I now consist entirely of feta cheese, grape leaves, and hummus. Greece this past weekend was my best trip of the semester so far and it went by in a flash! Thursday night, I flew to Athens with my good friend Cece and we arrived late to our hostel in the fun Plaka area. At this point, I’ve stayed in a hostel in all but two of the cities I’ve been to. The Athens Backpackers Hostel was very clean and well kept, and Cece and I really liked the people we met there. We even went with a big group we met there to get dinner the night before Easter when most restaurants were shut down.
Friday we woke up early and got started with our touring. We got in for free at the Acropolis of Athens (thanks again, Student Visa!) and were able to see a gorgeous view of the city. We also saw the Theatre of Dionysus and the Parthenon along with some statues from 400 BCE. We ate lunch at a great place called Savvas where I ate enough kebab to possibly kill me and had a view of the Parthenon from our rooftop lunch. I showed my mom while we were eating and she couldn’t believe how beautiful it looked. I really miss her! Afterwards, we checked out a cool neighborhood called Monastirraki where we saw street art and grabbed another bite to eat. After our snack, Cece and I got ready to head back to the hostel. I video chatted my grandpa to check in and say hi like I do every Friday and then we went out for a long dinner (like three hours long)! The host loved us and kept bringing us free things to supplement our dinner. We turned in a little late but were excited for our next day because over lunch we decided to go to an island. Big thanks to the fabulous Cece for figuring out which island was the best for us to go to and organizing our adventure there.
Saturday morning we woke up at the crack of dawn and grabbed a cab to the Pireneas port. We took a ferry over to Hydra (pronounced “ydra”) and enjoyed a long day in the sun in one of the most special and beautiful places I have ever seen in my life. The water was the same bright blue as the sky, reflecting off of one another endlessly as we stared out from our rocky enclave on the beach. I couldn’t believe how peaceful it felt to lie there for hours hearing nothing but the sounds of the island waves as they rolled in and out. I didn’t even get a burn! It may have been an Easter miracle (or the last minute sunscreen we bought right before we hit the beach). Saturday night we begrudgingly headed back to Athens, leaving our day behind.
We grabbed dinner with friends from the hostel and then decided to try out Midnight Mass at a Greek Orthodox Church seeing as it was Easter and the whole city had been gearing up for it all weekend. The Mass was unlike anything I’ve ever been to before and was very different from the Catholic masses I’m used to attending with my mother. Their beautiful, soulful chanting was a stunning vessel for prayer and the church itself was bright and colorful. Before services began, the square outside was filled with people holding candles while the Priest began the chant. People were hugging and kissing, clearly so joyous that Easter had finally come. I got a little homesick that I wasn’t with my family, but I was happy to be with Cece at Mass in Athens too. It is an experience I may never be able to have again.
Sunday morning we flew back home to Rome bright and early and I made the trek over to Vatican City to see Papa Francesco and get my second mass of the day in. I think I’m attending so many services over here I might have my whole family covered. Cece and I had such a great time and really got to spend some quality time together. We traveled together like pros and I am so glad we decided to go to Greece on a whim – we almost didn’t go!
This past week I realized that this is officially the longest I’ve ever been away from my family for. It’s definitely hitting me a little bit, but I’m having so much fun here that I’m trying to enjoy the last month I have with IES Abroad. This is by far the best program I could have chosen and it has given me so much freedom to travel and do other amazing things while I’ve been over here. My mom said to me on Easter, “is there anything you haven’t done over there?!” and I think she has a point! My friends and I are getting so sad to leave but are looking forward to all the amazing things to come in the next four weeks.