A group of sleepy staff and excited students left at 3.15 am in order to get an early flight from Heathrow to Athens. We arrived in Athens just after lunch and after checking into our hotel decided to go and explore. Having braved the metro we reached Akropoli station and got our first close up view of the Acropolis and the Parthenon. We went on the first of many long walks to take in some of the classical sights and soak up the atmosphere of a modern, vibrant, bustling capital city. Students were encouraged to forgo McDonalds in order to experience the delights of café culture. The selfie-stick also made the first of many appearances.
Our first full day was spent in the centre of Athens again. The weather was gloriously sunny as we began in the ancient Theatre of Dionysus, some helpful revision for GCSE and A level Classicists.
Students took the first of many photographs, although Euridice and Amanda seemed to misinterpret the concept of Greek gods and took a number of photographs of friendly, young, male, Greek students! We then climbed up to the Acropolis, taking in the splendid view of Athens and being overawed by the sheer scale and impressiveness of the temples and other buildings that remain. After a talk students were given the opportunity to spend time on their own and they all made the most of the chance to look at the buildings and soak up the atmosphere; some also drew sketches for their Art portfolios. After a lunch of gyros – real Greek fast food – we continued on to the Agora followed by the Acropolis museum. As it was our last day in Athens we returned into the centre after dinner, to eat ice cream and go shopping in Plaka – the old, tourist district.
The next day saw us transfer to the Peloponnese and the south coast of the Greek mainland via the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion. This was impressively located on the very southern tip of Attica and was a popular stopping point for sailors in the classical world, who would go and leave offerings for the sea god before they embarked on their voyage. It also reminded us of the reach and the power of the classical city of Athens, whose domination of the seas stretched as far west as Sicily and as far east as the Black Sea.
We stopped again en route to view the Corinth Canal, which as a feat of engineering is quite amazing – the sheer scale is unimaginable until one stands on the bridge and looks down. We arrived at the seaside resort of Tolon and then had a pleasant couple of hours to walk along the beach, look at the shops and sit in the beach cafes. We managed to acquire a motley crew of assorted stray dogs to the delight and disgust of various members of the group.
Saturday brought a morning visit to Mycenae. After the attention of the group had been re-focused from more stray dogs to 3,000 year old ruins, we explored the ancient citadel, which was supposedly the kingdom of Agamemnon, the most powerful king of the Greeks and the leader of the expedition against the Trojans. Students were very interested in the myths and the archaeological discoveries, and these were brought to life by a very knowledgeable guide – Sofia – who had joined us for the day. Following Mycenae we travelled to Epidavros, site of a spectacular ancient theatre and a sanctuary to the Greek god of healing, Asklepios. We spent a lot of time in the theatre, testing the acoustics, climbing up the very steep steps to the top and taking in the wonderful views. This brought our sightseeing to a close and we returned to Tolon for a final evening at leisure, with some rushed souvenir shopping and final opportunities to spend time with friends, old and new.
The flight home was uneventful and much quieter than the outbound journey. We returned to school on time and with everyone still on speaking terms. Thank you to all students who went on the visit and also to Mr Mannion, who was patient, kind and very good at checking we hadn’t lost anyone.
Anyone for Pompeii in 2018? Ms Wilson