Monday, June 24, 2013

Triplets Go to the Beach

Beach season has started. The weather just turned hot here about a week ago, and the water is starting to catch up. The triplets' first swim of the season was in the Pagasitikos Gulf, which locals say is warmer than the other side of Mt. Pelion, which is the open Aegean. So after our trip to visit Dimini, we went to the nearby beach of Chrysi Akti tis Panagias (the Golden Beach of the Theotokos). See map point B above, as well as the photos above and below.

The water was still pretty cold then, so the highlight of the trip for the kids was probably the ice cream at the end.

The second visit to the beach (on a different day) was to Plaka, which is right next Agios Ioannis on the open Aegean (see point C on map above). The beach here is more pebbles than sand, but it's absolutely gorgeous.

Phoebe with her godmother Ana before she headed back to the US.

The kids saw a German tourist with a nice inflatable, and he kindly let them borrow it.

Benny wasn't too sure about it, so here he is watching them sail around from the shoreline.

For a few more photos, click here.

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Visit to the City of Jason and the Argonauts

Last week, Anastasia, the triplets, and I took a trip to visit the late Neolithic city of Dimini, which dates to around 4500 BC. Lying about 5 km west of modern-day Volos, the city covered an area not greater than 7.5 acres and is believed to have had 200-300 inhabitants occupying 30-40 houses. Today, it is situated about 3 km from the sea, but then it was probably only 1 km away. It was abandoned perhaps 1000 years later, becoming a cemetery for a period. Around 1500 BC, the Mycenaeans founded a new city on the ruins of the old one, which flourished for 200-300 years before being abandoned for unknown reasons. Evidence of the Mycenaeans' famous Linear B script has been found on the site.

As you can see from the photos, the kids enjoyed playing on the ruins of the 6000-year-old city walls.

Here we explored the very well-preserved Mycenaean tomb. Above, you can see our crew walking down the corridor into the circular tomb area. 

Here are the kids inside, standing on one of the walls of the crypt, where they found some pottery fragments, etc., despite the tomb having being plundered many centuries ago.

Benny at the top of the path entering the city.

Here's Benny and Phoebe standing in the center of the ancient city, which recent research has identified with the city of Iolkos, famous from mythology as the home of Jason and the Argonauts

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Cleaning our 80-year-old Tiles

The tiles in our main church, dedicated to the Holy Unmercenary Healers, date to the 1920s or 1930s, from what I can gather. They were produced by a local company here in Volos (since out of business), and are now considered quite "vintage," with even replicas costing an arm and a leg. Unfortunately, over time, as to be expected, they have become quite worn, especially since there was no electricity in the church until 1960, meaning they had at least 30 years of extra wear from lighting only by wax and oil candles. In the altar, it had become so bad that they had (unfortunately, in my opinion) made the decision to put down wall-to-wall carpeting to cover the tiles. Of course, this, too, quickly wore out. So I recently decided to take up the carpeting and see what we could do with the tiles there in the altar and the church as a whole. 

Above and below you can see tiles in the altar area. This was the worst section of the church, but the main body of the church wasn't in much better shape.

Through the help of our friends and tireless workers Babi and Popi, we learned of a local cleaning company in Volos that undertakes cleaning such floors. They cleaned similar tiles at a large chapel belonging to the other parish in Portaria and did a nice job. I managed to find a donor who liked all the work we have been doing and trusted me that this, too, would be worth doing.

And here are the results.

Of course, they still won't be mistaken for new, but they are much, much better.

Back in the altar area.

We're discussing now possibly applying a special luster coat, but I'll need to find more donors first. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Baby Gets a Name

Time for an update on the baby. In the Orthodox tradition, there is a prayer for naming a newly born child, which is done on the eighth day. The day of the birth counts as the first day, so today is the eighth day. In Greece, this prayer is rarely done, and the baby is not named until the baptism. But we feel like we've gotten to know the baby a bit in this first week and decided that her name seems to be Δαμιανή (Damiani), after the Holy Unmercenary Healer Damian, of Sts. Kosmas and Damian, the patron saints of our parish.

Above and below, Phoebe is enjoying her baby sister. She is so glad to have a sister!

Paul has been amazingly gentle with the baby. Benny is more reserved at the moment, perhaps afraid or simply unsure what to do.

And here is little Damiani (pronounced in Greek Tha-mee-ah-NEE). The English spelling will probably be Damiana (Day-mee-AH-nah).

Here, Pres. Pelagia is sitting outside with Damiani in our porch area, looking out at the sea.

Here's Phoebe holding her sister again.

So far, Damiani has been very peaceful and quiet, just sleeping and eating.

For a few more photos, click here.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Works at the Chapel of St. George

Another of the many projects we are currently undertaking. One of our oldest chapels, the one dedicated to St. George from 1765, has had a problem (as do many of these chapels) with humidity. The problem was that, over time, dirt had fallen down the mountain slope and collected around the chapel, reaching over 4 feet in some areas! Rainwater would then collect here, and be absorbed into the walls.

To fix the problem, we began by digging out all the dirt, down to the original level, about a yard around the whole church. A wonderful local man (from Portaria's other parish) with an abundance of philotimo, and his own backhoe, did the work for us at cost. You can see the difference in the photos before (above) and after (below).

Now we are waiting for a donor to help cover the costs of constructing a retaining wall for the dirt around the church and some kind of water run-off system. The next step is then to repaint the chapel inside and out.

You can see the kids like playing in the ditch.

A shot from the embankment above.

We also cleared the yard next to the chapel. To the left are two graves, one of a priest who served the parish for many years during the 20th century, and the other of a famous Greek philanthropist who donated the chapel and the land to the parish many years ago, and also donated the land for the Panteion (from the last name Pantos) University in Athens.

Another shot of the yard from the front or west side of the chapel. You can see that it has a slope. I would like to have grass here so kids can play.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Tiling the Narthex at "Panagitsa"

Of our six chapels, the most frequently used--by far--is that of "Panagitsa," which is dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos. The church's history is long but not clear. It was the main church of a monastery during the 18th-19th centuries, but some--including a professor of Christian archaeology--suspect that it is much older.

In any event, it was damaged before or during World War II and the Germans used it to keep their livestock. Eventually, a local woman, who recently passed away, came to take care of the church during the 1980s, and it was rebuilt, although on smaller scale. Of the many projects yet to be done there, one was the tiling of the narthex. Some of the local women recently decided to get together and donate money to the parish to buy tiles and have them installed. Above is a photo before, and below a photo after.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

New Baby Girl Edwards

Yesterday, Monday, June 3, a new baby girl was born into the Edwards family in Greece, around 8:15 PM. She weighed in at 3.5 kg (7.7 lbs) and measured 52 cm (20.5 inches) in length. Above is the first photo of her, just minutes after being born.

Another photo a few minutes later.

Mother with child.

Today, Tuesday, we took the kids to go meet their new sister. Here we are in the waiting room of the clinic. We were joined by our good friends Fr. Stavros and Pres. Maria.

Phoebe was the most eager to meet her new sister. Here is Phoebe with her godmother talking to the baby.

And here are the triplets climbing all over Fr. Stavros just like the do me. They must have been confused by the similar appearance...

No name yet. In Greece, the baby does not officially have a name until the baptism. Until then, she is simply "Baby Girl Edwards."

For more photos, click here and here.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Parish Trip, Part 3: Delphi, Arahova, and the Monastery of the Prophet Elijah

After Osios Loukas, we headed toward nearby Arahova for lunch. The kids fell asleep during the short ride over. Above, you can see Paul still sleeping as we ordered food. 

Here our friend Fr. Stavros, the driver, gives Phoebe the phone to talk to his presvytera, Maria. Phoebe told her in Greek all about our trip.

Here's our group enjoying lunch.

After lunch, we took a walk through Arahova to admire the views. Above, you can see some of the stairs leading to one of the village's two churches. The stairs seemed to go on forever! And you could just make out the church at the top.

And here's the town's other church, in a picturesque location.

One of our parishioners, Christina, an iconographer, is from the area. She served as a kind of guide for us. Here she is with Phoebe in Arahova.

Here we are as we're about to get back on the bus. Many wealthy Athenians have second houses in Arahova, like those you see in the photo above. They even have them set up so that they can turn on the heating via internet, so that the house is warm by the time they drive the 2-2.5 hours from Athens!

Coming out of Arahova and heading to our final destination, we passed through the famous city of Delphi, which the ancient Greeks considered the center of the world. We didn't have time to go into the archaeological site and explore, so we had to settle for taking a photo from a distance.

Our final destination with the Monastery of the Prophet Elijah, where we had Saturday night Vespers along with another visiting priest and his parish.

This monastery is renowned for its hand-carved templon or iconostasis, featuring intricately carved scenes from the Old and New Testaments. The work dates to around 1830 and is said to have taken 20 years for the artist to complete.

After that, we headed back toward Volos, finally making it into Portaria shortly before 10 PM. A long day, but with many blessings. We hope to make next month's trip either to the monasteries of Evia or to the monastery of St. Ephraim in Nea Makri.

For all the photos from the day, click here.