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Published: April 25th 2011
Thursday 21st April 2011
On the road down the plain of Thessaly to Larisa, then north towards Thessaloniki to a campsite in the shadow of Mt Olympus - the home of the gods according to greek mythology.
The campsite is the nearest one open to Thessaloniki where we have arranged to meet an old Greek friend of mine from my university days - George. A few texts and phone calls later arrangements have been made and George has very generously invited us to a traditional Greek Easter celebration with him, his family and friends on Easter Sunday. I look forward eagerly to our meeting remembering happy days shared in Salford in the late 70's.
Our pitch is 50m from the sea and we are surprised to find we are the only residents on site. In contrast with the UK where Easter is a peak camping period the Greek season does not begin proper until May.
After pitching camp we stroll along the beach taking in the views of the snow capped mountains behind.
Friday 22nd April 2011
This week is the Greek Megali Evdomada, Great Week / Easter Week for all Greek Orthodox people.
Easter festival begins on Good Friday when the people traditionally go to the church to see the priests take down the icon of Christ from the cross, wrap it in linen and put it in a great casket, the Epitaphio, which is covered in flowers and symbolises the tomb of Christ.
In the evening the Service of Lamentation mourns the death of Christ and the bier is then carried on the shoulders of the faithful in a procession through the community to the cemetery, and back. Members of the congregation follow, carrying candles.
The receptionist at the camp site suggested we should go into town that evening to witness the event as it was not one to be missed. She helpfully arranged a taxi and we duly arrived at around 7.30pm in order to eat at a local restaurant facing the main square before the procession began at 9pm. From here we could watch the events unfold whilst enjoying an excellent meal of typical greek fare.
After dinner we joined the crowds in the square awaiting the procession. At 9pm the bier left the church to process across the square with young and old following with lighted
candles - we were glad to have been there.
Saturday 23rd April 2011
Lazy day reading and blogging.
Sunday 24th April 2011
Up early to catch the 0935 train to Thessaloniki - a journey of about an hour.
On arrival a taxi to Panorama the district of the city where George has his home.
George collected us from the main square and took us to meet his family and friends who were making final preparations for the traditional Easter Sunday meal.
On arrival the scene of a whole lamb roasting over charcoal, which smelt fantastic, was superb and we were made very welcome.
After the customary introductions traditional red dyed eggs were passed around. However before the eggs are eaten, there's a traditional challenge: "tsougrisma." Holding your egg, tap the end against the end of your opponent's egg, trying to crack it. Great fun a bit like conkers with eggs.
Once the Lamb was ready it was expertly removed from the spit and the meat stripped from the bones ready to serve at table. The temptation for a quick taster was too much and when offered eagerly accepted - delicious !
Once all had arrived we were seated in the garden in the warm sunshine and we heartily enjoyed the good food, wine and company of the assembled party. Good humour and merriment was abundant and when I suggested George demonstrate he could still dance as well as he could 30 years earlier he eagerly obliged.
I was encouraged to join in and with my new Greek name of 'Pavlo' attempted to do my best !
Thirty years before I had made the journey to Thessaloniki with a friend. At that time we were also shown great hospitality staying at Georges parent's home and being made most welcome. I was glad to see his mother amongst the guests and was able to thank her again for her kindness shown to us all those years ago.
Sadly all good things must come to an end and we had to wish all a fond farewell in order to catch our train south. Our thanks again to George and his wife Maria for welcoming us into their home on this traditional family occasion we shall remember it with pleasure for a long time to come.
George then kindly drove us to
the station and we parted with a vow not leave it 30 years before we meet again !
Monday 25th April 2011
After all the excitement of the previous day Easter Monday was a serious 'chill out' day.
The boys enjoyed cartoons on Greek TV which were being shown in English with Greek subtitles and did'nt get dressed until well after noon preferring to slob about on the bed in the back of the van.
Later when turfed out to get some fresh air they proceeded to confuse and perplex a small greek boy, whose parents were setting up their caravan for the season on an adjacent pitch, by playing cricket. He declined an invitation to join in. These English are crazy !
Finally I got the blog up to date and resolved to try and keep on top of it between now and the end of our trip which seems all to close....
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