Monday, August 8, 2016

Postcards from the Underworld: Meditations on a Roman Amphitheater

Dreaming of what the ancients must have witnessed from this vantage point...

Roman Amphitheater
Pula, Istria

Monday, August 1, 2016

100 Places in Greece Every Woman Should Go: Fish Pedicure

Chapter 69: Places to Get Pampered in Athens

The first time I walked by this place, I was surprised to see women lined up against the walls, traditional beauty shop style, but there were no hairdryers over their heads... instead, their feet were plunged into what looked like fish aquariums! Welcome to Doctor Fish, located in the Plaka district of Athens, where a breed of tiny carp nibbles away at patron's toes, giving them an unusual fish pedicure. Just the tiniest bit gross? Maybe. But if you've got tired feet after spent an entire day wandering around this ancient city, and you're the kind who wants to knock another to-do item off your bucket list, an Athenian fish pedicure might just be the thing for you! 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Postcards from the Underworld: Sign of the Times

Peace sign riddled with bullet holes
Lago Maggiore
Stresa, Italy

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

100 Places in Greece Every Woman Should Go: Kandylakia

Chapter 99: Roadside Shrines and the Goddesses Who Tend Them

As you wend your way along the often steep and cliff hanging roads that hug the Greek coastline, you will surely notice myriad tiny shrines, known as kandylakia, that dot the way. These shrines are usually erected at the site where someone died in a car or motorcycle accident, a chilling reminder to drive carefully. 

They can be dedicated to saints, such as Saint Theodosios,

or Saint Ephraim, among many others.

I've always been fascinated by what people leave inside these mini chapels and wondered who - if anyone - tends to them. In the past, I've found packs of cigarettes and bottles of ouzo - for what reason I'm not sure! But usually you will find a lit candle, along with a bottle of oil, icons and portraits of favorite saints

such as Nicholas, Constantine and Helen.

Most of all, I marvel at the beauty these kandylakia overlook, 

and once was fortunate enough to - finally - capture

a woman lovingly tending to her personal roadside shrine.

Monday, June 20, 2016

100 Places in Greece Every Woman Should Go: A Church that Grows Trees

Chapter 52: Saint Theodora's Chapel - The Miracle of the Rooftop Trees

Deep in the heart of Greece's Peloponnese lies a tiny church that sprouts trees. It seems hard to believe, but seventeen mature trees literally grow from the roof of this eleventh-century structure, something that scientists have been unable to explain, and that others call a miracle.

The story of the church dates back to the 10th century. In a lush mountain gully near the village of Vastas, lived a girl named Theodora. At the time a law stated that every family needed to send at least one male to fight as a soldier or be forced to pay a tax. Theodora's family was very poor, and to avoid her father having to serve duty, she volunteered. When bandits raided the region, Theodora disguised herself as male, calling herself Theodore. She not only managed to keep her identity a secret, her valient fighting won her many admirers. Among those included a young woman from the region who became infatuated with 'Theodore' and spread a rumor that she had become pregnant by him. Theodora's commander gave her two options: either marry the girl or face execution. Theodora could have saved  her own life by revealing her identity, but this would have caused her father to face punishment, so she did what saints do: took the retribution herself. Upon her death she was heard to cry out: "Let my body become a church, my blood a river and my hair the forest."

Moved by the bravery of this young woman, the locals erected a church at the site of her grave. Legend has it that a river rerouted itself to run beneath the chapel, and that its holy waters nourish the miraculous trees that sprout from its roof. Some say the entire site feels like a living, breathing relic, and there are those who believe Theodora's deathbed wish came true: that her body became the church, her blood the river, and that her hair became the magical forest of seventeen trees sprouting from the chapel's roof.