At 9:00 AM Monday morning, Fr. Alexios, Fr. Panayiotis, and Paris came by in our parish's van and picked up Pres. Sophia, Anastasia, and me for an all-day outing down to Mt. Pelion, which is located around Volos.
After about 2.5 hours, we made our first stop just outside Volos at the base of Mt. Pelion, at the chapel dedicated to Panagia Goritsi. As you can see from the photo above, the church is built into a cave. It has beautiful mosaics.
Here we are standing outside the church, which is located right on the water. From left to right, Fr. Panayiotis, Pres. Sophia, Anastasia, and me.
We then started our tour around Mt. Pelion. Fr. Alexios, who is from the area, was taking us in a complete circle around the mountain, which takes about 3 hours to drive. Not far into the drive around the mountain, he took us for a stop at the little mountain village of Milies. We went into the village's little church to venerate the icons, and ended up getting a fascinating tour from one of the church's parish council members. The church was completely frescoed, including a massive scene of the Second Coming in the exo-narthex, and it was all the work of one monk, who painted the church over a 33-year period in the mid-1700s. Above you can see Pres. Sophia examining his work.
The church was absolutely fascinating. Since it was built in the 1700s, during the period of the Ottoman yoke, the church was purposely designed to appear, from the outside, as just a house, so that the Turks would not be tempted to steal from it or desecrate it. This was why, interestingly, the door to the church (as is so typical of that time period), is so small -- it was to prevent the Turks from riding into the church on their horses. This concern to hide the church from the Turks also led to an ingenious acoustic system. The roof is composed of a series of small domes, each of which has 4 large clay pots situated upside down in it. These act much like the cones in a speaker and resonate with different pitches -- treble, bass, etc. There were also hollow spaces under the floor to help absorb sound. The purpose was to limit echoing and keep the sound inside the building, so that the Turks would not be aware outside. The effect, though, was also to create an incredible acoustic system. The man giving us the impromptu tour had us demonstrate by having the priests sing an apolytikion from the front of the church, and the rest stand in the back. The sound carried as clear as a bell. The man told us that a European Bach Appreciation Society had even come to perform several concerts in the church in order to utilize and study the church's acoustics. Above is a photo of the church from the outside.
After the church in Milies, we drove on for awhile around the mountain, finally stopping at a nice spot with a view, as you can see from the photo above of Anastasia. Immediately above is a photo of all the guys.
After that stop, we kept driving for quite awhile, taking in the view of both the gulf on the west and then the Aegean once we came around to the east side. Finally, we stopped at Chania for lunch, and, as it was past 4:00, we were all starving. We had a huge meal, full of traditional Volos specialities, such as milk cheese. We also had local meats, including venison from Mt. Pelion and lamb. Above, Fr. Panayiotis is eating a goat soup.
After a great lunch, we got back in the van and headed on to the Holy Monastery of Panagia Odigitria, located in Portaria. This women's monastery is a dependency of Philotheou on the Holy Mountain, and has Elder Ephraim as its spiritual father. Gerontissa Efpraxia was a nun here before going to the US and becoming the abbess of the monastery in Goldendale, WA. Above, Ana and I stand in the courtyard.
The guys at the entrance to the monastery. We arrived just as Vespers began and, unfortunately, we had to leave immediately after Vespers.
Before making the trip back home, we made one final stop in Makrinitsa. Here you can see Ana along with the typical stone roofs.
Pres. Sophia stops to take a photo of the view down on the city of Volos.
We went inside the little church dedicated to St. John the Baptist (in the very back center of the photo), walked around the village's main square, and then started heading back.
Volos and the gulf in the background.
This huge old tree stands right in the middle of the town's square, next to the church.
Photo of one of the mountain villages on Mt. Pelion.
We had a quick coffee outside overlooking the city of Volos, and then got in the van for the long 3-hour journey home. We finally arrived after 11:00 PM, having had a long but blessed day. For more photos from the day, click here.