Visiting Landmarks in Athens

Submitted by Alexandra Hall on the 2023 spring semester program in Athens, Greece…

Enjoying Greek coffee!

Traveling outside of the country for the first time has been one of my life’s best experiences. I did not know a single person and have since made a group of friends to explore the city and town of Agia Paraskevi, Greece with. In the photo above, you will see the Holy Church of Saint Paraskevi – Mesogion. The Greek Orthodox church was open to the public to walk through when there wasn’t a service, and everyone inside was very respectful and quiet. What surprised me the most was the difference in architecture compared to the United States churches. There were paintings on almost every wall and a massive chandelier that had tangerines hanging from it. I’m not sure exactly why there were tangerines on the chandelier, but I am guessing it’s because of the many tangerine trees scattered around the town. Do not eat the tangerines because they are not sweet whatsoever and taste like lemons. Overall, the first couple of days I experienced in the town of Agia Paraskevi, Greece have been astonishing. (Submitted on January 12, 2023)

After being in Athens, Greece for almost two weeks, I have noticed the Greek’s love for coffee. Unlike Americans, a vast majority of the Greeks I have met drink their coffee with no sugar. Usually, half the students in my classes have a coffee with them, even during my night classes. My new friend Elina, who is Greek, told me that most Greeks drink up to six coffees a day, whether it’s espresso, cappuccino, or traditional Greek coffee. I even got to try the traditional Greek coffee, and I will tell you I made a big mistake when drinking it. Once I reached the last couple sips of my Greek coffee, I mixed the grounds that had settled at the bottom, not knowing they were the coffee grounds. It was bitter and unpleasant, but the rest of the coffee was very strong, which I enjoyed. There are cafes on almost every block in Agia Paraskevi, and the baristas are always very welcoming. While my friends and I were enjoying some coffee and chatting between our classes, a man walked in with his dog. We asked to pet the dog and then he handed us the leash as he went to sit outside. This surprised me because in America that would have never happened to me. The Greeks are trusting and extremely intelligent, especially in my classes. Day by day I am learning more about Greek culture and it has been very eye-opening in a positive way for me. (Submitted on January 20, 2023)

Visiting the Acropolis

The Acropolis is Greece’s most popular tourist attraction, yet I didn’t visit it until my third week in Athens. I had been yearning to visit the Acropolis since I arrived, and when I finally did I was astonished by the city’s beauty. The ability of this ancient citadel to withstand earthquakes and other natural disasters for centuries amazed me, but with the help of construction, it will last even longer. My friends and I arrived close to closing time, so we had to rush to the top. It took around 15 minutes to make it to the top, and it was all uphill, so if you ever plan on visiting the Acropolis, wear sneakers. The Acropolis stands at one of the highest points in the city, so you can imagine the view is even more amazing in person. Once we had to leave, we saw many people sitting by a nearby rock that overlooked the city, so we decided to sit and enjoy the view for a while. There are still so many more historical buildings and landmarks I have yet to visit, but starting off with the Acropolis was a great choice. (Submitted on January 29, 2023)

After being in Athens for over a month, I felt the need to venture out and go out of the city. I found a mineral lake about thirty minutes from my college campus, so my friends and I decided to take a bus there. When we arrived, we could see the clear blue sea on our right, and the lake on our left. Walking to the entrance of the lake felt surreal because of the beautiful pink flowers and mountains that surrounded the lake. It was 45 degrees out and definitely too cold to be swimming, but after seeing the locals get in the water, I knew I had to jump in. The lake felt cold at first, but I got used to it once I was under. Another fact about the lake that intrigued me was that the water has healing properties and it stays relatively warm all year round because of the underwater currents that spread through the multiple underground caves. While swimming in the lake, an older lady who was a local recommended a restaurant nearby that grows all their produce surrounding the restaurant. My friends and I decided to go to the restaurant and the food was so fresh. We got a salad that contained broccoli and cauliflower grown right outside. Getting recommendations from locals has been rewarding every time because they are the ones who know the hidden gems. (Submitted on February 12, 2023)

Connecting with nature outside of Athens