Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Bug Flew Into My Mouth-Week 1 in Ελλάδα (Greece)

From January 14th-28th we had off to do what we wanted to; some went home, some stayed in Israel, while others traveled to Italy and Greece. I headed to Greece with two of my friends, Ari and Ethan. We did not leave until the Sunday though because I was spending the weekend with my Abba. Thursday evening I finally got to see Abba which was very exciting. Friday we went on a bit of a shopping spree for various gifts before getting ready for Shabbat. Shabbat was really great because I was spending it with Abba, as well as eating meals at various friends' houses. Motzei Shabbat well finishing packing Abba took a couple of my friends and me for dinner at Café Hillel which was a great way to end my time in Jerusalem. It was then time to say goodbye to Abba because in a few hours I was heading to Greece.

Sunday very early in the morning (2:45 AM), we headed to the airport to catch our flight. Due to being there early we had enough time to go to the Kosher McDonalds and I got a hamburger.  After a short but early flight we landed in Athens and we then took a taxi by a very nice and helpful taxi driver to our hotel which is quite nice. Due to our lack of sleep we spent much of the day sleeping but we did walk around the Plaka which is the main square. We checked out many of the cool stores and had an early dinner (Greek salad and tzatziki) before heading back to the hotel.

Monday after a restful night's sleep we headed out to start seeing the sights that Athens has to offer. We started off at the Kerameikos of Ancient Athens. Here was one of the largest districts in Ancient Athens but this area is most known as being a very important cemetery with tombs dating back to the Bronze Age. Next we headed to the Acropolis to see the Parthenon, Erechtheion, Temple of Athena Nike, The Beulé Gate and The Propyalea.  We found out that for a lot of the sites we are able to get in for free because we are under 19 and don't have to pay 12€. It was really amazing to see these sites which are so old and also very rich in history. As well because I have learned about Ancient Greece a lot in school it was cool to see what I've learned about in person. Next we went to the Ancient Agora (market place) and saw a temple and a stoa. The agora was both a place of business as well as a place of assembly. We then headed back to the Plaka to grab a quick bite to eat (Greek salad) and then it was back to the hotel to rest because most of the sites and museums close at 3. In the evening we headed back to the Plaka for dinner (spaghetti with tomatoes, basil and cheese) and after exploring the area a bit more we went to Haagen Dazs for fondue which was amazing. The fondue consisted of little balls of ice cream of different flavors, fruit, cookies, brownies and nuts and we dipped this all in good. It was then an early night to bed because we were waking up at 5:45 to go to Delphi.

Tuesday was our first day trip out of Athens which was to Delphi. Delphi is most well known for its oracle. After a 3 hour bus ride through the beautiful mountains and the surrounding area, we arrived and walked to see the sites. We started off at the archeological museum seeing lots of the artifacts from the excavation of the area. Next we saw the Sanctuary of Athena, the Tholos and gymnasium. Then we went to the main area of Ancient Delphi and saw such sites as the Treasury of the Athenians and the Temple of Apollo. It was really cool to see all these sites and to think what it would have been like to see it active. It then started hailing and raining so we caught the next bus back to Athens. When we got back we grabbed dinner to eat at the hotel (spaghetti again) before heading to bed early.

Wednesday we toured some of the local museums. We started at the War Museum which was pretty neat. I was a bit lost though because some of the information was only in Greek and I also did not fully know Greece's history. Despite this I enjoyed looking at the weapons, outfits and more.  The best part was probably when one of the soldiers gave each of us 4 postcards of various soldiers for free. We then went to the Jewish Museum of Athens which was an amazing museum and it felt great supporting a community that is not as strong as others in the world. In the museum we saw artifacts and costumes for holidays and other events that were a bit different then what we are used to. Afterwards we tried to find a vegetarian restaurant but it did not exist so we got lunch at this small family run restaurant and I got guess what, a Greek salad! We then went to the Greek Popular Musical Instruments museum which was not that great. It was very small and just not that interesting or captivating. It was then back to the area around the Plaka for some more shopping and just strolling in this beautiful country. After heading to the hotel for a bit of a rest we went to the Hard Rock Café for dinner. It was so good and I had salmon with broccoli and mashed potatoes so it was great to have some variety. It was then back to the hotel because we realized that most of the shops close around 6 so unless you want to eat or stay up until 11ish when the bars and clubs open there is not much to do.

Thursday was our 2nd out of Athens trip which was to Cape Sounion. The ride both ways was beautiful because the route was along the coast so seeing the clear, blue sea against the mountains and tiny villages was stunning. In Cape Sounion we saw the Temple of Poseidon which is perched atop a cliff so besides for seeing the temple there are breathtaking views of the surrounding area. Due to the time of the year there was nothing else to do so we caught the next bus to Athens. When we got back, due to it being 5 we went to the hotel to put down our stuff before heading for dinner. Tonight due to the rain we went to a restaurant right down the street from the hotel which was really good and I got cheese ravioli with pesto and parmesan. For desert I had chocolate mousse with strawberries and they gave us free appletinis.

Friday we slept in and then got ready for Shabbat. Before we left Israel I had organized with the Chabad here in Athens to have Shabbat dinner and lunch with them. Friday after resting for the day we got ready for Shabbat and walked over to the main Shul in Athens. It was a quick walk and once we got there Ari and I were ushered upstairs onto the balcony for tiffilot. Friday night tiffilot were quite short because there was no minyan and they also did everything out load. While we were up there we were able to look around and admire how beautiful the synagogue is as well as admire the dress of the rabbis (black kitels with gold stripes and a black hat). After tiffilot we walked back to Rabbi Hendel's house for dinner where we met his lovely wife and his 3 adorable children, as well as a very nice family from New York who were visiting Athens on their way to Israel. While talking to Rabbi Hendel and his wife, Nehama were told that they have been in Athens for 9 years and while there are around 3000 Jews in Athens they are spread out all over the city so it is very hard to bring everyone together which is why it is hard at times to get a minyan.  Dinner was very delicious and it was great to have a home cooked meal as well as some meat. After dinner we walked back to the hotel to relax.

Shabbat morning we got up and headed back to shul. Once again it was a quick service with parts that we did not understand because it is a Sephardic shul. We also were able to realize that the average age was around 80 and the shul seemed like a tourist attraction because there lots of people in pants and there were some cell phone ringing. As well we saw that despite being a Sephardic shul they had Ashkenazi torahs and Rabbi Hendel told us he torahs were ones that where rescued from the war. After shul we went back to Rabbi Hendel's house for lunch which was once again delicious and then it was back to the hotel to rest. After Shabbat we headed out for dinner (Greek salad and we shared tzatziki and fried cheese) and then walked around a bit.

Here are the pictures from the first week, enjoy!

Until next time,

με αγάπη, (with love in Greek)



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