Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Athens, part 2

Originally we were to be assigned to Athens, but because the Greek government refused to issue visas to American citizens we were re-assigned to Cyprus. Therefore, having the opportunity to go to Athens, Greece is something neither of us ever even thought of, even before our mission call.
When we arrived in Athens it had been raining on and off and everything was quite wet, but we believed we would be able to enjoy the city/country even so, and we were not disappointed.
Driving into the city of Athens is really like driving into any metropolitan city in the world. Lots of people, lots of traffic, and lots of cars.
We left the airport in a van driven by Elder Clark who is a senior missionary from Canada. His wife was born/raised in Australia and works in the Athens Mission Office. Elder Clark is very humorous and outgoing, a delight to be with. Sister Clark is quick and sharp and knows everything about everything you need to know! Ha!
Elder Clark drove us to President and Sister Freestone's home in Athens where we met with all the other Greece Athens Senior Missionary Couples. A lovely buffet luncheon was served and we then convened for a meeting, which lasted the better part of the day. We then all piled into cars and met for supper at a local Athenian Restaurant call, "Three Pigs". The food is of course authentically Greek and very enjoyable.
After supper we departed with Elder and Sister Maxwell to go to their home which is very deep in the city of Athens. After we arrived we chatted for a bit and then went to our room and to bed. We were very tired because we had gotten up at 4 AM to make it to Larnaka in time for our 7:40 AM flight to Athens. (President and Sister Freestone (left) with Elder and Sister Christensen below.)
The next day we all met together to divide up couples in vehicles to go to Mars Hill for a special testimony meeting. Okay here I'm over my head in ways to describe my feelings of being on Mars Hill. Whilst we were bearing testimonies down below us were young people protesting the Greek government in a park. Their shouting was a little disturbing, but since we had nothing to fear we pressed on with our meeting. Just being on that rock where Paul once stood and testified of the Lord was so overwhelming.
(Ascending Mars Hill with the Acroppolis in the background.) And believe me, Mars Hill is just a BIG rock, and behind it is the Acroppolis rising above the entire city in splendor.
Seeing those ancient ruins from Mars Hill is something I shall never forget. After our testimony meeting we said goodbye to President Freestone (Sister Freestone did not come with us.) and pressed on up the hill to the Parthenon, et al.
To ascend the hill to the Acroppolis is a medium hard climb - and good walking shoes are a must. At each level of the Acroppolis there are sights which are unbelievable - the theatre being one of them. I don't remember how many it seats, but it's HUGE! (From above the theatre - senior couples to the right.)
It is still used upon occasion for concerts/plays, etc., even though it is thousands of years old. The stonework is still very beautiful. Although if I were to go there for an event I would definitely take a thick sittable cushion, cold stone and human backsides don't work well together. Ha!
Part 3 is next - stay tuned!

Athens, Greece Finally!

In this post I will attempt to write notes about all the pictures I post here and make comments regarding what we learned in Athens about their ancient civilization and their current state of affairs. To be fair I only write what I have observed or was told concerning current Athens - all or part may be true. You the reader can read online about current Athens. You are also welcome to make comments that may be pertinent to my remarks, etc.
We arose early in the morning (4 AM) in order to catch our shuttle to the Larnaka Airport to make our flight to Athens (Athena). I tried to sleep on the 1 hour and 10 minute flight, but to no avail. I was far too excited. There are currently four couples assigned to the Greece Athens Mission on the Island of Cyprus, we were all invited to go to Athens to meet with the other senior couples in Greece for a 'Senior Couples Conference'. Three couples stayed in the mission home, we were invited to stay with Elder and Sister Maxwell (pictured below) who far out in the suburbs of Athens. The Maxwell's are from Ireland and are an absolute delight to know. We are very thankful for all their kindnesses to us while they hosted us.
After we arrived at the Athens Airport we rode back to the Mission Home with Elder Clark and two of the other missionary couples. Elder and Sister Watson had arrived the same week to begin their mission and so they rode with President Freestone (our Mission President) so they could become better acquainted.
As we entered the City of Athens I began to take pictures out the van window:
As you can see in this photo there is graffiti on the fence - it is on almost every flat surface in the city, and they don't paint it off!
Our first view of the 1896 Athens Olympic Stadium while driving into Athens from the airport. I really felt a chill when I saw this - I have ever wanted to see it up close and personal. Let me tell you a short story about this stadium: It is built upon the original grounds of the first stadium, which was built in 776 BC - that's right BC! When the stadium was being built the contractors ran out of time before the Olympic games started, so they had to build wooden bleachers on one of the sections to accommodate the patrons. The stadium is all completely built of Pentelic Marble - that's right the whole place! Everything you walk on or sit on is MARBLE, except the track! This is the end of the first installment of this part of our trip. More tomorrow.

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