Greece Part 2

Before I start describing this absolutely beautiful place, I thought I should say a few words about the social aspect of this trip. That way you get a little more complete picture of what was going on between the museums and the archaeological sites and all that other jazz. There were no freshmen on the trip, and only one other study abroad--so most of the people already knew each other at least to some extent. But it was really cool in that they weren't exclusive at all. I had a really fun time getting to know new people and hanging out with them. I made some new good friends, and had some really good conversations. I'll be getting some pictures of them up here and telling you who they all are when I can. This one is of a few of them:

from left to right: ximena, emily, alejandra, angela, stephanie, marta. And I know what you're thinking--they're all girls. I know, I know. Well there weren't that many guys on the trip and well, I just, well...you know...made friends with a group of girls ok! back off! So, Santorini. This place is so incredibly beautiful I can't begin to tell you. We stayed there for a total of three full days, which was quite a lot of a pretty small island, and since it was probably the least "academic" place that we went to. I am not complaining by any means. I would have loved to spend weeks there. I hope that some of these pictures can give you a little taste of what this place was like. Here more than anywhere else I was overwhelmed by the beauty I saw.

The first day we got in just after lunch (souvelaki!) and then took a hike up this little mountain over to a beach on the other side. There was a beach on our side too, but the hike was nice. Along the way I had a really good conversation with my new good friend Angela, and we all went for a swim in the Mediterranean. An interesting thing about Santorini, is that it is completely volcanic--formed form a volcanic eruption long ago. There is the volcano in the middle, which has sank, turning it into its own little island. That is surrounded by the semi-circular island of Santorini, with cliffs on each of the interior shores. So, because of that, on the back sides all of the beaches are black sand. It's very cool. After our nice swim we headed back to dinner and to our amazing hotel, as you can see from the view from my balcony:The second day we had a guided bus tour of the island, where I learned a lot of interesting facts about Santorini and even just Greece in general. We also went to a museum, and then spent the rest of the day exploring the capitol city--Fira.

Probably my favorite day of the whole trip was the third day in Santorini. In the morning we took a boat trip around the island and into the center volcano, which we hiked up. Then from there we sailed to these natural hot springs created by the volcano. We jumped off the boat and swam to them--and unfortunately they weren't really that hot and the water was crazy orange from the sulfur. Can that be healthy? From there we went to another island on the other side of the volcano (would complete the circular shape around the volcano). There we road donkeys up the steep hill to a restaurant on top overlooking the rest of the islands. The boat then took us to the main island to Oia, the most picturesque city on the island. We had three hours, and I spent all that time wandering around and taking pictures until the sunset. I sat out on a cliff and watched the sun go down over part of the island, casting a red light across the city back behind me. It was beautiful. We left the next day to head back to the mainland, much to our sadness. It was an 8 hour boat trip, which was actually a lot of fun. It took us back to Athens, from which we departed the very next day to go to Delphi. I'll cover from there and probably the rest of the trip in the next post.


Greece Part 1

Welcome back to me! No really, actually I welcome myself back to being able to be in touch with you all and share life with you in whatever capacity that might be. If it weren't for that, I very well might still be in Greece right now--or so I would wish for it. But I'm happy to be back in the sense that I can talk with you all and share my adventures. Obviously, considering that I generally spend a full post on just a weekend, it is going to be difficult to sum up two whole weeks of amazing travels throughout Greece in any sort of expedient manner. So I will break this up into parts, as many as are needed. Hopefully I will finish them all before this weekend when I keep on running my way to Florence and Venice. So in other words, keep checking this often! Oh and I don't have pictures up yet--I took over 600! yikes! so I will work on selecting which ones to put up and take all that time.
So where do I start? Athens? That was the first place we went, and I will get there--but first I have to say that I feel a little guilty. I felt guilty a fair amount on the trip, because how is there any possible way that I get to experience a trip like this in such a beautiful and historical part of the world? So many of you reading this deserve it so much more than me. I wish I could give you this experience much moreso.


We spent the first 3 days of our trip in Athens, including the arrival day. That night we had a traditional Greek meal that was...let me pause here. I know it is early in our narrative, but it is not without due cause--I know you will forgive me. Allow me a few moments on Greek food. Living in Europe, I walk a lot, I play basketball, I go on hikes--it's very healthy. I've been getting into better shape and eating pretty healthy. Well not in Greece. Greek food is incredible! First, Souvelaki (better known as Gyros). I ate these so much; they are so good! Then, the bread comes with every meal and is so delicious. Then we would generally have a tiropita (cheese pie), which is baked filo dough with feta cheese inside, potatoes, perhaps a touch of lemon or something else to make it a little creamier--so good. Then we would have a Greek salad. Olive oil, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, green peppers, and of course feta cheese. Delectable. Then the traditional main courses were either Moussaka or Pasticchio--a type of lasagnaish dish with a bit more potato taste and no red sauce, including either pasta or eggplant. It was so good. They also had pork, chicken, or lamb skewers (also called souvelaki), which were so good. And then baklava for dessert--filo dough, honey, caramel, pistachio nuts--so good. Is your mouth watering yet? Well they don't do quite as well with drinks. The traditional drink Ouzo, is quite gross. It tastes just like black licorice. But their beer, Mythos, was really good. Way better than Swiss beer.

Alright, where was I? Oh yeah, the first night. Wow, this might take awhile. Well we stayed in an amazing hotel with a great rooftop bar with a stunning view of the Acropolis. That's where we went the second day, walking up along the Theater of Dionysos and the Odeum of Herodes Atticus (Roman Theater) to the entrance. Then seeing the Parthenon, the museum, and the Erechtheum. It was quite a site. That afternoon we went to the Museum of Cycladic (most of the Greek Islands) Art, which are the white marble statues that you see that look like this:
It was very interesting learning all about the history and progression from the tour guide. The next day we saw the Kerameikos Cemetery and had a guided tour of the National Archaeological Musuem, and a trip to the Byzantine Museum. They were perhaps my two favorite museums.


That night we were supposed to take an overnight boat to Crete, but the waves were going crazy and we were stuck in port. All in all we were on the boat for 28 hours before arriving, and then when we did arrive we had a 3 hour bus ride still to get to the hotel--which we finally reached at 2 am the next day. Because of our delay, we missed hiking down the gorge across Crete (10 miles). We were pretty bummed to miss that.

But the next day was nice and we were able to visit Knossos--both the Archaeological site and the Museum. It was interesting to be able to see the contrast from the Minoan civilizations with the Mycenae and Cycladic. That afternoon we had a short hike/climb next to the Mediterranean, and then went for a swim in the ocean. It was beautiful and delightful. And then at night we had an amazing buffet meal and a fun time hanging out at the hotel's open bar. People got a little crazy! Oh yeah, and our hotel was wicked nice. Actually they all were insanely nice. I am going to have a hard time going back to hostels.

The next morning we left for Santorini, which I will leave for the next post. As a teaser, I'll leave you this photo and tell you that it was perhaps the most beautiful place I have ever seen.


Grecian Journey

Tomorrow morning I leave for Greece. It's for the college's two week academic travel program, where the whole school is off for two weeks and everyone goes in professor-led groups to different places all over the world. I'm quite excited about it, though other feelings are mixed in there too. So, since I'm going to be gone and without internet access for some time, I thought I would leave you with some of my thoughts of late to ponder over--if you so choose. These are actually stemmed or even quoted from some emails I written recently too.

I've been thinking about adventure and beauty (a few posts ago) a little bit recently, because if any time in my life where I would be feeling adventuresome and alive I would think it would be now. When I think about it though, I'm so not sure that I am. And I don't know why exactly. Perhaps I would be if I were more connected to Christ through community and such here. But I have really been questioning that so called "adventurous life" that I've always thought about. I mean does it exist, truly? The beauty that I see here is so amazing--both natural and man-made, but it really isn't fulfilling. It is amazing, but it lacks something. It feels empty without my friends and family to share it with. Yet I think even with them it would still be missing something. I think it's that complete life--where it would need to be with all of those things, and God around and through it all. I mean, beauty alone or family alone or any of those things by themselves cannot be satisfying--and that includes adventure.

I think reality is starting to creep it's way into my life--or fight rather to get myself to acknowledge it, but I'm so far from reality that it's having a hard time. And now this trip to Greece is just like going further away into magical fairy tale land. I mean it's kind of cool but maybe only in the way that a fun dream is fun when you know it's a dream. Because you also know that sooner or later you're going to wake up and the dream will just be an illusion. But this is real, in a way. It's weird. I don't know if this is making sense. Maybe it's just a really complicated way of saying that I'm...It's not lonely. But something close to that. Missing something, like I was saying above. I wish I could know what it is. It's not God. It's not any one thing perhaps. But all this beauty here doesn't fulfill it. Is it glory? Maybe that's what it is. There is a lack of glory in this place of life. Not glory for myself of course. And you could call it glory to God, but in a very full way--not just in my thoughts of giving him glory. Like the glory that God receives through so many things, like through family and friends and community and other things. I think I am only seeing that glory to God through beauty, which is amazing, but not enough.

I don't mean to diminish this experience in any way. It is amazing and a once in a lifetime thing. I think though that it is an example of something that we can in a way idolize or put up way too high. Like striving for something so much because you think it is amazing, but then once you have in a way reached your goal, it isn't quite the rapture that you thought it would be. Perhaps if I explain it in metaphor...Tomorrow starts something that is almost completely new. And when I come back it will be the second half, and everything is down hill after that. More than perhaps anything in my life these next two weeks feel like that summit of a mountain I've climbed. And I get to revel at the top for some time, but then the way back down will be so much harder. I have worked so hard and focused so much on getting to this mountain, and a lot of it has been for getting up it. But now that I'm at the top (nearly) I am wondering if it was all really worth it. And at the same time I am trying to savor it all on my way down, all the while really wanting to be at the bottom. Maybe it will become a little more concrete while I'm away and I'll understand it more. That would be nice.

So these are my thoughts, tonight, on the eve of another adventure. They're pretty personal I realize, in fact I've taken most of them from emails that I've sent people. I hope they're not offended that I shared those thoughts with other people. And I hope my being so open hasn't put you off either. Especially if you think that I'm complaining--because I am definitely not. I think I'm trying to say that this mountainous adventure actually is great, but in the way a mountain is great. It's not the plains, and it's not the ocean. And if you love the plains, or anything in life enough, dwelling in a place apart from that--no matter how amazing, will not satisfy that inner urge that you've always had to live somewhere else. It's deeper than that .

Perhaps I've thoroughly confused you. I may have even confused myself at this point. I wonder if I'll be able to sleep tonight. I'll be back on here in two weeks!


A Walk in the Monastery

This afternoon I took a little hike up to the monastery, St. Maria Assunta, that is just up the hill from our school. It was a very nice, peaceful place. I walked around some, took pictures, and did some leisurely reading. Of course none of those things would be per say equivilent to studying for midterms, which was in fact my primary purpose for going. . . but I had a nice afternoon nonetheless. And you will benefit from my lack of discipline by enjoying these fine photos:

I have two midterms tomorrow, and not only did I not study at the monastery, I haven't started yet. I'm really not that worried if you can't tell. Still, discretion and the fact that my parents are probably reading this urges me to make this short. Don't worry Mom, they send home midterm grades here to the parents. Sometimes this really feels a lot like a high school.

Actually the monastery had a little cemetary which I walked around a little. I'm taking history of death and dying next semester, so I figured I would get in a little prelim work. Actually it was really nice. People used to walk in cemetaries all the time so I'm told--death was something that was all around and demanded respect instead of it being pushed away and hidden. Well, in a remote corner of this cemetary, tucked against the stone walls was a small unmarked gravestone. It really struck me. How significant is that not to even have a name on your headstone? I mean, that person lived a life--a full life. How is it that they can not even be honored by the testimony of even just their name. It was a mystery though. What did this person do in their life? Did they want an unmarked gravestone? There was just a cross on it. It was an interesting picture that stirred a lot of thoughts in me and increased my appreciation for human life. I have to give some major kudos to Sam and Mitch. I received a package not long ago from them that was really amazing. They receive the prize for the best package so far. I would tell you what was in it, but I don't want to stifle your ideas! Also thanks to Jodi and Mom for their packages. I know that you all are just eagerly hunting through the old posts to find my address now. Ok, I'm off to studying!


Adventures in Amsterdam

I woke up on friday morning, tired but excited. 3 days, 2 burger kings, 400 paintings, 1 parking boot, 4 stroopwafels, and 1500 miles later I'm back from Amsterdam. Photos

I think you could guess that the further you travel, the greater the adventure will be. I think that was certainly the case this weekend, as the journey north brought about some really interesting circumstances. Though through it all it was quite a weekend full of craziness.
I picked up the rental car on friday at 10 am, and we arrived at our sleeping arrangements at 12:30am. Here's how it happened. After picking various people up and grabbing a quick lunch to go, we set out on the road north to Amsterdam. Directions in Europe are always tricky, but we only had a slight detour once on the way back. This time it was easy--follow E-35 the whole way. However, despite the...shall we say...efficiency of German highways, it still took a good 10 hours to reach Amsterdam because of several traffic jams and a stop for food. That night we were planning to stay in these cabins outside of the city for very cheap, but after an ardent search following directions that ended in a huge campsite, no cabins could be found. Fortuanately one of our passengers was planning on leaving us and staying with a friend, who was gracious enough to offer her place for us to stay at for free. So that was nice. She had a nice view from her apartment (right in the city), but my bed was a little unconvential--as you can see:
Saturday morning we woke up and made our way south to the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijkmuseum. I was looking forward to this greatly because Rembrandt is my favorite, and I have heard the VG Museum was phenomenal--which it was. I was surprised at how some of the paintings moved me. The Rijkmuseum was a little disappointing, because a lot of it was closed and there surprisingly weren't that many Rembrandts. Though they did have his most famous, the huge Night Watch (12 by 14 ft.). The trips to the two museums were split by a visit to an irish pub, complete with a little futbol. It was an engaging day.
Paintings above: Landscape at twilight (left), and field with crows (right).








Paintings above: Jeremiah weeps over the destruction of Jerusalem (left), and a young self portrait of Rembrandt himself (right).

Amsterdam is a city known for its freedom. The smell of weed is all over the city streets at any time throughout the day and night. It's sold for free in various "coffee shops" that are never more than a 2 minute walk away. This, the famous red light district, the various sex shops and museums, and a fun-seeking group of friends had me expecting a pretty roudy night. At the end, I may have been the only one able to walk in a straight line, but I had just as many good stories. A couple highlights from the night were the crazy eurotrash dancers and being able to watch the second half of michigan vs. michigan st. at one of the bars. That night we also settled one of our little setbacks--they're vicious in Amsterdam:

Sunday morning brought a little later start, but one well justified. We went to the Anne Frank house, and then to Rembrandt's House Museum. They both were really well done with a lot of interesting information--though of course very different. After that we made our journey home--leaving at 4 pm and finally falling asleep at 3:30 am after returning the car. I liked Amsterdam. It was a very different city than any that I've been to so far, since all of the places I've been to have been either with a German or Italian feel, even the Swiss ones. Everyone in Amsterdam spoke English, and it was cold--which I really liked. I have lots of thoughts from the weekend, but none to share right now. Perhaps later in the week. I'll leave you with a picture of Rembrandt's The Night Watch:


Travel and Basketball

So...I don't know if I've mentioned it on here or not, but I'm playing basketball for the team here at Franklin College. It's a small school, and this is only the second year of the program. They had an open gym/tryout sort of thing and me and my study abroad boys just went to play some basketball for fun. Then the coach really wanted us to play, so we did. It's a good way to be in shape and just have fun playing basketball. We're pretty awful, but it's still fun. Our coach actually played at Georgetown from 1985-1989 with the likes of Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutumbo. We had a game tonight and one on tuesday night. We lost them both, but it was fun to get out and play.

Oh, and the picture above, that's the fountain just below my room. It's a soothing sound to listen to with my windows open, but they turn it off at 10 every night, so I don't get to fall asleep to it. And they just drained it today for the winter. Sad. But also notice the very well kept lawn around it--a favorite for lounging freshmen (that's the freshmen dorm in the background on the left). Well that lawn is well kept courtesy of leaf blowers and mowing at 8 in the morning 3 times a week. I used to be a heavy sleeper. And I know what you all are thinking...8 isn't that early! Well I stay up super late and I'm in college dang it!

Tomorrow I'm going to Amsterdam with a few friends. It should be a good trip. I'm excited to see the Van Gogh museum, and all the Rembrandts. We're driving, which should be interesting since it's 8 hours each way. But a lot of it is in Germany...no I won't go that fast.

I've actually had something on my mind that I'm trying to figure out. Maybe some of you could help me out. So I go to all these places and see all these beautiful things--both natural and historical, and they are amazing. And I'm filled with a sense of awe. And yet I am now asking myself the question, as I see so many amazing things that I could take them for granted, "what is the deeper purpose behind viewing all this beauty?" Sure it's edifying and good just to behold beauty in general, but what is it all teaching me? What does it mean to me? It's more than just seeing God in those things. And also it's much more than just saying I've been to such and such place or seen this thing. What do you think it is? I have my ideas, but I would love to hear from you all. You all have the weekend to think it over, so let me know if you want to--I would be curious to hear your take on it.


The Smart Car Rally

Within the whole concept of studying abroad lies the idea that one will travel a lot. Of course this depends on the type of program, but one might choose such a place as Switzerland, with its central location, as a great home base for travel. However, only a great fool would fail to appreciate and understand the beauty of his own new home.

Sometimes I feel foolish. I knew that Switzerland was beautiful, but wow did I have no idea. There's a lot to see in Europe, but since I'm living in Switzerland and because it's such a beautiful country I really want to make sure I see and understand Switzerland really well. In that vain, this last weekend I went on the school-run "Smart Car Rally." A smart car is a tiny, 2-seat car that are designed for city driving in Europe. We drove them all around Switzerland, seeing the country and various points of interest. We made Lucerne our home base, as it is very close to a lot of cool places.
Friday night we arrived late and didn't do a whole lot. We just walked downtown and stopped in this bar/restaurant called "California." It was pretty funny to see the foreign perception of a place like California. The highlight though was the beer I had. If you've been reading this you might have picked up the fact that Swiss beer isn't exactly the greatest. Well this place had a great selection of foreign beers, and I really enjoyed my Newcastle. It was for you Adam!
Saturday morning we got up early and headed for Pilatus, a mountain peak overlooking the city of Lucerne and the alps--as you see from our views above. The train up there is the steepest cog-wheeled train in the world...Whatever that means. It was pretty cool though. We climbed slowly and that provided lots of good photo opportunities. The pictures from this weekend are incredible. You have to look at them--these too. At the top we hiked around and saw all the views. I drank a Swiss beer for John Creagar and ate a huge bratwurst for myself.
After descending on the same train, we made our way to Interlaken--the outdoor sports and resort capitol of Europe. It was pretty touristy, but also really beautiful. If I had a lot of money, that's where I'd go. The hotels there were phenomenal, and the most expensive in Europe. They even had a Hooters restaurant...Which I...um...did not go into to...ahem. They have good wings ok! I actually didn't have wings, but rather a swiss cheesecake. It was not so hot. But we did get to watch a little soccer. Unfortunately we did not get to paraglide or do any other crazy outdoor activity. We were going to go white-water rafting there last month, but the water wasn't high enough. At least I got to experience the town, and, you know, watch other people paraglide. Here's a couple pictures from around the town:
Then we drove back to Lucerne and got to look around the town a fair amount. It was really pretty. There is this amazing old bridge that crosses the river, and it is just covered in flowers (picture above). After dinner at the hostel, we went to see a film at the Imax. This film...was absolutely incredible. It was done by Stomp, but with different groups all around the world from different cultures. It was fascinating to see the importance of rhythm and beat in every culture. What is it inside us that makes us love that? It's fascinating. I might have even teared up during it (which is ridiculous I know, but it was moving). It's called "The Planet Rhythm." Moving. That night afterwards we went to an English Pub and I watched my first football since I've been here. Alabama vs. Florida. Didn't matter really who it was. It was just good to watch some football.
Sunday we drove up to NE Switzerland to a little town called, "Appenzell," which is famous for the way it makes Swiss cheese. It was a nice little factory and an interesting lunch of melted cheese in a traditional Swiss dish called "Raclett." From there we drove up to St. Gallen, a good sized town with a Benedictine Monastery in its center. The cathedral was beautiful and the library even moreso. I realize how terrible my descriptions of these places are, because words fail to describe them. I'll just have to put up lots of pictures because "beautiful" and "spectacular" and whatever other words I think of just don't do it justice--though nor do the pictures. From there we drove back, and decided to take a slight scenic detour. This led us to driving over a mountain pass, which was so cool. We arrived home a little late, but it was well worth it.
I realize I drank several beers for several people this weekend. If you have any further requests, just let me know and I'll do my best--but not too many beers ok? You can be pretty creative with this, you know? But there should be some give and take. I hope you all are enjoying October and Fall in America. Anybody want to move out here with me?: