- Clarksville Sports Network – Clarksville Tennessee's most trusted source for sports, including Austin Peay State University. - http://clarksvillesportsnetwork.com -

Vanderbilt Basketball Tour of Greece and Italy blog: Day #1

Nashville, TN – The Vanderbilt men’s basketball team is on a ten day trip to Greece and Italy, where they will play four exhibition basketball games. Andy Boggs, a member of the Vanderbilt Sports Information department, is blogging about the experience. He will be documenting the trip and posting pictures of some of the sites and venues that the team will be visiting.

Day #1:

Yya sas (Hello) from Athens, Greece!

Vanderbilt Basketball [1]After a 5,806-mile trip from Nashville to Athens, the Commodores arrived in Greece right around 9:00am Athens time to begin their 10-day trek across Greece and Italy. The flight lasted nine hours from Philadelphia to Athens, and although we took off at 4:20am ET, we essentially traveled through the night.

So, in saying that, there were a few pairs of worn-out eyes in the party as we arrived and hit the ground running on the sightseeing stuff. We saw the parliament building and Greece’s version of the Tomb of the Unknown soldier with honor guards guarding the tomb at all times. They are called Evsones and they are members of the Presidential Guard. They also did a little mini parade in the streets of Athens while we were down there, which you can see in the pictures.

Vanderbilt Basketball [2]We then went walked through some shopping areas, most were shut down because of it being Sunday, but we were told by our guide that there was a market area, the Historic Plaka District, that’s open seven days a week, and what do you know, there was a huge market area, with shops along a narrow street selling jewelry, olive oil, clothing, soaps, and anything else you could think of. Some of us received a tutorial on olive oils and what is good for dipping and what is good for cooking, and it’s safe to say that some of us will walk away with some of that stuff before it’s all said and done here in Greece.

It was also at the foot of the Acropolis, and you could see the structure from down below. Hope you can see it in the above.

After walking around for an hour or so, Rob our tour guide (more about him below), gave us an hour to eat along the square. There were numerous Greek cafes to choose from, but the one that we chose had guys cutting huge cuts of meat – chicken and beef – from a spitter. And it definitely did not disappoint. Skewered chicken, fresh grilled vegetables, red ripe tomatoes, tzatzicki sauce, and some of the best grilled pita we’ve ever had. Not to mention blocks of feta cheese smothered in olive oil and oregano to begin the meal and some lamb given to us by our server that stewed in olive oil and tomatoes. Don’t mean to dwell on the food part, but it was authentic Greek and it was delicious.

Vanderbilt Basketball [3]After an afternoon lounging around the hotel, we wrapped up the day at a beautiful Athens taverna restaurant, The Old Tavern of Psaras, the oldest taverna restaurant in the city (established in 1889). We enjoyed a beautiful night outside and an outstanding meal. Rob set the whole reservation up, and it was superb – from the views to the food to the company. The city of Athens is surrounded by hills, and these tavernas are stacked on the hillside, which provide for breathtaking views of the city.

Rob the Tour Guide
Rob the Tour Guide, which he will be known from here on out, will be with us the entire trip from Greece to Italy. Rob is English, but lives in Athens and travels to Italy quite a bit. Quite an entertaining chap if I must say. When we boarded the bus from the airport he picked up the mic in the bus, started blowing on it to see if it worked, and then started with the wry and witty jokes about the history of Athens and he even dropped a joke about the American Revolutionary War. All was very humorous, but he probably would have received more laughs if we had all gotten more sleep on the plane!

I’m going to try and record one of his bits as we move forward with the sightseeing…probably won’t do it justice, but we’ll give it a shot.

About Athens
Some of the stuff Rob told us about as we were driving to the city center from the airport.

Vanderbilt Basketball [4]The City of Athens is over 2,800 years old.

Fifth Century BC was the golden age for Athens. The foundations of medicine and literature were laid at that time, and Athens had a population of over 100,000 people, making it one of the world’s largest cities.

The terminal decline of Athens began after the fall of the Roman Empire in the fourth and fifth centuries AD.

In the 15th century, Greece was captured by the Ottoman Empire.

In the 19th century, Greece won its independence from the Ottoman Empire and installed its first modern king, King Otto, who was actually German.

More tidbits
We ventured onto the other side of the Plaka District for our dinner excursion. You can see the pictures below and in the gallery.

Vanderbilt Basketball [5]We have not seen one fly or mosquito on the trip. We asked Rob about it, and he said that with the lack of rain in the climate and standing water, there’s no reason for the flies or mosquitos to venture into a mountainous climate such as Athens. Imagine a night in middle Tennessee without insects!

The players stopped for some gelato on the way back to the bus from the restaurant.

The freshness of the food and the ingredients in this part of the world is indescribable.

Monday itinerary
First game is Monday night against the Athens All-Stars, but the Commodores will visit the first modern Olympic site, the sprawling Acropolis, the Parthenon, and the Temple of Athena Nike during the day.

It’s been a long day in Athens, and we are all ready for bed. So, until next time, AntĂ­o! (Goodbye)