Greece Tour 2007

For 14 days we were able to touch, taste, and see history and politics. . .

The next chapter in our tour was the breathtaking peaks of Meteora. The name meaning "suspended in air" . . .

The above comments come from two of the eighteen students who visited the birthplace of democracy from May 7-21 of 2007 with the History and Political Science study tour. They studied the politics, history, religion, economy, art and architecture of this ancient land which birthed many of the guiding ideas we live by today. Here are two stories.

Joe Underhill   The Trip to Greece

"At 6:00 a.m. May 7, 2007 a group of students and professor Jane Sabes gathered sleepily and yet excitedly to begin their adventure in Greece. Over 14 hours of flying later, we landed in Athens. On this trip we would visit seven locations of interest; Athens, Patmos, Meteora, Olympia, Delphi, Mani, and Corinth. At each of these cities we were able to visit museums and ruins learning about their history and importance from the local guides.

"One of the most fascinating things for me was the culture of the people. The Greek people are very warm and friendly; they are also very religious. There are approximately 11 million people in Greece, 98% of the people are Eastern Orthodox. This was an interesting aspect to consider as we visited the cities and watched the people going about their normal daily routines.

"One of the assignments we had was reading Eleni which gave us an insight into the traditions and way the Greek people live. In the book, religion was a major part of the daily lives and activities of the people. While in Greece it was clear that religion was a major part of the lives of the people, but it seemed like often it was very shallow and that it was more of a tradition than it was a relationship. The Eastern Orthodox religion is filled with symbolism. I found this to be very interesting, because every aspect of their service has a symbol and a meaning behind it, which everyone seems to know.

"Every place we traveled we could see ruins; one of our guides told us that anywhere you dig in Greece you find ruins. One of the examples of this was in Athens where one building had an 'L' cut into its first floor because of ruins which were found during construction. The other place this can be seen is the subway in Athens. All of the stations have artifacts which were found during construction.

"There are an amazing number of museums in Greece, and for a history major, this was very interesting, and even those who were not as interested in the history could still appreciate the beauty of the preserved artifacts, some of which were more than 4,000 years old. The big ruins were a favorite of all, especially the Acropolis in Athens.

"Another favorite stop was the island of Patmos. We had the unique privilege of visiting with the abbot of the monastery, discussing many topics ranging from politics to religion and the role of women in the church. We were able to eat lunch at the monastery, which was very interesting as the men and women had to eat separately. The abbot was very friendly and took us to their restoration room where they restore the icons. The other place was the library where they had hand written gospels from the 11th century which we were able to see. The library was a privilege which is not often granted to visitors. We left Patmos in awe of the monastery and the spirituality of being in the same place the apostle John when he wrote the book of Revelation.

"Another neat place we visited was Meteora. Meteora is known for its monasteries and for its rock climbing. It is amazing to think of how the monks built the monasteries without the use of modern technology. Olympia and Delphi were interesting for their insight into the ancient Greek lifestyle and beliefs. We were also able to visit the parliament and the Greek stock exchange which gave us the opportunity learn about the politics and structure of the country.

"The trip to Greece was an amazing trip, and I feel very privileged to have been able to travel with an awesome group of people and very grateful to Dr. Sabes for all the work she put in to make the trip so memorable. There is nothing like hands on learning, and for 14 days we were able to touch, taste, and see history and politics. After another 14+ hour plane ride and bus ride we were exhausted, but we have memories to last a lifetime. What a great way to spend the first two weeks of summer vacation!"

Joel Griessel     The Experience of a Lifetime!

"If you had met me three years ago, you would have met a different person. Back then, I was like every other kid in my town that had their lives planned to the tee. Work forty-hour weeks, get married, and buy a house, then spend the rest of my life unfulfilled, as though I had tried but was never able to get ahead. I began searching for a new start. I wanted to become an individual in a world where everyone is trained to fit one mold. At the end of my sophomore year here at Andrews, I joined a study tour to Greece. This trip was the experience I had been looking for and it became a guiding light as I decided what I truly wanted in life and how life is meant to be lived.

"After nearly seventeen hours of travel, we arrived in Athens. Traffic was very thick in the city, as buses, mopeds, taxis, and cars traveled the streets. Once we arrived at our hotel, a group of us trekked out to go exploring and find the most anticipated aspect of a foreign country - food! The next couple of days we explored the city’s greatest architectural masterpieces along with religious landmarks and ancient intellectual centers. Our first stop was at the prestigious Panathinaiko stadium which held the 1896 Olympics, and can seat nearly 130,000 people. After this, we headed to the Acropolis where the temple of Nike, the Parthenon, and Mars hill lies. This acropolis is understood to be the place where Paul spoke to the Athenians about their "superstitious nature" (Acts 17:22- KJV).

"We received a glimpse into Greece’s past by spending our time in Athens’ ethnological, war, and archeological museums. The museums covered Greek history from the Minoan/Mycenaean period (2700-1450 B.C.) up to the revolution against Turkish rule in the 17th century. A view of the country’s current struggles came to us as we interviewed a stockbroker and government official. The highlight of the day came when we sat and watched a session in Parliament. Although I was not able to understand the discussion, it was exciting just to be seated in such a prestigious atmosphere and witness senators from separate political parties bickering from across the room over an incomprehensible issue.

"Next, we visited the Island of Patmos where the apostle John was exiled. Today, the Greek Orthodox Church keeps the island as the important location of the home of St. John’s Grotto and the monastery of St. John. This is important to the Greeks, as ninety percent of the population is Orthodox. With our trip to Patmos, we were able to view Greek culture in a new aspect.

"Sabbath morning we headed up to St. John's Grotto. The chapel stands directly atop the cave where God inspired John to write the book of Revelation. Here our tour guide gave us the Orthodox version on how the book of revelation was inspired and written. The Orthodox believe that John was given the revelation, but he did not write it. They believe that the credit for writing Revelation goes to Prochoros, John’s close friend and assistant.

"Entering the cave where the revelation was received, I could not help but feel an immense sense of awe and reverence like you were walking into St. Peter's Basilica or Notre Dame. The last stop of the day was the monastery of St. John. Built over an ancient temple in the eleventh century, it has a fortress-like appearance from afar. The monastery is home to a library, museum, treasury, and the exquisite Chapel of the Theotokos that holds frescoes dating back to the twelfth century. We toured the chapel, ate lunch, and visited the library and the residing Abott of Patmos.

"The highlight of my experience in Patmos came from the invitation to attend vespers service with the monks. Held in the main chapel, the service was chanted in Greek and entirely from scripture and various hymns. The experience was special with the fact that I was personally able to see the devotion and commitment each of the monks. This helped me see life and my spirituality in a different light. It also taught me that there is no right or wrong religion in the world today. What it all comes down to, really, is separate points of view. Whether you look at Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, Orthodox, Adventist, or Muslim theology, it really holds the same principles. The way I see it is that each theology is based upon God, and with this basis, the one goal of every God-fearing man and women is, and always has been, to live a good, sin-free life and achieve the ultimate prize, heaven.

"The next chapter in our tour was the breathtaking peaks of Meteora. The name means "suspended in air," and eventually included the entire rock community of twenty-four monasteries. In the 18th century, Meteora became a refuge center for Greeks escaping the increasingly harsh administration of the Ottoman overlords. It was also a hideout for the "klephts", rebel warriors who harassed the Turks and participated in the fight for independence in the 19th century. The German and Italian occupation during World War II saw further looting and destruction of the monasteries. Today, only six of the monasteries survive as museums. A few monks and nuns sparsely occupy them but they still offered us a unique view into monastic life. To me, these peaks are easily some of the world’s greatest natural wonders, as the mountains are formed from only river sediment and rock smashed together. The locals believe it is because of a river that existed over a million years ago.

"Our next stop was in Delphi, which the ancients believed was center of the world. Mythology tells us that two eagles, released in opposite directions by Zeus, came to meet at Delphi. The exact place they landed was indicated by an 'omphales' (cylinder shaped stone) and became the center of the world. Before we arrived, I was under the impression that the site would be in a remote location and stand as a small temple surrounded by a few small gardens. When we arrived, I was pleasantly surprised as Delphi is full of small temples, baths, treasuries, a theater, stadium, and the temple of Apollo, where the oracle resided.

"One of our last stops on the tour was in the small town of Olympia, home to the prestigious Olympic Games in 776 BCE. In addition, Olympia houses the temple of Zeus, and the exquisite statue of Nike. The most interesting thing we learned while visiting Olympia was an ancient tradition where it is said that all wars and quarrels would stop among neighboring city-states a month prior to the games. Olympia was by far my favorite town in Greece, as it held a quiet, charming atmosphere.

"With the remaining time we had on our tour, we visited various other places such as Corinth, Sparta, Mani, a Mycenaean citadel, the ancient battlefield of Thermopylae, and an oil-coop where some of the world’s purest olive oil is made.

"The tour was an immense learning experience for me and my mind has been opened to new possibilities and a new philosophy. I have learned that to enjoy life, you must step away from modern society’s hustle and take time to savor life’s simple pleasures. I have also learned that I have taken a lot of things for granted in life. The residents of Greece don’t have all the advantages that we Americans are used to. I found myself bitter at times when there was never any hot water, or a local Taco Bell, cable TV, or 110v power outlets for my convenience. The Greeks didn’t gripe about this, but instead took pride in it. As a people, they identify themselves by focusing on, and holding onto, their traditions-not material things. This contentment is something I will remember and hope to carry with me always."

(The articles were edited for this site.)

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