Sunday, December 29, 2013

Now for my Violin, If you Please

Ahhhh, a six-week piece of sleuthing finished.  Fair damsel saved, albeit with a bruised heart (but that was going to happen no matter what), crook exposed, lies documented, criminal charges pending.  Victims unlikely ever to see their money again, but neither will they be losing any more.  Case over, at least as far as any involvement of mine.

Most satisfactory.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Different Place

Walking into church Sunday, I was more than usually aware of entering a different world, or at least a different dimension.  Not that it is separate from the wider world; far from it.  It is, mystically, the very heart of it, creation's inner sanctum.  

But it's different.  Everything is different:  the architecture of an Orthodox church, the sights, the sounds, the "smells and bells".  The icons do not look like real people and aren't meant to; they are stylized.  (They attempt to depict glorified souls as well as bodies.)  The music is composed to appeal to your inner spirit, not to your ears, though if sung well, it may do that, too. The air is sweet with incense.  People are dressed modestly.  People move about reverently but freely, kissing, kissing, kissing.  They kiss each other, Bibles, icons... and it seems everybody is always bowing to everybody else.  Including the priest, who bows to the people three separate times during the service.  

In this place, values are different.  Money, fame, status, and prestige do not reign; indeed, they count for nothing.  In this place, candles, oil, water, wine, bread, all mean something different.  Everything means something different, and all is transformed.  In this place, people's beliefs are different.  They may seem to those outside the Church like elaborate fables: a God Who came among us as a true man, without compromising His divinity, Who permanently transfigured death into a new form of life.  Sunday, chills ran up and down me as I recited the Creed, those foolish-sounding, ancient words of wisdom.  In this place, both explicable and inexplicable miracles abound.  Physical and spiritual blindness, lameness, deafness are healed, with equal mystery.  In this place, the damage life has inflicted upon our emotions and intellects and character is gradually undone.  

And all this difference can be summarized in one word:  Love.  That is, unconditional, self-sacrificing love, Love that gives without asking anything in return.  It's all because we have encountered this Love in the flesh, and it has overwhelmed us, and made us long to love, and struggle to love, with that same love that has lifted us up.  And when we fail to love infinitely, perfectly, we sorrow, but to the extent we do participate in this Love, our joy know no bounds; in fact, we come to know deeply that there is no other true Joy.

And in Orthodox Christianity, every dab of paint in the icons, every note of the music, every flicker of candles, every doctrine and every gesture, is in the service of this Love:  to explicate it (insofar as that is possible), to help us grow in it, to guard the authentic experience and true understanding of it, to propagate it.  And that is what makes the church the heart of the world; it is a piece of the world as thecworld ought to be.  And that in turn makes it a little piece of heaven on earth.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wonderful Reunion

Dinner Monday night with our beloved visitors from Russia, Father Vladimir and Ilya, his son.  Ilya is Kremlin correspondent for Bloomberg news.  Matter of fact, he once took me on a tour of the Kremlin, ah, long ago, when he was still a university student.  Now he is married and the father of two.

In case you are wondering how it is a Russian Orthodox priest has no beard, it's due to the severe injuries he once sustained in an assassination attempt.  He has no hair at all, not even eyelashes.

Fr. Vladimir is currently recovering from a RE-replacement of a hip, shattered at the same time.

     Two very dear friends, together again at last.  

Sunday, November 3, 2013

So Far and So Near

Looking over my life, I clearly, tearfully perceive that no matter how far I have been from God - and that has been pretty far, most of the time, especially when I thought the opposite - there has never, ever, been a moment when He was far from me.  Whatever my soul's condition, He has always been right there, closer than my own breath, my whole life.

Back in Richmond

Traveling on different planes, different airlines, with different routes, we nevertheless both managed to make it back home, safe and sound.

Interesting things happen when you come back after an extended absence.  Especially if you have made the mistake of arriving on a week-end.  We ought to have learned that lesson from our Experience of being stranded in England, but obviously we forgot.  The reason you should never arrive on a weekend is, things like banks and the Department of Motor Vehicles are all closed.

So the first thing you want when you come home after an extended absence is food in the house, isn't it?

Well, around here, to get food, you need a car.

To drive your car (legally) you must re-activate its license tags (registration).  And, in our case, replace Demetrios' driver's license, stolen with his wallet in Athens.

To do these things you must (besides waiting until Monday), reinstate your auto insurance.

To reinstate your auto insurance, you must give the insurance company a ring.

To call up your insurance company, you must have a telephone.

To get your telephone, you must re-start your telephone, television, and Internet service.

To re-start these, you need, well, a telephone.

Forget that!  What you need is some very good neighbors, like our neighbors, Frances and Dickie!  They picked me up from the airport, took me to the grocery store, and would have lent me their phone, but Verizon miraculously followed instructions and had turned our service back on as of the day before we returned.

The next interesting thing happens if you had just re-organized the house shortly before you left.  What is this?  (Oh, yes, bought it the day before I left.)  How did this get here?  Where did that go?

A third issue we ran into was that the doors to two closets had swollen shut from humidity and had been that way for heaven only knows how long.  I couldn't get to my nightgowns, my bathrobe or slippers, to my church clothes (not that we can drive to church anyway), or any clothes appropriate to the season.  I'm wearing summer clothes.  Fortunately, it is warm today.

At long last, with Demetrios using a putty knife in the crack above the door and wielding it as if it had been a crowbar, and with me simultaneously tugging as hard as I could on the door handle, we managed to open the doors.

Almost wish we hadn't.  Not a pretty sight or smell.  Everything in that closet will have to be laundered, dry cleaned, or thrown away.  At least that solves the issue for me of the things I wasn't sure I had the heart to toss out.  I have.  And on Monday, I will go buy some laundry detergent...

It's beautiful here.  The autumn leaves, although past their peak, are still in high color and the days are warm at least during the middle of the day.

Last night, waiting for Demetrios to come home, I sat with my other neighbors on their new back-yard patio, complete with fire pit, in which they had lit a bonfire.  Then I went to Frances and Dickie again, just because I have missed them.

Monday we will go to the Department of Motor Vehicles, bank, supermarket, etc., etc., etc.

And our Russian friends are here in town and await us, which is the best thing of all.  Will write more on that later, but read their wonderful story here in the meanwhile.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Slogging Through a Wonderful St. Demetrios Day

It was a wonderful day, mind.  But it started early, ended late, and wasn't easy in between.

We got up in the deep darkness, arrived in the Church of St. Demetrios still in the deep dark (7:20).  That's the church built over the spot where the Saint was imprisoned and killed, in a Roman bath.  His relics are here.

St. Demetrios is one of several illustrious saints Thessaloniki has given the Church, but in this city, he is the favorite.  St. Gregory Palamas, another famous Thessalonian, called him the sun among the stars.  

I suppose, to explain about the Feast of Saint Demetrios, we have first to say what a saint is, in Orthodox Christianity.  "Saint" means holy person and there is a sense in which we are all made holy in Christ and the term rightly applies to all of us, but that isn't the sense under discussion here. 

Well then, a saint is not just a super-religious person who shows great devotion (Francis of Assisi) or writes beautiful religious poetry (John of the Cross) or renders great service to a religious institution (Ignatius Loyola) or has a towering personality and fabulous intellect (Bernard of Clairvaux) or does heroic deeds (Joan of Arc).  For us, Christ is the yardstick, the measure of holiness.  The criterion is, to what degree do we see Jesus Christ's own Life being lived in and through this person?  How well has he or she succeeded in becoming full of compassion, kindness, humanity, humility, self-sacrificing love?  To what degree is this person Christ-with-skin-on?

And the Orthodox believe such a person, still filled with the Holy Spirit after death, continues whatever ministry God had given him or her in this life.  Thus, the Lord's Mother is still the mother of all God's children.   And Saint Demetrios still, by his prayers, aids his city, Thessaloniki, entrusted to him by God.  To his intercessions is credited the rescue of the City from plague, from the Bulgarians, several times, I think; and it was on his feast  in 1912 Thessaloniki was liberated from the Ottoman Turks.  So his feast day is a national and especially a local holiday.  Christians here meet to praise God for this Saint, to sing songs in the saint's honor, and to commemorate his life and death. 

So by the time we got through all the police guarding every intersection near the Church, every approach  but one being closed, it was 7:20 and the downstairs was already hopelessly packed.  We headed up to the balcony, two and a half flights of steep stairs, where we found exactly two seats left, from which anything could be seen.  We wanted to be able to see the proceedings.  We had stayed strictly away from this church after our disastrous experience  there on this day in 2007,   when we became lost from each other and never did find each other again until the middle of the afternoon, at home, each meanwhile fearing the other had met with foul play.  But today, the Patriarch of Constantinople was serving the Divine Liturgy, so we came back, sticking to each other like glue.

Matins was already in progress.  At 7:40, the bells began ringing loudly, joyously, signaling the arrival of Patriarch Bartholomew.  We couldn't see him at this point, but he would have arrived in plain monk's garb, and would have been helped, at the back of the church, out of the black robe and into his flowing purple ad gold cloak, cum train.

Attended by a dozen other bishops and several priests, he led us in the Great Doxology, after some initial proceedings, and by just about 9:00, the Patriarchal Divine Liturgy began.  If I tell you that by 10:30, we had only gotten a far as the Lord's Prayer - about, what? two thirds of the way through the service? - you will understand something of what it was like.

Meanwhile, people just kept arriving.  I knew they would, but our seats, providentially, were right beside what you might loosely describe as an architectural feature (something like bleachers having been constructed in the balcony) that kept them at some small distance from us.  That, plus the fact I was able to look all the way up the aisle to the front of the church, kept my claustrophobia manageable.  (The church is at least the length of two football fields, maybe three.)  People just kept coming and coming and I grew more and more restless.  There were easily 700 of us, just on the balcony, thousands more below.  At some point, someone mercifully turned on the air conditioning and then I felt I could breathe.  The late arrivals had not even stopped when the early departures began, people going to receive communion and thence home, as there was no place for them downstairs and they weren't about to tackle those exhausting, crowded stairs a second time.  

There is exactly one stairway to and from the balcony, so it stayed busy the whole time.

At some point, late in the day, the dignitaries began putting in their appearance, filling up the center front of the church, which  had been kept clear for them.  A big chair, gilded, red velvet seat, was set in the center for the President of the Republic.  The Prime Minister, Mr. Samaras, was still in Brussels, where he belongs.  The Foreign Minister stood next to the President, and behind them, on one side, the rest of the ruling elite; on the other side, the top brass of the military.  Guards all up and down the aisle.  We had changed seats by now, finding empty ones nearer the front, so we had a good view, directly above them.

The Patriarch's sermon was wonderful!  The subject - what else? - was the Love of Christ.  Of course he alluded to the story of St. Demetrios, by whose prayers a young Christian named Nestor defeated Emperor Galerius Maximian's favorite giant gladiator, a Vandal named Lyaios.  And the Patriarch told us, Do not be afraid of the contemporary Lyaioses;  St. Demetrios is still praying for you and the same thing will happen again.  Not meaning we should do nothing!  Rather, that in our contest  with the contemporary big guys, we will win.  Of course the "contemporary Lyaioses" were standing right in front of him as he spoke!  Beautiful!   Not sure they got it, likely not.  But it took rather a lot of courage for the Patriarch to say this, the more so, given he lives among hostile Turks and depends so much upon Greece for various kinds of support.

Of course, what the Patriarch said  is exactly what the song of St. Demetrios says, too.  We sang it about five times, I think, in all.  (Instead of the one time it is always sung here.)  People sang it with great fervor and gratitude and hope.  

The world has found you to be a great defender
a champion in times of danger
and a vanquisher of heathens, you bearer of trophies.
As you bolstered the courage of Nestor,
who then humbled the arrogance of Lyaios in battle,
in like manner, holy one, great Martyr Demetrios,
intercede with Christ God for us, that He may grant us His great mercy.

At the end, our local Bishop, Anthimos, had us all sing the national anthem, a paean to Freedom.  We sang that with great enthusiasm, too: "Hail, hail, O Freedom!"

Here  are some Internet photos, mostly of the Lyaioses present, but ignore the ignorant captions.  This was a regular Patriarchal Divine Liturgy, much like the usual Liturgy, with added touches customary when a patriarch is serving it.  it was not some sort of "glorification ceremony," whatever that is thought to mean.   The 14th photo was taken from where we were.

We departed while the Patriarch was still being greeted by the big-wigs, working our way single file through a double police cordon outside and exiting the grounds through an opening that admitted just one person at a time.  It wasn't the Patriarch the were protecting; it was the contemporary Lyaioses.  

It was twelve noon.

We stopped at a little eatery where we had some breakfast pastries.  A marching band came by, playing "Macedonia", a patriotic song.  I was near tears, thinking what a proud but pathetic son;  "Macedonia the renowned, home of Great Alexander."  That's really pathetic, I said to Demetrios, for a little nothing country  to have to go back that far to find someone to be proud of.  He promptly reminded m that this was nonsense, that Greece, right up to modern times, has never lacked for heroes and martyrs, and proceeded to educate me about some of the more recent ones.

We went home and collapsed.  I couldn't tell whether my back or my feet were hurting more.

At night, we hosted eight of our friends for a St. Demetrios dinner at a taverna.  Here are some photos.  We got home at midnight.  Demetrios came home with a new shirt, tie, pullover, and book, and our friends brought a box full of chocolates just for me.  

Phideas, our nephew, Christos' son.  It's his nameday, too, as his middle name is Demetrios.

Ianna, left, and Mena

Pelagia, telling a funny story, and George

Manolis and Vasiea

George and Leonidas

Ioannis, "the Theologian"

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


 I've just re-read Hamlet.  There are 8 deaths during the play, incluing his own and the deaths of all those dearest to him (not counting the murder of Hamlet, Sr., which happens before the play begins).  Hamlet is directly responsible for at least four of these deaths, and indirectly responsible for all the rest.  

How did that happen?  How did he, literally and figuratively a prince of a man, starting out as a victim and gaining our strong sympathy from the start, end up being by far the main villain of the piece?

As I see it, his first mistake was to allow himself to be ruled by passions.  So your mother conspires to kill your father; that's strong stuff and obviously extremely hard to handle.  Within weeks, she marries the man who physically carried out the deed; that's even tougher.  But you just don't go all suicidal over it and carry on with whether to be or not to be.  To be is an unfathomably glorious gift and suffering is there to teach us wisdom, not to freak out over.

Hamlet' second mistake was to listen to his father's ghost.  That should be too obvious to need comment.  It's just superstition to suppose that until our bloody thirst for revenge is gratified, a dead person cannot rest in peace.  It's we who perhaps cannot.

Third mistake, setting himself up as judge.  The simple, sober fact is that we just do not know enough to judge anybody, even supposing we were righteous enough to do it without comdemning ourselves in and by the very process.  The first thing we do not know is anyone else's heart.  (It's hard enough to know our own.) The second thing we do not know is how much we ourselves have contributed to someone else's sin.  This is because our contribution to it is often very indirect, and also because we prefer not to see it.  But the truth is, every one of us has added his/her share to the rotten way this world is, so nobody's sin leaves my supposed innocence untouched.  The third thing we do not know is what we ourselves would do in the same situation.  We think we would NEVER do this or that; we promise ourselves we never shall, but when the challenge presents itself in real life... This is why we pray, "Lead us not into temptation," meaning do not put us to the test– because humility, which is just the correct perception of reality, compels us to admit we may flunk!

And then Hamlet's ultimate mistake was to set himself up as executioner.  Do this, thereby placing yourself completely into the hands of the devil, and he whose constant aim is to kill us all will use you to cause more horror than you could ever have imagined.  

And that, to me, is what this play is about.
Wonderful site, presenting Shakespeare's original text side-by-side with a modern text.  
The one is sublime, the other more accessible, so we get the best of both.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Not About You ( or me)

An Orthodox worship service is not about making you feel comfortable in church.  It is not about educating you, amusing you, or entertaining you.  It is not about converting you, not about  evangelizing you; there are six other days a week for that.  It is not about using you to grow the Church.  It is not about making you feel good, giving you an emotional high so you will say you have been "fed".   It is not about inspiring you or comforting you or encouraging you.  It is not about making beliefs or practices seem more palatable to you.  It isn't about giving you pointers for a more successful life.  Although some of these things do happen in an Orthodox service, the fact is, it isn't about you at all.  

It's about God, the Holy Trinity, as revealed in Jesus Christ.  It's about God and what sort of worship best pleases HIM.  It's about remembering all His kindnesses and infinite mercies, His miracles, and all He has accomplished for our salvation.  It's about acknowledging Him, about praising and thanking and blessing and petitioning and glorifying Him.  It's about singing and praying to Him.  It's about offering ourseles, each other, our whole lives, one another, and our world back to Him.  It's about communing with Him, sharing in His mystical Body and Blood.

That's Who it is all about.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Nights Out, Part 2

Last Thursday night, we met at the house of Ioannis and Mena, and here are some pictures from there.

Ioannis, with Mena

Vasilis, Demetrios, Ioannis's wife Mena, and the other Mena, widow of Kostas


I only took photos of some of us; the others must await another time.  To tell you the truth, I wanted to show you the house in this case.  The only people of this (theological discussion) group I haven't shown you so far are Takis and his wife, Maria.  They usually come late.  Maria has Altzheimer's and getting her out is obviously an increasingly difficult job.

The house, or the compound, rather, is for sale.  Very nice property in the country.  Mountain views.  Spacious apartments for all of Ioannis and Mena's children.  One, however, is a nun in a nearby convent (in Souroti) and the others don't want to live out there where there are no jobs and there's nothing for young people to do.  So Ioannis and Mena are upping stakes to live in ttheir city apartment.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Nights Out

Out theological discussion group has been meeting every other Thursday as usual.  I do not find it

of particular interest, except because of being with our friends.  Here are some of us, at the home of Manolis and Vasilea.


Mena.  Those three poles in the background are the masts of a model ship.  To the right of the chimney and behind it is a dining room, while to the left is a home office cum ship.

Mena again, and the knee of Vasilis, her son.  Grand piano gets lost in this room.



Stephanos, Manolis'es and Vasilea's son.  He is NOT mentally handicapped; he is spastic.  Cannot speak and drools continuously.  He is also the happiest human being I have ever met.


This is well worth a read!!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Another Outstanding Post from a Lutheran Blogger

Anne has done her research, as always, about that word usually translated "propitiation", and has set forth the correct understanding.  It's important because misunderstanding it has been known to wreak all sorts of theological havoc.  Check it out!

Taking a break in Stavros, Part 03

Here are some more photos from our trip, last week, to Stavros.  We are home now, and having all our floors re-done (except the kitchen floor, which comes next year, we hope).

Around town.

Old and new (satellite dishes)

A walk at sunset

 Can you see how, unfortunately, the swimming beaches are too close to the small port with the cargo ships?

Cargo ships

Small fishing boats.  The fishermen go out a way, shine a gas light into the water, and net the fish the light attracts.  The fishermen weren't going out for several days while we were there, on account of the full  moon.

The mountains feel close enough to touch.

On the right, Demetrios, flanked by out host and hostess, Leonidas and Ianna.  On the left, an old high school chum, Takis, with his wife Maria.

View from our table.


Leonidas, with his favorite picture.  It lights up and the water seems to flow.  It also has sound effects, flowing water and chirping birds.  Ianna won't have it in the house, so it stays on the front porch.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Taking a Break in Stavros, Part 2

After we had a look around his farm, Ioannis brought us cold water and cookies, plus a bunch of grapes.  The grapes are ripe now, and so is the pomegranate and the quince.  We sat under a huge tent behind his house, at a table where he told us 30 people had sat this past Pascha.  

Painted gourds in Ioannis' tent.

We made ready to go and Ioannis slipped into the henhouse and sent us away with a dozen eggs.

Next to be visited was Leonidas' sister, Soula.  We found her raking in her garden, a large, yellow apron over her widow's black.  She greeted us warmly, removed her apron, and led us into her little apartment, on the ground floor.

I had in mind, as I took these photos, giving you a sneak peek at her home, as well.  That's her bedroom, behind Leonidas.

As always,  I greatly admired her handiwork.  That tablecloth on the coffee table is hand-embroidered and  trimmed with crochet.  Here is a crocheted doily I have admired for years. I once spent quite a while trying, unsuccessfully, to "translate" the pattern into knitting.  I suppose I'll just have to crochet it some day.  It's hexagonal pinwheels, as you can see by looking at the edges.

This one she swears was knitted on pins, and by 'pins' she does not mean knitting needles, as the English do.  She means those things you use to pin up a hem!  Straight pins, we call them in America.  She showed them to me.  Yikes!

We told stories and jokes and she made us take home little bottles of her homemade liqueur in two flavors:  wild cherry, made with brandy, cloves, and cinnamon; and tangerine, made with ouzo, if I understood her correctly.  Haven't yet tasted that, but the cherry is wonderful.  Years ago, Soula's wild cherry liqueur was the first I had ever tasted, and I've never since had any better.

We then went home with all our treasures, for a midday meal and a nap.  In the evening, we went for a snack supper in the village and were joined by Leonidas' sister, Freedom.  More on that in the next post.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Taking a Break in Stavros

Stavros is a seaside tourist town.  Holiday-makers come here by bus from places like Serbia or Lithuania or Czechoslovakia and rent rooms by the week.  The scenery is gorgeous and besides the main attractions, the sun and the clear, warm sea, there are cheap eateries, kiddie rides, and beachwear or souvenir shops.

Our friends, ianna and Leonidas, have a holiday home here in his hometown.  So the invited us to come Thursday and Friday.  

Today, Friday, we went to visit two of Leonidas' dozen siblings, starting with Ioannis, on his little ramshackle farm.

Here, chickens find shade.

Juvenile geese

Ioannis, with tomatoes behind him.

Bull calf, 100 days old today.  I asked how much longer before he becomes dangerous, and Ioannis scoffed.  He will always stay tame, Ioannis says, so long as you interact with him every day.

The calf's mother.  When I asked why the beaded necklace, Ioannis looked abashed and admitted it was to ward off the evil eye.  I'm sure he knows that's superstitious and wrong, but his attitude is, why take chances?  She's giving lots of milk now, and he wouldn't want anything to happen to change that.

Grape arbor.

More about today later!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Monday, 16 September

To the supermarket today with a longish list.  Until now, we've only had bread, water, and fruit in the house.  The supermarket is about half a mile away, so there and back makes my main walk for today.

Most of the stores between here and there are closed now; among the casualties,  our dry-cleaners and the green grocer across the street from us.  There are whole blocks of empty shops.  Our neighborhood, once bright, thriving and decidedly middle class, is gradually becoming gray and listless and, well, a bit slummy.

Back to near the supermarket in the afternoon, to an open green grocer for veggies and fruit.  That makes close to 2 miles of walking for today, just to procure food for a few days.  If the stores near us keep closing, we shall soon be unable to live here without a car.

New license plates on cars have the EU logo on them, with the letters GR below it.  

The television channels are mostly back, after the tumultuous closing of the sate-run  media earlier this year, although channels 1-4 are all the same.  We once again have the BBC and Deutsche Welle.  Most of the other programs also seem to be in various foreign languages, from Spanish to Turkish, with Greek subtitles.  

In short, Greece, as we had known it, is rapidly disappearing.  

Makes me think twice about renovating this place, and we still need to refinish the wood floors and paint the inside.  I think  maybe after that we'll stop, deferring the replacement of numerous pieces of junk furniture until we see brighter days ahead, if we ever do.  

The doves and the sparrows have realized we are at home; at breakfast this morning we found them waiting for us to feed them.  THAT, at least, hasn't changed.

I miss having pets and/or  nursing wild orphans.  I told Demetrios the next cat I get, when we are too old to travel, is going to be a Turkish Angora, which I explained meant long-haired,  pure white, two blue eyes, and hearing.  (Many of the blue-eyed are deaf, and many Angoras have non-matching eyes, much prized in that breed.)  "Oh,  no, so boring!" was his response.  "Now THIS cat" - pointing to a calico on the street - "is gorgeous and interesting to look at."  And so she was (and spayed, too, as we saw from her clipped ear), but I miss my Snow White, from when I was a child, and especially Frosty, her kitten, and I want them both back.  (With Angoras, you definitely want two, as they are very active and always wanting to play.)

Now it's time to catch up on some of the housework that, because of my broken foot, was not done thoroughly when we left here.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sunday, 15 September

Today was the last day of the annual International Fair.  We decided it was time, after all these years of missing it, to go today.  It is, of course,  mostly a display of the latest in technology, from computers to caravans (RVs) to cars, a Volkswagen that runs on natural gas and a BMW that runs on hydrogen ( in both cases, supplemented by gasoline).  This year there was a big emphasis on heating systems.  Here is my favorite, a fireplace that can be installed in virtually any house.  What I especially like about it is, it shows that fireplaces can come in almost any shape!

There were balloons and fast foods; there was a miniature train you could ride on, and here (if I can get it to load) is a video of some aerial acrobatics.

The pavilions are no longer set up by country, as there is to be only one country now, the EU.  They are set up by the category of exhibits instead.   Demetrios says he remembers the Fair having beautiful, stylish buildings.  Now they are rather cheap and dingy.

Demetrios says I walk like an old lady (which is sometimes true) and I simply, absolutely, must start walking a long distance every day to get back into shape or else.  Or else what?  Or else I am going to have severe problems a short while down the road.  Okay.  This was the start, a whole afternoon, even though I sat about half the time; that still makes two and a half hours of walking.  I still say it's arthritis, not weakness, that's my problem, but perhaps he's right.  I hope so.

We arrived home from the Fair around 5:30 or 6:00, and I spent the rest of the evening lying down.  Not a good idea, as I slept poorly during the night.

We really do have to keep going, even when our feet (and legs and back) hurt with every step.  Even when we think we would far rather just sit out the rest of our lives, we must force ourselves to keep going, keep moving, stay active.  I'm truthfully not sure WHY we must, but that's what everybody says, and I have to assume their collective judgment is better than mine.

Here are some books being sold at the fair.  How many can you identify?