Postcard from Chania, Crete: Sarah Griffis

Thanks to an Honors College Study Abroad grant, classical studies major Sarah Griffis had the opportunity to study in Greece, Crete and Turkey this summer.  She visited the the site of the sacred mysteries of Eleusis in Athens, the “labyrinth” palace at Knossos, and the Hagia Sophia in Turkey, and discovered a new interest in the Orthodox Church. She reports below:


Scenic photo of a cove nestled in mountains.

The Classics in Greece and Turkey group began our travels in Athens, Greece, where we visited the Parthenon, the Athenian and Roman agoras, the site of the Sacred Mysteries of Eleusis, and the ancient Attic border walls. We then took an overnight ferry to Crete, where we arrived early in the morning, had breakfast in the misty mountains, and then embarked upon a six-seven hour hike in the Samaria Gorge. The Gorge hike was my second-favorite activity of the entire trip, and ended in a swim in the wine-dark sea.


Three young women are seated at a table in a cafe.

Sarah Griffis (in blue scarf) shares an Italian lunch with (l-r) Brittani Dockery and Kerby Keller on their free day in Chania, Crete.

While in Crete, we visited several museums, the grave of one of Greece’s most famous writers, Nikos Kazantzakis, tried different forms of boughatza, a Cretan specialty snack, and feasted upon meal after meal of incredible Greek food, including fresh-picked Cretan oranges, the best produce I’ve ever had. We then took another overnight ferry back to the ancient port of Athens, Piraeus. Back on the mainland, we visited several Mycenaean and Minoan sites, including the “labyrinth” palace at Knossos. We also visited Delphi, the famous Lion’s Gate, Osios Loukas monastery and church, and some of the most quaint, beautiful little Greek towns, perfect for people watching.

We brought our time in Greece to an end with a wonderful goodbye dinner and flew to Istanbul, Turkey the next morning. We began our tour of Turkey with a cruise down the Bosporus, which gave views of the coasts of both Europe and Asia. We also visited Hagia Sophia; the Blue Mosque; the Hippodrome; and Topkapi Palace, the home of the sultan for over 400 years. We finished out the trip with my two favorite events of the entire month: a trip to the Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul and the Theological School on the island of Halki, just an hour’s ferry ride from the coast of Istanbul. This trip changed me personally and allowed me to discover subjects that I am passionate about, like the Orthodox Church. Before the trip, Greece and Turkey, while interesting, seemed a faceless expanse of its own political and religious controversies. Visiting the countries, however, gave me a glimpse of the real character of the places and people, and the area now is very special to me.

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