Sunday, June 27, 2010

Liturgy and Hike in the Woods

On Thursday, we went up into the woods above our house to celebrate the Liturgy for the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (and St. Panayiotis the New Martyr). Our friend Fr. Panayiotis was celebrating the Liturgy in the chapel, with the help of a hierodeacon from the Skete of St. Panteleimon on Mt. Athos, a friend of our parish.

The weather has been surprisingly cool for the past week or so, and the babies enjoyed being out in the woods. In the photos above and below, Paul is playing along the sides of the chapel during the Liturgy.

Here, Kh. Sophia is holding Paul at the door to the chapel during the Liturgy.

Here, our friend Monica is holding Paul at the door to the chapel. I don't know why all these photos are of Paul -- it just happened that way!

In the afternoon, we decided to take the babies for a hike on the trails just outside Panorama called Platanakia. Each of us strapped on a baby and off we went. Above are Pres. Pelagia and Paul.

In the photos above and below, you can see Pres. Pelagia with Paul, followed by our dog Argos, and Kh. Sophia with a sleeping Benjamin on her back.

One part of the trail features a small tunnel through cave that Paul seemed to think was fun here.

For more photos, click here and here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Visit to the Churches Downtown

On Wednesday afternoon, we all headed downtown to do some exploring and to check out the new second-hand store that recently opened in Thessaloniki. This is, as far as we know, the first of its kind in the area. Culturally, there is a negative perception toward "used" goods, as it is associated with poverty, which much of the country suffered until just a generation or so ago. Perhaps, though, with the current crisis, these kind of ideas will become more culturally acceptable. Of course, it is also true that, in Greek society, you would simply give your still-useable second-hand things to friends, acquaintances, or friends of friends, not to some anonymous charity organization, as American culture is more inclined to do.

(In the photo above, Kh. Sophia is walking toward the store with the Rotunda (ca. 300) in the background.)

In any event, Pelagia enjoyed the store and found a couple small things we could use. While she and her mom were there, I walked over with Paul and Benjamin to the nearby Byzantine church of St. Panteleimon (ca. 1300), where the babies like to play in the picturesque and clean courtyard, an oasis in the middle of the city. Above, Paul is playing with the hose in the courtyard.

Here, Paul is heading into the church to venerate the icons.

We then all met up again and headed over to the enormous ancient basilica church of Panagia Ahiropoiitos, which dates to 450 AD. In the photos above and below, you can see Phoebe playing at the back of the church.

Another view of the babies playing at the back of the church.

When we headed out, Kh. Sophia strapped Benjamin on her back for the walk back toward the car. The church is in the background.

We stopped briefly at the Mt. Athos Center so that Kh. Sophia could see the photographic exhibit, and then we headed past the Arch of Galerius (ca. 300), in the background of the photo above, back to the car. It was a blustery day and you can see everyone here trying to power through the gust.

Photos posted here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Trip to Hortiatis

On Saturday afternoon, the day after the babies' big birthday bash, we all took a drive in the direction away from the city, up Mt. Hortiatis, the second largest mountain in Greece (1201 meters) after Mt. Olympus, and toward the village of Hortiatis.

Our first stop was at Panorama's Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos, where the babies venerated inside the church and played around in the grass. In the photo above, you can see them playing around outside one of the monastery's main buildings.

Kh. Sophia sits in the background and watches Paul and Phoebe play in the grass.

Kh. Sophia and Phoebe are stopping to smell the flowers.

We then headed up toward Hortiatis, and it was a good opportunity to finally stop and see the remains of the ancient Roman aqueduct that used to carry water from Mt. Hortiatis at least 10 miles down to the city of Thessaloniki.

When we got back in the car, Paul tried on my kalimafi.

We then headed into the village of Hortiatis itself, and found the parish church, dedicated to St. George. This church appeared to date to about the 1700s, but next to it was a small church that appeared much older, definitely Byzantine.

This little Byzantine church actually melds into a quiet little private property in the back.

For a few more photos, click here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Babies' First Birthday

The babies celebrated their first birthday on Friday, and our plans for a small, quiet party quickly grew bigger and bigger, as all the babies' friends here wanted to come see them.

Pelagia's mom, Kh. Sophia, arrived from the US on Friday afternoon in time for the evening's party, and even helped decorate the individual cakes Pelagia made.

In the photo above, we had just given the babies their cakes and sang them "Happy Birthday" and we were waiting for them to dig in (and make a big mess).

Here they are getting down to business with their cakes.

Here's Benjamin finishing off his cake.

The babies also got some presents, including some brought over by Kh. Sophia. Here Paul was really enjoying the wooden rocking horse that our friend Kalliopi's family gave the babies. Our friend Brendan was helping him.

And here Phoebe is enjoying the swing (which attaches to a door jam) that Kalliopi gave them.

Here we are the next day opening more presents. In the background, you can see Paul making his way over to the bed to see what he can get into over there. Paul is doing very well at standing without support and can manage 3 or 4 steps now.

For a few more photos from the big first birthday, click here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Babies First Swim at the Beach

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On Sunday afternoon, we went with Paris to the beaches of Halkidiki, specifically to the little beach town of Psakoudia (see map above), which is about 1 hour and 15 minutes from our house, and just a few minutes away from the famous Monastery of the Annunciation in Ormylia.

The beaches don't get really crowded until July, so we had plenty of space to spread out.

Amazingly, the babies didn't try (too much) to eat the sand. They did, however, make some funny faces upon tasting the water.

Here's Pelagia walking Benjamin out into the ocean for the first time. Benjamin was the most unsure about the whole experience. Phoebe, on the other hand, loved it.

Keeping cool in the water.

Swimming works up an appetite. Here the babies are enjoying some cookies as they dry off.

For a few more photos, click here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mt. Athos Bloggers' Exhibit

The Mt. Athos photography exhibit that I mentioned earlier opened last Monday with great fanfare. The mayor of Thessaloniki was on hand, as well as monks from several Athonite monasteries, as well as five newspapers, radio, television, etc. Headlining the exhibit (ha ha), as you can see in the photo above of the display at the entrance, is yours truly.

In all seriousness, my photographs were probably the least interesting of all. Altogether, there were 23 or 24 photographers on exhibit, and most of the photographs were amazing. The exhibit is going to be available online here any moment now.

Pelagia, the babies, and I went there on Monday afternoon, after all the hoopla in the morning. We were very impressed by the exhibit.

Here, Pelagia and Phoebe are admiring my corner of work (7 photos in all).

The cluster of four photos on the left are from Patrick Barnes of The Dalles, OR, and the five on the right are from Michael Tishel, another American studying here in Thessaloniki. His blog is here.

Our friend Nektarios works at the Athos Center, so he took us around the exhibit and the center. He even went and got an ink pad so that the babies could sign the guest book with their hand prints.

When we got there in the mid-afternoon, things were very quiet, so the babies were free to roam around. Here's Benjamin in the middle of the exhibit.

Afterwards, we went for a little walk around the center of the city, and stopped in for Vespers at this church (ca. 1100 AD) dedicated to the Presentation of Christ (February 2).

We even met up with Paul's godfather after he got off from work. Here is everyone with the Rotunda in the background.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Divine Liturgy with Metropolitan John Zizioulas

Sunday morning was the climax of the conference, when we celebrated the Divine Liturgy together in the Metropolis's cathedral of the Ascension.

In the photo above, you can see Metropolitan Ignatios and Bishop Maxim in the altar during Orthros, as Metropolitan John presides from the throne.

The Liturgy was celebrated by four bishops. As Metropolitan got vested in front of the altar, the other three vested behind: Bishop Maxim, Metropolitan Ignatios, and Metropolitan Seraphim of Johannesburg and Pretoria (Patriarchate of Alexandria; click here for info, see the 7th entry down).

Here we are at the beginning of the Liturgy. There were also 14 priests and 5 deacons.

The light struck Metropolitan John in a unique way during the Liturgy.

Afterwards, we had a wonderful breakfast at the church.

A view of the inside of the cathedral, from the back.

A view of the front of the cathedral.

After Liturgy, we had a very lively final session at the conference center.

Bishop Maxim headed on to Athens, and I headed back to Thessaloniki with a companion who lives in nearby Hortiati.

On the way, we found that the main highway had been blocked by angry fans of the Thessaloniki soccer team Iraklis. Having officially reached a new point of insanity here, these people were blocking the nation's main highway because they were angry that politicians in Athens had discriminated against Thessaloniki teams when it came to some matter of taxes on the clubs. Police officers were thus stationed at every turn of the extensive detour we had to make (making the trip 4.5 hours instead of 2.5), but apparently none of them were authorized to actually remove the protesters from the highway. Oh well...

For more photos from my stay in Volos, click here.