Friday, April 14, 2006

John Deere in Europe!

John Deere in Greece! Who would have imagined. Since I saw one in England, I think I'm going to try and find a dealership in every European country I visit in the future!

Monastery here we come!

Dana, Angela and I in Kalambaka outside one of the monasteries.

April 5, 2006

We woke this morning and left the hotel for our visit to the famous monasteries in the area. They are built on top of rocks that are inaccessible to normal people at least a hundred years ago). They use to pull people up in nets or bring up supplies in nets. Now there are staircases that are carved into the rock to allow access. It is quite amazing. We drove by several of them before we stopped to visit one. There use to be about 26 of them until many were damaged by bombs during WWII. In order to visit them, women had to wear skirts and a shirt that covered their shoulders. If you did not have a skirt they would provide the women with wraps to wear over their pants. One of the monasteries was even used in a James Bond movie.

The first monastery was inhabited in the 14th century. The actual monastery we visited was built in 1542 by two brothers. It is dedicated to all saints and is completely covered inside with pictures of saints, just as all monasteries and Greek churches are. The paintings in this church dated back to the 16th century. Both brothers are buried at the church, which is quite small. We didn't see any monks while we were visiting the monastery.

During our visit to the church, Nina, our guide yelled at another group and guide to be quiet. We thought it was quite entertaining- especially when she yelled at the French. It usually occurred at least once a day so we started guessing at which stop she would yell at a group.

We left this monastery and proceeded down to another monastery that actually was inhabited by nuns instead of monks. The nun's monastery was referred to as St. Steven and 30 nuns reside there. It was built in 1780 but was destroyed by a fire and was recently rebuilt. We saw on the inside of the church the painting being done to fill the inside of the church. I thought it was quite interesting. Since women can not perform certain church duties so monks from the All Saints church come over to assist them. The view from St. Steven's was amazing for the valley below.

We left the nuns and drove back into town for lunch before heading off to Delphi for the night.

After an hour or so on the bus, those of us in the back decided to see if we could spot the John Deere dealership again so I could get a picture of it. We all kept our eyes open for it and I actually thought maybe we had already passed it or would turn off the road before we reach it. But to my amazement, it appeared up ahead on the road. I spotted the building first before the sign- who can not spot John Deere yellow and green? So we all were poised with our cameras when the bus began to slow and pull off. We were told we were stopping in an hour and a half(when we left lunch) and our driver chose to stop at the gas station right in front of the dealership!! I was so excited that I ran off the bus and over to snap a picture. Then Dana came over after visiting the station to take a photo of me in front of it. They had quite a few large tractors and cotton pickers in front. I couldn't figure out how to reach it so see if they sold toys and books inside like the American stores do. But I did feel a little at home- even if it was in Greek!

We continued on to Delphi where we stopped in town for a quite tour and shopping before heading to the hotel. Delphi has a large olive grove nearby that is owned by both private individuals as well as the government.

At the hotel, my room overlooked the Bay of Corinth and so we sat on the deck and watched the sun go down over a bottle of vine. Tomorrow we will be visiting Apollo's temple before heading to Olympia.

Monastary here we come!

North to Kalambaka

April 4, 2006

Happy Birthday Dad!!! I called him in Post all the way from Greece. It was 5pm for me and 7am for him.

We woke this morning and packed our bags to leave Athens for Kalambaka. It is about a five hour drive north of Athens. There is so much agriculture to be seen outside of Athens. They grow so many crops that remind me of Arizona and Yuma County in particular. They grow cotton, wheat, lettuce, tomatoes, artichokes, and olives other than livestock. The olive industry is their number one agricultural industry in Greece.

On our way to Kalambaka, we passed the town of Thebes. Thebes is where the Greek mythological story of Edapuse occurs. He was born there to the king but his father learned from the Oracle at Apollo's temple that his son would grow up to kill him and marry his mother. The father couldn't allow that to happen so they left the child out on the mountainside to die. Edapuse was found by a sheep herder and taken to the barren king and queen of Corinth. The secret was kept till Edapuse was an adult and in an alcohol induced state, someone let it slip. Well Edapuse went to visit the temple of Apollo to determine his future and along the way he came across another king who refused to yield right of way to him so he killed him. Come to find out it was his real father but he didn't know that until he had made his way back to Thebes and married his mother!!! Talk about a soap opera.

We also stopped near there to view the battle sight of battle of Thermopyles. The King of Spartan is depicted in the monument. Unfortunately, the Greeks (lead by the spartans) were totally out numbered and lost but they gave a great fight. Our guide, Nina (not the guide from the islands) told us all about the battle and their fight and then I asked if they won, expecting a "yes" and then Nina said "no" so we got a chuckle out it.

After a quick lunch we continued on and passed a John Deere dealership along the way. It came up so quickly that I didn't have time to get my camera so I was a little disappointed but at least the Greeks are buying John Deere! We also stopped before reaching the hotel to watch artists make icon paintings on wood. There was a Greek priest there to bless any pictures you purchased. I chose to pass because it really isn't my style.

We finally made it to the hotel and had dinner followed by drinks at the bar with Rudy and Kay and several others from our group.

A three hour tour of Greek Islands

This is Dana and I on the island of Hydra.

April 3, 2006

We woke up early to be downstairs to go on a day cruise to three islands near Athens. Part of the boat ride we tried to ride up top in the beginning but it was too cold that early but the rest of the day it was nice and we worked on our tans and loved the fresh air. We spent the first part of the boat ride getting to know some of our traveling companions better- mainly Pam from Oregon. She was a hoot!! We also sat and chatted with Kathy and Rod.

Our island tour was to Poros, Hydra and Aegina islands. Aegina was the largest and it was the closest to Athens but we passed it first and actually saved it to the last for touring. Our first island was Poros. It was really small and it reminded me of the movie "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants."

We boarded the boat again for a short ride onto Hydra. The tour of Hydra was short and we sat by the sea and had drinks until it was time to board the boat for Aegina. The cool thing about the island is there are no motor vehicles and the sole mode of transportation is by donkey. They move people and supplies over the entire island with donkeys!

Our third and final island was Aegina. We had lunch on our way to Aegina so we didn't realize it had become a little chilly outside and that a storm was moving in. We attended the first tour of a Greek Orthodox church with our group and then buggered out to do a little sightseeing on our own. The guide we had didn't really leave a lot of free time on the islands and we knew we wanted to see some other things. We grabbed a carriage and took a short ride around the island before decided the best thing to do was shop!

We boarded the boat for Athens and decided to sit on the middle deck because it was enclosed and there was a band. Our new friends, Rudy and Kay joined us for some great conversation as well as dancing. Back in Athens we headed to the hotel, passing the Temple of Zeus as our tour guide pointed it out!

After a quick nap, we headed out for dinner. Pam, our new friend, joined Dana, Ang and I for dinner and we talked the two newbies into returning to the God's restaurant for dinner. Why pass up a great restaurant! Since it was sprinkling, we sat inside and they gave us the best table that looked out their only window to the Acropolis! The food was again delightful and we had great conversation.

After dinner, we decided to go back a different way that would allow us to walk by the Acropolis and Parthenon one last time before leaving Athens in the morning. It was a great walk and we even had an escort- a stray dog that stayed with us till some rowdy teenagers came by. Then he traded us in!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Acropolis, Parthenon and Mars Hill

April 2, 2006

This morning we left the hotel to visit the Acropolis. Acropolis means high point of the city. Atop the Acropolis is the Parthenon, which is the Temple of Athena, goddess of virgins. The Acropolis has only one entrance because the walls were built to be inaccessible. It was rebuilt in the middle of the 5th Century B.C. after it was burned and destroyed. We walked up the Acropolis to the Parthenon. It was so incredible and it doesn't really have straight lines anywhere on it. Next to the temple was another smaller temple dedicated to Poseidon, the god of the sea. We walked around the back part of the Parthenon to view the Temple of Zeus (again, it was pointed out to us). It appears as though the temple of Zeus is in the middle of town.

Nina our tour guide gave us about 30 minutes to see the area on our own. We quickly left the Parthenon and walked down to visit Mars Hill. Mars Hill can be seen from the Acropolis and is above the ruins of the ancient marketplace. The marketplace and Acropolis is where Apostle Paul walked around and views all the statues to the various gods and then preached from Mars Hill about the "unknown god" in Romans. It was kind of cool to be up there. It was mostly marble so it was very slick but there were steps carved into the side of it from ancient times and we chose that set of stairs to climb the hill over the modern, nice safe stairs with handrails that had recently been set up.

We left the Acropolis and our guide took us to see the Olympic stadium that has been in use in Athens since the first modern Olympic games. It was small by current standards but this is the stadium the marathon runners enter when finishing their race. We had passed in on our way to the hotel the first day but it was nice to be able to actually walk up to it and see it. This stadium had been rebuilt in the 1800's and had been built on the same site as the original. After leaving the stadium we headed towards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, at least this way Ang and Dana can see it again! Along the way we drove past the Presidential Palace and saw the guards (soldiers of honor) out front in official dress. Their uniform appears to be a jacket, skirt of sorts and tights with elaborate shoes.

At the Tomb, we were there in time to see the changing of the guards. After leaving the Tomb, we drove past the Athens Academy as well as the oldest Christian church. It was named for Paul's first convert- Saint Denis.

Several times on our tour today, our guide would point out the Temple of Zeus as we passed it. So we started referring to it as the line in European Vacation when they get stuck on the round-about in London and Chevy Chase keeps pointing out Big Ben and parliament to his kids. So we would say "look kids, Temple of Zeus, Acropolis" and laugh.

After the tours we shopped again and of course I had to buy some more stuff. We came back to the hotel and got ready for our dinner out of Greek cuisine and dancing. The food was alright, I did like the potatoes in Greece and the dancing was entertaining. After dinner we walked back to the bus and I walked with Kay as Dana walked with her husband Rudy. From the moment I saw them in orientation, I just knew Rudy was a farmer. I was disappointed though because they weren't but after several other conversations with him over the trip he may not be a farmer in reality but he has a heart for the same values and issues as my farmers in AZ do. Rudy reminds me of one of my members from Yuma county. By the end of the trip Rudy and Kay were some of my favorite people.

Athens and Temple of Poseidon

April 1- Dana came arrived at the hotel from London around 3 am and we all talked and caught up on our lives. Around 4:30 we decided to get some sleep and then awoke around 7:30. After showering and breakfast we headed out for some sightseeing and of course shopping since Ang and I had scoped out some stores the night before. For those who have never been to Europe, stores open around 9 am and then close somewhere around 1 or 2 pm and then re-open around 3 or 4pm and stay open till around 6 or so. So sometimes you have to window shop first and then go back to actually shop in the stores of interest.

We did fairly well on the shopping in the first couple of stores. I mainly stuck to purchasing jewelry but we spent some time in the Plaka district of Greece. After shopping we walked to the botanical gardens which were quite lovely and then on to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is similar to ours in D.C. except that you can walk right up to the Tomb and you can stand next to the guards and have your picture taken as long as you don't touch them. We missed the changing of the guards by 10 minutes or so but I did get my picture taken. Later back at the hotel, Dana and Ang were talking about not seeing the Tomb and what a bummer it was. I was confused so I informed them that we actually did visit the site. Dana went back to her camcorder and reviewed her DVD to confirm that we had actually been there!! We all got a good laugh from that.

After visiting the Tomb we headed back towards the Acropolis and had lunch and then headed back to the hotel. We dropped off our stuff and then headed the southern part of Greece to Sounio to visit the Temple of Poseidon. It was a nice drive (especially since we had a driver) and the weather was great. The temple was cool to see because it had been built in the 5th century B.C. The Aegean Sea was right there and there was a nice breeze.

The story of the Aegean Sea is that King Aegean had a son named Thesis who had left to slay a monster and promised his father he would return and when he returned he would change the sails on the ship from black to white if he was successful. Every day Aegean would go to the Temple to watch for the ship, his son returned but had forgot to change the sails so Aegean thought Thesis had been killed so he jumped to his death into the sea below. Thus the naming of the sea.

While visiting the temple, I was posing for a photo when Ang jumped in and we made funny faces at each other. Dana snapped the photo and from then on, every temple we visited we did a funny pose and called them our Greek god poses. We had great fun doing that all week.

After coming back from Sounio we met the rest of our tour group and had a glass of Ouzo. It is a liquor that is very strong and tastes like licorice. I didn't like it but that could be because I don't like licorice. We had dinner with our group and met a couple people. The three that sat at our table were from Phoenix, Oregon and didn't know each other (Kathy and Rod and Pam.) until the trip. They even lived just a few miles from each other. It was kind of cool to have people from Oregon on the trip even though Dana and Ang teased me because I could go anywhere in the world and met someone who knew where I was from or knew someone I know!

We finished dinner and wrote out a few postcards before heading up the street to a local bar we saw on our tours outside of the hotel. It was called "Jukebox" and we thought it looked like a biker bar, except it had scooters out front. We went in and ordered our drinks and then proceeded to check out the jukebox. The bartender informed us it didn't actually work!

After our drinks we headed back down to the hotel and off to bed. Tomorrow we are visiting the Acropolis and Parthenon.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

My Big Fat Greek Vacation

A view of the Acropolis and Parthenon at night.

March 30-We left phoenix and our flight was delayed so we landed at Dulles at 5 pm and our connecting flight to Frankfurt was leaving at 5:17. Thankfully I was able to run the 14 gates and get into line behind the last person boarding the flight so we could make our connection.

Ang and I didn't have seats next to each other and wasn't able to trade. Our flight was delayed out of Dulles so we missed our connection in Frankfurt and had to take a later flight into Athens. Then our 1pm flight to Athens actually left at 2:30 so hopefully our flights back to the states are on time.

Thankfully when we landed there was a person from the tour agency waiting for us to take us to the hotel. Our hotel was just down from the acropolis and the Parthenon. We also passed the temple of Zeus along the way. Once we arrived at the hotel and checked in our guide called and met us to give us some ideas of things to see on our free day (we came a day early) that we wouldn't see with the tour group.

We got ready and went to dinner at a restaurant the guide suggested. We didn't' actually make that restaurant because we were stopped by another gentleman to eat at his restaurant and we couldn't resist. We sat out on the sidewalk and had an amazing view of the Parthenon all light up at night!! After dinner, Ang and I walked up to the pedestrian walkway that followed the acropolis and Parthenon. For those of you who don't know about the acropolis and Parthenon. The acropolis is a term used for the highest point in the city. In Greece there are several towns and cities that have acropolis, but the one in Athens is most know because the Parthenon is located on top of it. The Parthenon is the Temple of Athena, and also located here is the marketplace that the Apostle Paul walked through in Romans and talked about the statute to the "Unknown God."