Wednesday, September 29, 2010

All Roads Lead to Rome

After we had seen Athens it became time for us to end phase 2 of our trip. Phase 1 had been getting to Thessaloniki and establishing Joshua there. Phase 2 was our tour together as a threesome throughout Greece. That being completed in Athens, phase 3 then began for Caleb and I. Phase three consisted of our touring Italy until our journey to Germany (phase 4).

The first part of phase 3 consisted of Caleb and I making our way via train to the city of Patras which is along the western coast of Greece, and getting a ferry from there to the Italian city of Bari. I wish I could have taken pictures of the ferry ride across the Adriatic but we couldn't risk it because we were afraid of not having enough camera battery for when we were in Rome. Nonetheless we still snapped a few quick pictures of the gulf of Corinth that was passing right on the side of the train because of how beautiful it looked.

Not bad eh? And that was right from the train as we were speeding by.

So we got on the ferry at about 5 in the afternoon and it was supposed to take us until the next morning to get to Italy. We made an epic journey through waters which have been traveled by virtually every non Asian sea faring nation since the dawn of time. I smoked my pipe out on the deck thinking about all the people who had sailed the same seas I was now traversing. Quite an experience.

We finally made it to Bari after a realtively difficult night sleeping on the deck of the boat and were told that unfortunately the train to Rome was full and we'd need to wait till the 5 o clock train which would get us to Rome at 11:30PM. Not a great option but what else can you do but nod and say "Hey, that's great!" when you've been dropped off on shore thousands of miles from anything you know or understand. So we waited in a park we found for like 8 hours looking at a super cool Normal castle and telling the local peddler of opium we weren't interested in any.

We got to Rome and it was way too late to do anything or go anywhere, so we decided to just sleep in the train station. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, and when you're tired even a marble floor dosen't seem so bad. Then we awoke and began our ascent to the city of the ancients.

The first thing we saw was the Circus Maximus. Pretty much an abandoned huge field at this point, but meaningful nonetheless. Then we saw this massive arch erected to Constantine. Anzthing erected to Constantine is worth taking a picture of. Whats so cool about everything Roman is not only is it massive, its also filled with carvings showing the Romans womping on somebody. Cool if your them, not if you're pretty much anybody else.

Next of course was the Colosseum. To say it was impressive is an unbelievable understatement. Caleb and I both agreed that it was the most amazing ruin that we saw. This made it equally disturbing however. It was difficult to think about how such an incredible structure could be a monument to so much wickedness. Both Caleb and I sat for a long time here contemplating the fallen nature of man, and went away humbled that a people so great could be capable of such evil. It felt like we were in an amazingly ornate mass grave. Cold, cruel, and difficult to entirely express all the emotion from.

Obviously there's no smiling at the Colosseum.

Caleb in front of the cross dedicated to the martyred Chrisitians who were killed here.

We left the Colosseum and went to Trajan's column, a structure he had built to commemorate his demolishing the Dacian's. The carvings are amazing, unless you're Dacian.

After going to these places we also visited the Pantheon. The Pantheon is super cool because it used to be a massive temple dedicated to various Gods, but then somebody sweet decided to turn it into a HUGE church. So its been a church from like 350 AD and it continues to serve in that capacity even today.

After the Pantheon we continued north through the city trying to make our way to St. Peter's Basilica. We crossed the Seine river on the way. We spit in it as we passed. The waters really nasty looking. Maybe its because people spit in it.

I wish we could have taken pictures of everything we saw and did that day. My musings are not enough to do everything justice. That goes for St. Peter's Basilica especially. It was more phenomenal than anything else that we saw. I couldn't believe how massive and intricate everything was. The courtyard alone was awe inspiring, but it was nothing compared to the inside. First we were able to tour the tombs of the Popes underneath the Basilica and they have entombed in a series of massive sarcophaguses the bodies of some of histories most powerful men. The people who were literally considered the voice of God on earth where buried within the vaults which end with the place where the body of Peter is.

Then we went upstairs through the Basilica itself and were silenced by the grandeur and scope of everything. I was more impressed by this building than anything else I saw or believe I will see during this trip. It was just beyond words.

Here are just three meager photos I am even reticent to put up because they show so little, but unfortunately they must suffice.


First off here's a photo of what the Basilica looks like from on top (not my picture).

This is a view of the courtyard from the side. It was too big to get a picture of all of it from the ground.

This is a picture of part of the inside.

And here is Caleb and I out front.

That's the best I can do to summarize our time in Rome. If you get the chance to go, go. The hours we spent touring this city alone made the expense of the entire trip well worth it.

Athens, City of Wonder and Women Supporting Buildings With Their Heads.

Finally I'm able to post again. Its been a long time and much has happened, but I will try and slowly bring everything back up to date. Unfortunately that means going all the way back to Athens almost two weeks ago. We have hundreds of pictures and I'm trying to use only a handful, so here is about a dozen of many amazing pictures I have of touring an incredibly ancient and significant city.

This is me in front of the school of Plato and Socrates. Like that is the actual school where they taught. Pretty awesome.

Just three good looking guys standing outside where the first modern Olympic games was held.

Me in front of the temple of Zeus.

The Acropolis from afar. We were making our way there. One thing thats really cool about the Acropolis which you can see from this picture is that it was built that high. The acropolis wasn't just on top of the city, they built a huge foundation so it literally sticks out above the town and is visible from almost all of Athens.

The three of us in front of the Parthenon.

Some women putting holding up a building with their heads.

Action shot. Roof wearing women in the foreground.

An awesome theatre that is also on top of the Acropolis.

There were awesome pillars and columns everywhere. I wish I could put all the pictures up here.

Me on Mars Hill with the Acropolis in the background. The entire day was incredible, getting to see so many historically and culturally significant things was mind blowing. I feel like it was just an introduction to our next stop however, Rome.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Leaving Rome

It seems like forever since i've blogged. While in reality it has only been five days, so much has happened during that time I feel like forever is not a bad description of the time that has elapsed. Unfortunately our camera is out of battery so I cannot equip this post with ample pictures to supplement my descriptions of what has taken place, though someday I will put them up here. Since I was able to last blog we have been to Athens, Corinth, Patras, Bari, and Rome. Everyone of these cities has multiple stories of its own I wish I could go into' but unfortunately my time in this internet cafe will not allow it. I'll try and put up a few highlights though.

For one, a definite highlight of the trip so far would have to be sitting on top of Mars Hill and looking down at the rest of Athens. The entire Acropolis was just amazing. We also got to go to the school of Socrates and Aristotle.

Bari has an incredible Norman castle that dominates the city and coastline. That was pretty incredible to look up at and see.

I must say though, of all the cities we have visited so far, Rome has been by far the most glorious. While the coloseeum was certainly one of my greatest goals to go see on this trip, it was much more sobering than I anticipated. Caleb said it felt like we were sitting in a giant graveyard. We sat there for a good 45 minutes, just thinking about how the place that we were had been a site of so much bloodshed. It was very creepy to be honest. Of all the ruins that we have seen so far, the Colosseum was by far the most impressive, and yet, this massively inspriring structure was erected entirely to the depravity of man. How sick and disgusting that the greatest and most advanced civilization on earth (never have I felt so strongly in agreement with Chesterton) could be a gateway for such base iniquity and wickedness. My only thought upon leaving that place was: "Lord have mercy on me lest I fall."

We visited a number of other amazing sites in Rome. Each of them would be worth a blogpost in it's own right, but unfortunately time will not allow. We saw Trajan's Coloum, the Pantheon, and much else, but everything was topped by getting to go to St. Peter's Basillica. I had no idea that it was so massive and impressive. The courtyard alone was just awe-inspiring, but once you get inside, words cannot describe it. It was amazing. There were people all around us crying. We even got to go underneath through the crypt to see the tombs of the Popes. Theres nothing but a little rope seperating you from the tombs of the men who were the faces of Christianity to the world for hundreds of years. The men who called crusades, excommunicated kings, led revivals, even Pope John Paul II's tomb was there. Not to mention Peter. It was an incredible experience which may be my highlight of the trip so far.

Caleb and I were planning on going to Venice today but we changed our plans and our going to visit a family friend who is a missionary in Paris. We will be there until the weekend and are very much looking forward to getting to explore that city as well. We leave at six today and are taking an overnight train which will hopefully be very comfortable :). Hopefully I'll be able to keep this updated over the next few days, and if I can find a way to charge our camera, hopefully pictures will soon follow.

Thanks for staying with me.

To Paris we go...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Central Greece

These past few days have been an incredible whirlwind of activity. God has been VERY good to us in getting us everywhere we have needed to be. I wish I had time to go into the whole story. At this point though I'll have to summarize. We took a train from Thessaloniki to a bus to a bus to Thermopylae. It was really cool there. We even got to stop at the hot springs. We had a while there to explore not just the monument, but also where the Spartan's held their last stand after Leonidas death (atop a little hill near by).

After Thermopylae God enabled us to get to Delphi for the night (practically a miracle), to a hostel that we had booked . Delphi is a really cool little town. We woke up early, had a little breakfast, and then decided to climb a massive mountain overlooking the massive mountains Delphi is already on. It was so cool to climb higher than I have ever been before. Everywhere there seemed to be massive drops. It was so neat to feel like Joshua, Caleb, and I were conquering a place that has been such a part of ancient history and the books we have always been reading. We have always heard about the Oracle of Delphi and felt unbelievably blessed to actually go there.

After hiking up the mountain, we went and explored all the monuments and ruins around. They were cool, but to be honest, after we climbed the mountain and saw the natural beauty, the man made stuff just didn't seem as interesting. We did take some sweet photo's though.

Then we took a bus here to Athens where I am now (in a hostel) until Saturday. I got to shower and there's AC in my room.

Here's some of the photos from the past day or two.

Me standing in front of the statue. Sorry for Leonidas' lack of decency.

The statue of Leonidas at Thermopylae. I messed with the exposure a bit to capture the sun setting behind it. This is my favorite picture of the trip so far.

Overlooking the port city of Itea from the city of Delphi. In case you didn't know, Delphi is REALLY high up.

Me looking at the incredible expanse of God's creation.

The valley below Delphi.

The mountain we climbed at Delphi, we did go to the top of that.

Me overlooking ITEA from the top of the mountain.

The remains of the temple to Athena at Delphi.

Me at the Temple to Athena (a little tired at this point).

Our dinner for today (cost us 3.45 euro's).

Thanks for following along!

Safe in Athens

Thermopylae was more amazing than I could have thought. We barely got to Delphi, it's kinda a miracle story i'll post when I have time. We spent this morning climbing mountains and visiting the Oracle (she says the Patriots are gonna win the Super Bowl this year). We are in Athens right now in an internet cafe. We're spending two nights here before wishing goodbye to Joshua who returns to Thessaloniki, and Caleb and I will be heading on to Italy. Hopefully I'll get to post pictures and write more later. Things are going great so far...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


My whole life I've read about the battle between the Persians and the Spartan 300 at Thermopylae. For years I've dreamed of being able to visit the sight of that epic struggle.

I've wondered what it would be like to walk that same ground, to feel the grass underneath my bare feet, knowing once, a long time ago, the grass that grew here was watered by the blood of those who were willing to give everything they had for the sake of their freedom.

These thoughts send chills down my spine. I tremble slightly to think of what it must have been like to watch the very sun become shrouded in darkness as enemy arrows literally filled the sky.

What must it have been like to watch as the nations of the world converged upon you like water rushing from a dam, bent upon the death of you and your family.

What must it have been like to fall underneath the weight of innumerable lances, thrust upon you as you hopelessly strike at the enemies all around you.

What must it have been like to sacrifice everything you had for what you believed in.

My whole life I've heard of the story of Thermopylae and wondered. My whole life I've heard of Thermopylae and dreamed of going there.

Tomorrow, that dream becomes reality...

Roman and Byzantine Ruins

Yesterday, we went back through Thessaloniki to see some of the different sights visible throughout the city. For those of you who don't know, Thessaloniki was essentially the number two city in the Byzantine Empire, and has a plethora of ancient ruins and buildings. There are medieval churches EVERYWHERE. We started our tour at the White Tower. This city is the symbol of Greek freedom over the Ottoman Empire because the building used to be used as a prison. It's kinda like the Greek Bastille.

We next worked our way through some of the ancient Roman ruins in the city. The Roman Emperor Galerius was all about Thessaloniki and really set up camp here.

Perhaps my favorite part of the city is the famed Arch of Galerius. It's a structure erected by Galerius to commemorate his victory over the Persians. It's incredible.

After we went to the Arch we visited a number of churches. Most of the churches were originally christian churches which were expanded to become Orthodox Byzantine churches, and then turned into mosques when the Ottomans conquered the Byzantine Empire.

These are pictures from one of the crypts underneath the churches.

Some cool tablets that were inside the church.

Some gelato (basically ice cream) that we enjoyed on the way back to the car.

The trip thus far has been very eventful and enjoyable, but I have also been learning a lot as well. The uptake of information has been enormous. I've been working hard, writing a lot, trying to decipher all of what I've been thinking through. Hopefully some of the upcoming posts will be more philosophical than just pictures and captions as I start to flesh out some of what I believe God has been teaching me through this unique time.

Thanks for your viewing the blog and leaving comments. It means a lot to know that people are following our progress, and makes all the time it takes to put this up here more worthwhile.