Kai's Travel Blog for Family & Friends

Hello to family & friends - feel free to check in on my travels. I'll try to keep this relatively updated so that you can see where and what I am up to. On the right of this page are links to my schedule and hotels (for photo purposes). I do have class and a country to explore, so forgive me if these posts are not long or extremely detailed!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 20 - Olympia

What's up, demos?

I'm currently posted up at the Europa Hotel in Olympia. It is pretty nice - not the 5 star I was thinking, but still comfortable. The problem has been that for the past two days it has been rainy and gloomy, save for a brief window of beautiful weather at one of the coolest sites we have visited: an old fortification at Methoni. Very picturesque! We just explored for a while...

Today, I presented my project for the trip: Equestrian Events & the Hippodrome. I actually put a lot of research into this one before I left, so some minor work last night had me ready to go. Unfortunately, I had a very "Kai" moment - thinking we would return to the bus before my presentation, I left my notes on-board in an attempt to keep them dry. After a five-minute walk, I realized that a return to the bus was not going to happen. I received instructions on how to get back to the bus (which had moved), but I could not find it for the life of me. I ended up running around in the rain (about 2 miles total) at the behest of random Greeks who pointed me in all sorts of wrong directions. I was wearing a shirt and tie and literally soaked. Finally, I realized I had emailed my notes to a classmate - if I could find a printer, I could simply print out another copy of my notes. The town was in the absolute opposite of tourist season, so it was deserted. I checked in about 3 hotels (all empty) before finding the fourth, which had a public computer and printer (despite also being empty). I snuck in a printed it off on both sides of the last remaining sheet of paper, before an old greek man came out and began to chew me out. I threw down two Euro and sprinted back to catch up with my group. I reached them at the end of their short circuit of the Olympic grounds, which had been cut short due to pouring rain. I was received triumphantly as I spun them my tale, and then proceeded to launch into my presentation inside the nearest museum. It was very well received (glad I put all that work into it!), and now I have a(nother) very entertaining story from my time in Greece!

Well, tomorrow we leave for Delphi, but we're stopping overnight in Preveza to get some Lord Byron in our lives. Looks like another night we will be staying inside (the pool is closed - apparently a outdoor temp of 55 is too cold to swim for these natives!), but it will be fun regardless. I also want to let everyone know that, for some reason, they aired the first half of the Packers game here. I wasn't able to catch much of it, but I certainly have been overplaying the highlights! Boy, am I excited for the Super Bowl.....1996 seems far too long ago!

Thoughts and prayers - Kai

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day 18 - Sparta, Pylos

Hey, y'all. Just waking up in the small seaside village of Pylos. I went to sleep early last night, as I have a presentation coming up in the next couple of days. It felt nice to get some shuteye.

Yesterday, we spent most of the day in transit from Sparta to Messene, an ancient walled city built by former Spartan slaves. It was interesting because it was built solely in the late Classical period, so there was no Archaic influence. Unlike most of our other sites, there was no modern city built over the top of it, so excavation can be done slowly and surely. Very cool site.

We got to climb up to the top of a huge fortification at Monemvasia two days ago - awesome photos from up there:

Sparta was also great. We climbed to the top of their walled castle from medieval times. It was very damp, but just going through the different levels and climbing to the top was awesome. The castle was actually the inspiration for Minas Tirith, for all of you Lord of the Rings fans out there.

I have to head out for Olympia soon, where I will post more - it is our big 5 Star hotel, so I anticipate a nice internet connection! Take care, everyone! Go Packers!!!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 14 - Nauplion

My last post found me in Crete after a wonderful day at the beach. It has been a couple of days, but the internet has been a little spotty since then at our hotels. I'll try to fill you in on events since then - hard to believe it was that long since we left Heraklion. We visited port towns and saw an awesome sunset the next day. A recurring photo theme amongst the guys on our trip is the "peace-sign" photo, tongue-in-cheek reference to many of the extremely enthusiastic tourists we have met on our travels.

Two days after my last post we packed up our things and hit the ferry back to mainland Greece. I spent the night studying for our midterm, but a choppy sea made it hard to read and study without feeling a little nauseous. I did as much as I could, and hit the cabin. Because of the strange time adjustment, I woke up a little after 4 AM, and took the opportunity to get up and resume studying. We were off the open sea, so it was much calmer, and I had no trouble logging a couple of hours and running through my material once more.

We arrived and boarded our bus for the Herodian, our hotel in Athens. We had a quick breakfast and began our exam. It went really well; it consisted of a choice of 5 (of 10) term identifications and then a longer essay comparing specific features of a couple of civilizations. I was happy with my work - although I had to scramble a little bit to finish my IDs in time - I filled an entire exam book with my essay! Once done, we had free reign of Athens for the day. We went to the shopping district and relaxed - spirits were high after a rough day of work. We bought some man scarves to fit in amongst the extremely trendy population - not sure they appreciate our take on their oft-ridiculous fashion sense, but we have gotten quite the kick out of posing in our scarves. 

We are now is Nauplion, which is part of the traditional territory of Argos. We are staying in a quaint motel - it's run by a big family who are exceptionally gracious. Our room is two stories tall - a nice change after the tiny rooms in Athens. The little city is on the side of a hill leading down to the waterfront - the pier here is very pretty at night, and the shops and restaurants are all awesome. It is also home to supposedly the best gelatto in Europe, which going from my limited experience could be correct.

We have been daytripping to parts of ancient Argos, and all of our days have been extremely full. However, there are usually hour-ling bus rides in between sites, which has allowed for awesome napping and reading opportunities. It is just fun to listen to music and watch the countryside, which I had no idea was so unilaterally picturesque. Today, we visited museums and the ruin of the first "classical med school" before stopping by our hotel owner's family orchard to pick and eat as many organically grown oranges as we could manage. They were about the size of both of my fists together - giant & delicious. 

Basketball is extremely popular in Greece; we've bought a ball and have been playing some pick-up in the afternoons - we certainly get funny looks; I'm not sure they see a lot of 6'4" blondies on the local courts. Running is also cool at dusk - the city lights up and the sun sets over the mountains across the bay. I've been napping off a gyro, so I think I'm about ready to lace up and head down there. I hope this post finds everyone in good spirits and health, and a special note to my Dad, who's health I am keeping in thought and mind. Get better soon!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day 8 - Crete

Checking in from Crete, the biggest of the Greek islands and directly south of Athens. We arrived here yesterday in the early AM on a huge overnight ferry. The beds were small and the mattresses were interesting... but I was so tired that I went to bed right away and woke up right before we started our day. 10 hours of sleep - probably near twice my average so far this month. I'm having so much fun that I don't realize it, but it was nice to catch up a little on sleep.

Our hotel is very nice, and even had a little gym where I could go and run off a little tzatziki sauce. Yesterday we visited the Minoan ruins at Knossos, a museum and a supplementary site some miles away. It was a very interesting culture to learn about - totally different from the culture we know as "ancient greeks". There were some great frescos of the Minoans doing some crazy stuff - my favorite was the "bull leaping", which entailed a guy running towards a bull and vaulting over its horns, doing tricks and landing on the other side. Obviously, we don't know how much of it is true, but it is a fairly prevalent image. Their self-depictions are very cartoon-like, so it is pretty funny to see the rendition of this feat.

Today, we visited the site of an old written legal inscription, the Gortyn code. It actually provided some interesting protections to women and slaves, but due to the extremely low literacy rate, only a few could decipher it and control "what it meant". So...didn't work. But interesting. We also saw the Basillica of St. Titus, which is now just a ruin, but there was a lot of great original architecture still intact.

Afterwards, we drove to the sea, and spent the afternoon on the beach. The weather was amazing, and I wish I could tell you that the water was warm too. Unfortunately, it was absolutely freezing. I got in for 15 mins or so and that was all I could possibly stand. Just being on a sand beach in January, however, was great.

Heraklion, which is what city we are staying at on the Island, is really nice. Very fancy town square area, with lots of people trying to be fancy. Lotta hair gel. But yesterday we sat outside and watched some soccer and enjoyed little sandwiches before just exploring. The markets here are pretty great.

Well, hope to check in soon. Sorry for no actual pics, still trying to get a battery charge to hold. There are plenty from my group and I am in many of them, so I'll upload a couple when I get the chance. Thanks for the support - I am one happy traveller!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 6 - Museums in Athens

Today was a very relaxed day. We got the morning off to sleep in - first time we could sleep past 7. As you can imagine, it was very nice to be able to get a little extra rest.

We walked five miles to the National Archaelogical Museum (due to public transit strikes). The place itself was cool, and having time off to walk through some shady parts of town and into the university district was interesting. We found a cafe and enjoyed a light meal and a greek brew while the sun went down.

Yesterday, we took a bus around to a number of sites around Attica. We stopped by Marathon, a theater/silver mine and a couple of temples in the country before ending at the extremely picturesque temple of Poseidon. It looked over one of the most specatular views of the sea I have ever seen. Rocky outcroppings and big cliffs, the crowd of 75 or so people applauded as the sun sank beneathe the horizon. I wish I could share pictures right now, but my camera won't charge. I'll have some from other cameras, though. Hoping to fix that with new outlets.

I'm just about to leave for our ferry that will take us to Crete. The weather should be good, so I am looking forward to getting my swim on! I have been successful in wearing shorts for two consecutive days, and I'm hoping to make it a third tomorrow. More when I get the chance - best wishes from the birthplace of democracy!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day 4 - Aigina

Hello all,

Sorry that I have not posted for a couple of days, but you will have to forgive me for exploring this wonderful country. Since my last post, I have visited the Akropolis, the Agora and the old cemetary. Absolutely incredible places, and visiting/learing about these sites gives one a great perspective on one's place in history! There is much to share about these spaces, but I am busy tonight with homework, so you will have to take my word that I will fill you in on those experiences more fully when I have the time.

My power convertor has not been good about charging my batteries, so I had to leave the camera at home today. That is not a big deal today, however, because I have decided to move to Aigina - the island 14 miles from Athens - and will have plenty of time to see it when I live there! I can't possibly describe the place in the time I have here, but it was an amazing island with cozy beach towns, temples, and mountains. I ate octopus and squid (tenticles and all!) and a little bit of ouzo for dinner and explored some Byzantine church buildings.

Tomorrow, we are taking the bus out of the city to see more of Attica, and focusing on the battle at Marathon. There is a lot of classwork and I get back to the hotel exhausted, but it has been fun to go out with my group and make friends around Athens. I promise to share photos and stories on my next post, but I wanted to keep everyone updated. Thanks!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Day 1 - Plane Ride & Athens

Hello all,

I thought I would make sure to post tonight, having some free time to do so. I am writing from the lobby of our hotel, the Herodian in Athens. It has been an amzing day (or however long it has been since I shifted an ocean of time zones). The plane ride to Amsterdam was long; we left at around 3:15 PM from MSP Int. and arrived at 8:30 AM. The in-flight movies were great. Unfortunately, we did not get to leave the airport to check out the city, but after a brief delay we left the Netherlands and arrived in Athens around 2:15 PM. I had a window seat for the landing - what a treat! The colors were all green terrain, blue water, and marble/stone buildings. We got through to our bus without a hitch. The picture below is from the balcony of my room.

It was incredibly surreal to be in another culture so quickly. Different language everywhere, packed streets, clustered buildings - the drive to our hotel looked like something out of a Bourne movie! We had a brief time to shower and change, and then we walked through the streets by the Acropolis. It honestly looked like a scene out of the movies.

We stopped by a restaurant and were served a HUGE meal. For Mom and other foodies out there, we had a plethora of appetizers, including bread, tzitziki, cheese pie, greek salad, eggplant bake and grape leave rolls. The main course was rice and kabab (chicken), and it was topped off by some ice cream. Amazing. Stuffed to the brim, we walked in the night streets to the point overlooking the Acropolis - the Areopagus (where Paul delivered his speech about the 'Unknown God'). Truly an amazing sight.

We headed back to our hotel to read our substantial homework and have a beer in the hot tub looking up at the Acropolis. We have a big day ahead of us tomorrow, involving hiking galore. Thanks for reading and I'll try to post soon. Thanks for all of the support, everyone!