Sunday, March 25, 2007

Modern Edessa

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The modern city of Edessa is rather small, and ‘quaint’ would be an apt description. Parts of it, near the waterfalls, are very touristy, but other parts have a nice, old-town feel.

The top photo is of the city’s outdoor theater, which is very popular here in Greece during the summer. Each town has its own municipal outdoor movie theater.

The middle photo is of an alley we wandered down, which – despite its look – is still very active. In fact, we walked by a fisherman cleaning his net outside his house. Some of the buildings are, obviously, in disrepair, and are only inhabited by stray cats (one of which you see coming out the door to greet us).

Along this alley we ran into a very – well, quaint – bed & breakfast. A lady from our group, a Finn working currently as a tour guide in Estonia, was just coming out as we walked by, and she recommended we go inside for a look. It was very nice – it would be a great place to stay! The setting was so nice that we had (what else?) the obligatory mid-afternoon coffee up on the second-floor balcony of the B&B. The bottom photo is of Pelagia slicing in to a traditional sweet (from the Ottomans, I believe). They take various ripe fruits and soak them in a jar of sugar for a few months, and it then makes for an inexpensive way to fulfill your cultural duty to offer visitors some treat when they arrive. Here, Pelagia is cutting into a persimmon.

Anyway, sorry for making so many posts at once, but I actually had some time now. Again, for all the photos from Pella and Edessa, click here.

The Waterfalls of Edessa

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Edessa is famous for its waterfalls. When we arrived, Pelagia and I had a wonderful lunch right at the top of the waterfall you see in the top photo. The weather and setting were absolutely beautiful!
The second and third photos are actually taken from behind the waterfall, where there is also a cave we explored.

Ancient Edessa

Our next stop was the ruins of the ancient city of Edessa, located just below the modern city, about 90 minutes west of Thessaloniki. For more info, click here.

The ancient city seems to have been well fortified, with a thick double wall. In the top photo, we are standing just outside the main entrance to the old city.

The middle photo is taken from inside the ruins, looking over a hill to the top of a modern church.

The bottom photo is along the ancient walls of the city.

Ancient Pella

On Saturday, the School of Modern Greek organized a day trip to Pella and Edessa. We were blessed with beautiful weather, and – of course – we took lots of photos. (After editing, we ended up with 72, which can all be viewed here.)

In short, the ancient city of Pella is famous as one of the capitals of the ancient Macedonian Empire, and as the birthplace of Alexander the Great. You can get more info here.

It’s located about an hour west of Thessaloniki. We left the University at 8 AM, and it turns out we had the same Greek tour guide as our last trip to Mt Olympus in the fall.

This lady is very nice, but she NEVER stops talking. She is either extremely well read, or very good at making things up.

On the last trip, one of the gems she told us was that Native Americans had actually stolen their war cry “Wo Wo Wo” from the ancient Greeks, under Alexander the Great.

This time, on the bus ride, we passed a tree, and this got her on to a 15-minute talk on how the ancient Greek authors had said that this kind of tree existed on the human colonies on the moon. She concluded this speech by lamenting that science had not yet proved or disproved the ancient Greeks’ assertion that there were human settlements on the moon.

A few minutes later, she was talking about an ancient Cretan settlement near Thessaloniki, and how the men of that city were “so proud of their sex that they wore gold over their sex rather than leather like others.”

It was about at this point (30 minutes into the trip) that Pelagia and I decided to tune her out for the rest of the day.

True to her previous form, when we arrived in Pella, she headed straight for the tiny museum. There, she spent 2.5 hours explaining, literally, every piece in the museum. In the top photo, she’s pointing to the map located at the entrance of the museum. She spent 45 minutes at this map alone.

Meanwhile, Pelagia and I (and others who had been on trips with her before) went out to the actual site and walked around in the beautiful weather and took photos.

The bottom two photos are of the ancient remains of the city. In the bottom photo, Pelagia is standing in the middle of the site.

Next, we headed another 30 minutes west to Edessa.

This Week in Thessaloniki

Well, Elise left on Wednesday, and in the afternoon, Pelagia and I had coffee with Brendan (see top photo). I took a picture because, in the background, you will notice a parade of students marching down Egnatia, the city’s main thoroughfare, once again blocking up traffic and generally causing trouble.

On Thursday and Friday mornings, Pelagia went to help the Karchers move. They are heading back to California on Tuesday, after 5 years here.

In the second photo, their middle daughter, Melanie, is hamming it up for the camera and hugging her favorite bear.

In the bottom photo, Pelagia caught the whole moving crew. From left to right, it’s the oldest Karcher daughter, Anna, followed by Eva Karcher and their youngest, Maria. On the floor in the back is Marina with baby Emilia; Brendan is standing; and then Daniel, another American here studying theology, is taking a break and apparently catching up on his text messages (a very popular past time here in Europe).

Like vultures, all the other Americans were eager to ‘help’ the Karchers move out by taking various items that they were leaving here in Greece. The rest was moved out and is being shipped on a slow boat to America. They were successfully moved out by Friday, and they’re now staying at another American couple’s house until their flight out on Tuesday. They will be missed!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Elise's Last Days in Greece

It turns out Elise’s plane left Thessaloniki on Wednesday afternoon, so she had an extra day (with very nice, spring-like weather) to hang out in Thessaloniki. So she and Pelagia enjoyed doing just that.

In the top photo, Pelagia and Elise are having a spinaki (spinach pie) and coffee at a little café near Agia Sophia.

Afterwards, we all went to Brendan’s apartment and (in true Greek style) had more coffee out on his 8th floor balcony (see the bottom two photos).

Pictured are Brendan, his girlfriend Cristina (from Romania), and Marina, with baby Emilia.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Another Sunday Morning At Kimisseos

All I have for you today is more photos from our favorite monastery here in little ol’ Panorama, Kimisseos (Dormition), which I took this morning.

The top photo is taken from just outside the katholikon, looking through the ‘bells’ onto some of the nuns’ cells.

The middle photo is taken from about the center of the monastery.

The bottom photo is of an avli (courtyard) also around the center of the monastery.

After church, we stayed for about an hour to walk around, have coffee and visit with some friends.

Elise arrived back from her adventures about 30 minutes ago, around 1 pm. She spent quite a few days on the island of Corfu before taking a very long (and quite adventurous) ferry ride to Venice. Then she headed back here, passing through Patras, Corinth, and Athens.

She heads back to the States Tuesday morning. We then have a new guest from the US, Patricia, arriving around 2 am Friday morning.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Pelagia's Greek Class

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Well, our friend Aaron is leaving today, so last night all the Americans gathered at a restaurant downtown near the Rotunda to say good-bye.

Instead of going all the way back home to Panorama, and then downtown again a few hours later, I stayed in the city and even sat in on Pelagia’s class. (You can never get too much Greek – at least that’s what they say….)
Of course, I had to take some photos of how Pelagia spends her Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons.

In the top photo, you see her teacher, Christina, on the right. In the front row you see three women from Russia. In the back corner is Pelagia, obviously. Then nearest Pelagia are two of her friends – from Germany and the Czech Republic. To the left of them are two students from Spain. There are more students – from Serbia, Montenegro, and Poland, not caught in the photo.

It’s really a blessing to get to know people from so many different countries and cultures.

As a side note, some of the Americans (including us) are considering making a pilgrimage together to the Monastery of St John the Theologian on Patmos (the site of the Revelation to St John) for Pascha. We’ll see if it (and the money!) works out. Obviously, I’ll take LOTS of photos if we go…

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Monastery in Serres

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We arrived at the monastery when the gates re-opened at 4:30 and the nuns prepared a very nice meal for us.

Afterwards, we visited with Sister Katerini (an American, about our age, from Texas), then headed to Vespers at 6.

Afterwards, we stopped by the bookstore and had coffee and sweets with Sister Katerini until about 9:30, and then headed home.

Sister Katerini is currently working on making Greek children’s Pascha candles, which feature hand-painted designs and have toys attached to them. I don’t recall seeing anything like them in the US. Aaron bought two really neat ones for his children.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sunday in Serres

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On Saturday night, we hosted a small gathering of Americans to welcome back Aaron Taylor, who lived in our apartment a few years ago. He was back in Thessaloniki to touch base with some professors regarding his Master’s thesis.

On Sunday, he rented a car to drive up to the Monastery of the Honorable Forerunner in Serres (I’ve posted photos from there twice before), and he asked if we wanted to tag along. Of course, we said yes.

We headed up early Sunday afternoon and, since the monastery’s gates were closed for midday, we walked around the city of Serres a little bit. Serres has a population of about 70,000 and is probably the fifth or sixth biggest city in Greece.

The top photo is of the city’s Metropolitan cathedral.

The middle photo is what we believe must have been a former Turkish bathhouse. Now it holds some sort of archaeological museum, which was closed.

In true Greek fashion, we decided we had better go for a coffee, so we went to Galea Lifestyle and Beverages. Now I mean the beverages you can get anywhere, but where can you acquire a whole lifestyle? The name sold us. Aaron (on left in bottom photo) reported that he felt he had gotten more than just a coffee – he felt like a new man.

With that, we were ready to head up the monastery for Vespers…

Pelagia At Work

Pelagia has been picking up some of the kind of work she enjoys from here and there -- a friend in our apartment building and one very nice lady (Marianna) from our local parish.

Marianna likes Pelagia's painting work so much that she wants her to repaint her whole house, which is on four floors (and connected by its own elevator!).

On Friday and Saturday, Pelagia was trying to get a section of the house done while Marianna and her husband were out of town. It turned into a longer project than expected, so I was drafted into service.

Of course, I had to take a couple photos for the blog. (Pelagia specifically asked me: "Oh no, you're not going to put those on the blog, are you?").

Um, no, of course not.

( ;
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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Holy, Imperial, Patriarchal and Stavropegic Monastery of St Anastasia Farmakolytria

On the way back from Lakkia on Sunday, we stopped to visit the Monastery of St Anastasia Farmakolytria (roughly, the Curer), which is located near Elder Paisios’ monastery in Souroti.

The first photo is of Pelagia taking in the front of the monastery as we first approached.

The monastery was originally founded in the 9th century. In the late Byzantine period (somewhere around 1300), the Empress Theodora took responsibility for the endowment of the monastery, and – among many good works – had the relics of St Anastasia (celebrated 22 December) transferred there. (They remain in the middle of the katholikon to this day.)

Because of this, the monastery is called a Holy Imperial Monastery (the Patriarchal and Stavropegic bits are due to its falling directly under the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople). After the Ottoman conquest in the early 1400s, the monastery seems to have fallen into disrepair and disuse, until it was rebuilt in 1522 by St Theonas, who later became metropolitan bishop of Thessaloniki. (The full body of this saint lies in the katholikon.)

The monastery flourished for nearly 300 years with hundreds of monks and many acres of land. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by the Turks during the Greek War of Independence in 1821 and was rebuilt from scratch in 1830. Today, it belongs to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

As for our time there, we first wandered around the inside of the monastery, visiting the katholikon and venerating the relics of St Anastasia.

Then we decided to take a hike to visit some of the outlying chapels on the monastery property, and get a view of the monastery from above.

The weather was beautiful, so it was a great time for a walk. About halfway up the hill, we found a little cave with a shrine and spring of holy water. (See the middle photo.) We stopped to refresh ourselves and then continued up to a chapel toward the top. When we arrived, we rested for awhile inside the peaceful atmosphere of the chapel, then headed back down.

The last photo is of the main part of the monastery, taken during our hike.

For many more photos from our day, click here.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Sunday Morning in Lakkia

On Sunday morning, we went with Emmanuelle and Iren to the little village of Lakkia, about 20 minutes further outside of the city. We went to the village parish, St. Dimitrios (see photos). Afterwards, they had a sort of coffee hour (as we're accustomed to in the US) and we got to meet some very nice people. The parish had a real family atmosphere that we haven't found in many of the city parishes.
We also met the priest, Fr. Nicholas, who went to periodontal school in the US, and is married to an American woman. He was very happy to meet us, and his English is, of course, excellent. He said that his wife has been complaining that he hasn't found any Americans to bring home. I told him we'd be glad to help! ( :

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Friday Afternoon

Yesterday, Friday afternoon, after another long week of Greek class, I met up with Cristina, John, and Marina (with baby Amelia). It was an absolutely beautiful sunny day and it must have been 68 or 70 degrees (Fahrenheit, of course!). So we went over to Starbucks (sadly, about the only place in Greece with decent coffee -- see my friend's blog here for more on Greek coffee). We sat outside the Starbucks, which is nestled in between the beautiful church of Panagia Dexia (which contains a wonder-working icon of the Panagia) and the famous Thessaloniki landmark, the Kamara (or Arch), which was built in 297. The top two photos are from there. In the middle one, you can see the church behind us. (In the top one, by the way, Marina is not caffeinating the baby. She's giving her a taste of the vanilla-flavored foam at the top. That's Cristina sitting next to her.)
At 5, I went to our monastery here in Panorama for Haritismous ('Salutations'). As Emmanuelle, Iren and I left the service, the sun was setting over the monastery and I snapped the bottom photo. The photo didn't come out nearly as beautiful as the sunset was, but there it is anyway.

The Beaches of Halkidiki

On the way back from Ormylia around 4:30, Elise made the suggestion to stop somewhere along the way to see the famous Halkidiki beaches. We all thought that was an excellent idea, so Emmanuelle found a good spot for us to get out and walk along the beach. We walked along as the sun set – it was beautiful (see the top two photos).

In the middle photo, from left to right, is: Elise, Pelagia, Iren, and Emmanuelle.

Emmanuelle is our French friend who lives here in Panorama and is also in my Greek class.

Iren is her friend from Hungary, and one of the few Orthodox converts there. The two of them met in England, at Elder Sophrony’s monastery in Essex. Iren is in Thessaloniki temporarily to take a month-long intensive Greek class.

After that, we decided to get some fresh seafood at one of the many psarotavernas (seafood restaurants) that run along the Halkidiki coastline. So we drove on a little further to the town of Nea Moudania and walked along the paralia (boardwalk/coastline) until we found a little restaurant, where we had some fresh grilled octopus. Boy, is that good! Even Pelagia, who shudders when she thinks of the tentacles, likes it! ( :

The bottom photo is from Nea Moudania’s boardwalk.

For more photos of the day, click here.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Holy Monastery of the Annunciation in Ormylia

On Sunday after the Liturgy, five of us piled into one of these ridiculously small European cars and headed an hour east to Ormylia, to visit the famous women's monastery. It's relatively new (founded in the 1970s), but very well known in Greece. They currently have about 120 nuns, many of whom are doctors. They run a free hospital and medical research center which specializes in care for breast cancer. See here for more details on this ministry. They also run a foundation for the study and preservation of traditional Byzantine iconography. See here for more info.

Their abbess is the daughter of Fr. Galaktion, the spiritual father at Simonos Petras on the Holy Mountain. I met him when I was there in December, and he is one of the sweetest, most gentle souls I have ever seen. He was a baker, married and a father of five, before he and his wife decided to pursue monasticism. His wife went to Ormylia, where she was later joined by her daughter, who became abbess.

When we arrived, we looked around for awhile and then visited with one of the sisters for about 45 minutes. We browsed in the bookstore, which features many of the nuns' handiworks, and then went to Vespers at 3 PM. The chanting was probably the most beautiful I've ever heard -- right next to the men's chanting at Simonos Petras.

Anyway, as for the photos:

The top one is of Pelagia standing in the courtyard between the arhondariki (guest house) and the bookstore. She's copying the design that one of the nuns installed with natural stones.

The middle photo is of one of the monastery's baptisteries -- the first, I believe. The story I heard was that it was built in one night, so that a priest would be able to baptize a catechumen before he had to leave the next day.

The bottom photo is of an absolutely amazing design, again installed by a nun with natural colored stones, which sits in front of the katholikon. It's not really captured by the photo, but the design (which must be about 10' by 12') actually has depth as well. The figures rise off the ground!

For many more pictures of our day, click here.