Greece

Pammukale to Rhodes, Greece. Rhodes to Patmos, Greece. Patmos to Ephesus, Turkey. I know Ephesus should be in my Turkey blog, but the Greeks say it belongs to Greece and chronologically it fits here. So much. I just have to sum it all up.

Rhodes: Stayed in the walled fortress town of Old Rhodes with its maze of streets with the castle at one end. It was built by the Knights of St. John Jeruselum until they fled when conquered. Lots of Christian Churches and a few left over Mosques. Even though there were Mosques, there was no “Call” heard in Rhodes. Patrick, manager at the wonderful Hotel Andreas, said “Thank God they don’t let them broadcast it in Rhodes, it’s Greece you know.” But I actually miss ‘The Call’. Whenever I heard it I would stop and just say a prayer of appreciation five times a day.
I drove a rented car (first time I’ve driven in 7 months) to Lindos and across the flowering mountains to the first church built on the island and the Thira monestery that is now there. I was honored to be able sit and talk with Father Neil about the history of this church. I remembered the story was one my mom had told me. Father Neil also talked about some recent prophesies that a monk had begun to write about. My mother had always wanted to come to Rhodes but never did. She told me I should visit Rhodes if I ever get to Greece. The mountains were full of wildflowers and millions of buzzing bees. I stopped to eat and had some of the best homegrown honey I have ever tasted drizzled on homemade yogurt. There, I could taste the perfectly blended smell of the wildflowers I experienced earlier.

On to Patmos, ‘The Holy Island” a small island with white washed houses and a fortress on the hill. This is the island Saint John the Theologian came to when he was banished to from Ephesus. He lived in a cave and received messages from God which were dictated to a young man and became the Book of Revelations. A monestery is built nearby in honor of Saint John. All the icons painted of St. John show a bulging forehead with distinctly two hemisphere. Thanks to Mary (long story), I was able to see his cave even though it was closed. So much religion and history to process. Have you ever heard a Goats’ Song? While exploring the island just before sunset we followed a small road and heard them before I saw them, 50 or 60 goats rambling up and down the rocky mountain side. Each goat’s bell resonated harmonically to create a song. We watched the sun go down listening to their song. Ended the magical day with Angella from Thessolonaki, eating octopus and calamari.

I’m now staying at the Boomerang Hostel in Selsuk, Turkey, getting ready for more history. In the morning I visit Euphesus.
March 28th- The morning started with a visit to Virgin Mary’s house. Jesus, on the cross, asked St. John the Theologan, to take care of his mother as if she were his own. After the death of Jesus, Christians were being persecuted in Jeruselum so St. John took Mary to Euphesus to protect her. Her home was built high on the hill above Euphesus. Based on the recorded visions of a mystic nun in Germany in 1812, the site was found in 1881. Stories passed down generations from nearby villagers supported the nun’s visions. Millions of people make a pilgramage to this site every year. These Pilgrimages include Muslims who also honor the mother of one their prophets in the Quran, Jesus. Did you know Virgin Mary is mentioned in the Quran more times than in the Bible?

http://www.sacred-destinations.com/turkey/ephesus-house-of-the-virgin

A visit to Euphesus and the Tomb of St. John and the Cave of the Sleeping Christians all in a day. Too much to write about. The energy from the hillside of Mother Mary’s house was the highlight.

From Selcuk, I took a bus to Cesme, Turkey’s port town, and then a boat to the Greek island, Xios (Chios). There I met Georgia, Sofia Lingos’ mother-in-law, who grew up in Metras. Metras, a UNESCO world heritage site, is a small fortress town built out of rocks. Pedistrian-only paths wander through the small town. Georgia has her ancestral home there in the fortress and I was fortunate to stay with her. I had a rental car and she guided me through the small emerald island’s mountains, rocky cliffs, and crystal clear beaches in search of the island’s famous churches and monesteries. Every church or monestery has a story based on a miracle, revelation, and honoring a famous saint. Georgia knows all the stories tells them beautifully. She also tells some very sad stories of the ‘Xios Massacre’ when Turkey invaded the island. Georgia and I also found out our fathers both fought in the Albanian Front during World War II. It was a successful campaign fought with “pitch forks, and shovels”, so to speak, against the well armed Italians. Hitler upset about the embarrassing Italian defeat in Albania decided to invade Greece from the North and occupied Greece within a month. Its said that Hitler’s decision to invade Greece caused the two month delay of his planned invasion of Russian, which was a turning point of the war. Both Georgia’s and my father left Albania late April 1941 and went back home. My father walked for one month to Levidi and Georgia’s father walked to Athens. With prayers to St. George and a small boat he made it to Xios. After his safe return and the birth of his daughter, he named Georgia in honor of St. George. Two history buffs, drinking Greek coffee, eating octopus, calamari, and enjoying the past together during Holy Week.

Lesvos (Mytelini) Greece: April 13th. The Ferries have been on strike for 2 days, but are now operating. I ferried over to Lesvos (3 hours) and bused to Eresos Skala, where a friend of Kathryn’s from Wales lives. I met Kathryn and her friend, Kaye, at a campground in Korinthos, Greece, four years ago. I’m staying in Kaye’s house but she’s in Turkey waiting for the weather to calm down to ferry back. Saturday I went to Midnight Easter Service with a Kaye’s neightbor, Chris. This was Chris’ first Easter service and I found myself trying to constantly explain to her this was not the service I expected. People were mulling around and talking loudly while the priest was conducting the liturgy. The cantors were barely audible and seemed a little bored with it all. After lighting our candles we went outside to witness a huge bonfire and the burning of Judas. Homemade bottle rockets were exploding all around us. After entering the church again we found most of the people didn’t bother coming back in and no one sang the Xristos Anesti song. I turned to Chris and apologically said this wasn’t the peaceful, reverant service I expected. She replied, “This is the wild west of Greece, you know”. Chris invited me to Easter dinner which included a lot of the women’s community who live there and two roasting lambs. Lesvos Skala is a big tourist spot for Lesbians with an international woman’s festival in September.

It is said that Apollo gave Orpheus a gift of a lyre and the Muses taught him to play and sing. Somehow Orpheus incurred the wrath of Dionysus who had him dismembered by the Maenads. Orpheus’s head and lyre found its way to Lesvos and remained there. Coincidently, Eresos was the birthplace (@ 600 BC) of the famous Sappho, poet, songwriter, singer and lyre player. Its also the birthlplace of Theophrastus, the father of botany and the place where Aristotle began his systematic zoological investigations.
Kaye made it back from Turkey and she picked up her mother and Chris at the airport the next day and I picked up a rental car for my drive around the island. It was good to get to know Kaye better, meet her parents, and I appreciated the use of her wonderful cottage in Skala Eresos. Good luck to her with the upcoming tourist season and the coffeehouse on the pier.
Even though I called Xios an emerald island, Lesvos is officially called the ‘Emerald island’, which is justified. I drove to the petrified forest near Kaye’s area to find it was closed. I managed to find a spot to climb over the fence and wandered around the 30 to 40 feet petrified trees laying sliced on the ground. Several smaller trees were still rooted and upright. The wind was howling and rain pelted me constantly, so I quickly walked around. The museum in the nearby town provided an explanation of the volcanic eruptions that covered first, the ancient Sequoia forest, and then centuries later the subtropical forest with volcanic ash. The ash mixed with rain creating mud and the petrified forest. Lesvos is home to the second largest Sequoia petrified forest in the world.
I drove through the forested mountains to Petra and soaked the next morning in the 1000 year old Roman Bath house with a bubbling hot springs filtering through the gravel floor. The water flows out to the sea and soakers intermittantly go from hot springs to the cold salty water.
I mentioned to Kaye the heavy energy I felt walking in Lesvos. It may be the volcanic (four of them on island) energy coming from deep in the earth. Its the kind of place your feet want to be planted in the fertile earth like the vegetation all around. Its a place that invites even the birds to stay year round and not fly away. I can understand why Kaye kept returning to Eresos until she finally gave up and just settled in there.

Levidi, Greece: April 20th. Left Lesvos on the 10:00 night Ferry arriving in Athens at 8:30 the next morning. A city bus to the KTEL station from the pier, a bus to Tripoli, changed buses and arrived in Levidi by noon. I’m staying at my Theo Vassili and Thea Eleni’s house, which was the house my mother grew up in. Theo is my mother’s youngest brother and turns 91 on May 13th. He still manages to walk down to the Platia (plaza) for Kafe and chats with the other men in town. His memory for names and dates is as sharp as ever. I’ll write down more family history while I’m here. Life here is pretty predictable, unlike my recent traveling.

May 4th to May 14th. After talking about this for almost a year, Bonnie and Ray arrive in Greece. Eleven days packed. First, the Ancient Temple of Apollo near the mountain town of Delphi. Next for a long ride to Lafkada, a trip to ancient Olympia, Nafplio and Santorini and finally a night and day in Athens. It was incredible to enjoy the time with old friends.

12 thoughts on “Greece

  1. Xristos Anesti Koukla Mou – I am so glad you and Georgia were able to connect. Did she tell you she studied nursing when she grew up in Xios??? She is very interesting, and as you mention very well-informed in Greek history. Too bad (not really) we are not in Boston for my family’s Easter celebration. They are having 70 people for dinner, and have had to rent tents, chairs and table! The word has passed that it is the IN place to go, and my sisters cannot say “NO” to anyone who asks to be invited. Anyway – I will miss our Midway gathering, and hope you will have a good dinner and nice company to celebrate. That was great that Dale , Sue and I were all in the library the other day – keep Skyping. I love hearing your voice, and also making sure you are safe and well. Loveth, Tasha

    • Alithos Anesti! I went to midnight services here in Eresos last night. Fire crackers going off outside the door made it feel like a war zone, people mulling around talking loudly to each other in church, the kantors were barely audible, and they never even sang the “Xristos Anesti” song. When the congregation went outside for the procession, there was a bonfire and they were burning a puppet of Judas. Didn’t Jesus forgive Judas? More bottle rockets and a few fireworks. I never would have imagined Easter Service would be like this in Greece.

  2. Wow! You have been busy! I knew you would enjoy touring Ephesus, as there is so much history there. I thought that the home of the Virgin Mary was a very peaceful place too. I remember the bonfires, but fireworks for Easter…that’s unbelieveable! They really celebrate Holy Week in Spain too, but no fireworks. I think it’s great that you were able to learn more about your father & his involvement with the war from Georgia. Those were tough times for Greece, and with Greece’s current financial instability, I see tough times ahead. Have you witnessed anger and unrest in the streets since you’ve been there?
    Take care,
    Margie

    • I’m staying in the countryside now and I’ve only experienced the worry everyone has. They raised property taxes and most of the people can’t pay for them and in Levidi there are a lot of older people on fixed income. I’ve seen everyone sorting and stacking firewood for the winter (winters like SLC). Most people have returned to using small wood stoves because of the cost of heating with oil. My uncle and aunt sit and sleep mostly in the one room that has a small wood stove in the winter and even now that the weather is still cool. They avoid heating the rest of the house. The cost of food is also higher than previously. Luckily, they have a farmer’s market every Sunday. People here also have gardens, olive trees, grapevines, chickens, and sheep. which help. Many people have returned to gathering wild greens in the hillsides earlier in the spring.
      I haven’t spent time in Athens yet. That’s where the majority of the protesting is going on with the media coverage. The elections are next week, but I don’t see that will change anything. Have a wonderful end-of-the-teaching year .

  3. I have a buddy pass from Joni. Would it work out to visit after school is out arriving around June 4,5, or 6 and staying at least 2 weeks? Send reply via work e-mail. I bet it is great to be “home”. Heard you have skyped with Sue, Tashsa. Love-Margo

  4. Yia Sou Koukla – I keep turning on Skype to see if you are around, and shall continue trying! Sounds like my old island of Lesvos was pretty intense. I never got to see the Petrified Forest, because the Turks had just waged a small battle, and the USA sent in ENORMOUS warships, closed the airport, and put our hotel in seclusion for protection……rather scary. The last time my sister and I were there, we went to one of the old (ancient) baths, which had not been renovated. It was full of mystery, cobwebs, and spirit beings. We had gone up the mountain to one of the supposed hot springs, but found they had routed the water into separate rooms with bathtubs!!! Imagine. Fortunately, we found an old native who wanted to explore with us. Apparently he felt if he were charged for trespassing, he would just blame the tourists. Were you able to try any of the Lingos Ouzo?
    So glad you made it back to your homeland, and are able to visit with the family. Spring is as bizarre as ever around here – one day hot, the next freezing. Pretty interesting Easter you had – Xristos Anesti to you.
    Take care and enjoy. Loveth, Tasha

    • Tasha, what year were you in Lesvos that the Turks waged war. I thought everything was straiightened out in 1922 with the Great Exchange of Population. That was the year that all Greeks living in Turkey were ordered back to Greece and visa versa. Was it during the conflict in Cyprus. So much combative history, let me know when that happened. There is talk now of off shore drilling in the Aegean and I think both Greece and Turkey are eyeing the straight there. The line of separating is 6 miles off the shore of Turkey, and Lesvos is less that that.
      I did make it to Loutra only because I had time for a quick ride there before I had to turn in my car and catch the ferry. I didn’t see where they made the Ouzo, but asked at the local store about purchasng some. The Lingos Ouzo only came in gift box with large size bottle. I thought twice about carrying it in my backpack. I should have had a shot from the Taverna, but didn’t think of it.
      The Roman bath house (about 1000 years old)I went to also had not been renovated and could have used a coat of paint, Tthey also had the water routed into private tubs for those too frail for the real one. I went to the real one, of course. I was told there was an outdoor hot springs near Mytilini but didn’t try to find it.
      There is a 9 hour difference of time here. I’m now in a place in Levidi that has WIFI and actually noon to 1:00 your time would be a good time to Skype. I will leave tomorrow (Friday) to pick up Bonnie and Ray at the airport and will return here probably Monday or Tuesday, so we can try to hook up today,, Monday or Tuesday. Love to talk with youl

  5. Hi Athina! I’m glad that you have been able to connect with your family in Greece. I’m sure that they have many interesting stories to tell. I heard on the news today that the deep cuts Greece has made are not enough, and they may still have to leave the European Union. With higher taxes, higher prices, and high unemployment, it seems as if everyohne is suffering except the banks.
    We only have a month of school left this year…only 12 days left for me! We start CORE testing on Tuesday.
    I’m ready and willing to travel anytime after June 6th, if you are up for some company!
    Take care and enjoy your travels and time with family.
    Hope to see you soon,
    Margie

  6. Please give my warm regards to your Uncle Theo Basili. I still remember him picking us up in Athens in his Mercedes and taking us to Levidi. I remember drinking “kafe” in the town square with him. Has the town changed much? I’ll never forget the impression we made on the young school aged children when we first arrived in town. They had never seen girls in jeans or pants for that matter. I imagine that it is very different.

    Dave and I were married on April 25th. Private ceremony with just our kids. Planning a party this summer in NY but no firm date yet. Not sure when we’ll party out West. Thanks for the early birthday greetings, I’ll think of you on the actual day, May 27th.

    Much love to all of your Greek family. Safe travels. Lil Babe

  7. Athina, Here we are home and missing Greece. Thankyou again for everything you did to make it our best vacation ever! I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I know everyone who is lucky enough to come will love it as much as we do. My old computer went down with my email addresses; drop me an email so I can update this new one. Enjoy your solitude in Levidi for a while before the kids arrive. Love Bonnie

  8. Hey Athina, Happy Belated Birthday! Thought of you on your day! Hope you are still enjoying your travels. Love, Lil Babe

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