Volunteer's Blog

Collecting Moments In Greece

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Greece, December 2018 (I Made Bayu Pratama)

I was very happy when I entered December because there were many holidays but I was also a little worried since 2018 will end soon. What have I done in 2018?  Have I used my time well? I felt doubts in myself to answer this question. But I don’t want to be too protracted in this self reflection. So this month I decided to be more relax and refresh my mind by travelling to Athens and  having a good time with my friends.

The atmosphere of the city was little different from usual. The shops began to put up a big discount offer. Some bakeries looked with new decorations. And some people seemed busy cleaning their apartment. And I realize, people are going to celebrate Christmas soon. No wonder since most of the Greek population is Orthodox.

I can feel the Christmas spirit from the people around me, especially my flatmates. One night Dora called me and she was seen hiding something on her back. She looked unusual. And my instinct was right, she gave me a Christmas calendar.

Christmas calendar is a special calendar used to count the 24 days before Christmas. This calendar has 24 dates and each date has chocolate inside. This calendar will keep me on track and mark the 24 days before Christmas. I can only eat one chocolate per day. Dora really knows how to make my days sweeter. While waiting for Christmas I went on vacation to several places outside Thessaloniki.

I had planned to do this trip since last month with ESN and I even bought the ticket. I went to Athens, the capital of Greece and Nafplio, an old city famous for its exoticism. It took 6 hours to get to Athens, yes it was a long trip but I didn’t feel bored because the scenery is very beautiful. I passed a lot of mountains with a vast expanse of olive groves. Greek mainland is surrounded by many mountains and this also made the Greek land fertile enough to grow Olive. No wonder this made Greece as one of the world’s largest olive oil producers.

Athens, the beautiful  capital of Greece is one of the oldest cities in the world. This city got its name from Athena, the goddess of wisdom and courage.  It is said to be the cradle of civilization and the birthplace of democracy. This city also gave rise to many wise men of ancient times. Since this city has so much history, I think the best place to visit is a museum.

The Acropolis Museum is an archaeological museum and one of the best museum in the world. The museum features many ancient artifacts that have been discovered at the Acropolis site.  There are also many statues which are made quite detailed with facial expressions and many of those statues were naked. The tour guide said that ancient Greeks loved and were proud of their bodies. I will not explain in detail how it looks, essentially is all of those statues look amazing. The museum also stores the rest of the Parthenon temple ruins. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures.

Next to the Acropolis museum, there is a very famous temple called the Parthenon. This temple was built on a rock hill in 447 BC and was dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena Parthenos (Athena the virgin). The construction of the Parthenon is very strong even though the temple was bombed  during the Venetians-Turks war, some of its pillars still look firm standing for more than 2460 years. From this temple we can see the entire city of Athens.

In Athens there are many high places that allow us to see the beauty of the city. However, Lycabettus is known as the best point to see the view of the city and the best way to spend time, especially in the morning or late afternoon. Lycabettus is a limestone hill that is less than 300 meters high. So, it’s not difficult to reach the peak. But, hiking this hill in the late afternoon makes me hungry. What I like from Athens is that it’s easy to get food because there are so many taverna spread throughout the city.

Taverna is a small Greek restaurant that serves Greek cuisine. I thought that the word taverna means a restaurant, but I was wrong. Greece has its own word for the restaurant. In Greek it is called “estiatorio”. While a restaurant is simply a place where you can get food, a taverna provides not only food, but also a good time. Tavernas are primarily enjoyed in the evening and often involve entertainment such as live music and alcoholic beverages like local wine. What I like most from the taverna which I also think is unique is that they always serve a basket of bread at the beginning and also a dessert for free. Taverna is part of Greek culture and has become familiar to people from other countries who visit Greece.

I got information from my Indonesian friend who told me that there were many Indonesians living in Athens. Of course I don’t want to miss this rare opportunity when I was in Athens. So, Imel and I decided to visit one of them and after walking for 30 minutes arround the city, we finally met Mrs. Soleha and her small family. They have been living in Athens for more than 10 years. We also ate Indonesian food such as meatballs,  chicken noodles and Indonesian chips (keripik).

We were very happy to meet Indonesian people, they were very friendly. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay there longer because we had to go back to the hostel to take part in the next event. Walking was not an option at that time. Luckily there is a metro station near Mrs. Soleha’s apartement. It was the first time we take a metro because the metro in Thessaloniki is still under construction. Metro is an underground train that is specifically designed to run in metropolitan cities.  Even though the counter was closed, we can still buy the tickets on the vending machine inside the station.

Not all places I can visit in Athens because I also have to continue my trip to Nafplio city. On the way to Nafplio, I had the opportunity to visit the oldest and largest ancient theater in Greece, Epirdaus theatre. This theatre is very beautiful surrounded by greenery and mountains. It was constructed in the late 4th century BC and still used today, most notably under the framework of the annual Epidaurus Festival. The festival begun in 1954 and it is held every summer with famous ancient dramas or modern plays.

It took about 2 hours from Athens to Nafplio. Nafplio is an old city and one of the most romantic places in Greece. A very quiet city with several castles. There’s nothing better than enjoying a refreshing walk in the small streets bordered by neoclassical houses and picturesque cafes.  Just like other places in Greece, there are also some greek traditional taverna and small Italian restaurants. Drinking a bottle of beer in the evening while enjoying the atmosphere of the city is an unforgettable experience.

The view of the entire city of Nafplio can be seen from Palamidi castle, which is located above the city. This castle was used as a prison for nearly a hundred years. Palamidi is very well preserved, and it’s evocative and beautiful to walk on the worn stones, between the massive walls and buildings. There are two ways to reach the castle, first we can walk up the 857 stairs, it’s little overwhelming or the second way and the majority of the visitors prefer, get inside the car/bus and drive to the other side of the castle. Then, what about me? I chose both. I did it two times. First in the late afternoon by walk up the stairs and the second time I get to the castle by bus in the morning. Actually, by walk up the stairs make me have more chance to enjoy the view. For several times I just make a resting stops along the way, seating on the larger steps and having the unique view of Nafplio, the sea and some small islands.

Traveling to various places makes me more open to diversity in this world. The more I learn something new, the more I become aware of my own identity. This encouraged me to take part in introducing Indonesian culture here. I and my Indonesian friends, Imel and Fitri organised a dinner with our international friends. We cook several Indonesian specialties, such as fried rice, pecel, balado, perkedel and hot tea. We really enjoy the cooking process and according to them it tastes good, they like it. But there is one menu that is too spicy for them, it was the pecel. Indeed this is the characteristic of Indonesian cuisine. By preparing food together we can also get to know each other better and exchange stories and culture. Sharing food brings people together in a more effective and enjoyable way.

Cooking with my flatmates is also fun. Before Oier comeback to Spain for his Christmas holiday, we held a dinner together. We prepared risotto and apple crumble. It was a nice dinner.  One by one my friends also went back to their hometown, including Maxime, my program partner. To deal with that situation, I decided to spend my Christmas holiday in my own way. I went to Oniroupoli with friends who were still in Thessaloniki.

I went to the place that is considered as the best Christmas village in Greece where the dreams can be a reality. Oniroupoli really does look like a Christmas village in a fairy tale movie, full of Christmas decorations, with wooden houses, colorful lights, delicious local and sweet dishes and beverages, a splendid ice rink, and plenty of free attractions. I think this is a magical place for children and adults. Unfortunately when I was there, instead of snowing as I expected, it was just raining. But even so, I can still enjoy it. I hope I can get snow next month.

Watching people play ice skating when I was in Oniroupoli made me curious and wanted to try it. Luckily there is an ice skating rink in Thessaloniki that is not far from my place. This place is only open until the first week of January. So I don’t want to miss this opportunity. As a beginner I realized the importance of preparation. I watch lots of videos on youtube until I feel ready. I also invited my Indonesian friend, Imel.

Don’t ask how many times I fell, because I got bruises on some part of my body. It’s quite painful. It’s not easy to learn ice skating for the first time, but it’s very fun trying something new. The first day is not too bad. I can walk even slowly. Of course I did not give up, I came again the next day. That’s when I proved to myself that nothing is impossible if I want it. For the second time I finally played ice skating quite well. I am very proud of myself.

Time passes quickly and I got my last chocolate which means the next day is Christmas. To celebrate it, I and my friends cook typical food of our own country. So we celebrate Christmas Eve at the Basement, a place that is usually used to hold workshops, parties or other events. This place is part of Alter Ego Ngo, my host organisation. There are some games such as billiards, table football, throwing darts and others. I cook simple rendang and fried rice. It was simple and meaningful dinner.

After Christmas, the new year comes as the next celebration. As usual, New Year’s Eve is enlivened by fireworks and parties. But what’s different this year is that I celebrated it in Greece, which means my friends in Indonesia will celebrate the new year 6 hours earlier than me. I still keep in touch with my lovely family and friends by video calls. Of course this makes me feel the excitement of the new year earlier by seeing my family and friends who look so happy. Here, I celebrate New Year’s Eve by watching fireworks from a place above the city of Thessaloniki, namely Anopoli.

“We are the sum total of our experiences. None of us are the same as we were yesterday, nor will be tomorrow”. I forgot where I get this quotes , but it is true.  There are countless moments that I have collected in my life. And it build who I am today. There could be so many events that really matter in my life. It could be the first day of school, graduation, first love, get stress in college, first time abroad and many more. All of these moments will be added with new one everyday. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. but one thing that I know, I will continue to collect moments because life is a collection of moments.

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