Last weekend before leaving for Crete, I got to experience the true experience of Athens at night. My roommates and I relaxed and the apartment until about 1 am before heading out. This might seem super late, but it is a part of the culture of Greece. Greeks eat around 10/11 then go out after, so therefore 1 am was right on time. We took the subway to a popular hang out street in Monastraki. We found a huka bar that seemed to be filled with locals, not tourists which is always a plus. After hanging out for a couple hours we met two guys from Athens who helped us with our Greek, and told us about other places to check out around the city. Around 4 am my apartment-mate Kara had the extreme urge to go dancing, so we went to Gazi, which is basically a street filled with only dance clubs and bars. We decided to go the a very European dance club where all the locals were dancing full out to techno music and techno versions of popular American music and classic rock. Was a pretty odd combination, but it definitely worked with the atmosphere. After a bit we looked at the time and realized it was 6:15 am in the morning, and the club was still packed. Yikes. By that time we realized it was time for bed (very much time for bed), and we went back to our apartment why the sun rose. It was beautiful. The sun was a bright pinkish-purple, and we walked as others walked to church. I fell asleep in my bed as the church bells rang.
Sleeping in on Sunday was glorious (I guess you can call that sleeping in?). The day consisted of normal sunday activities, cleaning, school work, errands etc. Then in the evening my roommates and I met up with the guys we had met the night before to get coffee. They took us to a beautiful cafe along the water near the main port of Athens. They taught us all about Athenian sports. We watched the Greek national basketball team play in the European championships (they got 3rd!), and we watched some of the Greek soccer teams play. We learned that when the two soccer teams of Athens play it gets so violent that normally only the home team is allowed to come to the game in order to prevent violent fights. Isn't that crazy? That is like only Duke fans allowed to go to a Duke/UNC game in Cameron. I couldn't believe it. Hopefully we will be able to make it to a soccer match this fall.
For the rest of this week, I have been on the island of Crete. My program has two week long field trips, and this was the first one (the second is to the Peloponnese at the end of October). We left for Crete on Monday night, since it is so far away you have to take an overnight ferry. We boarded to boat around 8 and it left around 9. We were placed in four person bunk bed rooms with our own bathroom. It might sound squished but the rooms were actually pretty nice. The trip wasn't too bad for me especially because hours before I found the new Dan Brown book in English! For those of you who know, I am a huge fan and can't put the book down (however I did manage for a bit to write this blog entry).
We arrived at 6 am. We had breakfast on board then headed for our first site on the eastern side of Crete. Our first stop was the site of Malia. After spending an hour or so there, we bused to our second sight called Gournia which is located on a hillside overlooking the water, it was wonderful. Then we got lunch along the beachside. I had one of the many gyros I would have during the trip. After lunch we went to the town we would spend our first night, Agios Nikoloas, which is a very quaint, small town along a tiny port. I went out for an early dinner along the water, before heading to bed which was much overdue after an early morning wake up call on the ferry.
Wednesday was our busiest day. We woke up around 7 and had breakfast at the hotel. Our first stop was Lato, which is a site located in the mountains. The site had a breathtaking view of the mountainside that was definitely eye-opening. Our second stop was the large town of Heraklion where we walked around for lunch. It is the biggest town in Crete and is located along one of the biggest ports. After lunch we went to the famous Palace of Knossos. I am very torn with how I feel about it however. The famous archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans excavated the site in the 1880s and decided to basically "rebuilt" it as he thought it looked during its prime. This means that the site is extremely reconstructed and the wall paintings are redone from recent years. It is nice however to know more about what the palace probably looked like once upon a time, then just a pile of rocks, but it also seems a bit fake. Nonetheless it was incredible to be in a place I have learned about it my art history classes. After Knossos, we went back to Heraklion to spend the night. For dinner I went for gyros and got an amazing banana and chocolate crepe for desert. The town was very nice, but extremely touristy.
Thursday started with a bit of a disappointment. The archeological museum of Heraklion which has some of the most famous Minoan and Mycenaean artifacts ever found had an electrical failure and therefore we couldn't go inside. Pretty bummed about that. After that bump in the road, we drove to the town of Rethymnon which I loved. It was a beautiful small town, with lovely windy cobblestone roads along the water. We went to the archeological museum and walked around the old Venetian fortress overlooking the water. Afterwards we were given three hours of free time to eat and go the beach. Lunch sadly took a long time so I only had 30 minutes of beach time. But those 30 minutes were wonderful. We then drove to our last hotel in the town of Chania. For dinner my roommates and I found an amazing little restaurant down a tiny little street. I had my best dinner in Crete. I got fresh silver fish prepared on the grill. It was wonderful. Towards the end of dinner we were also served traditional Cretian liqueur with honey, it was quite good. After dinner we walked around the port where all the nightlife was, and were surrounded by water polo players. Apparently the european water polo championships were being held in Crete, I have never been around so many tall guys, it was crazy. It was a beautiful nigh, so we decided to explore the town a bit more before heading off to bed.
For our last day in Crete we went to our last site along a beach in western Crete. It was an old lookout fortress that was very well preserved. Afterwards we had a couple free hours to relax on the beach. The beach was wonderful, the only downfall was that our only cloudy day on the trip just happened to be on our beach day. I nonetheless enjoyed a couple hours relaxing while reading Dan Brown. Around 4 we boarded the bus back to the town of Chania for a couple more free hours before heading to the ferry. We got dinner along the port and people watched until it was time to head back. The ferry left Crete around 9, and we arrived in Athens around 5 am (early morning for sure). This boat was nicer than the other however and therefore we had tvs in our cabins. This was nice because I got to catch up on the world news, something I definitely miss watching.
Crete was definitely a great experience. It would be nice to go back with a more relaxed schedule. Our schedule definitely wasn't very leisurely, so therefore pretty tiring. The odd thing about Crete is that although it is an island, it is much larger (its quite big) and therefore doesn't give you the true Greek island experience. Therefore, I felt like I was along a country's coast, not an island most of the time. The hardest thing about Crete is guessing where to stay. There are so many wonderful towns, and it is very hard to choose a favorite. I have put all my Crete photos on facebook so if you want to see more you can check them out there :)
Now, I'm back in Athens relaxing and getting stuff done. Hopefully going to a Greek orthodox church tomorrow morning. I have my first Greek cooking class on Monday, tutor on Tuesday, lecture of Wednesday, then ISTANBUL this weekend! I can't wait.
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I miss you all so so so so much!