Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Holy Monastery of Varlaam

The Holy Monastery of Varlaam is the second largest monastery in the Metéora complex. A church dedicated to All Saints is in the Athonite type (cross-in-square with dome and choirs) with spacious esonarthex (lite) surrounded by a dome. It was built in 1541/42 and decorated in 1548, while the esonarthex was decorated in 1566. The old refectory is used as a museum while at north of the church there is the parekklesion of the Three Bishops built in 1627 and decorated in 1637.

The Varlaam Monastery was built by Saint Nectarios of Aegina and Theophanes. Access to the monastery was originally difficult, and it was deliberately built so, requiring either long ladders put together or large nets used to haul up both goods and people. Climbing up required quite a leap of faith; the ropes were replaced, so the story goes, only when the Lord let them break. In the words of UNESCO, "The net in which intrepid pilgrims were hoisted up vertically alongside the 373 meters (1,220 ft) cliff where the Varlaam monastery dominates the valley symbolizes the fragility of a traditional way of life that is threatened with extinction."

Meteora Complex of Greek Orthodox Monasteries

Meteora is one of the largest and most important complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece, second to Mount Athos. The now-existing six monasteries were built on natural sandstone rock pillars, at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly near the Pineios River and Pindus Mountains in central Greece. The nearest town is Kalambaka. The Metéora is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The exact date of the establishment of the monasteries is unknown. It is believed, in the 9th century, an ascetic group of hermit monks moved up to the ancient pinnacles. They were the first people to inhabit Meteora. They lived in the hollows and fissures in the rock towers, as high as 1800 feet (550 meters) above the plains.

By the end of the 14th century, the Byzantine Empire's reign over northern Greece was being threatened by Turkish invaders who wanted control over the fertile plain of Thessaly. The hermit monks, seeking a retreat from the expanding Turkish occupation, found the inaccessible rock pillars of Meteora to be an ideal refuge and built more than 20 monasteries, out of which only six exist today; five are inhabited by men, one by women, with fewer than 10 inhabitants in each.

The six monasteries are The Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron (the largest of the monasteries at Metéora), The Holy Monastery of Varlaam (the second largest), The Holy Monastery of Rousanou/St. Barbara, The Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas, The Holy Monastery of St. Stephen, and The Monastery of Holy Trinity.

In the 1920s there was an improvement in the arrangements. Steps were cut into the rock, making the complex accessible via a bridge from the nearby plateau. During World War II the site was bombed and many art treasures were stolen.

Click on the photo for an enlarged view. Photo size: 1600 x 1200 pixels, 174 KB.

Mount Olympus: view from Litochoro

Mount Olympus, the highest mountain range in Greece, has its highest peak Mitikas (Mytikas), which is 2,919 meters high (9,577 feet). It is located in the borders of Thessaly and Macedonia, about 100 km away from Thessaloniki. The mountain has been regarded as the ‘home of the gods’, specifically of the Twelve Olympians, the twelve principal gods of the ancient Hellenistic world, according to Greek mythology. The mount is popular with climbers, though it is a non-technical hike, except for the final 30 minute section from Skala summit to Mitikas summit. Climbers mostly start from the town of Litochoro. (Photo dated: Jan 21, 2007.)

Alexander fighting Persian King Darius III

This image of Alexander the Great (Alexander III of Macedon, 356-323 BC), the king of Macedon, on his horse Bucephalus fighting the Persian King Darius III, is from Alexander Mosaic from Pompeii, Naples National Archaeological Museum. He held such varied titles as Hegemon of the Hellenic League, Shahanshah of Persia, Pharaoh of Egypt and Lord of Asia.

Alexander, credited in history as the conqueror of one of the largest empires in ancient history, had classical Greek education as a student of the famed philosopher Aristotle, and succeeded his father Philip II of Macedon to the throne in 336 BC after the King was assassinated. He died thirteen years later at the age of 32 in Babylon. Though Alexander's reign and empire were short-lived, the impact of his conquests lasted for centuries. He is remembered for his tactical ability and for spreading Greek culture to the East, heralding Hellenistic civilization.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

HSV-X1 Joint Venture of US Navy

The multi-service high speed vessel, HSV-X1 Joint Venture pulls into the port of Souda Bay, Crete, on Apr 3, 2002. The 315-foot-long experimental craft is a wave-piercing catamaran capable of 45 knots and is currently being operated by joint U.S. Army and U.S. Navy personnel. Joint Venture’s naval employments include replenishment and re-supply at sea, special operations insertion and redeployment, reconnaissance, command and control, anti-submarine warfare, mine warfare, humanitarian assistance and evacuation, surface warfare and force protection. This ship has served a deployment in Operation Enduring Freedom, spending time around the Horn of Africa, the region containing the countries of Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Somalia.
Author: U.S. Navy photo by Paul Farley.

Catamaran: Oar training on the Odra River

Sweep row training on Catamaran: Oar training on the Odra River (Oder River) in Wroclaw. The Odra is in Central Europe, originating in the Czech Republic and flowing through western Poland, later forming the border between Poland and Germany, and it finally flows into the Szczecin Lagoon north of Stettin (Szczecin) and then into the Baltic Sea.