Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Winter in Thessaloniki

I know everyone has been asking: Was he stuck on Mt Athos or something? I wish! No, it's just that it's not very interesting to post pictures of me sitting and working.

Of course, there has been some excitement here in Greece. Many people asked us about the riots a few weeks back. I thought about posting something, but I'd like to keep this blog relatively uncontroversial, and every time I thought about writing something, I couldn't do it in such a way that would mask my strong feelings. As mind-boggling as it may seem, I'm sure there would be one or two people who would actually disagree with the need for law and order. (Oops, there I go...)

In any event, we learned of the riots the same way you all did -- the news. In Thessaloniki, the riots were confined to a VERY small area of a few square blocks, and during the day (when all the criminals/terrorists--I mean "protesters"--were sleeping, as usual), most of the city was able to function to some degree -- even just one street off the center of the chaos. At night, of course, the "protesters" took out their rage at being socially oppressed by breaking into ONLY those stores which contained cell phones, electronics and jewelry -- oh and of course they destroyed shops which sold holy icons and other church supplies, but that was just for fun, not money.

Of course, the reason this was confined to this small area was because it was the area of the university. Here, by law, is a "free zone" for criminals. Police are not allowed on university premises. Ostensibly, this is to protect students' right to protest PEACEFULLY, which I say is great. In practice, though, the "protesters" (who often aren't even university students, but rather just troublemakers) run out across the invisible dividing line, throw a molotov cocktail at a poor, underpaid police officer, set him on fire, and then run back across the invisible line to complete immunity. Or they set someone's car on fire or loot someone's business--someone who actually WORKS for a living--and thereby ruins that person's ability to feed their family.

See -- even after all these weeks, I was still not successful at writing about this neutrally.

Anyway, everything has now returned to normal here, and while the "protesters" sleep all day and party all night, the people who work for a living are going about rebuilding what the others destroyed.

To head off potential objections, I should be clear that I support anyone's right to protest PEACEFULLY. But I do not agree they have the right to loot a business and ruin someone's ability to feed his children. Or set policemen on fire. Or shut down parts of the city so that people can't get to the hospital in a timely manner during an emergency. Or etc etc. Enough said.

In other news, this week we actually saw accumulated snow for the first time in our 2+ years (and third winter) here! It didn't accumulate too much (probably an inch or so), but it was something. The bottom photo is of our backyard. The one above that is of the little forested area next to where we live.

The top two photos are of Pelagia trying to keep warm this winter with the help of our two animals. : )

Friday, November 14, 2008

Last Day at Vatopaidi

Monday morning was again 3:00 AM Orthros, followed by Liturgy (Vatopaidi has Liturgy every day). After Orthros all together in the katholicon, everyone split up and went to the various small churches throughout the expansive monastery. There we had relatively quick liturgies, followed by a meal all together again in the refectory.

After the meal, we asked about the boat which goes up and down the east side of the Holy Mountain. Again, it was canceled due to rough seas, so we prepared for the longer journey through Karyes back to Daphne. We got our bags ready and I had about an hour or so to go around the monastery and take photos.

The above photo is from the entrance to our area of the guest houses, looking in toward the center of the monastery. The crane in the background was being used that morning to begin repairing one of the buildings there.

This photo is of the front of the monastery's main church or katholicon.

This photo again is of the front of the monastery's katholikon, but from much closer.

Shortly before the taxi van was to leave to go to Karyes, from which you wait to switch to another bus down to Daphne, one of the monks kindly offered to let us ride down (for free) with one of the monastery's vehicles. In the photo above, the driver had to stop briefly in Karyes to drop off some mail. To the right of the vehicle is the administrative capitol building for the Holy Mountain, which is an autonomous entity within the Greek state. To the left is the Protaton, the church which hosts the Axion Estin icon mentioned previously.

After that brief stop, we headed down to the port of Daphne and bought our tickets for the return boat trip. Once back at Ouranoupoli, we got Paris' car and headed back to Thessaloniki. About halfway home, we stopped in the well-known little village of Agios Ioannis Prodromos (St John the Forerunner) for a lunch of their famous souvlaki. Then, finally, we arrived back in Thessaloniki.

So that's all for this adventure. Again, for all the photos from the trip, click here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Talking with Abbot Ephraim

After finally leaving the small Romanian cell, we continued down the road to our original destination, the Romanian skete of Kolitsou. When we arrived, a Romanian monk (who spoke very good Greek) led us into the small church to venerate the icons, and then treated us to the traditional water, Turkish delight, and raki. The elder of the skete, Fr. Dionysios, then sat down to talk with us for a few minutes. He was the disciple of the recently reposed Fr. Dionysios, whom many regard as a saint. His grave is in the background of the top photo.

Fr. Dionysios told us that they have 8 monks currently living at the skete. He gave us some books about the skete that had been translated into Greek and then, as it turned out, a couple Romanian visitors were heading out toward Vatopaidi with the skete's vehicle, and we were offered a ride. As the time was now getting quite close to time for Vespers, we gratefully accepted.

Above is another photo of Vatopaidi, as we returned.

Above is a photo of Michael and Paris walking into the entrance of the monastery. The red building you see to the left of the photo, covered with scaffolding, was where we stayed. The window to our room was the second from the left.

Anyway, after Vespers and the meal, we had a chance to speak for a few minutes with the abbot, Elder Ephraim, as he came out of the refectory. As soon as he saw Paris, you could tell that something clicked. He started speaking with him in a low voice, and then after a minute, pulled him off to the side by himself. Afterward, Paris was clearly moved by the experience. Although he didn't tell us what was said, he was clearly very impressed and says only that he believes the abbot is clairovoyant.

After Small Compline, we spoke with a young American from St. Louis who was staying at the monastery for a couple months. We then slowly headed to bed. Photographs inside the monastery are generally prohibited, so when I spoke to the elder, I asked and received his blessing to take some photos inside the monastery. The one above is one I took the next day, Monday morning.

But more on that tomorrow...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sunday at Vatopaidi

Orthros started at 3:00 AM on Sunday morning. Liturgy began around 6:45 and we concluded around 8:45. After Liturgy, we walked across the courtyard to the refectory. The abbot of the monastery, Ephraim, is well known as a homilist, so he frequently would be inspired by the readings during the meal to stop the reader and explain some aspect of the reading.

After the meal, we ran into a French monk named Fr. Columba, and spoke to him for quite awhile, giving us more of a tour of the monastery. As it turns out, he was Catholic until he discovered Orthodoxy about 20 years ago (at the age of 45). He then become a monk at a monastery in France. On a visit to the Holy Mountain, he went to visit Elder Gavreel, the same saintly monk I met two years ago on my first visit to the Holy Mountain. As soon as Elder Gavreel saw him, he told him (without ever having seen or met him before): "It's not good for you to be around all those nuns. But don't worry, you'll become a monk at one of the big monasteries here on the Holy Mountain." As it turns out, Fr. Columba was at a small monastery in France that had the men's and women's monasteries side by side and, in fact, he became a monk at Vatopaidi (one of the two largest monasteries on the Holy Mountain) two years later.

Around 12:00, we set out for a walk. (The photo above is of the entrance to the monastery as we were leaving.) We had the idea to visit the Romanian skete, where its elder, Fr. Dionysios, had recently reposed. According to the monks at Vatopaidi, many considered him a saint, and his body gave off a strong aroma at the time of his death. Unfortunately, we were getting varying reports on how far away the skete was. According to some, it was 45 minutes. Others said 1.5 hours. The directions we got were also less than clear. We were somewhat worried about making it back in time for Vespers and trapeza (the meal) at 3:00, but we finally decided to just start walking and let God decide what would happen.

There were no signs, but from the directions we got, we were able to make some guesses about which way to proceed. Soon enough, a car came rumbling down the dirt road, kicking up a huge cloud of dust, and we asked the driver if we were going the right away. He basically told us that we were crazy, that the skete was "VERY far" away, all uphill, at least 2 hours. Now thoroughly confused, we decided to keep walking anyway.

The photo above is of the ruins of the Athonite school, taken from the dirt road we were walking up. According to one Greek site: "In the middle of the 18th century, the Athonite School was established in a building near Vatopedi Monastery, its purpose being to teach theology, philosophy, and logic to the monks and to those wishing to become monks. In the early years, when the Greek enlightener Evyenios Voulgaris was director, the school attracted large numbers of students and gained a considerable reputation. But when Voulgaris left, it fell into a decline, and closed down in 1799. Several moves were made in the 19th century to reopen the school, and in 1832 it began to operate again as a kind of seminary. The Athonite School was officially reestablished in 1953. Now named the ‘Athonite Ecclesiastical Academy’, it occupies a wing of the Skete of St Andrew in Karyes and follows the Greek secondary school curriculum combined with ecclesiastical education. There are six teachers and about 100 students." The school is also famous for its role in the Kollyvades movement.

Despite the dire warnings from the driver, we kept walking up the dirt road. Just a few minutes later, one of the taxi vans drove by, empty. We stopped the driver to ask if we were going the right way and how long it would take, and he offered to give us a ride halfway there, as he was going that way anyway. Grateful, we hopped in. At the top of the hill, he dropped us off at the crossroads for the Romanian skete, which we may have missed if it weren't for him.

So we headed off down the new road, but still no signs. Finally, just when we were starting to think we must have made a wrong turn somewhere, we ran into this old monk that we had seen that morning at Liturgy at Vatopaidi. We stopped to talk to him, or at least try to talk to him. He was a Romanian monk, and didn't speak hardly any Greek. He was a cute old monk who just seemed to be wandering around outside. We guessed that he lived in an old tiny cell we saw hidden somewhere back off the road. Anyway, we managed to exchange enough information to learn his name, Fr. Gerasimos, and tell him our names and ask him to pray for us. He also pointed us in the right direction.

So we kept going, and a few minutes later, we came upon the scene in the photo above. We walked down to the building and cautiously approached to see if anyone was there. From the icon above the door, it seemed to be a cell dedicated to St. John the Forerunner. After a couple minutes, a young monk answered the door and was very happy to receive us. Again, he was Romanian, Fr. Ioannis, and didn't speak any Greek or English. But in spite of this, we managed to gather that the place we wanted was actually another few minutes down the road. We tried to leave, but he insisted, with a big smile, on sitting us down and giving us water, homemade raki, apples they grew, and some Romanian donuts they made. We sat and ate and drank with him and tried to communicate. My friend Michael happens to know a few words in Romanian, so that gave us something to go on. We learned that his cell had three Romanian monks--himself, a novice named Dimitrios, and the elder, Elias.

Soon enough, this Fr. Dimitrios came by and was very happy to meet a couple Americans and a Greek wandering through the woods. He made quite an impression on us, as he was all smiles. As Paris put it, he was like a small child. He took us to the church to venerate the icons and we were floored by the beautiful new iconography thatcovered the entire small church. It was an absolutely gorgeous style. Apparently, a Romanian monk, a real master, had just recently completed the project. He then took us to the small trapeza (refectory), where he himself was working on the icons (see photo above). He also had a hobby of taking objects he found along the coast and making little pieces of art with them. He insisted on giving us one, but we declined because we had no way of carrying it back without ruining it.

For all the photos from the trip, click here.

More tomorrow...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Trip to the Holy Mountain

Early Saturday morning, I went with two friends--one Greek, and one new American who is studying here now--to Mt. Athos (my sixth visit). We had reservations at Vatopaidi, so we were hoping to take the boat from the east side of the peninsula and go to Vatopaidi directly (see map here). My friend Paris drove and we arrived in Ierissos around 8:00, but the boat was canceled due to the rough seas. So we drove over to Ouranoupoli, the tradional departure point, and took the boat down the west side.

God arranged it that my friend, Fr. Barnabas, an American hieromonk of Karakallou monastery, was taking the same boat with us, so we got to visit with him for the whole two-hour trip. The photo above is of Fr. Barnabas and my two friends on the boat, with Xenophontos in the background.

When we arrived in Daphni, we caught the bus up to Karyes. There, we had to wait for a bit to take the van over to Vatopaidi, so we went with Fr. Barnabas into the Protaton to venerate the wonder-working icon, Axion Estin. The picture above is of us walking into the church.

Eventually, we got into the van and headed over to Vatopaidi. Interestingly, I suppose since Vatopaidi is in a rather remote location by itself, it has a gate and guardhouse along the road about halfway there (see photo above). The old guy they had "guarding" was quite a character. First, we stopped and waited forever. Then the guy came over with a list of invited guests to the monastery and was supposed to check all the people in the van. He asked us to call out our names and he checked them. When we called out "Edwards" (the reservation was in my name), he was totally lost and confusion set in. Eventually, my Greek friend, Paris, showed him our visas. Apparently, when the monastery had radioed him with the names, he couldn't understand my foreign name, so he just didn't bother to write it down. So, anyway, very little having actually been checked or guarded, we finally resumed our journey after about 45 minutes of total confusion.

We finally arrived at Vatopaidi around 1:30 probably and got settled in our rooms. The photo above is of my two friends just outside the entrance to the monastery. At 3:00, we went to Vespers, followed immediately by a meal, followed immediately by Small Compline. During Small Compline, we venerated an amazing array of relics, including the Holy Belt of the Theotokos (the actual belt worn during the earthly life of the Virgin Mary) and the skull of St. John Chrysostom, whose left ear is still incorrupt. According to tradition, this is because the Holy Apostle Paul himself whispered the correct interpretation of his epistles into the ear of St. John Chrysostom, who then used this information in his masterful homilies. We also venerated several miraculous icons of the Panagia. After Small Compline, we took a brief tour with one of the monks. After that, we visited the bookstore, which is quite extensive, and then went to bed (around 7 PM!)

More tomorrow...

For all the photos of the trip, click here.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Celebrating St. George in Panorama

St. George the Trophy-Bearer is one of the biggest saints in Greece and also the patron of our local parish here in Panorama. His primary feast is April 23, which we celebrated this year with His Holiness Metropolitan Anthimos of Thessaloniki (yes, the Metropolitan of Thessaloniki has the special prerogative to be referred to as "His Holiness" because of the importance of his see, the second city of Byzantium).

But St. George also has a second feast on November 3, which commemorates the dedication of his temple in Lydda, Palestine (and the transfer of his relics there) during the reign of St. Constantine the Great (early 4th century).

His Holiness Metropolitan Anthimos is currently in New York City, so he sent a surrogate to represent him, His Grace Bishop Panteleimon of Theoupolis, who is retired. The feast began last night at Vespers. The protosyngellos of Thessaloniki, Fr. Ioannis, brought the relics of St. Theodora of Thessaloniki (August 29) from her church in the center to our parish here in Panorama. For a little typical taste of Greece, the car he was in with the relics was given a flashing-light police escort for the 20-30 minute ride from the center to Panorama. All the clergy waited outside the church to receive the relics and then processed into the temple.

We then waited for the arrival of His Grace to begin Vespers, which lasted from about 6:30 until 8:30. Bishop Panteleimon, having been a bishop in Australia for many years, asked that I do my litanies in English, which was nice for me!

The proistamenos of our parish, Fr. Alexios, then arranged a very nice meal for after the service. It was done by a new catering company that markets itself as using only organic foods, and it was very good.

The next morning (today), we celebrated the liturgy, again with His Grace Bishop Panteleimon, followed by a nice meal. Pelagia took some photos and a video from the balcony. My mom sent us a newer camera, as you'll immediately see, if you can compare with previous photos taken inside our church here in Panorama. Unfortunately, though, the battery ran out so the video is from the very beginning of Orthos, when the bishop first arrived. I'm the one hanging on to his coat-tails, so to speak.

God-willing, I'm heading to Mt. Athos on Saturday with two friends, returning Monday. So hopefully you'll see lots of photos on here starting next Monday.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Acrocorinth, the fortress on top of the mountain overlooking ancient Corinth, is only actually a couple miles away from the city, but it's straight up. Just hiking from the entrance (see top photo) to the highest point (last photo) was exhausting.

The strategic importance of this site is unmistakable, and thus it comes as no surprise that it was continually occupied as a fortress from about 650 BC until the Greek War of Independence in 1821. In between, it was occupied by the Romans, the Byzantines, the Franks, the Venetians and the Ottomans. As you can see from the photos, only a few buildings actually survive in any discernible form. The only one that is functional is (not surprisingly for Greece) a small chapel dedicated to St. Demetrios (see second photo).

The other building which is still (partially) intact is one of the two old mosques which remain from the Ottoman occupation. You can see Pelagia taking a break inside one of them in the third photo.

Although few buildings survive, the ground is absolutely littered with stones and building materials from centuries of homes and other buildings.

The thing that is not clear to me is what connection the fortress had in daily life with the city below. I can't imagine that anyone was making that exhausting "commute" between the two very frequently.

After a couple hours, we managed to wind our way to the very highest point, which you can see in the last photo. There Pelagia is sitting on the remnants of a wall of an important temple to Aphrodite (one of the many things in Corinth which seems to have caused St. Paul so many problems).

In the background of the last photo, you can see the narrowest point of the isthmus. The land separating the two bodies of water is only 6 kilometers long. There were plans for a canal since ancient Greece, but it was only finally accomplished in the late 1800s. Now the Corinth Canal is a tourist attraction in and of itself. In St. Paul's time, the city of ancient Corinth was a wealthy and prosperous city because of its enviable position for trade.

After reaching the peak, we started heading back down, eventually making our way to the train station and back to Athens for the evening.

For all the photos from the day in Corinth, click here.


This is the part of the blog for shameless self-promotion: For anyone interested in supporting us, or anyone looking for, say, a Christmas present, here is my newly updated list of books I could really use for my dissertation. Of course, this list is on Amazon, but you can also find many of these same books at this very good company out of the UK. They ship, for free, directly to my house, the address of which is: Analipseos 30 // Panorama // Thessaloniki // 55236 // Greece.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ancient Corinth

On Monday, we had to head down to Athens to take care of some business. Personally, I am not a big fan of Athens, so I had to look for some way to redeem the trip. I found it in making a day trip over to Corinth on Tuesday.

As I may or may not have mentioned, my dissertation is on leadership in the first-century church in Corinth, so for me this was an important trip. We'd never been anywhere in the south of Greece besides Athens, and we'd love to some day have time to explore the Peloponnese.

View Larger Map

Anyway, we hopped on the train in Athens and we were in modern Corinth after only an hour and 15 minutes. From there, we split a cab with a nice couple we met from the Czech Republic and headed over to ancient Corinth, a few kilometers away. This area is dominated by the ruins of the old city, but a very small modern village with lots of restaurants and cafes well as--of course--a church, surrounds it.

The weather was perfect and we spent several hours wandering through the ruins, imagining what St. Paul might have seen when he first arrived around 51 AD.

The top photo is of the ruins of the Temple of Apollo. The second photo is of the various levels of ruins from the east side of the famous Lechaion Road. The third photo is of the road itself, which connected Corinth with its port about 3 km to the north.

The fourth photo is particularly interesting, at least for me. This is a photo of the city's theatre. In the foreground, you can see an inscription. It says, in effect, that a city official named Erastus paid for this area in front of the theatre to be paved. I was interested to note that it is by far the largest and most noticeable inscription among the many that one can see among the ruins. This is all significant because there is a long-standing debate as to whether this is the same Erastus Paul mentions at the end of his letter to the Romans, which the Apostle wrote from Corinth: "Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you" (16:23). (The name "Erastus," possibly the same person, is also mentioned in Acts 19:22 and 2 Timothy 4:20.)

For all the photos from the day, click here.

We met our friends from the Czech Republic again in the little museum and agreed again to split a cab up to Acrocorinth, the ancient fortress which sits perched on top of the mountain overlooking the isthmus. You can see it on the top of the mountain, on the left, in the backgrounds of the the last two photos. But more on that tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Quick Trip to Volos

Today, Pelagia and I had to make a trip down to Volos for work. We left about 8:30 and arrived around 11:00. We went to the offices of the Metropolis, met with the Metropolitan and my co-workers there, and then left by about 1:30. On the way back, we stopped at an impressive looking castle that looks out over the water. I pass this every time I go to Volos but I never have time to stop, so today we decided to take a break from all the driving and go explore it.

The castle, as it turns out, is the Castle of Platamon, which was built by the Venetians. It's located approximately here, but right along the coast:

View Larger Map

The top photos are from near the entrance of the castle. The third was taken as we walked along the outside of the walls.

After briefly exploring the castle, we went down to the beach to try to find a place to eat. Most places were closed up (it's out of the beach tourist season now), but we finally found one place (see bottom photo) and had a nice little something to eat.

For more photos from the day (mostly the castle), click here.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Monastery of St. Arsenios the Cappadocian

On Saturday, I went with my Greek friends, Christos and Froso, to the monastery of St Arsenios the Cappadocian in Ormylia, Halkidiki.

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We went there to meet with a monk, Fr. Arsenios, about the English translation of a major book on the life of Elder Paisios. I had the good fortune to work on the translation of part of this book some months ago. Now the three of us have been given the job of helping to translation-check and edit it.

The top two photos are of the monastery from the outside entrance. Inside the church, I must note, they have an AMAZING collection of relics. Although small pieces, they are blessed with the relics of the Apostle Paul himself, St. John the Baptist, St. John Chrysostom, St. Nektarios, and many more.

After venerating the relics, we met with Fr. Arsenios for about and hour and a half regarding the book. We then visited their impressive bookstore and finally left. Since we were so close to Halkidiki's beautiful beaches, we drove over to the water to have a coffee and plan out our work on the book (see the bottom two photos). We then headed back to Thessaloniki.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Back in Belgrade

I returned from Belgrade on Friday. I was there since last Sunday afternoon, primarily for the purpose of meeting with my bishop.

I stayed at the University of Belgrade's Theological School, which I love. Every time I go I'm more and more convinced that this is the new "place to be" for Orthodox theology. I also got a chance to refresh the little Serbian I learned over the summer. In the top photo, you can see my Serbian teacher from the summer. The weather was lovely during my whole stay, and that afternoon we met on the famous Knez Mihailova pedestrian walkway (the oldest in Europe).

Another afternoon I met with my friend Milana, a Serbian girl who teaches Greek in Belgrade. During our walk around the city, we stopped in one of Belgrade's many beautiful green places (Thessaloniki really misses these). From there, we had a view over to the Parliament (second photo), formerly the federal parliament for all of Yugoslavia. The third photo is another green area we passed on our way over to the Patriarchate, where we met some friends who work at there.

The bottom photo is of the icon on the outside of the church at the Theological School, which is probably my favorite church. The students keep the full cycle of services there and use all the different musical traditions. I love being there--of course, I may be biased since I was ordained there. : )

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Last Day in Paris

We met our friends at the church--Yulija normally goes to the Serbian church and Emmanuelle made her first visit to it on Sunday in order to meet us there. (Normally, she goes to a church which, while under the Moscow Patriarchate, tries to be "French" -- they are on the New Calendar and all or most of the services are in French.)

So after church, the four of us headed out to stroll around Paris on our last day. Again, the weather was beautiful. While it was raining nearly every day in Thessaloniki, marking the very quick transition from summer to fall, in Paris it was very sunny every day (although a little cold).

We wanted to try to real French crepes, so we went to a creperie for a bite to eat. Then we continued our tour. We saw the Centre Pompidou (see top photo) which houses, among other things, the Museum of Modern Art.

On Sundays, the road along the Seine River is closed to motor traffic, so it makes for a lovely place to walk (see second photo).

We wanted to go inside one of the many museums and there was a rumor that they were free that day, so we headed over to the Louvre. We went down into the glass triangle (see the view from below in the third photo), but it turns out it wasn't free. Considering we only had time to go in for about an hour (and probably only the patience for that much), we decided it wasn't worth the cost. Next visit!

Interestingly, there's a mall attached to the entrance of the Louvre, which includes a very posh chocolate store, La Maison du Chocolat. I've never seen anything like this. They were treating this chocolate like it was gold, really! (And at 90 euro a kilo, the price is almost the same!) One woman was buying what looked like 2 or 3 ounces of one particular chocolate, and the saleswoman was carefully selecting each paper-thin little wafer with these special tongs. (Incidentally, we did get to try to chocolate, and it was very, very good, but I still say that nothing is THAT good!)

Afterwards, we went outside and sat in the grass of the palace gardens. (See bottom photo.) The area was full of people enjoying the sun. After awhile, we continued our stroll around. We finally headed back to Marie-Jeanne's at 7:00, where again she made us dinner. We ate and played a game with her, and then headed to bed early. We got up at 4:00 AM the next morning to go to the airport and head back to Thessaloniki.

As a side note, there was some drama about our flight back. We were flying with the Italian national airline, Alitalia, and they were/are on the verge of bankruptcy. There was quite a bit of speculation while we were in Paris that they would actually fold and cancel all flights, leaving us stranded. Fortunately, though, our flight back was without event!

So that's it for the France trip. For all the photos, click here. I hope to have something else to post soon!

***As a side note, I've updated my Amazon Wishlist to include some reasonably priced books I need for my dissertation that are not available here in Greece. If anyone feels moved to contribute to a seminarian's education in this way, please click here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Notre Dame, Fondu, and the Serbian Cathedral

After Montmartre, we hopped back on the subway and headed to Notre Dame. We'd seen the outside (top photo), but hadn't gone inside yet. It was about 5:30 or 6:00, and there was even a line to get into the church. We walked around for awhile. The most impressive thing, in my opinion, is the stained glass windows (see second photo for example). I also remembered a story my dad tells about the French Revolution. Apparently, some of the Enlightenment-inspired Revolutionaries, after thoroughly desecrating any and all Christian symbols, devoted the cathedral to the so-called "Cult of Reason," and actually went so far as to "consecrate" Reason on the altar.

At 6:30, a mass began in the Church (NOT to the Goddess Reason), so we headed out. Unfortunately, the stairs up to the top of Notre Dame were closed so we couldn't go up for the view. But this may have been just as well, because I was still exhausted from climbing Montmartre.

Fairly exhausted now, we decided to get something to eat and call it a day. We had wanted to try a fondue restaurant, and our friend Marie-Jeanne had done some research and given us a suggestion for the "best" one in Paris. So we headed over there.

It was quite an experience! I'd highly recommend it to anyone going there. It was this little hole in the wall place that was so tiny one person actually had to climb OVER the table to get to their seat. (You can see our neighbors starting to do this in the third photo.) The food was simple and excellent-- bread and cheese. (Originally, fondu was a poor man's meal--they threw in all their old cheese and used up their stale bread.) Drinks came in baby bottles for some strange reason (this was the restaurant's hallmark). We were baffled by this at first, but then realized, after seeing so many people climb over the table, that perhaps it was to prevent spills? Anyway, it was an enjoyable experience and we met some nice people who were crammed in around us.

After dinner, we headed back to the apartment and rested up for church the next morning.

The next morning, Marie-Jeanne accompanied us to the Serbian cathedral in Paris. The church is rather inconspicuous from the outside (see me going into the church in the bottom photo), but we knew we were in the right place when the whole street turned into signs in Cyrillic for Serbian food and goods. We'd hit the Serbian neighborhood!

I was blessed to serve with Bishop Luka of France and Western Europe and two of his priests. It was a very multi-cultural service, with parts in Serbian, Slavonic, French, English, and Greek. It was the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, so the church was packed. After the service, we went downstairs and had a very lively coffee hour. As someone remarked, "You can tell they really enjoy being together." I've found this true in every Serbian church I've been to...

Last post on France tomorrow...