Athens: A Quest For Your Ithaca

Katie's Trip to Greece-January 2011

Good News!


Thank you to the Macaulay Honors College for awarding me with an 1st Annual Macaulay Eportfolio Expo Award for Photography & Media!

A Donkey Ride and a Mountain Side



This will be my final post while still in Greece. One more day and I’m headed home. This final week has been quite an adventure.

View from atop my donkey!

Wednesday, we took an Athens 1 Day Cruise to the Islands of Hydra, Poros, and Aeginia. I wasn’t feeling up to the cruise, but got through the day with a fairly good attitude. On the way, we learned Greek dances from a professional traditional dancer. Hydra was the first stop, and the favorite of the day. The port town was tiny and beautiful. I rode a donkey in Hydra, one of the more unique experiences of this trip! On the way home in the evening, we watched a showcase of traditional dances and performed some ourselves. A great time for all!

Thursday we woke up early for our visit to the Acropolis. For the past two and a half weeks, I had been admiring the great rock from all angles waiting for the opportunity to climb it and walk the footsteps of the goddess Athena. The sun was rising over the buildings of Athens and the day could not have been more perfect for a visit to one of the most famous landmarks in the world. The view of the Parthenon took my breath away despite the giant cranes and scaffolding of the restoration crews.

The Parthenon!

Friday took us on a long bus ride. We organized a two-day trip for our final weekend in Greece. First stop: Thermopylae, the location of the famous battle of 300. We briefly stopped at the commemorative statue and viewed the mountains where the last stand took place. As rain began to fall upon our shoulders, I remembered the Spartans who were rained upon by thousands of arrows.

Monastary Varlaam at Meteora

Saturday brought me to the most amazing sight yet: Meteora. Meteora is a collection of mountains, formed by glaciers, that looks as if they are suspended in mid air. In addition to the breathtaking mountains, medieval monasteries sit atop the cliffs, hanging on for dear life. I cannot aptly describe the beauty of Meteora. The solace of the monasteries, the view of the rocks between dense patches of fog, this place has stolen my words.


Check out all the pics here:

That’s all for now folks!

Peace, Love, and Greece!

A Weekend of Glory, a Weekend of Gods



This past weekend (Jan. 14-16) was one of the most interesting and spiritual experiences of my life. In class we’ve been learning about Ancient Greek history, and to finish the subject, we traveled to the places where ancient peoples have walked, glory has been won and gods have lived on- Mycenae, Olympia, and Delphi.

We began our journey at 9am Friday on a private charter bus with our professor. We drove through the Peloponnese (the large peninsular part of southern Greece) with stops at the Corinth Canal, Epidaurus, and Nafplion. The Corinth Canal, constructed in 1893, technically cuts off the Peloponnese from the mainland, making it an island. It’s a pretty spectacular sight to take in. Epidaurus is the site of an ancient small city with two main attractions: the Asclepieion and the theater. The Asclepieion is an ancient healing center, one of the most advanced of its’ time. The theater at Epidaurus is a wonder for both the eyes and ears. The acoustics are astounding, and standing in front of the stage transports you back in time.

Theater at Epidaurus

The class was asked to prepare presentations this week. Most of us presented information about the great sites we visited over the weekend. Our next stop was Nafplion, the subject of my presentation. Nafplion was the first capital of Greece after the Greek Revolution and it’s main attractions are 3 huge fortresses. Two fortresses dangle off the side of cliffs over looking the city and one is delicately dropped in the harbor. The fortresses were used for the military and also as prisons.

Bourtzi Fortress

Next stop: Ancient Mycenae. We didn’t have much time at Mycenae, but we were able to check out the museum there are walk around Agamemnon’s tomb. The short time there was definitely interesting and fun!

The following day took us to Ancient Olympia. The ruins at Olympia are fascinating monuments to the gods. Olympia was Zeus’ ground and his temple, the largest ruin, is situated just in the middle. The large stadium where Olympians once took victory laps was laid out in front of me like a giant green carpet. Olympia was a journey of the mind and spirit.

Standing where the Olympic Flame is lit every Olympiad!!

Next stop: Ancient Delphi. Delphi is Apollo’s territory. The small city was built into the side of a mountain that overlooks the most breathtaking mountain view I’ve ever seen. An intense hike up the mountain took us to the treasury, Apollo’s temple, a theater, and at the very top, a stadium. The sites at Delphi were truly breathtaking.

Nazana and I at Delphi with our professor, Dr. Constance Tagopoulos

This weekend was incredible. I’m so happy that we are having the opportunity to travel throughout the country. More updates to follow!

Peace, Love, and Greece!
P.S. Photos are updated:

Week 2 in Athens


Hello everyone!

Sorry for the lack of updates this week-lots going on! After a glorious weekend in Santorini, it’s been class time in Athens. Though I haven’t been going all out with exploring this week, I have seen some pretty amazing things. Here’s a rundown:

Monday Jan. 10th: Class, a bit of school work, an attempt to visit the new 2004 Athens Olympic Complex with no luck due to Metro construction, dinner with the group, and the Athens Hilton rooftop lounge.

Me at the Athens 2004 Olympic Complex

Tuesday Jan. 11th: Class, a successful trip to the Olympic stadiums, dinner, and a glorious night trip to the top of Athens’ highest peak, Mt. Lycabettos.
Wednesday Jan. 12th: Lazy day at the apartment doing work and chilling, dinner out.
Thursday: Class and school work again!

Tomorrow we’re headed for Mycenae, Delphi, and Ancient Olympia. I cannot wait to experience more of Greece! I am having a delightful time thus far, and every day gets better.

‘Til next time,
Peace, Love, and Greece!

Santorini, enough said.


You are situated on the side of a cliff, a rocky hillside formed by igneous rocks. The hillside formed from a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago and you can see that the porous rocks rocks have been glued together by nature creating the very place you stand. You look out over the rocks to the bluest of waters, the clearest of skies, the purest sun shine.

Now imagine you are sitting in a wooden folding chair in the sky. Below you, a walkway paved with marble. Above you, huge fluffy clouds. Behind you, a white stucco church topped by a large blue dome with a white cross. In front of you, a waist high wall and a huge volcano in the middle of the sea. You look over the wall and see tiny white, blue, and yellow houses carved into a cliff side. This is heaven on earth; Santorini, Greece. The island of Santorini is famous for it’s breathtaking views, incredible architecture, and vacation hot spots.

Sorry this post took so long, but I’m trying to experience as much as possible!

We arrived in Santorini on Thursday (the 5th of January) afternoon following an 8 hour ferry ride. The ride was more like a cruise, as we stopped at different islands such as Naxos and Paros to pick up and drop off passengers. We arrived at the port of Santorini and were greeted by a van driver who took us to our Villas….VILLAS!!!! We’re staying in Dana Villas just outside the town of Fira, Santorini. In Santorini, winter is the off season, so much of the island is closed. Most restaurants, many stores, and even some attractions are not open. The island is very quiet, but in my opinion, it adds to the beauty and serenity. This is a place I’ve been dreaming of visiting since I first heard about it many years ago. And let me tell you, even in the winter, this island does not disappoint. I cannot aptly describe the gorgeousness of the visions I have beheld here, but, reader, you should know that there cannot be anything more beautiful in the world. Maybe just as beautiful, or differently beautiful, but certainly not more.

The people of the island have offered us incredible hospitality. It seems as though a group of 11 young travelers during the low season is like Christmas again. On our quest for the most authentic Greek food, we came across two brothers. Kostas and Kyriakos Tselios are restauranteurs, master chefs, and the truest Greeks. The offered us free food, friendship, and most importantly love. This long weekend has been the most beautiful of my life.

Here is a video of me saying hello to you!!!

Please check out all the Santorini pics in my album:

Peace, Love, and Greece!!


Ruins, Kebabs, and Greeks, oh my!


Days Two and Three in Athens have been a whirlwind of food, new friends, and running around!

Day two welcomed more walking, a bit of shopping, the rest of the students arrival, and a beautiful trolley ride through the city. The morning walk took Nazana and I to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, gloriously situated in front of the Parliament Building. I visited the one at Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C. a few years back with my wonderful family. There, I learned that the American Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded by U.S. Military personnel who rotate on a schedule according to military branch. So one day it could be guarded by a marine and the next, an army captain. In Athens, two guards stood stark at either sides, silent and serious as can be. Their solitude made me double take for a well due moment of silence. After a bit of research I found that there are many Tombs and Monuments of the Unknown Soldier in 41 countries!

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Parliament

The trolley picked four of us (Nazana & I plus two students, Galina & Vianca) up in Syntagma Square at the top of Ermou Street, the city’s hippest shopping district. Ermou can possibly be equated to Times Square with a few exceptions: No neon signs, no where near as many pedestrians and cars, and MUCH more expensive shopping! The tram took us past the Parliament Building (again!), The President’s Palace, an Olympic Stadium, The Agoras (market places), many ruins, about a million cafes, the Acropolis, and through the Plaka. Most of the group had dinner at a great authentic place with the program coordinators. We learned that we could eat dinner there every night with meal vouchers (provided with the trip). Heck yeah, “free” food! The dinner, needless to say….was delicious in every way. Savory, sweet, salty, tangy-kebabs, other meats, greek salads, fries, feta cheese…my goodness gracious. Feeling sleepy, we headed back with our bellies full only to go back out and check out a bit nightlife. Athens is pretty hopping on Tuesday nights! Tonight’s dinner was just as exceptional!

Me with a fire breather!!

Today (Wednesday the 5th) brought the first day of class. The class is entitled “Greek Culture and Civilization.” We will learn about the past and present of life in Greece from many angles: sociological, political, and anthropological. The professor is Dr. Constance Tagopolous of UIndy Athens. She taught at CUNY Queens College for many years. The class seems to be very interesting-right up my ally! I’m looking forward to learning more about this amazing country. After class, the professor told us that this weekend would be the best bet for out-of-Athens travel. We had all been talking about Santorini. Nazana and I were planning on going there the last weekend of the trip, but due to a the Epiphany Day holiday tomorrow, class is canceled. Our best bet was to go this weekend! So I ran to Ellie Despotaki
(Coordinator of Institutional Advancement, Alumni Affairs and Special Programs) and she hooked us up with a fantastic trip package!

So tomorrow, in the early morning hours we will all be headed to the true paradise of Santorini Island, a place I could only dream I’d ever visit. I’ll keep you posted from there.

Peace, Love, & Greece!

P.S. Don’t forget to check out my photos-updated almost every day:

Hello From Athens!


Well folks, I have my first official stamp on my passport and it’s says….something illegible! After 3 hours at Newark International Airport, 9 (relatively sleepless) hours on a plane, and a bus ride into the city, I have arrived in Athens, Greece!!

The flight was smooth-no problems at all! Though I tried to get some sleep, I found myself anxious and restless. After a few rounds of cards with my traveling buddy, Nazana Weeks, I eventually caught some Zs only to wake up to a neon sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean-talk about beauty! After another nap, I was awoken by the engine shift as the plane descended through the clouds. Sleepy and excited, I knew I was about to see another country for the first time in my life! Something mighty was stopping me from attempting to crawl out of my window and onto the wing so I could dance across those clouds. The view was magnificent. I eventually saw a little black line form beneath the clouds, a ship sailing on the Mediterranean. The brilliant blue of the smooth sky matched the rippled texture of sea, and it was impossible to tell where one began and the other ended. I soon saw little buildings dotting foggy hillsides. As we got closer to the ground, I wondered how it was possible that the hills were rolling and jagged at the same time.

After touchdown and leaving the plane, we picked up our bags, got our stamps and were off. The express bus to Syntagma Square, Athens was leaving in 6 minutes… SIX!! What to do, what to do? First: ask at the info desk where the bus picks up, Second: Run all the was down a seemingly endless corridor, Third: Find the bus, Four: Ask someone where to purchase tickets, Five: Run to the ticket booth and purchase, thanking the gods that you have some Euros already, Five: Load luggage onto bus and stamp ticket. All in under 5 minutes!! Anyone want to be my partner on the Amazing Race?

The thirty minute drive into the city went fairly quickly as I took in the sights of the mountains and interesting buildings (ALL of which have balconies, mind you!). The main drag into the city reminded me of…I want to say..Route 22 in New Jersey if it were much older, and less full of chain stores and restaurants. When we reached the downtown portion, we were let off at Syntagma Square, a beautiful plaza in front of the Parliament building. We walked a few blocks with our luggage and were greeted by Mr. Tom Mazarakis of the University of Indianapolis, Athens. He showed us to our apartments and gave us a brief orientation.

My first photograph in Athens:
The school buildings are located in the Plaka district, the oldest and most historical part of Athens. It stretches down the Acropolis hill.”Plaka” is a derivative of the ancient work used for ‘stone tile.’ All the streets in the area are paved with gorgeous slabs (when rainy like today, they are pretty darn slippery!).The University has a rooftop that overlooks the Acropolis. Needless to say, I will spend much time there!

After a much needed shower and nap, Nazana and I went out for dinner in our neighborhood. We ordered Scordalia and Mousaka, a traditional appetizer and main dish. Here is the gorgeous and delicious Moussaka:

For all of my photos check out my Picasa account:

We walked around the Plaka for an hour or so, just taking in all the beautiful evening sights. And now, from my cozy bunk overlooking a square lined with vine walls as a church bell chimes midnight (no joke!), I bid you goodnight from Athens.

Peace, Love, and Greece!

3 Days ’til Take Off!


Greek word of the day:
αεροπλάνο (ah-eh-roh-droh-mee-oh)- Airplane

Just three more days until I hit up New Jersey’s Newark Airport for my ticket to ride!

This post is just to inform you that you may comment on any post! Just click the “comment” button and fill out the box with your thoughts, questions, and love notes. For an example, please see the lovely Noel Nicoletta’s comment on my first post (thanks, girl!).

Peace, Love, and Greece!

Countdown to Athens!


Γειά σου! (pronounced “yassou”) means “hello” in Modern Greek. Who knew!?

Since I can’t actually speak Greek, the best I can do is say “Hey, welcome to my blog!” This blog will serve as a day-to-day record of my upcoming awe-inspiring, rip-roaring, fantastical journey to the beautiful country of Greece.

“Katie,” you say, “Why are you going to Greece, if I may ask?”

Well there are many reasons, reader. Let’s start from the beginning. As a child, I always dreamed of going to a far away place…blah blah blah. I really just want to SEE THE WORLD. So I figure, let’s start in Greece, the birthplace of Modern Civilization (some say) and go from there. Greece is a land of unmatched beauty, life, and most remarkably, culture. I cannot wait to be fully immersed in a single culture as opposed to the polyglot/melting pot/smorgasbord we experience in America (especially in NYC). Not that I don’t value the diversity here, I just need a change!

As an International Studies major, my interest is sparked by pretty much everything. This program is designed to be an interactive study of Greek Culture and Civilization through the University of Indianapolis Athens Campus. The trip is facilitated by CUNY Queens College Office of Study Abroad. I am receiving funding from the gracious Macaulay Honors College Opportunities Fund and credit for my major at the City College of New York.

This will be my very first trip to Europe, first trip out of the Western Hemisphere, first trip off the continent of North America, and first trip out of the U.S. And guess what!??? It begins in less than 5 days!!!!!!!!!

I would suggest follow this blog if you: 1) Care 2) Don’t care, but like pretty photos 3) Both care and like pretty photos or 4) Have nothing else to do!

Enjoy my journey as I do!

Peace, Love, and Greece!