May 31, 2007
ATHENS, GREECE – – Wow!! Every time I sit down to write one of these I’m overwhelmed with all that I have to tell. We’re having such and amazing time and experiencing many “once in a lifetime” moments and sights – it’s almost hard to put into words. But here goes my attempt! We had gorgeous weather Tuesday morning as we set out on our tour of the Acropolis. Since Monday was a Greek holiday, it was our first true working day to be in the heart of the city. As we sat in loads of traffic our tour guide explained to us a system the government put in a few years ago to reduce the traffic problems. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, cars with license plate numbers ending in an even number are the only ones allowed in the busy city center. Then on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, the same is true for license plates ending in odd numbers. A ticket for breaking this rule right now is 100 Euro but is soon to be upped to 200. She also told us about many other vehicle and motorcycle laws that made me laugh because in our first few days here I wondered if there were any laws regulating traffic. It certainly didn’t appear so to me by the way they whiz around in such tiny cars.
Once we reached the Acropolis and hiked along with many other tourists we were not let down when we got to the top and stood beneath the Parthenon. It is such a large structure yet built with such extreme precision. After hearing all about it from our guide we were given an even greater appreciation for it and its beauty. Again, the photo seemed to be everyone’s first priority and we were able to get a few great shots of the whole team together with the Parthenon in the background. Along with the Parthenon we viewed the Temple of Athena Nike, the Porch of Caryatids, the newer Theater of Herodes Atticus built in AD 161, as well as the Theater of Dionysos which was built in the third century BC. A few of us then went on our own to see Socrates Hill and explore the Ancient Agora area where ancient Greeks had marketplaces, schools, theaters, and practiced democracy by holding courts and open meetings. After another day filled with history lessons, shopping, and sun, we were on the bus again to our second of three games.
Although we played much better and executed some of our new set well, the Greek team shot the ball very well and beat us by a bigger margin Tuesday night. I think it would be safe to say it was the most physical game of basketball any of us have ever played in – with a majority of the calls going against the foreigners, us. We have one more shot at them Thursday night and hope to have a few different guys in the stripes this time around. Our games have been played late at night, which makes for an even later night once we get back to the hotel and get everything taken care of for the next day. Tuesday night was a little different however because we were all so excited for what awaited us on Wednesday morning. We were to set sail on a three island cruise at eight in the morning!!
The first island we visited was Poros. We were only given a half hour there to see the streets and check out a few of the local shops. Many of us found a neat shop behind the main stores owned by a nice older lady. She, like many others, was very impressed by the height of many of us. She was a wonderfully nice lady so a few of us bought purses from her. Then it was back onto the boat for lunch. The food certainly wasn’t the best we had ever eaten, but the atmosphere and the company was. We had an awesome time singing and clapping with the band, shouting “Opa” at every opportunity they gave us. A short time later we docked on the island of Hydra. This was the most anticipated stop because we had heard there was cliff jumping at the local beach. We also found out that the Island of Hydra does not allow motorized vehicles, which then explained the many donkeys we saw tied to polls along the store fronts. We traveled in a pack to the beach some excited, some (me) terrified. Although it took a few a attempts for a few of us like myself, Jennie, Johanna, and Coach Bluder, everyone took the plunge off the nearly 15-foot rock into the clear blue Mediterranean Sea below. What a rush! After the initial fear, most of us went back to jump and second and third time. It’s not often in your life you’re presented with such an opportunity and I’m very glad we all decided to make the most of it! Our last island to visit was Agenia – the home of the pistachio. There were nearly as many pistachio stands as there are bars in Iowa City in the small Island town. Each gave out samples of their pistachios and in the end I believe I settled upon the best one to buy a few gifts for my friends back home.
After a long day in the sun we returned to our hotel around 8 p.m. with only two things on our minds – aloe vera, and our beds. Once the sunburns heal up tonight we’ll be checking out of downtown Athens and heading to a resort on the beach about an hour south of the city. Although we’ve thoroughly enjoyed the city, I think all of us are ready to have a couple of nice relaxing days before we head back to the states.
Go Hawks… opa!!