Week 4: Andros and Crete

I am now back in Athens after a weekend in Andros on a CYA organized field trip, followed by another four-day trip on the Island of Crete. So much has happened in the past couple weeks that I will try to be brief, and give an overview of my favorite things from the islands.

Some things that happened in Andros:

  • I swam with some friends to a very small white pebble beach
  • We stayed in a pretty hotel and had breakfast in the garden. The walkways of the hotel were covered by trellises of grape vines, which tasted even better than the table grapes in stores.
  • We went swimming at another beach near Korthi, where we saw the Rock of the Old Woman (Της Γριας το Πηδημα). The site was named after the legend of an old woman who betrayed her village to the Ottoman army, and then, consumed by guilt, threw herself from the cliff into the sea.
  • I saw the olive museum of Andros and learned about the process of pressing and curing olives for oil.

Some things that happened in Crete:

  • We visited the maze-like palace of Knossos, the center of Minoan civilization in the Bronze Age. We also went to the museum to look at frescoes of the Minoan snake goddess and bull-leaping dancers. I restrained myself from buying topless-dress snake goddess merch.
  • A boat took us to the old leper colony of Spinaloga Islet.
  • We went swimming at Matala, once a popular gathering place for hippies.
  • I got mild food poisoning at a taverna and threw up off a pier in front of some tourists. Later, the pharmacy gave me liquid antacids that came plastic tubes, like gogurt.

Before I left for study abroad, many former tourists to Greece (friends, family, people in the airport) had warned me that the city of Athens was crowded and unpleasant in comparison to the scenic Aegean islands, such as Andros, Corfu, or Santorini. While I definitely miss the beaches on Andros, I would respond that Athens has its own energy and appeal which can only be found in a busy and complicated city. After being cooped up on a field trip bus for hours, (and after the Hell Taverna), it felt great to get back into the swing of classes and to be free to explore the cultural and archaeological density of the city.

On the recommendation of my music-loving Archaeology professor, I went with a group of friends to a free outdoor jazz festival in Giza, in a venue called Technopolis. The festival included a mix of jazz, choreographed dancing, and Greco-manouche fusion—a combination of jazz manouche, founded by guitarist Jean “Django” Reinhardt in France, with modern Greek musical style. The main stage was surrounded by stalls selling beer and soda, crafts, and secondhand clothes, and lots of Greek families and couples were out to enjoy the festival atmosphere. In reflecting on this night, and in reference to my earlier point, I would advise people skeptical of Athens’ appeal to walk around after dark, since many bookstores, café-bars, and restaurants host cultural events or live music. The main streets are well-lit and less crowded with cars and buses, and tavernas stay busy late, so most neighborhoods in my experience feel really safe after dark. When I go out at night, either with a group or just taking a walk by myself, I also feel much less visible and conspicuous as a tourist—people stare less, and more young people are out on the street, so it is easier to slow down and watch the city rather than rush to my destination.

In conclusion: Athens is great and the islands are great too. Here are some pictures, and also a song by Gadjo Dilo, one of my favorite bands from the festival.