Wednesday, June 15, 2011


We are now well into June. Where has the time gone? Seems like yesterday I was traveling with the ever-fantastic ECO Comenius Team in Thessaloniki, Greece. But, it wasn't yesterday - it was the first week of April (4th - 11th). Seriously!? That was 2 months ago...

Before visiting Greece, I had all sorts of images in my head of what Greece was like. Mainly, images of white buildings and blue doors, donkeys as the primary source of transportation... ancient ruins wherever you look, people eating baklava, and others dancing to Greek music (breaking plates!) shouting "Opa!" Well, I in part thank photographers for giving me this skewed vision of Greece and secondly Hollywood for films such as My Big Fat Greek Wedding and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Let me just tell you, these wonderful images aren't Greece mainland... (I think it could be true about the islands) - which is why the Greek Isles are on my list of places to visit next year. 
The closest I came to the beloved Greek Isles -
a painting
in the school staircase!

Thessaloniki, Greece.

The trip started off somewhat perfect. If you're ever in Madrid Bajaras Airport, Terminal 2 has a Subway! You can smell it from so far away, that when it's right next to your departure gate, it's difficult not to give in.  I gave in. Italian BMT with all my favorite toppings. YUM! (For the record it's not "comida basura" - when compared to a Spanish bocadillo, it's probably healthier - as my Subway sandwich had a massive heaping of lettuce, tomato, pickles, olives, onions... and a bocadillo? NADA. case and point.)

While waiting for our connecting flight from Athens to Thessaloniki, I found APPLE FANTA! After purchasing two bottles, we arrived at ANOTHER security check point. Seriously, Greece? The security guard looked at me like an idiot and asked me "do you want to drink these now?" I (not so kindly) responded with "no, of course I don't want to drink them now..." So I stood there in front of him and poured them out into the trash can bottle by bottle. I. was. fuming!

But, after this mishap, the trip really was a nice one. I'll let the pictures do most of the talking, as we all know I took way too many...
We were welcomed to Greece with student performances
which included traditional dancing and songs!
In the center of Thessaloniki along the Sea, we were able to see spears from ancient Greece.
These things were life sized... can you imagine carrying one of these while on horseback? Uff!
Oyzo on the rocks. [not a fan!]
Classroom visits. Love seeing foreign alphabets. The "θ" was my favorite.
Wonderful food prepared for us by the mother's club at the primary school two different nights! [Do you see the stuffed grape leaves? YUM!] All the moms grew up together and were best friends. One of the moms, Emily, took me as her own child, making sure I tried  the best foods and learned the traditional dances. She painted me a candle and i'll always remember her kindness and all the kindness bestowed upon us in Greece! :)
Since the Comenius group is "ECO" themed, we made visits to several nature parks and ecological sites. This was part of a national park; we had lunch here - can you say a "restaurant with a view!"
A new favorite food... it's Turkish. [can't recall the name....] it looks normal, but it pulls apart and looks like hair! It is made from pistachios. I have to find more of this stuff...
A visit to a small fishing town... watch where you're walking.
Visit to the old market in Thessaloniki; spices!
Traditional candles lit in a small prayer area outside a Cathedral.
Greece has beautiful Cathedrals!
APPLEBEE'S!!!!! Buffalo wings and raspberry lemonade!
While I was surrounded by wonderful Greek food, I couldn't help myself having never seen an Applebee's outside the US. Divina, my tutor, said I looked like a little kid in a candy store; that she had to give in and let me eat there since I was SO excited about it. It was just along the waterfront... drinking my raspberry lemonade.. ah!
Lunch in a beautiful nature park. Photo session with Lucia (in red) and Paula (in gray), the two Spanish students we brought to Greece with us! What a fun afternoon!
Farewell dinner and dancing. Instead of breaking plates and shouting "Opa!" they now toss plates of flowers over someone dancing in the middle.  While the dance floor was tiny, we managed to dance all night! I must say I'm a fan of Greek dancing!!!!
Athens, Greece

Thessaloniki and Athens are NOTHING alike.  For starters, Athens is a tourist city - overloaded with English speakers and English menus.  In Thessaloniki, you had to pray that one waiter spoke English or hope that your finger landed on something super tasty on the carta...!!!!

In case you're wondering, Athens can be seen in a day. While i don't recommend it, if necessary, it can be done. If you are a history buff, it's not an option - a week [or longer!] is necessary, as everywhere you look [even in the metro stations] there are ruins on display or preserved behind glass walls.  It's incredible the amount of history there... and to actually BE THERE is a site in itself. I remember thinking, "I'm here, I'm actually here...", as I stood in front of the Parthenon on top of the Acropolis, overlooking Athens.

While it was a busy trip, we managed to see lots of incredible [old. ancient. famous.] things.
The Acropolis - high atop Athenas!
The Spanish gang con nuestro amigo, El Parthenon.
Paula, Maria Jose, Divina, Lucia, Me
Hellloooooo Athens!
We had wonderful food, and you better believe, I ate my fair share of Baklava from the motherland.
Greek guards. Not quite like London, no? The one in the middle actually fell down as his girlie shoes were slick on those old marble paths. I hope you couldn't see up his skirt! ;)
Where the Olympics began. So amazing at night.
Just opposite, you had a view of the Acropolis all lit up..
My time in Greece was wonderful, and only left me yearning for more.  I met wonderful people who gave me a job opportunity after I finish my teaching gig in Spain in 2012. Not sure if they really like my Comenius Powerpoint making skills or if it's my Greek dancing skills that they like... I'm going to go with my dancing skills. Marianthe, I might take you up on this offer; but you have to promise me you'll teach me how to make my own baklava and give me a crash course in Greek. [Maybe the latter should come first...]

Until 2012, Thessaloniki. Greece, I hope to see your Isles soon.