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June 1, 2010

2009-2010 Season - Follow the Vikings in Greece

The Augustana women's basketball team will spend 11 days in Greece starting June 1. During their tour, the Vikings will play three games and visit several attractions, inluding the Acropolis. Follow along as players Natalie Runge, Allie Scaggs and Jessica Scott document their and the team's experiences overseas.

And we're off!

Our trip to Greece has started off very smoothly. After flying from Moline to Atlanta, we are now awaiting our 11 hour flight to Athens. We will get there at 10:30 a.m., and so we will have to adjust to their time right away. We are all waiting anxiously to board our plane and begin our journey to Greece! A few things that we are looking forward to the most are our three games, our one-day cruise of the Saronic Islands, and our tour of the Acropolis. Stay posted for more details and pictures from our travels!

Posted by Natalie Runge

June 1, 2:37 p.m.


We made it

After a long day of traveling, we finally made it to Athens. We left Moline on time and arrived in Atlanta. After we left there we were diverted to St. John's in New Foundland, Canada because the de-icing wasn't working on the wings. We sat there for close to three hours then finally made our way to Athens for nine hours where many of us slept the majority of the time.

Posted by Jessica Scott

June 2, 11:25 p.m.


Athens at night

We were very relieved to finally make it to Athens but at least now I can say I have been to Canada. The view of Greece from the plane was so beautiful! After we landed, we had a short ride to our hotel, Hotel Pan. We quickly got ready to eat and explore downtown Athens! We ate at a cafe and got ice cream afterwards. We then saw the changing of the guards in the front of Parliament. I loved seeing Athens at night along with all the cute cafes and shops. Also, the Greek people have been very friendly so far.

Posted by Natalie Runge

June 2, 11:25 p.m.


Katapliktikos

If I could leave this post with one word it would be the one shown above. Katapliktikos is the Greek translation for amazing. I am at a bit of a loss of any other words.

Day 3 began with a trip to the Acropolis. Rising high above the city of Athens, the view alone was surreal. Greek mythology tells that the god of the sea, Poseidon, and the goddess of wisdom, Athena, were brought together to fight for the city of Athens. Atop the acropolis the battle began and each presented the people of Athens with a gift. Poseidon threw his trident into the earth and made a salt water spring, while Athena planted the first olive tree of the country. The olive tree provided the city with food and income from trading the oils and olives. The people declared Athena the winner and therefore named the city after her.

The most famous of the structures on the acropolis is the Parthenon. The columns of the temples are made of massive marble stones. How they transported them from the quarry 26 miles away and then up to the top of the hill and then finally stacked them to form the columns without using any modern machinery is beyond belief.

Next we traveled to the first modern day Olympic Stadium! Held in the heart of Athens in 1876, the massive stadium seated 69,000 spectators. Imagining the first Olympians participating on the track that lay in front of us was quite inspiring for any athlete. Everything about Athens is breathtaking. When walking down a normal side street, at the next intersection you may find ancient ruins, a beautiful Greek Orthodox Church, or some of the sweetest black cherries you've ever had (a new team favorite!).

Day 3 was a big one, and we saw a lot! We were all happy to have a relaxing evening and begin resting up for tomorrow, our first game day!

Posted by Allie Scaggs

June 3, 4:09 p.m.


A physical game

As I write this, I am in the heart of Athens with both coaches and eight teammates watching The Athens Golden Cup. There is a beach volleyball tournament going on about two minutes from our hotel. This is how we are ending day four of our trip.

Our day was jam packed again starting with a trip to the Temple of Zeus. There we saw the remaining 15 pillars still standing. Afterwards, we grabbed a quick lunch and were off to our first international game. We played a team in Greece's A League with their players ranging from 17 to 25. It was a really good game, and we quickly learned how physical European basketball can be. It was a great experience to play a professional team, and while we ended up losing, we were happy with how we played! Time for bed now especially because of our long day ahead tomorrow, when we will travel to three Greek islands!

Posted by Natalie Runge

June 5, 9:02 a.m.


A Change of Tides!

Athens and the sights we saw prior to day 5 were amazing no doubt, but the day cruise to the islands of Poros, Hydra, and Aegina was anticipated to be the highlight thus far.

When we boarded the ship before 8 a.m. there wasn't a single ray of sunshine to be seen, and the rain was pelting at the sea. The air on the deck was freezing and the highly anticipated day wasn't looking very promising. In order to pass the time traveling and to liven the group up we all participated in a Greek dance lesson where we learned two famous dances and were applauded by the other passengers. As we approached the first stop, Poros, the rain ceased and the island began to shine! The group walked the boardwalk, ate freshly cooked octopus and even climbed to the clock tower that rested at the island's highest point, where you could view the entire harbor.

Our next stop was Hydra, a very unique island in which motorized vehicles are not allowed, and travel around the island is either by foot or donkey. With cobblestone paths leading in every possible direction the team split up to find our own journeys. Many climbed to the top of high peaks where small churches were found, while others climbed down stairs to get their first experience in the Aegean Sea. The view out into the distance was surreal. Between the misty haze and the clouds large boulders and mountain peaks shot up out of the ocean and into the sky. As we boarded the boat to travel to our final stop, the rain set in again at a very steady rate, however once again right before the island of Aegina the clouds parted and the sun was out to stay.

When pulling into the harbor the team knew what our main stop at this island would be. With a sandy beach a few blocks away we knew what the majority of our time at this island would entail. The chilly waters did not stop us from diving right in! The day that began as disappointing and gloomy turned into what some have quoted, "A life changing experience." After leaving the third island we had experienced everything we could have asked for, except for one thing, but when Coach yelled DOLPHIN! and pointed to the sea we had seen more than we had even imagined.

Posted by Allie Scaggs

June 5, 8:50 p.m.


Kalamata

Today we woke up in anticipation for our arrival in Kalamata, expecting it to be better than anything we'd imagined ... and it was.

The drive to Kalamata took about four hours, and it was gorgeous. Many of us didn't want to sleep or read for fear of missing out on the many sites to see. We saw mountains upon mountains, goats, and many cute little towns. We also didn't want to fall asleep because the second we closed our eyes, we could expect Coach B snapping a picture of us. On our way, we stopped to see the Corinth Canal. No words are able to describe this site. The width of this canal is 75 feet and it was made in the 1800s in order to have an easier and shorter route to travel by water.

When we arrived in Kalamata, known for its olives, we were all taken away by the view of the crystal clear blue of the Aegean Sea. The resort we're staying in for the next two nights is very nice. There is a pool that drops off into the resort's own beach and you should all know that was where we could be found five minutes after we arrived. We all dived right in and came back up to the air with mouths full of salt flavored water ... yummy!

As the sun went down, we headed into town to get some dinner and hit the shops. Kalamata is a lot different than any of the other towns we have visited. This town is a lot less touristy than the others and the majority of the locals cannot speak or understand the smallest bit of English. After having our dinner, we turned in for the night to prepare for another long, beautiful day in Kalamata.

Posted by Jessica Scott

June 6, 11 p.m.


Victorious in Kalamata!

Day 7 treated us well in Kalamata with our first international win! The game began with all of the players from both teams being announced, and they gave our team gifts which were three or four small booklets of information about the area. Both teams were very energetic before the game because of this different pre-game ritual. We did a great job of running our offense and being patient for a good shot. By halftime, we had a solid lead, and we finished the game winning by 21 points. It felt so good to work hard and accomplish what we set out to do. Now it was time to celebrate! We walked two blocks to PJ's Pizza, which was owned by an American couple. Both coaches had met them the day before when they were walking through town. We had a great time at dinner, and we ended up staying there for three hours! The length and time of eating dinner in Greece is so different from home; it is normal for Greek people to go out to dinner anywhere from 9-10. And it is not unusual to stay for two or three hours! Very different from the quick-paced lifestyle of America!

Earlier that day we took the public bus to the beach in the morning, ate lunch at our resort, and rested before our game. The view of the beach was beautiful! Going home from the beach we had to take taxis because the buses did not run back to our hotel. Our taxi driver spoke very good English because he informed us that he lived in New York for 24 years! I should refer to him as a tour guide instead of a taxi driver because he was talking nonstop about Greek history, which was great! He told us how the Greek people were enslaved by the Turks for 300-400 years; they gained their freedom in 1821 from the help of other European countries. This taxi driver, along with our bus driver, Joseph, have lived up to the friendly reputation of the Greek people!

Posted by Natalie Runge

June 7, 11:46 a.m.



A big win

The morning began with a trip to the Agora, the heart of ancient Athens from the late 6th Century B.C. onwards. Some of the ruins from the ancient town were dwindling down and many structures only left their foundation. However, the Temple of Hephaistos has every column still standing and has been kept in great condition. A museum found on the grounds held many artifacts found in the ancient city by archeologists, such as pots, swords, coins and even full skeletons held intact by burial tombs.

After seeing the sites it was time to rest in preparation for our final and most competitive game here in Greece. When we got the game schedule one of the team names, the Esperides, sounded very familiar. I had remembered reading online that Sheryl Swoopes was going to play for a Greek team during the WNBA offseason and sure enough it was the Esperides. The game was by far the most physical match we had experienced and they were by far the highest competition we had faced. After keeping the game close for much of the first half, late in the second we found ourselves down by 20 points. We did not throw in the towel, though. We fought all the way through the final buzzer as a team and ended up losing by 9.

Katerina Sotiriou was in attendance for the game today, and she is of the highest level of play in Greece. She plays for the Greek National Team. Even though the final game was a loss, we have won as a team and definitely grown from this trip and the experience we gained.

Posted by Allie Scaggs

June 9, 2:38 p.m.


A day at the beach

Our last day in Greece, we all had the opportunity to have a free day. We could choose between going to Delphi or spending the day at the beach. I was one of the eleven people who chose to go to one of the beaches in Athens. We took a train ride for a little less than an hour in order to arrive at one of the nicer beaches. With the hot sun beating down on us, leaving most of us burnt by the end of the day, we spent a good amount of time in the cool, refreshing water. The majority of us now have very defined tan lines to take back with us to the states. After spending nearly four hours at the beach, we finished up our day by shopping in the Plaka district of Athens.

Posted by Jessica Scott

June 11, 12:23 a.m.


The Temple of Apollo

On our last day in Greece, we all faced a tough decision: lounge at the beach or travel to Delphi. We couldn't go wrong with either decision, and five of us traveled northwest of Athens to Delphi with our athletic trainer Denise Yoder and her sister Melanie. Delphi was known to the ancient Greeks as the center of the world. It features the Temple of Apollo and the history of the oracle, who was said to have been given powers of prophecy from the god Apollo. We received a great history lesson as well as a tough workout! We hiked past the Rock of Sybil, where the oracle would give her advice, past the Temple of Apollo up to the theater at the top. The hike was worth the view of mountains and rows of olive trees stretching as far as you could see. After catching our bus back to Athens, we finished up our last-minute shopping. Our one-day trip to Delphi was the perfect way to end our 10-day adventure!

Posted by Natalie Runge

June 11, 12:23 a.m.


We grew together

Wow, how long have we been here? For many of us, it actually feels like we have been here forever rather than it flying by. With every day being booked full of activities and miles of walking or exploring, it doesn't seem possible that we could fit all that has happened into just 10 days! We have learned and taken so much from this trip. Together we climbed to the highest peaks, where massive structures were built centuries ago. We faced culture differences from food to language to lifestyle and adjusted. We never arrived at a destination without first getting lost, but each time we found our way, we grew as a basketball program and adjusted to change and never gave up, and we experienced a trip unlike any trip we may ever take again, together. Greece is a beautiful country with history around every corner and we could not be more grateful to have been granted the opportunity. We grew together as one team and one family and realized what great things we can do together if we put in the work and keep this enthusiasm with us.

Posted by Allie Scaggs

June 11, 12:23 a.m.