Wednesday, April 11, 2007

To Patmos: First Stop, Athens

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We got back early Tuesday morning from a wonderful Paschal pilgrimage to the island of Patmos. We have 196 photos (I promised we would take a lot!) available here.

Early last Wednesday, our group met at the train station in downtown Thessaloniki and headed off to Athens, the first stage in our trip. Of course, since this is Greece, the train was quite late. When it arrived, we pushed and shoved our way to our seats, only to find them all occupied. We showed our tickets, but of course no one moved.

After standing around in the narrow hallway with our heavy packs for long enough, Philip finally had enough and decided to claim his seat. He showed his ticket and then squeezed himself into his seat. We called him our Rosa Parks for standing up for the equal rights of the xenos (foreigner) and took the top photo to commemorate the event.

Finally, we found a first-class train cabin that was almost empty, and we decided to wait there until a train employee came by to straighten out the situation. Because the train was oversold, they had added some of the nice, new train cars, and he told us to go there and sit wherever we wanted. (They are much nicer than the communist-looking train cars from the 70s that we had paid for.) Once again, Pelagia’s mantra for the trip (‘Just go with the flow’) proved true.

Once settled in, we then had about seven hours to kill until the train arrived in Athens.

We arrived around 3 PM and had about three hours to kill before our ferry left for Patmos. So we took the metro to the Acropolis and wandered around there for awhile. The second photo is of us climbing up the Areopagus (Mars Hill), and the third photo is of Rob playing the guitar from the top of the hill, with the Acropolis in the background. (See Acts 17:16-34 to read what St Paul did there.)

Some interesting notes on the later history of the Acropolis:

1. The Parthenon was used as a Christian church (dedicated to the Panagia) for about 1000 years, longer than it was used as a pagan temple.

2. The Parthenon was arguably the best-preserved ancient monument in the world, until the Turks. Read this account:

During the Turkish period the Acropolis was used as a fortress, with a military garrison. The home of the governor was in the Propylaea, although he is said to have kept his harem in the Erechtheion with its famous Maiden Porch. The Parthenon became an arsenal in which gunpowder was stored (emphasis mine).

When the Papal Army, under General Francesco Morosini, was fighting the Turks, they besieged the Acropolis in 1687 and a shell fell on the Parthenon. The gunpowder magazine within the building exploded, and the long sides of the Parthenon were blown away.

As someone commented: “You know, the Greek are always saying this, but you really do have to wonder about the cultural sophistication of a people that would use the Parthenon to store gunpowder. If the Papal Army could have even conceived of such stupidity, you’d have to believe they wouldn’t have attacked.”

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