My book Why Religions Work explores religious tolerance issues. It could not be more relevant at the moment with the world in its present state.
This blog has concentrated recently on the wonderful pilgrimages I have been on - to the Holy Land and to Turkey and more recently to Holy Georgia , Greece "In the Steps of St Paul" , Ethiopia and most recently my experiences in Iran.

"If I was allowed another life I would go to all the places of God's Earth. What better way to worship God than to look on all his works?" from The Chains of Heaven: an Ethiopian Romance Philip Marsden

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Travelling through Greece - in the Steps of St Paul - back in Kavala

Fire breaks zig-zag crazily down through the forests - fire must be a real hazard here in such searing temperatures and tinder dry vegetation. It is a big asparagus growing area - we see the fields on our way back to Kavala - bright orange pots are for sale at the roadside - all one price - 5 Euro. Allotments look very much like mine at home - complete with scarecrows. We pass remnants of the original Via Egnatia - and plenty of beehives - plus many little road side shrines - commemorating victims of road accidents. We visited Philippi this morning and have the rest of the day free in Kavala to have lunch and explore further.We see plenty of 1920s refugee accommodation lining the streets coming down into old city - contrasting sharply with the stunning views of the port laid out below us.
 Barley is being grown in quantity for the local Fix beer - which is very good - and is now building up its own export business. Thinking of beer, it is lunch time. There are plenty of water front tavernas plying their trade. The appetizers are all huge and it is obviously expected that a variety of appetizers are ordered and shared between a group - that is clearly the way to do it - like Georgia and Jerusalem and Turkey on previous pilgrimages. The double headed eagle by the port is symbol of the Byzantine empire.

locals enjoying the Kavala beach
Kavala beach
After lunch I take myself off to explore the coast to the west of the hotel - I shared my breakfast table this morning with a lady who is staying in the hotel while she visits a friend in the town and I mistook her on the first morning for a member of our group. She has told me that there is a swimming beach further round from the port, where the locals play and swim and I'm off to find it. It is quite a walk, given the afternoon heat. I go through the incredible aftermath of the Saturday street market - rubbish galore, but all being meticulously swept up by two men with nothing more than two small besom type brooms. Tomorrow there will be no trace left and all will be clean and tidy again. But as I leave the old town and port and approach the beach side promenade there is a dramatic change. The prom is but a shadow of its former glory - gardens neglected and everything including three changing cubicles on the beach itself so run down, with graffiti just about everywhere. The sand is very gritty but the sea is certainly not cold and local families are out in force enjoying themselves all along the beach. Paddling and swimming in the sea and enjoying the sand is free entertainment where financial worries can be put aside for a while.
interesting art/graffiti
Walking back to the hotel through the town itself it is suddenly eerily deserted. Most of the shops seem to be shuttered for the siesta and there appears to be a storm brewing. The atmosphere has become very heavy and thick black clouds are visible in the distance. Near the back entrance to the hotel I come upon a plinth commemorating Alexander the Great. An elderly Greek man comes up to me and starts gesticulating wildly. Have I done something wrong? But he seems friendly and after many smiles and waving of arms I understand that he is simply telling me what a very great man Alexander the Great was.

Alexander III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a King of the Ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon and a member of the Argead dynasty. July 356 BC to 323 BC, His father was Philip II of Macedon, his mother Olympias. By the age of thirty he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, a new Hellenistic civilization and features prominently in the history and myth of Greek and non Greek cultures. Along with his teacher Aristotle he is often thought of as one of the most influential people of all time.

Enticing cake shop Kavala

On the side of the statue as I walk around it I see a plaque recording the oath which Alexander the Great gave at Opis in 324 BC, just one year before he died, at a banquet before 9,000 Greek and Asian officers. Below is not perhaps quite the exact translation recorded in Kavala - but it's close. Please read it - oh if only!

Alexander the Great Plinth Kavala
“It is my wish, now that wars are coming to an end, that you should all be happy in peace. From now on, let all mortals live as one people, in fellowship, for the good of all. See the whole world as your homeland, with laws common to all, where the best will govern regardless of their race. Unlike the narrow -minded, I make no distinction between Greeks and barbarians. The origin of citizens, or the race into which they were born, is of no concern to me. I have only one criterion by which to distinguish their virtue. For me, any good foreigner is a Greek and any bad Greek is worse than a barbarian. If disputes ever occur among you, you will not resort to weapons but will solve them in peace. If need be, I shall arbitrate between you. See God not as an autocratic despot, but as the common father of all and thus your conduct will be like the lives of brothers within the same family. I on my part, see you all as equal, whether you are white or dark-skinned. And I should like you not simply to be subjects of my commonwealth, but members of it, partners of it. To the best of my ability, I shall strive to do what I have promised. Keep as a symbol of love this oath which we have taken tonight with our libations”.

the double headed eagle at Kavala Port
The threat of storm has come to nothing. By 6 pm the harbour is bustling once again with life and activity in the tavernas, the economy helped no doubt by the very large ship in port for the night - a Hellenic Seaways liner or ferry. Many passengers offload here, with their assortment of baggage, some probably arriving home after trips to who knows where, others on the tourist trail. The roads have suddenly become very busy indeed, and where casual jay walking was the order of the day earlier on, now I have to use the lights to cross safely. I see an elderly man with a very old push chair of the simple folding type I used for my sons all those many years ago. But there is no child in this buggy. It is full of garlic bulbs, held together in ropes reminiscent of the way I have seen the French carry them on their bicycle handle bars. Here the Greek is pushing his wares from restaurant to restaurant hoping for sales before the busy evening restaurant trade.

Tomorrow we say goodbye to Kavala and continue to the Steps of St Paul...

1 comment:

  1. Amazing to read the oath of Alexander! He was certainly ahead of his time.