Farewell To Greece …no fireworks and very sad to leave a country full of love, culture and friendship

Each evening we had a meal at our "local", The Collage restaurant (actually the menu was all Italian!);  We sat outside in full view of this wonderful small Greek Orthodox church ..a standard style repeated throughout Greece (on the islands with white walls and blue domes!).
Each evening we had a meal at our “local”, The Collage restaurant (actually the menu was all Italian!); We sat outside in full view of this wonderful small Greek Orthodox church ..a standard style repeated throughout Greece (on the islands with white walls and blue domes!).

Friday 3rd July

Today we had a “chill” day sussing out the Athens underground to the airport which is currently free owing to the financial crisis..Athens is providing workers free transport because they are unable to take out more than 40 euros each day.  We took the wrong bus to Piraeus, eventually jumped out after good advice from locals  and found an underground railway station and returned to base; found the right line for Piraeus and got there and realised it was not a good move for a relaxed day…it is a busy port city with five major island ferries and shops filled with chandlery and lots of industrial workers.

We came back to our favourite area, had a long lunch and Ann endangered our luggage weight shopping for amazingly good value quality shoes. The whole Syntagma Square was building up for the huge rally with the Prime Minister and we watched from our balcony as many thousands came into the city to hear him speak for the ‘no’ vote with national anthem, a choir and other items,  and thousands of others to another venue for a ‘yes ‘ vote rally.  The after “party” went on till 4.00am in the morning but it was a happy and good humoured scene.

BBC News has been full here also with the tragic news of the death of the Adelaide Crows coach. We have been stunned by this news and a thinking of his family.  It is the only time we have seen Australia on any international news so far!

We will be sorry to farewell Greece ..its people are warm and friendly and care deeply for friendship; their culture and sense of history is everywhere and a spirit of ancient thought and intellectual conversation is highly valued. There is much of deep value here and I hoped it can be saved and enabled to flourish.

It’s all Greek to me…North and South in beautiful Greece

Tuesday 30 June, Wednesday 1 July, Thursday 2 July:  It’s all Greek to me.

We have travelled the length and breadth of this very beautiful country by bus and enjoyed its mountains, plains, vast coastline and fruitful crop production.  Pistachio nuts, sunflowers, olives and cotton grow in abundance here and Greece has more cotton per total acreage than any nation other than China, India and the US.  We were also amazed by its mountainous terrain. Again per total land mass Greece is Europe’s third most mountainous country behind only Norway and Albania and ahead of Switzerland.  Greece has a vast ski network in Winter

Highlights of our journey included the amazing Corinth canal cut through the isthmus early in the twentieth century by Hungarian engineers and saving shipping companies vast amounts of time and treacherous coastline shipping.  From Corinth we journeyed south to the ancient Bronze Age Myceneaen civilisation remnants including the so-called Tomb of Agamemnon and the Lion’s Gate palace. These remains were excavated with the help of wealthy German entrepreneur Schliemann with the support of the Greek Government. They show a quite sophisticated culture dating back to 1500BC and earlier. Even when excavated many of the tombs found had been already looted centuries earlier but the museums have still collected many beautiful and sophisticated pottery pieces

We travelled further south to the extraordinary theatre of Epidauros which holds up to 10000 at a pinch and still hosts concerts today although the seating is legitimately rock hard. The acoustic quality is world renowned and the setting in a mountainous “bowl” of significant beauty was memorable. We travelled back to Athens following the eastern coastline with many attractive beach  resorts.

Travelling north on Wednesday we consulted the Oracle at Delphi amongst the mysterious and gorgeous mountains of Parnassus, home of the Muses. Only the columns of the ruined temple of Apollo, and a small temple of Diana remain  dating from the C7th remain along with another smaller theatre but  yet again the setting was evocative and stilled the mind. Ancient Greek scientists, philosophers, dramatists, engineers and medical researchers were not content with just living and have left us a rich resource of literature and scientific and philosophical thought. We have dived in deeply and richly, If briefly, into the stories of Homer, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripedes and Aristophanes and our guides were very proud of their ancient lineage. Another insight was the site of the battle of Thermopylae where Leonides, King of Sparta with 300 men held off a massive Persian army in the third century BC  long enough to enable the Greek army to escape and regroup and eventually defeat the Persians.  We overnighted at Kalambaka  at the base of the mighty sandstone rock formations of Metiora in Central Greece.

On Thursday we visited two of the Greek Orthodox monastic settlements built miraculously it seems out of these massive 70 million years of rocks to escape the rule of the Ottoman empire over Greece. Until the 1990s access was only by rope basket but today there is excellent access by road although there were still 154 large steps to the top of the Vaad Lam monastery. Ann’s leg injury was given a real work out here but she made it to the top.  We were moved by the iconic chapel, tiny bridges over 2000 foot drops and jaw dropping scenery. The theological discussion was rich and in my limited experience the painting covering every inch of internal space was more Biblical than their Russian Orthodox counterparts with a surprising Old Testament emphasis especially on Noah and Adam and Eve. The playing down of the role of Mary was noticeable contrasting with the intensity of the Mariology evident in Catholic Spain but again as in Russia the closed wall of the  iconostasis or covered screen separating priest from people except during communion I find a curious rejection of the torn veil of the Temple.

We visited a second beautifully rebuilt monastery  of St Stephen, now a nunnery which was bombed in 1942 by occupying German forces because its Bishop had assisted the allies. The beautiful monastery has an excellent museum which contained many valuable uncial manuscripts of portions of the New Testament including a C6th papyrus mss and a C14th large collection of Aristotle’s works.  Althogether there are six operating monasteries in Metiora

It was peaceful and spiritually uplifting to be “up in the clouds” at Metiora away from the incessant chatter and rallies in Athens leading up to this weekend’s referendum.  Long queues form at every ATM and there is deep division in the community.  The weather has been delightfully pleasant with even some rain in contrast with the heatwave being experienced in Spain.