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Published: December 23rd 2005
ENTRY FOUR- July 16 1986
Exploring Santorini became our favorite past time. One hot, sunny day we decided to venture beyond the local chapel to see if we could discover a way to the shoreline on foot.
To our joy, the path wound its way through the low scrub-like bushes until we came to the crest of a small hill. The Mediterranean - in all its shimmering glory - spread before us. We carefully followed the steep slope of the path downwards.
Suddenly, what seemed like a mirage appeared on our left. There, on a deserted stretch of beach, stood a postcard perfect Greek café. A squat man with a huge grin greeted us. His equally round wife followed behind. We ordered cold drinks and scanned the menu.
After a delicious lunch, we continued down the beach toward Kumari. The sea breeze was pleasant, making an otherwise hot day bearable. We carried our sandals and strolled in the shallows. The black sand of Santorini prohibited any other barefoot meanderings.
Eventually there were signs of civilization:
bodies sunning themselves on the beach. Just a bit further along, I noticed the people were 'au naturel', this
being the nude beach near Kumari. I whispered to Miranda, "Shocking!"
"Are they totally naked?" she asked, squinting, as she dug through her beach bag for her prescription sunglasses. She hadn't been wearing them for fear of uneven tanning. "I don't want to look like a raccoon," she'd explained when I'd questioned her earlier.
It was embarrassing to have my wife brazenly put on her glasses to get a clear view of the nudity that surrounded us.
"Don't look," Miranda hissed.
"Don't look at what?" I shot back.
She quickly covered my eyes with her hands and whispered, "I can see Mark and Loraine coming out of the water. I’m sure she'd be mortified if she ran into a clergyman while she was in the buff."
We both gazed far off into the distance as our friends emerged from the surf. They must have seen us, for they rapidly covered up. When they were decent, we let our presence be known.
"Well, what a coincidence!" I remarked loudly. "Look, Miranda, it's Mark and Loraine."
Even in their partially clad state, the couple was clearly chagrined. There was an awkward silence. I sensed
Exploring Greek history
Still on Santorini, we explore the island on mopeds.
their humiliation stemmed from the simple fact that I was a 'man of the cloth' and they had not been wearing any, so to speak.
As the uneasy silence continued, I was at a total loss. Inane thoughts rushed through my head: What if I told Mark and Loraine that Adam and Eve were naked in the Garden of Eden . . . or that early Christian baptisms took place in the nude . . .
"Bin skinny-dippin' since I was seven," Miranda declared matter-of-factly as she began to strip. I was thunderstruck when she stepped out of her white bikini bottoms. There my wife stood, revealing her body to the entire world.
"Please watch our stuff while we go for a swim," she instructed Mark and Loraine as she helped me off with my clothing.
Moments later I was wearing nothing more than a perplexed look as I followed my wife into the water. I felt a sense of relief when my lower regions were hidden by the waves. "Bryan, thanks for following my lead. I really felt it was the only way to salvage the situation. We've got to pretend that we do this
sort of thing all the time."
By now, we were actually enjoying our dip. After emerging from the water and drying off, Miranda suggested we all dress and go for a cold drink.
As we sipped our Amstel lagers, I explained that Miranda and I rarely wore clothing when at the beach.
Loraine, now relaxed and back to her spirited self, teased, "Really, Bryan? Then how come your bottom shows not even a trace of a tan? Ministers shouldn't lie." She gently squeezed my arm, said, "Thank you," and went on to explain that she and Mark were normally quite conservative, but since they were on holiday with friends and family far away, they thought - just this once - that they would be daring. They'd actually been having a great time until they'd stepped out of the sea and seen us standing there. Apparently, Miranda's subtle gesture of putting her hands over my eyes hadn't helped the cause.
Mark, laughing, also offered his thanks and went on to describe the look of horror on my face as Miranda helped me off with my bathing suit. "To friendship above and beyond the call of duty," he
announced, proposing a toast. And with that, our days as nudists came to an end.
Over the next two weeks, we continued to spend a great deal of time with Loraine and Mark. The four of us dined out, went on wine-tasting tours, saw the sunset at Oia and took a boat trip to the 'active' volcano.
The archaeological dig at Akrotiri was the high point for all of us. Miranda and the others were thoroughly captivated with the details that had been discovered the lost civilization of Atlantis.
Loraine asked, "Do you think our way of life could ever be so destroyed?"
"Not until 1988," Miranda quipped, sarcastically. I explained the inside joke.
Tickets to Patmos
The front door to our villa burst open. "Bryan, Bryan, you'll never guess what happened at Pelican Tours! Look what I've got: two free tickets to Patmos!" Miranda's face shone with excitement and delight as she waved the tickets in my direction.
"But we weren't planning to go to Patmos," I reminded her, logically. "You were supposed to be buying tickets for Athens. You know the difficulty Mark and Loraine had when they
Bryan leans on the railing of the ferry as we leave Santorini for Athens.
"Where's your spontaneity?" she cried dramatically, her hands swooping through the air to punctuate her question. "These tickets are gratis. An older gentleman just gave them to me."
I knew of no tours from Santorini to Patmos and suspected a scam of some sort. "Why was the old fellow giving away tickets to Patmos?"
"They're non-refundable and he couldn’t use them. The boat leaves at midnight from the port in Fira
. . . at the bottom of the donkey trail
. . . Don't look a gift horse in the mouth!"
"Come on Bryan, we have free tickets to Patmos."
Blue Star Ferry
The boat was indeed waiting for us that night. "Where are all the other passengers?" I asked Miranda as we clambered aboard. The medium-sized vessel looked totally empty. At exactly midnight the ferry pulled away.
Even Miranda seemed wary. "We are on the right boat," she called out over the noise of the engine, pointing to the painted logo on the smokestack, which matched the one on our tickets.
Our small cabin was quite comfortable and we both fell into a deep sleep. At 7:30 a.m. our vessel docked. Having overslept, we didn't
Back in Athens
The Acropolis, Athens, Greece
get off the boat until 7:55.
A tour bus departed at eight, and we just managed to catch it. This modern vehicle was about half full. There were several stops along the way, but the main point of attraction was the dwelling where the Apostle John had spent his exile.
It was here that he wrote the Book of the Revelation, which, among other things, describes the end of the age, the Antichrist, Armageddon, and the ultimate triumph of 'the Lamb' over 'the Wolf of the Apocalypse'.
Popular fiction and movies have made such concepts as 'the beast', '666', and 'the seventh sign' part of our western culture. The result: John's place of abode had become commercialized.
Passengers from at least seven tour buses packed into the cave-like dwelling, trying to get a glimpse at the hole in the wall where it was said that John had laid his head.
Soon I became claustrophobic, telling Miranda I'd meet up with her later on the bus. She gave me that look, but the 'tenacious tourist' plunged into the crowd, undaunted by the numbers.
The Three Icons
I was glad to get away from the hordes. Nearby was a tiny Greek Orthodox church,
which I entered, in order to pray. There was no one else inside. For the most part, the decor of the church was traditionally orthodox, complete with icons of the Virgin Mary and Christ.
In the narthex were three unusual icons, however. One seemed to be of Mahatma Gandhi
holding a hand full of salt, another portrayed Francis of Assisi communing with some birds, and the third showed of Martin Luther King, Jr.
, imprisoned, bearing a scroll that read, 'How long will justice be crucified and truth be buried?'
"You are late," said a voice that came from nowhere and everywhere. I nearly jumped out of my skin as I spun around to see the Papas who had spoken.
He was an arresting sight. Dressed fully in white, he wore a dazzling gold stole over his shoulders. From his shined shoes to his shock of white hair he was immaculately dressed and seemed almost to glow from within. His warm brown eyes were mixed with a trace of sadness as he kissed the stole and placed it on the altar.
"I have not come for mass," I explained.
Smiling, he said, "Do not be anxious. There was no intention to startle you. You are most welcome to meditate on the icons or to pray."
He was a comforting figure, although his bushy white beard was in need of a trim. After a while, I actually found myself sharing my feelings with this most unusual character. As he sat beside me on the front pew, he said little, merely nodding. . .
When I caught up with Miranda, she was chock full of information gleaned from the tour. In one short hour she had become an expert on the life of John and all his prophesies. My wife revealed that the 'Woman on the Beast' symbolized Europa (Europeans) and ‘the Man of Lawlessness’ would one day revive the Roman Empire.
I shared with her my experience with the Greek Orthodox priest. But Miranda was perplexed. (She hates to miss out on anything.) "Why wasn't this fascinating church mentioned in LET’S GO - or by our tour operator?"
"Maybe it's not meant to be a tourist attraction," I replied as I boarded our ferry, enveloped by a deep feeling of peace. Links: Patmos
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