During the month of April I spent lots of time in Greece. Randy went back to the States for a couple of weeks to get our taxes in order and to connect with Josh, our home, the fire department and his woodworking shop. While he was gone I took another bus trip with friends from school. This was a two day trip in early April to Thessaloniki and Meteora. There was not nearly as much time spent on the bus as there was when we went to Sarajevo. Thank goodness!
We came across this shop as we walked around Thessaloniki. Does that mean pot is legal in Greece?
The flowers were in full bloom while we were in the city and absolutely gorgeous. These flowers were outside of a house of worship built by the Romans in the 3rd century.
Can you see from this picture that I am wearing my backpack wrong side out? The zippered part is against my back. This is how I wear my backpack whenever I am in a big city. Sometimes I wear it in the front too but that seems awkward. While I was in Thessaloniki, someone attempted to get into by backpack but they were unsuccessful. Thank you, God!
This is our tour guide, Clevis. Dana wanted to have this picture taken to show how tall Clevis is and how short she is. Notice that she is even standing on her tippy toes. Clevis is Greek but lives in Albania. It was wonderful to have an English speaking guide for this tour. Clevis speaks Albanian, Greek, English and French fluently. He has just completed his Master’s Degree in archeology and is giving these tours on the weekends to bring in extra money until he figures out exactly where he wants to live and start his career. He already knows he will not be living in Albania because there are no job opportunities. Very sad! Many, many young Albanians are leaving the country because there are such limited job opportunities here.
Look what is ahead as we drive down the highway! We are full of anticipation as we approach Meteora which is located in central Greece.
Wow, wow, wow!
There were originally 24 monasteries in Meteora built during the 14th century as a way for the monks to protect themselves from the ongoing raids by the Turks. Now there are six monasteries, four of them are for monks and the other two are for nuns. Each monastery still has between 3 and 10 monks or nuns that live in them. All the monasteries are part of the Greek Orthodox Church. Originally the only way to access the monasteries was through a series of ladders that were lashed together or by a net that was lowered to bring supplies or people up. In the 1920’s stairs were carved into the side of the mountains to make it easier to reach the top. If you look carefully at the picture above (or perhaps zoom in) you will see a monk dressed in black standing on the balcony. It is not usual to see one of the monks or nuns so we were fortunate to have a sighting.
We only had time to go in one of the monasteries, the Monastery of the Transfiguration (the Great Meteora). Our friend, Joe is pointing out that no pantaloons are admitted. 🙂 If you did arrive at at the monastery with shorts on, they had skirts you could borrow.
The steps going up to the monastery.
The view from the top of the monastery.
A group picture of the teachers from ACT who were on the trip. Meteora is one of only a few places in Europe that I have felt like I really want to return to someday. I would love to visit some of the other monasteries and do some of the hikes in the area.
On the bus ride back to Tirana from Meteora we were stopped by the police two times. Also when we crossed the Greek-Albanian border there seemed to be more scrutiny than at other borders. When I presented my American passport to the Greek authorities I was immediately sent through without a problem. When an Albanian presented their passport, it took much longer and they were frequently asked many questions. It became obvious that the Greeks don’t care for or trust the Albanians. We found the same thing to be true in Athens and Santorini. When we were in Italy and Austria we did not notice the anti-Albania feelings that were evident in Greece.
We are on our way to the National Archeological Museum. Laurie and I smiled when seeing our guys looking so similar from the back. 🙂
I am not a huge museum person but I did throughly enjoy seeing the Greek artifacts dating back 3,000 years ago.
This was my favorite piece of artwork in the museum. It is titled “Bronze Statue of Horse and Jockey” and is from 140 B.C. The Greeks loved their horse races. This statue may have celebrated a victory at the Olympics. The boy has the features of a non-Greek and is probably a mixed race Ethopian. Can you see the spurs tied onto his bare feet?
Athens has an up-to-date Metro system that is inexpensive, easy to use and efficient. Unfortunately one day it was extremely crowded on the Metro and we had some money stolen. When Randy and Andrew got off the Metro they both realized that a total of 250 euros was missing from their wallets. Randy had 3 fifty euro bills in his wallet. Someone reached in his pocket without removing his wallet and removed the cash. Frustrating and depressing!!!
On our last full day in Athens we climbed to the top of Acropolis Hill. Here we are by the Parthenon which was finished being built in 438 BC after less than 10 years of construction. It was originally built as a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena. Over time it has served as a Christian Church, a Mosque but is now simply an archeological site.
Randy and I really enjoyed the Acropolis Museum. The most powerful part of the museum for me was learning about how many pieces of Greek art were taken (or stolen) by other countries and these countries STILL have them today and do not plan on returning them to Greece anytime soon. One example was a British ambassador named Thomas Elgin who in the early 1800’s decided to remove pieces of the Parthenon and have them shipped to London. They are still held in the British Museum. It amazes me that a country can take another countries artifacts and simply keep them as their own. It does not seem right.
Dinner under the Acropolis.
The Greek Orthodox Holy Friday tradition is for a cross (with lit candles on it), followed by an empty coffin, followed by a priest and a group of three young children dressed in gold capes to parade down the street. There is a small group of people singing during the procession. Literally hundreds of individuals follow with their own candles. The procession ends at the church where some prayers are said. Laurie and I decided to join the procession. The whole experience was so interesting and powerful.
Our next stop in Greece was Santorini. It was a five hour ferry ride from Athens to Santorini. We found the ferry to be an enjoyable and relaxing way to travel.
Yay, we have finished our hike and arrived in Oia, gorgeous!
Oia is a beautiful small town that is almost overrun with tourists for seven months of the year. Many, many of the tourists come off of cruise ships and visit the island for a short time. I think the sign above is a reaction to all the tourists.
Still walking down…
Beautiful views around Santorini.
Our last night provided us with this gorgeous sunset. Loved, loved, loved it!
If you are still reading this very long post, then you deserve a medal. Thanks for your interest in our travels while living in Albania.
This month we are looking forward to my brother and sister-in law, Tom and Anita, coming to visit. Then at the end of the month our younger son, Josh comes to visit. Yay!! Can’t wait to share Albania with them!