Even though this morning was gray and drizzly we decided to stick with our plans to go to Veria. Once again we were at the amazing Thessaloniki bus depot and were off to Veria, a short 45 minute ride. Our first surprise of the day was the size of Veria. We expected a very small town but instead were in a town of about 40,000! After we disembarked the bus, we looked at each other and said "now what?" On the way in we did see a church that looked interesting so we headed in that direction. On the way, we passed a little church but all we saw was men so Jim went in to check it out. It turns out the reason we only saw men is because they were all contractors working on the church! A very, very nice gentleman dressed in a suit greeted Jim and invited us in. What a treat we found in this one room church. The contractors were carefully chiseling away concrete on the ceiling to reveal beautiful frescoes underneath. The gentleman proudly showed us to the niches where the frescoes had already been uncovered. He even held up plastic to reveal a gorgeous tapestry hanging on one wall. While the kind gentleman spoke no English and we understand no Greek we communicated very well. He informed us that the church was built in the 1400's. What an exciting way to start our visit in Veria. We continued on our way to the church we saw on the way in. We arrived to find the front door open and inside a lady was mopping the floors. She motioned for us to enter the sanctuary by the side aisle. After we were able to stop gazing at the incredible frescoes in the narthex we made our way into the sanctuary. The beauty before us was beyond words. It seems every inch of the domed ceiling and the walls were covered with gold gilded frescoes, one more stunning than the other. As we left, after lighting a candle in honor of our family, the Priest of the church arrived. He took us to his office and gave us icons of the saints of the church, one of the Bema to St. Paul and one of the Virgin Mary. We felt very honored to have been greeted so warmly. God has certainly been with us on our trip to Greece. This is not the first time we were given "special treatment". The Priest pointed us in the direction of the Bema and was kind enough to write "Bema" in Greek so we could show the paper to someone along the way to get more directions. That is exactly what we did. Again we came upon a nice gentleman that was more than happy to help us along our way. While he spoke no English he was very helpful and got the point across that we should stop and have a drink on the way! We stopped one more time along the way, this time at a bank. The gentleman we spoke with spoke good English and gave us the final directions. (Going to the Bema was somewhat like going on a car rally where you get directions at specific spots!!) The gentleman at the bank also gave us the name of a fine place to go for lunch. We finally arrived at the Bema and our efforts and walk were worth it. What a fabulous piece of work. What a tribute to Paul. It seems that much of Greece is like touring a world class museum. We did have lunch at the Roma Pizza but had pasta instead of pizza since we have already had pizza 3 times on this trip. It did seem a bit ironic to be dining in a Greek restaurant and listening to the theme song of "Grease" then Unforgettable by Natalie and Nat King Cole. When we were finished eating and the bill paid, the owner came out and told us to sit down, they wanted to give us some sweets. We don't know if this is a custom for them or they did it for us but we each got a dish of some kind of cream pudding. Jim was given chocolate and Karen was given vanilla - how did they know?
It is still drizzling and cold so we decided to head back to the hotel. After dropping off the back pack and camera we headed out to the outdoor market. This was a bit of a disappointment as it was like a flea market but there was no bartering to be done. I guess that will have to wait until Rhodes. We went back to the hotel and asked George, the 3-11 concierge, where the closest laundromat was. He gave us the address of a place that does the laundry. How great to not have to spend vacation time doing laundry. We packed up the laundry and headed up the hill. The laundry is just up the hill from us, yet another part of the town we have not explored. We dropped off the laundry and then wandered for a bit, picking up some crackers and much craved milk at a supermarket then headed back to the hotel for our nightly dinner of cheese and bagel bites, adding bananas and milk.
Our hotel staff is like family, particularly George, a young man in his late 20's. During one conversation we had with him we learned that he has been to Ohio 5 times, his Godfather lives in Akron and his friend went to the University of Toledo. We have met several people that have either been to Ohio or have relatives there. What a small world.
Sorry this is so long but this has been quite a day.