By Steven Wolf
Hearing about all that Athens would have to offer made me ecstatic to begin our journey. One of the most praised things that people had recommended was the food offered in Athens. The first day in Athens was astounding. The food we ate for or first dinner was delicious, which we followed up with some local gelato. Gelato is simply amazing. It is so amazing, that I’m not sure I can ever look at American ice cream the same way again.
Our second day in Athens began with a great breakfast. There were many different Greek delicacies including feta cheese, nectar juice, grape must cookies, fresh local eggs that had bright orange yolks, yogurt, and much more. For my first lunch, I had chicken gyro which tasted extraordinary. I have no idea what the Greeks do to make their food so good! When we go back to America after our trip ends, I’m going to miss the amazing cuisines offered here as well as the beautiful views and the kindness of the people in Athens.
Students are working on the blog posts after a long and exciting day in Athens, so to tide you over, here are some pictures of the highlights!
The Acropolis Museum:
An impromptu lesson from our Tour Director, Michael, on the omnipresent graffiti in Athens and how it’s related to the Greek history of democracy.
The 1896 Olympic Stadium
The Plaka District
By Jacob Pustilnik
I’m writing about our experience at the Honda showroom. Outside were some of Honda’s new models, including their version of the small square-ish hatchback car/van. Inside there were a few Honda machines, including some Formula-1s and a couple of motorcylces. The exhibition that we were supposed to attend was just starting, so we took a seat and watched. The presenter was on one of Honda’s sit-down-Segway-type devices. Next came the real part of the show: the robot, Asimo. Asimo is Honda’s humanoid robot that it’s been working on since 1981. Until the early 90s, it was mostly working on just a way to make a robot walk, which was hard to do as early models fell over. As Honda refined its prototypes, it gained a torso and culminated with Asimo. I actually learned about Asimo in 8th grade when doing a robotics research project and when I watched a documentary over it, so it didn’t completely surprise me. If anything, I appreciated Asimo even more after having prior knowledge. The presentation demonstrated its physical capabilities, including running at seven kilometers per hour, hopping on one foot, and doing sign language. Its movements were approaching the uncanny valley. They were strangely human, but shockingly smooth. Unlike humans, Asimo froze once it stopped moving. At the end, there was a chance for a photo op with Asimo striking a pose. All of us took a group picture, and individual pictures were taken of me and my brother, Eli. After Asimo, I looked around the rest of the showroom. There were racing hubs and a regular car hub for people to feel, and racing hubs are a lot lighter than regular hubs. I tried sitting on a motorcycle. There was a little scavenger hunt for a few items in a picture, and I found all of them and won a cool pen. I forgot to peruse the gift shop, but Eli said that everything there was expensive anyway. Our time was then up, and we all left. I really appreciated that site because I myself am a technology enthusiast and am on the Bellaire robotics team. I’m pretty sure that the VP, a senior named Bernard, will be pretty amazed when I show him.
By Madeline Cullins
While in Hakone, we visited a mountainside where steam from the hot springs rose from cracks in the ground. This area is known for its onsen eggs- eggs that are hard boiled in the hot spring. Unlike a normal hard boiled egg, the shell turns black from the minerals in the spring and has a different, slightly sulfuric taste. These eggs are said to add 5-7 years to your lifetime if you eat one. The eggs are about 5 for a little under 5 USD, and the shop they are sold at also sells onsen egg merchandise, like egg charms, plushies, and other egg related knick knacks. This mountainside felt very magical to me and my friends because while we were eating our eggs outside, it started snowing. Naturally, we ran around like hooligans and I tried to eat the snow out of the air. It was a great time, 10/10.
By Delia Flores
Sumo has been held in Ryogoku since the Edo period. It is a national sport in Japan and is considered to be a religious practice because it is from the Shinto religion. A sumo wrestler trains for hours everyday to compete against a wrestler equal to or higher in ranking to him.
Today we learned about sumo from our guide, Wakako who explained to us the importance of sumo. From the price of admission to how dedicated each wrestler is. We looked at pictures, statues, a model of a sumo ring, and even ate dinner at a restaurant owned by a retired sumo wrestler.
By Jacob Way
Today we went to Odawara castle, the capital and main watchtower of the ancient Hojo and Odawara territory.
The castle is designed to be nearly impenetrable by enemy forces; the entrance leads to a winding path made to be hard to follow on horseback, the walls are surrounded by a moat and, in medieval times, was enclosed by two massive walls and protected by samurai.
This morning we visited a smaller, but much more ancient statue of Buddha. This Buddha has survived many earthquakes, but a summer typhoon washed over it and swept away its temple.
The Buddha is now outside. The closeness of this Buddha to the ground made it feel more personal to the group and its weathered state made it seem more real than the last one. The garden it sat in seemed to be made to radiate from the statue, with trees and boulders pointed towards its head.
By Katie Faour
“What if there are no outlets in the traditional hotel? “I can’t believe we’re sleeping on the floor!” “I’m glad we’re only staying there one night!”. These are all things I heard from my friends before we went to stay a night in the traditional Japanese hotel. Little did we know just how much we’d enjoy our short-lived stay there.
When we first arrived, you could easily tell how it differed from regular hotels. There was a pond with fish, and a counter where they kept the kimonos. After receiving our room assignments, my friends and I rushed up to our room. I shared it with 6 other girls and it was a ton of fun! We had the biggest room, which added to our excitement. We did in fact have outlets and a very nice, high tech restroom.
There was the option to do the Hot Springs in the hotel, which mostly everyone did. My friends and I meant to do it in the morning, but we woke up too late. The beds were surprisingly comfortable and the kimono dinner was so cool. The whole thing just felt like a big slumber party!
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the traditional Japanese hotel. I would have loved to stay more and I would definitely go back.
By Kaarthik Anand
The trip on the Bullet Train was an exhilarating one. It reached speeds over 180 mph and whizzed past trees and buildings. The course the train had took gave many magnificent views, and you were able to see many mountains and hills. The interior of the train had many similarities to an airplane.
Though the speeds were high, I wasn’t forced back into the chair. Unfortunately there were no complementary drinks. Overall the trip was smooth and had very few bumps on the track. The train had very precise timings and didn’t get late to any stops. There have only been an average of 18 seconds of delay per year on average for the past 20 years. It was very organized and people were able to get in and out quick. There was no big rush to hop on and off the train. I had a very enjoyable experience on the train and was able to get a view on the efficiency of Japan.
During the trip we were able to get a view on Mt. Fuji, and many small suburbs around it. There were many forests and grasslands around the area too.