Sunday, July 20, 1997
10:00PM
As I stepped off the plane and began my journey through the customs and passport departments, I realized that I was "not in Kansas anymore." The airport wasn’t too bad. It was crowded and unorganized, but I didn’t have to claim my luggage so, I just got off the airplane (British Airways), showed my passport, exchanged a little money, and got in a taxi.

It was sometime during the taxi ride to my hotel that I was initially enlightened as to the Greek way of life. Drivers in Athens have major psychotic and physiological disorders. The lines down the middle of the street that in America define a "lane" are interpreted by the Greeks as mere "suggestions" of what might happen. It is not uncommon for there to be three or four cars lined up at a traffic light that is designated as a two-lane street and if there’s room between two cars, there’s room for you. Speed limit signs are mere decorations if they have them at all and the moment a traffic light turns green, a dozen people honk their horn in irritation. The Apostle Paul did not write a book to the church at Athens, but if he had, I believe it would have several chapters devoted to impatience behind the camel.

I am staying at the Hotel Attalos in Plaka. I was recommended this Hotel by my Frommer’s Guide and I find that it is an excellent one. My room is very clean and has two necessities that I may not find too much of over here; a good shower and a functional air conditioner.

It took me about twenty five minutes or so today to learn how to use the phone. The man at the front desk kept coming on the phone, trying to explain to me how to use it, but I just couldn’t understand his instructions. I couldn’t even get a dial tone, all I heard was a constant busy signal. I told him that my phone must be broken or something. My explanation of the problem caused him to yell at me in a foreign language for a while. It turns out that in Greece, that "busy signal" noise I was hearing is a dial tone.

I am finding that every detail of life that I am used to is done a slightly different way and had I not caught a break today, I’m not sure that I would have had an enjoyable day. That "break" came in the form of Dr. Sue Moore. I was exiting my room to go and check out the local sites, when I heard someone speaking fluent American English in the room next door. Never have I heard a noise more harmonious and beautiful. I proceeded to knock on the door and introduce myself. It turns out that Sue was a theatre director at Florida Junior College and had been coming to the Hotel Attalos for over 20 years. She spoke some Greek and knew all of the local customs. Being as inexperienced as I was, I was very lucky to meet up with someone like her on my first day. We talked for an hour or so and she told me many of the things I needed to know : in glorious ENGLISH! I mentioned to her that I was getting hungry and asked her where I could get something to eat. She took me down the street to one of her favorite restaurants. Sue proceeded to choose my meal, order for me, and she even treated. We had Suflake (similar to a Gyro) and drinks. I found it to be quite good. Unfortunately for me, she is leaving tonight, but I feel like she has informed me of enough essentials and I have figured out enough on my own to be O.K. here for the time being.

Upon our return from eating, I discovered that I was not supposed to take my key with me. When traveling abroad, it is customary for you to leave your key at the front desk When you return, you must ask for your key. I’m clueless as to why this is. It seems more work for the attendant and eludes an aura or mistrust. Then again, maybe over here they can’t afford to trust. At about 7:00PM or so I decided to go for a walk. I walked for a while through the marketplace, around the Ancient Agora, and up the mighty Acropolis. Near the top of the Acropolis, I observed this huge rock with steep, slippery steps that a crowd of people were climbing up. I was curious what was up there so I climbed it myself. The peak of this rock plateued and provided the most breathtaking view I have ever seen in my life.

This is not a photo of "the most breathtaking
view I have ever seen in my life," but it is a
nice viewpoint from midway up the Acropolis
just after sunset.
I’ve been sitting here ever since. It’s about 10:00PM right now and I am writing in my journal, enjoying the scenery, and taking an occasional photo or two. This rock seems to be the second highest point in the city with only the Acropolis behind me being greater. I cannot believe the beauty that I see. The closest thing I could possibly compare it to is the view from atop Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but it’s several times greater. As the night approached, I noticed the most beautiful full moon creeping up over the horizon and now it is high in the sky. The weather is like that of San Diego, CA. The night air is warm with a very light breeze, not at all hot and muggy as I had imagined.
Just sitting here gazing off into the night is reward enough for all the hassles I encountered during the months of planning necessary to get me to this point. It almost seems surreal, like it’s not really happening. So much has befallen me in the last five years. I have had much achievement and accomplishment, yet more pain than I can possibly bare. Especially the hurt is coming back to me now. Much sorrow, much regret, and many tears. I feel very solemn now, wondering why I was chosen to make it through the struggles and trials and get to a moment like this. I don’t understand it, maybe I never will.

I think I will be going back to the room soon. I’m still rather jet-lagged from the plane flight. It may be 11:30PM on my watch, but according to my body, it’s 6:30AM tomorrow morning. Probably time to call it a night.
Monday, July 21, 1997
(10:00AM)
Last night I discovered a wonderful garden terrace on the eighth floor of the hotel. I’m staying in one of the tallest buildings in Plaka and the terrace has an outstanding view of the Acropolis at night. This morning, I snuck up to the terrace and watched the sunrise. The city is so beautiful, especially in the early morning before the traffic horns and moped motors pollute the solitude. If you pause for a moment, you can almost feel what it was like during the time of Christ. Looking at the Acropolis.

I am currently at Astira Beach (translated to English means "Star.") in Glifada. It is a beach out toward the airport, about seven miles or so from downtown Athens. I saw several beaches when flying into the airport and I was excited to see what they were really like. I really wanted to go to several of the beaches I have read about on islands like on Santorini or Hydra. Time simply does not permit though and Sue recommended that I come here to Glifada instead. I’m very glad I did.

Astiria beach is rather nicely hidden, tucked away down a small cove in the Aegean Sea away from much of the bustle and confusion of Athens. It is about 10:00 in the morning and I am sitting under a canopy several feet from the water. The beach is nearly abandoned right now as the day is quite young. The view from where I am sitting is not breathtaking on the surface. I had envisioned the clearest blue/green water and sandy yellow beaches that I had ever seen and these were certainly not them. This is not even what you would consider a beach. The earth in Greece is very porous and does not support sand. Any sand that is here has been imported from elsewhere. Yet oddly enough, I am not the least bit disappointed. It's gorgeous where I'm reclined and the sea has some of the most beautiful coral reefs I have ever seen. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I decided to take a photo to preserve the moment.
Off in the distance, I see mountainous islands jetting high out of the sea heavily obscured by the mid-morning mist. They are gorgeous. As I stare at the peaks, they also seam surreal. It appears to me as if someone has taken a brush and just gently painted them there. They are like luminous shadows in the background of the scene, not participating in reality.

Astira beach is a private beach and charges admission for entrance. The fee seemed exorbitant to the locals, but I found it reasonable. Maybe it’s the thought of paying for something that’s normally free that bothers them, I don’t know. I doubt that a majority of the people here are from Greece although there are some rather wealthy looking people here.

Astiria beach at Glifada
About 50 yards to my left, there are two swimsuit models participating in an early morning photo shoot. I guess they wanted to take some pictures while the beach was sparsely populated. They have a Dennis Rodman "clone" as part of their entourage. He is not a photographer although he walks and acts like he is. The young girls wreak of high fashion and "upper-society." Despite their obvious status, I do not find them attractive and have for the most part ignored them all morning.

I wouldn’t have thought it before I got here, but upon my arrival I’m positive I stick out as a tourist. I’m absolutely the only guy on the beach who is not wearing a tiny Speedo swimsuit. I think this tourist is going to go for a swim and write more later.
(5:00PM)

Looking back at the mountains provided a breathtaking view

I have spent most of the day, enjoying the wonderful waters of the Aegean Sea. The Aegean Sea got its name from the story of Aegeus in Greek Mythology. In this tale, the son of Aegeus (Theseus) traveled to the Knossos labyrinth and defeated the mighty Minoutaur. Aegeus gave his son two sails to fly (one white, one black) on his ship to symbolize his success or failure. Although he defeated the Minoutaur, he forgot about his father's wishes and sailed the black sail upon his return. Upon seeing the ship return to port from Crete, his grief-stricken father saw the black sail (symbolizing failure) and threw himself into the sea. Supposedly the sea has borne his name ever since.

The water is cool and refreshing and the scenery when swimming in the sea is nothing short of incredible. This cove is the equivalent of a huge sandbar. I waded a hundred yards or so into the cove and when I initially turned back toward the shore, I noticed the most beautiful mountains on the other side of the peninsula. The next time I waded out into the water, I brought a camera along to a quick photo or two. Athens truly is a beautiful place, especially here away from the downtown area.

As I walked my way further down the cove, I made my way to the far shore and out to a dock where several boats were housed. The dock gave access to a small island that provided a great view of the outer sea. The open sea had many more impressive reefs and rougher water.

The rough and rocky surf of the Aegean Sea

The turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea
The water is a shade of deep green with alternating patches of dark and light blue. The sea floor is covered with coral reefs which dominate much of the seascape outside the cove. It’s absolutely beautiful in every way. I could just swim in these waters forever.
(11:00PM)
I spent the rest of the day at the beach until six-o’clock or so and then I went back into the city and spent the rest of the night at the Acropolis and in the marketplace. I had a rather uneventful evening. Tonight I focused on just enjoying Athens. I walked down quaint little streets and into tiny traditional shops. You do get a "touristy" feel when you shop in Athens, but it is still such a foreign culture that you never loose track of where you are. Everything in Athens has a united theme that recalls the old mythological culture and the grandness of ancient Greece. It is fascinating how the ancient times are intertwined with modern society. Buses and streetcars putt nonchalantly past thousand year old buildings and people walk mindlessly past streets trotted on by emperors. Never is attention paid to the significance, nothing disturbs daily life.
Tuesday, July 22, 1997
(3:30PM)
Today I slept-in late and ate breakfast at the Hotel Attalos. I decided to visit the Roman and Ancient Agoras today because I felt it was something I would not have time to view once Shola arrived later today.

The Ancient Agora was the center of Greek social and religious life. Most of the buildings there have been destroyed by invading armies over the centuries, but some still stand. The temple of Hephestus is probably the most dominant building that still stands. It was built between 460 and 410 BC. The other structures may have a column or two, but only enough to give a brief glimpse of what once was. The other major building that occupies the Agora is a new museum/building which houses many of the statues that were once in the Acropolis and surrounding temples. The museum contains artifacts representing over 5,000 years of Athenian history.
One of the things that I wanted to see the most while I was at the Agora was the Areopagus. This is the site that the apostle Paul defended himself at when brought before the Athenians in Acts chapter 17. I managed to discover that the Areopagus was the big "rock" above the Agora that I had sat upon for three hours the first night that I arrived. I couldn’t believe that through no knowledge of my own, I had seen the Areopagus myself. So, I chose not to return however, I was given an inspiration to return later (more on this topic later.)

The meeting place of the Areopagus taken
from the Acropolis
Once I felt I had adequately explored the Agora, I took a taxi back to Glifada. I walked around for a while and checked out some of the other beaches that were near the coastline. I liked Astiria beach though, so I returned there and I am currently writing from that local.

It’s much hotter today than it was yesterday and the beach umbrella I have is an absolute must. This place is so relaxing. I could just lie here and relax for hours. I figure that I will just enjoy the beach until 6:00PM when I must be at the airport to pick up Shola. I have not seen Shola in about five years. He was my best friend in the entire world and we were absolutely inseparable throughout the high school and early college years. He moved to Bristol, England to be near his family and attend medical school where he is currently beginning his fourth year. It’s only a matter of hours now, I can’t wait to see him.
12:00 Midnight
Well, I saw my best friend Shola at the airport and was immediately impressed with his increased maturity. He talked and acted so much more intellectually and I found him to be even cooler than when we parted company years ago. After taking a taxi back to my hotel and getting adequately situated, I told Shola to come with me for a walk. I grabbed my Bible and we headed up the Acropolis to the Areopagus.

Shola was immediately in awe of the incredible view from the rock. It was dark, but there was just enough light to read. I got out the scriptures and turned to Acts. I read him the account of Paul’s questioning, to which he responded by wondering where this biblical "location" was. I of course responded with, "you’re sitting on it." With utter disbelief at first and eventual overjoyed hysteria Shola finally trusted me and accepted the account. From there we had a quiet time and prayed for a safe passage through the length of our trip. It was awesome!

Now the night is done and we must get a good night’s sleep because we have a huge, busy day tomorrow.
Wednesday, July 23, 1997
8:30PM
When we woke up this morning, we packed all of our stuff and headed off to the Acropolis. I had saved my viewing of the Acropolis for the day that Shola was with me because I knew that since he only had one day in the city, he would definitely want to see the figurehead of Athens.

I found the Acropolis to be truly incredible. There were several things on the Acropolis worthy of seeing. Of course, the Parthenon dominates the hill, but there is also a temple to the God Athena Nike and a museum containing historical items.

One of the gods that still inhabits the
Acropolis. If you pay close attention,
you can just make out the temple of
Athenian Nike in the background and
this god is wearing Nikes, coincidence?

Shola and I visited the Acropolis in the early morning. I chose this location to have a morning quiet time and prayer. The viewpoint from the top of the hill was incredible. You could see for miles; all the way to the mountains at the edge of Athens. I stayed up there for an hour or so, checking out the various buildings and viewpoints of the city. I had a lot of fun at the Parthenon and even took some gag photos.

The Parthenon was a very large building, on a size comparison with maybe, the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. I had seen so many photos of it in history class that I had a strange feeling standing in front of it. I could easily see why the Parthenon was one of the modern wonders of the world. It was magnificent. From the Acropolis, one could get an excellent viewpoint of just about any other attraction the city had to offer. It was so pretty I didn't want to leave.
At about 2:00PM or so, we left the Acropolis and took a taxi to the train station to catch a Eurorail trail to Patros. I learned a couple lessons at the Athens train station that really worried me. The "information" booth attendent there only seemed to know five words. It seemed that no matter what question I asked him, he would answer with, "just get on the train!!" I have the feeling that if I asked him what his name was, he would have told me to get on the train.

Shola and I managed to get to Patros although we had to stand in-between cars for the first two hours in what is called the "smoking compartment." We discovered the hard way that the Eurorail trains left alot to be desired. There were no windows that would open in this compartment. It was very hot and every time anyone wanted to smoke, they would come into this area and then return to their seat when finished. It seemed like everyone on that train was a couple pack a day smoker. By the time I got to Patros, I felt quite ill.

On the way down to Patros, the train passed through the city of Corinth. At Lee University, I had taken an entire semester class on Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. For the first three weeks or so, I studied nothing but the history of the area and how and why it was such an influential city. All of those classes seemed to come back into my mind as we neared the city. It was quite unbelievable to have the opportunity to see a city that I had studied as extensively as Corinth. I actually read a passage from II Corinthians as the train passed through town.

The area outside of Corinth has some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. Towering cliffs thrusting straight up out of the water for hundreds or feet, with a touch of golden, sandy beach and deep, untouched, virgin blue as far as one could see. For a moment, I wished I were spending the rest of my trip outside of Corinth.

The Eurorail train arrived in Patros at about 7’oclock or so and I bought a ticket from Patros, Greece to Brindisi, Italy via ship. It only cost 4500 Drachmas (about 16 dollars) for a ticket and to pay the port tax.
12:30 AM
Along the way, Shola and I met two backpacker girls who we have been hanging out with since Athens. Tonight we witnessed to them with the "seven cards" and gave them a "turning point" track. One of the girls seemed quite receptive to the gospel message, the other to a lesser degree.

We found out that the 4500 drachma ticket afforded one with only passage to Brindisi. An actual place to sleep was extra. So we are going to sleep on the deck of the ship with several hundred other "backpackers."

I have taken some time out to write in my journal. It’s quite late and I still have much traveling before me so, I should be trying to get as much sleep as I can. However, I cannot help but stay up late, in light of the awesome beauty that I am witnessing. I am writing from the rear deck of the "Palladio," a large ship operated by Adriatica Shiplines. This is the first time I have ever been on a large boat of this size and I am somewhat suprised. The ship is traveling a lot faster than I would have anticipated it to be traveling.

The deck where I am writing from is dark except for a enormous near-full moon left over from Greece. The stars are out in full force and I can honestly say I didn’t know there were so many of them up there.

It’s incredibly peaceful, but a bit scary to be here in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea so late in the evening. I see nothing but blackness for miles in every direction and suddenly I feel so lonely. I wonder what I’m doing here, so far away from the familiar. I cannot say I have ever felt as far away from home as I do now. Strangely, I don’t really miss home, but that’s probably because I know I will be returning shortly.

As I look over the edge, I imagine for a moment what it would be like to be thrown off the boat and land abruptly in the open waters. I think of Jonah who was thrown overboard, and Paul who spent a night and a day in the open sea and I attempt to feel to a small degree as they did. That thought has put "the fear of God" back in me. I think I’ll go try to get some sleep.

Next day


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