More News from Greece!

Elle, Greece, 4/13/15
Yesterday we were hiking through the rocks and forest, and I was constantly thinking about how similar, yet so different Steamboat is compared to Meteora. The nature and landscape at times felt so close to home that I almost forgot I was halfway across the world; however, in other instances it was so different that I felt as if I was on an entirely different planet. Looking out at the views of the town gave me an overwhelming sense of community with all of the little buildings, looking so uniform and similar with their red roofs and white structures. It was a symbol of everyone coming together to create something magnificent. It exemplifies teamwork, community, and collaboration, leading to breathtaking results. In Steamboat, or even most cities, I don't ever feel that same sensation. Everything seems so separated and everyone is in their own world, separated from others. I have noticed a sense of community and general acceptance in more than just the architecture. The past two days we have gone to church at night to participate in Easter festivities. I found it insane to see the magnitude of people that came to these events. In a town so small I never expected nearly as many people to attend. It felt as if the entire town was there, just for a single event. That's one thing that I have come to really appreciate about religions. It has the power to unite the masses. This also made me reflect on Steamboat and the sense of community I feel during events such as Winter Carnival, the Fourth of July, and Halloween, among other events. They are celebrations that bring our entire community together; they, in a similar way, are Steamboat's collective religion.

Something else I noticed is how many Greeks, similar to most countries around the world, are much more open to touching. Growing up in Canada and Costa Rica, I became extremely used to kissing people on the cheeks when I met them, and in Greece they do the same thing. Complete strangers hug and kiss each other's cheeks. In the United States it is, however, seen as being odd and overly sexual. In America we are much more closed off from affection in that way. There is a barrier. That barrier is not only in touching, but also in the ways in which we engage with people.  I have had some great conversations with random people at the campsite by simply saying hello. In the United States, however, people will often just say hi back and keep going about their day. Here, people go out of their way to have conversations and to engage with you if you are willing to engage with them. It's fascinating to see all the small differences between our two cultures.

Thomas, Greece, 4/13/2015
We have done five activities throughout the last four days and there were spectacular views during all of these activities (visiting monasteries, participating in Easter festivities, rock climbing, rafting, and hiking - twice, though technically we're always hiking since we mostly travel on foot). Hiking around Great Meteora, one of the monasteries, and rafting on the river near Kalambaka gave us many different angles of the phenomenal pillars of rocks all around the Meteora region. Not only did we get to physically see Meteora up close and personally through these activities, but we also got a little window into Meteora's culture and religion. What I mean by this is that we were able to actually experience their religion and see the places where people practiced. Having the opportunity to eat Greek food and to see what people do on specific holidays, like Easter, was very educational. In the last four days we have done and seen many amazing things. This excites me for the future activities we have yet to do. I'm glad that we have about a month to do it all in!

Colton, Greece, 4/13/2015
On Saturday we woke up in the great countryside of Meteora. I began the day by forcing myself out of my sleeping bag and outside into the very fresh, cool air. We began to get ready for the day and our trek up to the monasteries. We made our way to "bread"fast (punny). As we arrived, a nice lady, Liza - one of the owners of the campground, met us and ushered us with excitement and many "kalimeras" (good morning) and "ya sas" (hello). We began to eat bread, but little did we realize that bread was all we would receive for our "bread"fast. Apparently, this is a common breakfast meal in Europe: bread, jam, butter. After breakfast, we crossed the street, hopped on a bus, and headed up the steep, winding streets towards the monasteries. When we reached the top of the large pillars, or "towers" as the locals call them, we were greeted with a beautiful view of Kalambaka and Kastriki, two of the towns that make up Meteora. Our guide, Katerina, led us down through narrow stairways along the cliff side in order to reach the entrance of Great Meteora, one of the monasteries. Through the entrance through the cliffs we walked into the great monastery with stone cold floors and structures and views that very much reminded me of singeing out of The Lord of the Rings. It was amazing! I felt as though I was an old hero entering his castle (though perhaps not quite as awesome as that). Katerina guided us through many aspects of the monasteries including: storage rooms of the old priests' bones after death, living chambers, old holding cells, kitchens, and many religious rooms for prayer, learning, and reflection.

After visiting the monastery, we immediately departed on a half-day hike around the monastery where we ate a ham and cheese sandwich lunch, saw a beautiful sheep farm, and witnessed some great views. The best part about the hike, however, was getting back to the camp and resting for a few hours before dinner. It was a long day!