To the top, the story of two hills

I don’t know where it came from – my need to get to the top. Perhaps, it stems from the fact that I am visually oriented and going to the top helps me get a perspective.  Perhaps, it comes from an early trip to Europe with my sister, Kris, where she demanded we hike to the top of every church and every castle tower. No visit was complete without paying the extra Lira or Franc to hike up the winding stairs to some viewpoint. Whatever the origin, the desire remains and my poor husband has had to learn to adapt (I call it adapt, you’d have to ask him what he calls it).  

Fast forward to Claudio’s port briefing for our final port, the island of Syros, Greece. The capital, Hermoupolis, is known to be one of the most architecturally fascinating cities in Greece.   Claudio says,”you must go to the top, and then to the top again”. Two beautiful churches sit on the two different hilltops above the city. I know Jeff is grimacing inside. Heading up to the top of the hill in the hot, muggy Mediterranean air is not the way he wants to enjoy his day. Knowing that there are two hills, well, I’m sure he’s ruing the day he met Claudio (and the day he married me).

Meanwhile, I’m smiling and thinking, “thank you Claudio.” Without those churches being a “must see” in the port briefing, I would have never convinced Jeff to do the climb. After all, how do I burn off some of the calories from the wonderful food I’ve been eating on the cruise? And who know what marvelous photos await us?

The Church of the Resurrection is in the center on the first hill with the blue dome. Up to the right is the Church of Anos Syros

As the ship rounds the pier, we can see there is a valley between them. What a hike. Secretly I think maybe both churches are too much, but I would never let these thoughts escape my mouth. And, if they did escape, I’d never let Jeff hear them.

As we approach the port, we see a large valley separates the two churches

As we approach the port, we see a large valley separates the two churches

Again, we are first off the boat, cameras in hand. “Don’t forget to go to the top”, Claudio says, as if that is even an option. I’d like to think the hike up the hill is about the journey and not the end goal, but I have to be honest, it’s a little of both.

The alleys and stairways to The Church of the Resurrection, were open and  lined with a mix of modern buildings as well as some urban decay.

Wide stairways with buildings showing character

Wide stairways with buildings showing their “character”

A more modern twist – a play of shadows

At last we reached the top, dripping with perspiration (sweat from Jeff). A bit of a breeze helped us to recover. Inside, the church, there were chandelier lined ceilings, simple stained glass and beautiful frescos.

The expected church frescos colored the ceilings

Outside, a few locals chatted after the morning’s daily mass. In broken English an elderly man asked where we were from. He’d been a seamen and traveled up and down the east coast of the US. He encouraged us to enjoy the church and take photos. As we departed, he called us back. He entered the church and returned with two large chunks of bread  – each the size of a small loaf. His generosity overwhelmed us.

We would have liked to have time to chat more, but we had another hill to climb – the Church of Anos Syros. Having recovered from the first hike, we surveyed the second church across the valley. From the boat, the two had looked close together. This is not so. We needed to descend into the valley in order to begin the ascent to the second church. I hate when I have to go down to go up.

Gazing across the valley, I was having second thoughts – but I didn’t tell Jeff.

Our second hike was much steeper than the first. The pathways were narrower and full of winding and uneven steps. The houses were much older with more character. There was more of the traditional greek architecture of lines, colors and archways.

Traditional Greek blue and white on a chapel

Character of an old door

Always up and around the bend

Finally, the top.

A traditional view – too bad the light wasn’t a little more cooperative

As beautiful inside as it is outside.

The bell tower of the Church of Anos Syros

Enroute back to the ship we were like two horses heading for the barn. But all those steps, had taken their toll.  Sometimes just stopping for a breather can show us something new.

In a crack on the stairway was a beautiful little flower.

In a crack on the stairway was a beautiful little flower.

Remember, It is all about the light and the ascent to capture it.