Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Easter in Greece

Parthenon and Acropolis
With the approach of the rainy season, we decided to try to avoid some of the weather by going away.   Greece was a place that we thought we would like to see and Qatar Airlines had a great sale, so we booked it.  At the same time, our daughter Maureen would be bringing a group of high school students there.  Our plan was to spend the first two days with them in Athens and then go our separate ways.  To quote Robert Burns, “The best laid schemes o mice and men gang aft agley”.  Maureen’s flight had
a cracked windshield on arrival in Philly, and they were delayed two days.  So instead of touring Athens with the group, we met her in the lobby of her hotel at about 4 am.  It was very disappointing, but we enjoyed even an hour with her, another teacher, and some of her students.

Palm Sunday service was at a neighborhood Orthodox Church.  Until this trip, we had never been in one.  The church was decorated ornately with many icons throughout.  Instead of palms as we have at home, they distribute small olive branches.
At Porto Mykonos Hotel 

After Athens, we visited the island of Mykonos, which was very beautiful.  Our hotel was great and we enjoyed the view of the Aegean Sea from our balcony.  Mykonos was an island of white-washed houses and shops, windmills, and expensive yachts.

Tom on rented ATV
Tom at Paradise Beach

Scenes from Mykonos 
Notice the "Eye of God" below the crucifix

Kamari, Santorini


We arrived in Santorini on Holy Thursday evening.  Our hotel was in Kamari, a beach town, with black volcanic sand.  Since it was still off-season, it was quiet and uncrowded.   Good Friday morning we awoke to the tolling of a deep church bell.  It rang every 30 seconds for the whole day.  Also, boys were setting off firecrackers most of the day.

Santorini from the sea
We took the local bus to Fira, the capital of the island.  Fira is the stereotypical Greek town, with white houses and shops hugging the mountainside.  Santorini is a volcano caldera and from Fira you can see the cone, which looks like a blasted island off shore.  This was the location where part of the movie “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” was filmed.  If you have ever seen this movie, it shows one of the girls riding a donkey up to her grandparent’s house.  We finally found the donkeys on our last day there (and felt very sorry for them).
The New Port at Santorini
Notice the volcanic rocks

We attended the Good Friday service at the Orthodox Cathedral in Fira.  This church was beautiful, with wonderful icons everywhere.  As the priests stripped the altar, many people wept.  It was very moving.

Easter service in Kamari began at 12:01 am!  The desk clerk at our hotel had said it would be at 7 in the morning, so we missed it.  The tradition is that after midnight, the priest says, “Jesus Christ is risen” and the people respond, “He is risen indeed” (in Greek, of course).  Then people take the colored egg they have brought with them, and knock it into someone else’s egg.  Whoever’s egg   Most of the Easter eggs were a very dark red.  We were disappointed to have missed this.  Also, many firecrackers and fireworks were set off at church.  (we slept through it all)
doesn’t crack will get their wish.

Inside St John the Baptist
Cathedral before Mass
In the morning, we took the bus to Fira and went to Mass at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist.  Officiating were three priests, one of whom was from West Africa.  They use a book called Christians without Frontiers, which has responses in eight languages.  Before Mass, the priest asked everyone to respond in the language we were most comfortable with.  Many of the people in the congregation were obviously tourists like us, so the responses sounded a bit like the Tower of Babel. 

After Mass the priest invited the congregation to visit with the nuns at the Dominican Monastery nearby.  Almost everyone processed over to the chapel to sing and pray with the sisters, who were behind a grill at the front of the church.  Again, we thought of Maria’s wedding in “The Sound of Music”.  It was a wonderful experience for us.

Back in Kamari, the rest of the day was filled with the sound of firecrackers, music with traditional Greek dancing, and lambs cooking on spits over charcoal fires on the sidewalks.  

We were happy to have the opportunity to visit Greece, but were glad to return to Tanzania.  Unfortunately, our plan to avoid rainy season did not work.  It has rained for the last eight days with only one hour of sunshine.  Our house is filled with wet and damp laundry.  We know, though, that sooner or later it will stop.

1 comment: