Travelogs & Reflections > Carrol's Travelog > Mediterranean Europe

Mediterranean Europe


Spain | France | Slovenia | Italy | Greece | Turkey


SPAIN: May 2006


Barcelona: May 2006


Camp Nou

This is the location of the F.C. Barcelona futbal complex.  We spent our time at the futbal stadium where the famed player # 10, Ronaldino calls home during the season.

We began by going through the Museum that gave us a complete history of the teams, and the stadium dating back to the beginning of the original team.  We then went outside and looked out over the beautiful green field where history has been made for Barcelona futbal.  We spent some time here just talking about futbal in Europe and in the States and eating a snack while kicking back in the seats. The souvenir shop was huge and carried anything a sports fan would want to remind them of this team.  The colors of Maroon, Navy blue, and yellow were displayed throughout and became a mass of colors.

Next we went on the tour which brought us on the sidelines of the playing field.  The boys could imagine themselves running, kicking and maneuvering the ball down the field to score among the shouts of the spectators. 

Then we took the elevator high up into the stadium and when we stepped out into the media section of this fine stadium we looked out over the area where all the sports announcers relay play by plays over the microphones to generate the excitement of this fast paced game.  When we left we were all tired and overwhelmed, however we completely enjoyed the day.

Temple of La Sagrade Famila
One of the most outstanding and memorable Temples that I have seen on this trip is Gaudi`s, the Temple of La Sagrade Familia. If you are ever in Spain be sure and make a special trip to this magnificent place that is inspired by Antoni Gaudi.  This temple was the dream of Josep Bocabella, driven by his devotion to St. Joseph; he wanted to dedicate a temple in honor of the Holy Family. 

On June 25, 1852, was the birth of Antoni Gaudi.  He was a child who had been diagnosed with arthritis of the joints, which impacted his life in many ways.  At age 11, he began his studies in a free religion school at the convent of Saint Francesc.  This is where he began to develop his fervent faith and devotion. During his high school years, he became strongly attracted to drawing and architecture.  He was admitted to the Escolve Tecnia Superior d`Arquitecturea at the age of twenty-one.  In 1878 he graduated and also presented his work at a Paris Exhibition where he met Eusebe Guell, who became his lifelong friend and patron.

In 1882 Fanceseo Del Villar was the first architect of this project and whose plans show a neo-gothic church.  After his resignation about a year later, Antoni Gaudi led the project. He was only 31 and had already demonstrated his excellent qualities as an accomplished architect.  Gaudi went beyond the original project and transformed it into a universal masterpiece. Gaudi wanted to construct the perfect temple.  With this objective, he concentrated all his efforts on ensuring that the whole of the temple would be in perfect consonance with his final mission, which was none other than the celebration of liturgical rites.  With the passing of the years and propelled by his anxiety for perfection, Gaudi was accumulating a sound religious knowledge along with a growing faith.  As a result, he became an expert in liturgical themes, which is reflected in every corner of the temple. Gaudi envisaged La Sagrada Familia as a Bible made of stone, which told the history and mysteries of the Christian faith.  On the exterior of the temple he represented the Church, through apostles, evangelists, the Virgin and the saints.  The cross which tops the main tower symbolizes the triumph of Jesus´s church and the facades evoke three crucial moments in Christ’s life: his birth, death and resurrection.

His Birth:
The Nativity facade has three porticos and four bell towers.  Each portico is dedicated to a theological virtue, which is related to the Holy Trinity.  The central portico is Charity for Jesus.  In this portal we see the sculptures of the Annunciation, The Nativity, and the Coronation of Mary.  The Hope Portico reunites the childhood of Jesus which embodies Joseph and his virtues.  It includes: St. Joseph’s boat as he was the helmsman of the church, the betrothal of Virgin Mary and Joseph, The Massacre of the Innocents, and The Flight to Egypt.  The Faith Portical is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It includes: The Immaculate Conception, The Visitation, and Jesus in Simon’s arms being Blessed.

His Death:
The Passion facade expresses the part of Christ’s death; this facade recalls the cruelty of sacrifices through a series of sculpted groups which represent the last days of Christ.  The lower level shows us the night before Christ’s crucifixion.  The last supper, Peter and the solders, the kiss of Judas, Peter’s denial, Crowning of thorns, and the Trail of Jesus.  The middle level represents the path to the crucifixion:  Veronica and the evangelist, the three Mary’s and Simon the Cyrene, And Longimus - the soldier who lanced Jesus on the cross.  The upper level: Solders playing dice, The Crucifixion of Jesus, The burial.

The Resurrection:
The Glory facade will show our struggle to reach eternal life and each man’s journey obtaining it.  Gaudi represented this with Death, the first unavoidable first step; the Final Judgement, presided over by Jesus; the Glory which is the reward to honorable people; and Hell, divine punishment which God inflicts on those who stray from his laws.

Above each facade, Gaudi designed four towers - twelve in total - which represent the Apostles, and in the middle one that symbolizes Jesus Christ, around which four more are dedicated to the evangelists and one to the Blessed Virgin.

I have given you a lot of information about this temple.  Please realize that it is a work in progress, however you are able to access many sections.  There is an elevator and for the courageous a staircase with 360 steps that take you to the top.  Along the way you see so many of the details of this project and finally you reach the top and are able to look out over the city and also see the towers up close.

Throughout this trip we have visited many Wats, Mosques, Temples, Churches and Cathedrals whenever possible.  This is where we have found magnificent frescos, statues, and paintings as well as a quiet place to give our prayers of thanks and to be able to reflect on this journey of a lifetime.  We have asked for continued guidance as we move forward on this adventure.  We have offered prayers for the family and the many friends that have been sending prayers in our behalf.  Candles have been lighted for special intentions that include family and friends. We have experienced God’s intervention at many junctures throughout this trip because of your prayers and thoughts. God Bless each of you.

FRANCE: May 2006

Nice & Bordeaux:

Our French Adventure:  We caught the night train from Nice to Barcelona and had to really hurry as the train was leaving in five minutes, so we jumped on board and were told that we didn’t need to be in our assigned seats, so we settled in for the night as we wouldn’t arrive until 6:00 a.m.  I started to wake up around 5:30 a.m. and after an hour and half went by we knew something was wrong, so we checked a map at the end of the car that someone told us about.  Therese checked with a passenger and found that we were almost all the way to Bordeaux.  We decided to stay on the train and talk to the information people about our situation.  What we didn’t know is that at some point the train separated and one part went to Port Bou (our destination) and the other in the opposite direction to Bordeaux.  What a relief it was when the staff had a good laugh and proceeded to route us back to Barcelona.  We were sure we would have to purchase tickets.  We did not, in fact, we were given tickets that placed upgraded us, which was more comfortable and made the rest of the journey a pleasure.

SLOVENIA: May 2006

Paulo took us into southern Italy to Trieste and then northeast through the small town of North Goriza in Slovenia.  The countryside was beautiful and the homes that were perched high in the hills looked so much like Austria, which is north of here.  The scenery was green grasslands with lots of trees.  We see small one room dwellings for the sheep herders scattered throughout the area and usually a small herd of sheep are feeding close by.  I remembered that I wanted a small piece of fabric from Slovenia for the quilt, so the search began.  As we were approaching a small village called Bouce we decided it was best to park the car and walk around in order to find a place to purchase some fabric.  I went into a gift shop and found a set of miniature mittens that had been knitted by one of the local women. We weren’t having much luck as it was siesta time and many of the stores were closed. Therese and I went into a small restaurant and bargained with them for a small linen towel.  When I finally had the fabric from this country I relaxed. I also realized how important this quilt is to all of us, as the whole family became part of the search.  I will begin working on the quilt at my mom´ s house in Missouri.  I will lay out all of the fabric by country and then begin the planning of this project that will result in a wall mounted quilt.

ITALY: May 2006


We caught a waterbus at the train station and began our adventure through the canals that led us to the Grand Canal where we were able to watch life unfold before us as the different kinds of boats went about their business.  We have a clearer picture of how business is conducted in this city surrounded by the water from the sea.  Many kinds and sizes of boats were loaded with supplies for all of the shops, while others are used for construction where large cranes were mounted. 

As we walked through the streets, we came upon a residential area. You could look up high on the window ceils and marvel at the arrangements of different flowers and plants that vibrated their beauty against the muted colors of the older structures. In many of the campo’s there are either statues with benches for resting or relaxing as well as a few stalls of food for sale.  There is usually the casual outdoor sidewalk cafe for a quick coffee or snack. The canals are everywhere in the city, as well as the walk ways over the canals.  We would peek down the canal and see the edge of the houses with their unique colors, as the water lapped away at the structures.

Each year the city celebrates a Mardi Grau on Ash Wednesday, just as in New Orleans, however here most of the parties and costumes are at the palazzos that are abundant throughout Venice. You see evidence of this celebration in many of the shops, which have the jester masks for sale.  The day moved by so fast. We ended our day with the pigeons of St. Marks square, while listening to the music that resounded throughout the square. As I walked around the square it brought back memories of my last visit to this fabulous city with my dear friend Sue Eberle, when we toured this area many years ago.  It was in this square that I had purchased my Murano Vase glassware during that trip.   It was also when we took a ride in the famed Gondola’s of Venice.   


Buttrio is a land of great wines, famed by all, the area is known as a zone dedicated to the production of wines.  The wine producers have patiently worked with great dedication giving proof of the passion that is needed to create truly top quality wines; this dedication however has been worth while as they are now well-known the world over.  Merlot, Cabernet, including the varieties of sauvignon and franc, Refosco dal peduncolo red, Pignolo and Tazzelenghe are true Friulli "reds" and together with their white counterparts Toci friuliano, golden Verduzzo, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Pinot white and grey represent the best of Butrio`wines. Do not forget to enjoy the "Picolit".  A super quality wine much loved by Popes and Kings.

The Balbo vineyard, of Paolo and Lina Petrucco is legendary.  The vines are over 50 years old and were inherited from the family of Air Marchal Italo Balbo, the audacious voyager of the skies who also knew a thing or two about wine. The Petrucco estate, in the heart of the Colli Orientali del Friuli is tended with care and watched over with a vigilant eye. 

This gives you a little history of this region. For myself, I usually have my morning coffee on the side patio of the villa and look out over the vineyard and bask in the sun as I soak up the view and appreciate the time that we are the guests of the Petrucco family.  Lina and Paulo are very gracious and watch over us as they do the winery. I have taken several walks throughout the vineyard.  One took me up into the hillside to visit a neighboring Palazzo that has been neglected and the owner only lives in one part of the large Palace.  I also walked near an abandoned house that is no longer able to be occupied. This reminds me of the places that we see being remodeled by people moving into the region.

As I walk over this fertile valley, I realize that a lot of work, perseverance, dedication, and love of the land are needed to make this a successful winery and even more important a loving home that is shared by the Petrucco family.  They are the caretakers during this century and have made many improvements to the house and expanded the winery. 

I thank both of you for sharing all of this with me. You have made this part of my journey a blessing that will always be remembered, especially when I recall the delicious sweet bread or the making of pizza that are made by the talented Lina. God Bless you and your family.


We arrived in Florence and found a family pension to call home for a few days.  We had a delicious supper of spaghetti, salad, and wine of the region, thanks to Therese and Steve’s great cooking. 

We got an early start to attend the Uffizi Museum.  I got headphones and shared them with Paul and on our way we went.  What a day.  The old masters are truly unbelievable, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Leonardi de Vinci, Rembrandt, Van Dyke, and Rafaella, plus so many others.  I was pleased to see some of the Dutch painters exhibited here. We came to the “De Vinci” exhibit that was on display.  What a talented and gifted man from his engineering approach to everything, to his heart felt paintings that are painted using a geometric formula as we did when I painted the icon.  They took us step by step through “The Last Supper” and showed us all of the expressions and emotions that were seen when Christ said “One of you will betray me.”  We also saw a short film on the dynamics of “The Annunciation” that showed us that the painting appears to be out of proportion and it is believed that the painting should really be viewed from the right side and then all is in perfect accord.

The boys and I set off for the Academia Gallery to see their exhibits and the famous “David” sculpture that Michelangelo created from an uneven block of white marble.  Other sculptures gave up the work due to enormous technical difficulties.  The block was riddled with veins and was tall and narrow, more suitable for a slender subject.  Michelangelo was informed by friends of the possibility of acquiring this great block of marble.  This opportunity of measuring himself against a generation of sculptures who had failed must have been an intriguing challenge.  Began his work the beginning of September in 1502 at the age of 26.  This work was completed in 1504.

The statue which has been said to be “perfection” by other artists is 5.17 meters of white marble.  As I sat to the back side of “David” I could see the sling over his left shoulder and his face as he glanced to the side was serine and calm, even though he had just fought the battle of his life against “Goliath” and had conquered the brutal giant.  His body is in perfect proportion and has a head full of curly hair.  He appears as a youth, yet you see strength and self assurance in his stance.  We spent a lot of time with this work of art.  The boys attempted to do some sketching.  There were many students in the gallery doing the same with their sketchpads and dream for the future.


We have just left the ruins of Pompeii, which rise on a plateau overlooking the Sarno river valley.  The origins of the city are uncertain: the oldest reports date from the end of the 7th and the first half of the 6th century BC.

I am looking out of the train window as we are on our way from Pompeii to Rome.  The countryside has changed.  The view before me is covered by vineyards and olive trees with an occasional stucco home that has the red clay tile rooftops.  The land is flatter with rolling hills scattered in the background.

We have only three days in this ancient city.  How does one see even a fraction of it must have been a challenge to many visitors over the years.

There are three areas of this city that are memorable to me.  These are some of my observations, impressions, and thoughts.

The Angelus:
We arrived a little before noon at St. Peter’s square to the music of the Vatican City band, the Flag Corp twirling their flags, and the Swiss Guards scattered here and there.  All were visible as we participated in the Angelus with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI who officiated from high up in a window on the right wing of the Basicila. He spoke to us in several different languages before beginning the ceremony.  At the completion all received His Blessings

Sistine Chapel:
We arrived an hour early to view the magnificent beauty and extremely moving experience of the Sistine Chapel.

The Sistine Chapel was built between 1475-1483 by Giovanni de’ Dolci.  In 1482 the artist began to transfigure the bare chapel into an inspiring picture gallery.  Some of the best painters were commissioned: Perugino, Bottecelli, Ghirlandaio, and Rosselli illustrated the Old and New Testaments which face one another on the center strip of both walls, with the Life of Moses (Old Testament) on one side and the Life of Christ (New Testament) opposite.  On the end wall is the Testament and death of Moses by Signorelli on the right is Roselli’s The Last Supper.

Michaelangelo touches each of our hearts with his rendition of the “the ceiling” that was painted in the chapel in 1508.  It took him four years to complete this masterpiece.  In the center strip of this design are nine panels showing Episodes from Genesis, followed by the Creation of Eve and Original Sin, then Noah’s Sacrifice and Drunkenness of Noah ends.  The Prophets and Sybil’s are between the triangular spaces at the curve of the vault are the largest figures of this work.

In 1535, twenty-three years passed before Michelangelo began painting the Last Judgment on the wall behind the main altar. Three hundred figures swarm in a composition which has an amazing coherence and clarity and in which space is organized into a real architectural structure of figures.

The Chapel became the site of conclaves soon after it was completed in the late 15th century.  Its compact and well-fortified structure made it especially well suited to the secrecy of this elective assembly.  A unique tradition of the conclave requires that the results of the votes be communicated to the outside world by means of the smoke from the burning of the ballots after each vote.  If the result is negative, the smoke rising out of the Chapel’s chimney is black, thanks to the addition of a special substance; when there is at last a positive result, only the ballots are burned, which produces the eagerly awaited white smoke.

St. Peter’s Basilica:

The greatest church in Christendom rises up from the square and Michelangelo’s mighty silver-blue dome dominates the scene, blending into the sky above, which touches the soul of all who gaze upon it. 

In the first chapel of the right nave is Michelangelo’s Pieta, sculpted between 1498 and 1499.  The feelings that are projected from this portrayal of the eternally young Mother and the dead Son leaning down in her arms reminds us that this subject was strongly felt by Michelangelo.  This is one of the most breathtaking sculptures that I saw during this trip.  I took as much time as possible to gaze upon this wonder that had been sculpted by human hands that had made it so lifelike in its appearance. The pure white of the marble made it appear both light and dark in the folds and crevices of the statue.

They had set up a curtained chapel where people could pray in peace away from the many tourists that were moving about.  I was able to have a quiet time to pray and try to absorb all of the wonders of our church and this city that are here in Italy.  It becomes overwhelming to see and be near so many treasures that I have heard and talked about in my life and now they are right in front of me.

The Sacred Grottoes:

The lower level of the Basilica is reached from inside a stairway through two pillars and opens into the gallery known as the New Grotto. (This is the oldest part of the grotto, but was named this as it was opened later.)  Excavation under St. Peter’s tomb in 1968 is where “The relic of Peter has been identified in a way which may be considered convincing.” Said, Pope Paul VI.  We entered the old grotto area through another entrance on the outside, which led us to the tomb of Pope John Paul II.  His tomb is a large piece of pure white marble that is about seven inches high at the top and slants to about four inches at the foot.  There is a single green plant at the top and a perpetual candle at the bottom.  The writing on the tomb is in gold.  The surrounding area is simple allows one to reflect on the Pope and not on his place of rest.  You soon realize that you are in the presence of someone who has made a tremendous difference in the world through his faith and as the messenger of God.

Around the corner from Pope John Paul II rests the remains of St. Peter.  I had seen the statue of Pope Pius XII in the upper area of the Basilica earlier in the day.  This is the pope of my youth and is fondly remembered. 


We arrived in Brindisi, Italy by way of the ferry from Patras, Greece.  On our bus ride to Amalfi we were able to look over the high cliff tops and see the Tyrrhenian Sea and its crashing waves as hit the rocks below.

On my visit to the Cathedral of Amalfi I went to the crypt area and saw the giant sculpture, with all of its ferocity, of the fisherman who was the first disciple of Jesus.  Looking at this sculpture I could understand why this man was able to leave the sea and become an advocate for Jesus. St Andrew’s remains are encrypted in this tomb.  It was an opportunity for all of us to renew our belief in God and His teachings.

GREECE: April 2006


Our visit here took us to the home of the sanctuary and oracle of the god of light Apollo.  It was believed to be the ‘naval of the world’ by the ancient Greeks.  The largest religious and spiritual center of Hellas, its fame and prestige spread throughout the Mediterranean.  Men came from all corners of the then-known world to seek the priestess’s wise prophecy: state emissaries on major issues of war or peace and ordinary people with personal problems.  The sanctuary’s renown remained undimmed throughout antiquity, but when Christianity prevailed and idolatry was banned, it fell into decline and was abandoned.

The Delphi sanctuary of Apollo extends over terraces on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, in a stunning location surrounded by large crags, towering rocks, and the Gulf of Itea in the background.


As we were walking toward our hotel we looked up and there upon a hill was the world famous Parthenon.  It really sparked our enthusiasm to begin our visit of one of the historical capitals of Europe.  We are ready to begin our journey through Athens 6,000 year history.

In 1834 Athens became the capitol of the Greek State.  Over the years many conquerors occupied Athens and erected unique, splendid monuments that also enriched a multitude of languages, and inspired civilization.

In the two days that we were in this area and were able to explore the antiquities of Athens which took us through the following areas; The Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian’s Arch, Theatre of Dionysus, Stoa of Eumenes, The Odeion of Herodes Atticus, Ancient Agora and finally the remarkable “Acropolis” where we saw the linking of the old ancient civilization and the new modern city.

The Propylaea is the grand entrance of the Acropolis. There were many temples and a museum of important religious significance. The Parthenon is a masterpiece.  I appreciated its splendor and the opportunity to learn about the history and the secrets of the construction of this architectural achievement that was built of white marble and dedicated to the goddess Athena. The view from the temple is spectacular.  There is a slight bulge of the columns that give the impression that they are bending under the weight of the roof.  The secret of the harmony of the Parthenon is that there is not a straight line in the design.

The Erechtheion is a unique temple that is constructed on two levels.  On the south side are the statues of six priestesses that support the roof.  The differences between the sections may be due to the fact that the various parts are dedicated to various gods.  The eastern section is dedicated to Athena Poliada, and the western to Poseidon Erechtheus.

As Paul and I looked out over the city from high on top of the Acropolis we spotted a stadium off in the distance. Our research told us that this was the site of the original stadium built of wood in 330 BC.  H. Atticus constructed the marble stadium that stands today.  It was used for competitions, which took place during festivals.  The capacity is approximately 60,000 spectators.  It was built from 1869-1870 for the first Olympic Games in 1896.


One of the most unique islands in the world, since the entire center of the island is missing, and a huge caldera is in its place.  The island has attracted visitors from abroad for centuries, attracted to its exotic natural beauty.  Most significant of these wonders include: The crater in the middle of the caldera, where you can have a hot mud bath. The black and red sand beaches, the famous sunset view in the village of Ia, and the many picturesque churches.

I am sitting on the porch of our hotel high up on the Caldera made from the explosion of the earthquake.  To the left is the larger island that is still an active volcano.  As I look around me the first thing I see looking straight down is the dark brown landscape with scatters of green from the vegetation. This sight flows smoothly into the deep blue-green waters of the Aegean Sea. What a glorious sight.  To my right, are the white washed hotels and homes with their red tile roofs that are stacked one upon each other, yet allowing everyone this view of the sea.  There are the occasional bright blue domes of the churches with their crosses perched on top, and on my left is a large round windmill with its paddles ready for action.  The wind is blowing which is usual for this time of the year.

Naxos! The island that wins you over with the first look when you enter the harbor.  The view of the castle and the door of the church that was never finished, welcomes you to the glories and mysteries of the island.

We left early in the morning by taxi to the boatyard in Kasikusi and caught the express ferry to Samos Island.  We then transferred to another ferry and arrived in Naxos where we will stay for a week and experience the passion of Jesus during the Greek Orthodox Easter season.  Easter is the most important holy day in the Greek Orthodox year.  The Easter season occupies a full ten weeks in all, this year from February 12 to April 23. During this time Orthodox fast and pray to prepare themselves for Easter Sunday, which marks the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This period is carefully structured.  With specifically relevant readings from scripture, and church services that lead the faithful through a process of repentance toward spiritual regeneration.

The Easter season divides into three parts: three preparatory weeks, the six weeks of the great fast, and the final week.  Great Week, which ends at midnight Saturday with the arrival of Easter Sunday.

Palm Sunday marks Christ’s joyous entrance into Jerusalem, riding upon a donkey, with his followers shouting hosanna! Hosanna! While placing palm branches in his way. The churches are decorated with palm branches, often woven into crosses, stars and donkeys, and there is a colorful procession through the town. On the evening of Palm Sunday, Great Week begins.

Throughout Great Week, the priests are clad in black and the churches are deep in mourning.  Each day has a special message with particular readings from holy scripture that review the events of the last week of Jesus’ life as a man on earth.

The message of Great Monday and Tuesday is “behold the bridegroom, cometh in the middle of the night”: in other words, be prepared!  You do not know when you will be called to stand before your creator.

On Great Wednesday the efchelaio service – the blessing of the oil that heals body and soul.  The faithful are first blessed with the holy oil, and then given bits of cotton soaked with it, which they take home with them for their health and well-being.  Later on Wednesday, is the service commemorating the Last Supper, when Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples.  It was on this occasion when they broke bread together, to eat it in remembrance of him, as his body, and to drink wine in remembrance of him, as his blood.  This was the first celebration of communion.

On Great Thursday morning the scripture of Judas’ betrayal of Christ and his trail before Pontius Pilate are read and an entire liturgy celebrated.  On Thursday evening, twelve passages are read from the New Testament.  These relate the terrible events of Christ’s betrayal to the Roman authorities, his presentation before the governor, Pontius Pilate, his mocking, and his crucifixion. Then the cross, with Jesus upon it, is brought from the sanctuary and set up in the center of the church.

On Good Friday, there are services all day, the “hours”, during which the women of each of Naxos’s major parishes richly decorate their church’s epitaphio.  Despite their sad purpose, the epitaphia are very beautiful with their wealth of fresh flowers, so lovingly arranged.

On Friday night, mourning continues for Christ in the tomb, the women singing dirges in their sorrow, and rose petals fall in a shower from the highest recesses of the church upon the bier of Christ and the worshippers.  All around Naxos the epitaphia leave from the different churches in a procession with their priests and parishioners bearing candles and the women chanting, to be joined in a central location. This is one of the most solemn and gorgeous events, as the whole island mourns Christ’s death along with Christians everywhere.

The readings on Great Saturday morning are from the Old Testament. The brief Easter service begins, during which the priests don white vestments once more.  At midnight, all lights are extinguished and the church is submerged in darkness.  Then the priest emerges with a single lighted candle, announcing “Christos anesti” – Christ is risen! – Which is joyously repeated again and again. The people light their candles from his, and so light fans out quickly to fill the whole church.  This is the great moment, the climax of weeks – months, actually – of fasting and spiritual preparation. Fireworks are heard throughout the city.  This light of the resurrection is taken physically into each home by candle and is used to smoke the sign of the cross above the freshly whitewashed doorway. After midnight, families return to their houses to break the fast with some mayertsa, the traditional nourishing soup made of the innards of lamb.

We began our journey by attending services on Palm Sunday, as we arrived in town the day before.  We received palms in the shape of crosses and stars that looked like the Greek Orthodox cross. The next day we were out taking a walk and found the local Catholic Church and found they were celebrating the passion of Christ on the same time schedule as the Greeks. We attended Holy Thursday services at this church.

We went on a hike to a convent that was tucked way up in the mountains, yet could be seen from the city.  They were just finishing services, so we went to another location where a smaller church was built into the mountain.  Each of these churches had such beautiful Icons and fresco’s that we were able to enjoy during our meditations.

Another day we rented a car and were able to visit an old church in the mountains and watch the women of the parish decorating the epitaphio with flowers.  They offered us some of the local traditional Easter bread that is made throughout Greece. Tonight we followed the procession from the Greek Church we have been attending and walk throughout the town for about an hour, listening to the women singing.

TURKEY: March-April 2006

We flew into Istanbul, Turkey via Dubai on Emeritis Airlines.  Our first morning we had a Turkish breakfast that consisted of: cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, and scrambled eggs with bread and coffee.  I put the cheese on the bread and my mouth just watered from the crunchy crust to the softness inside the rolls. What a way to start the day.

We are staying in the Sultanahmet area of this second largest city in the world.  In the evening we can see the lights from the Blue Mosque, which was built from 1609 to 1619 during Sultanahmet’s reign.  This active mosque, whose blue luminaries create the impression that the tiled walls and painted dome of the interior have a blue cast.

As I walked through the Grand Bazaar with its twenty-two entrances and over 4500 shops, I was overwhelmed with all of the promoters, policemen, and tourists that were walking throughout this large area.  Oh yes, we were told to also watch for the pickpockets.

As we arrived in Goreme, a region of Cappadocia, we were thrilled to hear that at 12:45 pm in the afternoon there would be a full eclipse.  I got settled in a sidewalk café, ordered by latte and watched the progress of this spectacular event for over two hours.  When you looked through the special glasses to protect your eyes, the sun was a brilliant orange surrounded by the black sky. It was fascinating to watch the moon move across the sun.

As I lowered my glasses at the peak of the eclipse, I saw that the city lights had all turned on around me, the sky was dark and there was coolness in the air. As I sat in the dusk I marveled at this memorable event that we were experiencing at one of the optimal places in the world.

The Goreme landscape is amazing.  Over the centuries a thick layer of volcanic tufa has been eroded into fantastic, eerie shapes, dubbed fairy chimneys.  Early Christians carved chambers and vaults into the chimneys for use as churches, complete with medieval frescoes. We also saw the Tokali Church, one of the largest there, and the Dark Church, which has some of the most colorful frescoes.

The next day we walked 10 km to see the fairy chimneys.  They are tall rock formations with mushroom like caps on the top and were clustered throughout a valley where we were able to climb other formations to get higher up and then take pictures of the valley below and across from us.  We went down into the valley and had fun walking among the fairy chimneys.

In Antalya we met a wonderful lady named Zeynup, who hosted us during our stay.  What a wonderful person and so talented.  She cooked us so many of the Turkey favorites that also became our favorites.  Peter added many of the dishes to his growing recipe card file. She took us to see many of the local sights.  She introduced us to her neighbors and they also opened their home to us.  She took me to get my hair curled.  Yea, curls at last. My hair was getting straight, longer and is still white.  Thank you Zeynup for being such a generous, loving and caring person.  You made our visit to Antalya a complete joy.

The Kayakoy ruins are in the southern region of Fethiye and located on the hills over looking the Mediterranean Sea.  This area was evacuated in 1923 and many call this a “Ghost Town” after the Christians moved to Greece and the Muslims to Turkey. In 1991 former habitants from Athens and Rhodes gathered together with local people in the Taxtarbis Church, where theimam of Fethiye and priest of Rhodes prayed side by side for the revival of Kayakoy.

I want to give you a little history of this area, especially Mary’s House. We only spent a small amount of time here. We would like to have spent a day inside this chapel. It was a peaceful place even with all of the other visitors. We talked to the priest that was there and found that the fresco painted in the anteroom was done by an American only a few years ago. We also saw that the hands from the statue of Mary had been removed. This was done many years ago by vandals and it was decided to leave the statue as it was.  Without the hands it would draw people closer to Mary, instead of keeping them back. 

Selcuk-Ephesus is an exceptional town in the Meander Valley.  Pre-Christian Ephesus fame was partly based on the presence of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Temple of Artemis.  As you wonder down the former main street, you will see well-preserved (or restored) structures such as the Old Market Place, Temple of Hadrian, Marble Way, the Fountain of Trajan, Library of Celsus and the immense Great Theatre, which held 24,000 people. One time I went up on a high hill and looked over the town and imagined all of the people in their finery walking to the theatre or going to market.
Christian Ephesus facilitated the evangelization of “people from all over Asia”, Acts, 19, 10. This was the place where certain New Testament writings were drafted –First Letter to the Corinthians, Letter to the Philippians, and, the fourth Gospel and Letters of St. John.  It is also the most important of the seven churches of which Saint John speaks in Revelations.  Ephesus is also significant for the presence of Mary, Saint John the Evangelist, Saint Paul, Saint Mary Magdalene, and many others.

July 1991 was the first century of the discovery of the “House of Mary” on the western slope of Bodroum, a few kilometers from modern Selcuk and in the neighborhood of ancient Ephesus.  Guided by a few writings of Anna Katherina Emmerich, a German mystic, a Lazarite priest, and two of his friends ventured onto the dangerous heights which overhung the ruins of Ephesus.  On July 29, 1891 they found the remains of a house, more precise yet of a chapel, half hidden by the trees…
Perhaps one may never come to a definitive and authentic decision on the sanctuary. Yet the inhabitants of Sirince relate “that in the confines there is also the tomb of Our Lady the Virgin Mother of God”.
It is certain, in any case, that at The House of The Virgin Mary large groups of pilgrims gather.  The sanctuary has also been visited by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II. It is one of those places
in the world where Christians and Moslems pray together.

We’ve all heard about the gifted people who hand makes the woven carpets of Turkey.  Well I fell under the spell of one of the carpets and would like to share the story of my new carpet with you.  The fringe around the edge tells us that the owner has someone in her heart if the fringes are tied, the blue eyes protect the house from natural disasters, the stars are life from birth to death – all phases of life, Ram Horn is for force and power, Hands on wrist show the confidence of the women, Hearts that are across from each other show there is reciprocal love, Diamond is for abundance and happiness, and finally the flowers are good luck and bring cheerfulness and happiness.  The colors in the carpet are: Terracotta: Apricot for love and humanity, Blue-Indig for Nobility and grandeur, Green-sage: for paradise, White of the wool: innocent and virgin. This carpet was handmade by someone in the Western Anatolia Region.

Our time in Turkey has come to an end.  I will miss this country with a heritage that is so rich in Christianity and the greatest early civilizations.