Today we set out for our day trip to Mycenae- an event that a lot of us were truly looking forward to, especially because the location of our hotel in Athens, though beautiful, could at times be confining, and we were therefore extremely excited to see another side of the country. We knew that the bus ride would be long, but would eventually be worth it in order to see some famous historical sites and spend a day on the beach. After a quick rest stop (with a beautiful canyon view of sailboats and bungee jumping, though none of us were brave enough to partake) we finally arrived at Agamemnon’s tomb. A short hike up the hill brought us to a view of the beautiful city with grapevines and cottages alike- truly a sight to behold. After a brief Socratic seminar detailing the history of the castle, we were back on the bus and headed for the beach. Considering how hot it had been, especially on the hike up the hill of the castle and further exploration around the tomb, we were all thoroughly excited to jump into the crystal clear blue water. Sunscreen and sandwiches were first, however, and we were all extremely happy to be spending the beautiful day on such a shady beach. We were all in agreement that Grecian beaches were doing something right- for only three Euros, you could rent a lawn chair with a straw umbrella right next to the water. There was even a bucket of water at the feet of each chair in order to clean the sand off your feet! It was so beautiful, in fact, that we spent over three hours in the water alone- excluding the time we spent relaxing on the lounge chairs and taking in the view around us. A few mandatory games of Marco Polo and other water fun activities later, we were back on the bus and headed to a nearby village for dinner. Many of my other peers and I agreed this was by far the most beautiful town we had visited- a lack of tourists and other common souvenir shops brought about a sense of true European tourism, and the shopping and gelato were perfect. Our wallets were definitely a little lighter, but the phenomenal gelato we had made it truly worth it. It was actually after this ice cream cone that we all decided we would compare the gelato of every city we visit on the trip to determine the true winner- and so far, the winner is the mint gelato from Napoli by far (though that is for sure going to change once we head to Italy I am sure). Upon playing with local children in the nearby park, we all headed to dinner- most of us having the truffle risotto, a staple on the menu of the restaurant that we visited. I don’t think that any of us will ever forget it’s heavenly taste, or have any truffle fresher. This meal truly made us even more excited for our upcoming visits to Italy, but for the time being, we were all soaking up as much time in Greece as we possibly could before our departure.
The next day, we were all relieved that we were able to sleep in a little bit following the long bus ride back to Athens after our day trip. We had the opportunity to tour two beautiful genuine Greek Orthodox Byzantine churches, as well as witness the legendary changing of the guard at Greek parliament. Being able to partake in several key aspects of the country’s political and religious foundation’s only furthered our sense of its historical and current value to our world. We then had our last Slovak lunch as a group in Athens and were then given some downtime to explore the city one last time and get any shopping done that we had been pining for. Thursday was also our first opportunity to go out in small groups and enjoy the fun of stipend dinners with our daily allotted allowance. Being able to pick our own restaurant with our friends was truly exhilarating, and finally gave us a feel of the true European culture, dining, and independence that we had been hearing so much about. After meeting back up as a group in Monastiraki square, we then headed to an ancient amphitheater at the base of the Acropolis to watch a traditional Greek folk dancing troop perform. Not only were the costumes and music amazing, but the dancers were so phenomenal and confident that it gave us both an ancient and modern view into their pride for their culture. Perhaps my favorite part of the trip so far was the walk back as a group- it was dark out, and walking at the base of the Acropolis on ancient cobblestone in the moonlight with our newfound best friends was such a movie moment that I will truly remember forever. If anything, that has also been my biggest takeaway from the trip so far- that the little moments are sometimes what you remember more. The Acropolis and museums we visited were, of course, memorable, but even trying to attempt the dance steps from the performance we had just watched in a starlit ancient city with friends from all over the nation was just as precious of a moment. It was truly the best way to conclude our stay in Greece and a memorable one at that.
After such a late night out, the bus ride to the airport was a welcome opportunity to rest our tired feet. The plane ride was brief, and stepping off the plane to see the beautiful cottages dotting the hillside of Rome was excitement enough for our upcoming stay in the city.