Athens, even after two days, seems a world away. Our hotel was down the street from the Areopagus, and it looked spectacular at night. That whole day, thanks to jet lag and not much sleep, was a blur. We started with the soon-to-be standard breakfast of fruit and Greek yogurt with delicious coffee. Seriously. Greek coffee is amazing.
We then walked up to the ancient Agora (marketplace) that was outside of the Areopagus. The Areopagus included the temple to Athena, the Parthenon, and also Mars Hill, where Paul addressed the Athenians about their worship of the Unknown God. Joel and Justin led us around the ancient site for quite a while, partially to allow us the opportunity to see the full view but also because they didn't know how to get into the site.
When we finally did enter the site, we were greeted with amazing statues that have been kept in beautiful condition even after all this time.
Athens is so full of trees: olive trees, lemon trees, orange trees. Everything smelled so fresh all the time. I wish I could describe that zesty, sweet, spicy, fresh smell. It's nothing like I've experienced in the States, to be sure. I've lived in different climates, all with their own personalities, and each one is always so different from the other yet they all remind me of comfort. Just the memory of the smell of sweet green olives brings me back to walking the cobble stoned streets of the ancient world, basking in the sun, and laughing with new friends.
Joel and Justin brought us to many museums during our trip, and typically within about 10 minutes, the students all found each other in the coffee shop of the museum. The first museum we visited had an open courtyard next to the coffee shop. Have you noticed that there is something so unique about drinking coffee in the open air? The combination of the dark, bitter, smooth taste of coffee with the smell of nature and the shade of trees brings out the earthy flavors in the coffee. Greece has fantastic coffee- especially iced coffee. After an hour or so in the museum (well, the museum coffee shop) we woke up Josh, who had fallen asleep, and headed outside to meet up with Joel and Justin. While we were waiting, some of our guys started playing soccer with two adorable Greek boys in front of the museum. Speaking primarily with hand gestures, they split into teams, and began playing. It was beautiful.
After each day, we had debrief sessions and talked about what we had experienced that day. While sitting in a grassy knoll, we learned different aspects of each other's character. Ben was so fascinated with the details in the architecture, Bethany was captivated by the beauty of the ancient structures, Josh loved the historical backgrounds of each site. Every time I looked at a statue of a wealthy statesman or some emperor who wanted to be remembered for eternity, all I could think of was "Who carved this?" So often, we look at the subject of a painting or a fresco or a statue, yet we do not know the hands that made it. Did that person take joy in creating this masterpiece that would be preserved for ages to come? In the ancient world, the sculptors were typically slaves. The creating aspect was simply their job. Today, artists are seen as putting their hearts and souls into their works, but it wasn't always like that. We know the faces of the past, but not the hands. Without the hands, we wouldn't know the faces.
That night, we split up and went out for dinner. Kelsey, Emily, Matt, Phil, and I went to a little restaurant and ordered the first of many fantastic Greek salads. It was a lovely night, forever engrained in my memory.