Never on Sunday

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St. Paul’s nunnery in Plaka, Lavrion March 20th, 2015

A special journey this season of lent.

 

This past Friday, my dear friend and I decided to take a little pilgrimage to St. Paul’s Monastery in Plaka near Lavrion. Our desire was to leave the realm of city life for a moment to attend the 4th Salutations to Virgin Mary in peace and stillness. Happily, peace and stillness is what we found. We discovered one of the most magical places in our midst. Just when we thought we could drive no longer (or any further), having been in the car for 60 minutes, we finally saw a small sign pointing to the monastery. We drove up the hill and found its lush gardens that surround and protect the monastery from the outside world, The gardens literally make it invisible from the outside. We entered through the black gate and ascended the stairs to find the main church. Aalthough relatively newly-built, the church was constructed in a classical style similar to older churches.  A basic cruciform plan, with chant stands on either side.  The barrel vault and apse above the altar embrace lovely paintings, newly executed. A few people attended the mass in a pious atmosphere. Psalms were chanted by the nuns and filled the pilgrims’ hearts and souls with feelings of relief and refuge – a kind of esoteric meeting between souls.

 

The monastery, primarily a nunnery, hosts nuns from 13 countries making it a multinational religious point. Besides their religious activities, the dedicated nuns are diligently occupied with farm work and other handicrafts. The fruit of their labour has greatly benefited the monastery and their livelihood – All products produced at the monastery are for sale, visitors can uy products such as cheese, herbs, homemade marmalades & sweets as well as an array of handicrafts.

After we treated ourselves to one of these delicacies, we casted one last look at the breathtaking view the monastic enclosure offers of the Lavrion coast and the city of Athens. Driving away, we were accompanied with the echo of the nuns soft voices singing praise to the Virgin.

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The Hammam Of Athens

Three years ago, “Hammam Baths” opened their doors in Athens, on Asomaton Street in the Thisio area of Athens – near Monastiraki square. Situated in a neighborhood of unique historic significance near the archaeological site of Kerameikos, the ancient agora and the Synagogue of Athens this hidden gem is one not to be missed by locals and visitors in Athens.

When entering this beautiful neoclassical building one comes across a space with a modern twist, but that wholly honors and respects its original roots. Anyone passing through those doors, will travel back in time. The building’s marble wash basins, marble beds and its imposing domed ceilings are the work of Turkish architect Ayøegül Özer, while the modernday pestemal towels, the takunya clogs, the loofa sponges, the kessa gloves and the soaps come directly from Turkey, Jordan, and Syria.

Last Saturday I visited this beautiful space for its signature treatment called “Ali-Mama Hammam”.

The ritual started with a 30 minute hammam session on a heated marble stone slab that included a rejuvenating steam bath and a deep exfoliating scrub. A full-body massage with natural olive-oil soap followed and ended with a kafa, a hair wash and energizing head massage.  The duration of the treatment was 90 minutes. There are a lot of additional services that can be included according to your individual needs and wants; for example the special anti-cellulite therapy (Selülite Karsi) and traditional thread hair removal. At the end, of the 90 minute treatment, you are invited into the Hammam relaxation room where you are greeted with an assortment of teas and traditional “loukoumi” Turkish delight. What a perfect end to a perfect experience.

I recommend that you treat yourself to this little slice of heaven after a long days work or on a day off. The Hammam operates daily until 10pm.

TIPS:

  • Try and visit the Hammam in the late hours so as to make sure that you will enjoy the serenity of the space without distractions!
  • Avoid special holidays, such as Valentine’s Day – that was a big mistake on my part last Saturday!
  • Take your own Havajanas as the wooden clogs that you will be given at the Hammam may be difficult for some to walk in – they were definitely impossible for me!

Most important tip for life; Start treating yourself like the Greek Goddess Aphrodite. Pamper yourself,

I am sure you deserve it!

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Two men, two centuries apart who beautified Greece.

Giorgos Mihalakopoulos is not only a great actor, but also a socially active citizen, and teacher. It’s been said that if he lived in England he would have been knighted and given the title “Sir”. One of the greatest students and later collaborators of the widely known Karolos Koun, internationally renowned theater director, Giorgos Mihalakopoulos, is known for his vivid interpretations of ancient Greek dramas. Nowadays Mr. Mihalakopoulos is writing his own chapter in the very long history of Greek theater by performing regularly at the National Theater in Athens.

 

Ernst Ziller was a Saxon architect who later became a Greek national, and in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was a major designer of beautiful royal and municipal buildings in Athens and other Greek cities. His work constitutes a milestone in contemporary Greek architecture.

 

Enough with my little history lesson, let me reveal the connection between these two great gents:

A man for all seasons by Robert Bolt. This spectacular play starring Giorgos Mihalakopoulos is currently playing in the National Theater of Greece, whose main stage is hosted in the historic neoclassical building that is said to be Ernst Ziller’s architectural masterpiece. Throughout the entire performance of this moving and inspiring play, all I kept thinking about was Ziller admiring Mihalakopoulos from up above.