Athens: Arrivals, Adventures, and Acclimation

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Greetings, FPU blog sphere!

My name is Will DePledge, and I am one of the travelers from whom you will regularly hear. I am a business major with accounting and finance emphases at FPU, and this is the third study-abroad trip of my undergraduate career. As previously mentioned by Anthony Fredette, we have just joined our FPU cohort after an informative and life-changing week in Rome.

If you are at all interested in reading about our experiences in Rome, please feel free to visit our personal blogs:
http://anthonyjfredette.com
http://adventureswithwill.weebly.com

For some brief context, our group has been traveling in Greece for approximately three and a half days now, and we are currently visiting archaeologically and historically significant sites around the island of Crete. We will return to the mainland on Monday.

On Wednesday, May 28th, following an expedient taxi experience in Italy, we quickly made it through security and landed in Greece. Immediately apparent to me are the similarities between the Greek and Californian climates. It is very dry and warm here, which is almost comforting since these types of summers are what I’m used to back home. Our taxi driver from the airport to our lodging was a very nice Greek man who was “night-and-day”” different from our Italian taxi experience. He cruised down the highway, grandly motioning and pointing out his favorite sights to us while weaving in and out of the traffic lines. After arriving at the hotel, we quickly reunited with our jet-lagged contingent and had lunch. Following lunch, I and a few other brave souls went on a quick walking tour of the part of Athens in which we are staying. We are very centrally located and are only a thirty-minute walk from the Greek parliament. Greece is a fascinating city to explore after living in Rome for a week. Though the two are not truly comparable, there are certain things that I am immediately starting to appreciate about Athens. First and foremost is the fact that I am no longer walking on cobblestones twenty-four-seven as I was in Rome. This means that my feet are now very happy and far less sore than they were in Rome.

After our quick walk around, we went on to our orientation at College Year in Athens, our hosts for the entirety of our tour. They are a study abroad college that works with college groups in the summer to organize trips like ours and provide much-needed in-country support for our venerable group leaders. Following our orientation we had a wonderful family-style dinner that featured feta cheese (my reason for coming to Greece; just kidding!) among other meat and salad dishes.

The next day, Thursday, we had a “late” start at 9 a.m. (late for me, since I had been rising at 7 a.m. or earlier all last week in Rome). I am extremely satisfied with the breakfasts here. Here, my breakfast is pretty much confined to a vat of the best Greek yogurt I have ever had, Greek coffee, and fresh orange juice. Energized and ready for the day, we proceeded to the New Acropolis Museum, which is constructed at the base of the acropolis. It is a fascinating and modern museum. The building is built with see-through floors that allow visitors to look on the excavations of ancient Athenian dwellings below. The theme of this museum is the construction of the Parthenon and the carvings that adorned it, but it also holds some very famous and early Greek statues. This museum seemed much less cluttered, without so many statues seen in almost every Roman museum we visited, and more focused on the progression through the years of both the Parthenon and the styles of the statues. This museum was really great because they have life-size reconstructions of what the friezes and carvings around the Parthenon would have looked like, including some of the original carvings that were not taken to the British Museum. In some ways, this museum felt more personal to me than some of the Roman museums. I still love all the museums in Rome, but there was something that was really appealing to me about this museum. Sadly, no photos were allowed in the museum.

Following our stint in the museum, we started a hunt for a place to exchange currency here in Athens. I call it a “hunt” because for some strange reason none of the banks do currency exchange here, as is the case in the States, Southeast Asia, the UK, and Ireland. Once we found a specific exchange, I had the pleasure of attempting to bargain for a better exchange rate, which the manager agreed to give us after my finagling. My Vietnam bargaining skills definitely came in handy! Though the manager explained everything to us, and it looked like we received a better rate, I am still not convinced that we received a better rate than was posted. At any rate, it makes for a fun story! We cooked dinner in our apartment in order to conserve money for later in the trip. We had a fun night of chatting and getting to know each other a little better.

On Friday, we visited the National Archaeological Museum, and it was truly spectacular! Like the museum yesterday, this museum holds some of the best preserved artifacts in the world. Not only did we see statues, pottery, and jewelry from the archaic period, but we also got to see what is thought to be the world’s first calculating device, the Antikythera Mechanism. I am still processing the full enormity of this great musuem, and will go into more detail in my next post. I spent the afternoon roaming Athens with one of our student groups and am really getting a feel for the city. Until next time! The next blog post will be written by another student in our group.

And so we go,

Will DePledge

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