Monday, 9 March 2015

In (some of) the footsteps of St Paul through Greece

It’s been a very long day. It began with the alarm clock going off at 4 o’clock this morning, ahead of a 4.45 departure from the hotel to get to Gatwick in time for a 7.25 take-off. A long wait at our Check-in Gate was eventually brought to a close by the announcement that our plane was to be upgraded and we would, therefore, be ‘bussed’ to our plane. A long and relatively scenic drive later, given that it was an airport (I think we were taken to a different terminal) brought us to a larger aeroplane than the original, and so we were able to spread out a bit – with some people having whole rows to themselves. Bliss! (Have you ever noticed how people become much more protective of their ‘personal space’ on aeroplanes?!) this made up for most people for what turned out to be a two-hour delay in take-off (and subsequent) arrival.

Over recent years I seem to have developed the skill of being able to sleep pretty much any where at any time – including the opera, cinema and theatre (not yet church though (give it time!) Thus it is that I slept throughout the flight – propped against the window – only waking occasionally to notice the landscape below (which I believe at one point was the Alps…)

Our eventual landing brought us into Thessaloniki Airport where the weather was far cry from the blue skies I am sure many of us were hoping for when we booked this FamTour (Familiarisation Tour for those planning to lead a Pilgrimage to Greece, In the Footsteps of St Paul). Grey skies and a distinct chill in the air meant it was on the fleeces and overcoats with plans being made to purchase hats at the first possible opportunity. As we were so late arriving, the lunch stop which would have been an hour after our scheduled arrival was taken a immediately – at a burger bar. The scenic (not) drive from airport to burger bar took us through the car park of IKEA – I kid you not!
After lunch, the drive to Kavala took us past two beautiful lakes (Koronia and Volvi) , of which we heard that the depth used to be much greater. The need to irrigate local farmland had given rise to the syphoning off of water over many years but recent eco-studies have sought to develop plans that will maintain the much needed water reserves, alongside providing for farmers in a country where only 30% of the land is available for farming due to the fact that the remaining 70% is mountainous.

The lakes and hills to our right soon gave way to views of the Aegean Sea – with sights of the island of Thassos available too. Mountain ranges shrouded in cloud and mist loomed large over the roadside to our left – Vertiskos, Volvi, Kerdilio and Pangeon. They are truly impressive and very beautiful with some of their peaks still covered in snow.

And why this lengthy journeying – which eventually brought us to Kavala? Well, Kavala is the modern name for Neapolis – the ancient port of Philippi – to where Paul journeyed on various of his missionary journeys.

And so, after a supper that was very nicely rounded off with some local baklava, this (very long) day is brought to a close. The view from my room is lovely – more anon!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds a lovely tour. Looking forward to you sharing more of your experiences :)