The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

From Greece to Turkey

Hi again:  The Vstrom club members all left the hotel yesterday (Sunday) and headed for their homes so that they can go back to work Monday. I was kind of sorry to see them go (Thanks again Hellas Vstrom Club--you were all great!).

 I was ready to get back on the road myself. First item on the agenda was to head south to the famous cliff top monastery of Meteora. It was a place I had heard about and seen pictures of, but I wanted to see it for myself.

It is quite the place, built as it is high up on rocks and looking down on a spread-out valley far below. I can see why the monks wanted to build up there because it would certainly make you feel close to God. But what I can't quite figure out is how they managed to do it. How did the first monks get up there? Later on, they could come and go by being raised up in a fish net contraption, but what about the first guys? Hmmmm. Some mysteries may never be explained to me in this lifetime.

Look at the ledge way up in this tower. That is the top of the "hoist-up-the-monk" system.

Here is the hoist from the inside. Doesn't look like much, does it? It was operated by a hand crank, at least until they got electricity to run a motor.

Fortunately, tourists no longer have to ride the fish net up. The monks have hewed some steps out of the rocks for guys like me.  That is rather a deep drop off between me and the monastery, by the way.

It is quite impressive inside. Here is where they cooked their food back in those early days. Today, a large portion of the place is closed off to the public, and I guess that is where the monks live. I bet they have more modern kitchens now.

They had a workshop up there. Lots of kneeling benches were made in it, I betcha. And they had this room (in this picture) where they stored food and made wine. Gotta' have good wine to drink if you are going to be monkish all day and night.

And this is where they ate together back in those long ago days. Please don't tell on me for taking this picture. I wasn't supposed to.

And this is the church. I think I wasn't supposed to take a picture here either. My apologies to both the monks and God.

This place is famous for its beautiful icons.

One of the leaders of the monks, long ago during a war, supported the Greek side, and so the enemy (Turks maybe) burned him at the stake. They say his skull still has a subtle pine-wood fire smell today. Do you think he may be one of these guys in this next picture? I'm not too sure because I couldn't get close enough to smell the skulls and test them out. I am thinking that the skulls and other monkish bones are here because they couldn't dig a grave in the hard rock way up there.

This is how they call the monks to church each morning. I saw something like this in a Buddhist monastery in Vietnam once. A monk pulls back the long board, lets it go, and it swings forward and hits the bell. I didn't think I should try that, but I did go gently tap on the bell to hear its sound. It makes three distinct musical tones. It sounded pretty. I would like to hear it chime.

This is the view those guys get to enjoy each morning. It certainly does make you feel closer to God.

I am thinking that somewhere over there in the distance is Mt. Olympus. I am not sure about that. But, when I left Metemora I had to ride around the south side of those mountains (I am looking East here) and back north along the other side of them, and my map showed that I passed Mt. Olympus on my left as I did that.

I rode up north to Greece's second largest city, Thessoloniki (Remember St. Paul's letter to the Thessolonians?). I spent the night there, but didn't explore the sprawling city because Jessica, Renaud and I will be back there in just a couple of weeks. I am glad I get to come back to Greece because I really like this country and want to do a lot more exploring here.

No more Greece for a while, though.  Instead, I got up this morning and rode to Edirne in northwest Turkey. And what a nice place it turned out to be.

It has three mosques, each bigger than the other.

This is the courtyard of the middle sized mosque. This is where you come to do your ceremonial washing (your ablutions) at the fountain in the middle.

Muslims believe in cleanliness, especially in church, so before going into the prayer area you ought to wash your feet and take off your shoes at the prayer room door. I watched for quite a while, trying to figure out the etiquette of the whole thing, and I have to say that I saw some people go in without washing first. Shame on them. God will get you buddy!

I watched many people, both men and women, wash not only their feet, but also their hair (no soap involved, just water) and their hands and arms. Later, when researching the proper way to behave when visiting a mosque, I learned that to take a picture of someone doing ablution is a big no-no. Uh oh! Too late now.

I think this guy is carrying it to extreme: he has turned to stone.

Things must be a little more laid-back with this religion than I had thought, because these two boys kept riding their bikes as hard as they could go around the ablution fount and nobody seemed to mind.

I have it all figured out now, and I think I know how to behave inside, so tomorrow I am going to go visit a mosque. Wish me luck (chuckle).

I am loving this city. I think there is a lot do do here, so I am going to stay at least a couple of days. For one thing, they have all these bazaars and neat streets to explore.

Want to buy some shoes? This is the shoe section of the bazaar. Each thing you might want has its own section: housewares, belts, musical instruments, Etc.

This is the farmer's market area. My wife would love this part. You can buy almost any type of vegetable or fruit or seed that you want here. Fresh fruit for breakfast. Ummm.

This lady (back toward the back in the picture) had all these fighting roosters tied by one leg to a pipe. They have some wicked looking talons on their feet. I wouldn't want to be attacked by one of these birds. I wonder if the lady ever manages to sell one of them.

Want to buy a hookah? I don't. I tried one once, and I hated it.

You can even have your own special mouthpiece for the thing.

Don't be smoking anything illegal in your hookah or the motorcycle "polis" might get ya'.

My own motorcycle has to stay on the sidewalk in front of my hotel all night. I hope you are safe there Odysseus. The hotel people assure me you will be. Sleep well, buddy.

The hotel doesn't look like much from the outside, but it is quite nice inside. The people are nice too. The blotches of white in the picture are sunlight filtering through trees, not torn up stone. My room is the top right one.

I am going to try to inset a video that I took of a mosque courtyard. I took it to show you what it sounds like, so have your speakers turned up. This is an experiment, so it may not work.

Well-- gotta get some sleep under my belt. There is a lot of exploring to do in this town tomorrow.


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