Hadassah Leaders of Tomorrow Maille’s Big Fat Greek Experience
γεια σας and hello! My excursion to Athens, Greece has come to a close, and despite the fact that my time there was short, it was wonderful. My peers and I left for Greece on July 5th, and despite the bumpy ride, we could not have been more excited for the trip. Seeing that Athens’ time zone is 7 hours ahead of New York, we arrived in Greece on the sixth. Upon arrival in Athens, we broke the ice between the group and indulged in a delicious Greek breakfast filled with feta cheese, Greek salad, fresh fruit, and veggies. We later met our Greek tour guide, Evdokia, who showed us around Psirri and Monastiraki Square. My friends and I could not help but to admire the graffiti. Living in New York, I am very used to graffiti; but this was different. The artists were so creative and the colors they used were foreign and exotic. We later went to a kosher Greek restaurant, where the host and hostess welcomed us with open arms and lots and lots of food. We wallowed ourselves in hummus, sesame bread, Greek salad, and warm brownies.
After catching up on our much needed rest, Evdokia took the group to the Acropolis Hill where we saw the theater of Dionysus, the temple of Athena Nike, and the majestic Parthenon. In short, we learned about the the birthplace of modern democracy (Athens) and the history and culture of Ancient Greece. After recovering from being in awe by the structures and how long they have stood the test of time, we visited the New Holocaust Monument. It is a beautiful and simple Star of David, separated into six triangles in a secluded garden. On each triangle, Greek cities with a Jewish population (prior to the Holocaust) were listed to honor them. Across the street we visited the Bethshalom Athens Synagogue. We learned about the history of the Greek Jews and the presence they hold now. Despite a few variations in set-up, the synagogue was a nice reminder of home. The rabbi told us many Holocaust stories about the Greek Jews, but what the rabbi showed us made my heart stop. When the Nazis invaded Greece, more specifically Athens, the Jews were rounded up in the synagogue. If you look closely at the outside of the synagogue, there are several bullet holes. We then broke for dinner and later headed to a Greek dance show. After nibbling on authentic Greek donuts and fresh watermelon, the dancers asked me to join them on stage. In which I of course obliged. We danced to ABBA and did a dance that was similar to the Horah. To say the least, I was a pro.
The next day, we woke up bright and early to take a one-day cruise to three Greek Islands. We visited Hydra, Aegina, and Poros. Even though we had time constraints, we were able to shop, eat, and swim. On Hydra, I climbed up a paved cliff with two of my friends, and we were able to look out onto the water. On Aegina, I visited many shops and saw many, many cats. On the last island, Poros, my group and I waded into the cool ocean and nibbled on their infamous Pistachios. I had been to Europe prior to this trip, but I had never been to a European beach. To my surprise, the water was a crystal clear blue and most of the men were wearing Speedos. After leaving the ocean, I sunbathed (not for too long) to dry off. On the boat ride home I played music and my friends taught me how to play Yaniv, the Israeli card game. I really enjoyed the game because it reminded me of Black Jack. To my dismay I was not so good at it. However, I did win in a game of Go Fish and I am determined to improve at Yaniv. On the final day in Athens, we saw the Temple of the Greek god Zeus, Panathinaiko Stadium, and the University of Athens (don’t worry mom, I plan on staying in the states). All of the destinations were jaw-dropping. We took a break from the heat at The National Gardens. The smells and aromas were so sweet. I decided to treat myself to a frappe with Greek chocolate ice cream. It was delicious. After our little excursion we toured the Jewish Museum in Athens. Despite its size, I was impressed by the museum’s exhibitions and artifacts. After learning about the Jewish-Greek resistance during World War II, I was fascinated by their testimonials. What I thought was really cool (for lack of a better word) was how much Greek culture influenced Greek Jews. I saw this most inherently in their respective clothing. After taking all of this in, we headed back to Psirri and Monastiraki Square. We all went shopping and had a blast. I shared a chocolate-banana smoothie with a friend and devoured a fresh mozzarella, tomato, and pesto sandwich. Before leaving we all sat and reminisced on the great times we had and how much we were looking forward to coming to Israel.