Archive for January, 2011

Giving – Receiving

January 26, 2011

Pausing for a moment, taking stock, making changes – these are things that are just as important on the road as in daily life. Two weeks ago, we decided we could do without our camping stove for the second part of our hike. Considering its weight, we used it far too little. A long time ago, a similar decision had to be made concerning a tent for our hike: we finally settled on a more spacious one, despite its added weight. And a couple of days ago, we decided on yet more weight along with better safety when buying high-visibility vests and headlamps for each of us. The vests have already come in handy in the fog.

“Receiving fills one’s hands, giving one’s heart.“ This word of wisdom caught our eye in a holiday flat some years back. When going through the day with open eyes and ears, we can spot so many possibilities of giving unto others. Recently, a girl approached Annemarie with a big smile asking: “May I speak English with you? I’d love to practise it.” Giving and sharing – big or small – enriches our lives. We are so grateful that Paul wrote down his thoughts and knowledge, thereby sharing them with us.  

The people at Berea (see video) had a great habit. “They received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.“ (Acts 17:11). We have also taken up the habit of reading the Bible very carefully these days, and we frequently stumble across interesting bits and passages previously lost on us. “When they had passed through Amfipolis (see video) and Apollonia (see video), they came to Thessalonica (see video).“ What may have seemed a rather nondescript statement, carries much more meaning to us now since we’ve become hikers ourselves. Paul writes about the Thessalonians: “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.“(1Thessalonians 2:8). Our sentiments, exactly. We love sharing our experiences with our great God with you. Practically, this means, however, that we need to stop now and then and take the time to put videos and photos online, which of course slows our progress. But since giving fills one’s heart, it is our pleasure to share our walk with you.

And it’s not only a one-sided affair. We get so much ourselves because others also live by that principle. Take Athens (see video), for instance. Professional flautist Daniel Stankovic shared a short stretch of our way through the six-million city of Athens with us and treated us to a private concert (see video). Or Timotheos (Hanspeter’s former professor of Greek (see video) and his wife Dorothea who kindly welcomed us into their home. Their marvellous hospitality and the fellowship and conversations with them enriched our lives.

In Kyparissia, we witnessed a rare natural spectacle. Directly above the villa we stayed in, thousands of migrant birds were flying northward (see video). Apart from the peculiar whooshing sound, we were impressed with the exemplary flying order. Every bird seemed to know its place, and there was no clamouring from some bird or other that wasn’t keen on sticking to the rules or wanted a seemingly better spot in the flight. It seemed clear to everyone, when they had to be ready for take-off. We marvelled at how certain things in nature were so clear and self-evident.

Two days ago, we met soldiers in a forest who – armed with rifles- were gathering timber for their night’s lodging. “Apparently we’re not the only ones spending the night outdoors in January”, we said to each other with a grin. This option is really the last resort, though – if there’s nothing else to be had. Yesterday we walked along Greece’s longest unbroken stretch of sandy beach. Since Hanspeter had a phone appointment for an interview with the ERF, a Christian radio channel in Germany, we chose a route with the least background noise. By taking this far-off track, however, we didn’t realize we had already left the village and its accommodation possibilities behind. So we started our search for a room on the outskirts of the place. “Sorry, I haven’t got a larger room than this one,“ the landlady announced at the first place we asked. Since we weren’t pressed for time, we decided to walk back to the village again and to check out things there. Since we had scheduled an ‘admin break‘ on the following day, which is usually spent working on our blog and putting videos and photos online, we weren’t keen on spending the day sitting in bed bending over our laptop for want of a chair and table. No, what we needed was more space and the added convenience of a table and chair. So we gladly took the detour and walked back to the village. Sadly, to no avail. Undeterred, we stocked up on fresh fruit and decided to try that very first place outside the village again. “The bigger room is available now. There’s been a cancellation.” We were thrilled, and happy to have taken the detour. So God could surprise us with a bright, spacious and pleasant room for our ‚admin day‘ – for the price of the smaller one. “Thank you, Lord!“ we said yet again.

Meanwhile we are between Thessaloniki and Kavala. Our new hiking boots have already been broken in – one day we counted more than 40,000 steps. It wasn’t a piece of cake, but bearable.

With best wishes for a bright and wonderful January

Hanspeter and Annemarie

P.S. Online now: Ancient harbour of Kenchreae, Corinth channel with submersible bridge, Ancient Corinth, Statement about love, Work-out in Corinth

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Athens with Daniel

January 19, 2011

Professional musicians Daniel Stankovic in Athens

January 19, 2011

Fitness in Corinth

January 14, 2011

Migratory birds in Kyparissia

January 14, 2011

From stable to villa

January 9, 2011

 The backdrop is a Greek petrol station. “Can I sign your cap, too?“ Having put this request with Annemarie, Georg whizzes off only to return seconds later wielding a red felt pen. Fifteen minutes ago, we had ended up at this petrol station after having spotted three plastic patio chairs conveniently arranged in front. Since the weather turned cooler after a warm Christmas Day, we wanted to don a few more layers of clothing so we made a beeline for those chairs. Back in Macedonia, we had decided to follow the local tradition of the Orthodox Christians and celebrate Christmas on January 6. Upon arriving in Greece, however, we were in for a surprise. We found that not only did their clocks show a different time, but also did the local Orthodox Church celebrate the birth of Jesus in December, just like we do. “Let’s still walk on Christmas – just like Joseph and Mary did many years ago. Besides, on public holidays there a fewer lorries on the road which means an easier walk for us.” No sooner said than done. We are sure that many of our friends prayed especially for us during those days, otherwise we cannot explain how the events we are about to share with you now came about.

At the above-mentioned petrol station, suddenly a woman appears on the balcony above our heads. Quickly we explain we are only taking a quick break. But instead of chasing us away, she disappears again. Seconds later, she is making her way towards us with a welcoming smile greeting us in German and introducing herself as Soumela. We get talking in the course of which we are proffered coffee and delicious “Melomakarona“, traditional Christmas cookies. “In a moment our family is getting together for Christmas Dinner. Every year we invite a different additional guest. This year he is from Pakistan.“ No sooner has she finished her sentence than her daughter is entering the door with her kids in tow. Two more cars follow. It is Soumela’s son Georg and her brother. The Pakistani guest was not able to come. After Georg has signed Annemarie’s cap, we pick up our backpacks and say goodbye. We have not even walked a mile, when a car passes and turns in front of us. The driver’s door opens and we realize it is Georg beckoning us to get in. His family has sent him to take us back to their house for Christmas Dinner. We enjoy the unexpected marvellous Christmas dinner and inspiring conversations. With more Greek signatures on our baseball caps and seemingly heavier backpacks  – the fact that we made a humble contribution of dried figs to dinner has not helped – we take off again. It is a relief that the nearest town is fairly close by. Upon entering the hotel where we will spend the night, we interrupt a quarrelling couple. Up in our room, we can hear them heatedly picking up their fight again. This is one way to end Christmas Day.

Thanks to the dinner invitation, we had so much bread to spare we could even share it with straying cats the following day (see video). This is what happenend: When Hanspeter wanted to throw away a banana skin, he was in for a surprise. As he was lifting the lid of a large street garbage bin, he could not believe his eyes when four cats jumped out. Annemarie also had not been able to believe her eyes some days before when she saw the crowds of women in Bitola, Macedonia, inspired by Daniela to work out regularly (see video).

But the biggest surprise of all was this: A bottle of water by the roadside is nothing special, you might think. But if this bottle stands upright in the curb, new, filled with its original contents and firmly sealed, well, this is sort of unusual. And it gets even more extraordinary if said bottle still stands there on Boxing Day – the day after Christmas Day. And it is getting mind-boggling if you stumble on such a bottle when you are parched and there is no water to be had anywhere. Due to the approaching holidays, we had bought more food and, in an effort to save weight, had not stocked up on any water.  “We’ll manage somehow. Some kiosk is bound to be open,“  so we thought. How wrong we were! Only a few minutes after Annemarie had said she needed fresh water, we spotted the bottle. No matter how the bottle had got there: God had arranged it perfectly. We had not experienced anything like it. This miracle was so special for us since Jesus is at the centre of Christmas. Jesus said about himself: „Whoever believes in me, will never be thirsty again.” This Boxing Day, Jesus doubly quenched our thirst: physically and spiritually.

Our trip has been the result of wonderful teamwork. Our new footgear reflects this fact in a marvellous way. After Margrit, Annemarie‘s sister, had ordered the shoes, Kurt paid for them. Margrit then posted them to Nelly who in turn put them in a bag that we had left at Hans’ place for this purpose. Everyone of them stuffed the shoes with useful delights and treats. Our congregation in Reinach added an advent calendar and Basler Leckerli, the famous cookies from Basle. Heinz even sent pocket knives along. Claudia and Edgar took the bag with them to Kyparissia/Greece in late November where they owners and landlords to the Burgvilla, an enchanting villa at the foot of a castle ruin providing self-catering accommodation (see video). They generously invited us to stay for a couple of days and take a break from walking. We were greatly looking forward to both this break and our new shoes. Such a break is like an oasis spotted from afar and provides you with the strength to tackle the strains of the last stretch of the way and to single-mindedly keep walking. Since we planned to post the donation receipts to all donators from Kyparissia, we already counted on having to purchase a cheap printer. But even here everything was provided for. Edgar emailed us that we could use his computer and printer, should we need them. So now even the necessary technical equipment was available. God provided for us again and again. We did not turn down the offer of a stable for our accommodation during these past few weeks, but we also gratefully accepted the lovely gift of the Burgvilla holiday. From stable to villa – with God there is never a dull moment in life.

Many, many thanks to each and everyone of you who have been sharing in our walk from Basle to Jerusalem – which is really a joint effort. We could not do it without you! If we tried to list each name that has been part of our walk in one way or another, we could fill quite a number of pages. And we are aware that we have not even met all of you praying people out there. We will meet in the heavenly Jerusalem at the latest. We look forward to it.

Hanspeter and Annemarie

P.S. Thank you for your comments and new year’s wishes. We are thrilled at how many people are inspired and encouraged by this Basle-to-Jerusalem hike. We praise God for that. Right now we are warming our shoes for our walk, so our feet will not suffer a cold shock in mid-January. In two days’ time, we will leave the Burgvilla and head to Thessaloniki via Corinth and Athens.

Break from hiking to Jerusalem in the castle villa in Kyparissia

January 1, 2011

www.burgvilla.ch

Cats in Greece

January 1, 2011

Daniela in Bitola Macedonia

January 1, 2011