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Thessaloniki and Kulata

More from the Balkans

Hello all. I am feeling a little weary of writing, but perhaps only because it is the evening of a long day of fun and community. I went up to Panorama (Puh-NOR-uh-muh) to visit with friends of Mike's, a beautiful family with 21-month-old triplets and others. Good food and good fun and more music.

It has been a great week in Greece. I have met a lot of wonderful people here. Mike, Rami, Jacovos, Michel, Joseph, and others have been sources of good conversation, thought, music, and more. Here in Thessaloniki, there are active archaeological digs in the middle of the main street and 5th century churches every few blocks. The waterfront boardwalk-like area, or "paralia," provides the perfect post-meal walk which we have done every evening that I've been here. We have usually stopped at the umbrella sculpture to turn around, but last night we made it quite a bit farther to "The New Paralia" which opened just 3 years ago. Last night on our way back from our walk we ran into a protest happening in the streets and were a few blocks away from it until it starting moving towards us, and we had to duck into a side path to a restaurant while it passed by us and then came back past again. There was tear gas, but not right where we were, that made small explosion sounds and lots of protesters on motorcycles and on foot yelling followed by policemen also on motorcycle and foot. Crazy and apparently pretty common here in Thess.

Also yesterday, Mike and I went to Agio Demetrius, one of the 5th century churches. I asked if we could just sit for a while, so we did. It took me quite a while to let my mind slow down from the trip arranging I'd been doing in the morning and the talking we'd done on the way there, but when I did, I really entered a beautifully peaceful place. I am not one to meditate, but I do believe that meditating must be similar to what I did there. The church is a visually beautiful space and had soft chanting playing throughout. I sat a long time, and as I realized that we may need to go at some point, I found myself not wanting to go, not wanting to leave that mental, spiritual or physical space. But I realized then that the purpose of going to that place is to find rest and an abundance of virtue with which to be filled. And the point of being filled is to then pour virtue into the world by way of love for others. And you have to leave in order to love. It was good.

On Monday and Tuesday I went to Kulata, Bulgaria to visit my good friend, Vesi's, family. I went to stay with her mother, father, brother, his wife and their daughter. It was such a nice time. They were incredibly hospitable to me, even loaning me clothes to wear because I had run out of the house to catch the bus with nothing but my toothbruth to stay over with! We saw the Rojen Monastery and the views it affords. We ate great food, as always, including my favorite, moussaka. They speak very little English, and so many of my interactions involved learning the Bulgarian alphabet, very similar to the Cyrillic that I learned in Serbia. At the village coffeeshop/diner on Tuesday I spent a lot of time "talking" with Geri, Vesi's 7-year-old neice, where she would tell me the Bulgarian word for something and then I would sound it out and spell it on a piece of paper. I didn't take as many pictures as I would have liked and maybe didn't explore as I would have liked to either, but I think this was partly being thrown off by the language barrier and not having any of my things with me. I really loved their small village, and the landscapes surrounding it are so beautiful. All in all, of course, it was such a wonderful time to see where Vesi is from and to see her family and experience their hospitality.

We saw trees, in Bulgaria on our way to the monastery as we passed Milnek, the country's oldest and smallest town, that were growing out of what looked like rock cliffs. The rock was so dry looking and most of the hill/mountain was bare, but at the top or along one ridge would be a tree or a few trees. I wondered how they grew in that place, in that condition. And then I thought, man, I think I might like to aspire to be that tree. To grow and live and even thrive in less-than-ideal conditions. In soil that is less than rich. In a dry place, a bare place, even a lonely place. To be so resilient, so hearty, so strong.

Tomorrow night, Friday, I will take a bus to Istanbul and arrive there Saturday morning. Today I booked my first hostel of my trip for my stay there. I'll be there Saturday morning until Tuesday afternoon when I fly to Tel Aviv. As a matter of coincidence, my friend from college, Carrie, who is currently studying in Dublin, is in Istanbul now for a conference and will be there until Tuesday as well. So we will be able to see the city together! Before I leave tomorrow night, I am trying to decide what to do in my last day in Greece. There is an absolutely incredible place called Meteora that is 4 hours' bus ride away that I would really love to see. I have been told that is unique in all the world with huge pillars of rock going straight up with monasteries at the tops. I have seen Mike's pictures and know that it would be an amazing place to go. However, that would mean taking the bus from here 8:30-12:30 in the morning and then leaving at 4pm to get back here by 8pm and taking the 10pm bus to Istanbul for 12 hours. 20 hours on the bus in 26 hours. I am here, so close! I have to go! But...perhaps I will regret it. Perhaps I would rather take the day to walk by myself around town, to another church, maybe to the beach an hour or so away, to the paralia. I think I am leaning towards the latter.

I am walking a line between worry and not worry in anticipation of Israel. I don't have so many plans for being there and am not sure how I will spend all of the time that I have there. I really don't mind this but I don't want to get in trouble at the border again for not having plans and I don't want to be unsafe in not knowing enough. So, I will figure some things out maybe but also, I have done a good job not spending money so far so hanging in Jerusalem, staying in a hostel for a while will be just fine. I am really looking forward to this part of things.

My, my, my, what am I doing. How am I still gone? What am I doing here? Am I crazy? I think we recently passed vacation status and entered whole-period-in-life status. Sunday will be 6 weeks away and by then 11 countries visited. I used to be able to hold my experience so far in my hand at once but not what was to come. Then I think after Italy I could hold each in my hand, what had been and what was coming. Now, I don't feel like I can hold what I've already done in my hand all at once. So much. But now I easily know what is before me. And I know that both that which I hold and that which exceeds my grasp is good and within me somewhere!

For being weary, I sure did have a lot to say. Ha. Goodnight and good days to you all!

Posted by JulesCV 10:15 Archived in Greece

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