Archive for May, 2009

Will Someday’s Memorial Day be Remembering Today?

Monday, May 25th, 2009

 

Chris and Len. Batting practice.

Chris and Len. Batting practice.

Six years in a row now, we’ve had wonderful weather for Memorial Day.  I’ve taken notice of this mostly because our church has an annual get-together, and the activities always involve lots of outdoor sports such as volleyball, wiffle ball, basketball, and croquet.  I ran my smoothie stand again, with smoothies featuring the not-so-secret ingredient of cabbage, something that has become a tradition for our Memorial Day picnics.  Scores of people enjoyed enough delicious food to feed a crowd twice our size.  Then we worked it all off with competitive games of volleyball and basketball.

 

This has become one of my favorite days of the year.

Today, as in previous years, I sat on the grass under the blue skies, filled with warmth and satisfaction, listening to my dad give a great presentation on some of our war heroes.  I wondered if things may be desperately worse at some point in the future, and perhaps I would be dreaming about these days when I relaxed under sunny skies with my friends, well-fed and content.  It sure makes me thankful that we have these days of peace, decadence, and happiness!  God is so good to us.  He’s given us here in America an extended age of blessing for Christians that is unprecedented in history.  But to whom much is given, much will be required, and I pray that we as a church and I as an individual don’t fritter away this time of opportunity. (more…)

Ancient Corinth, Loutraki, then Home

Sunday, May 17th, 2009
Cassandra regards an occupied sarcophagus.

Cassandra regards an occupied sarcophagus.

Sunday morning started with a drive to church for a light breakfast at 9:30 and then a couple services that lasted until about 12:30.  Music before the Sunday School hour was led by three people playing guitars as we sang a collection of choruses.  A ladies choir sang before the morning service, accompanied by a piano that has no doubt seen better days.  In fact, I played the piano for the midweek service on Wednesday night, and though the keys and notes were in fairly decent shape, the sustain pedal didn’t work at all, relegating everything to a rather vapid staccato.  It would be the perfect piano for Bach though!

The morning service was dedicated in large part to a communion service, something the church here in Athens does a few times a year.  Pastor Lawson mentioned Deuteronomy 32:14 as part of an explanation how transubstantiation is not Biblical.  The verse uses the words “thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape.”  I had never noticed this verse before, and found it to be an interesting cross reference to the passages talking about the Lord’s supper.

After church, the Lawsons and I drove to ancient Corinth where we explored the vast ruins and museum of this Biblically-significant city.  An imposing, granite mountain looms in the background, and I could see the parapets and walls of a lofty citadel perched on its peak.  Brent told me a bit about the citadel, but then somewhat discounted it by saying that it was from the Medieval period and thus was much more modern than the ruins we were exploring here in ancient Corinth.  I suddenly realized how many layers of history a place like Greece has. (more…)

Peloponnese

Saturday, May 16th, 2009
A woman selling woven wheat charms at the Corinth Canal.

A woman selling woven wheat charms at the Corinth Canal.

So after yesterday’s disastrous travels, I got up this morning a bit better prepared.  I had train schedules and station names all written down (tattooed on my arms, actually) so I couldn’t possibly screw things up today.  I also managed to sleep in an extra hour, catching my train with time to spare.  I met my tour bus across the street from the station in Athens, and after a few more stops, we made our way out of the city, past Pireas and towards the Isthmus.  Our first stop was at the Corinth Canal, a deep, narrow strip of water that connects the Aegean and Ionian seas.  The canal was built by a French company in the late 1800s, but is mostly unused today as supertankers won’t fit its narrow passage.

Next we drove past Corinth and through the plains of Argos towards Epidaurus.  The drive was quite scenic with rolling hills and thousands of olive trees.  We arrived at Epidaurus, which is basically in the middle of nowhere.  The main attraction here is a rather stunning ancient theater built into the side of a hill.  Built more than 2,300 years ago, the outdoor theater is in remarkably good condition and still hosts several events each year.  The setting is quite nice, with lovely views of the surrounding mountains.  The most remarkable feature, however, would have to be the extraordinary acoustics.  Even in the back row of the 14,000 seat arena, I could clearly hear normal conversations occurring down on the circular, earthen stage.  I thought it would be a very neat experience to come back someday for a live performance.

From Epiaurus we made our way west back to the coast.  We made a quick stop in Nafplio for a nice view of the towering Palamidhi Fortress then continued towards Mycenae.  We stopped for lunch at a taverna with a long, sweeping veranda which provided a pleasant, shady spot to dine.  Soon we were at the ruins of Mycenae, Agamemnon’s citadel tucked in the hills between Corinth and Argos.  This place looms large in the legends of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.  It was here that Agamemnon was murdered in his bath by his wife and her lover.

The ruins of the citadel still reveal some amazing structures.  The walled alley leading to the Lion Gate entrance of the citadel use gigantic stones.  So large, in fact, are these stones, that the walls have been called cyclopean, attributing their construction to the cyclops, the only beings deemed capable of such a feat.  I rather enjoyed perambulating the ruins, perched perfectly on the top of a small rise between two larger mountains.  The area afforded fantastic views of the surrounding beauty, and the ubiquitous evidence of millenia gone by elicited a nearly palpable presence of ghosts among the stones.  Oh the dramas, treacheries, gallantries, and sorrows that these stones were witness to, separated from me in this place merely by the thin veil of time. (more…)

Missed Boat, Wrong Train, Lost Ride

Friday, May 15th, 2009
When the sun comes out, the Meditteranean is BLUE!

When the sun comes out, the Meditteranean is BLUE!

I have something of an infamous reputation for travel misadventure.  I’ve been known to miss flights, crash land, fly to wrong destinations, or get abused by the travel industry in any number of ways.  I’ve enjoyed a number of years now relatively devoid of significant mishaps, and I’d even ventured to believe I had entered a sort of pax eo.  But then a day like today comes along and shatters the ceasefire with a barrage of mishaps that reminds me that the war is far from over.  What started out as a pleasant cruise among the islands of the Aegean turned into a late night of jaywalking across 4-lane highways in a futile quest to find a working payphone. (more…)

Athens, visited

Thursday, May 14th, 2009
Changing of the guard

Changing of the guard

Providence, better known among the secular world as serendipity, placed me in touch with the Lawson family only about 4 hours before I left on my trip to Greece.  Brent Lawson is the pastor of an international (a.k.a. English-speaking) Baptist church in Athens.  I generally try to find a local church when I’m away on vacation, so I contacted the Lawsons to inquire about their services on Sunday.  By the end of our phone conversation, he and his wife, Vanessa, had invited me to stay with them in their home for the duration of my visit to Greece.  This came as a tremendous blessing for a number of reasons, but the most immediate was that it solved a lingering detail of preparation for my trip: lodging.  I’ve been so busy leading up to this trip, that I’ve failed to make any preparations beyond booking my flight.  My 700 page guide book lay unopened on my desk for weeks until the weekend before my departure.  So as I packed my bags in the remaining hour before heading for JFK, I was relieved to know that my immediate needs upon arrival were taken care of. (more…)