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.


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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.

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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:

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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.