On Thursday, I took Rebecca on a day trip with our parish to Alexandroupolis, a relatively large city near the border with Turkey.
We headed off at 7:30 AM with nearly 60 pilgrims from our parish (mostly retired people) and, with one stop, arrived at the Monastery of Panagia Evrou in Nea Makri (just outside the city of Alexandroupolis) around noon.
Above is a photo of everyone going through the entrance to the monastery.
The nun responsible for sounding the semantron gave Rebecca (and the rest of us) an ear-ringing demonstration of how it works. Here Rebecca is pretending to give it a try.
After venerating inside the church, especially the wonder-working icon of Panagia Evrou, the nuns took us on a tour of their work facilities, including the studios in which they make mosaics, icons, and finally vestments.
The photo above is of the mosaic currently in progress. As you can see, they are actually made from the back and then turned over when complete. All the colors are from naturally occurring minerals, which is part of the reason (along with the intensive labor) that they are so expensive. A 2' by 4' mosaic, for example, would probably cost around $20,000.
The group slowly made its way back out of the monastery and toward the bus.
Before we left, though, Sister Maria showed Fr. Alexios and me the huge new church that is being built just outside the monastery walls. Like many monasteries in Greece, faithful lay people flock to them on Sundays and feast days, and this church will be able to serve them better while marking out a separate space for the monastery. The nuns at Elder Paisios' monastery in Souroti have done the same thing.
After the monastery, the bus headed into the center of Alexandroupolis, where everyone was free to spend a few hours having lunch and walking through the city. Rebecca and I went with Fr. Alexios and George, a chanter from our church, to a great little restaurant with traditional Greek food (and lots of oil!). Here, all the food can be seen in buffet style pans behind glass and you point at what you want. I even got Rebecca to try to the local dish which featured bits of lamb liver inside (see above). Of course, I neglected to tell her what it was until after she had tasted it. :)
After a big lunch, one of the ladies from the parish insisted on buying us sweets and the local sweet shop. Above you can see Fr. Alexios, Rebecca, and George with their sweets, and Alexandroupolis' landmark lighthouse in the background.
After the big lunch, we took a long walk along the waterfront.
Rebecca and I then split off and walked around the city for about 1.5 hours. We stopped at the Metropolis (above), and were fortunate to run into someone just as they were reopening it for the evening. It is an absolutely enormous church, and I was deeply impressed at studying their weekly calendar of activities, which includes daily liturgies, confession times, classes, etc.
We left the city around 6 and arrived home around 10, tired but having enjoyed a nice outing with the parish.
For more photos from the day, click here.