Over Easter, I went to Greece with my college, Peter Symonds, on the Hellas Classics Trip 2016! I had the most incredible time ever, and fell in love with the country, and its people who were all lovely and kind and laughed at our terrible Greek but were also happy to help us speak it.
We started our tour in the city of Athens, and walked miles around the city – on the second day, it took us 50 minutes to get to and from the Acropolis!
Athens felt a bit “gritty” to me, but I don’t like cities in general. As cities go, I had great fun here however!
Visiting the Acropolis, especially the Parthenon, was a childhood dream come true for me, and I really enjoyed it, even though we had only 30 minutes around the Acropolis, sadly, and the Parthenon was unexpectedly scaffolded. It wasn’t as poignant as I expected it to be, especially I think as we had been admiring the Acropolis from a distance for days. The Acropolis museum was great, because we saw many of the statues we study, and some of my favourites, but we couldn’t take pictures which was annoying. But, they did have postcards. ;P Anyway, I had fun and bought a great big, blue hat which soon everyone was wearing.
The second leg of our Greek tour saw us in the mountainous region of Delphi, which was only about 3 streets long, and is mainly a ski resort. It was absolutely beautiful. It has to be my favourite place on the whole trip (aside from Tolon, but that’s for other reasons) and I just fell in love with the mountains of Greece as a whole. On the coach drive back from Heathrow to Winchester, I was already missing them!
The attraction for us at Delphi was the Sanctuary of Apollo (and thankfully not the hotel which was really not soundproofed at all…). Some parts of the Sanctuary have been reconstructed, especially the Athenian Treasury – one of our prescribed pieces, so it was great to be able to see it how it would have been. The Temple of Apollo, I imagine, would have been beautiful in its day, but is a bit of a ruin now, although some of the columns have been reconstructed.
The literal highlight was the stadium here, way up the mountain, and it has been pretty well preserved as the whole Sanctuary was covered under the earth and actually had a village on top of it after an earthquake. The stadium would have housed races, not with horses, but the javelin and discus would probably have been done here as well as foot races. It was a bit of a hike up to it, but I loved Delphi as a whole.
The Sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia is another of our prescribed places, and although much of it is simply ruins, it was still fun to go to. The own was also nice, and although it rained we had great fun cheering on some marathon runners! (And our whole group was fascinated with the fact that the finishers were given a laurel wreath as well as a medal!)
One of our group’s favourite places at the Sanctuary was the stadium, where the first Olympic Games were held. And I feel a little bit smug to say I ran a race in the original Olympic stadium itself (okay so I didn’t win, but that’s not the point here!). We also had a piggyback
race which ended up in humorous disaster – I’m sure you can guess why. Oh, and a
slow-mo race, in which we hummed the Chariots of Fire theme. Basically, we were childish adults and had great fun.
In Olympia itself, I had a great pizza, a futile stamp hunt and let’s not forget my failure
with the hoody which won’t be repeated in full right here… Back on the coach!
Olympia was our last “work” place, and although we had day trips in Tolon, it was more like a holiday. A holiday town on the beach, Tolon was quiet, peaceful, had a great hotel with a pool (that we weren’t allowed to swim in because Hampshire’s Insurance sadly didn’t cover us – although there was a certain amount of extreme paddling going on in the sea) and although we had quite a lot of millipede guests, it was still so much fun. I had my first hangover (I think I’m a bit of a lightweight) and it was so good to have some down time after the rush of the week before, and it was good to have down time anyway before coming back to college and hard-core revision.
Mycenae was one of the places we visited, which is the habitat of the ancient Mycenaens – and supposedly it houses the tomb of Agamemnon! I loved being up in the clouds and viewing the site, although we don’t study it it was still very interesting and I find the whole civilisation interesting anyway. One of the most extreme parts was going down to the source of their drinking water, about 50 metres down into a large well with slippery marble steps and low overhanging rocks (I banged my head and am still not over it). But it was a beautiful place with really nice orange juice; I just wished we’d had more time, especially to explore Agamemnon’s tomb (which had an odd smell and lots of buzzing insects we thought were large wasps or bees).
Epidauros was the second “day trip” we had, and this was an Asklepion (a sanctuary for the god Asklepios, one of the Greek gods of healing) in the 4th Century BC. For GCSE History, I studied Asklepions and had wanted to visit one, so this was a pleasant surprise. We spent most of our time in the theatre (above), which is beautifully preserved and voices can be projected at a normal volume on an unbelievable scale. The Romans also apparently liked the theatre, but added more seats which don’t have the same audible effect as the Greeks’ seating areas. Still, it was pretty awesome.
The actual Asklepion is mostly in ruins, but it is being reconstructed – when we were there, the tholos (a round temple) our teacher was raving about was covered in scaffolding as the ancient limestone and modern rock were being merged together to reconstruct this beautiful building. It would have been exquisite and therapeutic in its heyday, and it’s still incredible now, and I would quite happily have stayed there.
Also, they did the best croissants.
And that was Greece, with a short (okay, pretty long) summary of what we did. I loved the country, and I want to go back so badly some day. It was absolutely beautiful, and I had the best time.