Back to Greece

Posted on February 4th, 2016 by

Written by Kris Reiser

February first, we arrived at Anatolia College after a luxurious 10am departure from our hotel. (there were series of 5;30 AM wake up calls in the days before) The word Anatolia refers to sunrises, the direction east, and a region of Turkey. The college we were visiting was on a hill top outside of Thessaloniki covered in evergreen trees.

The college was for students 18 and older, but our audience was half elementary school students who had a ton of energy. Because the elementary school students had been bussed in on a tight schedule, we played a much shorter concert. (This was probably for the best considering their attention spans.) Just like at the other schools, the look on their faces when we started Star Wars was one of instantaneous amazement. I’d like to think the other pieces meant something to them too, but perhaps it took them longer to realize it. They also really enjoyed dancing to the Latin piece the jazz band played. That’s been something I’ve noticed all over Greece; that it’s much more socially acceptable to stand up and dance at a concert. Afterward, a lot of us joined in games of volleyball with some of the college students

In the afternoon we had an hour on Thessaloniki’s water front at sunset. The Greek life has just been horribly rough. I had to walk yet another pier, eat more crêpes, and take more sunset pictures for my Instagram. We saw a statue of Alexander the Great, which our tour guide Maria explained displayed greater artistic mastery than the one we had seen in Skopje because the statue stood only in the horses back hooves and didn’t use the tail as balance. One of us asked if the Thessalonian Alexander was smaller to which Maria begrudgingly conceded, “It is a *bit* smaller.” (Maria, an exceedingly knowledgeable historian, had built a reputation for her sass over the duration of the tour. see pic below, Maria on the left)

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Racing the sunset so we could take pictures, our tour buses drove to the acropolis of Thessaloniki on streets designed by those who had never imagined the existence of 50 passenger coaches. Looking out the window at the walls, cars, and street signs that came within centimeters of the bus were at times distracting from the stories of how, like in Athens, while digging for the metro they had uncovered archeological sites. We drove past an arch an a rotunda that were the hip place for students like ourselves to socialize, nestled between office buildings like it was no big deal. I think for the entire tour I’ve been in varying degrees of disbelief concerning the artifacts we’ve seen, so nonchalantly displayed at the center of the modern cities that rose up around them.

 

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The next morning we started our trek from Thessaloniki to Athens, stopping in Vergina to see the burial rooms of King Philip II (father of Alexander the Great) and likely Queen Olympia. The museum is built on top of the actual burial site, which was disguised as a hill. To enter, we all walked down a ramp into the ground where these huge marble edifices were preserved as the archaeologists found them. Dimly lit to preserve the cave atmosphere no pictures were allowed inside the tomb. The riches of King Philip’s grave are enchanting. They include an oak leaf crown sculpted out of gold and funeral couches that had impossibly small and intricate friezes depicting royal lineage.

 

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After leaving the tombs life became about the hours left between us and the hotel, and our impending departure from Greece. We left for the airport at 3AM, the highways were deserted at this hour, our tour guide joked that it was a private highway just for us. A three hour flight to Frankfurt, followed by two hour layover, another nine hours to Chicago O’Hare airport, then another eight hour bus ride back to campus. All in all,we were traveling for about 27 hours total. Finally, we were home, tired, but oh so happy!

 

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