Adversity | Spring Break | Venice | Rome | Athens | Santorini
I would just like to start off this blog by thanking the Zoellner family for taking me in as one of their own and allowing me to come on the trip of a lifetime with them! I thank you all for being my home away from home for a little while. You don’t know the impact you made on my life and the memories I now have that will last forever! From the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything!! I love you all.
"When everything seems to be going against you, remember the the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it." | Henry Ford
It's crazy how life comes full circle.. How you find yourself in the middle of situations you never thought would get better, circumstances you know you can’t change and experiences that are seeming more as lessons than times you should be enjoying. It’s crazy that’s what my outlook was at the beginning of this trip… My professor and I were talking while we were in Venice about how much we’ve all grown up, as a group, how we’re not scared to hop on a three-hour train, five-hour plane and then a five-hour bus just to stay somewhere for maybe 24 hours.. and how we are traveling with people who we didn’t know their names on March 11th. I couldn’t imagine myself with any other group – better people to travel with or people to lead this crazy bunch! I find myself laughing at situations now that I would have cried about in March. If God has taught me anything while being abroad it’s this: every moment will soon be a memory and why would you want to waste it on being negative and worrying about the next move - Go with it and go for it! I stress about everything, it’s a little known fact about me lol… I plan, I’ve always been a planner and I always will be, but God has allowed me to let go a little bit.. He's taught me a lot about adversity and about embracing each trial I face and make it through, not always gracefully, though. I'm truly thankful for all the times my faith has been tested these last few months because it has helped me develop a perseverance that can only come from God. He's turned me into a warrior who refuses to give up; who refuses to let small set-backs actually set me back and has used them to launch me into the best parts of this adventure that I never saw coming! It's easy when I'm at home and God is testing me that I have anything and everything at my grasp to get through it without God but here, I have Him and only Him to help me fully get through it. And that, my friends, is when you find ultimate freedom in who He is - when you laugh off the crazy situations you find yourself in and start praising God in the valley's of life because you know soon you'll be on a mountain top. Life is truly a roller coaster and I'm an adrenaline junky!
Barcelona was the silver lining for me on this whole trip. It was warm, sunny, the people were inviting and I fell in love. And then I woke up in Venice….. and I truly thought I was in a movie. It is EXACTLY how it looks in pictures, movies, etc. It’s thee most picturesque place I’ve been yet. The canals around the colorful buildings are full of boats and all the people are so kind and generous. I’ll never get tired of hearing, “Ciao, bella!” We did a lot of sight seeing as a class and Bre were told that you can’t truly experience Venice unless you start wondering at get lost, so that’s what we did! We started at San Marco Square made our way to a Cathedral and just kept going wherever our hearts led us. Bre gets a street painting every city she’s in and we stumbled upon some that took our breath away.. The man who painted them started making deals with us and of course couldn’t say no so we walked away with four, it’s fine, I’m just officially broke! Haha! I unrolled the painting a few days ago and it was absolutely worth it… I can’t wait to get home and hang it up next to my painting from Haiti, they’ll go perfectly together. I also found the most tourist-looking sweatshirt on the island and I of course had to have it. I was twinning with our gondola driver that night! It was too funny. When dad and I went to Vegas we stayed at the Venetian and I purposely didn’t go on the gondola ride throughout the hotel river so I would have to go on one in Venice, one other thing you can’t not do in Venice! Highly recommend!! Bre and I also stumbled upon the Jewish Ghetto and it was very humbling at how in tact everything was.. All in all, we ate far too much pasta, pizza and bread and drank our weight in wine but when in Italy! You can’t not eat the food of their country, that’s absurd. That night Bre and I had the cutest dinner right on the water, had calzone’s the side of our torso’s, drank more wine and got Limoncello on the house – it was the perfect end to a little over 24 hours in Venice!
The next day brought us sleeping in and attempting to get on the right boat to the airport, which didn’t happen lol. Thank goodness we were with our professor who found a taxi to get us there. We caught our flight just in time and headed off to Rome to meet Abbie’s mom and grandma!
We didn’t get to spend a whole lot of time in Rome but we did get to see the big sights! The Trevi Fountain, definitely worth seeing at night, where we threw in coins and made wishes we can only pray come true. The next day brought sight-seeing through the ruins and the Coliseum where I could have spent all day! Walking through the actual Rome was surreal. You’d have to spend more than a day there just learn about the history of each individual structure. We got to enter the Coliseum by way that the animals did and stand on the opposite side of where the rest of the tourists were and look straight down into what was once beneath the floor where the animals and fighters were once held. After making our way through the Coliseum, we ventured to the Vatican. Most people in our group made their way to Rome, too, from Venice because it isn’t far and we discovered that a girl from our group got to do a reading that morning during one of the services! How cool!! Since I’m not Catholic, I had no idea what the inside of the Vatican was going to look like – all I knew is I was going to get to see the Madonna by Michael Angelo. Having toured MANY churches in Europe, I didn’t really know what to expect, but whatever my expectations were, the inside of the Vatican is above and beyond anything you can imagine. Once again, my pictures don’t do the beauty justice…
Monday brought another 6 am flight to Athens and then on to Santorini! There’s not a direct flight to Santorini, so Abbie and I decided why not take another long layover and journey through Athens? We were so happy we did! We got off the Metro at the main stop in the city right outside some ruins and Abbie, shocked, says, “I didn’t think it would be this authentic..” I’m out of breath from laughing all over again. I don’t know why after all this time we still let cities surprise us – I guess that’s the beauty of Europe! I devoured a traditional Greek meal with lamb, tzatziki sauce and pita bread before we made our way through the markets and up to the Acropolis. We definitely got our steps in that day!! Like Rome, I’m not one that has kept up with Roman history or Greek Mythology, but being in such a historic place, we had to take in the fact that we were actually there. That night we took the train back out to the airport and hopped on our next flight to Santorini!
We arrived in Santorini late that night where Abbie’s mom, grandma and aunt were waiting at our hotel. We walked out of the baggage claim to a man with Abbie’s name on a sign ready to show us our car and drive us to our villa. We could not believe our eyes. I realize the pictures of Santorini are incredible, it doesn’t take a professional photographer to capture that beauty because that places capture it all by itself. But when we drove into the place that we were staying and then walked into our villa, we couldn’t believe it. “Someone pinch me,” was stated over and over again… We christened our arrival by jumping into our pool fully clothed and had a dip in the hot tub before bed.
We awoke the next morning still thinking it was all fake and had snap back to reality (and now you’re singing the song). We had a personal tour that day of the entire island. I’m not sure why I purchased post cards of Santorini because I took so many pictures… We tried some Greek wine at a wine-tasting, walked through a traditional village, walked on the black beach – which is all ground volcanic rock, got to see the red beach – iodized rock, drove to the highest point on the island and finished off our day with a rooftop dinner to watch the sunset.
The next morning, we woke up early to go sailing – I was perfectly in my element. I didn’t want to get off the catamaran. That was the moment I thought I could live comfortably in Santorini. Captain Ted was full of knowledge about the island and Greece in general, is a highly experienced sailor, will tell stories for hours, can cook food better than anyone I know and talk politics until the cows (goats, sheep?) come home – really he’s just a master of all trades – and he resembles Sylvester Stalone and lives in the states part time so we really have no complaints of that day at all. We sailed around the island and got to see the red beach from the water view, took a refreshing dip in some “hot springs,” they were not hot, had lunch with the view of the volcano and all in all, relaxed with the motion of the ocean (Aegean, really). That afternoon we took a nap of all naps then went shopping around the town of Fira. Abbie and I heard about “2 Brother’s Bar” and it ended up being the Ham’s of Sanorini – too fun!!
Thursday brought our last day on the island. The last day of being served breakfast on our veranda. The last day of enjoying our view. The last day in our amazing villa and our amazing concierge, Nico. And we didn’t do a darn thing but take it all in! We had a very relaxing day before having supper in Fira one more time. To really get the “feel” for all my pictures and my explanations, you have to go. You have to go there. Go in the off season, like we did, it’s cheaper, less people and you get to take in more of everything around you. Our concierge was a God-send and did anything and everything we needed – we were even reading back through TripAdvisor reviews and that’s just the person that he is toward everyone! We stayed at the Celestial Grand Santorini and if you ever get there, tell the concierge, Nico, we sent you! (You’ll learn they’re all named Nico, just go with it and call him Nico #1). There may have also been a song made up to the tune of, “Mambo #5,” Abbie and Kellie will be recording it soon. The last night brought the best sunset I’ve seen since being in Europe. Maybe it was because it set over the volcano or maybe it was because it was in Santorini, either way, it was priceless and I naturally didn’t take my camera…. I guess that’s God’s way of telling me to “take it in!”
We flew back to Rome on Friday, had a great nap in the airport and a great sleep in the hotel before flying back to Prague and train back to Olomouc on Saturday. Our Spring Break may have ended a day early, but it was worth it to arrive back and have a relaxing Sunday full of Jesus, laundry and grocery shopping. Oh the joys of being an adult abroad!
"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." James 1:2-4
The mound where Julius Cesar was cremated
Can I just work for National Geographic yet?
This isn't even all the food.....