Julia SMU-in-Paris

Julia is a junior from Plano majoring in history, with a French minor, and is a member of the University Honors Program. She is studying abroad with SMU-in-Paris in fall 2007.

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It’s All Greek to Me!

What a week! After traveling to three countries in a span of seven days, I’m exhausted and I have school tomorrow! I got home from Athens last night at about 2 a.m. Right now I’m having some much needed bonding time with my parents at their hotel in Paris. How I’ve missed being spoiled by my parents!

The Squiggly Alphabet
I arrived in Athens on Halloween late in the afternoon after a not-so-pleasant flight that was supposed to last less than 2 hours and ended up lasting nearly 4 due to airport problems in Rome. When we landed, I had some major culture shock.

I expected a lot of people to speak English, considering that Athens was such a tourist mecca, but to my surprise almost no one spoke English, and if they did, it was very much Greek-lish. Knowing absolutely no Greek, except, of course, for the sorority and fraternity letters, navigating around Greece was a bit complicated. All of the menus were also printed in Greek so I was never really 100 percent sure what I was ordering, and on the first night, when I received a salad when I had ordered a sandwich, I knew I was doomed.

Sick as a Dog
I, of course, got sick on vacation. My body seems to decide to get sick during my free time versus during school time, which really stinks! The entire time we were in Greece, I was running a fever, my tonsils were so swollen they were touching, and I was just generally feeling like death rolled over. Like in Rome, though, I was determined to make the best of my time in Athens and see everything I possibly could, which is a lot easier said than done.

julia-1greece.png
The Parthenon … or the Acropolis …
You can’t go to Athens and not see the Parthenon, which is on the Acropolis hill. It took us a long time to figure out exactly which name fit with which object. For a while we thought the Acropolis was the actual structure, but we learned that it’s the name of the hill on which the Parthenon, the Athena temple, and other Greek ruins stand. The hike up the Acropolis is beautiful. You can see the entire city, which is littered with traditional white stucco houses, and surrounded by the brilliant blue ocean and rolling hills. It’s truly breathtaking, so you don’t really realize that you have to hike up about 300 feet to get to the top.

julia-2greece.png I know I say this about everything, but it’s really amazing to think about how people nearly 4,000 years ago were able to construct these temples on the top of a hill using huge slabs of marble. It must have been torturous to have lugged those pieces of marble up the hill. I have to admit that I was also disappointed with the Parthenon. It was covered in scaffolding, and they have put new mortar around certain parts to “reconstruct” what pieces of it supposedly looked like. To me, to “suppose” what something looked like is destroying history and making it into a type of Disneyland. I really would have preferred them just to “restore” or “preserve” the Parthenon without “reconstructing” it. I really preferred the nearly untouched Athena temple to the Parthenon. This is a smaller, but much more intricate temple. On the facade there are busts of Athena, the goddess of wisdom and patron goddess of Athens.

The Good Eye
After visiting the Acropolis site and all of the Greek ruins, we did what girls do best … shopped. Each one of us was able to find beautiful souvenirs and jewelry to bring back to our families. By talking to one of the local shopkeepers, we learned about the Greek “good eye” that is a symbol of protection from “bad spirits.” I bought several for my friends and family, hoping to ward off any evil that might come their way.

julia-3greece.pngDelfi
On Friday we decided to take a day trip to the mountainous village of Delfi. It was almost a three-hour bus ride to the village where there stands a temple dedicated to the god Apollo. The temple is built literally on the side of a mountain. At one point, we were actually standing in the clouds because we were up so high on the mountain. Unlike the Parthenon, this site has remained completely untouched. Everything is original and gives a very good sense of its age. It’s amazing that after 4000 years, the columns are still standing where they were placed. While the temple itself was interesting to see, the drive was equally as interesting because it displayed the Greek countryside, which is very varied including rolling hillsides, vast plains, and finally a mountainous region.

While I’m glad that I visited Athens to see the Parthenon and other ancient ruins, if I was going to return to Greece I would probably prefer to go elsewhere, like one of the many islands. I think we could have spent one less day in Athens and still have covered everything that we did. Still, this was one of the most interesting and most enjoyable vacations I’ve had in quite a while and I’m glad I got the opportunity to see all of the places that I did! I can’t believe I have to go back to the grind of schoolwork tomorrow!

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