Posted by: Joseph J. Skarzenski | August 30, 2009

E-Bulletin #5

The new e-bulletin is up and ready to read! An emailed copy was just sent out. If you did not receive the email, please click the download link below to open the pdf file.

JTG Session 2 Bulletin 5

Posted by: Joseph J. Skarzenski | August 16, 2009

Wrapping things up

Sorry about the delay on the last daily report on the blog (August 10, 2009 – see below). I had no internet access on the way back to Athens, and have been very sick since then.

While the Journey to Greece 2009 program is now over, there are a few things still to come– all of which will be posted on the blog. First of these things is the e-bulletin covering the week-long expedition of the second session program. Also coming out soon will be another e-bulletin with student contributions. The short excerpts will focus on the theme “What the Journey means to me.”

Please stay updated for these upcoming posts!

Posted by: Joseph J. Skarzenski | August 16, 2009

Saying goodbye to Constantinople


Following a very eventful day in the city, we all packed up our luggage at the Hilton to begin our departure from Turkey. Before leaving, we had one last stop in the country: the Patriarchate in the district of Phanar.

Our visit to the Patriarchate was spent mostly at the Patriarchal Church of St. George. The church has been the home of the Ecumenical Patriarch since 1600. While the church has suffered damage due to a major fire in the 18th century, it stands in a glorious state today. We had the pleasure to walk in, light a candle, and explore the facility before leaving.

On our way out, we took a group photo in front of the church. We also saw the gate at the entrance of the Patriarchate where Gregory V was hanged.

Please click the link below to see photos from today:

Posted by: Joseph J. Skarzenski | August 9, 2009

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity


Day two in Constantinople began with breakfast at the Hilton Hotel. After refueling for a very busy day, we all got on our bus and headed for the port. We boarded our chartered boat and started our day trip to the Prince’s Island of Buyukada. As soon as we got off the boat, we were on our way to a church service. Students had the pleasure of watching the service that included the Eparch of the Prince’s Islands. Following the service, we all had an opportunity to meet the Eparch and receive a special silver cross from him!

We had two free hours on the island once the service concluded. There was a nice small reception immediately following church. We used this time to receive a group photo with the Eparch. After leaving the church, students split up and adventured around the island. Some went to visit the old Buyukada Boys Orphanage– a church property that was recently reclaimed after a landmark court case in the International Court of Justice. Others had lunch at various restaurants in the port. The area featured a great variety of places to shop, including a few exotic spices boutiques.


At 2:45 PM we returned to our boat to go back to the mainland. After arriving in the port we boarded our bus again and started to drive to the Boyacikoy district. Our jam-packed day was only getting more exciting when we arrived to the Holy Church of Evangelistria. Within minutes of arriving, the highlight of our expedition of Constantinople appeared. His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew walked down the outside steps of the Church as we followed him inside. A beautiful vesper service was held before we went back outside for a splendid reception with His All Holiness. Some students had the distinct opportunity to individually introduce themselves to the Ecumenical Patriarch before we gathered for a group photo. The event was a magnificent way to conclude the evening.

From the Church of Evangelistria we drove back to the Hilton Hotel for dinner. We were given a free schedule for our last night in Constantinople after eating dinner together. Tomorrow morning, we will visit the Patriarchate in the Phanar district before starting our trip back to Athens.

To see photos from today’s events, please click the link below.

Posted by: Joseph J. Skarzenski | August 8, 2009

Arrival (Saturday write-up)


We started today off bright and early to finish our journey to Constantinople. Immediately after breakfast we got on our bus to drive to the Greek border. After arriving, we browsed through a duty-free store before continuing our travels. Our next stop was at the Turkish border. We all purchased our visas there before continuing into the country. After spending some time at the border station, we were back on the bus and on our way again.

From that point on students’ hearts were pounding with excitement as we grew closer and closer to Constantinople. As we reached the outskirts of the city, we began taking photos of the city that is so different from anything else on the planet.

Our first visit was to the famous Hagia Sophia. The building served as an Orthodox church, Muslim mosque, and now as a museum. A first visit for many students provided them with an amazing experience as they gazed at the remains of Orthodox iconography in the building as well as the Muslin art that covers all of the walls. Following our visit we took a group picture in front of the Hagia Sophia before moving onto our second event.

The Bllue Mosque was just a quick walk over from the Hagia Sophia. Along the way through a park we took another group photo with the Hagia Sophia in the background. After, we walked directly to the Blue Mosque. Upon arrival the men took off their shoes while the women covered up and also removed their shoes. Inside we had the privilege of admiring some of the most impressive Ottoman art present in the city. The visit also provided students with an opportunity of seeing how some of the locals who visit the mosque pray.

Two big visits were more than enough to give us an eventful evening. Our private bus was waiting for us outside of the Blue Mosque to take us to the Hilton Hotel we will be staying at for the next two nights. We checked in to our fantastic rooms and then returned downstairs for a very satisfying dinner.


To see photos from today’s visit including the Hagia Sophia and Constantinople, please click the link below.

Posted by: Joseph J. Skarzenski | August 7, 2009

En route to Constantinople (Friday write-up)



7:00 AM breakfast call was the sound students woke up to this morning. After a night of sleep and a hearty breakfast after waking up, the JTG students were ready of another day of traveling on the road. Today would be a very long, starting with a trip back up to Meteora. We would continue the day in Vergina and end in Alexandropouli.

In the morning we returned to the beautiful monasteries of Meteora. We went to the second oldest monastery, located at almost the top of the mountain! As students entered the grounds they were amazed by the buildings and gardens located right on the mountainside. The main church was an indescribable sight, featuring Athenite iconography. Much of the unique art featured scenes from the Book of Revelations and the Second Coming– both of which themes are commonly portrayed in Orthodox art.

Following our visit to the monastery we traveled back down the mountain to continue our long day of travels. Our next stop was in Vergina. The small city features one of the most unique museums ever. Located under a large hill, the museum featured the tomb of Philip II as one of the exhibits. Along with other lavish, well-preserved tombs were priceless pieces of art, gold, and armor.


The day continued with lunch in Vergina. From there we returned to our bus for one final drive today, ending in Alexandroupoli. Upon arriving to our hotel for the night, we immediately ate dinner. Students checked in to their hotel rooms after to settle in and rest up. Tomorrow morning, we will be crossing the Greek-Turkish border. By early afternoon we will be arriving in Constantinople and starting our time in the city with a visit to the Hagia Sophia.

To see photos from today’s visit to the monastery in Meteora and museum in Vergina, please click the link below (note: no photos of any kind were allowed in the museum).

Posted by: Joseph J. Skarzenski | August 7, 2009

And we’re OFF (Thursday write-up)


This morning we grabbed our luggage and departed from Athens. We met at approximately 9:00 AM for our week-long excursion by private bus. Before we knew it we were out of the city and in the country-side of Greece. Our destination for the day was Meteora.

On the way to the amazing monasteries, we stopped briefly in Thermopylae. We got off the bus to see the memorial of Leonidas and the 300 Spartans who fought in the Greco-Persian War. After taking a photo in front of the memorial, we were given some free time to roam the area. Students were awed by the fact they were standing on the ground where one of history’s greatest battles took place. Some of us went up to where an old fortified wall once stood to get a better view of the “Hot Gates” and small canyon where the 300 Spartans made their last stand.

The unplanned visit to Thermopylae was a fantastic way to start off the trip. The best part was that the day was only going to get better. We were back on the road in time. When we were about half way to Meteora, we stopped for lunch at a Greek “diner.” Students reminisced their lunches at “Peresteria Taverna” as they looked at the food at the cafeteria-style restaurant. Following lunch we returned to our bus to continue our day’s journey to Meteora.

We began our ascension to the amazing monasteries of Meteora in the late afternoon. Once we reached nearly the top of the mountain, we got off for some free time to roam the area. Students took continuous pictures with each other, enjoying the beautiful scenery that complimented the photos. Boarding the bus one final time for the day, we drove down the mountain to check-in to our hotel that was located right next to the mountain!

The rest of the night was free time for students. After getting settled, many went to the hotel’s pool to cool down and relax from a busy day of traveling. We all met at 8:30 PM for a fantastic dinner in the hotel. Tomorrow morning we will be returning to Meteora to visit one of the monasteries and then continue our journey to Constantinople.

To see photos from today’s visit to the Leonidas memorial and Meteora, please click the link below:

Posted by: Joseph J. Skarzenski | August 5, 2009

Journey to Greece 2009 Bulletin 4

Below is the download link for the new bulletin! This edition covers the past week and a half of the second session program.

JTG Session 2 Bulletin 4

Posted by: Joseph J. Skarzenski | August 5, 2009

Interview with session one students

Check out this video that features interviews of JTG session one students on the island of Aegina.

Courtesy of Mr. Thanasis Papantonopoulos and his company AKTIS TV!

Posted by: Joseph J. Skarzenski | August 5, 2009

Tuesday-Wednesday write up

Sorry for the lag on updating the blog the past couple days. Between class projects and visiting family, I have been very busy. Make sure to look at the new entries and photos posted below this one.

On Wednesday students woke up to begin their last day in Athens. Turning in final essays, taking tests on the Greek language, and giving presentation on Greek foreign policy were just a few of the things students did today. After class, we had the afternoon free to enjoy a little more time in the city before we leave tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow we leave at 9:00 AM for our expedition to Constantinople. Our first stop will be at Meteora.

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