Heritage Greece 2015

Monday, June 15

After waking up to birds and sunshine, I took a walk down to the market near the dormitories. After exchanging minimal, yet significant Greek, I purchase fresh apricots and gleefully share them with friends as we make our way to campus for class. After an walk through this incredible campus, peers and I finally make it to the classroom, greeted by our wonderful teacher Ms. Artemis. She encourages us to take on fully the Greek culture while we travel here, and to let fear go in order to immerse further. We recite the alphabet, and finish class near noon.

Next, our group walks downstairs to take part in a Greek dancing class. Although I struggle with the group dances, as i tend to when dances require rhythm, I let go a little bit when we solo dance. The sun feels incredible against my skin, and with a view over the neighborhood from campus, we dance ourselves all the way to lunch at the campus cafeteria.

After spending free time running errands in the neighborhood, the group dresses and makes our way to a winery in order to visit, dine and try wine. The density of plant life leaves me speechless, and I cannot help but run through vines as the sun sets. I feel as though agriculture, if conducted sustainably and responsibly, carries the capacity to rejuvenate a nation. We taste four types of wine and settle into an incredible dinner. After more dancing, I walk outside to look at the stars and can’t help but shed a tear for the beauty abound. What a day, indeed.

-Erich Eisenhart
Earth, Society and Environmental Sustainability | 2015 | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Monday was a very fun day!! First, we were divided into our 3 classes based on our understanding of Greek. Then we had the most awesome experience at our Greek dancing lesson, whether you need nothing or had years of experience, everyone was able to get their feet moving to the beat of the music! It was so nice to even see some people test out the Zimbekiko! Next we were lucky enough to visit a very beautiful winery, Papayiannakos. It was very educational in that we learned all about the process of making wine, then of course the tasting was very delicious! The meal was the best I’ve ever had for myself and the dancing there was magnificent as the sun set! We had the most beautiful evening!

-Gabriella Christy

Monday morning began with the first of our language and culture classes. We split into three different levels. There, we began learning our the Greek language and also the rich culture that comes along with it. After classes finished for the day, we all walked to a different part of ACG’s picturesque campus and together learned the basics of a few particular Greek dances. Some of these dances were “Hasaposerviko”, “Nissiotiko” and the most commonly known “Kalamatiano”. We soon realized that Greek dancing is a very social activity and has a way of bringing people together. There is even a dance that we learned solely led by the improvisation of brave individuals. Expressing oneself in this way is something that brought comfort to many during times of sadness or joy to those simply celebrating life. After roughly two hours of jumping around in a humid, 95 degree day in Athens, we were able to replenish a bit during lunch in ACG’s cafeteria.

Later that night, we loaded the bus and drove to Mesogeia in Attica to a family owned winery by the name Papayiannikou. They were kind enough to invite us into their home for a short wine tasting and dinner to follow. The view outside of their house was breathtaking as it overlooked their vineyard as well as the city of Athens. Mr. Papayiannikou showed us the basics of wine tasting as we tried two different kinds of white wine, one Roset and one red wine. Out of all the wines, the first white wine served, Sabbatiano, seemed to score the best. Sabbatiano is a grape indigenous to Greece and is a favorite among many. Towards the end of our visit at the winery, essentially a test of all the dances we had learned earlier took place. Feeling the energy in the room, it felt as though our group was coming together more and more. This day was an incredible start to the week, and there is so much more to come!

-Stephany Prodromos

Today was wonderful. I got to use some Greek at the Farmer’s Market in the morning, attended my first class at the American College of Greece, learned some Greek dances, and my favorite activity of the day, visited a breathtaking winery. While the winery itself was gorgeous, the wine delicious, and the food tremendous, above all, the company was what made the night. As I danced hand in hand with the other Heritage Greece participants and peers, I quickly realized there was no where else I’d rather be. Every day on this journey has been amazing.. I can only imagine what else is in store for me!

-Pamela Costis

Saturday – Sunday, June 13-14

Today, I met the people that I’ll be spending the next two weeks with for the first time. We began our journey with a wonderful dinner on top of the AHEPA headquarters in Washington DC which- I won’t lie- was quite overwhelming. Everyone was filled with excitement that they get to meet 50 new amazing Greek American students but also filled with nervousness for the very same reason. Fifty new names to remember? it seems harder than it sounds. Everyone was unbelievably welcoming, as we’re the leaders of the program. It was clear that everyone was looking forward to the next two weeks in their homeland. My peers and I tried our best to sleep on the 9 hours total on the planes, but some we’re more successful than others. Gradually we got to learn more and more about where each of us were from and what we do throughout the planes and reception- each participant seems eager to learn and experience what this country had to offer.

-Demi Kouvaris
Watermelon group

After a long plane ride to Greece, we were all tired, naturally, but at the same time very excited to arrive in our ancestral country and enthusiastic for the adventure ahead!  We were greeted by helpful ACG students, who assisted us in moving in to our apartments and instilled further confidence in us about how fun and rich this experience would be.  The chefs at ACG cooked a delicious souvlaki dinner for us, where we had the chance to meet and spend time with more ACG students as well as our American peers.

The next day, we visited the Marathon Tomb and learned about the Battle of Marathon, in which the Athenians defeated invading Persian forces, despite being heavily outnumbered.  This outcome was very important in history, for Western Civilization as we know it today would not exist had Athens lost the Persian Wars.  Afterwards, we visited the beach and ate lunch at nearby Schoinias, which proved to be a very relaxing part of the trip.  The water was clean, cool, and refreshing.  It was just what we needed as we recovered from jet lag and the time difference.

Finally, following a tour of the campus and the surrounding neighborhood of Agia Paraskevi, we all gathered for dinner at a Cretan tavern.  From the delicious salata (salad), moussaka, patates (oven-roasted potatoes), souvlaki, kefthedes (Greek-style meatballs), and dessert, we tasted why Greek cuisine is so renowned in the USA and many other parts of the world!  Overall, the first few days of the program were filled with plenty of helpful educational insights, delightful Greek cuisine, and excellent friends and company!

-John Banas

Saturday was mostly a blur for me with all the traveling and exhaustion that ensued, but I think even though we were all tired and sick of airplanes by Saturday evening we were also all ecstatic to be in Greece! The welcome reception was lovely and the best part was getting to meet our ACG peers for the first time. One of the best parts of this program so far has been the opportunity to get to know people our age from Greece because it’s a wonderful way to learn more about the culture from a more relatable perspective, and also a great way to practice our Greek! I couldn’t believe how warm and friendly all the peers were to us that first night (and still are!). They had only just met us but already I was able to have conversations with them and found myself laughing at their jokes. The next day, Sunday, we got to spend at the beach, which is personally one of my favorite things about Greece. The water was breathtaking and the sun felt amazing. The perfect first full day in Greece!

-Antigone Delton

The welcome barbecue on Saturday night was very fun. The food was delicious and I made many new friends quickly. We ate souvlakia and patates and much more! The ACG peers are very friendly and fun to talk to. I really am getting the full experience of Greece by having them with me. I am more than excited to see what the rest of this trip has to offer me!

-Eoanna Ragias
Watermelon group