I’ve spent this last week in Italy and Greece and it was quite wonderful.
Venice was everything you expect it to be, except perhaps for the conspicuous lack of local Italians. The word on the street is that most people live outside the city because it’s so incredibly tourist-heavy. It was still lovely there though. Elana and I spent most of our time there just wandering the streets and along the canals because we didn’t want to waste our one full day locked in a museum or something. We did hop on a gondola at one point and did the typical grand tour of Venice by gondola. It was fun and as a bonus there was no bad opera-singing involved, although I hear you can pay extra for that. We mostly just ate and got sunburned as we relaxed at various cafes on the side of the canals. I had the most amazing plate of gnocchi and I really need to learn how to make it now because I almost feel like a little piece of my life was missing before I tasted real, authentic gnocchi and now I can never go back.
We had a bit of drama obtaining our ferry tickets because the address that it says the ticket office is at doesn’t actually, you know, exist. But after some phone calls and a lot of walking, we found the actual office and got on our ferry safe and sound. It was a LONG ride, over 30 hours. I mostly slept or read through it, but I have to say that the view was lovely. The Mediterranean is such a beautiful blue, almost a turquoise color, and passing by all the Greek islands was wonderful too. We finally arrived in Patras late the next evening. We had dinner and then caught a taxi to find ourselves a very pleasant surprise at the hotel we had reserved. It looked like paradise, even in the dark AND we totally had a balcony! For girls who are used to kind of dirty, crowded hostels while we travel, this was amazing. We spent the remainder of the night gushing about it. By daylight, it looked even better and I imagine with a nice summer crowd, it’s absolutely lovely to stay at for a few days. Because tourist season hasn’t really arrived yet in Greece, almost everywhere we went was almost empty, but that’s kind of nice too.
We didn’t stay long in Patras sadly, although we both swore up and down we wanted to come back as soon as possible, but we had already made plans for Athens, so we got on the first bus to the city. Once we had found our hostel in Athens, we headed out to shop and then a few hours later we found ourselves at the nearly deserted entrance of the Acropolis. We actually thought it might have been closed for a few minutes because there were maybe like 10 people there. Of course, it was open and they actually let us in for free because we are officially EU students! It was so exciting, because admission was going to be 12 euro. It was really nice to be able to wander around the Acropolis with so few people there because you could really look at things without feeling like you standing in the way of someone taking a picture or something. Sadly, they’re doing construction on the Acropolis right now to restore it and the building rigs are in almost all the pictures. :( We spent a good chunk of time at the very nice and modern Acropolis museum that’s just across the street from the actual thing. It’s got some really cool stuff including a lot of the original friezes and statues that were on the Acropolis. Almost every single statue was missing its head and other limbs because a couple centuries ago the Christians thought it would be cool to turn the Acropolis into a church and felt that they had to hack all the Roman art to pieces to accomplish this.
Everything was closing down early in Athens in preparation for the big Easter weekend, so Elana and I caught an earlier bus to Volos than planned and instead spent the evening chilling out by the seaside in the much smaller fishing town. We had actually just settled down in our hotel room when we heard a band playing and looked out the window to see the Easter parade in the distance. Needless to say, we rushed back into our clothes and all but bolted out the door to catch up. We got down to the street just in time and actually got to walk alongside the short procession for awhile before we headed back to our hotel again. It was really cool. I took some pictures, but it was too dark for my camera to be of much use. There wasn’t a whole lot to see anyway except one arch of flowers that the priests were carrying, but it was still a very nice experience to have.
Overall the people in Greece were just wonderful. On several occasions, Elana and I were a little shocked by the hospitality we were receiving. Free cookies, free shots, free souvenirs, free Greek lessons, you name it. It made the experience so much better. I didn’t really know what to expect when we decided to spend the week in Greece, but I was definitely very pleasantly surprised. I have to say I was a fan of the food in Venice a little more than the food in Greece, but it was still really good anyway. I mean, where else can you get roasted lamb and potatoes for 8 euro anyway? Besides the people and the food, the place itself is just paradise. Forget Hawaii, go to Greece, seriously. You’re never more than an hour from the ocean and it was so beautiful the entire time we were there.
And now we’re back in Brussels, facing the reality that our long papers are due in a week(yikes!) and very few of us have one substantial work for them. It’s actually gone and gotten quite muggy in Brussels while we were down in Greece in the breezy sea air as well.