Veria: Travel Impressions with the Parisiou Family
By Catherine Tsounis
“We met a wonderful couple from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,” said Despina Siolas and Susan Achtziger. “Antonios and Thalia Parisiou are from Veria. They were our fellow travelers at the Sunrise Tour of Smyrna and Tseme. We will meet up with them when we are in Thessaloniki. We intend to follow in the footsteps of St. Paul.” The hospitality they experienced with persons they just met in late August reflects legendary Greek hospitality, even in a crisis.
Their day in Veria began with a visit to the Bema, where St. Paul preached. Veria is part of the “11 Footsteps of St. Paul” from 50-53 A.D. The saint found a warmer welcome with the Verians than in Thessaloniki. The Bema is a religious sanctuary with unique mosaics. They show: a man asking Paul to preach the gospel in Macedonia and St. Paul. Today, there is a Berean (Verian) society, a number of towns called Berea (Veria) throughout the United States, and in Kentucky, there is even a Berea College.
But who were these Bereans, and what was so special about them that they left a legacy? The story of Berea can be found in Acts 17:10-14. Acts 17:11 that reads, “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (https://www.ehow.com/about_5098537_were-bereans-bible.html.)
“Paul and Silas came to Berea on Paul’s second missionary journey…The Bereans stood out to the apostles because of their eagerness with which they received the Gospel. Berea, which is now called Veria, was a Greek city located approximately 73 km from Thessalonica. From the Biblical account, we know that Berea was a city of both Jews and Gentiles, because there was a Jewish synagogue there. The Bible also says that ‘Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of Greek women and many Greek men’ (Acts 17:12).”
Acts 17:11 on the website states “the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians…” Bible commentator Albert Barnes (1798-1870) writes “This literally means more noble by birth…But here the word is used to denote a quality of mind and heart. They were more generous, liberal and noble in their feelings; more disposed to inquire candidly into the truth of the doctrines advanced by Paul and Silas” (see References: bibletools.org).
The Berean attitude contrasted with the attitudes of many others of Paul’s day….The Book of Acts tells us that the Bereans “examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true….The Berean Legacydenotes one who eagerly studies the Bible…..open minded and receptive to the gospel”. Antonios and Thalia Parisiou reflect their heritage.
From Veria, the Parisiou’s took the two tourists to Vergina, the ancient capital of Macedonia. The tomb of King Philip II, father of Alexander the Great was impressive. “Tourists are not allowed to take photos of the interior,” said Despina.
Antonios and revealed their memories of their youth. Antonios was allowed to immigrate to the United States in the later 1970’s, because he was a skilled craftsman. He became engaged to Thalia, his high school sweetheart. She waited for him. Antonios worked, established himself in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He returned to Veria to marry his fiancé, Thalia. Leaving Veria was difficult because of strong family ties. They immigrated to the United States together. Thalia was a working mother of two children.
The tourists with the Parisiou’s visited the sights of Veria city. A colorful personality was a local merchant called “O Manolis o Veriotis” (Manolis the Verian). He was selling watermelons and cantaloupes, calling to everyone “Elate pedia, o Manolis o Veriotis” (Come all children to me, Manolis, the Verian). An amazing array of cigarettes for 3.7 euros was displayed to a public that has a positive attitude about this recreational pastime.
Their enjoyable day ended at a lavish luncheon in Elaias Gi restaurant at Anoixeos and Kountourioti streets. Their cuisine included: green salad with potatoes; wild pig with rice and carrots; gemistes; souzoukakia (sausages) and chocolate desserts with masticha ice cream. They enjoyed their luncheon inside the main room, next to the wooden oven, where daily bread roasts and even some of our desserts are baked.
“Everything was made of the finest seasonal ingredients so that the nature itself can dine with you,” according to their website at https://www.eleasgi.gr/en/ala-carte/.
“We proudly offer you Greece at your plate.Through a delicate travel in time, the Greek land and its products, the customs and its habits, but also through creative interventions in our traditional cuisine, which have as a priority to freshen, underline and highlight even more our taste references to the Greek traditional cooking, we serve you dishes with the finest seasonal ingredients available combined with a variety of excellent flavors so that you can enjoy nothing but the very best.”
The website explains that “Eleas Gi is as well of the title of a Greek story, an internal and true legend which consists an integral part of our life, our culture and our cuisine. At Eleas Gi everything is cooked only with olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is always added at the end, so we can offer you the authenticity of the Greek cuisine where indisputably, the leafy-green spirit of our honored olive tree has the leading role.”
The American tourists gained an insight into the land of Macedonia through Thalia and Antonios Parisiou company. Their family is representativw of the Macedonian life of their era. A land devastated by external and internal Greek conflicts. Veria was celebrating its 100 year centennial. Its liberation and unification with Greece during the Balkan Wars was remembered in a banner showing a Veria of 1912 and a modern city in 2012. An exchange of Moslem Macedonian families with Christian families of Asia Minor changed the character of Veria and Macedonia. This unique travel experience shows Greece is the place to visit and enjoy hospitality, regardless of the negative publicity in the press.
All photos by Despina Siolas and Susan Achtziger.
Photo 1- St. Paul’s mosaic at Bema.
Photo 2 – Despina Siolas and Susan Achtziger at Bema.