Blog entry by HUGer Mrs. Loren and by HUGer Brenna
Everywhere in Greece, no matter the region, the purple-blue mountains can be seen in the distance. Around Athens, the mountains are gray and strong. They stand in the distance like a stone moat of protection that an enemy must impossibly boulder through. Today, we are heading right toward them. We begin our ride through the plains and quickly make it to the mountains to start our ascent. Out of our normal space, it's greener than the ruggedness of the Attica region that we see every day. A picnic lunch overlooks the city of Arachova. Today, we go back in time to fourth-century BC to Delphi, home of one of the ancient oracles. Delphi's Temple of Apollo dominates, even in the ruins. We tour the museum and hear about bronze shields and helmets, the treasuries (keeping of the assets) of the area, statues from the pediment and frieze of the temple, the bronze Charioteer of Delphi, and the Gallio inscription which helps to date the New Testament writings.
As we travel north, the mountain's trees change from silvery, spaced-apart olives that look like bushes from afar to dark forest green pines. The mountains appear green and soft rather than rocky.
We approach the town of Kalambaka and see the giant brown stalagmites, shooting up from the ground. Atop seven of these sits monasteries within whose walls still live monks, serving God in solitude and commitment. There are different ways of thinking about how monks choose to live apart from the world, but that's an in-person discussion.
Touring the Monastery of the Transfiguration gives us a unique view of the Greek Orthodox Church because we learn about the history and teachings of the church. We also get a generous view of the cliffside dwellings of the monks in this region. It's a beauty that most people don't get to lay their eyes on, so we know to be thankful for the opportunity of the view of the massive rocks and the villages below.
Descending, winding roads make us look straight ahead. In route to Vergina, we hear the stories of Ancient Greek wars and look forward to touring the museum built over the tomb of Philip II, which happens to be my favorite museum in all of Greece; our stories are in the third and forth centuries BC. In the distance, we see trees of apples, cherries, pears, and kiwi.
The Tombs and their contents are incredibly well-preserved because they've been buried for two millennia. Even the painted color on the tombs lasts to present day. The twenty-four carat gold burial crowns are calling to us, seemingly begging us to try them on our heads. "I could stay in this museum all day," a fellow-traveler mentions to me. I could, too.
Fifteen minutes down the road, we walk in Berea, where the noble ones searched the scriptures. These are the people who accompany Paul to Athens. They loved him. At a modern tribute to Paul we learn that a tunic of purple means royalty and a shawl of blue means human. Jesus is dressed in a purple tunic with a blue shawl, representing his divinity in human form. Paul is depicted in a blue tunic with a purple shawl, representing his human life and eternal work.
The Jewish quarter of the city of Berea is shaped like a ghetto; the word means pouring. It describes a confined community that must stay in - or has been poured or forced into - a particular place. We must also consider that people tend to gravitate together for support. There is a Little Italy and a Chinatown in NYC. Jerusalem is divided into four quarters: Jewish, Armenian, Christian, and Muslim, each inviting their people who move to the area. Here in northern Greece, we are in Berea's Jewish quarter, and after a discussion of World War II, we enter its synagogue, thought to be the exact spot of the synagogue Paul would have visited when he was here two thousand years ago.
After an evening strolling in Aristotle Square like the locals and sampling pastries from the area, we head back to lay our weary heads on our pillows.
Before we depart from Thessaloniki, we tour the city, hearing the history along the way of the White Tower, the Jewish quarter, the Christian and Muslim population exchange, and the wars throughout recorded time in this area. We are on the road again.
We approach Philippi and talk about Lydia - a seller of purple, the head of her own household, and a woman with good character. Acts 16:11-40 guides our thoughts. At the ancient site, we learn about who a Centurion really was. We talk about Paul and Silas taking the beating and how many laws were broken that day and the possible reasons they took the beating and prison sentence. We view the mosaic floor of the oldest church building built in Europe. We ponder the early church's courage to build an octagon church building right in the center of the city. It's a Bible class that we'll not forget anytime soon.
After lunch, we drive down the road to St. Lydia's Basilica. We worship at the stream and sing in the Basilica there. It's an impacting day.
Day 4 and 5
Mt. Olympus invites us to climb. I've already climbed, and once is plenty, so instead of hiking we stay at the beach town below. The climbers are excited to begin and relieved when we pick them up the next day. Their muscles are tired, and they are ready for solid sleep. The ride back to campus is mostly quiet. Legs, lungs, eyes, and brains are resting from this Northern Greece adventure. When I ask about the hike, I hear, "I'm so proud of myself!" and, "It was tough, but I'd do it again...totally worth the effort." One of the lessons of our HUG semester is that often times what we're most proud of is definitely worth the effort. Lesson learned.
Pictured below is HUGer Angie.
The following words are by HUGer Brenna:
Monday we started the long journey up Mount Olympus. This hike is not for the faint of heart, and all the members of our trip decided to climb it. We made the beautiful trek up to the mountain to the hostel around 2 pm and ate a hearty meal. After a short break we mentally prepared ourselves for the second leg of our awesome journey. This part of the hike is more challenging than the first part. But the great trade off is the gorgeous view that we are surrounded by on the way up. This adventure starts out well, but it definitely becomes not just a physical challenge but also a mental challenge. The people around you encouraging you to climb up the mountain are the only things getting you up to the peak. It was hard but definitely well worth the challenge. Once we had conquered the beast that is called Mount Olympus, we decided to sing "We Shall Assemble" at the peak. This sent chills down all of our spins and it was completely breathtaking. God and all his glory was surrounding all of us on that mountain.
After our descent from the peak we spent a cozy night all together in a big room, girls on one side and the boys on the other. The next morning we woke for the sunrise and all of us we awestruck by God's creation. It was absolutely amazing. After that we made our way down the mountain to meet the rest of our group. On our drive back to Porto Rafti, we stopped at Thermopylae to see where the 300 Spartans fell. And then we continued the rest of our journey back to the Artemis. It was a great trip but it was good to come home!