On the road to Northern Greece

No, planes, no trains, but yes: an automobile (for those old enough to recall a movie by that title). Anyway, we said good-bye to Kari Maratos’ aunt Regina who drove us to the port in Poros. It was ferry time, followed by the bus to Athens airport where we rented our car and drove north to the mountains. Watching the island of Kefalonia getting smaller on the rear of the ferry was sad as our time was so perfect. A new adventure awaits us.

In the short two-hour drive, the busy roads of Athens melted away into a stunning mountainous terrain with no hotel in sight even two short miles from our destination. Was our GPS wrong? In the blink of an eye the village of Arachova appeared clinging to the side of the mountain! Pictures will not do it justice as it took our breath away. It is a ski and snow-boarding village. The small local hotel was an oasis once we the manager showed us how to find parking. Let me add that navigating the narrow streets of ancient villages is best described as patience and taking turns making it around parked cars at times with inches to spare on both of our side mirrors. Got the picture?

Friday saw us on our way to Delphi, the ancient Greek mountain sanctuary dedicated to Apollos. I must have gotten out of shape in our time in Kefalonia as all the hiking up stairs to see the sanctuary remains, the theater dedicated for religious plays and the 5000 seat stadium for the Pythian games held every four years. This large campus was also home to many important war memorials honoring such battles as the Battle of Marathon and the Trojan War.

Next up was a short drive to Hosios Loukas Monastery, one of the oldest in Greece. This large complex is now home to only a few monks but the campus is beautiful. The sanctuary is dedicated like the church in Poros (and the monasteries we will visit in Meteora) to the Metamorphosis or Transfiguration (August 6 feast day in Greece) of Jesus. This is a story about change – are you trying to tell me of the change you want to work in me Lord? For those of you following this blog, you may recall I was asked to lead chapel at the Mount Tabor in Galilee which is thought to be the mountain on which Jesus was transformed. This has become my prayer.

We spent the evening in a rural farming village. Our hotel was a transformed mansion. On Saturday, we drove a few hours to Meteora, an amazing series of monasteries and convents built high atop a mountain rock formation. This stop put me in touch with an old fear of mine – the fear of heights. Small footbridges a mile up in the air have a way of grabbing my attention! Each structure is built to the edge of the cliffs. If you are interested, google Meteora. After hiking up and climbing many stairs, the space was great for prayer and reflection. I also bought an icon of the metamorphosis. It will inspire my life of prayer.

At three o’clock, we were hot and sweaty as we climbed back down to our car. We decided to forego driving to Mount Olympus and heading to our next hotel. The only problem was Expedia had the address and phone number for it wrong. After a very frustrating 90 minutes of driving narrow streets and walking to where it said the hotel was – but was not there, I parked the car and walked, asked for help along the way until I found someone who knew of the hotel and I saw it with my own eyes. The small hotel was very nice but our mood was no longer in the relaxed vacation mode. We ate and went to sleep.

Sunday morning marks a new day after a good nights rest. Vacation is back on! After a good breakfast we packed up and headed the quick 90 minutes drive to Thessaloniki where Jody will stay the next four nights. Our large hotel is very nice and located right next to the Aegean Sea. There are many cafe’s and shops along the strip. There are even two “Starbuck’s!” I meet with my guide tonight who will get me everything I need for my short bus trip and ferry to Mount Athos, the Orthodox Holy Mountain housing 20 monasteries where I will be visiting a few over the next 3 days (Monday – Wednesday). Only men are allowed on this mountain. I think this will be my spiritual high point of the sabbatical (Jody can use a break from me as well)! This is total spiritual adventure with no clue of what to expect.

This concludes my blog efforts for this week. Jody will clue you in how here week unfolds!

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