Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Decision Postponed.......Another Day In Alexanderoupolis

     My first full day in Greece was not terribly exciting.  I mostly lazed about with walking and writing and resting.  I didn't go into the town on Friday.  I ended up going to the spa instead.  The Alexander Beach Hotel is a fantastic place for doing next to nothing.
The spa facility is excellent.  There is a nice pool indoors, a sauna, steam room, gym and they offer full services, massages, pedicures, manicures etc. etc. etc.  If you want to spoil yourself for not too much money... I highly recommend this place.  The ladies were very kind and helpful.  So nice in fact that I booked myself a massage for Saturday afternoon.  I did a bit more walking, and ended up ordering room service for dinner.  I just didn't want to be around people.  I had done some walking, some swimming, some working out, some thinking, some writing, and I was at peace.  Sitting on the balcony as the sun went away from view...
                                                                                    I finally relaxed.  And then I slept for hours.

     The next day found me up early to snag my big fat Greek breakfast and plenty of dark black coffee.  I inquired at the front desk about what there was to see in town.  I had done some internet research, but the desk people seemed to have some nice maps and information that I was not able to glean from the web.  Indeed, they pointed out that there were several museums in town.  Given the fact that it was still quite chilly, albeit sunny, a museum sounded great.  As a matter of fact, there was an ecclesiastical museum that evidently housed quite a collection of Greek iconography and church artifacts.  That has been for me one of the most delightful aspects of my life overseas, particularly in this area of the world... the amazing history of my faith is so accessible.  Places that I can go and breathe in the echoes of believers over the centuries.  Given the breakfast I had eaten, I was eager to make the 2 km walk to town to search out this museum.  The town is not that large, I figured I would be able to find it fairly easily.  Besides, walking is a great way to get the lay of a place, and to see things that you don't normally see from a vehicle. So I set out down the road to town.

I did find more of the curious little memorials on the side of the road.  Some shabby and some a bit more ornate.  Some dark, and some with a perennial light in them. They were quite sweet and easier on the heart (at least for me) than the typical white crosses you see on the side of the roads in the US.  I rather like the idea that no one comes to tear these down.  They really would require some investment and tending.

There were skeletons of former seaside resorts... empty and broken down.  I imagined running one of these, restoring it to its former splendor and catering to the Greek and Turkish tourists that surely must flock to this place in the summer to escape the untenable heat and noise of the cities.

As I approached town, I could spot Greek churches up streets, and shoppers scurrying about in and out of shops.  Nearing the central area, I followed the map the hotel had given me, looking for a readable street sign that would give me a clue as to where the museum was.  I dropped into a coffee shop, but the girl behind the counter did not recognize what I was looking for.  I imagine between her broken English and my non-existent Greek, there was something lost in the communication.  I did finally find a nice lady on the street who noticed that I was puzzled and she asked if she could help me. She steered me down a couple of lights and told me where to turn.  Soon enough I spied a large orange colored church and what looked to be a museum next door.
I was pretty sure this was the place, though there was no signage.  I walked up the imposing steps and rang.  A nice lady who didn't speak English unlocked the door.  I was afraid that they might not be open, and when I asked her if this was the museum she said "no" and closed the door on me.  Then someone else came and opened the door again, and I asked the same question.  She had some English, and indicated by gesture that the museum I was looking for was elsewhere in the town.  I am glad I was insistent.  I did understand that she was telling me this museum was ecclesiastical and not the anthropological museum she assumed I was really looking for.  I guess people don't seek out the ecclesiastical museum much.  I stood my ground, and she went to get someone who she assumed would be able to give me better directions to the place she thought I really wanted to see.  A big bear of a man then came to the door.  He was bearded and spectacled and had a very jolly
disposition.  He also spoke perfect English.  He was rather surprised however that I really wanted to see this museum.  After confirming with me that all this building housed was artifacts and icons from the Greek Orthodox Church, was that really what I wanted to see?  He let me in through the massive doors.  The two ladies were now seated behind a desk... and ready to take my money.  I think I paid about 3 lira.  The man asked me if I would like to use his English guide book free of charge..."But you have to give it back".  Of course!  He explained that their were two floors, and eight rooms, each housing a different kind of collection.  I asked if I could take pictures and he laughed again..."Sure, but no flash, and you can't publish any of them", he grinned, as if knowing. You will not therefor be able to see a visual representation of what I found behind these doors.... but I can tell you each room moved me significantly and I left there stunned that such a place exists in this little backwater.  There were some interesting people in that little museum too.  I will share the last room with you... which was a full scale altar in wood and gold, with the bema gates slightly open to enable one to see the table where the sacraments of Christ were lain. The guide book informed me that the gate doors represented the barrier between the known and material world, and what lies beyond the alter... the spiritual and holy world of mystery.  Sometimes... on a semi sunny day in Greece... the two can be bridged.  I stayed in there for quite some time.

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