Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Greece, Day Seven

(Jenese's words are still in blue, and Rick's are still in black.)

The complimentary breakfast at the Hotel Apollo was a step down from the buffet we enjoyed at the Hotel Princess Flora, but was still quite satisfying.  It consisted of scrambled eggs, (processed) ham slices, cheese slices, yogurt, honey, tea, and coffee -- all enjoyed with the ambiance that comes from 80's rock music pumped through the recessed speakers in the ceiling.  I also noticed there were no persnickety waiters.

This was our most typical tourist day.  Although the Acropolis was within eyesight of the hotel, we took the metro to the Acropolis stop, knowing that our day would be filled with walking.  (Don't worry, blog fans.  We're gonna make up for that indulgence on Day Eight.  Trust me.)  We emerged from the metro on the southeast end of the Acropolis hill.  We walked westward along a wide, cobblestone pedestrian avenue, not knowing the location of the entrance and ticket booth.  From somewhere on our left, we could hear chanting from a Sunday morning Greek Orthodox service.

Nearing the west end of the foot of the Acropolis, we followed a trickle of tourists heading up some steps into a wooded park.  At the top of the steps, the trickle became a throng.  Our blind wandering had taken us to the ticket booth.

We purchased all-inclusive tickets, which provide admittance to a number of the archaeological sites in Athens, and proceeded to the entrance.  People were streaming in, but we had arrived early enough so that there was no line.

We had with us a borrowed iPhone on which I had uploaded free audio guides by Rick Steves.  I started the one for the Acropolis.  I had also brought my Sony MP3 player, thinking one of us could listen to it while the other listened to the iPhone, but it turned out that my MP3 player is so ancient that it would not play the audio format of the podcast.  So, we relied solely on the iPhone with the speaker on and the volume maxed out.  This garnered a lot of looks from other tourists, but Rick Steves wasn't as loud as all the tour guides who were scattered about.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus
Before reaching the Parthenon, you first pass above the Odeon of Herodes Atticus.  Built in 161 AD by the Athenian magnate Herodes Atticus, it served as a venue for musical performances, seating an audience of 5,000.  It was restored in the 1950's and remains in regular use today.

Bottom of the steps at the Propylaea
After passing by the Odeon, you turn left and continue further up the slope until you reach the original ancient entrance to the Acropolis, which is a massive monumental gateway called the Propylaea.  It was built under the general direction of the Athenian leader Pericles with construction beginning in 437 BC.  It consists of a central building with two adjoining wings.  The central building contains the gate wall, and running through it is the central passageway, which was not paved and lay along the natural level of the ground. The central passageway was the culmination of the Sacred Way, which led to the Acropolis from Eleusis.  The Propylaea served as the grand entryway to the Acropolis, but also served a security function.  People who were not ritually clean had to be kept away from the sanctuary; runaway slaves could not be permitted into the sanctuary where they could claim the protection of the gods. The state treasury was also kept on the Acropolis and had to be protected, just in case the gods became distracted while thieves were about.

What impressed me about the Propylaea was that not only are the massive columns still standing (with some help), but the roof over the central passageway is also extant, which aids the imagination in returning to ancient Greece to commence the Panathenaea festival.

Beyond the Propylaea, inside the walls of the Acropolis, is an assortment of temples, sanctuaries, and statues, all in varying degrees of ruin and restoration.  There are straight pedestrian paths that interconnect the structures, but they are clogged with clumps of tour groups, causing us free-thinking individualists to leave the paths.  This means walking over uneven, slick, gray rock.  One of the most surprising things I learned from Rick Steves was that during the 3rd century BC, all of this area was level and covered over with topsoil and grass.  Now, the Acropolis is almost totally devoid of vegetation, except for a couple of large trees near the restrooms and a few small olive trees.  The gray rock under our feet, combined with the weathered limestone and marble of the ancient structures all around us, gave an appearance in monochrome, but for the vibrant blue sky overhead.

This helped to accentuate the large Greek flag that flaps in the breeze at the far east end of the Acropolis.  It commemorates Manolis Glezos and Apostolis Santas, the two eighteen-year-old Greek heroes who tore down the Nazi flag flying from the Acropolis on the night of May 30th, 1941.

The lack of clouds and shade made the sun exceptionally harsh.  It made us thankful we were there in October, rather than the high tourist month of August when it must seem like Helios is cooking mortals beneath a magnifying glass for his amusement.  Still, I just knew our sunscreen was receiving more than it could handle, considering that Jenese and I arrived in Greece as white as Pentelic marble.  We survived, though -- sweaty, but pale.

I won't attempt to describe in detail all the structures on the Acropolis and their history.  After all, that's what Wikipedia is for.   But I will confess that much of what I saw came as a pleasant surprise, due to my ignorance.  Prior to reading our Athens guidebook, I thought the only thing to see on top of the Acropolis was the Parthenon.  There are actually several structures deserving of some gawking.  A roller coaster or maybe a tilt-a-whirl would would have helped to round things out, but I'm not complaining.

It's just as amazing as you hope it is.  The crowds actually did little to detract from the feeling that I was in a strange dream, wandering in two eras, at the same time.

The Parthenon alone lived up to the hype.  It was covered in scaffolding, which I'm guessing is pretty much a permanent condition, but there is still plenty of it that is visible.  We lingered for quite a while, walking around all sides and taking the expected bucket list photos.

East End of the Parthenon
The Moon above the Parthenon
Of course, Rick Steves had a lot to say about the Parthenon.  Completed in 438 BC, it is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece . . . containing decorative sculptures that are considered some of the high points of Greek art. . . an enduring symbol of Ancient Greece and of ancient democracy . . . one of the world's greatest cultural monuments. . . blah, blah, blah.

I learned some interesting history, though.  The Parthenon replaced an older temple of Athena that was destroyed in the Persian invasion of 480 BC.  According to Wikipedia, in the 5th century AD, the Parthenon was converted into a Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. After the Ottoman conquest, it was turned into a mosque in the early 1460s, and it had a minaret built in it. On 26 September 1687, an Ottoman ammunition dump inside the building was ignited by Venetian bombardment. The resulting explosion severely damaged the Parthenon and its sculptures.  The current restoration project has already cost $100 million and is far from being completed, so I guess Greece should thank the Venetians for this "stimulus project" that just keeps on giving.

By the time we had squeezed all the juice we could out of the Acropolis, the influx of tourists was really starting to swell.  The central passageway through the Propylea was the only way in or out, and when we had passed through it earlier, it looked like this:

Taken from within the Acropolis looking back out.
See how lonely that shadow looks?  Now, both sides of the passageway were a solid mass of people.  Pausing to take a photo like this one would have provoked grumbles, if not a full beat-down.  At the bottom of the steps below the Propylea, the mass thinned enough so that we were able to pause to look for Mars Hill (the Areopagus), which is at the base of the northwest slope of the Acropolis.  That was our next stop.

Mars Hill as seen from the Acropolis
There was a sprinkling of tourists on it, but it wasn't receiving the attention we thought it deserved.  There was one small sign at the base and another on top, but otherwise it did not seem to be getting much promotion.  For us, it was a major attraction, and we had been talking about it from the moment we began planning the trip to Greece.

It wasn't quite what I had envisioned.  Instead of a hillside, it looks like a large rock.  To reach the top, you can use a metal staircase or steps that have been cut out of the rock.  On top, there is almost no vegetation and walking is difficult because the surface is uneven and slick.  I made my best guess as to where Paul would have stood when he addressed the Athenians, and I stood there while Jenese took my photo from below.

Mars Hill
Jenese joined me on top and we sat beneath the only shade tree while we read from Acts 17, using the Kindle that we brought with us.  I loved it.  The words definitely held deeper meaning, reading them at that spot.  We could clearly see the Doric columns atop the Acropolis from where we were and we could imagine those same columns in Paul's view when he stood in the meeting of the Areopagus and said:
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. . . Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 
Reading the information sign on top of the Areopagus, I was also fascinated to learn that in classical times, the Areopagus served as the meeting place for the Court of Appeals for criminal cases.  This is where murderers would be sentenced to death.  I wondered whether Paul was aware of this history when he was speaking of the one raised from the dead who would judge the world with justice.

It was so strange, and nearly impossible to wrap my mind around the fact that, once again, we were standing on the same ground as one of our ancient brothers.  We joined hands and prayed.  Rick spoke softly, yet some nearby tourists hushed their conversation, in a gentle show of respect.

Our next stop was the Ancient Agora, which was one of the sites covered by our all-inclusive ticket.  "Agora" literally means "gathering place."  As described in the brochure we were handed at the entrance:
The Agora was a large square on the northwest slope of the Acropolis, where social and religious activities, commerce, outdoor theatrical performances and athletic contests were held.  In other words, it was the heart of the ancient city.  But above all it was the center of Athenian democracy, since it was there that the most important administrative and judicial functions and political assemblies took place. 
Of course, it was also the hangout for well-known Greek philosopher superstars including Socrates and Plato.  You can imagine them walking the same paths, draped in togas.  Diogenes was also a regular in the Agora, but after learning of his predilection for the public display of his onanistic hobby, I tried NOT to imagine that one.

We started at the lowest point and followed the Panathenaic Way, which transverses the Agora, while listening to the Rick Steves audio guide.  It's mostly foundation stones and chunks of columns, but enough remains to give you a good idea of how it was laid out in the 2nd century AD when it was in its final form.

The main attraction is the reconstructed Stoa of Attalos, a 2nd century BC building that was restored in the 1950s by the American School of Classical Studies to house finds from excavations in the areas.  Its dimensions are 377 by 65 feet wide, and it is made of Pentelic marble and limestone.  It seems to be all columns.

Stoa of Attalos
The gallery on the ground floor is really impressive.  The exhibition is arranged in chronological order starting with vases and figurines dating back to the Neolithic period, the Early and Middle Bronze Age, and the Mycenaean and Geometric period.  But the items that held my attention were those connected with the functions of Athenian democracy and dating to the Classical and Late Classical periods.  They included a marble stele (336 BC) depicting Demos and Democracy with an inscribed decree of the Assembly of the Deme against tyranny.  It essentially provides for the acquittal of anyone who murders a "tyrant."  (I wonder what happens if the voting majority becomes tyrannical . . . )

Stele of Democracy
There was also a juror selection device.  Unlike the American jury system, which relies upon coerced service and an intensive screening process, in Athens, jury service was truly voluntary.  There were so many volunteers, in fact, that this slot machine-like device was utilized to select which individuals would have the privilege of serving.

Here's a description of how the selection process worked:
During the fourth century, an elaborate system of multiply random selection was introduced, using wood or bronze tickets that each juror brought with him, a sort of slot machine  with black and white balls, and wands color-coded to match the painted lintels at the entrances to various courtrooms. The procedure, which we know in great detail from The Constitution of Athens , not only determined which jurors would serve that day, but which cases an individual juror would hear, and even which jurors would perform certain simple, but indispensable, tasks, such as minding the water-clock that timed the speeches and handing jurors a coin in payment for the day’s service. The procedure was probably meant, in the first instance, to prevent litigants from bribing or otherwise corrupting the jurors, but a likely side effect may have been to turn this step into a ceremony that would impress litigants, jurors, and bystanders with the seriousness of the occasion. Drawing lots was regarded as quintessentially democratic, and those Athenians prone to see a divine hand as lying behind a random process might have seen the sortition as providing an arena for the gods to do their work. Given the wide discretion and great power of the jury, this system probably did much to enhance the prestige of the judicial process as a whole.
I was fascinated by this device, too, but also by the interesting household items, such as grills and a kiddie potty, and the busts and statues.  I always want to touch the faces, so well carved that you just know they're about to blink, and whisper to you.

On the other side of the Agora from the Stoa is the Temple of Hephaistos.  Another Doric-columned temple constructed in the 4th century BC, it looks like a miniature Parthenon.  However, it has never required the kind of restoration work given to the Parthenon.  For the most part, it has remained unscathed since it was originally constructed, which certainly sets it apart from anything else in the Agora.  I thought it was odd that I had never heard of it and it gets only a brief mention in the brochures.

Temple of Hephaistos
Our final stop before leaving the Agora was the Church of St. Dionysius the Areopagite.  It is appropriately located just behind Mars Hill.  It was build in honor of Dionysius, who is mentioned Act 17:34 as being persuaded by the words of Paul spoken on Mars Hill: "Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others."  Tradition has it that he became the first bishop of Athens and suffered a martyr's death under the Emperor Domition.  Canonized by the Orthodox Church, he became and still is the patron saint of Athens.

Church of St. Dionysius the Areopagite
For lunch, we sat on a bench not far from the church (building) and ate snacks out of Jenese's travel bag.  This was supposed to include a nectarine that had traveled with us all the way from Rhodes, but after getting beat around inside the bag all morning, it was seriously bruised and in a foul mood, causing it to dispel juice onto Jenese, me, the bag, and the bench.  We headed for the Acropololis Museum, all sticky.

The Acropolis Museum was completed just in time for Athens to host the Olympics, and it is truly spectacular.  It was built to house every artifact found on the Acropolis and around its base, from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece. It also lies on the archaeological site of Makrygianni and the ruins of a part of Roman and early Byzantine Athens.  The walkway in front of the entrance is made of see-through Plexiglass so that you can look down at your feet and see the ongoing excavation work.  This is a brilliant architectural design, but it must have really increased the construction costs.

At the entrance to the Acropolis Museum with the Athenian owl behind us.
The museum consists of multiple levels, each of which is lined with picture windows that allow for a beautiful view of the Parthenon on one side and allows for natural lighting all the way around.  It might be too much natural light, since we were forced to wear sunshades for part of the time as we viewed the 4,000 items the museum contains.  I soon had my fill of statutes and vases, so stares became glances, and we were moving at a pretty good pace by the time we reached the third floor.

I still regret not stopping in the gift shop to purchase an Athenian owl for our bookshelves.

Another reason for picking up that pace was that we had a goal of making it to a church of Christ in Elliniko in the southern part of Athens in time for evening worship.  Getting there required taking the metro to the end of the line and then taking a bus still further for about a dozen stops.  The names on the bus stop signs were written solely in the Greek alphabet, so spotting the correct stop was a challenge.  Jenese managed to catch it, otherwise I would probably still be on that bus.

An even bigger challenge was locating the church building.  We had a street address, but had no idea how to find the street from the bus stop.  We crossed the widest and busiest street I've ever crossed in my life and then just started wandering along the same street back the way we had come on the bus.  The numbers on the buildings were in the right ballpark, even though the street name wasn't right, so we turned up a side street.  We had just about given up when we spotted a large group of people, neatly dressed and walking in our direction.  They definitely had a church of Christ aura about them.

Another example of God's providential intervention.  I looked over my shoulder in time to see this group disembark from a bus.  They were dressed nicely, and carried iPads and books that I just knew were Bibles.  Spirit was calling to spirit, so I felt bold enough to speak to them.

Jenese approached the oldest gentleman, who seemed to be leading the group, and asked him if he could give us directions.  Not only did he turn out to be American, but he told us he was headed for the church building we were looking for and we were standing right in front of it.  (There was no signage of any kind.)

There were congregations closer to our hotel, but we wanted to go to this one because the lead minister is Dino Roussos.  In addition to being an evangelist, he's also a licensed archaeological guide and owns his own travel agency, Aristotle Travel.  Friends of ours from church had used Dino to arrange their trip to Greece earlier in the year, and they told us about Dino  I also intended to use his services, but it didn't work out.    One of his agents prepared an itinerary and emailed it to me, but I had to tell her the price was too steep and that she needed to dial it back.  She sent me a stripped down itinerary and I told her to dial it back some more.  I must have broken her dial, because I didn't receive anymore email after that.  Nonetheless, Dino knew we were coming.  There was even a message from him waiting for us at the front desk when we arrived at our hotel.  So we were really hoping to see him at the church service.

We didn't know what to expect in the way of a Sunday service.  I assumed it would be a small group of locals, with the service in Greek, but it turned out that the church has two Sunday services -- Greek in the morning and English in the evening.  The bulk of the congregation, including the group we met walking outside, consisted of Harding University students from Searcy, Arkansas.  There were between 20 and 30 of them living and studying in Athens for the semester.  Overseeing the Athens study program is Dr. James, whom we met earlier.  There were also three Iranian refugees in attendance.

We met Dino before the service started.  He's in his late 50's, of medium height, and has gray hair, silver-rimmed glasses, and a large belly that gives a rock to his confident stride, which in turn highlights a large personality.  To borrow a Tom Wolfe description, he's a man in full -- intelligent, high energy, sure of himself, and sure that you'll see things his way.  After a brief introduction, he assigned me the task of leading the prayer for the Lord's Supper.  Apparently, assigning tasks comes easily to Dino.

Charisma often seems the hallmark of those truly gifted in evangelism.  I think that's why their work is growing so well, though.  Brother Dino has the God-given energy and strength not only to start and oversee the work, but also to motivate others to participate.  I wanted to stay and help -- especially with his son-in-law's mission (see below) -- and he wasn't really even trying to recruit us.

It was a fascinating Lord's Supper.  In addition to the prayer I lead in English, Dino lead a prayer in Greek, and one of the Iranians led a prayer in Farsi.  (At the downtown congregation, you can hear services conducted in Russian and Bulgarian.)  The sermon was given by a visiting Harding professor (I think), who is also a minister at a congregation in a small Arkansas town.  His last name is Butterfield.

The Lord's Supper was beautiful.  To illustrate the truly effective power of fervent, righteous prayer, Mr. Butterfield told the wonderful story of how God intervened to save his wife's life after a horrific car accident, and restored her to a level of health the medical professionals never expected her to reach (they never expected her to live, let alone thrive).  You'd never know it -- we didn't, and we were sitting right behind her!  And God is using that congregation's boldness and love to reach many souls.  We should all be willing to hit our knees, collectively, and so confidently.

After services, we met Dino's American wife, Debbie.  She looks to be at least a decade younger than Dino.  She's really attractive, with long straight blond hair and low bangs.  Dino and Debbie met while they were both students at Abilene Christian University.  Dino already had a degree in archaeology and had worked as a tour guide in Israel before attending ACU, while I assume Debbie was a student right out of high school.

We also met Mark, their son-in-law, who is from Muskogee, OK. He's in Athens overseeing a ministry that serves immigrants who are transitioning through Greece.  Many immigrants from third-world countries are using Greece to gain entry into the EU, often illegally.  Mark's organization helps them with their basic needs and shares the gospel with them.  Mark explained that their numbers have shrunk in recent months as the Greek government has been pressured to crack down on illegal immigration due to the bad economy.  Also, members of the growing fascist party, Golden Dawn, have been getting violent with immigrants. (We saw their Nazi-like party symbol spray-painted on walls.)

After just about everyone had left, Dino talked to us about our desire to visit Corinth.  Originally, we had planned on paying to go on a group trip arranged by his company, but when his agent stopped responding to my email, I decided we would just rent a car, which would be cheaper anyway.  But it turned out that Dino was planning on personally escorting us to Corinth for free.  This was very generous, and it was tempting to take advantage of having our own professional guide, but we could tell that he didn't have that kind of time to spare, and so felt like we would have been imposing.  He seemed relieved when we assured him that we could get to Corinth on our own.

He even explained how easy it would be to drive there, since our hotel was right on the very road we'd need to take -- just get on, and follow the signs.  Dino also suggested another couple of stops to round out our day.

But when Dino invited us to go with him and Debbie to have supper, it really was a relief.  That's because it had not occurred to us to purchase a return bus ticket when you cannot purchase tickets on the bus, so we had no idea how we were going to get back.  Now, Dino was going to drop us off at the metro.

We climbed into Dino's SUV, which is a conspicuously large vehicle for Athens traffic, and headed for the mall.  The traffic was horrendous and we were almost immediately caught in a jam that was apparently caused by an accident far up ahead.  Dino calmly changed lanes and back again, wedging the large SUV in front of compacts, as he searched for the fastest moving lane.  (With Debbie trying to give suggestions in a calm manner.)  He jumped a curb to drive over a median and onto an access road, but it still didn't help.  He became agitated.  Clearly, there were some assignments he needed to give, but there was no one within shouting distance to whom he could give them.

Eventually, we inched past the smashed up vehicles and the traffic started moving again.  We arrived at a really large, multistory, modern-looking shopping mall.  We parked in the nicest, most brightly lit underground garage I've ever seen.  Because it was Sunday evening, all the shops were closed, but the movie theaters and restaurants were open, so the mall was filled with teenagers.

Dino and Debbie asked us if were were okay with T.G.I. Fridays and we both lied and said that was fine with us.  (In Greece, shouldn't it be called T.Z.I. Fridays?  Think about it and wait for the rim shot.)  So instead of moussaka, dolmas, or souvlaki, we had to select from a menu of standard American chain food.  We were used to paying slightly higher food prices in Greece, but it was less bearable when we knew we were getting the same drek we could get in Tulsa.  Seeing the prices (and the carb load), we both held back, even though we were starving.  I ordered the chicken Caesar salad and Jenese ordered the nachos, which turned out to be a basket of chips with a small scoop of meat and processed cheese goop.

It was supposed to have tomato sauce on it.  Couldn't really find it.

But the dinner conversation made up for the disappointing meal.  We enjoyed learning about the fascinating lives of the Roussos family and Dino's work with the church.  He's even published a book in which he explores the practice of the Greek Orthodox Church, versus what their original fathers wrote.  I was particularly interested when Dino explained why the Elliniko congregation did not have a sign.  This began with Dino expressing his satisfaction that the congregation recently obtained government permission to meet as an official group.  This involved an approval process that required at least one trip to court.  That was just so that they could meet.  A second approval process will be required in order to be recognized as a church and to place a sign above the door.

I was so stunned by this, that I had him explain it to me a second time.  Inwardly, I was appalled, but Dino seemed perfectly fine with it.  He even said that it was good that "everyone be accountable to someone."  About a dozen libertarian quotes ran through my head.  I'm subject to the ruling authorities, but when it comes to worship, I'm accountable only to God.

But it got worse.  Dino pointed out that the Greek constitution bans proselytizing. I looked it up and there it is under Section II, Article 13:

1. Freedom of religious conscience is inviolable. The enjoyment of civil rights and liberties does not depend on the individual's religious beliefs.
2. All known religions shall be free and their rites of worship shall be performed unhindered and under the protection of the law. The practice of rites of worship is not allowed to offend public order or the good usages. Proselytism is prohibited.
3. The ministers of all known religions shall be subject to the same supervision by the State and to the same obligations toward it as those of the prevailing religion.
4. No person shall be exempt from discharging his obligations to the State or may refuse to comply with the laws by reason of his religious convictions.
5. No oath shall be imposed or administered except as specified by law and in the form determined by law.
Freedom of religious conscience is inviolable.  But evangelizing is prohibited.  This means that if Paul were to address the Athenians from Mars Hill today, he would be subject to arrest.  Who knew that 1st century Greece under the Roman Empire was the good ol' days when it comes to religious liberty?

I was horrified, which I think only shows how naive I am about the world.  I suspected there would be a cultural preference for the national church, certainly, but then I also thought Greece was more easygoing about such things.

Also, all "known religions are free," but until the government determines that your religion is "known," don't try putting a sign over your door.  Oh, and is here is another provision from Article II, Section 3 of the Greek constitution:
The text of the Holy Scripture shall be maintained unaltered. Official translation of the text into any other form of language, without prior sanction by the Autocephalous Church of Greece and the Great Church of Christ in Constantinople, is prohibited.
So look out, William Tyndale!

Undoubtedly, these laws exist to protect the Greek Orthodox Church from the competition.  Although Dino certainly has no love for the Orthodox Church, Greece is his country and I guess these laws make sense to him, but as for me, I no longer think of Greece as a free country, and I wonder why Voice of the Martyrs does not include it on their list of restricted nations.  Unfortunately, it's probably because using my definition of religious liberty would reveal there to be more restricted nations than free ones.  I've since learned that conditions were even worse before Greece became a member of the EU and they were forced to loosen up, so maybe I should be thankful that the Elliniko congregation can meet at all, sign or no sign, and maybe I should start singing the Star Spangled Banner with more conviction.

We enjoyed our evening with Dino and Debbie, even if some of my libertarian buttons got pushed.  They are a very nice couple, seem to have great kids, and have a passion for serving in the Lord's church.  Oh, and Dino picked up the check, so our T.G.I. Fridays meal suddenly became a good one.  (I should have ordered more food!)  They gave us hugs good-by at the elevator and told us how to get to the metro station.

I love how we can find family just about anywhere we go.  God knows we need each other (and not just to get to the metro station!).

We had no trouble making our way back to the hotel.  We topped off our partially empty bellies with dried figs and went to bed.  Was that really just one day?

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