Thanks to Gateway Challenges Funding and RMTE, I was able to travel to Athens, Greece alongside two other Medwards students.
Having graduated only two days prior, we were so excited for our first holiday as graduates without the usual summer-stress of paper choices and reading lists.
The hotel we stayed in was one of the tallest buildings in Athens. The views in the day were absolutely incredible and were topped only by the stunning sunsets in the evenings. We chose to stay a little bit out from the centre which meant getting the metro everyday but travelling around was so easy, convenient and cheap that it was definitely worth it (National Rail should take a leaf out of the Athenians’ book).
The temperatures were way too high for sightseeing and walking during the day (upwards of 38°c and extreme UV warnings). This meant that most of our sightseeing had to be done in the evenings which left lots of time for relaxing by the pool and reading for fun (a very welcomed pastime after 3 years of only reading theology and philosophy books).
When it did get a little bit cooler we set off on our up-hill trek to the Acropolis and surrounding archaeological sites which played a huge role in democracy, philosophy, theatre and the culture of Europe. Walking through the heart of ancient Athens we got to see exactly why it is a European Heritage site. We explored the Odeon of Herodes Atticus (161 CE) and the Theatre of Dionysus (6 BC). Having studied ancient Greek, it was a fun challenge to see how much of the inscription I could decipher. I was happy to realise that I could read most of the ancient ruins (I just couldn’t tell you what they meant). Finally, we reached the Parthenon from which we got to see a stunning 360° view of Athens – definitely worth the climb in 30°c heat.
In the evenings we also got to experience the contemporary side of the city including the quirky bars and the many, many kebabs. We even got to see England reach the semi-final of the World Cup whilst we were there. However, even when you immerse yourself in the contemporary life you can’t escape the 5th century ancient landmarks. It was an odd experience to be walking around the squares full of restaurants, bars and shops and to stumble across the ancient ruins of Hadrian’s Library. At night it only takes one glance upwards to the citadel’s lit up ruins to remind you of the city’s incredible history and the fascinating way in which the contemporary and ancient city intertwine to make Athens what it is today.
All in all, the few days we spent in Athens had a great balance – we got to experience both the contemporary Greek culture and the ancient citadel. I’m so thankful for Gateway and RMTE for allowing me to experience this – what a fantastic way to end our time at Murray Edwards!