What do Greek ruins, feta cheese, the Aegean Sea and the ancient Olympic games have in common?  Students from Ridgefield and beyond found out last month while on a thirteen-day trip to Greece and the islands.  The tenth annual international trip was run independently with EF Tours.
Starting in Athens, students walked among the ruins of the Parthenon atop the Acropolis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This former temple, constructed in 447 BC, was also viewed lit up at night from the rooftop pool of their hotel, which was an unexpected treat.  Other highlights in Athens were the Platka district, Zeus’ Temple, and the National Archaeological Museum, where the gold funeral mask of Agamemnon was seen.
Next was a one day cruise of the Saronic Islands, visiting Hydra, Poros, and Aegina.  The latter island is where they took their first of many swims in the clear Aegean Sea, on a beach where peacocks roamed.
In Sounion, the Temple of Poseidon stood perched above the sea, waiting for visitors to walk in the footsteps of ancient Greeks.  Afterwards on the way to Argolida, the group stopped to marvel at the Corinth Canal. Four miles long, it connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea, allowing ships to pass through.
The group then visited Epidaurus and Mycenae, before stopping to participate in a pottery workshop which provided lots of laughs.  Then came an olive oil, balsamic, and olive tasting, where some gift purchases were made. A visit to the Museum of Archimedes in Olympia topped off an afternoon of delicious, hands-on fun.
The following day, the group explored the ruins in Olympia which includes the stadium where the ancient Olympic games first took place in 776 BC.  Roughly 212 meters long and 30 meters wide, the track is rectangular, not circular. Many of our brave students tackled the heat and raced each other on the actual track where the ancient Olympians raced.  Water bottles awaited them at the finish line, but medals were not awarded for daring.
“The trip gave a once in a lifetime opportunity to people, like me, who would normally not have a chance experience different cultures," saidBrendan DiMiceli. "It was planned so well, and the tour guide was awesome, making us all feel incredibly safe throughout the trip. I would highly recommend going on a trip with Mrs. Haines and Kevin and can not thank them enough for the opportunity.”
Several hours away, along the beautiful slope of Mount Parnassus, lies the charming town of Delphi.   With hotel balconies overlooking the quaint streets of Delphi and its vast mountains, it was hard to fall asleep.  The next morning the group visited the Delphi ruins, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Best known for its Oracle, it also includes the Sanctuary of Apollo and other well preserved buildings.
“The Greece trip meant making new friends with an outside-of-school bond, having a firsthand history lesson, and making memories you won’t forget,” said Alexandra O’Malley.
The trip ended with a three day cruise of the Greek Islands of Santorini, Crete, Mykonos, Patmos, and Samos.  A few highlights were the windmills and blue domed church buildings in Oia Village, a private BBQ and swim in the Aegean Sea, and Karaoke Night on the cruise ship, highlighted with some beatboxing by one of our chaperones.
Students made new and lasting friendships, gained a sense of confidence and increased independence, ate delicious Greek food, and took enough photos to last a lifetime.  For information on future student trips, email lindahaines0203@gmail.com