Intro to My Athenian Adventure
An overview of my study abroad trip to Athens, Greece
The Parthenon in Athens
Greece! Land of mountains and myths, right? Well, that’s technically true, but it’s also true that Greece is made up of about 6,000 islands, and with that naturally comes a lot of variation. That said, an adventure in Greece is wholly defined by what island you land on (especially considering only about 230 of those 6,000 islands are inhabited). And, like any international trip, it’s also shaped by when you go, who you’re with, and what you aim to do while there.
That’s what this post is about: Just a rundown describing the who, what, when, where, why, and how of my first trip to Greece.
When did I go?
A budding tree. Awww.
In early March 2018, during spring break. It was technically still winter. The weather was pleasant, though! Cooler than Qatar (a feat that isn’t hard to accomplish), but not as cold at Richmond this time of year.
Where did I go?
Greece, of course.
See that red blob? That's Greece.
I stayed in Athens the whole time. Athens is the capital of the country, one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, the largest city in Greece (about 3,000 km2), and has a population of about 3 million.
That black dot is Athens.
We stayed in a part of Athens called Monastiraki, a name that means “small monastery” (named after a tiny church in the center of the town square). Specifically, we stayed at Fivos, a hostel near the square.
How long was I there?
This dog who lives in the Ancient Agora was undeniably in Athens longer than I was.
I was in Athens for one very exhausting week (although, technically it was 8 days).
How did I get there?
One of many paths in the Ancient Agora, complete with a dog.
It took only one 3-hour Qatar Airways flight to get from Doha to Athens. I can’t express to you how grateful I was for that (keeping in mind that my last international flight had been 13 hours and the one before that had been 22 hours, complete with two layovers in two countries). After landing at the airport in Athens, we took a charter bus to the hostel, only a 20-minute drive.
Who was I with?
One of our group photos at the Parthenon. Photo courtesy of either VCUarts Qatar or VCU Globe.
The was a combination trip between VCU Globe, VCUarts Qatar, and Athena Study Abroad. Faculty and staff together, I think there were 25 of us total. All but 6 came from VCU Globe; the rest were students & faculty from VCUQ. We also had one host and one tour guide.
Why was I there?
One of our group photos at Pampiraiki Warehouse.
The “Athena Service-Learning Trip Abroad” was a service-learning trip, centered around aiding the refugee situation in Greece. We visited Pampiraiki Warehouse, Za’atar (the Orange House), Hope Café, and City Plaza (although, for some reason, I don’t remember my experience at the latter). Here’s a variety of links to the organizations’ pages:
Pampiraiki Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/PAMPIRAIKI/
Orange House website: https://zaatarngo.org/projects/
Hope Café Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/soulfoodforrefugees/
Hope Café website: https://hope-cafe.business.site/
City Plaza Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sol2refugeesen/
City Plaza Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_Plaza
We also visited tourist sites, like the Athenian Acropolis, some museums, the Ancient Agora, some markets, and so forth. I’ll leave you with a link to our itinerary.
Me sitting on the Aeropagus near the Athenian Acropolis.
Even though Greece had never been on my travel bucket list, when the opportunity popped up out of the blue (at an incredible price, by the way) I went for it. It wasn’t just the discount that convinced me to go, though. After all, I was passionately minoring in art history (which always includes a big chapter on ancient Greek art), I had almost minored in History (after taking a badass Greeks in a Diverse World class), and Greek myth was the first thing that had really sparked my interest in storytelling (inspired by watching my dad play God of War II). I even wrote an illustrated encyclopedia on Greek myth when I was 13 years old (so cleverly titled “Greek Gods, Goddesses, and Creatures” in is 3-ring binder, plastic-sleeved glory).
All that said, the next nine posts will cover some of the things I experienced in Athens, things like food, art, what it was like travelling in a huge group, and what it was like being a black woman in the city. Full disclaimer, though: I had a bit of a rough time. However, it was a trip I’ve never regretted. Plus, it makes playing Assassins Creed: Odyssey 3x as fun.
The Erechtheion on the Athenian Acropolis, an ancient temple dedicated to both Poseidon and Athena. To the right you can see the Porch of the Caryatids—caryatids are essentially columns shaped like women—and in the center is the olive tree of legend. You know, that legend where Athena gave to the people of Athens an olive tree in that competition against Poseidon. This tree is the reason they named the city after her.