Athens: The Acropolis Museum

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The Acropolis Museum is probably the best laid out museum I’ve ever been to. Built to mimic the open air feel of Acropolis the space is all white marble and huge windows. The outside entrance and the main entry hallway have floors made with reinforced glass that let to look down into the excavation site.

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The ground floor leads you up the slope of the Acropolis site and displays all the everyday wares found on the site. Most of the artifacts on display are clay; the wooden supplies have long since decayed and the more precious ones were looted.

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The first floor covers statues and tokens found inside the Parthenon and the smaller temples of the Acropolis site. Dedicated to one of my favorite goddesses, Athena, the temple was full of statues of young women. The museum displays and text do a really great job in providing political and economic context to the artifacts. Athens went through major reforms during the height of the Acropolis that changed how people worshipped and who could participate in public life. Dedications and gifts moved away from an expression of piety and towards a display of wealth.

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The top floor was my favorite though. The museum has recreated the outside of the Parthenon, organizing the reliefs and carvings as they were originally intended. So much contextual understanding! Several pieces were accompanied by small sketches to better understand what the time worn relief was showing. Solid work, museum curators.

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Out takes from Greece

Dammit. I had the perfect outfit planned!

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What’s better than ice cream? Pink champagne ice cream OBVS.

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I discovered sour cherry juice in Istanbul and its advanced to a full on addiction in Greece. Sorry, not sorry.

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Neighborhood icon nooks.

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Peka was my fearless companion in Athens. She will maul you with kisses if you sit still for more than five seconds.

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Yassis Greece! See you in Roma tomorrow.

Meteora

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I’m constantly amazed by how young America is. We have plenty of history but its not impressive the way “this town celebrated is 1000th birthday” is impressive. Greece is full of old. Looking at the UNESCO world heritage list for Greece is like reading the test prep for world history.

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Meteroa is a collection of six monasteries built on naturally occurring sandstone cliffs. The natural topography feels somewhere between the arches in Utah and the moon, truly spectacular.

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Many religious communities have lived in this area over the centuries. The monastic order that built the monasteries and lives there today arrived in the mid-14th century. They served as a bulkhead of Orthodox Christianity in Greece.

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The Crisis

I’ve been reading about the economic crisis in Greece for several years now, following the general strikes, talking and debating at length with other politicos about strategies to challenge the Troika, and cheering the gains of SYRIZA. Despite reading that 50% of young people under 30 are unemployed and taxes are skyrocketing, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived.

On Corfu, the effects of the crisis are discussed openly but aren’t really apparent. The island’s economy is so tourism based that shops stay open, museums are operating and generally people are employed.

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Traveling inland that changes. Storefront after storefront was closed and empty. The ones that are open mostly stock non-perishables (except, obviously, the larger grocery stores). When Melanie and I were researching travel routes we discovered that all international train travel out of Greece ended in 2011.

We stayed at a newer hostel for our overnight trip to Medeora. The hostel owner is a mechanical engineer who opened the hostel after being out of work for too long. His brother, a civil engineer, owns a hostel about two hours away as he is having trouble finding work too.

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In Athens I’m staying with two DEA members and have an invitation to check out their office. I’m super pumped to meet with activists and organizers standing up to the insane response to the manufactured crisis.

Eating from a can

Ain’t in glamorous? While exploring the Greek grocery store Melanie stumbled on gourmet food in a can so we decided to try it and BOMB.

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We had a small picnic of stuffed grape leaves, fava beans in tomato sauce and beef meatballs. Combined with a kilo of cherries and we’re basically rocking Greece. Who knew eating for <€5 could be so delicious?

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Corfu

Melanie and I spent five wonderful days on Corfu, hanging out on the beach, poking around town and exploring the caves along the coast. We had three years of catching up to cover so we assigned topics to each day (mutual friends, work, boys, travel, family). It’s so great when you can just pick right back up with someone.
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Melanie has been traveling for nine months and found us a fantastic hostel through a help exchange listing. We split a private room (“so we don’t have to feel guilty for chatting in bed”) with a view of the patio and lots of morning sunlight. My favorite part was our stay included breakfast and dinner. Dinner was family style and all the hostel guests eat together. Such a great way to get to know people! We’ve swapped travel stories and Melanie doled out New York advice to an Aussie headed there later this summer.

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The family that runs the hostel also owns a near by farm. Several of the hostel guests were staying for free in exchange for working on the farm (hence finding them on the help exchange). The feta on our Greek salads every night is made with milk from the farm. Plus! Greece is helping convert me from anti-tomato to cautiously pro-tomato! Big things are happening here, folks. They also make their own wine but none was available to try. Tragic, I know.
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Corfu is stunning. The natural beauty is just what you think of when you think “Greece”. The water is blue blue, the vegetation is green and plentiful and the beaches are superb. We did two beach days and two town/exploring days. It was a great balance and allowed us to go with the flow and accommodate the weather.
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We’re off to do an overnight trip to Mediora, a UNESCO world heritage site of several monasteries built into hills before we split paths. (Sad trombone.) I’m looking forward to a few days in Athens and Melanie is working her way back through the Balkans towards Milan and then New York.

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Mel, you’ve been an awesome travel partner and I’m so glad we made this work! I’m so impressed with your international bad assery this year and I can’t wait to see you in Seattle. xoxox

Wait, RUN, wait: IST>ATH>CFU

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Line at security
Line to check in
Line at passport control
Line at security (yes, again)
Line to board
Fly, arrive late
Line to deboard
Sprint through the airport with Turkish newlyweds, three Greek dudes headed to Mykonos and two young Japanese women with 4-wheeled suitcases and Hello Kitty headbands led by our collective air travel angel, Yvonna
Line at passport control, will everyone in front of you to vanish
Line at security (omg, again?!)
Line to board
Fly, have entire half of exit row
Line to deboard, don’t even care, you just won the flight seat lottery!
Toe tapping at baggage claim
See Melanie and rejoice!

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It’s like my dad always said, “never be in a hurry when you travel.”

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