Our study abroad students share their personal experiences in Greece. From the plane ride to the universities and from the monuments and museums to the seaside, you'll hear first-hand details of their Greece adventures.
The first lecture during our study abroad tour was at the Bank of Greece.
Today we went on a visit to the National Archaeological Museum.
An introduction to the causes and consequences of Greece's Economic Crisis.
One evening we spent our time at the Acropolis Museum.
Lecture with Dr. Sophia Dimelis on the Greek Economy and Crisis.
Reflection of our day spent touring the beautiful island of Santorini from every aspect.
An analysis of consumer behavior and the shipping industry during the Greek Financial Crisis
The UGA ladies take a tour of the Archeological Museum and the city of Thessaloniki
Bank of Greece Lecture
April 23, 2020
The first lecture during our study abroad tour to Greece was at the Bank of Greece and the accompanying Bank of Greece Museum. The Bank of Greece is the central bank for Greece; therefore, it can be compared with the United States' Federal Reserve.
We started at the museum where we were given a guided tour. This provided a brief overview of the Bank of Greece and the money that has been used in Greece over the centuries. It turns out, the Bank of Greece and the Federal Reserve have key differences. For one, it must be remembered that the Bank of Greece is operating within the Euro Zone and European Union and has guidelines and restrictions that the Federal Reserve in the United States does not have. Also, the Bank of Greece oversees printing notes and coins and monitoring monetary policies. The Bank of Greece only prints enough money to replace worn-out currency, though. Half of the bank belongs to the public sector while half belongs to the private sector so that the bank does not have the right to print extra money that could lead to inflation. In the United States, the Federal Reserve does not print money; the Treasury prints money. The Bank of Greece also prints documents with security features like IDs and Passports. A third difference between the Bank of Greece and the Federal Reserve is that the Federal Reserve monitors inflation and unemployment while the Bank of Greece only monitors inflation. Remember that less unemployment leads to higher inflation. When unemployment is high in the United States, the government will put money into the economy by investing. More money in the economy means inflation. Greece and much of Europe will not do this because they are leery of inflation. Reasons for this go all the way back to World War II. After WWII there was hyperinflation. Greece experienced hyperinflation of 500% while Germany experienced hyperinflation of 5000%! Money was worthless. Today Greece likes to keep low inflation rates, around zero, while the United States likes to keep inflation rates around 2%. This is not the only sign of Europe’s fear of inflation. There is talk of taking the one cent euro out of circulation for convenience, but there is also concern that this will cause inflation.
The lecture we attended at the Bank of Greece gave an overview of the crisis. The time period for the crisis is from 2009 through today. Greece has had two options for dealing with the crisis. They could exit the Euro Zone and discontinue the use of the euro. They could also go through a bailout. Initially, an exit from the Euro Zone would be easy, then there would be inflation. Greece chose a bailout. There were a couple of different causes of the crisis. For one, there was the development of the twin deficits. One deficit was between imports and exports while the other was in the private sector. Also, GDP was growing with the deficit so the deficit was hidden for a while. Through adjustments, the Greek economy has improved. Current account balances were in balance in 2015. Debt as a percentage of GDP went from approximately -10% to approximately 4%. Overall, Greece would like to improve competitiveness in labor and price to strengthen the economy. Headwinds encountered by Greece today include uncertainty due to delayed closing of the 2015 2nd review in 2016 and fiscal overperformance. It is hoped the 2nd review will be closed in June 2017 and reduced uncertainty will provide momentum for the economy. Strengths in the economy include industry/manufacturing, exports and unemployment. Unemployment is better but is still upwards of 23%. This percentage is higher for young people. Many people are in low paying part time jobs. Weaknesses in the economy include pessimistic consumers, low investments and the banking sector. The growth outlook is positive. Short term, government spending outperformed in 2017 so they have room to publicly invest this year. Also, the global economy is recovering from the recession, so exports and tourism are doing better for Greece. Long term growth is expected from increased productivity, but after investments improve. Regarding debt sustainability, the Greek debt decisions should be made now because of low interest rates. Then repayments of debts should be postponed for a later date after growth has occurred.
Discussion after the lecture brought up interesting points. Tax was loosely enforced before the crisis. Now tax rates are very high. Citizens are paying tax rates of up to 45% and higher while businesses are paying rates at an average of 75%. Meanwhile Greece is trying to attract foreign direct investments. This includes FDI from industries like tourism/hospitality, renewable energy, communications/transportation, shipping and food processing. Currently China is looking at Greece as a gateway to Europe for their products.
Implications on Greek consumers are significant. Many are unemployed or underemployed. They can only receive government assistance for so long. Among Greeks there is dissaving. This means they are making less money but unwilling to give up certain lifestyle aspects. Therefore, they save less money so they can spend the same as they were before the crisis. The high tax rate also significantly impacts incomes. One of the few breaks that Greeks are getting is rents are low right now. Low rents have allowed small business owners to stay open throughout the crisis.
National Archaeological Museum
April 23, 2020
We entered into the Pre-Historic Collection area of the museum and took a moment to look at the chronological chart and map of Greece, marking the Prehistoric sites. The Paleolithic Era was first follow by the Mesolithic era, Neolithic era, Early Bronze Age, Middle Bronze Age, Late Bronze Age and the Sub-Mycenaean Period. From there we learned about the Cycladic culture and how these islands have an abundance of alabaster and marble. We saw multiple figurines with the women positioned as covering their stomach (or the child they bear) and a statue that was four and a half feet tall. Ana mentioned that because the Bronze Age did not have iron yet, all of the shields and protection devices used were made of either gold, iron, or bronze. We saw the bodies of two children that were found with their bodies covered in gold. Crowns and gold scales were found as well and all of this helps us recognize that the bodies were of a royal family. We saw remains of a helmet that was used back in the day, made solely of leather and boar's tusks. We later entered the Sculpture area of the museum and saw incredible pottery, statues, and figures in architecture. It is mind blowing to see creations that date back to such a long time ago and imagine the people that used these things/built them. Something that really caught my eyes was a find of a pot/mug with a swastika pictured on the front of it. It was from the sanctuary of Mt. Zeus on Mt. Hymettos. We saw a glimpse of wall paintings and decorations with frescos from Akrotiri as well as a piece of furniture. Overall, it was just incredible to see the artifacts that have been preserved for so long. The history of Greece is so important to it’s country so I’m grateful that I got a chance to experience it and see so much of it close up. I could spend days there asking questions and imagining the way each object was really used. But for now, I admire the effort put into each artifact and the incredible creativity and strength that it took to build each statue, piece of furniture, and pottery piece.
An Intro to the Economic Crisis
April 23, 2020
Our first stop was the Central Bank of Greece. As we entered the museum, there was a huge container filled with shredded Euros. I learned that these Euros were shredded because they were damaged or overused. This is typically the only reason any countries that are part of the European Union print new money. They do not use the increasing or decreasing of the money supply as a tool to inflate or deflate the economy, unlike the US who uses the money supply for job security. The European Union fears the use of inflation due to the consequences of World War II. For instance, Germany had serious hyperinflation to the point where people in Germany were burning their money instead of buying wood, because their currency was so useless. I also learned the intricate process the European Union has developed to create Euros. They have over thirty different security measures that are used to protect the Euro from being easily reduplicated. They have a very low percentage of counterfeit Euros, ranging from about two to three percent. They also have artists who design the Euros with very detailed drawings and processes, in order to stop forgery. The museum was very eye-opening to how countries other than the United States control and create their currency.
Our second stop was inside the bank to attend a lecture about the Greek economy amidst their crisis. The two main causes of the crisis were the twin deficits, which included a large difference between imports and exports, and a loss in competitiveness. This loss in competitiveness was due to a very high unit labor cost, meaning that products and services had a very high cost of producing, so the prices of their products were very expensive, and not competitive in the world market. This led to less exports than before the crisis, which was already low due to Greece’s big service industry. Many projects were adopted by the Greek government to try and recover from the recession, but only some are effective. They started by lowering the wages of employees, so that products and services would be affordable. This has also raised employment, because lowering wages increases the amount of people a business can hire. However, these low wages were also being taxed by the government, as another way to help Greece make money, but this affects the consumers, because they end up with less money, so they have less desire to consume. The lower wages have helped with exports, however domestic spending has not increased significantly. The government has set review periods, to observe the success of their programs. Currently, the observations from the second review are supposed to be available to the public, but it has not yet been released. This has made consumers in Greece very reluctant that the government’s programs are working, driving purchases by consumers down even more. Overall, their programs have had three major strengths: industry-manufacturing increase, exports increase, and employment increase. An increase in manufacturing has led to products declining in price for consumers, meaning Greece can export more, which has a positive effect on their economy. More exports, leads to more help being needed, so more employees are being hired, decreasing the unemployment rate, although it is still very high. Their programs have also had three major weaknesses: decrease in consumer spending, decrease in investment, and bank liquidity. Considering consumers have less money from lower wages and higher taxes, they have less money to spend on luxury items, less money to invest in businesses, and less money to deposit into banks. All of these consequences lead to a weaker economy. Although the Greek economy is doing much better, it still has many years before it can completely recover.
In our second lecture, we learned about the New Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Greece. Considering Greece never had a full and deep Industrial Revolution, they never had a very successful manufacturing sector, and still relied heavily on agriculture and the service industry. A lot of businesses relied on the government for success, which was not sustainable for the Greek economy. They relied heavily on imports from other countries, which began to lead to the crisis. Construction was also a large part of their economy, which is not typically what a developed economy relies on. Greece was missing the innovative industry. The innovative industry consists of: creating new product, producing a product more efficiently, and/or new ways of branding your product. This was missing because most people either worked in the public sector, or for a small business to make pocket change, but nothing new was being created, the sectors were low-tech, and the services were non-tradeable, so they could not compete with the rest of the world. Now that Greece is trying to recover, it has been discovered that the most important part of having a successful business, is having new innovative ideas or products, and selling it to the rest of the world. Some Greek businesses have been successful by doing this through ecommerce. Another way to phrase this is “born global,” meaning that from day one, the business exports all of its products. This change is so important considering the decrease in money that consumers in Greece have to spend on products. It is also important to be competitive, the internet is a huge tool that many other countries use, so it is important that businesses in Greece use it to their advantage as well. It is currently difficult for people in Greece to start businesses because of their lack of money, and the very small amount of loans the banks in Greece offer, but with help from universities and researchers, a successful business is possible, and can be very advantageous to the Greek economy.
The Acropolis Museum
April 23, 2020
Two days ago, the group visited the Acropolis in Greece. For the longest time, the Acropolis was the tallest point in Athens. It is a hill near the center of the city. There was civilization on the top of this hill before the area was a city. Since then, it has been home to monuments dedicated to the Greek gods; it has been known because of its role in democracy; and it has survived attack. Today, we visited the Acropolis Museum which showed us more about the statues and other artifacts from around the Acropolis.
Before we were even in the museum there was plenty to see. Right below the museum is an archaeological dig of an ancient Athens city. There are large viewing areas while other areas have you walk on glass so that you can see the dig right below your feet. In one of the viewing areas there is a large well where everyone tries to throw a coin in.
Our tour was guided by Anna, who has been our tour guide the whole trip. She explained to us what was going on at the museum. For one, all the statues atop the Acropolis are being removed and replaced with replicas to help preserve them. The replicas are kept in the Acropolis Museum, the British Museum or the Louvre. There are also countless artifacts, vases and other statues that have been found all around the Acropolis that are being moved into one of these three museums. Many of the artifacts are in the British Museum. There is discontent amongst the Greeks as to why the British have claim to so many artifacts. Before the crisis, Greece had hired Amal Clooney, wife of George Clooney, to help in their case to bring their artifacts home. Unfortunately, the case had to be put on hold because of budget cutbacks during the crisis. The designers of the Acropolis Museum were not silent in the discontent, though. They found an interesting way to make the public aware of the situation which will be discussed later on.
The walk through the museum started with a video describing the removal and restoration of artifacts from the Acropolis. Several displays showed what the Acropolis would have looked like over the centuries. Walking up a sloped floor, visitors could view different vases. Many were vases that would have been filled with water and used for the last bath before someone was married. They were covered in designs of people getting ready for the wedding. The early ones were black figures on the red clay background while later vases were red clay figures on a painted black background. While moving through this part of the museum, you could look through the floor into the excavation of the ancient Athens city.
The next part of the museum had all the statues together. The designers did this so they would not be alone. Visitors can walk amongst the statues, all posed, without glass barriers. Some of the statues were in better conditions than others. All pieces had been cleaned. You can still see the paint on some of the better preserved ones. The first ones were the older style with more Egyptian characteristics like wide eyes and bodies that were standing straight and tall. Features were overexaggerated. Kore statues of women would focus more on clothing than on the body at the time those statues were made. They all had archaic smiles and the ringlets in their hair were carved with care. One had a replica next to her to show what she would look like without the paint worn off. Through time, Greeks developed their style where the smile disappeared and the body started to turn with a foot stepping forward. Pictures were not allowed here because some of these pieces had not been published amongst the archaeological world.
Next you come to the Karyatids. These female statues are the originals from the Erechtheion, a temple on the Acropolis dedicated to Athena and Poseidon. Now copies take their place atop the Acropolis. Each maiden has a distinct braid that are all similar but have different curls. It took four years to clean the statues using laser technology. One is nearly destroyed from when the Acropolis was attacked in the 1600s. One of the six is missing from her sisters. She is in the British Museum.
The top of the museum was designed as if visitors were walking around the Parthenon, another temple atop the Acropolis dedicated to Athena. Everything is modern and simple, though, except the artifacts. Simple metal columns, one for each column around the outside of the Parthenon, make their way around the top of the museum. Between each column is the scene carved in marble that would have been between the columns of the Parthenon. Along the inside wall of the top floor of the museum runs the panorama scene that would have run around the inside of the Parthenon. This gives you an idea of just how big the Parthenon is. Some scenes were destroyed in the attack, so there is a black space between those columns. Some of those that were destroyed we know what they look like because artists sketched them, so there is a picture next to the empty space. Other spaces are black because those scenes are in the British Museum or the Louvre.
Now, back to the designers of the museum making visitors aware of the situation with the British Museum. Many of the scenes on the top floor and many of the statues have missing parts that may never be found so those areas are left blank, not to be restored for historical purposes. But many of the scenes and statues have been filled in with plaster, which is a distinctly different color from the marble. Each plaster piece represents a piece that the British Museum or the Louvre has. While the one whole Karyatid is in the position of the British Museum, other statues may have some parts in Greece and other parts in Britain. As far as the scenes go, the Acropolis Museum may only have the bottom corner or the face of a horse while the rest is plaster because the British Museum has the rest. As amazing as the Acropolis is along with her history and her artifacts, it is important to me to end on this note: the majority of these artifacts need to be brought back so that all pieces are whole again.
Greek Economy and Crisis Lecture
April 23, 2020
This morning we met with our lecturer talking about the Greek Economy and Crisis with Dr. Sophia Dimelis. We met her at the Athens University of Economics and Business. She started off by giving us an overview of the crisis and what happened in the past that led up to the crisis. Greece is a small country. For almost the entire existence of Greece they have had a closed economy which means they do not export things. Greece is also in a spot that is on the edge of two different political powers. For a long time Greece was ruled by the Romans and then later by the Ottoman Empire. This means they never really established their own political system that was strong and based on their values. The political system in Greece before the crisis was notoriously corrupt. If a person knew someone working in the government they could have their friend take care of anything that they needed. Tax evasion has been a major issue in Greece. Greece is a country with a lot of self-employment, so the people were reporting their taxes way less than they were actually making. The economy also was never really developed because of very high interest rates.
Greece joined the Euro Area in 2001 which means they converted from their own currency to the euro. Now in the Euro Area interest rates were lower and Greece had an easier time borrowing money. So now the government had money and they started spending more of it. Because of this spending and borrowing money the government was accumulating a lot of debt. Unemployment levels were rising. Prices started to rise making Greece become less competitive in the world market. Greece was running a deficit that was turning into tons of debt. The government was spending more money than was coming in and they were spending more money to import items and not exporting anything to make that money back. Basically all of these factors came together in a whole crashing crisis and Greece had to be bailed out. This bail out was contingent on Greece making changes in their government. These changes came in three stages of reform and after each stage the Euro Area would review the Greek government and look at everything they were doing to see if the reforms were up to their standards. If they were they would pass and if not Greece would have a second chance for review and if they did not then Greece would automatically default. But still Greece has no real economy, they are not growing because they are using all of their money to payoff debt and are continuing to borrow money to payoff debt.
While walking around Athens it was hard for us to tell the real effects of the crisis. There is a lot of graffiti in the city depicting phrases and images talking about the crisis and the government. Our lecturer was telling us the crisis had affected her and her family. She had government bonds that lost almost all of their value. It was really hard for people to find jobs because most people work for the government and there were just no jobs to be had. A lot of educated people ended up having to leave Greece because they could not get the kind of job that they wanted. The reforms that were put into place are helping Greece to get back on its feet but there is still so much work to be done. Unemployment rates are still very high. The debt is still accumulating and in our lecturer’s opinion Greece may never be able to pay it off because it is so massive and includes interest. This debt will continue to fall on generations to come. There still is not any major growth in the economy because there is no money going towards purchasing of items. The crisis and the aftermath is really taking a toll on the Greek consumer. The Greek people are also being taxed incredibly high. It is amazing that this great country is going through so much and yet the people here are truly some of the happiest and nicest people I have ever met. I have no doubt that they can come out of this strong.
Santorini Island Tour and Akrotiri Visit
April 23, 2020
Today we got to experience the amazing island of Santorini, Greece. We woke up bright and early to start our bus tour of the island and our cultural visit to Akrotiri Prehistoric site. We started our tour by heading to the south end of the island to drive up to the highest point in Santorini. Here we experienced breathtaking views as well as learned about each of the cities we saw from above. From this view it was easy to see that Santorini is decorated with lots of white houses and churches with blue domes. I knew that there were lots of these beautiful churches inhabiting the island but it wasn’t until today that I learned that Santorini has over 600 of them ranging from on the island to small ones tucked in caves in the middle of the sea.
From here we drove to the prehistoric site of Akrotiri. This site started its excavation in 1967 and is on-going. The first habitation at the site dates from the Late Neolithic times, at least the 4th millennium BC. From these amazing findings we know that this settlement was the most important port of the island. Before the volcano, that caused the destruction of this settlement as well as the island of Santorini as a whole, there were many earthquakes that occurred. The people of this settlement took these earthquakes as warnings and left the island and their settlement behind to look for safety. Archaeologists haven’t found any gold or valuable personal items in this excavation because they took all of their things with them when they left. They also haven’t found any skeletons, meaning that the settlement was completely empty when the volcano erupted because no one died during the catastrophe. One of the most interesting things to me was how advanced this settlement was. Their elaborate drainage and sewage system, two story houses and intricate furniture and wall-paintings, show just how well before their time they were. Aside from being advanced, it was very well organized form of society, mainly due to their very busy and prosperous trading system. They imported and exported various products while the majority of the men in the society were potters, fisherman and farmers. We also know from the excavation site that this was a well balanced form of society, there isn’t much sign of the previous residents being showy with their goods, they didn't try and “show off” possessions or gold. There were signs of different neighboorhoods within the settlement, for instance, there is a few houses grouped together and that was where all the potters would live or all the fisherman. They built their houses close together in order to protect them from the elements as well as enemies. It was so interesting to see how much was able to be saved and is still intact today, like bed frames and windowsills. We also learned that there are signs of there being one ruler of the settlement, but not in the sense of a monarch. Something I found especially interesting is that Professor Spyridon Marinatos, the professor who discovered the prehistoric site, loved this site very much and was actually killed while working on an excavation in 1974. Since then, the project has been, and still is being, continued by Professor Christos Doumas.
After the historical visit, we then traveled north to the city of Oia, to finish our tour of the island. Following the tour of the island, we headed to the port to board our ship for the sunset cruise. While we waited for the sunset, we had the opportunity to hike to the top of the National Geological Park of Nea Kameni. This is the youngest volcanic landform in the eastern Mediterranean. It is an active volcanic centre, its older rock formation dating back 430 years and its most recent a mere 50 years. The top view gave you a 360 view of the ocean as well as the major cities of Santorini from below. It was an incredible experience and definitely worth the hike. From here, we got to swim in natural hot springs produced by a smaller volcano near by, have dinner on the ship and see churches built into the sides of mountains. Finally, we ended our day by watching the sunset into the ocean at one of the world's best viewing spots. This couldn’t have been a more humbling and incredible experience.
Athens University of Economics and Business
April 23, 2020
Today the UGA ladies headed to the Athens University of Economics and Business. We met up with Professor George Baltas who spoke on “The behavior of the Greek consumer in the crisis years.” Since the crisis stared in 2009, consumer confidence has fallen sharply and Greek individuals have become more pessimistic about the crisis. Following this, consumer credit borrowing declined sharply in 2010 leading to an array of consequences and lifestyle changes. Before 2009, Greek consumers were spending an average of €45 billion per year (approximately $50 billion US dollars per year). Post 2009, consumer spending averaged to about €30 billion per year (approximately $33 billion US dollars per year). Following the “Memorandum of Understanding” in 2012, the average minimum monthly wage dropped to €683 for a full-time job leading to an unemployment rate of 25%. GDP and GDP per capita have also declined throughout the crisis years. In 2015, the majority of Greek inhabitants (60%) reported that their economic situation stayed the same during the crisis years. However, in 2017 the majority of Greek inhabitants (54%) reported that their economic situation worsened during the crisis years. With high unemployment and reduced wages, 40% of the population in Greece is on or below the poverty line; however, this is not hereditary poverty. Economic situations are a result of the crisis. To cope with the financial hardships, Greek residents have shown the following behavioral responses: families comparing prices, purchasing fewer products, purchasing cheaper brands, and only purchasing absolute necessities. Most Greek individuals today avoid big-ticket items in attempts to conserve money. However, people buy local goods to support local businesses. These small changes act in combination with hope in order to prevent the middle class from becoming obsolete.
After a short break, we met with Professor Manolis who spoke on the shipping industry and its importance in the Greek Economy. As a group, we learned that shipping is an international industry affected by political events, seasons, supply and demand, and economic forces. The industry, as a whole, aims to provide fast and cheap transportation-a service rather than a product. Shipping is essential and fundamental in international trade. In fact, 90% of international trade is done by sea. As a whole, shipping enhances globalization and the exchange of products and services. Containerization, the shipping method invented post 1960s, further reduced costs and improved speeds in cargo flows. Major shipping goods include crude oil, iron ore, coal, grain, and timber. Interestingly enough, the Greeks own the most amount of ships worldwide and have the largest tonnage capacity worldwide. Considering this, Greeks rely heavily on shipping enterprises and revenues. Shipping services reside in the competitive free market and are therefore controlled by supply and demand. The industry opens markets to specialization, enhances market size, eliminates distances, and advocates globalization. With different agreements and arrangements, the Greek economy can produce revenue and increase its competitiveness. Different relationships include the time charter agreement and the voyage agreement. The time charter agreement is a long-term relationship between a ship and a company that requires shipping services. Contrastingly, the voyage agreement is a one-time movement contract where compensation is fixed in dollars per ton. With these agreements, there is great potential for economic growth and success in the shipping industry, but high-risk is present. Risks associated with the shipping industry include the high value of assets and the cyclical nature of the industry. If something were to happen at sea, financial hardships would only become more trying. However, these unfortunate events are rare. Altogether importing, exporting, and shipping are essential to the Greek economy in addition to the tourism industry. As the Greeks gain more and more competitiveness in this field, there is potential for an improved financial standing.
Altogether, both professors highlighted key issues and opportunities regarding the financial crisis. Having the chance to learn about this crisis while in Greece makes it that much more interesting, tangible, and surreal. As the day winds down after lecture, we can’t wait for what’s next on this adventure!
A Tour of Thessaloniki
April 23, 2020
After a morning filled with lectures, the UGA ladies headed to the Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki. Upon entering the museum, we were greeted by a tour guide who would show us the exhibits and the city. We entered the exhibit and found gold crowns, necklaces, and plates. In ancient times, gold and silver were primarily employed in jewelry fashioned for the wealthy. Jewelry was worn during life and accompanied its owner in death. The Macedonian cemeteries, dating from the 6th-2nd BC, have provided a great number of gold finds. In life, gold jewelry was reserved for special occasions, religious festivals, and for public appearances. Golden jewelry was worn to signify wealth and was also dedicated to the gods. The gold pieces in the exhibit were omnipotent and gorgeous to say the least.
Past the gold exhibit, we encountered the most exquisite artifact in the museum, the Derveni Crater. The intricately designed vessel was used as a depository urn for the deceased ashes found in a grave. Its original function was that of a vessel in which to mix water and wine during symposiums. Individuals would dilute the wine during these events to prevent excessive inebriation because the duration of the symposium would last over a number of days. The vessel was made out of bronze and tin, but had a golden shine. The design on the vessel was that of a symposium and a hymn to the god Dionysus. The intricate workings of the vessel depicted numerous individuals in different states and scenarios creating an overall complex composition. This vessel is the only intact bronze vessel preserved from its time period, making the vessel that much more impressive.
The group then viewed papyrus preservations and tombs. Papyrus provided the ancient Egyptians with abundant writing material and gave many languages the word for paper. The papyrus in the museum was burned and scathed. Scientists have tried to piece together the writing on the papyrus, but the state of the paper makes it difficult to read and understand. In the tomb section of the museum we saw a tomb of a woman and child. The inside of the tomb was painted to represent the inside of the deceased individual’s home. Along with the paintings, artifacts and personal belongings were found, aligning with the Greek burial process. The group also encountered a preserved skeleton, hair and all.
After walking through the exhibits we then headed outside to tour the city of Thessaloniki. Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece. King Cassander of Macedon established Thessaloniki in 315 B.C. The city is named after Cassander’s wife, Thessaloniki, the half sister of Alexander the Great. The central and most important landmark in Thessaloniki is the White Tower. The tower used to be a prison where traitors were executed at the top to remind the citizens to abide the law. When executions occurred, blood would drip on the side of the building making it the Red Tower. However, the White Tower was remodeled and its exterior was whitewashed after Greece regained control from the Ottoman Empire in 1912. Since then, the tower has been adopted as the symbol of the city. The UGA ladies then came across the Hagia Sophia. The Hagia Sophia is one of the oldest churches in Thessaloniki (Sophia meaning ‘wisdom’ in Greek). Under the Ottoman Empire, the Hagia Sophia was a mosque. Upon the liberation of Thessaloniki in 1912, the Hagia Sophia was reconverted into a church. The dome at the top of the church along with the church’s antiquity made the Hagia Sophia a beautiful sight to see. One of my favorite sights was the Arch of Galerius. The arch is a 4th century structure that linked monumental structures in Greece and emphasized the power of the emperor. The marble on the arch depicts the victory over the Sassanid Persians. Although two-thirds of the arch remains, the monument does not cease to impress.
After our tour of the city, the UGA ladies were allowed to roam the city streets. The paths were lined with shops and cafés and there was an electric energy in the air. As the sun started setting, a few of us rode on a 15 minute boat ride to view the city of Thessaloniki from the water. The sky turned from a bright orange to a deep navy over Mount Olympus. Thessaloniki was soon filled with specks of light, a truly beautiful sight. As our time starts coming to a close in Greece, I can’t help but think about how lucky I am to have been granted this opportunity. Greece, you have been an absolute dream. Until next time!