After the frigid, windy, and damp winter break, the Mediterranean became my home for 12 days thanks to Professor Susan Bloom’s Photography Jan Term to Greece and Turkey. Photographs will be displayed later this semester, but I hope this taste of what I experienced encourages students to study abroad for Jan Term.
Greece: The usual first thoughts are of Delphi, Olympia, Athens, and Sparta. Yes, we did see all of these sites, both ancient and modern, and yes upon entering Sparta there was a shout of “This is SPARTA!”
The ancient temples, churches, houses, and monuments were beyond breathtaking, and the surrounding scenery of mountains provided a stunning background. At each site, we learned of the culture of the Greeks and of their mythology. We drank the water from the miracle spring at Delphi, ran a race in the stadium of Olympia, and visited a Byzantine village in Sparta.
Sparta was the only place with no ancient site because the Spartans truly lived a life where material objects were deemed unnecessary. Finally, we saw Athens and the Parthenon located on the acropolis, and below was the city stretched out around our exhilarating height. My favorite memory was when we found ourselves winding along roads that were halfway up mountains whose bases touched the sea shores, and whose coves housed fishing towns with red roofs.
Fun Facts I bet you didn’t know:
•There is a law in Athens prohibiting buildings from having more than 8 stories because the Greeks want the acropolis to remain the highest point in Athens.
•The stray dogs and cats are not anybody’s pet, but they’re not nobody’s pet because they are everybody’s pet. The strays are communal pets and are the friendliest strays around.
•Palm trees line the streets of towns, and in some restaurants the orange juice is freshly squeezed from an orchard just outside the building.
•Honey is served with yogurt because it isn’t sweet.
Turkey: When I looked at the Jan Term for the first time I realized that I knew basically nothing about Turkey. What I found was a lush country with brilliant green grass and mountains that rise up out of the mist.
In this lovely country we visited the ancient city of Troy which had ruins from different centuries due to being rebuilt so many times. We also saw Pergamon (one of my personal favorites) with a huge theater built into the side of the mountain. Our visit took us to the House and the Church of the Virgin Mary, both of which were located near the ancient Roman city of Ephesus. The Green Mosque was our stop right before arriving in Istanbul.
Our final day we packed in the gorgeous Blue Mosque, the Top Kapi Palace and its treasury, the humongous Hagia Sophia a huge ancient Roman underground cistern named the Basilica Cistern. Finally, we topped off our day with a shopping trip in the Grand Bazaar. This trip truly was mind blowing.
Fun Facts I bet you didn’t know:
•Evil eyes are everywhere, and are not inherently evil, in fact they are supposed to ward away evil.
•Chai tea is served with almost every meal and is usually complimentary.
•If you want to buy something try bargaining not only is it normal, it’s expected.
•The Grand Bazaar is split into two sections: a covered section and an open air section, and it is the biggest maze I have ever escaped from.
The most important tip from our trip: Learn a little of the language. Both the Greeks and the Turkish were enthusiastic about our attempts to say “Please” and “Thank-you.”