As I left for Greece, there were three things I told myself that I absolutely HAD to do: paint a view of the city from the Acropolis, eat as much lamb as I possibly can, and hike Mount Olympus. Well…the first hasn’t happened yet, the second is a never ending battle, but the third was finally completed! What a better time to do my first hike than in Greece…and better yet on Mount Olympus! On the first weekend of October, about 30 other students and myself embarked on a journey to see the gods, drink sweet ambrosia, and eat plentiful nectar!
We departed Athens on Friday morning for a 6 hour bus ride to the mountain. I packed all my necessities in my backpack: sunflower seeds, water, and my camera…oh and clothes too. Remember how Mount Olympus looks in the Disney movie Hercules? Well, much to my dismay, that is NOT what Mount Olympus actually looks like. Instead, it is much much bigger, broader, and unfortunately does not have a shining kingdom on the top. But it is just as impressive, if not more. With an elevation of 9,750 feet, Mount Olympus is by far the tallest mountain in Greece.
We hiked for two days. The first day we hiked 6,889 feet to a shelter. The hike was actually not that difficult, and there was always a pretty clear path already made for us. While hiking up, we passed lots of other hikers from all over the world. However, my favorite of the things we passed were actual signs of autumn! In Athens, leaves don’t change color, and it pretty much stays warm until November, so all signs of Fall are lost. Seeing reds and oranges with a crispy Autumn air made me feel very much at home, and allowed me to spend some quality time with the strongest elements of my favorite season. We hiked for a good three hours. For the first half, we hiked mostly through trees and greens. But for the second part, it was mainly just rocks…a true sign that we were really getting high up.
Funny as it is, my favorite part of the weekend was the night at the shelter! It was cold…very cold, with the darkest sky I have ever seen. Coming from Philly with its lovely light pollution, I was not used to seeing the Milky Way with my bare eye. We all ate dinner together and then went up to our cabins to share stories. It was actually really cozy and reminded me a lot of retreats I do at home. This was when I really fell in love with CYA (College Year in Athens). I realized how happy I was here: not only has this program blessed me with amazing once in a lifetime experiences, but it blessed me with great new friends to share them with. That night was truly a bonding night with the rest of the program, the perfect retreat-like getaway that I realized I needed. To make this weekend even better, I woke up early the next day to see the Greek sunrise over the horizon. It was breathtaking. It was the most red and biggest sun I have ever seen. Oh by the way, we were above the cloud line, meaning we hiked through clouds!
The next day started with a delicious bowl of Greek yogurt with honey (my new favorite breakfast). We then hiked to the second highest summit (the highest we can get to by foot) for another two hours. When we finally got to the summit, I took pictures for a good 20 minutes. I mean how could you not? We were 9,550 feet above the land. The view was spectacular! We could see Greek farm land for miles on end, and even see the coast line and the Aegean Sea! Even though I didn’t see any gods, I certainly felt like one! This also could be because everyone decided to sing Hercules when we got to the top, especially “Go the Distance” during the hike up. We then started the journey down back to the land of the mortals. Ironically, my immortal experience was short-lived.
I got back to Athens late Saturday night, and spent the next day doing homework. Going to Olympus was easily one of the best decisions I have made on this trip so far. This time, I don’t think pictures do the trip justice!