Saturday, May 31, 2014

Exploring Lüneburg

The weather was a bit overcast and rainy during our stay in Hamburg, but we still managed to find windows to explore. The first days were spent exploring Lüneburg, a suburb to the south of Hamburg where our friends live.

Here is one of the typical buildings in the historic downtown area. I believe it used to be a warehouse during the area's heyday as a salt mining center.

The river where they transported the salt.

Then our friend Raif took us over to see the engineering marvel of the boat lift on the Elbe River.

The kids enjoyed see the huge, long boat go down on an elevator.

We then took a walk along the river which formerly served as the border between East and West Germanies. There, we stopped for a lunch of what we soon learned was the German favorite -- sausage with a curry sauce (basically ketchup with a little curry). Our experience in the restaurant was typical. German couples were sitting and eating their meal in almost total silence. Then we came in, four adults and seven small children, used to the Greek way of eating (talking, laughing, etc.), and they looked at us like we were aliens.

In the afternoon, since it was raining, we took the kids to an enormous indoor playland -- the biggest I've ever seen. 

 Needless to say, they had a great time. Here you can see Phoebe and her friend Mariel driving a motorized car around the track.

And here's Benny building a house out of giant-sized legos.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Trip to Germany

Earlier this month, we took a family vacation to go visit some friends from Portaria who recently moved to Hamburg, Germany. We found excellent prices for tickets from Thessaloniki direct to Hamburg, so we set out on a Friday afternoon after school for Thessaloniki. Above is a photo from a road stop along the way.

Once we reached Thessaloniki, we stopped at Ikea to let the kids play in the playground area. Here Damiani is enjoying an Ikea ice cream cone.

On Saturday morning, our friend Angela took us to the airport and we were off. Here's Damiani on her first plane trip.

All the girls getting ready for the 2:45 hour trip.

Fortunately (for everyone), the plane was only about 1/3 full, so the kids all had a window to look out of. Here's Phoebe looking down on the clouds.

And here we are on the tarmac in Hamburg, waiting for the bus to take us to the terminal.

The kids were great travelers, each pulling a carry-on through the terminal. Our friend Raif met us at the car rental area and we were off.

Here we are once we reached our friends' house in Lüneburg, a suburb about 45 minutes south of Hamburg. Phoebe is great friends with the two girls. Here they are trying out a build-your-own straw contraption. They managed to all drink juice with it!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Volos Conference on the Holy Canons

Before leaving for a much-needed vacation with the family, I attended the first part of the Volos Academy's annual international conference, the theme of which, this year, was the Holy Canons and contemporary challenges (such as reception of converts, mixed marriages, the principle of "economy," etc.).

For those interested, videos of all the papers are available (with English translation overdubbed, where applicable) on YouTube. You'll find all the links, as well as a helpful summary, here.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Feast at the Chapel of St. George

During Renewal (or Bright) Week, we celebrated the Feast of St. George on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning in his chapel.

The chapel, which dates to 1765, has received a lot of attention in the last two years. First, it was dug out from the landslide of dirt it had been encased in, and now we painted the interior for the feast day. It made a big difference.

Some of the ladies lovingly prepared a wreath of fresh flowers to adorn the icon on the prokynitarion (above) and the saint's icon on the templon (two above).

We're also slowly trying to level and clear the land next to the chapel so that the kids can play there. Which is exactly what they did! I would love to get some kind of playground equipment there for them to use year-round, but that needs donors...

The view from the chapel.

The boys playing with the other kids before Vespers.

The kids saw me taking photos, and of course wanted to take some of their own. Besides the innumerable blurred shots of feet, they also captured this good one of Ezat, my faithful altar helper.

Here we are celebrating the artoklasia toward the end of Vespers, just outside the entrance to the church.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Agape Vespers

Once again, I have a lot of catching up to do! Here are photos from our Agape Vespers service at our Chapel of the Holy Archangels, located next to the well-known Xenia Palace. The hotel kindly set up speakers and a platform outside the small chapel so that more of the hotel's guests could participate in the service.

Paradoxically, I read the Greek, while I found a Greek friend to read the English. We also had parishioners read the Gospel passage in German, French, and Arabic.

Fortunately, the weather was lovely, and people were enthused by the service.

Friday, May 02, 2014

May Day BBQ

Spring showers are here, usually giving us a couple hours of rain late in the afternoons. Yesterday, however, was a beautiful day until a brief thunderstorm around 5:00. But that gave us plenty of time to enjoy a BBQ on the May 1 holiday with some of our friends from Volos and Portaria.

Above are our friends Vasilis and Paraskevi. Vasilis frequently helps us chant, along with our chanter Nikos, who came with his family.

The kids were excited for desert time.

We also had our friend Dn. Gabriel and his wife, and some new friends from here in Portaria, together with their two young children.