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My Semester in Athens: Part 4

       

           For an entire month from early February to March, I traveled only in Greece. After seeing more urban, rural, and island parts of Greece, I have a pretty strong argument for why Greece is the most beautiful country in the world. Needless to say, it’s been a great month.

            The month began with my program’s trip to the Peloponnese in early February. After that, I travelled to the island of Skyros for Carnival, then we took another “fieldtrip”to Delphi, and finally last weekend I took a daytrip to the island of Aegina.

            My weekend in Skyros turned out to be one of the coolest experiences of my life. Six other students on my program and I travelled with a Greek “hiking” club, which often takes trip all over the Mediterranean. We discovered quickly however that hiking is a loose term because we did absolutely no hiking and most of our Greek travel companions were somewhere around 60 years old (fortunately, some were younger). Thus, we spent a lot of time walking at a leisurely pace and eating, which of course, was also a great way to spend the weekend.

            We were in the language minority: for the entire weekend, various people in our group had to translate to us where we were going and what we doing. The Greeks were extremely generous about translating for us and speaking to us in English. They loved meeting American students as much as we loved meeting Greeks!

             In Greece, the Greek Orthodox Church dominates cultural and religious life. “Greek Carnival” and “Greek Easter” is a big deal. Both holidays are causes for huge celebrations. Skyros has especially rich celebratory traditions for Carnival. For Carnival, young Skyrian men wear goatskins and bells around their waists. This “belt” of bells can weigh up to 40 kilos! These men walk the streets for days leading up to the Carnival celebration shaking the bells on their belts. Similarly, women wear traditional dress and dance around the streets and the square. After the celebrations, on “Clean Monday” the Greek Orthodox equivalent of Ash Wednesday, no one eats meat (fish doesn’t count), and they serve traditional food in the square. There is dancing and music.

          One last thing about going to Skyros: it’s like going back in time. The island flies under the radar as far as tourists are concerned, so it has been able to retain its traditions and cultural heritage to the present day. Carnival is the best time to go to Skyros because their traditions have remained so similar over time.

         Our other trips around Greece, the Peloponnese and Delphi, included a lot of crazy beautiful mountainous views and archaeological sites. As a Classics major, these trips were incredible. They have given me a whole new outlook on the field of archeology and taught me a lot about the history of Greece and the Aegean region.

          It definitely feels like someone hit the fast forward button on this semester. I can’t believe how quickly it became March. I am grateful to be abroad everyday; this feeling has only gotten stronger as the semester unfolds. I am trying to savor every minute…and every morsel of Greek food that I can! 

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