Dec 26, 2014

Summary of Dec 22 - 26: Rome, Bari, Durrës

My time in Rome‎ was full of wonder and exploration, which explains the length of the last update. Unfortunately, a post of that length takes quite a few hours to compose as I reconstruct the day and do some background research to make sure I've got my facts straight.

I intend to continue writing those longer‎ pieces, if only to ensure I record the details while the events are still fresh in my memory. I realise that it may be a little much for a casual reader of my blog, so I'll be posting shorter summaries every day I can connect to the internet, and longer ones every few days. This will also depend on how many hours I've spent on the road. If I don't stop walking until 9:00 pm, I may scribble a few notes in my journal, but I'm not likely to post an update at all.


Monday, December 22: a lot of municipally operated sites are closed Mondays. I visited the Basilica of St Maria Maggiore ‎and the catacombs of St Callisto. Got back to my room by 4:00, packed, and headed to the train station. Arrived in Bari after four hours and started searching for a place to stay. Wound up in a hostel half a block from the train station, after walking several kilometres. Inadvertently explored the old city, found the Basilica of St Nicholas, was highly amused at the site of a public square edged with palm trees that had a beautiful fountain and an outdoor ice-skating rink.

Tuesday, December 23: had breakfast, walked to the Basilica of St Nicholas and spent some time there. Walked a few blocks to the port, bought a ticket on the next ferry to Durrës (Albania). I had 13 hours until the 11:00 PM departure, so I went back to see old St Nick. Hit the sunny seaside promenade. Lunch at a café with free WiFi. Visited the "Castello Svevo," a massive fortification overlooking the harbour. This "Swabian Castle" has a core built by the Normans when they were rampaging through the Mediterranean. Robert Guiscard is the name first associated with it, although Isabella of Aragorn also made significant contributions to the structure many centuries later. Went to the port and checked in and then just hung around waiting to board. It was 00:22 when we finally began pulling away from the dock, almost an hour and a half behind schedule. Slept on the floor of the lounge with many other passengers who hadn't paid for a cabin.

Wednesday, December 24: Arrived in Durrës and sailed through customs. Sunny and warm by the time I started walking around looking for a place at 9:00 AM. A few hours later I was settling in to my room at Hotel Lido, a ten minute walk from the Orthodox cathedral of St Paul and St Astius. Stopped by to enquire about service times and learned the Liturgy for the Nativity would begin at 6:00 AM on Christmas Day. Finally found a bank machine that operated on the same network as my debit card and withdrew what I hope will be enough cash to last the week I expect to be in Albania. Bought some groceries, headed back to the hotel, and continued typing my "Bridging Pagan and Christian Rome" update. 

Thursday, December 25: CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM! I arrived at the cathedral shortly before 6:00 AM. Although I didn't know a word of liturgical Albanian, the structure of Orthros and Liturgy is the same. And it didn't take me long to recognise certain key liturgical phrases. Met several English-speaking parishioners afterwards, and all of the clergy. (Four priests, one deacon - the bishop was at the monastery nearby.)‎ Back to the hotel, uploaded photos and finally posted my mammoth update that covered Sunday Dec 21. Went out, had dinner, found the Archeological Museum. I think it's the only thing in the city that was closed.

Friday, December 26: I'd misunderstood the time of this morning's Liturgy, and arrived with my backpack just as the people were receiving Communion. Chatted with Dmitri and Dcn. Anthony, and they arranged a ride to the monastery for me. I walked to the rendezvous and chatted with several folks while waiting. Beautiful sunny morning, but rain was forecast for the afternoon and evening and I was thinking of walking either 15 or 34 kms. Arrived at the monastery of Shen Vlash, which also has an orphanage and a theological academy on the grounds. Met the bishop, got his blessing, and a stamp for my little pilgrimage book. They offered me coffee, and while I was drinking that, a plate of appetisers was brought out. As I was readying myself to leave, I was told that lunch was ready. Would I please join them? By 2:00 PM, the sky was dark and it was raining fairly heavily. I got a ride back to Durrës and checked back into the hotel I'd left seven hours earlier. The receptionist asked if I'd had a problem. "Too much hospitality" doesn't qualify as a problem in my books. Typed this up, and now I'm about to revisit the museum. Its normal opening hours are 9:00-1:00 and 5:00-7:00. If nothing else, I'll have dinner before returning to the hotel. Early start tomorrow, with plenty of sunshine and a forecast high of 8 Celsius. Perfect walking weather!

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