2009 Greece trip

The First Day
Greece Trip: Friday, March 20th 2009
 Ashley Carr

My twin sister Alyssa and I awoke sleepily to the far-off voice of our mom, rousing us and telling us to get ready to go. It was about four in the morning, and ‘Rododaktuloz  ’Hwz was still about an hour away from our quaint hotel room in Hersonissos, Crete, where we had been staying for the last week. My family had taken an early trip to this picturesque “little” island (I say “little” because we found that after driving hours and hours in every direction, it really was not quite as small as we expected) to get a relaxing week from our busy schedule, and then converge with Mr. Hinrichs in Athens for his long-awaited Greece trip.

We had a pleasantly short flight over the Mediterranean, and arrived at the Athens airport at about 7:30 am. We were still hours ahead of the rest of our group, the Holloways, Nettleships, and Mr. Hinrichs along with his charges, all arriving at different times between 1:00pm and 6:00pm. Once we had checked in at our hotel, we discussed what we should do. Dad finally called up a pastor of an old friend of ours, to see if we could get together. Pastor George had the largest evangelical church in Greece—around one thousand people—and dad really wanted to meet him. They decided to meet at the Plaka; the “old” district of Athens about forty-five minutes by train from our hotel in Glyfada. And so, we set out on the squeaky, lurching train for the shopping district of Athens. After about forty minutes of squeaking and lurching, we caught a glimpse of the rocky magnificence of the Acropolis. It was gone in an instant, and finally, we pulled up to our stop, Syntagma Square.

 As we neared the platform, we saw three policemen outside the window on the opposite sidewalk. This is not very significant, except for the fact that one suddenly sprang onto the street—and snatched a gun from his belt! He pointed it at something off to our right, and began to chase it, but just as suddenly put it back in his belt and continued cautiously on his way. We were all left somewhat agape at this, but before we could recover, the train stopped and we jostled out. Just as we stepped onto the platform we heard a voice say, “Jeff?” We all turned at the sound of my dad’s name. It was Pastor George. We were all grateful to see a friendly face, and Pastor began to talk jovially with my dad as we (quickly on my part!) left the train platform. Pastor George led us to an outdoor café for something to eat, and there we heard his quizimony, about his church and ministry, and about the startling fact that out of the eleven million people living in Greece, only about twenty-thousand could be counted as evangelical Christians.    After bidding Pastor George goodbye, we strolled around the Plaka for a while, than began our squeaky journey back to the hotel to meet the group.

Back at the hotel, we found that no one had arrived yet, so we decided to wait for them. About twenty minutes later I saw a figure with a familiar hat and travel coat enter the hotel. “Chloe!” I squealed. All at once everyone crowded the lobby and there were hugs and introductions all around. There was a flurry of questions and answers about their flights, how tired they were, and the whole experience arriving there. Mr. Hinrichs passed out everyone’s room keys, and we all migrated to the dinky little elevators, chatting as we went. Daniel, Laura, and Chloe piled into the elevator with their luggage (that’s all the elevator would fit!) and disappeared behind the doors. It seemed an eternity before the contraption came back down, and when we went to open the doors, lo and behold, they were all still in the elevator! Laura giggled her apologies and Daniel smiled sheepishly as Chloe tittered, shaking her head. We had a good laugh as we sent them back up joking, “Oh, they’ve reached the fifth floor, hopefully they will get out this time!” Once everyone got situated, Mr. Hinrichs took us girls up to the roof of the hotel. The lights of the extensive city twinkled spectacularly; the water of the Aegean Sea glimmered in the moonlight. We meandered back down to the lobby where we found Mr. Holloway and the boys. All of us together decided to walk on the beach only a couple hundred yards in front of our hotel. At 7:00 pm it was time for dinner. While we were eating the Nettleships arrived, and it was touching to see Mr. Hinrichs meet face to face with students he had taught for four years. After dinner all the young people played a lively game of Apples to Apples that Christina had brought. Soon though, we all began to fade, and made our way up the ESMC staircase (dubbed the Endless Staircase of Monte Cristo later in our trip)—thus ending our first day, but also marking the beginning of our excursion to the ancient sites of Greece.

At 08:30 in the morning we enjoy our half-day sightseeing tour of Athens. We climb up to the marble-capped Acropolis and visit the famous Parthenon and the Erechtheion.  We now have become time travelers! Then we will go to the nearby Mars' Hill (Areopagus) where Paul delivered his soul-stirring sermon to the giants of philosophy, logic and learning and spoke about the inscription: “to an unknown god”. 

We continue with a walking tour to Ancient Agora which was formerly the commercial hub of ancient Athens and birthplace of politics and philosophy. Here the apostle Paul reasoned with the most sceptical audience he met in the course of his travels. We see the very well preserved Doric Temple of Hephaestus (or Thesseion) and the Stoa of Attalos, an arcade built by Attalos II, king of Pergamum, used as a retail market. Today it is used as museum, displaying statutes, pottery and especially coins. Socrates is known to have discussed philosophy with his friends in the Stoa of Zeus Eleftherios. He was indicted in the Stoa Basileios or royal portico, where the archon Basileus held his court. He was exwecuted in the state prison here in 399 BC by the Strategeion.

After lunch break we continue our sightseeing tour with a visit to the National Archaeological Museum.  It is the most important museum of the entire country of Greece, displays finds from all parts of the ancient Greek world, dating from Neolithic times all the way to the last years of the Roman Empire. Some of the statues will enthrall you; gold findings from tombs will amaze you with their intricacy and unparalleled beauty; and artifacts of all ages and places will astound you! Marble statues of goddess Athena, whose name the city of Athens has taken will leave you, mesmerized! 
After the tour return to hotel. Evening at leisure for strolling in Glyfada centre.
Dinner and overnight at hotel. (B,D)

Sunday, March 22: DELPHI - GLYFADA
At 8:00 a.m. we depart from Athens by bus, driving us through the fertile plain of Boeotia, crossing the towns of Thebes connected with the tragedy of king Oedipus; Next are the towns of Livadia and Arachova, famous for their colorful woolen rugs and carpets. Arrive at Delphi, the center of the Ancient world, the "omphalos" (navel) of the earth - whose prestige extended far beyond the boundaries of the Hellenic world. On the slopes of Mt. Parnassos, in a landscape of unparalleled natural beauty and majesty, lies the archaeological site of Delphi. We visit the Sanctuary of Apollo, the Treasury of the Athenians and the Archaeological Museum containing such masterpieces of ancient Greek sculpture as the bronze Charioteer and the famous athlete Aghias. Lunch in a nice local restaurant. During your visit  in Delphi, there will be a brief visit to a local store to shop for a variety of gifts and souvenirs.
Then we return to hotel in Glyfada for dinner and overnight. (B,D)







At 8:00 a.m. we drive along the coastal road of the Saronic Gulf to ancient Corinth, passing by the Corinthian Canal, a four miles narrow cut of land, connecting the waters of the Saronic with the Corinthian Gulfs. We have a brief stop at Isthmus of Corinth to take pictures. 
Then continue on to visit Ancient Corinth. It was Corinth where the Apostle Paul lived and preached for a year and a half, and to this church he wrote two of his New quizament letters. We see all of the Greek and Roman sites associated with his ministry: the Agora, the Temple of Apollo, the Roman Odeon, the Bema, and Gallio’s Seat. The small local archaeological museum here is an eye opener!
After lunch break in Mycenae we proceed to the site where we visit the remains of the prehistoric citadel fortified with the Cyclopean Walls, the Lionesses' Gate, the remains of the Mycenaean Palace and the Tomb of King Agamemnon in which we will actually enter.
Afte the visit we drive through Nafplion - the first capital of modern Greece - and arrive in Tolo. Check-in at hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,D)





Tuesday, March 24: TOLO - EPIDAURUS -OLYMPIA
Morning drive to visit Epidaurus: the Sanctuary of Asclepeios, ancient god of healing. We see the best-preserved ancient theater in all of Greece, famous for the harmony of its design and the perfection of its remarkable acoustics, easily accommodating 12,000 people.
Then we continue towards Olympia passing by the central Peloponnesse cities of Tripolis & Megalopolis. Arrive at hotel in Olympia in late afternoon for check-in, dinner and overnight. (B,D)

Greece Trip
Tuesday, March 24th 2009
 Alyssa Carr

On the fourth official day of our trip, we woke bright and early to continue our delightful and exciting travels in Greece. The morning was simply gorgeous, and in contrast to the unpredictable stormy weather of the previous three days, a long-awaited (I must admit long-awaited—despite my love of rain) cloudless, blue sky smiled happily down on us.  We had stayed the night at a hotel in Tolo, a lovely little seaside village on the east coast of the Peloponnesian Peninsula, and after a quick breakfast of bread, cheese, and cereal rapidly loaded our bags in the bus and started on the road towards Mycenae.

 After a quick stop in the city of N--?, where we took pictures and gazed at the remains of two impressive Venetian fortresses—one on an island, the other on a rocky hill—and Voula, our guide, pointed out the ancient acropolis of Argos crowning a distant hill, we climbed back into the bus and continued on our way. Not long after this, we turned a corner and the ruined citadel of Mycenae swept into view. Our first stop at Mycenae was the ancient beehive tomb of "Agamemnon." (Or Atreus…) Although the morning was still chilly, the sun felt comfortably warm as we strolled to the entrance of the tomb. At first glance, the tomb simply appeared like any other grassy hill in Greece, sprinkled with wildflowers and everything covering it shouting "spring." But standing at the entrance, I now noticed a gaping, giant-sized doorway at the end of a tunnel-like wall of monolithic stones. (One of these stones, a wide slab that lay above the doorway, weighed over 120 tons!) I heard Mr. Hinrichs say suddenly, "There’s no guard! Quick, everyone get inside and we’ll sing." We were only too eager to obey. The inside of the tomb was dark and the conical, beehive shaped walls towered high above us. "Gather around me and make a circle," urged Mr. Hinrichs. "Closer—even closer! We want all the sound we can get. Now, turn outwards facing the wall. What should we sing?" Someone suggested "Amazing Grace" and in a moment we were singing. The effects were exhilarating. Never before had I heard sound like I heard in that ancient beehive tomb. Our voices seemed to swell and throb into an intensity I have only rarely ever experienced. I had happy chills and thrills running from my head to my toes. We sang "Angels We Have Heard on High," "Donna Nobis," "O Sacred Head Now Wounded;" Chloe’ Richardson sang "Oh Growling Tummy" (her rendition of "Shenandoah"), and we sang "In the Jungle," "Doxology," "The Star Spangled Banner," "Fairest Lord Jesus", and "Be Thou My Vision." Finally, unable think of any more songs, Voula took over and gave us an entire history of "Agamemnon’s Tomb."  

 The citadel was next. As we passed under the legendary Lion’s Gate, Mr. Hinrichs stopped us; he pulled out an excerpt from Aeschylus’ The Oresteia, and he and Chloe’ (who read the part of Clytemnestra) began a  mini reader’s theater at the potential site of the ancient play. As "Agamemnon" cried, "What am I? Some barbarian peacocking out of Asia?...Give me the tributes of a man and not a god, a little earth to walk on, not this gorgeous work," I could envision Clytemnestra, luring him forward, and Agamemnon—indignant yet doubtful, pausing at the base of the red carpet, the shadow of the massive gate above him. After this we moved up the cobblestone pathway into the citadel. We passed the grave circle where "Agamemnon’s" mask had been found, and saw the room where Agamemnon was supposedly killed. At the top of the citadel we had a sweeping, stunning view of the valley below. We could see orchards and vineyards, green hills and far behind them, snow covered mountain peaks. On reaching the backside of the citadel, Mr. Hinrichs called for flashlights. We had two or three, and some of us had cell phones. Armed with these weapons against darkness, and following Mr. Hinrichs lead, we braved the blackness of Mycenae’s underground cistern. The steps were slimy and slippery from the recent rain, and we stepped gingerly down, down into the darkness. I was a little surprised when the "cistern" turned out to be nothing but a muddy hole at the bottom of the tunnel. In daylight once more, we wove our way down the citadel through the ancient ruins. As we went along, some of the girls began picking the wildflowers that covered the citadel slopes and poked up through the cracks in the rocks in bright splashes of yellow, pink, purple, orange, white and red. We passed again under the Lion’s Gate on our way out, and I marveled at the sheer size of the stones that made up the walls on either side. No wonder the Greeks claimed the Clyclops had helped the ancients build it!

We made a last stop at the museum, and unlike our usual routine of gathering around Voula to hear the details on certain interesting artifacts, we were allowed to meander on our own throughout the building. We saw clay pottery, coins, figurine votives, clay pots…and more clay pots. This ended our tour of Mycenae, so we drove close by to a large restaurant where we ate another meal of various Greek foods. (Well, some of us…)

The following hours of the day were spent in an extensive, yet picturesque and enjoyable drive through the mountains towards Olympia. Although many of the mountains still had a good deal of snow, green things were popping up everywhere. Purple irises dotted the slopes and majestic pines lined the curvy road. Much of the time (while the parents slept) we spent curiously watching John Paul Holloway, Clark Hurd, and Victoria and Elizabeth Nettleship film a humorous movie on the bus. We stopped once at a little mountainside village to souvenir shop and stretch our legs. Clark and John Paul started a chess game in a nearby coffee shop and some of us sipped steaming cups of hot chocolate while watching the progress of the game. But we were presently aboard the bus again, and after a couple more hours of driving we reached the Olympia. At "Hotel Neda" we had a dinner of spaghetti, bread, chicken and mashed potatoes (admittedly not very Greek…)—with an orange for dessert.

After a little exploring, we made our way to bed. Although we were all more than ready for sleep, I’m sure everyone would heartily agree that it had been a memorable day. I will always remember the tremendous echo of the beehive tomb, seeing the Lion’s Gate and recalling the legendary, historical events taken place there, the sights of the valleys and snowy peaks of Greece, and the enjoyable conversations and companionship that took place continually throughout our day—on the four hour bus ride, on top the citadel of Mycenae, or before we said goodnight, laughing and recalling funny and unforgettable moments.

Wednesday, March 25: OLYMPIA
Day at leisure.
The shops will be open on that day. Opportunity to watch the school's parade commemorating the Independence Day of Greece from the Turkish occupation.Dinner and overnight at hotel in Olympia. (B,D)

Thursday, March 26: OLYMPIA - GLYFADA (ATHENS)
Morning visit of Ancient Olympia which is the birthplace of the Olympic Games and the most important sanctuary of Zeus, father of all gods and goddesses.
The starting line is still visible etched on the marble in the stadium there, inviting you to run and in your imagination compete with the ancient athletes. Enjoy the play of light on the soft greenery and dappled ancient columns in this wonderful and peaceful setting. We visit the archaeological museum beside the ancient site.  It contains most interesting exhibits such as the pediments and the metopes of the Temple of Zeus, the Statue of Nike and of Hermes. 
After the visit we take the road back to Athens.

Arrive at hotel in Glyfada late in the afternoon for check-in, dinner and overnight. (B,D)

Thursday, March 26: Olympia – Athens
Chloe’ Richardson

Olympia was one of the most peaceful places we visited. After rousing ourselves from slumber, we ate a hurried breakfast in the company of some hundred rowdy Italian students. Onward into the bus and a few minutes in one of the four directions, we arrived at the archeological site of ancient Olympia. The air was fresh and damp and clear, bright and chill as the sun was only just emerging over the tips of the trees. On arrival we crossed over a bridge with a lovely river flowing by. It was surrounded on both sides with lots of trees and vines.  And with a happy suddenness, the ruins materialized ahead of us at the end of the bridge.  They were gentle and firm in the morning light. Olympia was all dappled sunlight, bright grass, innocent flowers, gentle trees, and grey, fragile stone. 

Although much less intact than several other temples we had seen, the archaeologists knew a lot about the uses of the buildings.  The largest and best temple of Zeus was there at Olympia, housing the magnificent statue of the god, standing over twenty meters high. The idol was of course not there when the archaeologists discovered the sight—the statue was far too rich and ornate to withstand two thousand years of man’s impatient greed—but there are numerous descriptions in ancient literature, so that they are fairly sure of its appearance.  Molds used for shaping the golden garments have also been discovered, thereby giving even more exactitude to the speculative drawings. A temple of Hera was also there, in the same state of picturesque decomposition. Pillars were fallen down with early spring blossoms blooming up about them. The foundations of the buildings, worn by use and not made of the best stone in the first place, were pitted and battered, full of water from the recent rains.  Occasionally, one would catch a glimpse of a little drowned flower that had died a watery death in one of these crevices.  On a great many of the stones, remnants of broken walls or pillars, fossilized shells could be clearly seen. The lovely mosaic floor in Zeus’s temple was covered over to prevent decay. All around the site, there were trees and long sunken areas in the ground, into which the pillars had fallen surrounded by poppies and daisies.  

At the temple of Zeus, we stood awed by the massive pillars collapsed to the ground in proud defeat. Although the exact number does not come to mind, they must have had a diameter of at least five feet at the base.  Throughout the trip, the general attitude towards these ruins had been awe and respect for the greatness of Greeks, making things that could last so long. Even seeing the mighty temple pillars shaken from their bases in some prodigious earthquake had only inspired admiration for their wonderful preservation and great size. Mr. Hinrichs, usually the first to spark a different kind of thinking, eloquently brought our minds to dwell on the frailty and eternal slightness of men’s works. Then we saw the majestic, crumpled pillars not as a symbol of strength, but a representation of weakness. Even these mighty and astonishing edifices toppled in the throws an earthquake, and now keep company throughout the seasons with flowers and grass, dying continually, renewing perpetually.  “O LORD, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.”

Making our way to the stadium, Voula told us about the statues of Zeus which cheaters were made to erect along the path to the stadium. The name of the cheater was engraved upon the one he set up, and the disgrace was very little short of eternal. The arched way into the stadium was partially fallen down, but about a third of it remained. It was almost astonishing to feel that so many ancients had passed under the roof, full of excitement, trepidation, longing, determination. The small structure echoed with emotion. We ran our race, and Clark Hurd won. Mr. Hinrichs pointed out despondently that he was now a four-time Olympic looser. We crowned Clark with a little double-pronged olive twig for a victor’s garland.  We girls crowned ourselves with flowers. Certainly one need win no race to ornament one’s self. We left the stadium breathless and wishing the old canal still flowed with spring water, as it did in the ancient times. As we left the archeological site, the wild flowers were progressively lovelier, and frequently amazed and refreshed by their beauty, we stopped by the way to take pictures of all that we could.  

From there, we traveled on to the museum where all the splendid artifacts are kept.  The rooms were massive and echoing. As we entered, the first things that confronted our gaze were the amazing collection of statues which hitherto had reposed at the tops of the temples. The scene was of the Greek’s battle with the Centaurs. The craftsmanship was exquisite—rich in detail. The expressions on the faces were brimming with emotion--terror and anger and pain all flawlessly portrayed. The terrible, inhuman rage on the faces of the centaurs was shockingly vibrant. The veins on the hands were so delicate and lovely one felt as if there might be blood coursing through them. Mr. Hinrichs told us the story. The centaurs were brutes, half animal, half human.  The fiction of the Greek’s battle with them was an externalization of their battle with themselves, and their own bestial natures. We saw the statue of Hermes holding baby Dionysus, and Voula related the strange, typical tale of adultery, murder, and strange births common to many of the stories of gods. Among the other splendid sites was the statue of Nike, very bashed up and imminently glorious. It looked like it would sweep down upon us. Then we saw the helmet of Miltiades, brought to Olympia as a votive offering by the general who led the Greeks to glorious victory against the Persians’ first invasion. It was squashed and green, but nonetheless awesome.  

We quitted Olympia in the early afternoon. The car ride was amusing and did not feel long, although it lasted for some four or five hours. We played the “What if?” game, laughed a lot, and then exercised our fertile minds in the creation of “Add-On” tales. Mr. Hinrichs assigned us an Aristotelian tragedy, which we carried out with giggles and despair.  Then he assigned an improbable romance, subsisting between Bob and Barbara. This strange couple caused many a one to break down laughing. It was the most fun car ride I ever had.  After arriving in Athens at the same hotel in which we began our glorious week, we dragged ourselves up the "Endless Staircase of Monte Cristo" which by now seemed like an old friend.  We had dinner,  embraced one another, and prepared ourselves for the parting.  



Friday, March 27: ATHENS DEPARTURE
Breakfast. Transfer to Athens International Airport with our representative for departure flight.

Christina Lambert
March 27, 2009 

3:50am! We woke up very bright and early, and a drowsy group herded on to the bus for the last time. The night before, we had said goodbye to the lucky few who had later flights and the ten of us jostled sleepily along on the tour bus towards the Athens International Airport. Glancing out the window I took in the last of Athens, silently saying goodbye to Greece. A flood of wonderful memories filled my mind about this unforgettable trip.  A happy blur of crystal blue seas, historic ruins, and incredible history danced before my tired eyes. At the airport we split ways once again with another part of our group and Mr. Hinrichs and his five charges set out through the airport. Yet for all our easy sailing on this wonderful trip, something still had to go wrong. On previous trips they had left students behind, been accused of stealing costly cloth and breaking down hotel doors, so this trip had just been too easy. Well, of course, something did happen. While checking in our luggage, Mr. Hinrichs could not find his passport! He searched and searched, tore apart his bag and looked everywhere for his passport. Finally after almost a half an hour of searching, he looked at us and said we would probably have to trek home alone while he handled this awful ordeal. But in one last-ditch effort he sent the boys to look for it one more time… sure enough when Clarke checked, stretching his hand deep into a pocket he found the important document. Overwhelmed with relief, we happily passed through security and boarded our flight to Spain, then to Chicago, then finally home… California. The plane rides were a mix of typical plastic plane food, heated debates on communion, sleep, a movie, a discussion of the movie, more sleep and then some more debating (Well… you could expect nothing less from a GBT crowd J). Also on the plane Mr. Hinrichs got me to use my Spanish with the stewardesses… and when our stewardess gave us our customs forms she gave me mine in Spanish! It’s a wonder that I ever made it back into the US! Parting with our group a few at a time, after one long, tiring day we all finally made it home. At home, I tried my best to describe the incredible sites we had seen, the beautiful scenery we had driven past and the wonderful group I had shared it all with. I told my family about the incredible feeling of walking up the Acropolis and seeing the awe-inspiring Parthenon! I could hardly express the beauty of the breathtaking sites we had seen such as Delphi, Mycenae and Olympia. I grasped to put into words the incredible feeling of seeing the Bema in Corinth and Mars Hill in Athens, the sites where the Apostle Paul had been, and I tried to explain the beautiful sound of “Amazing Grace” as we sang in the tomb of Agamemnon.  I told them about our fun at the Greek Independence Day parade and our intense race at Olympia.

Long into the night, (and because I had jet lag it was about 9:00am my time so I was ready to talk all night - my poor familyJ) I recounted the fun of our long bus rides, with movie filming, hilarious add on stories and the fun singing Mr. Hinrichs’ acclaimed Greek alphabet song! Finally drifting off to sleep that night…. at about 1:00am… I thought of the wonderful experience Mr. Hinrichs had given us all. Not only by putting this wonderful trip together, but through his dedication to teaching us the incredible history and philosophy of the ancient Greeks. A year and a half of GBT reading had come to life first when I had sat weekly in class and heard Mr. Hinrichs impart his passion to us of these important Greek works and now seeing the actual Parthenon that Pericles had built, walking the real Agora where Socrates had discussed and seeing the theatre where Sophocles famed works would have been played. I am so grateful to Mr. Hinrichs for the incredible opportunity he gives us from his classes and his unforgettable trips. Everything about this trip had been “exceedingly abundantly beyond all that I could ask or think,” the rain had held off when we needed it to, the passport had been found just in the nick of time, the group had jelled so well and the experience of being in Greece had been beyond my wildest dreams. This wonderful trip had had more fun, history and amazement packed into one week then could ever possibly be legal in the state of California. (Good thing we were in Greece, huh?)

(Editor's note: Thank you Christina!)



Movies from the Greece trip can be downloaded at