I Falafel This Blog
Post Is So Late, But I Promise It Will Be Worth Gyro Time!
Sophie and I left for our first stop of Spring Break on March 28th: the homeland, Greece. From the moment I stepped onto the flight leaving Prague, I couldn’t stop smiling. We flew Aegean Airlines and I was so proud of myself for being able to respond to the steward’s “Yasas” with a “Yasas! Kalimera”. I pulled out every possible Greek word I knew, the little I do, and practically studies the night before. And I don’t know if it’s because I had stayed up the whole night before working on homework, or because it truly was a wonderful airline, but it was one of the most comfortable and relaxing flights I had taken. We landed in Mykonos around 3 with a bunch of other friends from our program in Prague. We were all going to different locations in Greece, so after we said our goodbyes Sophie and I hopped in a taxi to take us to the docks where we would board our ferry to take us to Mykonos. The Greek hospitality starts immediately in the taxi with our very welcoming driver, Nikos, who had endless questions for us, told us all about living in Greece, and also proceeded to try and arrange a date between me and his daughter Christina. And if I were spending time in Athens, I probably would’ve taken him up on the offer, but we had a boat to catch. As we waited for the ferry I introduced Sophie to one of Greece’s wonderful guilty pleasures, frappes.
We boarded the boat, and began out photo-shoot on the back balcony, and as we sailed away and Athens grew smaller and smaller, we watched the indescribable sunset in awe. After toughing the winds for as long as possible we headed in and took a bit of a nap, and for the very last stretch we moved downstairs and people watched the few people left on the boar whose final destination was also Mykonos. I was quite entertained by a little boy and his parents. I understood a lot of what his parents were saying to him, because it was a lot of the words my parents use to tell me in Greek; “Sopa”, “Stomata”, “Ella”, “Pame”, so if anything I was comforted to know I could communicate with 4 year olds!
There’s something special about waking up in a new destination, and being on an island only made it more special. The next morning we opened our windows to a new world. We were on a small narrow side street painted all in white, of course, with shutters and doors varying in shades of blues. As we began to get ready we heard Maria coming down the street with a new group of students checking in whom she quickly introduced to us as they were walking by and suggested that we get together later. And after our very brief introduction, we decided to take leisurely walk to wherever the island lead us. Our first stop was at the infamous windmills, which were 5 minutes from our room and continued to walk along the main road that ran along the ocean. We stopped often to take in the views and of course lots of pictures. We ended up getting a little breakfast at a café long the way, relaxed for a bit, then headed back and continued past our room to walk in the other direction which lead us to more restaurants and hotels along the beachfront. We also stopped at what became my favorite little church, which was on the beach front.
The next morning island time got us, and we must have slept in til 11:30. Ashley, Sarah, and Alexis met us at our room and we headed up to the bus stop where we could also rent our ATVs. We rented 4 ATVs for the 6 of us, and after a bit of a rocky start with the second hand engines we were off and running…to the gas station. In true Greek fashion they rented the ATVs to us with enough gas to get us to a station where had to fill up. I also found it hysterical the comparison of this rental company to a rental company that my family had used in Hawaii, in which we had helmets and a little training session, as well as a run around a small test track. Well in Greece you pay, find a helmet that somewhat fits, and your off. Oh and there was no definitive time we had to bring them back, they just kept saying “Oh you know just bring them back at the end of the day, or whenever.” We were off, with no clue where we were going, but we knew by the end of the day we wanted to a least make it to Paradise Beach. Along the way we stopped at some amazing viewpoints, and even with the multiple dying engines and 2 and half hours of exploring, we made it to Paradise Beach, which looked just like the rest of the island, under refurbishment. We spent a good amount of time there enjoying the view and then headed to a restaurant for a late lunch. After a great lunch, possibly the best meal we had in Greece, we went back out to our bikes to head to the home base to get in some shopping before dinner. And of course, our ATV wouldn’t start. Luckily there was a phone number on the ATV, and the lovely waitresses at the restaurant offered to call down and communicate for us.
On April 1st we had made plans to get together with Sheryl and her friends, Beebee and Tyler, who had flown out from school for their Spring Break. The three of them go to Cornell, and were so much fun. Unfortunately Sophie and I slept in again, well maybe it was more the fact that I slept in, so we missed our chance to get together with them, so we decided to take advantage of the nice weather and go to a small little beachfront tucked away into a nook underneath a church near the windmills. As Sophie was taking pictures of me on a rock, my true klutz emerged as I dropped my phone and wallet into the water. I was sitting on the rock and saw this thing in the water that looked like a wallet, and I thought it was so weird. Then I thought to myself “Jeez that looks like my wallet”, and as I patted my pocket to make sure mine was still there, my heart sank when I felt nothing. I instantly had to jump in the water and grab my wallet as it was being pulled out into the sea. And while I was doing that I also saw my phone, which had already been fully emerged. I grabbed it hoping it would still work, and somehow it was still on, however it conked out soon after.
The next day we got all out shopping done, and were surprisingly confused that more shops and restaurants were busy on Monday than on the weekend. It worked out well for us because we were able to get all of our souvenirs and enjoyed our last full day walking and relaxing, something we weren’t used to on other weekend’s trip when we have to rush through a city and see everything as quickly as possible. Again later that night we got together with the Cornell group, go dinner (have you noticed the common theme of food on this trip?) then went out to a club to dance the night away, even if we were the only ones on the dance floor. After saying goodbye to Sheryl and her friends, we headed to bed for an early morning on our way Istanbul, which I was not really looking forward to. It just didn’t seem like a place that would interest me! Boy, was I wrong.
On the 2nd, Maria’s brother drove us to the worlds smallest airport and after a short flight we were in Turkey. We made it to our hostel and waited for Mackenzie and Ashley, who had gotten there a day earlier, to come back for their excursion. We had our happy reunion, and decided to go try an Istanbul staple: bake potatoes. These were no normal backed potatoes though, they were loaded with atypical toppings that you choose. Mine was filled with all the goods; butter, cheese, mushrooms, bacon, hot sauce, grilled zucchini, and some macaroni salad. It sounds so weird, but it was delicious. We explored the wonderful night life, and ended the night with some Turkish delight.
The 3rd was a packed day full of adventures, so after we had our complimentary Turkish breakfast at the hostel we headed out into the big city to the Grand Bazaar. If I had done my homework, I would have known to not pack a single thing and bring an empty suit case, because I wanted to buy everything in sight. Beyond amazing and unique Turkish souvenirs, they had great knock-off clothing. It was a bit stressful being with 3 American girls and feeling responsible for them when each salesman would call out to them. “Lady, I give you good deal on pants!” “Lady, come look at this!” The worst one thought, which happened multiple times is “Oh, you dropped something!” and then you turned around and realized you didn’t drop a thing and they just wanted to get your attention…which they did. We felt quite accomplished though because we seemed to have good judgment when choosing a salesman to five our business to. All the men we bought things from we very friendly, patient, and were willing to bargain.
The next day we woke up early and took on the Hagia Sophia, which was a very meaningful excursion to me. Hagia Sophia, from the Greek: Ἁγία Σοφία, "Holy Wisdom”, is a former Greek Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later an imperial mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its construction in 537 until 1453, it served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from May 29th, 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum on 1 February 1935. It was beyond interesting to actually see the history of the church through it’s architecture. The Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus can be seen in mosaic next to Islamic words, crosses can be seen next to Muslim ornamentation. It was so massive and felt almost like a mecca to me. It played such a significant role in our culture and religions history and to be in it, not even just seeing it from the outside, but to be in it, was magical. Mt favorite part of the mosque was the mosaic of Jesus flanked by the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist.
The next day we took a short plane to Budapest, which I only got to see very little of, grabbed some dinner, and then went to the Ruins Bar, which was a really cool hodge-podge atmosphere with deconstructed cars as furniture and eclectic decorations. I even left my mark on a lamp near our table! I’ll just have to find it when I go back to Budapest, because it looked like a wonderful city! We hopped on a bus around 11:30, and before we knew it we were in Prague and it 6:45 Sunday morning. It was a bit of a trek, but having Sunday to recuperate and finish homework for Monday was perfect! It was an unbelievably successful Spring Break!
And as always… the adventure continues!