or so students. I've walked through Syntagma countless times, but I was excited to get a look inside the Parliament building and learn more about modern Greek government. Our group learned about the building's original function as King Otto's palace and tried to imagine the assembly room as the grand ballroom it once was.

Our tour guide also gave us an introduction to Greek government today. Greece is a parliamentary republic with a president and prime minister. Some of my peers found it hard to understand how a president could have very little power so our guide explained with a legislation example. If Parliament votes to pass a bill the president must sign it; he has no veto power and if he does not wish to sign the bill he must resign. He has a special box, once belonging to the King, above Parliament from which he can observe meetings, but no President has ever sat there. It is a symbol that Greece will never again be ruled by kings. There are also seats for foreign dignitaries who can observe, but not participate in meetings. Journalists and even the public can attend every meeting and have balconies of their own.

I learned many interesting things on the tour, but I hope that this short recap will suffice for now. Hopefully, it just gives an idea of what the tour was like.