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?
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.