Following Paul's footsteps in Greece

Spring Break Trip

The following is a site by site diary account and reflections written during Spring Break trip in the footsteps of St. Paul through Greece. Of course it is not the same as being there, but taking this "virtual tour" is sure cheaper than actually going along, and it will help you prepare for and essay question on Paul's ministry in Greece. Next time come along in person!

1. Neapolis.
Since my journey was primarily about tracing St. Paul's steps through Greece I drove from Athens in two days to Kavala, the Biblical site of Neapolis (Acts 16:11) where Paul first set foot on Europe (though he wouldn't have thought of it that way.) A delightful coastal town with a deep semi-circular indentation from the sea, no wonder it has been used for thousands of years as a harbor. The impressive aqueduct is worth seeing, but is not Roman but "recent" being only a half-millennia old. Most likely Paul, Silas and Timothy rested here overnight after the several day journey from Troas across the Aegean sea where he passed Samonthrace, which is basically a 5000' mountain rising directly out of the sea.

2. Philippi.
My favorite archeological site in all of Greece. Heading about ten miles North over a steep mountain trail, Paul would then have dropped down to a fertile valley, mostly swamps at his time then rising out of the valley to the North he'd seen Philippi's acropolis protruding from a distance -- well, Silas, Luke and Timothy probably saw it from a distance, Paul may not have had that sharp eyesight. The city walls at Paul's time encompassed this entire hill-mountain and sprawled all around it on the Western slopes. After this ten mile walk Paul would have entered the Southern or "Neapolis Gate" which still guards the (now paved) road North bisecting the ruins. Philippi was the chief city of Macedonia (Northern Greece) founded by Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great, as a gold producing city in the 4th century BC.

Philippi was the largest city in Macedonia when Paul visited here. The two of us had the site to ourselves for a half day, being the only guests around. There are no ropes and few signs... you just wander over the (perhaps) 80 acres of excavations and walk where Paul met the God-fearer Lydia at the river (the river Gangites, down the road to the North, then left about a quarter mile, which is just outside the original walls). It was here Paul cast the demon out of the servant girl, and was himself tossed in prison with Silas and as a result the jailer was converted. (There is an old cistern that is shown to tour-bus-types who insist seeing the actual prison, but don't believe it too quickly, though there are some carvings in the wall of the and a church was built over the site if you want to believe it.) There is some evidence from the reading of the "we passages" in the rest of Acts that Luke was a resident of Philippi as well, but that is not certain.

The theater is also pre-Roman and was built by Philip II. We counted 22 rows still existing, about 330' around the top narrowing to 130' at the "stage." Figured the way church pew makers figure seating it would seat at least 3500. Probably more in ancient times.

The Agora or combination marketplace/seat of government/shopping mall/downtown square is well preserved and the paving stones are mostly still intact, as are many columns. And the Roman public toilets are well rpeserved. (No kidding.)

The old Roman trans-Greece interstate highway, the "Ignatian way," or "Via Ignatia" is uncovered and despite repeated earthquakes is still walkable. The grooves from ancient carts are still evident. Philippi was so large that the Via Ignatia had a business route which detoured around the back side of the Agora which the archeologists dubbed the "Commercial way." The Ignatian way crossed the entire Greek peninsula from the Aegean to the Adriatic.

As for temples to various God's there were plenty including Artimis, Cybele, a collection of Egyptian gods, Zeus, Athena, Dionysis, the Hero-Horseman cult, and Silvanus (Silvanus' temple, still displays in the open weather the carved-on-marble list of names of contributors to the construction, the equivalent of today's stained glass window dedications or colleges naming buildings after generous donors.) The Philippians weren't in need of more gods when Paul arrived, they had plenty thank you. However, it was here that the first beach head of Christianity in Europe took hold.

There are also several ruins of Christian Basilicas here dating to the 4th-6th century AD, ingloriously named Basilica A, Basilica B and so forth. Also the Bishop's residence has been unearthed from this time. Apparently once Christianity triumphed, they built their own temples towering over the former Roman gods, sometimes utilizing stones and portions of the old gods of stone or particularly impressive parts of their temples. The setting forces the visitor to ask how Christianity triumphed here, given the dominance of other gods when Paul visited about half way through the first century.

It was also here at Philippi that Paul's first European convert, Lydia was made and baptized in the river outside Philippi's city walls.

One more thing. From the top of the acropolis (or, if you are a sissy from part way up the hill) a vast fertile plain sprawls out to the West punctuated by two small hills. This was the "marsh of Philippi" which have now been drained to make fertile farm land. It was here, two years after the assassination of Julius Caesar, that Octavian and Antony whipped the forces of Cassius and Brutus on October 23, 42 BC. Octavian and Antony's 13,000 troops out maneuvered Cassius and Brutus, who both committed suicide. Of course, Octavian dispatched his ally Antony ten years later when he conquered the kingdom of Cleopatra, but you saw that in the movie, right?

3. Amphipolis
From Philippi Paul headed for Thessalonica, a hundred mile trip. We followed in Paul's footsteps in a semicircular route northwest, then finally South to Amphipolis on the river Strimonas attempting to follow the ancient route of the Via Ignatia. Here there are thousands of prosperous fertile fields. To an Indiana resident it seems strange to see no farm houses though. Greek farmers live in town and go out to their fields to work, as they have from ancient times. After about 50 miles we crossed a tiny rickety bridge over the Strimonas river to confront a towering Roman lion (maybe 30') guarding the crossing. Paul would have crossed the river here on his way to Thessalonica. Nearby was the ancient city of Amphilopis which Luke mentions in Acts (17:1) merely as a way point showing Paul's route.

4. Apollonia.
From the crossing of the river Strimonas Paul and company would have headed South West around the shore of the sea until reaching the outlet of a river draining a wonderfully beautiful broad valley through which he next headed. The valley surrounds two lakes lined up in a row behind each other and Apollonia is located on the South shore of the first one, in Tiberias style on the Galilee. A dusty tourist-free city today the traveler is tempted to follow Luke's lead and simply check it off while heading Easterly toward Thessalonica.

5. Thessalonica.
Thessalonica is located on the neck of the Halkidiki peninsula, which we quickly nicknamed "The Udder" for its strange shape on the map. Here Paul preached in the first Jewish synagogue, which was his usual church planting/church splitting strategy. After three weeks of preaching a riot ensued (as usual for Paul) and got Jason his host and friends dragged before the council and had to post bail before being released. Paul had ducked capture, and now "the Brethren" (apparently converts from his three-week revival in Thessalonica) hustled Paul off to by night to Berea. From a careful reading of Paul's letter to this church one can deduce that he probably stayed here several months beyond the two weeks intimated in Acts..

Modern Thessalonica is a smoggy industrial town with noisy horn-blaring trucks everywhere. The smog can make a grown man cry. Today's Thessalonica is more like yesterday's Philippi -- a busy dirty city where the souls live. While travelers like myself prefer the quiet countryside of a now-deserted Philippi, Paul preferred the bustling dirty noisy cities like Thessalonica is, and Philippi was. Though the traffic was less than riot-level, we too hurried on to Berea and found the city more noble.

6. Berea.
Heading west again, still on the Ignatian way, traversing yet another fertile valley, Paul arrived in about 50 miles at Berea (modern spelling Veria). Here Paul found a different audience: open minded Jews who read and studied the Scriptures to see if his preaching was accurate (basically that the messiah must suffer). Many Jews believed plus Greeks and even some prominent women and men of the city. However the word traveled back the 50 mile stretch to the Jews at Thessalonica and some self-appointed "Riot missionaries" from Thessalonica followed Paul to Berea and stirred up the crowds. Silas and Timothy stayed while the new Christians in Berea hustled Paul the 50 miles back to the sea, presumably to hop a boat bound for Athens. Silas and Timothy may have remained behind both to provide cover for Paul's escape, and to build up the new Christians at Berea. They were to link up with Paul again in Athens, some 200 miles to the south. Paul (probably) sailed to Athens in a few days.

7. Athens.
The primary stop for Mediterranean tourists. No wonder. Jammed with archeological finds and very much like driving in the chariot races of Ben Hur. Paul arrived here and was provoked at the shallow polytheism of Athens. He preached in the Jewish synagogue, and in the Agora-Marketplace. The Agora is easily accessed and one can walk about it as if you were Paul and the entrance is still well preserved. Here he got into a debate with some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers who took him to the Areopagus to hear his strange new ideas. (They loved whatever was new). Here he took what some argue was a new tack, preaching his most "seeker-sensitive" sermon based on the altar to the "unknown god" he had passed earlier. Some believe that the experience of "failure" at this seeker-friendly approach so shook Paul that this is the reason he next went to Corinth in weakness and trembling committed to preach the cross alone. Everywhere you turn in Athens there are sites to see, the most famous being the Acropolis.

The temple of the temple of Olympian Zeus dominates the lower city, started in 515 BC and with intervening stops finished up 600 years later. (Antiochus Epipanes financed the second major construction here to 164 BC when he died.) The visitor can see why Paul was provoked -- there are temples to gods everywhere, including the Parthenon, Acropolis, the Erechtheum, and dozens more temples all dating before Paul's visit. When Paul visited Athens the city itself was diminished in size -- below Philippi or Corinth, maybe 10,000-20,000 population. But not in prestige. Prestige seems to frequently outlast real importance. The wealthy continued to value an education for their children at this Harvard of the ancient world.

On independence from the Turks in 1833 Athens, a small village then was made the new capital of Greece and has grown to three million people, and acts like it. This is the only place in Greece where we saw the tour bus crowd and had to pretend we weren't Americans so as not to be identified with their remarks ("Gee, what Walt Disney could do with this place" -- tourist gazing about the acropolis) The Pauline sites are ignominiously tucked away among the secular and pagan sites. Which is appropriate. Christianity hardly made a dint in Athens as a result of Paul's visit. A few believed, including Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus and Damaris and some others. But there is scant evidence of a church being established here, and some would say that the visit was a failure.

8. Corinth.
Paul left Athens, an intellectual center, and headed the 50-60 miles west to Corinth, a great commercial center. There was a land route traversing the steep cliffs bordering the Corinthian gulf, but more likely he sailed down the gulf from Athens by boat, turning a four day trip into a day trip. Corinth is located on a tiny isthmus of land connecting the Greek mainland with the Peloponnese and separating by a few kilometers the Saronic gulf and the Ionian sea. Julius Caesar and others had conceived the notion of cutting a canal across the isthmus but it didn't happen until several thousand years. (Talk about "grenade effect" -- pulling the pin then waiting a couple thousand years for the thing to go off!) In the ancient work there was a diolkos, a stone tramway for hauling ships overland to the other gulf, saving the dangerous 200 mile journey around the Peloponnese.

Ancient Corinth sits next to a tiny village and a few miles from modern Corinth and is amazingly untouched considering its close location to Athens. Typical of Greek sites, you can walk anywhere, with no ropes or barriers (except, understandingly, in Athens). The main street where Paul would have entered the city from the coast Is well preserved with shops on either side of the street. In Corinth there are two dominant visually controlling buildings. The Temple of Apollo dominates the near city scape, with seven pillars still standing in spite of dozens of earthquakes down through the years. (If being the "largest church in town" denotes something worthwhile, the people of Paul's era would surly have attended here!) The second would have been what you would have seen by lifting your eyes high on the towering mountain behind the city -- theboasting the temple of Aphrodite which was served by more than 1,000 priestess-prostitutes according to Strabo. Look again at the picture of the temple of Apollo, this time see the Acrocorinth and Temple of Aphrodite behind it. The view back down toward the center city of Corinth from the Aphrodite temple site on the Acrocorinth is impressive. ForChristianity to make much headway here, it would have to invade and transform polytheistic immorality. It did.

Here one can walk through the Agora where Paul preached. Wonder which shop-home was that of Aquila and Priscilla where Paul lived and worked the 1 1/2 years he lived here before causing a big riot then staying "a good while" longer (plus an additional three months on the third journey). Paul must have liked Corinth. Or at least saw great need here. The fountain house of the spring of Peirene with its fascinating cisterns hewn back into the solid rock are amazing. Near here there is the macellum (meat market) which raised questions about eating meat offered to idols (1 Corinthians 10:25). The tiny synagogue which is dwarfed by the other gods, the theater and the Bema where Paul stood on trial before Gallio (Acts 18:12) are well preserved. There is an inscription here of Erastus the city treasurer who may be the same person Paul mentions in Romans 16:23.

In outlining the ancient walls the traveler finds the city was huge, and some argue for a population of several hundred thousand, a massive city for the ancient world. In a quick rough calculation we figured it encompassed at least some 150 acres inside the walls. It dwarfed Athens and dominated Greece at the time and at its zenith it may have had more than half a million people (some estimate three quarters of a million). Eleven temples have already been uncovered. How did Christianity get a tiny foothold in a town dominated by eleven (uncovered to date) gigantic massive temples to other gods, some of them even combining two of the three great passions of life -- religion and sex. Here a minority religion did get a foothold and grow, however, not without difficulties in discipling the people into a steady Christian life style.

It was from Corinth that Paul sailed (on the Second missionary Journey) back to Jerusalem, persuading his hosts (Priscilla and Aquila) to go along with him, dropping them off in Ephesus for church planting work and he returned to Jerusalem thence back to his starting city, Antioch-Syria.

9. The Third Missionary Journey.
Most of the above records the events of the second missionary journey because Luke details the second journey in Acts 16-18 providing vivid details, but summarizes the third journey in Acts 20 in just six verses. In tracing the second journey through Greece one essentially covers the third journey as well. Paul had stayed several years at Ephesus during the third journey, then following the uprising ignited by Demetrius the silversmith, Paul "departed to go to Macedonia." He had earlier sent Timothy and Erastus ahead and now he would join them. Luke does not record Paul's route through Macedonia. The existing churches in Macedonia were Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. No doubt Paul visited these churches, all of them being on the way to Greece, in the southern part of the peninsula. Luke merely mentions that "he came to Greece and stayed three months" no doubt in Corinth, to await the end of winter and good sailing season to get back to Antioch, since the work in Athens, if any remained, is not heard of again. As Paul's departure time neared "the Jews plotted against him as he was about to sail to Syria" so Paul turns North and walks some 300 miles back to Philippi where he links up again with Luke, stays to celebrate the Unleavened bread feast, then sails to Troas where he had sent the rest of his part ahead of time.

Although Luke is sketchy with travel details of the third Journey through the Greek peninsula he enriches our understanding of the team traveling with Paul. There was Sopater (maybe a relative of Paul if this is the same person as Sosipater of Romans 16:12) who came from Berea in Macedonia. There was Aristarchus from Thessalonica. And of course the silent partner, Luke who was perhaps from Philippi. Then there were members of the team from Asia Minor: Gaius who was likely from Derbe, Timothy (Lystra), Tychicus and Trophimus (Asia). Here is a glimpse of Paul's companions, seven or perhaps eight of them tramping across the Greek peninsula. When Luke and Paul leave to catch the rest of the team at Troas, he is on the final leg of his third journey and he has changed his former plans to sail to Antioch and will sail directly to Jerusalem where the prison phase of his life begins: he will be arrested in Jerusalem, imprisoned in Caesarea, be transferred to Rome in the fall two years later, where he will live under house arrest an additional two years.

Our spring break ended in Athens, like most modern day trips to Greece. As we pulled steeply upward in Delta's modern Bowing 767 aircraft, the 2500 year old ruins scattered about Athens fell away into the distance until they disappeared into the haze of the Mediterranean sea but not from our memories. The ideas and example of the Apostle Paul profoundly affected Christianity. I pressed the button to recline my seat exhausted at the six day whirlwind tour of more than 1000 miles. Then grinned to recall that Paul was about my age when he took this route. Twice. By foot. I decided I needed to start my exercise program again.


Side trips

Side Trip: Halkidiki Peninsula
A forsaken off-the-beaten-path peninsula where we spent a night on the eastern shore at Ierissos discovering a boat builder who hand made boats pretty much the same way they've been made since ancient times. Starting with huge trees at one end of the boatyard which are eventually sawed up and fashioned into the wide stemmed Mediterranean boats by the other end of the yard. A one man shop. Following this land to the easterly most tiny peninsula we were forbidden to go further with the threatening sign : “STOP this is the mountain of God, turn back." Here jutting out into the sea is the monastery capital of the world... boasting a dozen or so monasteries accessible only by sail-by boats, and governed independently from Greece itself. No woman may stay anywhere on this peninsula over night under threat of law. We wondered if the rule issued from their district of females, or of themselves. Heading West we traversed the entire "udder" on dirt roads, wriggling through farmland, across passes, and fording streams in our tiny "matchbox Fiat."

Side Trip: Across Greece on the Via Ignatia
The Greeks are determined to build a new Via Ignatia, a super highway coast to coast across Greece. The Greeks seem quite patient about getting such modern construction finished. Anyway, our guess was they had several decades or more left to finish the task at the going rate. But when surrounded by thousand year old ruins, what a few decades?. We followed the proposed route from Berea West across the backbone of Greece to Ioannina. What an impressive route! The snow-covered mountains gave a Switzerland look to everything, the roads were tiny and sometimes washed away leaving only one lane to drive on with the left tires leaning over the edge of the landslide. There is no place in America where they'd let you drive on such roads. Which made it more exciting. Winding across 6000' mountain pass after passes we finally (late at night in the dark) descended into the town of Ioannina, a hustling bustling clean (for Greece) town which acts like a college town. Apparently the Greeks send all their younger women to this town, for most Greek woman elsewhere appeared in their 50's. The woman in Ioannina appeared to be younger. The in-town motel was more expensive, but actually had really hot water. After crossing the country we headed South down the West coast to the Patra where we crossed the Corinthian Gulf on the most efficient ferry system in the world and headed to Corinth & Athens

Side trip: Mt. Olympus.
A grand glorious mountain. Greece's Grand Canyon turned inside-out. The road to the starter trail is more adventure than most Americans care for... however, the trial up from there is where the fun begins. This snow-covered peak of only 6000' is every bit as impressive as any of our Rocky Mountains.


Impressions for future travelers

A combination of Arizona and New Hampshire's White Mountains with the Gulf of Mexico scattered everywhere. clear Blue-Blue-Blue waters everywhere. Thanks to the goats, few trees except at the high elevations. Hot sulfur springs here and there to remind the traveler of what's still underneath.

Adequate with warmish water (in the evenings at least), relatively clean, and two single beds in each room. Pretty cheap during the off-season while I was there (Early March) with two beds costing $30US to $40 in the country and $60US in the large cities. Americans, who look at the outside of buildings and extrapolate judgment calls on the cleanliness of the inside have to change -- Like New York apartments, the inside is almost always better than the entryway. You can usually get hotels with views right out the window to the sea... indeed, in half the hotels we stayed in we were the only guest.

Try the real stuff -- Greek coffee in one of the frequent bar-ish type cafes. If you drink the bottom half you'll know why they serve it in a bar.

Like most folk I did not expect snow-capped mountains in Greece. If you love mountains (as I do) you'll love Greece.

Minuteness of Christian witness
Walking the sites in Greece reminded me of the tiny-ness of the Christian witness in the first century, and the massive successful competition it faced in Paul's day. Yet it survived and eventually prevailed. The religions it subdued have all but disappeared while Christianity has triumphed over them. It made me wonder if the quality of Christianity and the quantity of converts are inversely related.

Middle Aged Hiker Paul
For me knowing the mileage, even overlaying it on a map of the USA as I had often done, was not so impressive as retracing Paul's actual route through Greece. This fellow in his late 40's and early 50's hiked several Appalachian Trails through Asia, Macedonia, and Greece. Sure, I know everybody walked then -- but not this much. And the guy was sick most of the time!

Every day. All day. Normal.

Grim People
Greek people seem grim and seldom smile in public. They seem determined, stubborn even, but happy is not a word which comes to mind in watching Greeks for a week. At one point we decided to count the people we saw smiling to us or each other. We never tallied more than six smiling people, and only one smiled at us. The stoics won.

Everywhere. Blue. Beautiful. Clear. The Greek coastline is endless with punctuating seas and bays everywhere. From the steep mountain roads clinging to the sides of mountains rising out of the sea you can peer down to the bottom of 20' deep pools in the sea. If it had not been early March we'd have gone in.

We drove on six-lane "interstates" where the Greeks beep you out of the center lane if you drive less than 80 mph. And we traversed tiny dirt roads fording country streams (we'd call them "Jeep roads") leading to even smaller villages tucked behind mountains . We saw only two policemen outside of Athens, and they were directing traffic.

Well Americans would call it that, Germans would call it lawlessness. Greeks would call it freedom. Not in a rebellious way, but casually Greeks thumb their noses at the law. They run red lights, park anywhere they want to (double and triple parking for hours at a time -- you're supposed to know that if you are the first one in you plan to stay all day) and the entire country treats stop signs as suggestions. (We saw only three cars actually stopped at a stop sign -- they are treated the equivalent of a Yield sign, which in Greece are totally ignored. Yet we saw no accidents in 2000 Km of driving and very few hot tempers outside the big cities -- the system works. Motorcyclists take risks on the street Americans pay entry fees to watch.

While no longer dirt-cheep, the prices off-season were low. Moderate hotels could be had for $25US a night for two persons. Groceries were below US prices (a bag of 200 tangerines for $3 US). On the other hand forget buying canned foods -- the best price we could find on a can of Pork and beans or peas was several dollars US. And, of course, gas prices are the equivalent of $4-$5 US per gallon, which is made up for by tiny matchbox cars which get 50 MPG.

Greek Men
Dark colors everywhere. The fellows seem to prefer a 10 year old sweater under a 15 year old suit jacket which by some unwritten code must not match the pants. It appears Greek men are allowed to do what men the world over would like to do -- wear the same comfortable suit jacket every day so that men can be recognized by their suit jacket coming down the street, not by their face. As the Greek men age they are apparently expected to grow a substantial mustaches and beer bellies to show their maturity and wisdom.

Greek Women
Dark colors too. Maybe Greek people choose gloomy colors to provide relief from the bright sunshine and iridescent blue of the seas, but navy blues and black are the official woman's dress. Many older women seem shy about public appearances, pretending to be invisible as they walk the streets. Younger women (which were all but absent in the country but very present in the larger cities) are stern, hurried, and seem to know where they are headed and would like you to stay out of their way, please.

Greek Children
The children love to fly kites in the ever-present Mediterranean wind. Their "school busses" are what we would call cross-country tour coaches and children scurry off the busses into their homes to presumably study their lessons. Or to watch TV?

Everything is constructed with concrete and tile. Wood was rare, as were metal "pole Barns" in commercial construction. Rather than move to a "better" or "Larger" house, Greeks simply add on another floor to the top of their existing house, removing the tile roof and replacing it again on the new story. Some houses rise three, four, and even five stories. To announce that you plan to add on later the concrete corner posts are left protruding out of the house with re-bar sticking up into the air awaiting future expansion.

America's tobacco companies have no worry if 100% of Americans stop smoking. 100% of Greece will still be puffing away on American brands.

European cars, Japanese cars, Germans cars, but no American cars... except by Jeep.

English is considered the universal language of the world but not outside Athens in Greece. ON the main roads many signs use English spellings and not just the Greek letters, but on the secondary roads you are left with the Greek alphabet. Luckily that makes travel fun. We went three days at one space not meeting a single person who could (would?) speak a single word of English, even in the hotels. Getting directions on country roads where one frequently gets lost and there is no a word of English is a grand adventure. However we got along quite well with gestures and getting clerks waiters to write out prices in Arabic numbers.

Casual approach to time.
Outside the large cities people treat time with a casual attitude, which makes for a relaxed atmosphere. Shepherds still tend flocks of sheep. Young and middle aged men spend several hours each day lounging about their coffee or sitting on the streets. It seemed to us that the only time a Greek gets in a hurry is when they get in their car.

It is hard to tell, but generally speaking we did not feel welcomed by the Greek people. Nobody seemed happy to have a tourist arrive in their town or at their hotel. Indeed if they had training in how to make tourists feel unwelcome it would probably produce the general behavior we observed. And, to be truthful, they seemed to treat each other with disdain, so it may have nothing to do with tourists after all. Customer service is in its infancy here in Greece. On the other hand this attitude allows a tourist to be invisible in the culture, ignored and bypassed. That is an advantage, however for (except in Athens, and a little less so in nearby Corinth) there is hardly a "tourist trap" atmosphere anywhere. The ruins seem forgotten, and thus the spirit of adventure and discovery is high. To me nothing ruins this spirit more than a tour bus and droning guide. We got to discover, figure out, read, study, measure ourselves, which made the entire trip more adventurous.

Male-Female ratios.
Driving through Greece you wonder where the women went. Men seem to dominate public life.

Sense of history.
For an American where we proclaim "Since 1937" on our shopping bags, the sense of multi millennia history is startling. A thousand-year old ruins is "recent" on their map keys.

Greece's computer chip based telephone cards make America's phone system look antiquated. The cards are available everywhere and the phones are scattered all across the country, even in the countryside. A chip-card costs about $6US and gives you 100 units. I called home to Indiana every day and only used one card all week.

There are apparently no anti-litter campaigns here. When you're finished with it, toss it out the car window. We didn't, but they do. There is enough trash to keep Dutch travelers at home. Rest stops have no sanitary facilities so travelers do what the goats and sheep do, even in Athens' parks. This forces one to pick his steps any time he is out of the car. However, gas stations are frequent, modern and have better rest room facilities than US stations, but apparently this ideas has not fully caught on yet. The climate is dry, so it is not worth staying home over.

There were only a few "super stores" of the Wal-mart variety, and even these would pale in comparison to a wal-mart. Greeks prefer to purchase their stuff from smaller shop keepers. A Greek "Super Market" is what Americans would call the "Corner store" or a "Ma and Pa Store." But prices are good, and the Greek tendency to ignore customers makes shoppers feel unhampered.

World-wide brands.
While American cars we absent, Coke, Caterpillar, Toyota, Mercedes, Fanta Shell, and even a couple MacDonald’s were prevalent.

A tourist can go anywhere, do anything, and camp anywhere (called "Freecamping") without being bothered. Greeks barely check visitor's passports, we were never asked a single question, never cursed or corrected for parking illegally, and were allowed to do pretty much as we pleased without interference. Except in Athens Greeks do not use "Tourist ropes" and we drove up lonely seemingly-private roads without anyone seeming to care.

In spite of our initial ignorance in using Drachma (a bit less than 300 Drachmas to the dollar) we were never taken advantage of. Early on I tried to pay 10,000 Drachmas for a 1000 Drachma bill and the Greek just poked into my hand and took the correct amount replacing the larger bill. After learning the money better we even tried to over pay testing their integrity, and every time we were corrected. It was not uncommon in the countryside for people to leave the shops unattended with doors unlocked. Even in Athens there were a pile of "Greek Doughnuts" on the sidewalk being sold by the "honor system. "

In ancient Greece every city had a dozen or more temples to various gods. Today every Greek town has only one church -- the Greek Orthodox Church. In larger cities there are Protestant churches, but in a dozen miles of street walking we never saw one. One village one church. One religion has triumphed in Greece. The temples are ruins, there is now but one temple to a city. However, one wonders if Paul re-visited Greece today if he'd be satisfied with the quality of Christianity. Or America's.

To contact Keith Drury, your teaching coach in this course click here