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An Odyssey and a Half

An Odyssey and a Half

It feels Sisyphean to try and describe 10 days worth of adventures into a single post, but I’ll try my best to share the breadth of the experience I had travelling through Greece during my fall break by describing each of the towns we visited in quick vignettes. Hopefully they carry even half of the beauty and fun shared with friends there.

Sounio: We had left the JFRC at roughly 3 am with glassy eyes and little sleep (for me, in fact, no sleep at all), and our first official stop after flying from Rome and driving in the early Greek morning is the Temple of Poseidon. Sitting atop shining rock overlooking the sea, the Temple of Poseidon is not only the place where Aegeus (father of Theseus who killed the Minotaur) jumped into the Aegean Sea thus giving its namesake but also where Lord Byron inscribed his name before lending his hand in the fight for Greek independence. Greece is a country with an inspiring ancient history, but that history has inspired countless figures throughout history creating interesting ripples. These reflections and other excitements are shared among friends over plates of calamari at a restaurant nearby.

Athens: While looking at photos taken the night before of rooftop gardens and bars with brightly colored bottles, my friends and I enjoy a light breakfast of yogurt and honey on our hotel’s own rooftop in view of the Parthenon (to which we would be heading that day). The sun is already high in the sky since we start no day of the trip any earlier than 10am, and we are ready to journey across town to the Acropolis Museum and then up to the acropolis itself. From far away, however, you could see why the Parthenon was one of the most impressive buildings in history. Even in ruins, it stands as a proud reminder of the genius of mankind.

Arachova: In a small Winter Wonderland that reminded me less of how I imagined Greece and more of Colorado, a group of us travelers huddle for warmth around a fire outside of a cafe serving hot chocolate with Bailey’s and mulled wine. It feels as though time stopped or had at least removed us from it so we could have meaningful conversation. To be honest, I don’t remember what we talked about that night but I do remember laughing and enjoying the company of new friends. Overall, it feels familiar and like fall which both makes me comfortable and miss home a little bit.

Nafplio: On our last morning in Nafplio (after a night out resulting in Laney and I eating the most delicious Loukoumades), we hiked up the 999 steps to the Fortress of Palamadi. I eventually lost count, but I think it was less than 999 steps. Three of us – underestimating the length while overestimating our strength – try running up it. At the top my legs are jello, but the view of Nafplio with the sun barely over the horizon and smoke coming out of some chimneys make me want to climb up even higher, all the way to the top of the fortress. We look out to the Aegean and see some people rowing; a friend mentions that a woman once gave her advice that rowing together keeps a marriage happy. On the way down, we talk about making art and I forget about the stiffness in my legs.

Karyes: Although this was technically in the middle of our time in Nafplio, it needs its own section. A small group of us have separated from the large group of 45 students and are sitting in a wine cellar in the village. I’m drinking some good red wine, eating raw chestnuts and bread with honey, and listening to the leader of our trip Ioanna talk about her adventures. Just a bit earlier at lunch, our resident JFRC faculty member – Sander – gave a speech talking about how Greece feels like home. Ioanna asks us to all raise our glasses and vow to return home to her village sometime in the future. We clink our glasses, say “yamas,” and promise to come back home.

Mykonos: After getting lost in the alleyways during the morning, munching on some more calamari, stepping into the Aegean Sea one last time, and a marvelous group dinner, my friends and I are singing and laughing to “Dancing Queen” and “Oh Cecilia” at one of Mykonos’ clubs. We don’t want to leave Greece yet, but we can hardly focus on that while dancing. One of our friends is writing σε αγαπώ (“I love you”) on everyone’s hands. I eventually take a step outside for some fresh air and, from where I’m sitting, I can see both the water hitting the rocks of the beaches and my friends still dancing inside. I’m not sure if in the moment I’m more grateful for the view or for the friends I’ve made, but regardless I’m simply happy.

The Half of an OdysseyA long week has gone by, but we still have one final journey to make before we’re back home. On a bus to the airport, Ioanna reads “Ithaka” by C.P. Cavafy and the lines “Keep Ithaka always in your mind / Arriving there is what you are destined for / But do not hurry the journey at all / Better if it lasts for years…” resonate deep in me. So how poetic it seems when our flight to Rome is rerouted to Bologna and my dinner is made by buying cheap salami, prosciutto, and parmigiano reggiano from an airport market and split with my friends. In this moment, I am sure that I will always remember this meal and I wish that this moment on the trip could last forever.

(Images for this post were contributed by my friend Laney Miller, who helped me devour the loukoumades shown above)

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