Epic Odyssey: Conquering Greece's Ancient Wonders, Souvlaki, and Socks-Off Ice Cream

By Luca M, Year 10, Corpus Christi House

In the first week of Easter break, a group of students from Years 9 to 13 embarked on a trip to Greece for 5 days to explore the sites of importance for the ancient Greeks, and absorb the great amounts of culture these places had to offer. But, it was so much more than that. Let me give you a breakdown of this excursion, and the fun we had.

First, we had to start at the heart of Greece, Athens. Unfortunately, a dreary 9 hour wait at Heathrow airport following our flight being cancelled, with only a vanilla milkshake from cafe Nero to make it all better, meant we did not arrive until the evening. The next morning we headed out and visited the Acropolis museum where we saw some assorted pots and votive offerings to the goddess Athena, as well as architectural sculpture from the Parthenon on display. Our lunch consisted of us having a pretty decent souvlaki, and an ice cream that blew my socks off. In the afternoon, we saw the most important site of all, the Parthenon and the Acropolis. For those of us who had studied this significant site for GCSE classical civilisation, it really helped in truly appreciating the statement of power the ancient Athenians were trying to make in constructing a vast and highly ornate temple overlooking the bay of Salamis where they had defeated the Persians.

After our whistle-stop tour of Athens we boarded the coach for our next destination – Delphi. The travel between sites was stunning. Over the 5 days we drove along coastlines, through valleys packed with olive trees and around winding mountain passes. Everywhere we the views of Greece’s natural beauty was a feast for the eyes. Despite the journeys being long, there was much conviviality on the coach; a mixture of pre-downloaded films, guessing games and the occasional nap passed the time. At Delphi, we got to see the ‘omphalos’ (belly-button) of the world, the location of the ancient oracle and more beautiful views over a quiet and leafy mountain range. The museum was very busy and the room stewards were rather stressed, but we were able to catch a glimpse of some archaic statues, the impressive bronze statue of the Delphic charioteer and more pots for good measure. A personal highlight of the trip was our lunch stop at the picturesque village of Galaxidi where we were welcomed into restaurants to indulge in more souvlaki, while I imagined my life there.

Our third stop was Olympia. We took an evening “volta” along our hotel’s boulevard, where all manner of souvenirs were purchased including a rather expensive Greek hoplite helmet (absolute stunner), a novelty T-shirt and a lot of honey. In the morning we began our excursion the site of the temple of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, of which one column is still standing. Very nice. A great race was held in the ancient stadium and on this occasion, nobody was made to pay for the Zanes (statues of Zeus funded by cheats!). Then, we paid a visit to its museum, which consisted of, you guessed it, more pots, but also some amazing sculptures we had studied for GCSE classics that took my breath away. Following an impromptu visit to the museum of the history of the Olympic Games, we returned to the centre of town for another souvlaki for lunch, followed by ice creams. We then boarded the coach for Hotel Tolo where the group stayed right next to the sea for 2 days, a truly scenic location (even though the whole high street had been dug up!).

On our penultimate day, we visited Mycenae. We spent the time admiring the ancient city where we looked down on some incredibly fertile land in the alluvial floodplain. The Lion gate stood to amaze, and so did the tholos tombs, which we were able to enter but smelt of damp. Then, the museum. Short and snappy, we saw two swords kept in amazing condition and lots of gold…and pots! Next, we headed to a theatre, which had been modified by the Romans and onwards to lunch for the final souvlaki and ice cream by the sea (undefeated combo). We finished the day at one of the best sites of the trip, the theatre at Epidaurus, where the acoustics were so accurate, you could hear a penny-drop from 15 meters away.

Next morning, (our final day) we began the demanding walk up the citadel of Acrocorinth, where unrivalled views were enjoyed, across both the Peloponnese and Attica from this singular spot, joined by the Isthmus of Corinth, the sea shining blue under the baking morning sun.

Overall, the trip was amazing: incredible cultural remains, good food accompanying the stunning views, and good company to share it all. This trip comes highly recommended!