Monday, February 2, 2009

Volos: The Beginning

Γιεά σας στον Βόλο!
The picture above is the view from my fifth story apartment in Volos which I’m currently sitting in sipping coffee and watching some football (or soccer, for those of us from the States) with my roommate. We’ve got the door open to our balcony so we can have a nice breeze and enjoy the view of the snow capped mountains in the distance. If you look through our kitchen window on the other side of our apartment, you’ll get a view of the Aegean sea which borders Volos. How lucky am I?!

Let me tell you about some fun quirks my new home has. For starters, we have the mixed blessing of living literally right next to a beautiful Greek Orthodox cathedral. It’s gorgeous and it’s a local hub since Volos is a very pious town, BUT the bell tower dings every half hour and it sounds very long and ceremoniously at the beginning of every mass. Mass is every day at 7:30am and 5:00pm. Fun! At least we’ll never have to set an alarm for class in the morning!

We’re also having fun figuring out things like European washing machines, kitchen equipment, neighbors who don’t speak our language at all, finding the things we need at shopping centers, and other silly little things like that. Still, we’re overwhelmed with joy to be here and have this fantastic apartment. Life is beautiful! Αφτό ζωή είναι πολί ορέα!

Yesterday we drove from Athens to Volos which took about three hours total with our incredibly slow bus driver and the craziest driving I’ve ever witnessed in my life. We trekked through the beautiful Grecian countryside which is a combination of gorgeous sloping grassy hills, mountains, and ocean. Greece is geographically juxtaposed, you see, and it makes for some beautiful sightseeing. I’m really working on ways to get my photos up on the internet so you can see everything I’ve talked about, but so far the only way to do that that I’ve found takes several hours. More time than I’m willing to spend. When I figure it out, I’ll let you know!

We arrived in Volos around four thirty yesterday evening, settled into our gorgeous apartment (a five minute walk from the Spierrer building where I have class), and walked the downtown area to see what life is like for the locals. After that, the whole group of students (twenty of us total) went do a beautiful restaurant on the sea for our welcome dinner courtesy of Drury University. It was a traditional Greek meal with lots of fresh seafood and some fantastic dessert. It was a lovely way to cap off move-in day!

Today was pretty easy. We just did a walking orientation of the city which included things like the hospital, shopping centers, local restaurants, the local Volos University, and other necessities of life. This town is very different from Athens. It’s about 150,000 people, so it still has a small town feel. Most people don’t speak any English (which isn’t much of a problem), they’re all more relaxed, and everything is much more slowly paced. From the hours of two thirty to about five, for example, the entire town goes to sleep. All the stores close, the factories shut down, and life stops. It’s even illegal to make noise during those hours too. Talk about easy living! The Grecian lifestyle is something to be admired.

Volos has a strong historical background, but not as ancient as Athens. The town has SOME ancient undertones, but it really started getting large in the 1800s. Since then it’s been your traditional port city with little to write home about. What I do find interesting, however, is the fact that Volos had one of the largest Jewish populations in Greece prior to WWII. Not only that, but most of the Jews lived through the war. Since Volos is right next to the Pelion Mountains, the Jews fled to the hills and formed a resistance movement. They fought for their freedom against the Nazis during the war and maintained their numbers throughout. How amazing! And yet, it’s to be expected of the Greeks (and the Jews, historically). They’re a people who are very relaxed, and at the same time they’re completely fearsome and are a force to be reckoned with. I’m completely amazed by this culture.

My roommate and I have undertaken the task of becoming fluent as quickly as possible, by the way, and we’re making some serious headway! We’re already able to order at restaurants and have small conversations with people on the street! Still, Greek is a very difficult language due to its high declination. We’ll at least be able to meet the locals halfway, which makes them feel great. I’ll be sure to let you know how it all pans out! Take care, friends! I’ll have a more substantive update later, I just wanted to let everyone know I’m here, I’m safe, and life is very, very good. Ανδίο σας!


JustJess said...

glad to get the post. your picture is beautiful! wish i could come visit... you seem so at home there. xoxo

JustJess said...

glad to get the post. your picture is beautiful! wish i could come visit... you seem so at home there. xoxo

PeterAtLarge said...

Great to be reading about your experiences, Mark. It does give one a different perspective on the world, doesn't it, from somewhere other than the US. Glad to hear that you're soaking it all in with such openness and enthusiasm.

Anonymous said...

hey marko,
love your posts. i'll be keeping track and living vicariously through you, so keep them coming!
today's euro--$1.29634 and falling.
rob winger

Anonymous said...

that's 1.28634