Saturday, July 25, 2009

Greece - Piraeus, Athens, Delphi, Poros, Aegina (Part 1)

Wow, life on Semester at Sea is busy busy busy busy.  I get 5 hours of sleep some nights and still wake up regretting that I missed something.  But you can’t do everything in this limited amount of time, so I just try my best.  However, that leaves little time for blogging but I do need this for my class so I’m going to try to catch up.

Here are the trip descriptions for Greece.

PIR02 SIGHTS OF ATHENS & ACROPOLIS [FDP: ROGERS] (1300-1700 Monday, 13 July) Visits to the Acropolis and ancient Athens provide a superb opportunity to see the archaeological evidence for one of the world’s earliest complex civilizations and to reflect on its “collapse.” It also offers the opportunity to put ancient Athens in perspective with what was going on at the same time in the rest of the world. For example, Rome was also quite advanced and the Maya area saw the start of great urban centres with monumental architecture, but most of North America was occupied by small bands of hunter-gatherers. Athens is the capital and largest city in Greece and lies six miles from the port of Piraeus. It is one of the world’s oldest cities; its recorded history spans at least 3,000 years. Head towards the foot of the Acropolis and pass the remains of the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch, the Roman archway built by Emperor Hadrian in 131-32 CE. The Acropolis, or “High City,” is a true testament to the Golden Age of Greece, that magical period at the height of Pericles’ influence (461- 429 BCE) when the intellectual and artistic life of Athens flowered. Seeing the ruins of the Parthenon, one of the archetypal images of western culture, is a revelation yet utterly familiar. Today, as throughout history, the Acropolis offers one entrance – from a terrace above the Agora. The modern path makes a zigzagging ascent through the Beule Gate to legendary attractions such as the Propylaia, Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheion and the Parthenon. Take 90 minutes to explore this legendary site. Travel to the heart of Athens to Syntagma (Constitution) Square. At the top of the Square stands the Parliament Building, formerly the royal palace, where guards in their traditional costumes keep watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Next, pass the Panathenaic Stadium and the National Gardens. Travel along University Street with its Neoclassical buildings before heading back to the ship. Please note: This tour requires walking on uneven terrain; sturdy walking shoes are recommended. Due to the popularity of the sites visited, the order of sites may be reversed to avoid congestion. Please be aware that traffic jams occur frequently and may cause delays.

PIR06 DELPHI – GROUP B [FDP: BREWER & FERRELL] (0745-1830 Tuesday, 14 July) Delphi, the sacred site of the oracle of Apollo, remains one of the most beautiful settings and fully-preserved sanctuaries of ancient Greece. Its building remains and sculptural treasures provide a vivid testimony of Greek culture at its apogee. Delphi is located approximately 120 miles northwest of Athens. Located on a high mountain terrace and dwarfed to either side by Mt. Parnassos, it's easy to see why the ancients believed Delphi to be the center of the earth. Home to Apollo, Delphi is one of the most enchanting sites in Greece. Overhanging the gorge of the Pleistos, the modern village of Delphi is traversed by a single main street brimming with brightly-colored souvenirs and local crafts. According to Plutarch, who was a priest of Apollo at Delphi, the oracle was discovered by chance when a shepherd noticed that his flock went into a frenzy when it approached a certain chasm in the rock. The chasm exuded strange vapors, and the shepherd also came under its spell and began to utter prophecies when he drew near. Fellow villagers also experienced this strange phenomenon and chose a woman to sit over the chasm on a three-footed stool and to prophesy. Originally, a priestess was chosen from among the local virgins, but it was later determined that she had to be a woman over 50 whose life was beyond reproach. On oracle day, the seventh of the month, the Pythia (priestess) would receive pilgrims who sought divine guidance in matters of war, worship, love or business. For over a thousand years, a steady stream of pilgrims made their way up the dangerous mountain paths to the oracle. The line of questioners often formed days in advance and, after an animal sacrifice, each was presented to the Pythia. Her strange, garbled answers were then translated into verse by the priests. We will use this practicum to explore the nature and formation of beliefs from a historical as well as cross-cultural perspective, to explore how an individual’s beliefs shape their choices and behaviors in the world, and to explore the concept of internal versus external locus of control.

The Delphi Museum contains a rare and exquisite collection of art and architectural sculpture principally from the Sanctuaries of Apollo and Athena Pronoia. The most famous exhibit is the Charioteer, a delicate bronze work created in about 470 BCE to commemorate the victory of a Syracusan prince in the chariot races. Another masterpiece is the pair of Kouroi (archaic male figures) representing Cleobis and Biton, twins who died of exhaustion after pulling their mother's chariot for 45 stadia (just under five miles). Other prized pieces are fragments of a silver bull from the 6th century BCE, large chunks of the beautiful and meticulously-carved Syphnian frieze, and a magnificent group of three dancing women, carved from Pentellic marble around an acanthus column. This practicum will also include a stop at Hosios Loukas, a historic walled monastery and one of the most important monuments of Middle Byzantine architecture and art, and has been listed on UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. Please note: Flat rubber-soled shoes are recommended as the visit to Delphi includes climbing uneven pathways and steps. Lunch at a local restaurant is included.

PIR14 SARONIC ISLANDS (0745-1800 Wednesday, 15 July) On this full-day excursion, travel by ship and visit the beautiful islands of Poros, Hydra and Aegina. The journey to the first island, Poros, takes about two hours. During this time, learn more about the vessel and the area in which you are traveling while enjoying the beautiful scenery. Poros is in fact two islands separated from each other by a shallow engineered canal. Views of the harbor and the town from the ship are picturesque. The waterfront area, filled with many cafés, is quite animated.

Upon arrival, explore Poros at leisure for approximately 50 minutes. At the center of this small island, note the Sanctuary of Poseidon where the Athenian orator and politician Demosthenes committed suicide in 323 BCE. After exploring Poros, reboard the vessel. After a leisurely 75-minute cruise, arrive at Hydra. Hydra is different from the other Saronic Islands with its white, red and pink houses built in tiers. Substantial stone mansions and white, tiled houses climbing up from a perfect horseshoe harbor create a beautiful spectacle; this harbor also once served as a safe haven for Saronic pirates. Once a fashionable artists’ colony, it has metamorphosed into one of the more popular (and expensive) resorts in Greece. The small, narrow stone-paved streets can be explored on foot or by the island’s traditional “vehicle” – the saddled donkey. Hydra is also reputedly hallowed by no less than 365 churches. After exploring Hydra (for approximately 90 minutes), travel to Aegina. Well-positioned on the trade routes, Aegina was once a prosperous maritime center and a rival to Athens. The Aeginetans were first among the people of Greece to mint their own coins, and they also created a standardized system of weights and measures. Today, Aegina has become an inexpensive resort for Athenians. A primary attraction for visitors is the beautiful Temple of Aphaia, one of the most complete and visually complex ancient buildings in Greece. Situated on a promontory, the temple also offers superb views of Athens and Piraeus across the water. Once back onboard, enjoy the “Traditional Greek Folk Show” en route to Piraeus. (Lunch is included in the price of this practicum. Also, please note that the order of the ports can be changed.)

PIR15 VISIT TO SOS CHILDREN’S VILLAGE – GROUP B (0800-1300 Thursday, 16 July) Children's Villages are in more than 106 countries and are home to about 50,000 needy children. The Greek SOS Children’s Villages Association was founded in 1975 thanks to Claudia Catzaras. She had first learned about the program’s concept while in France and, after meeting Hermann Gmeiner, decided to replicate this in her home country. Construction of the first SOS Children’s Village in Vari, south of Athens, started in January 1979. The first children were able to move into the homes in August 1982.  In the early 1990s, the number of youths in the SOS Children’s Village increased and an SOS Youth Facility was opened near the first site. Later, the program expanded and another SOS Children’s Village was built near Thessalonica. In one of the most densely populated districts of Athens, they also opened a SOS Social Centre which addresses children, youths and family problems. The facility provides educational psychotherapy for the children and support in all areas of life for the adults. Due to prevailing need in the northeastern region of Greece, the organization is currently preparing the ground for establishing a third SOS Children’s Village including a daycare facility and a counseling center in the Thrace area, not far from the Turkish border. At present there are two SOS Children’s Villages in Greece, two SOS Youth Facilities and one SOS Social Centre. During this day visit, learn about the village organization and management and have time to meet and interact with the children.

Unfortunately the last 2 got cancelled (the Saronic Islands because the transportation was closed and the Orphanage because there was no one to escort us around the facility) but I left in the descriptions because I went to some of the islands anyways and just like to read about the orphanages.

So on the first day in Greece I went to Athens and to the Acropolis.  The steps and ground are made of almost all marble which makes it very very slippery.  We were saying that it would be so dangerous if it was raining because we were having enough trouble as it is in the sun with sneakers on.  We went up and saw the Parthenon.  The tour guide was saying how the bottom kind of bows up in the middle so the columns were built to not symmetrically so that it evened out the look.  Therefore it looks perfectly straight and even.  If the columns were equal and straight than it would have looked uneven.  So we walked along there and you could look out and see this giant rock formation that people (who looked really tiny) were standing on so we went down and climbed up the rocks (and I didn’t even fall – yay me).  I like how Tim asked – do we want to take the safe stairs or the fun stairs? (i.e. the man made steps or the rock ones).  So we climbed up the rock and took the steps down.  It was a really pretty view.  You could see all of Athens and the buildings had these twinkly lights.  We don’t know what they were for (they were on the islands too) but they looked nice from up there.  Then we got some yummy strawberry icy drinks.  I thought it was delicious but Alexis thought it was too sugary so she couldn’t finish it and gave it to Tim who also couldn’t finish it so I had the rest of theirs.  It was cold and it was like 100 degrees outside so I thought it was good.  We have a nice picture of Mel and I with our very red tongues on the bus.  Then we went in front of the Parliament Building and got our pictures taken with one of the guards.  They are like the ones in England and they can’t move or smile or anything.  One guy started banging his rifle to call over the security when one woman went up (we don’t know why) but the security guy came over and fixed the guards rifle.  When we were leaving they were switching spots.  It wasn’t the changing of the guards because it was the same 2 guys but they did some slow exaggerated walking thing and went to the other side.  Also there were a TON of pigeons everywhere there.  Not like normal, actually a lot.  This guy was shaking food on people’s heads so they pigeons would all fly towards them.  He would put some in your hand too.  It was crazy.  So then we went to the Olympic stadium that was used in 1896.  So then we went back to the ship and then went out to Piraeus to get some dinner.  I got a really good Greek Salad with pita and some oriental burger pita thing.  Then we walked around.  Apparently the stores close early on Mon and Wed so we couldn’t do much shopping (I think Tim was grateful for that) so we just walked around a lot.  We got to this not so good neighborhood so we turned around, got some Greek pastries (not as good as they looked, but not bad) and eventually went back to the ship.

            The next day I went to Delphi for my FDP.  It was really cool to see, but not much to talk about.  There were lots of old temples and rocks and such.  Then V and I and some other people left the group.  We would walk like 2 steps and then stand for 5 min listening to the tour guide in the sun.  Then walk 2 more steps and stop again.  It was really hot and despite how much we tried, we honestly weren’t remembering that much of what was being said so walked up to the top (lots of stairs) to the stadium which was pretty cool.  But it was really hot and there was little shade besides at the top so we went all the way back down and got some yummy strawberry icy things like I had the day before.  Then we went into the Delphi Museum where the tour guide told us about almost every single thing there.  Which was her job, and she did it very well.  But if you know me, museums aren’t high on my list of things I enjoy because I’m not a huge history person so Kaitlyn (her name has a complicated story so I don’t know how it’s spelled) and I looked around quickly and then got bored in each room.  When we walked out there was a ramp or stairs and I thought it looked more fun to walk down the ramp even though it was kind of the slippery material.  See where this is going?  Yeah I fell in front of all the SAS people gathered at the bottom waiting to get on the bus.  I now (still even though I’m actually in Bulgaria at the moment) have a huge very dark bruise.  Oh well.  So then we ate lunch in this restaurant – the food was really good.  When we were almost done eating they said that there was some question about whether or not we were going to the monastery, but we were even though we would be back like 2 hours late.  Some people didn’t want to go so they split up the buses and one went back to the ship.  I figured that I might as well take a look so we went on the bus that would be back late.  It was really nice, but my contacts were annoying me by this part because I kept sleeping on the bus (we did a lot of driving – like 3 hours increments).  They had the same chairs as in the Cathedrals in Spain or Italy where the seat folds up and there is this little ledge.  That way you can kind of sit but it looks like you are standing up.  The floors had really pretty marble designs.  I also had my first Turkish Delight there (little did I know I would be having many more of these later on).  It was like a jelly candy covered in white sugar.  So that night we went to this karaoke bar right by the ship.  Mel and I didn’t sing, but we found out Nhesthy was a good singer.  It was nice because there were only a few other people there.  So we would sing and they would clap and they would sing and we would cheer.  It was fun, but Mel found out she didn’t like Greek coffee.  So eventually we went to bed because we were getting up really early in the morning to go to a Greek Island (like before breakfast on the ship is served early).  However, it is now dinner time so that story will be for another day.

From Varna, Bulgaria, Sharon

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Croatia - Dubrovnik and Montenegro

First I just want to mention something I forgot about Capri.  When we got to the top of the chairlift in Anacapri we were so high up we were pretty much in the clouds.  In the picture that’s my new facebook profile picture, it is not foggy.  It was actually a really nice beautiful day outside.  Mostly clear with just a few white puffy clouds.  We were so high up we were pretty much level with the clouds – it was really cool.  It was kind of like looking out an airplane, but without walls.

So anyways, I have finally made it to talking about Croatia (it’s about time since we just left Greece yesterday.  Sorry about the delay but I have no spare time.  Any moment free is spent answering emails or doing school work which means it is not actually free time.  Every time I think I have a few minutes to write on my blog, I end up getting distracted or finding other people.

Here are the official descriptions of the trips I took in Croatia:

DUB03 CITY ORIENTATION #2 – CITY WALLS (1300-1700 Tuesday, 07 July) You will enter the Old Town through the Pile Gate and immediately climb up to the magnificent walls surrounding the town. The walls are 1,940 meters long, and it takes about 1½ hours to walk around them. This walk offers a great opportunity to view the town from above. It is the best way to see the famous red-tiled roofs of Dubrovnik and even take a look inside someone’s house or garden. Although primarily a walking tour, your orientation will include a drive to the panoramic viewing area above Old Town, which will provide a spectacular view of the surrounding area.

DUB11 SERVICE VISIT: ORPHANAGE & CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL – GROUP A [FDP: McCARRELL] (0815-1300 Wednesday, 08 July) Visit the children’s ward of a local hospital and an orphanage in Dubrovnik. Currently there are 67 children in the orphanage, ranging from the ages of newborn to 18 years. At both places, tour the facilities and then spend time visiting and interacting with the children. After learning about the countries’ child welfare policies in the classroom, this practicum is designed to give participants the opportunity to observe a child welfare institution and compare it with the handling of child welfare in the United States. You will be provided with interactive materials to aid your interaction with the children. These materials will be donated to the orphanage and to the hospital upon your departure. (The price of this practicum includes a small donation.)

DUB14_MONTENEGRO (0800-1830 Thursday, 09 July) Montenegro is one of the world’s last undiscovered secrets. First mentioned by its original name, Crna Gora, in 1276, Montenegro is believed to have earned its name due to the dark forests that covered Mount Lovcen, such that the mountain appeared black. Such exotic landscapes are not always distant and unapproachable. Only a one-hour drive from Dubrovnik, Montenegro offers an unforgettable experience: exceptional natural beauty combined with rich history and culture. In a land where the mountains descend almost directly into the sea, enjoy the surreal atmosphere of Kotor Bay, situated on southern Europe’s largest fjord. The walled medieval city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the bay area was a common stop for sailors and traders of old. Then proceed toward the mountains to Cetinje, a previous capital of Montenegro which lies at the base of Mount Lovcen. Return to the coast to visit Budva with its enticing combination of coveted beaches, bay islands and cultural heritage. The Old Town lies on a peninsula criss-crossed with narrow streets containing several churches, shops, cafes, and galleries. Please note: This day trip requires a manifest and each participant to carry his/her passport; therefore, participants cannot sell or exchange tickets.

In Croatia we went on the city walls tour.  They are these huge walls surrounding the old town in Dubrovnik, Croatia.  I think the best way to describe it is that it is like the Great Wall of China but way way smaller.  When we entered the old town there was this guy playing all these instruments.  It was really cool (I got a video of it).  After when we went in, poor Mel had a bird poop on her.  She started to freak out and yell and scream and everyone was looking at her.  These two couples who I’m pretty sure weren’t even on SAS started laughing.  Alex and Lauryn and I took out our cameras to take pictures and we were laughing (more because of her reaction).  I gave her my water bottle and she poured water all over her shirt so she was all wet for a while.  It was really hot out, especially up on the walls, so it dried pretty quickly.  The walls were really cool.  You just kept going higher and higher up, but the stairs were kind of counterproductive.  You would go up a bunch of steps, and then go down.  Then you would climb up more, and then go down again.  They surrounded the whole old town so we walked all the way around and came down where we went up.  We got a really nice view of both the town and the water.  The buildings all kind of looked the same from up there.  They were white with orange or yellow and orange pipe things on the roof making it look kind of like corn from the top.  We also passed this one area where people were cliff diving so we watched them jump into the water for a little bit.  When we were leaving Croatia, we saw some professional cliff diver jump from this way way way way high place and do all of these flips on the way down.  Apparently, there was some huge competition the day after we left. 

That night we walked around the old town and got some really good pizza.  We split 2 pizzas so our whole meal each (with drink and tip) was 40 kuna which is $8 so that was nice.

The next day we went to an orphanage and hospital.  We got to play with the kids at the orphanage.  I played with this four year old girl the most.  She was very shy at the beginning but quickly warmed up.  We played with play dough, chalk, and the biggest hit was the bubbles.  The hospital was nice, but the timing wasn’t that great.  We had to split into 2 groups and I was in the second group.  We waiting in the lobby for what was supposed to be 30 minutes, but they went long so we got less time and didn’t get to interact with the kids at all.  Plus people from the other group were playing with the kids in the hall when we were talking with the doctor so it was distracting.  It was really nice to learn about how that part of that hospital works so I could compare it with the one I am working to raise money for back in Massachusetts. 

That night we went out and found this place that we had passed on the city walls tour.  It was this restaurant that is out by the city walls so it overlooks Dubrovnik.  It was really pretty.  A lot of it was lit up in these pink, purple, blue, green colors.  There were tables by the edge and then little couch seats in the middle, and then this private couch and table area further in.  The guy said normally it is really expensive to book but since nobody had reserved it and we were girls he would let us sit there for free.  We didn’t close the curtains so we could still have a nice view out and we sat and relaxed there for a while.

The next day I went on a trip to Montenegro.  It is so beautiful there but we spent so much time on the bus.  It was supposed to be an 11 hour trip, but it ended up being 12 hours and we spent about 9 of those hours on the bus.  When we drove through the boarder, one girl had to get off the bus and go back to the ship because she only had a single entry visa so once she left Croatia she wouldn’t be able to come back in.  This means she could leave to go to Montenegro, but then she wouldn’t be able to get back into Croatia to get back on the ship.  So we drove for a while and would stop every once and a while to get out and take pictures.  It is a very mountainous area so it was really pretty.  We drove up the mountains on these zigzagged roads like the ones in Capri and Anacapri.  The roads to get up the mountain would go up and then turn around and go up more and then turn around again like a bunch of zigzags.  So it took a while to get up to the top.  We would look out the window and think that this is a great picture and take a bunch and then get farther up and think that this is an even better view, etc.  By this point everyone is exhausted and putting us on a bus for that long put most people to sleep for at least part of the trip.  Then we ate lunch and got a little time (I think about an hour) to walk around and do some shopping before we got back on the bus.  On the way home I sat across the isle on the bus from 2 of the kids on the ship (3 yr old and 10 yr old boys) so that was fun.  The 3 yr old was obviously getting antsy by that point but I gave him so paper and Sarah gave him a pen.  He couldn’t reach the table thing that folds down so he tried to draw on his leg and got blue all over and on his face before I gave him my notebook to draw on.  He had the Stone Soup book so I got excited about that.  There were also 3 other kids in the back of the bus so we had some families (family with 4 kids and with 1) on our trip. 

The next day in Croatia we just walked around the old town, did some shopping, and went to this bar that was right on the beach.  It wasn’t exactly a beach because there was no sand.  The whole place was on these rocks by the water.  The tables and umbrellas we on rocks and then some of the rocks were like steps so you could get into the ocean.  Getting down was okay, but it was kind of slippery.  The ocean was beautiful.  When you were in it and looked out it seemed almost fake.  After treading water for a while (very salty water) Lauryn and I got tired and decided to give Alexis and Molly a turn to go swimming so we went to get out.  We had drifted a little bit out by then and we had to swim back against the current so it was really tiring even though we were still pretty close.  We had gone down the “safer” side steps but at this point we were closer to the middle ones and we were too tired to get all the way to the other ones.  Alexis had warned us that because of the waves you need to just climb up or they will keep pushing you against the rocks.  However, when we got to the rocks we tried to hold down and wait for a second with no waves to stand up and climb out because it was really slippery.  Well not only did the waves push us against the rocks, but it also pulled up back into the ocean.  I managed to hold on because there was a little part to put my foot, but as we were climbing up, this lady swam up and yelled at us that we shouldn’t climb up that way if we didn’t know how because we had to come up the other side.  She said something about there being dead people there but I think she just meant that you can get hurt if you aren’t careful.  So we got up and walked back to the table.  I didn’t realize it until they said something but we both got a few scrapes – me more than Lauryn.  Both my knees were all scraped up and I later found out one of my elbows was, too.  Oh well, it’s almost healed now.  Then we just walked around for a little while, got some ice cream, and went back to the ship.  I was walking up to check my email on the ship and I heard a bunch of people cheering so I walked outside and there were a bunch of people on the deck cheering on the people who were running to the dock late.  They were telling them to leave their stuff and swipe their card first and cheering them on.  Then these 2 girls came from the other direction wearing life vests and ran inside.  The staff out there asked them if those were their life vests but they were inside so we don’t know what they said.  As far as we know the only way to the pier by land was from the right and they came from the left so we think they came from the water.  The current theory was via jet skis but that’s just a guess from people.  Later we saw 2 LLCs and the captain drive off with the life vests.

So that was my time in Croatia.  It was very pretty and the water was really nice.  This was the first taste of not really knowing any of the language.  At least in Italy I know a few words and could pick up more pretty quickly, but I didn’t really know any in Croatia besides what was on my green sheet and those were hard to remember.  Today we arrived in Istanbul Turkey, so I’m going to eat lunch and then go to the Grand Bazaar for some shopping before the Sufi Dervish Ceremony.  Next comes Greece updates before I can talk about Turkey though.

From the ship docked at Istanbul, Turkey, Sharon

Monday, July 13, 2009

Mi piace l'Italia - Civitavecchia, Rome, Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri, Anacapri (Part 4)

So here is the last part of Italy.

The next day I went to Capri and Anacapri.  These were by far my favorite places in Italy.  We took the hydrofoil ferry to Carpri and took a bus to Anacapri (we had the same tour guides as in Pompeii and Sorrento).  We took a bus up a windy road on the edge of the mountain up to a chair lift (our bus passed a us that Mel and Alexis and maybe Tim were on and I saw Mel standing on the bus).  The chair lift was my favorite part in Italy.  They were single chairs that were just like someone took a chair and put a bar across it.  It was a little over 10 min up and a little over 10 min down with about 15 min to spend at the top walking around the little area.  SAS really takes over these places when we arrive.  When we were going down on the chair lift I just saw all SAS going up passing me.  There were teachers and students and other staff (I video taped it all).  It was so amazing, I could have stayed up there for so much longer.  It was a little scary standing in line anticipating, but once the chair takes off, it was AMAZING!!!!  Then we had a little shopping time (like 15 min) ate lunch at this cute restaurant that overlooked Capri and had a little more shopping time (like 15 more min).  Then we had the option of free time or going on this private (just our group) boat around the caves and getting to swim in the water.  I didn’t bring my bathing suit because it didn’t say anything about swimming, so that was kind of sad, but it was still a really nice boat ride.  We didn’t go to the blue grado (spelling?) because it was expensive and would take too long (especially the wait) but we got to see these other areas that were beautiful.  The types of rocks that were around the edge made the water so pretty and it was really clear.  One of the areas turned the water kind of purple.  And there was one part by a cave that had baby orange coral that was really bright and pretty.  So after that we took the ferry back to the port and walked to out ship.  Remember how the description talked about strenuous walking?  Well that was the most walking we did the whole time.  Those like 5-10 min from the ferry to the ship on flat land.  We’re not really sure where they got that description from because it was really not necessary to wear sneakers, but better safe than sorry.  So we got back to the ship, ate dinner, took a big ship picture from the port and watched us depart from Naples.  Mel gave Nhesthy her sweater to hold at one point for some reason so in all of those pictures he’s holding her white sweater.   He kept very good care of it.

Ok, so I have officially finished talking about my time in Italy.  Good thing too because we are now in Greece.  At least I only have Croatia and the first day of Greece as of now to still write about.  However, I have to get up at 6:30 tomorrow, so I’m going to get some sleep and I will update at a later point in time.  I’m still having a blast, but I miss everyone and hope you’re all having a fabulous summer.  Also, be prepared to see lots of pictures and videos when I get home because I am documenting as much as I can.

From the ship docked at Piraeus, Greece, Sharon

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Mi piace l'Italia - Civitavecchia, Rome, Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri, Anacapri (Part 3)

Way back when I was in Italy….

The next day I went on a Pompeii and Sorrento trip with Lauryn.  Mel and Alexis had a trip to Pompeii that day too so we were going to meet them in Sorrento and go to the beach.  However, when we got on the bus, the tour guide told us that we were switching the order because of the traffic that is in Sorrento by the middle of the day because everyone wants to go to the beach.  So we didn’t end up meeting up with them.  Anyways, we got some free time to walk around in Sorrento.  We didn’t have time to go to the beach, but we got to see it.  It was really cool because there were these docks that went down that had beach chairs lined up so you could sit on the sand, or go out on these docks.  Then we ate a really good lunch and went to Pompeii.  We walked around the recovered part of the city (and saw Mount Vesuvius – some people hiked up it that day).  I can’t even imagine how they dug that up – it’s really cool.  You can see where all the houses and shops were.  Some of the paintings on the walls were even still intact.

That night we came back to the ship and went out to Naples for some classic Italian pizza.  Apparently there’s this place called L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele that supposedly Opera flies out to.  Our group was getting too big so it ended up being this huge ordeal because we were supposed to leave at one time and then some people weren’t ready and other people wanted to come.  Anyways, long story short.  I ran back to get the rest of the group from the dining room but they were already in Timitz Square and then Nhesthy was waiting for more people so we got separated from the first group, but still managed to walk there.  Naples is, as Lauryn says, dodgy.  We got past the pier area and see one of those long 2 pronged spear things just chilling on the sidewalk.  Then as we walk to the pizza place I cross the street behind this car that backs up a little so I run out of the way and trip over a cinder block hanging out on the sidewalk.  Good thing someone had a band aid when we got to the restaurant.  It is a really popular restaurant so we went in and took a number and waited outside because it was kind of a small place.  We actually got called pretty soon, so we sat down by the kitchen area and could see them making the pizzas.  There were two options – margarita (regular cheese and tomato sauce) and double mozzarella.  I got a delicious double mozzarella pizza.  They were pretty big but they had a really thin crust so it was okay.  It was delicious pizza and we went out and walked around later.  We were trying to find this specific street, but it took over an hour and a half.  We kept asking for directions and people would say go down this street and then turn.  So we would and then we would ask for directions again and they would say it’s just around the corner, etc.  We backtracked over and over again, but it was a nice informal tour of Naples.  There were some parts that were really nice.  We finally found the street we were looking for and ran into a bunch of SAS people.  We went into this one place and it was almost all SASers.  There were 2 guys who weren’t from the ship.  They told Lauryn they were from Manchester England.  So she let us know and when Molly asked where they were from they told her to guess.  So she said Manchester and they said no, it was a place above there.  So who knows where they were actually from.  Also when we asked what one of their names was, he said “uh…. Matt?”.  So we said Matt? And he said – I love you Americans, everyone else calls me Mark by accident.  We’re pretty sure neither was his name.  Later, Mel and I were ready to leave so we took a taxi home.  We walked out to this street where there was a line of cabs and pointed to the phrase written on our green sheet that says where our ship was docked.  The guy walked to the trunk of the cab and took out his reading glasses.  I was a little nervous that he needed to get his glasses, but I know you don’t use reading glasses to drive, so I figured it was okay.  It was funny though because once he realized where we wanted to go, he kept asking “why do you want to go there?”  We couldn’t get him to understand why we wanted to go to the pier even though it was closed.  When we got closer, he went “Oh the ship! What company?”  So we tried to explain to him that it was for school (aka university).  I think he might have gotten it but I’m not sure.  The roads are crazy in Naples.  Some roads have lanes drawn on them but I don’t think they all do.  Regardless, the cars for the most part didn’t follow them.  I was more like a free for all.  Also, there were this motorcycle kind of things and I don’t know what the driving age for that is, but it seemed like people who were really young (like 14 tops) were driving them.  Similar to how I saw them in Rome, they just weaved in and out of the cars.  Think how really reckless motorcyclists drive but even worse.  When you would get to a traffic light, they would all come up from the back and go in front of you.  There would be no bikes at the front initially, but by the time the light turned green, there would be like 6 at the front.  We almost saw so many accidents it was crazy.  Nothing major, because there was so much traffic that you couldn’t drive that fast, but I was very surprised that we didn’t see any actual fender benders.  So we get to the pier and drive down but then there’s this gate that’s closed.  We need to get to the other side to get to the ship, but you can’t even walk around it.  So the driver looks and the gate and looks at the ship and says a few times “Not Possible”.  Mel and I just look at each other and say that it has to be possible.  So finally we turn around and almost bump into this other taxi as we try to squeeze past.  We get really close and our driver stops.  The driver in the other cab looks out and says to go ahead because there’s plenty of room.  So we squeeze by, find the right way to go around the gate, and get to the ship.  This didn’t happen with this taxi driver, and I don’t remember if I already wrote about this, but this story reminded me of another cab ride we had taken.  We arrived at our location and I saw that the meter said 5.80.  Then the guy hit a button and it changed to 6.10.  Then my friend in the back seat asked how much it was.  He turned off the meter and said 7.00.  We gave him 7 because we figured that would be 5.80 plus tip, but you have to be careful about these taxi drivers.

Time for a scholar seminar, ciao!

From the middle of the Ocean between Croatia and Greece, Sharon

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mi piace l'Italia - Civitavecchia, Rome, Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri, Anacapri (part 2)

So the first night in Civitavecchia, we went out to dinner.  I was a whole big deal because the time got pushed back and I thought everyone had left, and 2 girls were on a trip that got back late, but we all managed to get together and went out for some yummy Italian pizza and pasta and gelato.  Plus the wine is really good in Italy.

So the next day I got up bright and early to go on my overnight Rome trip.  I really liked this trip because we got a lot of free time to see Rome, but also got the advantage of an SAS trip by getting transportation, housing, food, and tours of the main attractions.  The first day we took a 90 min bus to Rome and went straight to the Colosseum.  We got to cut the line because we had a tour guide so that was nice.  We got these headphone sets so we could hear the tour guide and then we got some free time to walk around.  Our tour guide showed us this book that had overlapping pictures so we could see the difference between what it used to look like and what it looks like now.  It is way cool.  The view from everywhere but especially the top was amazing.  It was just really awesome to be there just because it’s the Colosseum.  Then we walked around the Roman Forum and saw all the ruins-ish stuff there which was really cool.  Apparently at some point we walked through/ by Venice Square and Circus Maximus but a bunch of us didn’t realize it at the time.  Then we got free time to eat lunch and walk around.  It was kind of annoying that we had to buy lunch on our own because it was during the prepaid trip, but whatever.  We found this cute little pizza place.  We were so thirsty by then because it was really hot out.  They had such good pizza (it is Italy of course).  I got a piece with thin potato slices and a piece with cherry tomatoes and flat mozzarella cheese like when you get that tomato mozzarella salad but on pizza.  They were both soo good.  And I got French fries too.  Italy has really good olive oil and the French fries are cooked in the olive oil so they are soooo good.  I like them better than French fries in America (no salt or anything needed).  So then we walked around Rome and did some shopping and some sight seeing.  We went to the Trevi Fountain and we were just getting to the Spanish Steps when we heard thunder.  It had taken us a while to get there because we kept stopping in all of the stores, but when we heard the thunder we knew we needed to hurry up.  The day before some of my friends had been in Rome.  They said that out of nowhere there was this huge storm and it started pouring right away.  So we knew when it got dark and thundery that it was going to pour any second.  We hurried to the Spanish Steps, took a few pictures, and then it started to rain (I have a video of us getting into the cab).  Really just as we were jumping into the taxi it started pouring.  It was thundering pretty loudly and it was pouring outside so when we got to the hotel, we paid inside the taxi and got out to run inside.  However, me being a klutz, I slipped and fell backwards onto the wet ground.  So even if I had still been dry, I definitely wasn’t by the time we got inside.  But I laughed it off and we asked the lady at the counter to take some pictures and then we went upstairs and sat on our balcony to watch the storm (I have some videos of that too).  Roommates get decided alphabetically by last name, but I got lucky and my friend Kara was my roommate.  We both got bags at this stand on the streets and they were stuffed with newspaper.  Kara had gotten a birthday present for Aubrey and we wrapped it in almost all of the newspaper.  We then realized that security was probably going to want to check it when we got back to the boat to make sure that it wasn’t anything prohibited, but we didn’t want to unwrap it haha.  So then we got changed into some dry clothes (at least it was an overnight so we had other stuff to wear) and met up with the group for dinner.  We went to this really cool place for dinner.  We walk into the restaurant and you can look down through this grate thing and see tables.  So we don’t go into the regular seating area, but they send us down these steps.  IT seemed like we were going into a dungeon kind of thing.  There were also these older guys singing and playing guitar.  The food was really good (of course).  We had yummy pasta and then this thing that’s like a giant pasta tube with meat inside.  It was so good.  Then we had this mashed potatoes with ham and cheese in the middle and bread crumbs on the top.  Then we had some ice cream thing that was a bunch of different flavors put together.  You get a lot of courses in Italy.  Then we got back on the bus and went on our tour of Rome at night.  We walked around to the Trevi Fountain (and threw in some money) and Piazza Navona (Navona Square).  There were all these vendors with paintings everywhere.  We also went to see the outside of the Pantheon and get some more gelato.  I gave some girl in our group my camera to take a picture of us eating the gelato by the sign and she let go of my camera before I was holding it when she went to give it back to me.  It landed on this rocky area and the frame got damaged so the back part is sticking out a little too much which means the buttons are in a little and the inside of the camera is exposed to stuff a little.  Luckily, it still works fine I just have to be extra careful.  So then we went to bed and had breakfast in the hotel the next morning.  We went to the Vatican Museums and 16th Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.  It wasn’t as huge a deal because I’m Jewish, but the buildings and pictures are still pretty impressive.  And the marble inside on the floors and pillars was really pretty.  Then we got lunch at nice place that also had delicious food.  We got bread and delicious pasta and chicken and French fries and salad and I think tiramisu (again a lot of food).  So then we got some more free time and walked around and did some more shopping.  We also went to the Pantheon and went inside where we ran into Mel and Alexis who were there on there own.  Then we walked back to the restaurant and took the bus back to the ship.

Ok dinner time, more Italy to come later.

From the ship in the water close to Croatia (but not at the port because we have to use the tenders), Sharon

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mi piace l'Italia - Civitavecchia, Rome, Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri, Anacapri (part 1)

So this one day of class in between countries is really tough.  We have a lot of work to get done and it is so easy to fall behind on everything (including sleep haha).  So considering we are in Croatia now, I am going to write about Italy.  Here were the trips I did in Italy (I'll talk about what it was like when I get a chance, but here's some backgroud information):

CIV06 REPUBBLICA DEI RAGAZZI: A TRANSITION HOME FOR YOUTH (0945-1200 Wednesday, 01 July)  Visit Repubblica dei Ragazzi originally operated by Father Marcello Bolzonello that provides shelter and education for boys, ages 9 to 18 years, who have social, economic and family problems. The facility is comparable to the original "Boys Town" started by Father Flannagan in 1917; the U.S. story gained international attention when it was brought to the silver screen in 1938 with Spencer Tracy starring as the Oscar-winning priest. Nobody obliges them to stay; the gate is always open. Everybody at the home has a different "duty" such as assisting with housework, health or finances. Each week the duties change. The youth are self-governed and elect a "mayor" monthly. On average there are 30 teenagers at the facility and approximately 20 tutors. The children go to the various schools in town studying subjects such as tourism, accounting, and other topics to prepare for high school. Visit with the priest to learn more about this unique facility and have an opportunity to interact with the students. Afterwards, enjoy some free time around the nearby marina before returning to the ship. (A donation of €300 will be given to the home courtesy of the SAS Annual Fund.)

CIV12 ROME, THE ETERNAL CITY (0900 Thursday, 02 July – 1900 Friday, 03 July) This trip has been designed to include a fair amount of free time to explore Rome, one of the world’s great cities, while also enjoying guided tours of the city’s highlights, including St. Peter’s Basilica and the Colosseum.  Day 1: Depart by motorcoach for the 90-minute drive to Rome. Upon arrival in Rome, proceed to visit the Colosseum and then view the Roman Forum, Venice Square and Circus Maximus. After lunch, check in to your hotel and enjoy some free time until dinner. In the evening, enjoy a tour of Rome by night. This is a 1½-hour walking tour that includes such sites as Trevi Fountain, Pantheon and Piazza Navona. (L, D; area hotel)  Day 2: In the morning, check out of your hotel and visit the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica. Afterwards, enjoy some free time and lunch on your own before departing for Civitavecchia. (B) Please note: Shorts, short skirts and tank tops (bare shoulders) are not permitted in the Vatican Museums. Guests wearing these items may be restricted from entering.

NAP03 POMPEII AND SORRENTO (0900-1700 Saturday, 04 July) Pompeii became a Roman colony in 80 CE and prospered as a major port and trading town until an earthquake partially destroyed it in 63 CE. The city had been rebuilt when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE and buried it under tons of pumice stone and volcanic ash. The town was completely engulfed by the shower of stones, and approximately 2,000 of the 20,000 inhabitants perished. In 1954, architect Domenico Fontana came across the ruins during construction of a canal. Restoration still continues today, but most of the ancient city has been uncovered. To the ancient Greeks, the area around Sorrento was the Temple of the Sirens. Sailors of antiquity were powerless to resist the beautiful songs of the maidens who, without fail, would lure them and their vessels to their doom on the reefs. Homer’s Odysseus was determined to hear the melodies and strapped himself to the mast of his ship as he sailed past the fatal place. Depart by motorcoach for a 45-minute drive to Pompeii and spend about two hours visiting the main part of the archeological site including the huge forum, great temples, homes and shops that were buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Continue to Sorrento for lunch in a local restaurant before enjoying some free time to explore the local shops lined up along the alleyways stretching from the main square, Piazza Tasso. You may wish to visit the Church and Cloister of San Francesco and the local cathedral before returning to the ship.

NAP06 CAPRI AND ANACAPRI (0800-1630 Sunday, 05 July) Capri is one of the most famous summer resorts in the Mediterranean and has been so since the time of the ancient Roman Empire. In more modern times, Capri has been a popular place for writers, poets and actors who have given the island a legendary reputation as "the island of love." Travel by hydrofoil to the island of Capri. On arrival, you will drive to the higher village of Anacapri. You may choose between taking a chairlift up to Monte Solaro, boasting breathtaking views of the Bay of Naples, or visiting the famous Villa San Michele, an ancient property built on the ruins of one of the Tiberius Palaces. The villa is now a museum that contains paintings and furnishings of the former owner, Axel Munthe. After free time to explore, proceed to Capri Village for lunch in a local restaurant.  Please note: This tour involves strenuous walking.

The first morning in Civitavecchia I went to the Repubblica dei Ragazzi.  It was a little over 2 hours and we toured the location.  It was actually I really nice place - it was very pretty and the living arrangements were in really good condition.  About an hour in, Nhesthy asked the guy if we were going to get to interact with the kids at all and the guy said that we can't do that.  So we were kind of upset about that.  But then when we went on the tour of the rooms, a bunch of the kids (from about 6 or 8 to 18 or 20) came out and started talking to us. I felt bad but almost no one was paying attention to the tour guides anymore because the kids came with us and we learned so much more talking with them.  Some only spoke Italian, but a few spoke Spanish or French and a little English so we could communicate pretty well with them. 
Then we got back to the ship and ate lunch.  Originally I was going to walk around Civitavecchia with Alex, but he bought a Rome trip so I walked around with Ben and Josh.  We met up with a few girls from SAS after a while and decided to go to the beach.  The beaches in Civitavecchia were really pretty, but there were rocks instead of sand so we were going to take a train to this place that supposedly had really nice beaches.  However, we stopped for a drink (it was really hot out) and met up with this other girl who was going to Rome.  By the time we were ready to go we decided we didn't want to go all the way out to the other location so we went to the one tiny little spot that had sand and stayed at the beach in Civitavecchia.  The girls went to the beach like 20 min before Ben and I went there.  Josh decided to go to Rome with the other girl so when we got to the beach the other girls asked where he went.  I was like - Oh, Josh went to Rome.  We thought it was funny that we can just say that here that someone went to Rome - no big deal.  Anyways, we relaxed on the beach for a while and went in the water a bit (the first about 2 feet were rocks before you go to the sand in the water.  I almost fell so many times and the rocks really hurt, but once you got past that it was nice.  When we were leaving this guy came up to one of the girls and said he had seen her earlier and knew she was on the ship.  It was kind of creepy, but we just left and went back to the ship.  The ship was docked kind of far away - it was like a 15 minute walk which wouldn't have been so bad but we walked it like 6 times that afternoon.  Then we ate a mini dinner on the ship (everyone eats so late in Spain and Italy, that you have to eat before dinner if you had lunch at a normal time on the ship).
So that's most of day 1 out of 5 in Italy, but I'm going to call home now before we go out to Croatia for dinner.  The exchange rate here is $1 for about 5.18 Kunas so I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not actually spending a fortune on everything.  Ok I really shouldn't be talking about Croatia before Italy, so I'm going to go.  More updates to come.
Thanks to everyone who has been emailing me.  It's really great to hear from you all.  Also, can one of the butterfield girls please send me everyone's emails because I feel lost reading all the posts from that message feed but not being able to reply because I'm not going on facebook - thanks!
From the ship docked in Dubrovnik, Croatia, Sharon

Friday, July 3, 2009

Me Encanta Espana - Cadiz, Sevilla, Cordoba, y Granada (part 3)

Ok so I just got back from Rome and really need to finish talking about Spain so here it goes.
So we ate dinner in Cordoba and went out and did some shopping and a lot of walking around.  There was this one really cool club (we just went in for 20 sec to look in) and the walls were lit up with this neon green tile-ish stuff so it glowed.  But it was way smoky because everyone smokes like everywhere here.  So they we went to sleep about 2:30am.  At 4 the phone rings and my roommate comes in and we talked for a while and went to sleep.  We woke up early (I'm not sure but I think like 7ish) and eat breakfast.  Then we took tours of the Mezquita (this really huge Mosque), and the medieval Jewish Quarter, Judería.  Then we drove about 2 hours to Granada.
In Granada we ate dinner at the hotel (way better food than the first hotel in Cordoba - not that there was anything wrong with that food, but this food was really good).  There was pasta and salad and lots of dessert.  We had the rest of the night free but the town was kind of far away and we didn't want to have to take a taxi or walk far up this huge hill (I have pictures).  Some people found this spot around the back of our hotel that overlooked Granada.  It was BEAUTIFUL.  I think that was my favorite part.  We past some olive trees on the way.  Alex and Emily tried to eat olives but they were really hard.  Then we got up to this part with this structure (I really don't know how to explain it - you just have to see the pictures- it was so pretty).  We got there when it was light out so we could see everything and stayed and watched the sunset.  I have a great video of some people climbing on the top of this hut thing to get a "better look".  So after a while we went back in the hotel, had some sangria and just sat on the couches and hung out.  We met one of the life long learners named Adam Adams.  I now refuse to call him by only his first name.  Then we went back out to the back of the hotel at night time so the stars were out and it was all lit up.  Then we walked a little bit and saw the outside of the Alhambra.  So the next morning we woke up, ate breakfast (also delicious) and walked to the Alhambra fortress-complex.  We took a tour inside and saw the most beautiful flower garden.  I took a bunch of flower pictures because it was all so pretty.  Then we went and walked around inside.  The whole thing was AMAZING.  I can't even describe all the things we saw on this trip.  The pictures really don't do them justice either, but it's a start.  Oh and that morning we were informed that the bus driver pointed out that it takes an extra hour to get back to Cadiz from Granada.  Apparently SAS have miscalculated and we had to leave an hour earlier to get back before the ship was supposed to depart.  Our trip leader kept saying we have to get back before they leave.  But we had over 70 people on our trip and the trip leader was the global studies teacher Alex Nalbach and the art teacher.  So they were definitely not leaving without us.  However, for every extra hour the boat stays in port there is some ridiculously huge fine of some odd thousand dollars.  So we were cutting an hour off our Granada stay so we could be back in time (we were supposed to get back at boarding time).  So this meant we had 20 minutes to eat lunch.  We gobbled up the still delicious food, ran to the bathrooms......... and then stood outside for 40 min waiting for the buses.  The streets are really narrow and there aren't really side streets so the first bus drove by the hotel and then was gone for about 10 minutes while it drove all the way down the road to turn around.  Then a while after that bus left, we saw our's drive by and had to wait for it to turn around.  So we're on the bus on the way back to the ship.  Then someone notices the scenery looks really familiar and before we know it we pass the hotel.  First we think we just had to drive really far to turn back around but no, we are driving way down to turn back around and stop at the hotel.  We are all wondering what's going on, but no one tells us anything and the driver gets off the bus.  Then someone sees the driver put a luggage bag on the bottom of the bus and he gets back on and we drive away.  So basically at this point we ended up not being any earlier than originally scheduled.  We get back to the ship 5 hours later and they held dinner for us (because that would be really mean not to have food for us to eat).  Well it turns out that the Barcelona trip had to reschedule their plane and they weren't getting back until later.  The ship left at 11pm instead of 8pm so it wouldn't have been a big deal, but we did get back.  I met up with some people for dinner and we all shared stories of what we did in Spain.  Of course by now we were all exhausted and had class the next day (and papers and exams coming up) so we got our stuff unpacked and went to bed.
The next three days were classes involving a lot of work.  There was a global studies essay (not bad - we had 4 parts to it and it was only 2 pages) and exam the third day.  The exam was done by honor code.  We got the test emailed to us and posted on the public folder at 7am and we could get the scantrons in the union anytime after that.  We just had to have it turned in by 11:30.  Which meant that we could take it anywhere and any time between then.  But no help, notes, book, over the time limit (1 hr 15 min unless documented needs).  But it was 100 questions of 20 sets of 5 matching so you really shouldn't have needed to cheat.  And then, before you know it, we are in Italy.  But I need some rest so that will be posted another day.
From the boat docked at Civitavecchia (Chee-vee-tah-veh-kee-ah), Italy, Sharon