Saturday, July 24, 2010

Day Three: Byzantine monastery, Delphi, and Patras

July 24, 2010

5:30 A. M. is early, regardless of where one is in the world! After very little sleep, we rallied to bring our bags to the lobby and indulge in another delightful buffet breakfast of every food one can imagine, including salmon and select cheeses.

Once aboard the bus, we traveled through the mountains, stopping to visit the Byzantine monastery of Ossios Loukas. This monastery

was built in the 11th century for Luke the Hermit and is known for its mosaics and precious stones. Although many monks lived here long ago, at present there are only 4 monks living at the monastery. The guide informed us that the monks do receive help from “the outside” when/if they need it, e.g. to keep up the grounds and buildings. The only time the four monks meet are at prayer service and meals; otherwise, they continue to live a life of seclusion and contemplation. Since the church and state are not separated in Greece, the government supports the monastery to ensure its continued upkeep. As you can see from the photos, Ossios Loukas is well maintained and situated in what we would consider to be one of the most beautiful spots imaginable.

We did not visit but passed within viewing distance of the town of Thebes, which for a brief period of time in the 4th century BC is said to have been the most powerful city of Greece. Now it is simply a quiet village nestled at the base of the mountains.

Onward, around treacherous curves and through narrow streets we ventured - some of us happy that we had just visited a holy place – to Delphi. According to legend, when Zeus released two eagles from opposite ends of the world their paths crossed in Delphi, which established it as the center of the earth. As early as the end of the 8th century BC, people from all over the world came to Delphi to visit and consult the god Apollo about decisions they were to make. Apollo supposedly spoke through a priestess, who would reply in ambiguous ways, leaving it up to the questioner to interpret the answer.

While we were exploring the ancient ruins of Delphi the temperature there hit 40 degrees Celsius! We’ll leave it up to you to do the math – a good exercise in conversions. Whatever the heat is measured in, that’s HOT! Sadly, Dolores missed her chance to visit the spring of Castalia that would ensure her youthfulness.

It was a welcome relief to board that bus, heading for Patras, a small coastal town on the Peloponnesian peninsula. Two hours later, we crossed the Gulf of Corinth passing over via a one and a half miles long arched suspension bridge. The bridge (commonly called the Rio-Antirio Bridge) is known to be “the sixth best bridge in the world”. One of us decided there is research to be done on this bridge! It was truly magnificent and an honor to the people who so desperately tried to complete it after numerous failed attempts.

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