Thursday, March 31, 2011

From Athens to Meteora...

We enjoyed two full days in Athens.  On Monday, there were no planned activities; we simply checked into our hotel and caught up with ourselves after a long day of travel.   Many of the group took walks around the area of the hotel which is centrally located in downtown Athens, not far from the Parliament Building (the former Palace).

On Tuesday, we were up early and met our guide, Sophia (which in Greek means "wisdom"  - an extremely apt name for this very wise woman!).   Herakles, our driver, was out front, and we boarded the coach and headed for the historic and important Pauline site of Corinth,  about an hour and half drive from Athens.

Eucharist amid the ruins at Corinth
The site has been developed somewhat since my last visit, and people are no longer able to climb all over the ruins.  This is a good thing, though I do remember how much fun our son Richard had exploring the site.  The ruins are fascinating and one can see the remains of the storefront stalls where St. Paul very likely engaged in his tent-making trade with Priscilla and Aquila while he also proclaimed the Gospel to the gentiles in this place.  The most famous object to see at Corinth is the "bema" where Paul reportedly defended himself on front of the Roman Proconsul Gallio.   It was powerful to celebrate a Eucharist in this place, especially because our oldest biblical reference to the Eucharist is from 1 Cor. 11.

The Bema where Paul reportedly testified at Corinth
Following our time at the ruins of ancient Corinth, we went for lunch near the Corinthian Canal.   Such a canal had been thought of from ancient times, but it wasn't completed until the 19th century.  St. Paul's member Mary Stahl told us her husband Larry, a Navy submarine captain in the 1960s and 1970s guided his submarine through this canal.  Quite an accomplishment!

The Corinthian Canal

We drove back to Athens and headed for the Acropolis.  Our itinerary called for us to visit this site only on Tuesday, but given the lateness of the hour, we were concerned that we would not have enough time to take in and enjoy the Acropolis fully, so we made a decision  to visit Mars Hill and to climb up to the top the next morning.   Mars Hill is on the same hill above Athens as the Acropolis and was a place where debate took place and public judgments were rendered by civil authorities.  Acts of the Apostles reports that it was here Paul gave his famous "Men of Athenians" speech (Acts 17:22).  Mars Hill looks out over Athens and provides a spectacular view.

 After our visit to Mars Hill, most of us went on an optional visit to the new Acropolis Museum which offers phenomenal insight and background into that historic site. Mary Stahl had heard about this museum from one of her daughters and urged us to see it.  It was a great suggestion!  The museum is at the base of the mountain on which the Acropolis sits and is not only architecturally beautiful, but is also unified to the site itself.   Among highlights are glass floors that look down into an actual historical dig at the base of the mountain.  The museum provides a closer look at all aspects of the architecture on top of the Acropolis. Visiting the museum greatly enriched our experience when we climbed up to the Acropolis the next morning.

Our stay in the Hotel Titania in downtown Athens was lovely.  We were a little surprised when the revolving door of the hotel was boarded up on Tuesday evening.  We later discovered this was a precautionary step as a demonstration in support of undocumented immigrants later walked by the hotel.  It turned out to be a peaceful demonstration and there was no trouble.  Later, on Tuesday, we all enjoyed a "nightcap" in the Olive Garden which is the Hotel Titania's  rooftop bar.  There we enjoyed a spectacular view of the Acropolis lit up at night.

The Parthenon at night from the Olive Garden Bar of the Titanian Hotel
  On Wednesday morning, we were up early and, after a huge Greek breakfast, we headed back to the Acropolis.
We were there when the gates opened and were able to see the Parthenon and the Erecthion Temple up close.  These are breathtaking sights that connect us with everything we value about western civilization.  I was pleased that we were up there early enough to beat the crowds which began to pour in as we headed back down.

The Charioteer

After our time at the Acropolis, we boarded our coach for the two plus hour drive to Delphi, site of the ancient oracle.  I had not visited this site before and was struck by the great beauty of the countryside and how well the ancient temple site and nature combined.  It was a beautiful spring day and flowers were blooming.  Before hiking around the historic ruins, we went to the museum at Delphi as saw the famous "Charioteer" sculpture as well as a a famous piece of epigraphic evidence naming "Gallio" the proconsul (see above) which ties Paul together with Gallio.

The ruins of Delphi and the stunning vista

After our visit the museum and ruins of Delphi, our wonderful guide, Sophia, brought us to a beautiful site overlooking the hills of Delphi where were able to celebrate the Eucharist.   Nearby was a memorial to an 11th century saint, St. Luke.  it was perfect.

Well, I have to close, battery power is low.  Look for the next installment!

1 comment:

Sandy said...

Your pictures, descriptions of what you've seen and the bliblical/historical context you've given are wonderful. Thanks for the chance to travel vicariously!!