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My Semester in Athens: Part 3

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Amherst chapter.

What a hectic 9 days!

          Two Fridays ago, we braved a 4:15 am meeting time to get our flight to Istanbul. We arrived by 9 am, and had full weekend in the city. We got back Sunday night. At 8 am on Tuesday morning, we left Athens for the rest of the week to explore a different region in Greece, the Peloponnese. Thus, in 9 days, we went to 2 countries, stayed in 4 hotels and 4 different Greek towns, and saw 11 ancient Greek sites.

           I went on both these trips with my program; the Istanbul trip was optional, but the Peloponnese trip was actually part of our curriculum! The MVP was my charismatic professor Yannis (a.k.a. John). He currently works as an archeologist/professor. Not only did he smoke about two packs of cigarettes a day (very European), he also led both our groups all over Istanbul and Greece like a champ, showing us sites he had been involved in the excavation of and being our tour guide everywhere we went.

           In Istanbul, we hit all the major sites: the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, the Hippodrome the Cisterns, the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Market, and more. At night, we wandered around Taksim Square, which is like the equivalent of Times Sqaure in New York. We took a boat tour along the Bosporus Sea. And we did more; we covered a lot.

           Istanbul is a vibrant city. According to Wikipedia, it is the 23rd largest city in the world! Not only that, but it also comprises the largest Muslim population in any secular country in the world. Around the city, mosques and their minarets stand out among the other crowded buildings. For related reasons, Istanbul truly represents a collision of the West and the East. While their technology and stores are very Western, much of their clothing and customs remain rooted in the Eastern traditions. 

            My favorite part of the trip: Turkish Delight. Any shop we went into, either in Taksim Square or the bazaars, gave free samples. All the flavors, hazelnut, pistachio, nutella, pomegranate, are so so good!

            Keeping the adventures going, we went to the Peloponnese from last Tuesday through Saturday. The Peloponnese is a region in the southern part of Greece. We saw lots of little Greek towns like Kalamata, Nafplio, Olympia, to name a few. Fun fact about Greece: it has a population of about 11 million people, but nearly half live in Athens. While driving and travelling through all the little towns, the difference in population density is very apparent. However, like Athens, there were still lots of wild dogs and cats roaming the streets…

            The beginning of the week was, for Greece, very cold. It even snowed a little! But by the end of the week it warmed up, and just in time for my favorite site we went to, Messene. The site itself is still being excavated, so it’ll look totally different in ten years from now. The Messenians were incredibly wealthy; they had four theaters, mosaics for flooring, fountains made of marble, etc. What I loved though is that the site as it is now is like walking through a meadow. There were flowers, olive trees, and bird chirping. It was truly like dropping into a daydream.

            My last note about this week is about living in Athens. Because of the Greek Orthodox calendar, this weekend Greeks are celebrating Carnival! On my run on Sunday morning, I discovered a festival/fair in the middle of the National Gardens. There were vendors and kids dressed up in Halloween-like costumes. Later in the day, my friend Lizzy and I were walking through the main square and stumbled upon a political demonstration. If you’re interested, definitely stay tuned with Greek politics in the upcoming weeks. Right now, Greece and the EU are in limbo over whether or not Greece will remain in the EU. In Greece, everyone is holding their breath to see what happens next! 


Amherst College Senior, Amherst, MA. Member of Amherst Women's Varsity ice hockey team. Hometown is Washington, D.C