greece my place of peace

So, the time for spring break (more like a long weekend) has come and gone.  Where did I head off to this time? I went somewhere I have always dreamed and hoped to someday travel to.  I went to Greece.  Who came with me on this beautiful adventure?  My two sweet roommates Mallory and Emily.  We began our trip on a tuesday night when we headed to Rome.  After one night in Rome, we flew into Athens on a 6:30am flight.  We arrived in Greece around 8:30am.   We stayed in an Airbnb near the center of the city and the Acropolis was about a 20 minute walk from the apartment, which turned out to be wonderful.  

  

On the day of our arrival, Greece was sunny and warm, the weather was completely glorious!  During our first day we visited the Acropolis, the sweet flea markets, had incredible falafel and met with other traveling Pepperdine students for dinner.    

   

  

  

  

One of the things that I appreciated most about my trip was Greece’s hospitable, family-oriented culture.  I noticed right away that most businesses were family run.  This is especially close to my heart since my family operates a local business as well.  It was incredible to see how caring, loving and generous everyone is in Greece, everyone seemed to give and give, regardless of the fact that the individuals themselves had nothing.  I found Athens to be quite dirty and run down, but knowing the state of Greece’s economy this makes sense.  On our second day in Greece we headed to the wonderful Biblical city, Corinth.  

  

 


Prior to visiting Corinth, I did not know how much it would mean to me to walk through the ruins of the historic city.  We spent a great while wandering through the ruins, which were incredible, possibly my favorite ruins I have seen to this date.  I got to stand on Bema, where Paul actually preached, which was a special moment for me.  As I walked through the ruins of the city, I imagined Paul writing to that very place.  I imagined what lives passed there, many being forgotten, yet the tattered, dirt-stained ruins remain.  

   

  

  

  

 

Corinthians, the Biblical book that contains letters from Paul, has some of the most beautiful verses about love, faith and trust in God.  One of my favorite verses from Corinthians is about love.  Whether one is Christian or not I believe the verse is beautiful and important and reminds us what true, genuine love looks like. 

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

How beautiful are Paul’s words?  We should all strive to lead lives filled with such kind of love.  Love that is pure and true.  Love that is genuine.  If we all began to try to love as Paul has suggested this world will be a better place.  And, right now of all times when violence and injustice are rising, when others kill in the name of hatred, let love conquer that evilness.  Let’s love all those around us for who knows how much longer we will be here and be given the opportunity to love in such a way.  As Paul has said “love endures all things” but where is the love in this world? Love begins with us, with a simple gesture or smile.  It has become hard to see the good in this dangerous world but it exists and when open ourselves up to sharing our love with others, I believe that goodness, that love, will conquer the evilness in the world.  But our time is now.  My favorite part of this beautiful chapter in Corinthians is when Paul claims, that “Love never ends.  As for prophecies, they will pass away, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.”  Paul then goes to explain his development in thoughts when he claims, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I gave up my childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”  Finally the chapter ends with my favorite line of all, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:8-13).  So, let love win.  Let love abide, for our God reigns and is shown through our love for others in this dark world.  Sometimes it is good when we forget all else and just simply love because as Paul claims, love conquers all.  I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to visit Corinth, that will definitely be something that I remember and cherish forever.  

 

After visiting the city of ruins, we headed up a cliff nearby towards the Corinth Castle and Aphrodite’s Temple.  The hike was gorgeous and seeing the contrast of the green, living grass and the dark, dead, dismayed ruins was an incredible sight to behold.  Reminding us that life always conquers death.  Though the ruins seemed dreary, the grass and its life seemed to give life to the ancient place.  Staring out on such a sight one cannot help but to marvel and to think about life, how true and humbling is the Bible’s verse “From dust we have come and from dust we shall return”.  As I stood over the ruins, I felt humbled and reminded that life will pass with swiftness, just as many lives before me have come and gone, so will mine.  What ruins will I leave behind?  Will individuals one day look at what I call home and marvel at it’s aged, ruined state? My thoughts flooded in as I walked around the beautiful mountain yet I found so much peace when there.

   

 

   

  

 The next morning we took an Aegean flight to Santorini, Greece. You many have heard of this glorious island filled with pure white homes with bright blue roof tops. You may even have seen Santorini in the second “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” movie. When I imagined Greece when I was young or even prior to my trip, I expected something similar to Santorini.

 

 Santorini is said by many to be the most beautiful place in the world with the most glorious sunsets. Knowing all of this, I was ecstatic to travel to such a place! On arriving to Santorini it was rather cold and very windy. When we arrive to our hotel, the hotel owner greeted us with hugs and kisses, she was so appreciative of our service.  The hotel owner then organized for us to rent a manual car, good thing that Mallory knows how to use a manual car! 

  

Our first day in Santorini was glorious, we visited ruins from prehistoric times (thousands of years BC), ate lunch along the coast of the red beaches, visited the famous light house and explored the countryside. We then went to Oia, which is known as the most scenic region of the island, it was incredible. Walking though the sweet homes was a dream. While in Oia we made it just in time to watch the sunset which was stunning. I will never forget the moments I was overlooking the majestic sea, seeing the sharp lines of the pure white homes in contrast to the uneven mountains and watching the sun kiss the sky, sea, and island goodbye.  It is such moments that remind us how precious and glorious life is.  

   

  

 

After the sunset, we met with other students for dinner from the Florence program who were also visiting Santorini. I began to realize at this point just how giving everyone is in Santorini. Their love is so freely given. Every restaurant during my stay in Greece gave us multiple free additions to our meal. At this particular restaurant we were given free appetizers, drinks and dessert as well as being thanked hundreds of time for visiting their restaurant.  You can’t find that kind of service in America!  

  

During our second and final day in Santorini we visited churches, hiked up to yet another ancient ruined city and swam in the sea!  The ruins were especially beautiful since they were right near the sea. This site of ruins had various carvings of animals, people, and nature on the ruined walls which was special to see. 

  

After visiting the ruins, we then swam in the Aegean Sea (we were not going to let the cold weather prevent us from doing that)! We then explored a few cities including Fira and Pygros.  We walked along the sea side then had a wonderful meal in the sweet city, Fira. The entire island is very small it only took a little more than an hour to drive from the very bottom to the very top of Santorini. 

  

  

  

  

  

 

After returning the car and some souvenir shopping, we headed back to the hotel and the hotel owner offered to drive us to our ferry port, which was so kind!  The family that ran the hotel we stayed at were literally angels, I miss their sweet spirits already! We took an overnight ferry from Santorini to Athens. We arrived in Athens at 5:00am. After watching the sunrise and enjoying a great spinach pie (I miss those), we headed to the Temple of Zeus. The Temple of Zeus marks the spot where ancient Olympics games were played. 

  

We then saw the Olympics Stadium which was very interesting. We then souvenir shopped and walked around the markets and headed to the Agora. We were exhausted so we laid a blanket down (in the Agora) and popped open a wine bottle (which we were given by our hotel hosts in Santorini). We then mixed wine and tangerine juice together which we drank as we relaxed and enjoyed the sunny day in Athens. That sweet moment is one I will never forget. Lying amongst ancient ruins, drinking sangria, in the sunlight with two sweet friends, it was a lovely scene.  We then napped for about thirty minutes and were awoken by a guard, telling us we could not lie down or nap in the area of the ruins. The guard actually woke us up at a great time because we had to leave for the metro for the airport!

   

  

  

 

I was sad do say goodbye to Greece but we did have a great, relaxing flight back to Italy. I will always remember Greece as a beautiful country who’s true beauty is not found in its scenic views and interesting history, instead through the love, generosity, hospitality and care of those who live there.  Stay true, live justly and always travel on. Peace and love. 


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one lovely day in venice 

Well, I finally made it to the beautiful city (and island) known for its water, canals, carnivals, film festivals, multi-colored houses, sparkling masks, and abundant tourists.  Yes, if you have not yet guessed it, I made a visit to Venice.  Before making my way to the water-filled city, I heard diverse opinions on the place.  I heard from some that it was “beautiful” while others claimed “Venice is too touristy and not worth all the hype.”  Well, nonetheless, I wanted to travel to the city and form my own opinions on the iconic Italian city.  



This trip, I decided would provide me with some alone, me and God time, so I headed towards Venice solo.  My trip to Venice allowed me to recharge, relax and be refreshed.  I only spent one day in Venice, which for me, was the perfect amount of time.  After traveling through various cities throughout Europe this year and attempting to see everything in each one, I have learned to travel in quite a different way.   I have learned that my favorite travel experiences have not been filled with museum or monument visits but instead with relaxing strolls, pretty weather and no pressure.  So, I went into my trip to Venice without many assumptions, plans or expectations.    



I arrived in Venice around 10:30am.  I then purchased an unlimited day-pass for the water taxi boat service (which came in handy).  I first visited the beautiful San Marco church, which was wonderful. 



Afterwards, I got lost wandering through the maze-like side streets and marveling at the sweet, romantic, vine filled, bricked alleyways, bridges and sparkling blue water filled canals. I then headed to two out lying islands near the main Island of Venice.  I first traveled to Murano, which is an island about 40 minutes away from Venice (by boat).  



Murano is a sweet little island that is filled with adorable canals (if you could not have already guessed this), cute houses and is known for their special glass-making trade.



When I arrived at the island, I began to explore and found a small glass factory.  I watched a glass making demonstration which was both fantastic and fascinating and I even bought a cute (Murano made) glass necklace (a gift for a friend).  





I then walked along the canals and enjoyed the blue skied, sunny, and breezy mid 50s weather.   I found a quiet part of the island and then sat along one of the canals where I wrote, thought, and took in my scenic surroundings.  





After window shopping for a bit, I headed back to the water boat taxi stop and headed for Burano.  Burano is less touristy, more quiet, and about twenty minutes from Murano.  Burano is known for their lacemaking trade, multi-colored, bright houses (they reminded me of Cinque Terre) and had sweet charm and beauty. 



What I loved most about Burano were all the sweet little children that ran and played throughout the bright, lively island.  Burano was filled with families and sweet people.  While in Burano I walked around and marveled the adorable, bright houses.  





I felt like I was in Portugal or a different country, it was a surreal and exciting experience.  I followed the canal to a quiet, residential part of the island where I wrote, took in the presentness of the moment, and relaxed.  While walking through the canals lined with yellow, purple, green, blue, and pink homes I felt like I had stepped into the world of Crayola!  







I passed an adorable elementary school and it warmed my soul to see all the sweet children running and playing in an adorable court yard during their recess.  I window shopped for a bit and looked at the quaint lace shops and enjoyed seeing all the adorable residents of Burano walking about.  After Burano, I took a boat back to Venice where I got lost in the old, winding, narrow, stone streets and my mind for about two hours. 







I loved seeing the black and white striped shirt men in the gondolas as they quietly glided through the canals, the small houses with flower pots filled window boxes and I was thrilled to find a non-touristy area of the city.  I did not pay 80 euro for a gondola ride, so let’s put this down in the book: a traveler went to Venice without going on one of the famous (though very touristy) gondola rides. 



Despite the touristy aspects, the city is marvelous and a traveler must-see in my book.  During my water taxi ride back to the train station, I met a sweet German woman who was studying Italian (yet knew no english).  She spoke in broken Italian to me and we enjoyed each other’s company, it was so funny that we were both from different countries yet were speaking Italian to each other!  During my train ride back to Florence, I then met a wonderful Italian university student who is currently studying in Venice.  Her name is Carlotta and she studies architecture, we had a great conversation about traveling and studying!  As I have said before, I live to meet people, explore and to seek adventure, so my time in Venice was definitely a memorable experience.  Stay true, live justly, and always travel on.  Peace and love.