Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Catching Up

We've been busy, but I haven't gotten a whole lot of new photos recently, so I haven't posted anything. I have over 600 photos that my mother-in-law took during her stay here, so I'm going back and posting some of them here now. For all her photos, click here, here, here, and here.

Above is a photo Kh. Sophia took during the first couple hours she was here back on the babies' first birthday in June. This is what happens when a newcomer doesn't know the rule that bathroom doors must be kept closed. :)

Here are the wonderful women of two great families from the parish who have loved the babies and helped us a lot with them. This was taken during the babies' birthday party.

The babies playing on our balcony. Phoebe is in the foreground, and Paul is climbing up on a chair in the background.

Above and below are photos taken during our visit to the 5th century basilica of Panagia Ahiropoiitos in Thessaloniki. Phoebe likes to wear things on her head, and here she's modeling some of the frill from the ropes.

The babies playing with the ropes at the back of the basilica.

Here Kh. Sophia is pulling a Pelagia -- taking all three babies at once.

Kh. Sophia found a big box that must have been for a refrigerator or water heater and made it into a fort for the babies. Above, Benjamin is looking out the door. Below, Paul is taking a break and looking at some tape inside their house.

There's a planter on our balcony that Pres. Pelagia cleared out and the babies love playing in it, especially when we put a little water in it for them to splash around in. In the photos above and below, Paul is playing peek-a-boo with one of the towels.

Here Benjamin is playing inside a bucket with a little water, inside the planter on the balcony.

When we went to Edessa, the babies all "took a dip" in the water at the top of the waterfalls.

Here Phoebe is checking out the marble capitals inside the 14th century church dedicated to Sts. Peter and Paul in Edessa. This ends the photos from Kh. Sophia.

During the last days my mother-in-law was here, Fr. David Lubliner and his family from the Serbian parish of St. John Maximovich in Eugene, Oregon arrived in Thessaloniki, and we were fortunate to spend some time with them. On Monday, July 19, we drove them out to see Fr. Peter Heers and his family in the village of Petrokerasa, so that we could celebrate a festal Vespers with them for their parish's feast of the Prophet Elijah.

As seems to happen when we go out there, the journey out into the mountains of Halkidiki was full of adventure. I tried a new way of going and, unwisely following the GPS directions, we ended up on a horrible, horrible dirt road that went on for miles and miles. It finally ended, for us, in being stuck in a mud puddle, as you can see above. Ultimately, everyone (except the babies) had to get out, and Pres. Pelagia eagerly volunteered to push us out, which she did! We then backtracked and tried a different road, which may actually have been worse than the first. After a precarious turn-around, we backtracked again and finally caught a paved road there, making it in time to visit with Fr. Peter and his family and to celebrate Vespers with them.

Right after Kh. Sophia left, but before the Lubliners left, we were also joined by Pelagia's longtime friend Elise and her husband Thom, so we had quite the full house for a couple days, but that meant lots of hands to help and play with the babies.

On one lovely day last week, we took Thom and Elise to one of the beaches of Halkidiki. The babies like playing in the water, and there's one spot we like to go that has a nice little restaurant right on the beach. You can see Thom and Elise at our table in the photo below. In the photo above, the babies were crawling around the restaurant and playing here on an anchor. The restaurant owner and the waiters loved it and were themselves taking lots of photos. The owner told me he was going to have one photo of the triplets hung on the wall. :)

That's it for now. Thom and Elise just left, and now we're waiting for our niece, Anastasia (who baptized Phoebe last year), and Pelagia's cousin Coreen to come next Wednesday. Look for new photos soon.

Since this post is related to some of the visitors that we've seen this summer, this is a good opportunity for me to mention the Visitors' Guide (or Pilgrims' Guide) to Thessaloniki that was started some time ago and is maintained by the Americans studying here. There's been a link to it on the right-hand column of this blog for some time, but it's small and most people aren't aware of it.

If I do say so myself, I think it contains quite a bit of useful information for those visiting Thessaloniki and Greece in general. We try to keep the information current and to add new information as it comes in. We also welcome visitors to email us with any information they'd like to share after their trip, in an effort to help future visitors and pilgrims.

If you know anyone thinking about a trip to Greece, do them a favor and direct them to this site. Consider even having it put in your parish's bulletin or website. It'll be helpful to travelers, and it saves the Americans here from getting desperate, last-minute emails and phone calls from bewildered American visitors. :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Greek Julia Childs

Last Wednesday, Fr. Alexios and we were invited by Vefa Alexiadou, the leading authority on Greek cuisine (the Greek Julia Childs), author and TV personality, to come to her house in Halkidiki for Vespers, an Agiasmo (the Lesser Blessing of Water), and a Trisagion for her departed husband.

The photo above is of her backyard, which connects directly to the beach, and includes a lovely little chapel, which you can see to the left.

Fr. Alexios and Phoebe playing in the lovely grass just outside the chapel.

Two Serbian friends of mine, from the theological school in Belgrade, were visiting, on their way to Mt. Athos, and Fr. Alexios invited them to come as well. Our first task was to take a swim. Above, you can see Kh. Sophia out in the water to the left with Paul (who likes swimming the most), Pres. Pelagia with Phoebe in the left foreground, and the two Serbian guys, Ivan and Veka, with Benjamin on the right.

It was early evening (about 7), which is a lovely time for a swim, as the water is warm from the sun on it all day. Here Kh. Sophia and Paul are enjoying the crystal clear water.

After the sea, we moved a few feet over to the pool. Here's Pelagia with the boys in the baby pool.

After the swim, it was time to start Vespers. Here Benjamin is ringing the bell to call everyone in the house to the chapel.

The chapel was adorned, inside and out, with gorgeous mosaics. For some close-up photos of some of them, click on the link for more photos at the bottom of this post. In this photo, taken near the beginning of Vespers, you can see the mosaic in the small apse. I'm reading the opening litany and Fr. Alexios is in the foreground.

The Serbian guys are part of the Belgrade Theological School's excellent Byzantine choir, so it was a blessing for all of us to have them chanting at Vespers. Here they're chanting with Fr. Alexios and Vefa. Pres. Georgia, Fr. Alexios' wife, is in the foreground to the right with Paul, who is particularly fascinated with Byzantine music. He always likes being near the chanters in church.

Here I am censing around the outside of the chapel during Vespers.

After the services, Vefa treated us to drinks and a few things she had cooked. The Serbian guys sang a bit for us at the end, and then we reluctantly left.

For more photos from this outing to Halkidiki, click here.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


View Larger Map

On Sunday afternoon, which was another beautiful day, we decided to take a trip out west to Edessa. Originally, we had thought about going to Ormylia, which is east in Halkidiki, but the traffic on the weekends in summer is so atrocious that we decided to play it smart and head the opposite direction, away from the crowds. So we headed west about 1.5 hours to Edessa and its beautiful waterfalls.

When we arrived, we parked next to a little park, so we got out and let the babies move around a little. Just over the past few days, Phoebe is starting to try taking steps. Here, her yiayia is helping her try to take a step.

We then walked over to the top of the waterfalls. The babies were really fascinating with the rushing water. Here, Paul and Benjamin are looking at the water as we stood on a little bridge over it.

Paris and Pelagia with the babies. Here the water is approaching the point where it makes its dramatic drop over the sheer cliff.

Paul and Benjamin checking out the water.

The city of Edessa runs a great restaurant right on the waterfall. Here we are eating lunch there. In between the gate and the building in the background runs the water.

The old city of Edessa is quite rustic. It would make for a nice, quiet getaway.

This is one of the B&Bs at which you can stay. This particular place also has a cafe overlooking the valley below. Inside the cafe, on the ground floor, a large part of the floor is glass, through which you can see a section of the ancient city's wall, which dates to 400 BC.

There are many churches, including two Byzantine churches from the 14th century. Here we are inside the 14th century church dedicated to the Apostles Peter and Paul. You can see the marble columns and capitals, as well as the frescoes above them.

The front of the small little church to Sts. Peter and Paul. To the south is a view over the valley below.

Here our group is coming out from the church and heading down one of the cobblestone alleys.

The 14th century church dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos was the former cathedral and now stands adjacent to the offices of the Metropolis of Edessa, Pella, and Almopia. Here, Phoebe is crawling around in the courtyard. Through the gate you can see the Metropolitan's car parked in front of the offices. (You can always tell a Metropolitan's car in Greece because they have a special license plate that reads an abbreviation of their title, in this case "M.E.P.A." It's safe to say they probably don't get pulled over much.

Here's Paul sitting on top of a marble base in the courtyard in front of the church, while Phoebe tries to climb up.

Before heading home, we went for a coffee at a cafe next to the Metropolis, overlooking the valley.

The cafe had a train engine that the babies rode. Here Paul was the conductor while Phoebe looks on.

Paris and Phoebe in front of the offices of the Metropolis as we walked back to the car.

For more photos from the trip, click here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Constantinople: The Patriarchate

After lingering a rather long time in Hagia Sophia, we then made our way across the street to the Basilica Cistern, where, unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to get good photos.

As they seem wont to do in these Byzantine monuments, the Turks were installing some kind of weird modern art exhibit in the cistern when we went. In the photo above, I was trying to capture one of the "artists" (forgive my skepticism) climbing out of the water after he hung some mobiles over the water. You can see the outline of one in the upper right corner of the photo, along with the scaffolding they erected for this purpose.

Here is one of the two famous--and enormous--Medusa heads that serve as column bases.

After the cool of the cistern, we headed back out into the rising heat of the day and took a quick walk through the Grand Bazaar. One of our all-male company (who shall remain anonymous) joked that if we had any women in our group, we'd never leave there.

Above and below--walking through the Grand Bazaar.

Here we are just outside the Grand Bazaar and in front of the one of Istanbul's famous mosques, but to be honest I can't say for sure which one it is.

Another view of the city from that point.

We then walked over the Galata Bridge to head back to our hotel. All along the bridge men stand and fish. There's also a walkway on the lower level with cafes.

Paris standing on the Galata Bridge over the Golden Horn.

We collected our things from the hotel and hopped in the mini-van to head to the Patriarchate on our way out of the city. Here, Paris and I are standing at the entrance, where Patriarch Gregory V was hanged by the Turks for encouraging the Greeks to revolt.

Inside the courtyard, looking at the front of the rather modest St. George's, which is the current seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch.

Fr. Panayiotis and Paris inside the church, venerating the relics of St. Euphemia, among others.

Me standing in front of the ornate iconostasis in St. George's.

After our quick visit there, since it was growing quite late and we had a long drive home ahead of us, we headed out. Unfortunately, we got caught again in the city's horrendous traffic and it probably took two hours for us to get 15 km outside the city. After that, it was smooth sailing. We made only one brief stop, where we caught the last moments of Spain's victory over Germany, which was loved by Greeks, who tended to side with one of their brethren PIGS countries against the despots of the EU, Germany.

We finally rolled into Thessaloniki after over 8 hours in the car around 1:30 AM, but it was a wonderful trip and well worth the effort to venerate the holy sites.