I think this just might be my new profile pic. What do you think?
Cozy, by the fire on a snow day, Prishtina Kosova
Yes, it is almost Easter and we finally got some snow. Yesterday it snowed all day, so looking forward to another snowy, icy day, a snow day was declared. As it turned out it is cold and gloomy outside, but no snow. That’s OK, it gave me a chance to sit by the fire, watch some Netflix and eat popcorn – much better than teaching school, I must say. Because of Easter we already had a 4 day weekend planned, so this just gives us a 5 day weekend, just like another spring break!
Which reminds me – spring break, hmmm, what did we do? Oh yeah, we went to GREECE! Get ready because we took lots and lots and lots of pictures. We took pictures until our little camera chip was so full it almost exploded. Well, I did have my instructions from my mom and my sis.
John and Ruth, bless their hearts had already made the trip to Greece earlier in the week with their daughter and some friends, so they asked if we could meet them in Skopje. The daughter and friends would make their way home from there while John and Ruth would turn right back around and take us to Greece, what troopers. So, Wednesday morning, bright and early, it was off to the train station.
It turns out all this time we have been taking a bus when a train goes straight to Skopje. Yes, it takes an hour longer than the bus, but it costs a Euro less and is much more fun. We got there about half an hour before the train left, to be sure to beat the rush and get a ticket. Uhmmm, we really didn’t need to worry about that, it seemed no one was around.
Then, a little old man hobbled his way out of a side office, pleased as punch to see us. He made his way into the ticket booth and proceeded to very carefully write out a ticket for us. He checked his official stamp on about 5 pieces of paper to be sure it worked before he stamped the ticket and then he wrote out very clear instructions for us about what to do when we got to the border – in Albanian. I think we made his day.
OK, do you understand these? Uhmm, neither did we, but it was nice of him to try.
Turns out that most normal people get to the station 5 minutes before the train leaves and get their ticket right on the train, but then we have never been normal. Finally, our coach arrived and we were set to go.
Yes, the train is from the Tito era. That just adds to the charm of the whole thing.
Off we went, through the countryside, up through the mountains to the Macedonian border (how, with all the millions of pictures I took, I managed to not get one of our trip through Kosova, I don’t know, hmpf!). Where it turns out we got off our train, walked 3 feet across the platform to another train and resumed our trip. I guess trains don’t cross the border, just people do.
We spent the rest of the day walking around the city, enjoying the spring,
and eating dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant.
The next morning we met up with John, Ruth, and some others, packed in their van and took off across the countryside. It amazed me as we drove through Macedonia and on into Greece, how much the landscape reminded me of home.
I-15 to Lake Elsinore, anyone?
Finally, there it was,
Greece! We still had a ways to go though. Our first stop was Philippi, as in letter to the Philippians! Over hill and dale we drove until we found it!
The ladies of the trip, me, Jackie, Ruth, and Elizabeth – fun group!
The ancient Philippian swing! But, for the moment that was all we were about to see.
OK, that was all I was about to see. Ted is tall, so he could see the amphitheater over the fence.
We got there at 2:55 and they closed at 3. At least that is what the sign said, they were actually already closed. Then John and Ruth remembered that we could see most of the ruins from the road, so off we went.
All of us except John, the photographer.
From there we could see the ruins of the city,
from pillar to post,
in all its beauty,
and then we crossed the road and saw this.
The jail. Yes, the jail where Paul and Silas sang and prayed. The jail where an earthquake happened. The jail where the jailer and all his household came to the Lord. That jail. Wow! What a thrill! It is hard to put into words how I was feeling.
And, for those of you that don’t remember, this was the beginning of Paul’s Macedonian Call (Acts 16). All of this in my mind is tying itself together, as Ted and i are just at the beginning of our Macedonian Call (you can read about that here). To see where Paul walked and preached, is really quite humbling.
Next it was off, down the road to Lydia. Also in Acts 16 it tells us that Lydia, seller of purple, and her household were Paul’s first converts in Philippi. There we walked past more ruins,
a friendly stork (but no babies in sight :] ),
and on over a bridge,
Jackie and Skender are to be married in July. Such a sweet, loving couple. They are a great asset to the school.
to the baptistry.
Inside there is a tile mosaic of Paul’s journey,
beautiful walls and stained glass windows.
There is even a baptisimal fount.
Sam’s prayerful humming echoed around the walls, adding to the atmosphere. Such a beautiful, peaceful memorial, but I don’t think this is where Lydia was baptized. In fact, the locals say it was here.
We all agreed that this would be a lovely place to be baptized. However, I am pretty sure that it looked more like this when Paul actually baptized Lydia.
After a time of rest and quiet reflection (and a trip to the souvenir shop), we were ready to hit the road and get dinner. When Paul began his journey into Macedonia, he landed in Neapolis, so we decided that we should land there too. To be truthful, the fact that Ruth knew of a really great Greek restaurant was also a factor in making up our mind to go there.
Oh, and in case you are wondering, yes, all of this is now in Greece. This region was Macedonia in Bible times and is still called Macedonia in Greece. That is the reason Greece does not recognize the nation of Macedonia. Politics in this area are complicated.
Anyway, we made it through the hills to Neapolis.
In case you were going to try to visit, Neapolis is now Kavala. But, if you are going to visit, come see us and we will take you, so you won’t have to worry about city names now and then :]
We worked our way down to the harbor where Paul landed.
And where Ted made some new friends.
After a great dinner
I did say smile and counted to three – really!
and a drive under the aqueduct,
we headed off to Thessaloniki to a good night’s rest. We stayed in a cozy hotel right on the beach. Ted and I kept our window cracked so that we could hear the waves of the Aegean Sea lap up on the shore. In the morning we awakened to such beauty.
Laguna Beach? I tell you, we were feeling right at home there.
OK, I have only one thing to say about breakfast – any buffet that begins with a huge bowl of Nutella is alright with me!
Look at all that chocolatey goodness.
Oh and marble poundcake
and Greek yogurt, muesli, and tea. OK that was more than one thing, but the buffet was pretty darn good.
And the view out the window looking over the sea was pretty wonderful too.
After breakfast we went to my requested first stop. This place.
Yeah, this place!!
Oh!! I was in heaven. Ted made me keep it to two bags. He kept saying something about 8 people and all their luggage in the van. I told him next time we are sneaking off with only two people and an empty van :]
After that excursion, we headed to the mall to meet up with the young-ins (that would be Jackie, Skender, Elizabeth, and Sam) who were buying a suit for Skender for the big wedding coming up. Oh and to have lunch.
Yep, the mall. It seems that the church owned this land and told the mall people that they could build a mall on the land, if they built them a church. So, there is a church right next to the mall. Yes, this close.
Yes, we had lunch at TGI Fridays. Yes, that is a very American thing to do, especially right after leaving IKEA (which I know is Swedish!), but we are a long ways from home and sometimes we just need to feel American about things. Anyway I had a great chicken salad
and Ted had the biggest hamburger you have ever seen this side of the Atlantic!
Then to continue our Americaness, we traveled downtown
to this place.
Then having had our fill of all things American (it really did feel good!), we walked around Thessaloniki to see the sights. We roamed past the lovely flower stalls
to the old marketplace.
We wandered by colorful restaurants
to find an afternoon cup of tea.
Then it was off to the White Tower (which is actually light brown, it was built in the 16th century AD as an armed fortress),
and past some more ruins with an accordion playing photo-bomber!
Yes, he just jumped into the photo, but I loved it so much, I did give him a Euro, which is exactly why he jumped into the picture, I am sure.
On to the Arch of Galerius
Right next to the arch is a new-ish church. Ted and I walked in to look around and they were having a service. We got in on the last 10 minutes or so. Chanting and singing in Greek, peaceful and worshipful. So glad we decided to step inside.
After that it was a bit more walking around and some dinner at the Greek version of Panera Bread.
So what did we get? Foccacia, which is like really thick crust pizza.
Those of you who really know me know that mine is the one with all the olives. Ted’s has cheese and bacon – another treat that is hard to get in Kosova (it’s the no pork thing – you know).
Then is was time to go back and hit the hay. Are you still with me? Sorry this is sooooo long! We have one more day to go!!
The next morning after breakfast, packing up (which entailed trying to get two IKEA bags pared down to one IKEA bag, my poor over stuffed suitcase!), and taking a walk. We sat out on the hotel deck and had some tea.
That is where Ted met a new friend who really wanted us to take him home, but I reminded Ted about 8 people and all their luggage and my IKEA bag in that van!
For those os you who were friends with our dogs, he was about the size of Buddy (HUGE) and the coloring of Sammy, so we called him Buddy-Sam. It was tempting, but I assured Ted that the others in the van would not be willing to give up their space for good old Buddy-Sam
About noon we packed ourselves and all my purchases back into the van and off we went. About halfway back we decided to stop at Stobi, Macedonia to have a look around (a side note – the off ramp to Stobi says “Stobi Winery”, Sam took a quick look at it and thought it said, “Stop! Winery” too funny!). Stobi is another site of ruins, but this time we really could walk around and look. In fact, may places are not chained off, so we could walk right through the ruins, fun!
First up – the ancient trash can relic.
Well, something like that. Really first up was the amphitheater. Ruth told us that a “English” speaking guide (who spoke little English) once told them of this amphitheater, “Christians – eat – tigers!” Uhmmm, OK. Another guide later told them that they do not know for sure if Christians faced lions here, but they think that may have been so. They are pretty sure that there were Gladiator fights in the arena.
We spent some time climbing around
See that ladder in the background?
Yes, we did go up it! Yes, even me!
See, I was up there taking pictures!
Then it was on to the 4th Century church
Such a beautiful mosaic. It is modeled after Psalm 42 – “As the deer pants for flowing streams, so I pant for you, oh God.” I have no idea what the peacocks mean :]
Then, like the chicken, we crossed the road
to what the sign described as the place the people went to have fellowship after church. Which Ruth and I decided was the “donut ministry area”.You know, the place where all the pillars of the church hang out.
Then it was off to see more mosaics,
and the forum.
It was about this time, you may be happy to know, that my camera said, “That’s it, I’m full, enough already,” and the battery said, “I’m pooped too, don’t you dare try to delete any of those millions of pictures you took!” So, no more pictures. We hung out in Stobi (or Stop! Winery as we like to call it) for a while longer, it was really very fascinating.
Then, it was off to Skopje Burger King for dinner (yes, we are crass Americans! – it was delicious, every single bite). And finally, on to our home sweet home.
What a lovely, wonderful time we had with such good friends. Laughing, joking, being amazed and in awe together. Thanks Ruth and John for taking us all along and thanks Sam, Elizabeth, Jackie, and Skender for being such fun travel partners. I can’t wait for our next adventure together.
And thanks to all of you for hanging in until the very end of this loooooong post. In the time it took me to write it, the sun has come out, the snow has melted and the fire has died down to nothing. It is the end of another beautiful day here in Kosova, but the adventures, I am sure, are just beginning!