For spring break, I opted to swap the ancient ruins of the Roman Empire for the crumbling temples and picturesque beaches of Greece. From the moment my 10 day journey began, I was greeted with a culture shock – everything I knew about cultural customs and language was out the window. From the moment we boarded the ferry in Ancona, Italy, we were greeted with the blue and white stripes of the Greek flag and the illegible Greek alphabet sprawled across every sign.
After a 21 hour ferry across the Adriatic Sea, we arrived at the northern Greek island of Corfu. We were greeted by bright pink buses that lead us to the one and only Pink Palace, a beach-side hostel that is (you guessed it) pink. Every building that is part of the massive property is coated in a bright, bubble-gum pink.
Along with a place to stay that is within hearing distance of the waves, the Pink Palace also provides a series of activities – everything from pink toga parties and plate smashing, to ATV tours of the island. But, if you’re anything like me, after the chaos that is midterms and research papers, I had no problem exploring the beach front and leisurely exploring the main city of Corfu. Everywhere we went, we were greeted with ancient Greek temples and wonderfully loud and friendly Greek women whom we wanted to adopt as our Greek grandparents.
Leaving the picturesque quaintness of Corfu, we made the 8 hour trek across Greece to the bustling city of Athens. What struck me most about the famous city is just how industrial it has become. Here in Rome, we take pride in our well-preserved monuments – the ruins and museums are the center of everything, exiling industrial growth to the far edges of the city. In Athens, it felt to be the opposite. Everywhere you walked, it felt like an American city, scattered with shops and busy paved streets and modernly designed buildings. It was only after a hike to the edge of the city that you stumbled across the scarce remnants of the Temple of Zeus, or climbed the Acropolis to view more scattered columns and crumbling temples.
Our time in Athens was a whirlwind, where we only had a mere 24 hours to soak in as much of the culture as possible. After that, we boarded another ferry to the postcard island of Santorini, most famous amongst the group as being the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants island.
In Santorini, we did another whirlwind tour of all the island had to offer – the red sand beaches, which involves more hiking than relaxing, the black sand beaches, wine tastings, donkey rides, volcano hikes, and breathtaking views (especially of the sunset).
By the end of the trip, however, I found myself getting Rome-sick again. I missed the patchwork of the Italian cobblestone, the homemade pasta, and the familiarity of an alphabet that I knew how to pronounce. While nothing may ever top a Santorini sunset, the familiar feeling of my bed in Gianicolo comes pretty darn close.
University of Wisconsin at Madison
Spring Study Abroad 2013