Italy and Greece for Fall Break!

It’s hard to believe that October is almost over! This past week was fall break and our mid-term finals were before that. I only had a final in Finance and hopefully I did well. We haven’t gotten our grades back. After the Finance final on Friday we took off to Brussels for our flight to Rome, Italy!!! We arrived in Rome about noon on Saturday and had a jam packed afternoon seeing all the sites like the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and some other monuments. We went back to the hostel around 8pm and called it a night. Sunday we met up with Josh and Brian at the Coliseum and got in the front of the line with our Roma Pass which we purchased at the train station. We got a guided tour which lasted around an hour and then headed over to the Roman Forum. It was so neat to see how the city was over a thousand years ago! I studied three years of Latin in high school and all the things we translated talked about the Senate House and the Forum and I was actually standing there where it all took place! It was a crazy feeling. After walking around there for a while we climbed to the top of Palentine Hill where there were gardens and old houses where people use to live. It was amazing. Afterwards we walked to where the Circus Maximus was, which is now like a park, but you can still see where the chariots would race. We walked further down and saw the Mouth of Truth which is part of an old church, and then went to St. Peter in Chains church where Michelangelo’s Moses is along with the chains that actually imprisoned St. Peter before his execution. Sunday night we got some pizza and wine, which is everywhere, and hung out at the hostel.

Monday morning we got up early and headed to the Vatican City. We took the metro and got there by 9:30. We stood in line to get into the Vatican Museum where the Sistine Chapel is and walked through there with an audio guide. All the galleries were very impressive and the so was the Sistine Chapel. There were tons of people gathered in the chapel staring at the ceiling. It’s still hard for me to believe that I was actually there! On the way out of the Sistine Chapel, we made a wrong turn and ended up outside in the back of the museum. There was a passageway that led through the tombs of the Popes and we followed that through and it popped out inside St. Peter’s Basilica. The Basilica takes your breath away! Walking through you think you have seen everything and then there is another room you didn’t see before. It’s the largest church in the world and words cannot even describe how beautiful and overwhelming it is! After leaving the church we still had our audio guides from the museum and somehow had ended up in the church so we had to walk all the way back around and turn our guides back in. We shopped around in the market in front of the Vatican for a while, I bought a scarf and other people bought jewelry. All the jewelry there was so pretty. We left the Vatican and took the metro and a bus out to the Appian Way. It was the first “highway” and is a few miles outside of Rome. It was very peaceful there and nice to see the cute Italian houses and fields. We walked from the bus stop to the Catacombs and took a tour of those which was pretty cool. That night we went to the Spanish Steps and climbed to the very top and got a great view of the city.

Tuesday we had a flight to Athens from Rome’s main airport which you have to take a train to get to. After missing the first train we made it to the airport with only an hour and a half until our flight left. We rushed around but finally made it. We arrived in Athens which was warm and beautiful. We flew over the water and along the coast line and it was gorgeous. Wednesday in Athens we went to the Acropolis, Temple of Zeus, Hadrian’s Gate, first Olympic stadium, Roman Agora, and Ancient Agora. It was nice because our student IDs got us in free everywhere and most of the sites were close together. Thursday we took a ferry out to Aegina Island and spent the day at the beach laying out and enjoying the weather. Everyone is Greece was so friendly and willing to help us. We met a lady from New York who lives in Greece for 7 months of the year and told us we should stay here forever. I wish we could!

After a relaxing day on Thursday reality set in on Friday. We got up early and got to the airport four hours before our flight only to see that our flight back to Rome was canceled. We had planned to go back to Rome but then take a day trip to Florence on Saturday and then our flight back to Holland left Rome at 8:30am on Sunday. Once we saw our flight was canceled we talked to the service desk about our options and we could either buy another ticket to Rome which would cost around 400 euros or we could give up on Italy and just try to get back to The Hague. Our airline said they would exchange our tickets to Rome for tickets to Paris and we would have to catch the train to The Hague. We decided this was our best option (no Florence) and they had to put us in the airport hotel until our flight the next day to Paris. The hotel was very nice and they even paid for our dinner and breakfast. Saturday was a long day flying to Paris and then taking trains to Brussels, Antwerp, and finally Den Haag. We made it home around 10:30 Saturday night! Traveling in Europe you definitely have to learn to be flexible and that is something I am trying hard to learn! Now we are back and staying here for a few weeks. We have some papers and projects due in the next few weeks so it’s time to sit down and focus on school work.

Thanks for reading!

Amanda Hesse

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