Saturday, October 24, 2009


First of all, I must say that as I am writing this in the Athens airport, they are playing the Harry Potter theme. As you know I am very much enjoying this, especially since I’m about to write about my experience in London.

Well, before I jump to talking about British adventures, I should mention that my roommates and I had our first evening as hostesses. The Wednesday before I left for London we had our Greek friend John over, along with one of his friends. We were really excited to show them Greek hospitality. We managed to get together some yummy marble and chocolate cake and some wine to go with it (we told them we would be serving desert). However, they totally trumped us once again because they brought us an incredible cake and a nice bottle of wine, oh well. The evening was really nice. We once again got into cultural debates about sports, music, and food. I’m starting to get a good list of Greek music to bring back. We also busted out Emily’s hookah for the first time, which was quite the experience. We definitely had to google how to start a new hookah. I sadly had to leave the “party” a bit early (around 1 am) since I had class the next morning and a flight to London in the evening….

Oh London. What a good time. My flight to London was in the evening. It was my first time taking EasyJet, and I must say I am quite the fan. It was super super cheap and on time (flying it to Paris in a couple weeks). Not a bad combination. My flight to London was uneventful. I basically slept the entire way. Because of the time different I landed in London around 11:30 pm, and thus the fun began. Austin, Kathryn, and Hannah were there the moment I got through customs. It was the nicest, sweetest thing ever. I wanted to have a Love Actually moment, so I quickly ran to them (while trying not to drop everything and my pants which were falling down). There is something about meeting loved ones and friends at the airport, always special. However, because my flight got in so late, the London metro had stopped running (yes, for some reason the London metro stops at midnight, all days of the week, hmmm). And thus our first adventure began. I was so excited to be in London and with such good company, I didn’t care if the trip to their flat was 5 hours long. The trip to back was filled with catching up and deciding what to do for the weekend. The first thing I noticed was how cold it was, my ugg boots and north face were in full force. Goodbye 82 degree Athenian weather. We got to their flat (they are studying at Queen Mary College, which is about 15 minutes outside central London) at about 2:30. We talked for a bit, but very quickly passed out.

Friday: We all got up quite early to eat a true London breakfast. It was the closest thing to an American breakfast I had had in quite some time. I was served baked beans (yes a british breakfast), mushrooms, sausage, hash browns, and eggs. The Brits aren’t leading in the healthy food department. It was delicious though, and it was topped off with an espresso. After breakfast we went back to the flat, because Hannah and Kathryn had to do laundry, and sadly Austin had lab for an hour. Once everyone was done with what they had to do, we took the metro the central London, I was so excited. We got out at Westminster station. Westminster Abbey is one of my favorite places. It might go back to when my dad and I went there when I was very little and we set off all the alarms, but who knows. Sadly, the abbey had close at 3 and we got there at 3:20, I guess another trip to London is alr

eady in order. We then walked around Parliament, Big Ben, and then crossed the bridge to the side with the London Eye. Along the way, I got to pose in a traditional red phone booth, oh the tourist life. We decided to take the London Eye, which was wonderful. One rotation takes about 30 minutes, and it gives you a fantastic view of the entire city. However, once we had seen just about every bit of London we realized that we were super hungry. We then took the metro to the Victoria station to eat at a sushi restaurant called Yo Sushi! It is a chain and therefore not the best sushi ever by any means, but I hadn’t had sushi in over two months and I was in heaven. It is the kind of place where the sushi is put on a conveyor belt and each plate is a different color which represents a different price. I was grabbing eel left and right, it was glorious. While eating, we decided that we all wanted to go dancing, however this of course means planning on which club to go to. Austin, Hannah, Kathryn and I went back to the flat to regroup. We decided to just go i

nto central London and see where the night takes us. After some relaxation, we met up with a bunch of other Dukies studying in London (there are apparently around 20ish in the city this semester), and took the metro to Piccadilly Circus. After much wandering around (but hey, I got to see more of the city), we finally decided upon a club that was “underground.” Pleased that we had finally found a place, we all claimed a table and a place on the dance floor. The evening was a ton of fun. It was great seeing so many people. Around 3 am (yes, compared to Athens, London closes down super early, however I’m not complaining since I like my sleep) we decided it was time for sleep. Overwhelmingly tired, especially from dancing, we bused back to Queen Mary and quickly passed out. A great first full day.

Saturday: We woke up around 8:15 am and got ready for another filled day. We took the metro to central London in order to get tickets for a Billy Elliot performance that day. For those of you who don’t know, I have been wanting to see this musical for a very long time. This past year it won 10 Tonys, including best musical. However, since it is very popular the evening performance was sold out, so we bought tickets for the matinee instead. Since we had a couple hours to kill before the show, we talked to Buckingham Palace, and got food to picnic in St. James’s park. It was lovely. We then walked around the Buckingham Palace area for aw

hile, before heading back to the theater. Sadly, Austin could not join us because he had to finish a lab report, boo, therefore it was Hannah, Kathryn, and I who went to the show. IT WAS INCREDIBLE. I can’t even begin to tell you how talented the lead boy was, incredible. The dancing and choreography was splendid. Multiple times I was looking at the stage with my mouth open in awe. I totally recommend it to anyone who likes musicals. It also appeals to all ages. After the show we met up with some Duke friends who were also visiting London for the weekend, Allie and Adam (studying in Scotland and Barcelona) and headed for a quick tour of Harrods. After seeing the famous Egyptian rooms, we decided to go to a pub in Piccadilly Circus for dinner and drinks. We found a very nice pub a block from the main square, I got Klopenberg pear ale (soooo good), and a traditional Shepard’s pie sort of entrĂ©e. Yummy. After that we went back to the flat to hang out before passing out from another full and wonderful day.

Sunday: Was super packed. We woke up again around 8:15 am and took the metro to central London. However, half the metros were under construction that day so it took us about 2 hours to get to central London because we had to do a crazy combination of buses, metros and walking (good thing we woke up early). We stopped along the way to King’s Cross Station, so I could see PLATFORM 9 ¾. It was great, why can’t Harry Potter be real!? I ask that everyday

. After pretending I wasn’t a muggle, we continued on to the Tate Modern (the famous modern museum of London). As most of you know, I love love love art, and especially modern art (the kind that most people don’t get), so therefore the Tate Modern was heaven for me. I walked around for about 2 hours and soaked up the amazingness of the place. I honestly could spend all day there. I recommend the Tate to anyone who remotely likes a

rt when they visit London. I honestly thing it gives the run for the MOMA and could even beat it at times, no kidding. After some modern art, we decided to walk across the Millennium bridge (it is the bridge that breaks a part from the dementors

in the new Harry Potter movie), to St. Paul’s cathedral. First of all, the bridge is pretty cool. However, after it opened in 2000 I believe it was shut down for some years because it bounced too much, that problem has since been fixed. St. Paul’s is also very beautiful, I really liked the interior. It is where Prince Charles and Princess Diana were married. After walking around for a bit, we took the metro to the British museum. Most of you probably already know how incredible it is, or have heard about its reputation. It is this HUGE museum that basically covers the history of the entire world, it is really great. It has artifacts from just about every time period an from every corner of the glob. It is very famous for its Egyptian mummy collection. I however really enjoyed the off beat exhibits of India, Japan, and Africa. I thought they were especially interesting. HO

WEVER, as you probably know it is where the Elgin/Parthenon marbles are. If you haven’t heard about this controversy then well y

ou are probably living under a rock. If you haven’t, you should look it up, its pretty interesting. The marbles are in this stunningly beautiful room, so a part of me wants them to stay there. But now that I feel like an honorary Greek, I must say I think they should be in the New Acropolis museum, and I will stay with that side of the argument. But you can see why both cities want them, they are beautiful. Nothing beats them when it comes to Greek sculpture, nothing. It was funny however seeing so much Greek stuff in London. Anywho, after about three hours in the British museum, we headed back to their flat s

o that I could sadly pack my bags. We decided to meet up with a bunch of Dukies and get Indian food for dinner. I was super excited. The food was incredible, I have been craving ethnic food for so long. After a very good and filling dinner, Hannah, Kathryn, Austin and I headed to King’s Cross station in order for me to get a train to the airport. After a sad goodbye (however Austin and Kathryn are coming to Athens in November and I am super excited!), I was on the train to the airport. My flight was at 6:30 am though so I got to spend a lovely evening in the airport, woo hoo. It wa

sn’t that bad, actually. AND my flight landed just in time for me to be on time (with two minutes) to spare for my Greek class.

It was an incredible weekend overall. My friends were incredible hosts which just made the weekend that much better. And it was really great to see Duke friends while abroad.

Can’t wait to hear what everyone has been up to. Love comments J



Friday, October 23, 2009

Athens as a New Home

It is definitely safe to say that I know view Athens as a second home. I don't have to look at maps anymore, and I like to think I walk the streets like the locals. However, it does freak me out that it is nearly November. I am already half way done with my once in a life time experience that is study abroad.

Where to begin.....

The Monday we got back from Istanbul I had one of my favorite experiences as a student....the moment your professor invites all the students over to his or her house. Why do I love this? Because you get to know so much more about your professor, and the professors that do this always seem to be my favorite ones (even before they invite us over). Anywho, my "Understanding Europe" (basically a comparative government class for countries within the European Union) professor, Professor Gandolfo, invited us over to his hour for class, and then afterwards to have dinner at his house. We would be cooking/eating Italian, because he is Italian.

When I arrived at his apartment, I was immediately taken aback by how cool and nice his apartment was. He lives on the top floor and has a view overlooking the entire city, an especially nice view of the Acropolis. We had class, and then we got ready for dinner. He asked for three volunteers in the kitchen in which I immediately shot up my hand. I was quickly sucked into cutting up yummy cheese, helping make a salad, and getting the pasta, stew, and meat ready, and most importantly making sure the wine was served. Everything was INCREDIBLE. My professor is an amazing cook.
However, as we were all eating our delicious food, on the balcony while watching the acropolis, the best part of the evening occurred in which my professor began to tell us his life story (thanks to one of my friends gently easing him on). Everyone quickly got quiet and circled around for story time. It turns out my professor is this amazing guy. Long story short, he has lived in Italy, Argentina, the United States, and France. He got his Phd/a prestigious fellowship at Yale, became the editor of a paper before the age of 25, became an unofficial ambassador to Bhutan which resulted in him walking in with the Bhutanese athletes during the opening ceremony in Athens in 2004, and much much more. He also has two sons studying at Yale and Tufts. Seriously, his story was incredible. This was honestly one of my favorite nights so far in Athens. I got to connect with my fellow students, along with one of my professors, over an incredible dinner in an incredible city. If anyone decides to study abroad in Athens and go to CYA, you MUST take a class with Professor Gandolfo.

The next evening I tutored. We learned how to measure and calculate the diameter and radius of a circle. Good times, however, geometry was my favorite math subject in high school. Celia (the girl I tutor), is also starting to treat me more as a friend and not just as a tutor which is nice. That night she couldn't stop talking about a boy she liked, oh dear....

....and my weekend was something to look forward to because I had my first visitor in Athens, my mom! My goal was to plan the whole weekend, I wanted to be the best tour guide.

Thursday: I was counting down the minutes until my International Relations class was over so I could run over to my mom's hotel. I had also just turned in a paper and taken a greek test so I was done done done for the week in many ways. After a very exciting and loud welcome/greeting. I rushed my mom over to the famous Benaki Museum. The Benaki museum is the home of a very prominent Athens family whose house and all of there possessions (Greek art and artifacts from the span of many many years) is on display, and on Thursdays it is free, yay! The museum was incredible, and I think it was also a great way to start the weekend. After doing a tour of the museum, although sadly a bit rushed, since we had dinner reservations at a taverna in Kolonaki with my roommates. I loved dinner, eating and talking with my mom and roommates was very enjoyable. The food was really great, although because the restaurant is so popular (and fresh) they had run out of ALOT of the options. Although they did have one of my favorite new Greek dishes, veal in tomato sauce, yum. Afterwards, since it was about 1 am and jet lag was in full force for my mom, we went on a quick hunt for ice cream before crashing in our beds.

Friday: I got to sleep in until 11, it was glorious. Mom and I got breakfast at the hotel, which was super good, before walking to Friday's farmers market two streets down from my apartment. I think my mom really enjoyed it because it really gives you a local flavor of Greece, plus who doesn't love all the produce and fish on display? So good. We then did a quick run to my apartment so I could drop of produce purchases, and then we were on our way for some sightseeing. On the way one of the many stray dogs of Athens took a liking to us, we named him Brownie. I took her by the parliament building to look at the guards and their funny uniforms, to my school, by the old olympic marble stadium, to the Temple of Zeus, the Acropolis, and the Acropolis Museum. We could not ask for a better day, the weather was nice (although hot) at the Acropolis and you could see the city for miles and miles and miles, it was wonderful. At the Acropolis Museum we stopped for a light bite to eat, the food there is really quite good. Afterwards, we went on a walk around the city. We walked through Plaka (where the acropolis is) and Syntagma (the main square of the city). Once we reached my neighborhood Kolonaki, we went down the nicest street in the area called Skoufa. It is where all the hip bars and cafes are, along with the nicest designer stores. After our walk, we took a siesta before our evening fun. For dinner we went to a restaurant called Dionysos, one that my Greek teacher recommended. It was wonderful. It is a popular place for governmental events, because it has a stunning view of the Acropolis. So stunning. My favorite thing I got was octopus, soooo gooodd. After dinner we went back to the hotel and watched "My Life in Ruins," it is a horrible movie, but incredibly entertaining to watch for anyone who has ever been to Athens. Shows a lot of Greece, could even recognize particular streets!

Saturday, was definitely more relaxed. After a leisurely breakfast, we went around Kolonaki to all the stores and shops. I didn't realize jut how beautiful and wonderful my neighborhood was until that day, so great. I'm lucky to be living in such a great part of Athens. We then went to a really cool cafe called Art and Books, its basically a coffee shop that has sushi and its decorated as if a very hip library (with a dj in the corner). There are two menus, one for drinks and the other for books. Although I'm not quite sure who could read there. At first, because the menus were in Greek I thought you could order a drink called "Dan Brown", however when I asked for it I quickly learned it was not a drink but rather the actual book. Oh well. After coffee we walked around the neighborhood some more before heading back to the hotel to relax for dinner. That night we went to a restaurant called Spondi (my cooking class teacher recommended it so I was sure it would be good). And I was right. It was incredible. It is sort of a fusion of international cuisine but presented in a uber-modern way. My favorite dish was the sea urchin served with a type of cucumber foam, amazzzzing. After dinner we went back to the hotel and watched a documentary on Valentino. Was really interesting, recommend it for anyone into fashion/fashion history and business.

Sunday: Ate breakfast (became a huge fan of the breakfast by the way), and got ready to go the the famous flea market in Monastraki. We walked around the area for quite some time looking at all the crazy interesting stuff on sale. It is a must for anyone who comes to Athens, especially on Sundays. I got really excited because I got an Athens olympic pin from 2004, as you know I love Athens and the olympics, so this was a perfect souvenir. My mom got a really pretty ring for under 15 euros, yay the flea market! Then I walked my mom to the famous meat/seafood market, although I failed as a tour guide because the market had ended by the time we got there, that was a bit disappointing. We then went back to Kolonaki for lunch. We ate at a wonderful italian restaurant called Codice Blu. I think the winning entree was pasta win sea urchin. Yes, I am obviously obsessed with sea urchin lately, because it is sooo good. We then relaxed before heading out to a taverna for greek music and food. My mom got to experience a true Greek evening, which I was really happy about. Sadly people hadn't started dancing by the time we left (12:30 am on a Sunday night), so sadly my mom didn't get to see any greek dancing, although she heard greek music.

Monday: Was a semi busy. The first thing we did was head to the Chinese embassy because we had to get our visas for our trip to Shanghai. It was quite the experience, basically an organized mob in front of a gate of people trying to get visas. Oh dear. Thankfully we got our papers submitted. However we got them in 24 hours because my mom had to fly back the the US and I was flying to London Thursday night! After our embassy experience, I taxied over to my school for class, urg. After Greek I met up with my mom and we went out to lunch in Pangrati (the neighborhood my school is in). The taverna was called O Vyrinnis, it was wonderful. I got an eggplant dip that was super yummy. After eating, I sadly had to my Understanding Europe class for a midterm. After an hour and a half of writing later, I met my mom in my school's cafeteria for my second cooking lesson! We cooked an eggplant dip and lemon chicken (I posted the recipes already so check them out). After the lesson, we went back to the hotel the relax since it was our last night together in Athens.

Tuesday: I sadly had to wake up super early because I had a midterm exam in my archaeology class at 8:30. After a yummy breakfast I went to my school to take the test, after the test however, I quickly taxied over to the hotel to pick up my mom for us to go to the Chinese embassy to get our visas. After a quick run to the embassy I had to sadly say goodbye to my mom as she continued on to the airport. I sadly too had to taxi back to my school for Greek class. That night I tutored Celia, and we learned about the digestive system. Oh joy, haha.

Overall it was a wonderful visit with my mom. I had an amazing weekend and was really sad to see her go, although we have our China shortly after :)

......and the next weekend I was going to LONDON!! :)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Recipes from 2nd Cooking Class

Hello! Here are the recipes from my second Greek cooking class. Enjoy! Updates from the past week/London coming once back from the land of British accents :)




GARLIC 2 cloves (chopped fine)

SALT 1 ½ tea spoon

PEPPER ½ tea spoon

OREGANO 1 ½ teas spoon

OLIVE OIL ½ tea cup

LEMON JUICE ½ tea cup

BAY LEAVES 5-6 leaves


We peel wash and cut the potatos. Then we place the potatos in the tray and add all the ingredients except the lemon juice. We mix well and we place in the oven . the oven has to be preheated at 225C –440F.

We cook until potatos get coloured and we mix them one time with a spatula.

Duration of cooking depends of the potatos so more or less we need an hour.

Of course we can try one potato to make sure.

We add the lemon juice 5 minutes before take them out.




11/2 kg of chicken( drum sticks or breast or whole chicken in small portions)

2 onions (chopped)

2 cloves of garlic(chopped)

2 bay leaves

1spoon of mild mustard

1 cup of white wine

¾ of a cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Veg. Oil ½ cup


We place the onion and the garlic in the pot and we fry with some oil until brown.

In a fry pan we brown color the chicken and we place it in the pot with the onion and the garlic,we cook for a few minutes and we add the wine.

After a while we add the lemon juice the mustard and the other ingredients.

We add 2 cups of water and we cook for about 30 to 40min,

We make sure that the chicken is cooked and in the end we use some corn flour with water to make the sauce thicker.

We can serve with potatoes or rice.



White dried beans medium size ½ kg

2-3 medium carrots

2 celery sticks

2 onions (medium size)

2 cloves of garlic

1 potato (cut in cubes)

1soup spoon tomato paste

250gr. Tomato peeled(konkase)



¾ of a cup olive oil


We place the beans in the pot and we add water up to the half of the pot.

When the beans start boiling we add the carrots in rounds the onions-celery-garlic chopped and then the tomatoes.

In the end we add the salt-pepper and olive oil

We cook for about an hour and we check if more water is needed to add.

We taste the soup to see if it needs more salt and if the beans are cooked.

Then we leave the soup for ½ an hour to rest and we serve.



2Kg eggplants (big ones)



olive oil


2 cloves of garlic


Place the eggplants in a baking try and grill them for appr. 40min

(before that do some holes to avoid blow)

you might add some salt also.

When the skin is black and wrinkled we remove.

Allow to cool and remove the skin.

We place the eggplants in a strainer and leave for ½ an hour.

Then we place in a bowl and mash into a puree adding all the ingredients.

We taste to see if the seasoning is ok and we serve with pitta bread.

Friday, October 9, 2009


As a warning before you read this blog, I feel deeply in love with the city of Istanbul. It might possibly be one of my most favorite cities I have ever ever been to. The warning
is that I will probably bug anyone who shows any interest in the city to go immediately, and probably won't stop until they do.We (all my roommates but Marissa sadly), left for Istanbul around 5 in the morning last Friday. We caught an early metro and breezed through security, getting us to our gate a solid hour before takeoff. I briefly passed out until our gate was called. The flight is surprisingly only an hour. If you look at a map it makes perfect sense, but for some reason Athens to Istanbul just seemed a bit further away in my mind. The airline was quite nice. They served us a decent sized breakfast on an hour long flight. Can you imagine that in the States? I can't.When we landed, all of us couldn't contain our excitement. In order to enter Turkey however, you have to buy a visa at the customs entrance. For 15 Euros we got our visa and went quickly through customs.

Side note: Now, here is the best part of our trip. When we all went to Santorini a couple weeks ago, we met a guy who was staying at our hostel with a European Union youth workers program who was from Istanbul. We told him we had just booked tickets to visit in a couple weeks. In response we swapped contact information so that he could possibly show us around if he was free. He is studying music theory at a local university in Istanbul, so he said chances would be good he could show us around. Lucky for us, he told me that he would be free and would meet us at the airport.

Anywho, so we weren't sure if he was actually going to show up, etc. However, the moment we went through customs he was waiting for all of us with a big smile on his face. His name is Orkun and he ended up making our trip the best it could possibly be.
As you probably know Turkish is a language I know nothing about. I arrived not even knowing how to say hello. So having Orkun take us to our hostel via the metro was super helpful. My roommates Emily and Laura did a great job with finding a hostel to stay at. They booked a hotel called the Tulip guesthouse, at it is in the main historical square where the Hagia Sophia is and the Blue Mosque. The four of us stayed in a ten person bunk room, so basically we were in bunk beds with 6 people. However, it was super cool. We met people from all over the world in our room including two people from New Zealand who knew and have eaten at my favorite cafe in Wellington! super cool.

The first thing we did was walk around the main square with Orkun. He bought us typical bread/breakfasty snacks and tea to eat in the park before heading off on our first adventure. Orkun has basically planned out our entire weekend, it was incredible. He walked us to the main port where we walked through the spice bazaar. I have never ever seen so many spices in my life in one place. He also bought us a finely cured turkish meat that was beyond delicious. Before getting on a boat to get a tour of the Bosphorus we walked by a mosque while they were calling people to prayer. Before you enter the mosque the men wash their hands and feet so that they are cleansed before entering the sacred place. We then hoped on a boat for a lovely hourish ride along the water. Istanbul is beautiful, we passed many palaces and venetian walls along our way. Incredible. After the ride we took a walking tour of the city. Along the way we stopped at beautiful mosques, cafes to drink traditional turkish tea, and to listen to street musicians. We even played a shooting game with a bb gun where you aim to hit balloons some feet in front of you. First time I have ever held anything that slightly resembles a gun. Quite scare actually. Orkun told us we were walking towards his favorite street vendor that sells "special baked potatoes" and he was right. This vendor sells baked potatoes with just about every traditional Turkish condiment known to man. If Anthony Bourdain ever comes to Turkey (will have to check if he has), I bet, hands down, that he would go to this place. It was incredibly yummy. So good. After our baked potato adventure, we taxied back to the downtown area called Takism (not sure on the spelling), where we went to a hookah bar and got traditional tea. Now one of the great things about Istanbul that at all the bars everyone is playing backgammon. I was taught the rules when I was a little girl, so after a refresher course from Orkun I was hooked. Playing backgammon at a hookah bar while sipping tea in Istanbul is not a bad deal. After relaxing for a bit we went to a rooftop bar that looked down upon the busy cities, it as wonderful. The place played British tec/pop that added a lot to the funky atmosphere. However, we were exhausted shortly after we passed out at our hostel.

The next day Orkun could not meet us because he had to go to a party to celebrate his friend getting his pilots license, so we did the major touristy things since he couldn't be there. Our first stop was the oldest palace in Istanbul. It was really really nice, would not mind calling it my home. The palace is made up of incredible buildings that are just stunning, a incredible jewelry/object collection from political relations back in the day, and wonderful artifacts crossing over many centuries. Then we went to the amazingly beautiful Hagia Sophia. I will say now that it is the most amazing building I have ever been too (the only thing that beats it is St. Peter's and just just barely in my opinion). For those of you ho don't know Hagia Sophia is a fascinating place because in its history it has been both a mosque and a held under Christian rule, so you can see inscription of Allah next to mosaics of Jesus Christ, fascinating. The Hagia Sophia is honestly something you can't describe and photos barely do it any justice. We then went to the Underground Cistern, which are also wonderful. You walk down these stairs and then all of a sudden you are in this spooky, cool, beautiful walkway surrounded by columns glowing with red lights. After the walk we decided it was time for lunch. We decided to get the cheapest gyro like concoction we could find, and luckily it was quite good. We were then on our way to the famous Blue Mosque. Before entering all women have to make sure they are conservatively dressed, if not they hand out long scarves to cover yourself at the door. The mosque is stunning, it is covered in beautiful, intricate tile designs. We decided to sit in the corner and watch the men pray, it was fascinating and a beautiful tradition to witness. However, the women have to pray in the back of the mosque away from the men (they are even put behind the tourists walking around), I know it is tradition but a bit unsettling, but nonetheless deep tradition. After watching for quite some time, we decided to head the the also famous Grand Bazaar. It is the largest bazaar in the entire world. We were totally taken aback my the atmosphere. I personally was just looking for a nice little memento of Istanbul, however, Emily was on a mission to get a hooka. Luckily for us, after talking to millions of people, and looking at billions of shops. We all got nice pashminas, and Emily was successful at finding a nice and affordable hookah. Exhausted, we went back to the hostel to rest before going out again to the downtown area. At around 10ish, we headed back to Takism, the place we had gone for drinks the night before. We decided to walk into the first bar that had a rooftop area, and it just so happened that we walked into an American themed bar, oh well. While there we met two college students who were studying in Istanbul (one was an NYU student who was studying abroad and the other was Turkish studying at a local university), we also met up with some guys who were also visiting Istanbul from our program. The evening was a lot of fun and relaxing.

The next day (sadly our last full day), we woke up around 8 for breakfast before leaving to meet Orkun at the local port. For our last day Orkun had decided to take us to the largest island off the coast of Istanbul called Buyukada. The island is especially interesting because cars are not allowed on the island, only emergency/police vehicles. The ferry over took about an hour and half. When we arrived, I could tell that the island was going to be beautiful. The first thing we did was walk about the main square to get a feel for the island. We then decided to take a carriage ride to see most of the island. The carriage ride was beautiful, and we some some amazing summer homes. Halfway through the ride, we stopped at the bottom of a hill in order for the horse to take a bit of a break. While waiting, we decided to climb up the hill to a beautiful church located at the very top. The climb was quite exhausting but well worth the trip. The church was extremely beautiful. Inside I also learned another thing about Turkish culture. A woman and a few young girls were going around the church giving people chocolate, apparently in sacred spaces in Turkey you share sweets with those around you. I think that is an amazing tradition. After walking around for a bit, we walked back down to our horse carriage to take us back to the main square. Sadly, by the time we returned it was time for us to catch the ferry back. However, my roommates were really excited to visit the continent of Asia (half of Istanbul is European and the other is Turkish), so we got off the boat a bit early to have dinner in Asia. Orkun took us to an amazing restaurant so we could have traditional Turkish kebob. It was amazzzzing. After dinner, we took a taxi back to the port to boat back to Taksim for our last evening. Orkun took us to our favorite hookah/tea/backgammon place for the last time. Sadly, after hanging out for an hour (and sort of beating Orkun at backgammon, with a bit of coaching), Orkun sadly had to say goodbye (he had to go back to his university for classes the next day). After Orkun left, we went back to the hostel to get sleep before a 5am wakeup call to catch our plane back.

Overall, Istanbul was incredible. My weekend there will definitely be one that I remember forever. Would love to talk to anyone who is thinking about going, can give you some advice on what to see.

Can't wait to hear what everyone at home has been up to. I miss you all so much. Comments are like getting Christmas presents in October :)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

recipes from my first cooking class

As I promised before leaving for Greece, I would post the recipes from my cooking class over the semester. Enjoy! And once back in Williamsburg, I will have an "Erin cooks Greek food for everyone" party :)

Here are 3 recipes:



½ kg of lentils

2 medium onions

2 cloves of garlic

3 carrots

2 sticks celery

2 spoons tomato paste

200gr. Tomato peeled

1 cup olive oil





We place the lentils in a pot and we add water up to the half.

Then we chop the onions, garlic, celery.

We pass the carrots from the grater and put all in the pot.

We add the tomato paste and the rest of the ingredients.

We cook for appr. 40 min. in medium temp.

We taste to see if the salt is ok and we add some vinegar.

( we can add one potato to make the soup thicker)



1kg beef mince

2 onions

3 cloves of garlic

2 eggs

1 bunch of parsley chopped

1 bunch of mint chopped

½ cup olive oil

2 cups of breadcrumbs




cumin powder



1 onion chopped

1 clove of garlic chopped

2 cans of tomato peeled

1 teaspoon sugar

some salt and pepper

2 cups of water

some olive oil


We place the meat in a bowl and we add all the ingredients.

We chop very fine all (onions, garlic, parsley, mint)

We use another bowl to mix the breadcrumbs with water until soft.

When the mince is ready we form into small oval shape meatballs and place them into a baking tray.

We cook in the oven 225C for about 25 min.

In the main time we prepare the tomato sauce.

In a fry pan we put some olive oil and we brown fry the onion and garlic.

Then we add the tomato, salt , pepper, sugar and cook for a few minutes.

We add the water and cook for about 15min.

Then we add the tomato sauce in the tray with the meatballs and we cook for about 15min more in the oven.

We remove from the oven and we serve with mashed potatoes or rice.





GARLIC 5 cloves

FRESH MINT 1 bunch

FRESH DILL 1 bunch

OLIVE OIL ½ tea cup

WINE VINEGAR 2 table spoons

SALT ¾ of a tea spoon

PEPPER ¼ of a tea spoon

OUZO 2 table spoons


First we pass the cucumbers from the grater and leave them for an hour in the strainer.

We make sure that all the juices have gone.

Then we chop the mint the dill and the garlic very fine and we mix them together with the yogurt and the cucumber. Now we add the salt-pepper-oil-vinegar and ouzo and mix again until make sure that is ready. We cover the bowl and keep it in the refrigerator. We can serve it with vegetable sticks and pitta bread.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

a religious experience in a language I don't understand

So much to tell and so much has happened. Let's see:

Last Sunday (now two mondays ago), Emily, Laura and I woke up early in search for a beautiful mosque on the top of a hill near Monastraki. After looking at the map a couple times, we finally found the one we were looking for. My Athens travel book had said it was one of the top destinations for weddings in Athens because of its hauntin
g beauty, and it was right. Greek orthodox services are until any religious event I have ever been too. The service itself is quite long, normally from 7:30 till 10:30, however, people can (and do) come and go as they please. We then decided to arrive around 9:30. The mosque itself is not v
ery big at all, it is actually quite small. The service consists of two priests across the room from each other and they sing/chant back and forth. The entire service is chanting and singing. Also, during the service would stand and sit at random intervals, since the whole service was in Greek, I obviously couldn't catch on to easily on whether I should be standing or sitting. I think that going to a Greek orthodox church is a must for anyone who wants to see the true side of Athens, it was pretty incredible/interesting. The mosque looked like something straight out of Dan Brown novel, it was crazy. In addition, we seemed like the only non-locals, therefore I feel like I got a true orthodox experience. After the service a woman came up to us and welcomed us to the church, I thoug
ht that was really wonderf
After the service we walked down the hill to the main square of Monastraki for the weekly flea market. The flea market is also another must see while visiting Athens. The people are lined up in the square selling the most random assortment of antiques. I'm pretty sure I saw every telephone that has ever been invented. Although I went back empty handed, I really enjoyed the market and will probably go back many times this semester.

Last Monday was my first cooking class! It was so much fun. My class consists of about 12 people and we cook in the school's kitchen. The teacher is a local chef who has taught cooking classes at the school for a couple years now. He kind of looks like Anthony Bourdain if he were Greek haha. The class starts at 7 and we cook until about 8:30/9 and eat around 9:45. For our first class, we learned how to cook tzaziki, greek lentil soup, and "narrowly shaped Greek meatballs," which were incredible. I was put in charge of getting tzaziki recipes ready and forming the meatballs. We also learned how to pair wines with the food. I w
ill be posting the recipe as soon as my cooking instructor emails them to us. The best part is after the food is ready, we went a large table and eat for about an hour. Was amazingly delicious.

Last Wednesday was the first lecture of my program's lecture series. We had the former editor of Athens News come in and talk about the Greek elections. He focused on just how incredibly bad the Greek economy currently is, and how it is the main focus of the next government. Apparently Greece has one of the the largest amounts of debt of all the countries in the European Union. My political science t
eacher also gave me copies of so
me of the ballots for the Greek election, will defiantly be brining those back home as souvenirs. However, after the lecture I had to quickly run to the girl's house I tutor. That night we worked on the structure of an essay and how to measure the radius and diameter of a circle. I really enjoy working with her, so excited I got the opportunity. Also, not a bad deal that its paid, although I would have totally done it for free. Does pay for extra food though :)
The best part of the day however came when we met our Greek friends in the evening for traditional Greek dancing! Our friends are wonderful because they take us to the "true" places of Athens, not the touristy ones. For example the entire menu was only in Greek! This was the first time we hadn't had English on our me
nus, very exciting. It was so much fun. We got there around 10 and ate dinn
er/had drinks. At about midnight the place started to get exciting, the Greek music got louder and everyone started to dance. It is true, the Greeks really do dance in circles and snap their fingers. I can't even begin to tell you how much fun it was. I decided to put up my dancing shoes around 2:30 am however because I had an 8:30 the next morning. The Greeks do know how to dance and party (even on Wednesday night).

Thursday evening I got to see another exciting side of Greece- a political rally! As I have mentioned a couple times before, Greece had a prime minister election this past Sunday, so last Thursday I went to the rally for the oppositional party called PASOK. PASOK is the socialist party of G
reece and was very much favored to win (and they did win with a strong majority). Laura and I decided to catch the action, the moment we got off the metro we realized we were in the right spot. The streets were completely shut down and speakers all along the main street was blaring the speech by the candidate (and now the future prime minister). Everyone was screaming and dancing, covered in green (the party's color) and waving flags. It was an incredible sight, I have never seen anything like it before. After his speech the sky lit up with fireworks and the entire crowd started singing the party's song. It was mind blowing. O
ur political rallies are completely different in the States. After the intense commotion died down, Laura and I went back to the apartment to pack for ISTANBUL!