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Mike's Odyssey to Greece - 2005

Part 23: Easter

After taking in the magnificent sunset, I decided I would attend the Greek Orthodox Easter service on the island.  Only problem is that it does not occur until 11 PM (and if you remember, I had been up since 4 AM to catch my flight).

So, I decided to wander the island to take in some sights and sounds before going to the church service.

Now, normally the island would be hopping and clubs would be rocking, but since this was Easter Eve, everything was closing early.  So, I wandered around and ate a quick souvlaki while checking out some of the scenes.

Scooters
A group of scooters that run rampant on the island.  Joe called them the "Hellas Angels".

Scooters
More scooters.  I was going to rent one, but then again, I wanted to drink heavily...

Sign

Lights

Lights

Actually, it was while taking these pictures that I discovered an ignorant American.

One woman says to her friend, "Why do they have all of these Easter decorations up?"

"Yeah," her friend replied, "Easter was like a month ago!"

And people wonder why Americans have such a bad reputation overseas...

But, back to my story:

So, I wandered around looking for a place serving lamb, when I came across the H Argo Taverna which had a lamb slow roasting on a spit out front.  I asked the greeter, Giorgios, if they would be serving lamb at midnight.  He said they would.  When I asked if I could make a reservation, he said no problem (several other places were booked solid).  So, I set off towards the basilica.

Fira was just as beautiful at night as it was during the day.  I took a few photos to show what it looks like.

Fira at night

Fira at night

Fira at night

Fira at night

I was told that the ceremony would start at 11 PM and then conclude at midnight.  My friends told me that at midnight the Greeks commemorate the resurrection of Jesus by "lighting off fireworks like Americans do on July 4th."  I have never attended an Orthodox ceremony before, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect.

First, I did what all of the other Greeks did and I bought a candle.  Everyone comes to church with their own candle that they bring from home.  If you are as unfortunate as I was to not have your own, a scamming Albanian will be happy to sell you one for 1 Euro.  Oh, and you want one of those wind guards to keep the wax from getting all over everything?  Well, he'll sell you one of those for 1 Euro also.  I passed on the wind guard, but still paid 1 Euro for a 5 cent candle.  (And yes, all the Greeks I met that night told me how I got ripped off; well, what was I going to do?)

Tower at night
The Fira Basilica at night.

So, I entered the church and sat in a chair along the side.  I wasn't quite sure where I was supposed to sit or what I was supposed to do, and I certainly didn't want to be the obnoxious American who ruined Easter.  But, I did what the Greeks did and sat through the ceremony.

There was a lot of chanting, and there's nothing like chanting in the dark that can start to put one to sleep.  However, I soon woke up as at midnight, the fireworks came.  These aren't big, sparkly American-style fireworks; these were LOUD M-80 (quarter-stick of dynamite) fireworks.  No flash, all boom.  It sounded like a war was going off outside.  This huge brick church shook as bomb after bomb blasted outside.  No sparks, no flashes, no light-show - just sold, loud, explosions!

Then, everyone lit their candles and the candles went from person to person until the entire basilica was lit by a thousand candles.

It looked beautiful, but I wasn't going to be the obnoxious American who took pictures of a solemn ceremony.  But then, all of a sudden, the Greeks whipped out their cell phones and started snapping pictures.  So, when in Santorini...

Priests
The Orthodox priests.  The guy in the center with the crown was some sort of bishop and looked like Santa Claus with a big bushy beard.

Church service
The basilica all lit up at midnight by the candles.

So, I left the chapel and made my way to the H Argo.  Giorgios welcomed me in, and I was quickly seated and given a carafe of house wine and my first course of magyeretsa, which is a soup made from lamb guts cooked with dill and leeks.  It is a delicacy that is only served at Easter.

Soup
Magyeretsa.

The next course was lamb and kokoretsi.  Kokoretsi is the liver of the lamb stuffed into the intestines and slowly cooked over a spit.  Of course, Robert and Stelios (my waiters) didn't share that with me until after I ate it.

Lamb meat
The lamb meat.

The food was all very good, and then the games began.  The Greeks dye their hard-boiled eggs red, to make them symbolize the blood of Christ.  Everyone at the table takes an egg, and then one by one, they square off slamming their eggs into one another.  I did this with Stelios, and I cracked his egg (however, I didn't hit it exactly right, as I was pretty drunk by this point).  So, I won.  But then he told me that I had to eat the egg to have good luck.  So, I tried to eat the egg.

There was nothing repulsive about any of the food, but there was just so much of it, I couldn't eat the rest of the egg.  Also, it was really DRY.  So, I ate half of the egg, and quickly thought I was going to puke.  I downed the rest of the egg, but the yolk coated my mouth.  Out of water, I took a big swig of wine and swished it around in my mouth and swallowed the rest of the egg.

At this point, Stelios told me he would like to bring me a "special shot."  I asked him where the toilet was, as I envisioned that the shot would either be ouzo or tsiporo, which is ouzo times  ten (or so I've been told).  However, this special shot actually calmed my stomach down.

With my stomach calm and my wine glass empty, Giorgios, Stelios, Robert, and the owner Mihalis invited me over to their table to continue celebrating Easter.  We had much fun, and they told me about life on Santorini, and I told them about America.  Much more wine, and suddenly it was about 3 AM, and I was ready to go crash.  (I'm old, and I can't party like I used to.)  However, I did promise them that I would again visit them the next day at noon for lunch.

Well, noon came and went as I slept HARD that night.  I made it back to the H Argo at around 1 PM, and Giorgios showed me the fresh caught snapper that I would be having for lunch.  As I was at my table, though, Stelios said I had to have an appetizer - it's Greek tradition.  So, I had the kalamari.

Squid
The HUGE appetizer of kalamari.

Squid
Here I am choking down the kalamari.  I was still stuffed from my midnight dinner, so I didn't think I could eat the whole thing.

I ate about 2/3 of the squid, and then the snapper came.  I did my best to try to choke it down.

Snapper
The snapper.

Lunch
More Sunday lunch.  I'm thinking, "How can I possibly eat this much food?"

I tried my best to choke it all down, but I was so stuffed! 

Family
Here I am in a picture with my new friends at the H Argo Taverna. Top left-to-right are:  Mihalis, me, Stelios, "Mama", and Robert.  In front are Giorgios and the other guy whose name I can't remember.

Then, some women I met on the bus wandered in, and I walked around town with them for a while.  I had planned to go back to H Argo for dinner, except that when dinner time rolled around I was 1) definitely not hungry and 2) pretty inebriated.  So, I'm sorry I didn't say goodbye to those guys, but I will DEFINITELY be going back to visit them again on my next trip to Santorini.  Thanks for a great Easter, guys!

Barbeque
The lamb on a spit.  Everyone in Greece has a lamb on a spit.  Sort of like how everyone in America cooks a turkey on Thanksgiving.  The lamb is good; definitely don't pass up the opportunity to have it!

So, after gorging myself on lamb, fish, and wine, I decided to walk around town taking in some more sights before returning to my hotel and checking out the next gorgeous sunset.

Continue on to Part 24:  Sunset Number Two (or "I just never tire of the beauty of Santorini.")