The following is a site by site diary account and reflections written during
Spring Break trip in the footsteps of St. Paul
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!
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.
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
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
was made and baptized in the river outside Philippi's
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ). The tiny synagogue which is dwarfed by the other gods,
the theater and the Bema where Paul stood on trial
before Gallio (Acts ) are well
preserved. There is an inscription here of Erastus the city treasurer who may
be the same person Paul mentions in Romans .
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,
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 ) 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 Trip: HalkidikiPeninsula
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
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
This fellow in his late 40's and early 50's hiked several Appalachian Trails
through Asia, Macedonia,
Sure, I know everybody walked then -- but not this much. And the guy was sick
most of the time!
Every day. All day. Normal.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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