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Student Blog: Greece Trip

09 November 2018

Two Weeks in Greece

Laura, G9, Kazakhstan, describes her impressions of a week-long cruise of the Greek Islands; Ms King picks up the tale to bring the second week’s adventures to life.

Week One: Cruise of the Greek Islands (by Laura)

Our fortnight in Greece began with an evening in its capital, Athens, and a Hop On, Hop Off tour of the city the following day. Then it was time to board the ship for our cruise of the Greek islands, which I had been looking forward to for weeks. 

Our first stop was Mykonos, a maze of narrow streets of whitewashed houses and colourful doors. The island is particularly famous for its Little Venice area with its ancient windmills and vibrant buildings that overhang the sea. A visit to Mykonos without a stop in Little Venice isn’t complete. We had our lunch there, in a restaurant overlooking the crystal-clear sea and the white windmills. Afterwards, we visited the most famous windmills - the Kato Myloi (Lower Windmills) – that stand on a hill facing the sea; the view from up here was incredible. Then we strolled the narrow streets of Mykonos, walking beneath trees full of bright pink flowers.

We sailed on to Milos, where we were fascinated by the geology of Sarakiniko beach - it felt like we were walking on the moon! The beach was quite small with light brown sand and aquamarine water; what was so striking was the swirl of blindingly white volcanic rock. For me, this was the most amazing place on the Island.  Next, we explored the little cafes, restaurants and shops of the town centre. As the afternoon turned into evening, we watched a pink sunset reflected on the calm, blue sea. 

The next two days we spent in stunning Santorini. Our ship anchored and we took a smaller boat to the island. On disembarking, we took a cable car up to the heights of Fira. Its narrow streets were full of small shops selling traditional Greek clothes and jewellery. The restaurant that we had dinner at had a dramatic view of the huge grey cliffs and dark blue sea, and we got lucky with another spectacular sunset. On our way back, we had the choice of traveling by cable car, climbing down six hundred steps or riding a donkey down!

Next stop: Heraklion. This is a port city and the capital of Crete. It’s known for the ruins of the Palace of Knossos. This was built by the Minoans, an Aegean Bronze Age civilization, and covers 150,000 square feet - bigger than two football fields! The Palace of Knossos is the symbol of Minoan civilization - although most of it lies in ruin, we were still able to imagine its former spendour as we roamed among its foundations.  All of the artefacts that have been discovered of Crete’s ancient civilization are located in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, which we visited. It is crammed with more than 15,000 artefacts, stretching over a vast period of 5,000 years: from the Neolithic era to the Graeco Roman period.

Our final stop on the cruise took us to a different country - Kusadasi in Turkey. Here, I was filled with awe at the creativity of the island’s architecture; there was a vibrant contrast between the cream-colored buildings lower down and the rainbow of houses on top of the hill. The sea shone turquoise and deep blue, sparkling in the sun. Our excursion started in Ephesus, the old city that was created by the son of the king of Athens. We saw the ancient library of Celsus, Grand Theatre, terrace houses, Curetes Street and the Upper Gate. Our last visit was to a rug shop, where we were shown by the rug-makers how they unravel each strain of a silk cocoon and the incredible intricacy of how they weave the different types of rugs. We were all stunned by the beauty of their traditional rugs. There, we were served with the traditional Turkish apple tea. Finally, we strolled by the sea enjoying the warm weather and the shady palm trees.

The first week was unforgettable. I made many memories from every island, got to taste traditional Greek food, see their clothes and discover some of their fascinating culture. We all grew closer to each other as friends too. It truly felt amazing for me to spend my October holidays with Surval.

Week Two: Discovering Athens (by Ms King)

After a week-long whirlwind of island-hopping and cruise entertainment, we returned to the solid land of ancient Athens. A fulfilling sleep and lovely buffet prepared us for our second week of Greek adventures. We began our exploration of Athens culture by taking a home-style cooking class. Splitting into two groups, one for lunch and one for dinner, we learned how to make Greek culinary masterpieces such as Moussaka (vegetable infused lasagne) and Tiropita (phyllo dough with feta cheese and egg inside). After three hours of preparing and cooking them ourselves we were finally able to taste our creations, sighing at the explosion of flavours with each dish. Feeling full and content we made our way back through Athens, taking in the lively city at night, to our hotel. 

Our second day in Athens began with a very familiar bus tour, the hop-on hop-off red bus. As we settled into our seats on the bus, we knew our day had officially began. Firstly, our group visited Lycabettus Hill, which had beautiful panoramic views of the city; and, on the very top, lay a Catholic Chapel, which was filled to the brim with Renaissance paintings and stunning religious artefacts. We then made our way back onto the bus for our next stop, the ancient Olympic Stadium. The Stadium was the home of lots of Olympics games and training practises and could hold up to 150,000 people at a time. To gain a sense of what it would have felt like to compete there, the whole group of Surval girls lined up and got ready to race. With a shout from the staff, the race started and ended in an adrenalin filled blur, with a tie of four students for the champions. 

For our next day, we began a bit later and were given time to explore Athens and take advantage of the shopping it has to offer. After a few hours (and many shopping bags later), we met all together in the Greek National Gardens to begin a tour rightfully named ‘Alternative Athens’. Three women stood before us in matching exercise equipment and immediately got us to start running around the gardens. We took in the beautiful scenery and gorgeous weather as we were taken around the gardens, then to a small basketball court area. Here, we were given foam batons to use as javelins and taught how to properly throw them as far as we could, like in both ancient Olympic times and today’s Olympics. We practised and noticed how we all got better as the day went on. Sadly, it was then time to finish, so we thanked our coaches for the lesson in Olympic sport and culture. Walking back to the hotel, we thought our day was finished, but Mr Watson and Ms Drake had others plans for those who were interested in the current football games going on in the USA! They took us to a sports café where we watched a game and then officially ended our day with a happy stroll back to the hotel. 

Our final day was the fullest. We began with an early rise and quick breakfast as we had a bus waiting to pick us up to take us to our destinations for the day. The bus came with a guide, who was very friendly and knew a lot about Greek landscapes and artefacts. We headed south along the coast for about an hour before arriving at the Temple of Poseidon. It was surrounded in morning sunlight and the sight of the white marble contrasting with the dark ocean behind it was breath-taking. We listened to how the Temple was used as a place of worship and as a look out for boats returning from wars. After taking lots of pictures and seeing all we could of the site, we then got back on the bus for a quick beach stop before lunch. The ocean was freezing and everyone only went up to their ankles in the water but it was refreshing and the salty air was light and exhilarating to breathe in. We then had a lunch that consisted of greasy fast food and hopped back on the bus to our hotel feeling very satisfied with our fortnight in Greece!