Traditional Greek Easter

Ioannis and Kiki picked us up this morning to go to Kiki’s home village. There we had a traditional pre-Easter meal (feast) with Kiki’s parents and sibling’s family.

This is a totally vegetarian meal, no meat. Delicious, started with Greek coffee and koularakia and tiganithis, melamoukadina and tiganithis. Then we had the main meal: artichoke, stuffed pumpkin flowers, okra, spinach with tomato, rice, eggplant, olives bread and homemade wine. Finished with pastries and chocolate cake. We actually finished with a long nap back at our apartment. All the food was delicious the company wonderful and the day delightful in every way. I noticed that there were swallows nesting in the eaves of the house. The chicks had hatched but had not yet fledged.

Back in Kalamata I noticed that there are a lot of swallows. In the evening there appear to be bats, one of my favorite animals, they eat a lot of bugs.

Tonight we will be picked up about 9:00 pm to travel to Ioannis’ village for the Easter celebration at midnight. And, yes, another meal. This is not the main Easter feast; at this meal the internal organs are served. This should also be good but, since it is high cholesterol, I will attempt to limit myself.

Went to Ioannis’ village for midnight Easter service. Big dinner followed. Again, delicious. Great family gathering.The Easter service was beautiful. The small chapel was filled to overflowing. Although I did not understand the words spoken or the significance of the rites, the experience was, none the less, very meaningful. We all lit candles and went back to Ioannis’ mother’s house. I am proud to say that my candle only went out once. The flame is passed from person to person. The original flame is brought from Jerusalem every year in a special container. This same flame that started in Jerusalem was eventually passed to me. When we arrived we had another meal (feast). This time we had: tomato and cucumber salad, saganaki, two types of mageiritsa (a stew like dish with organ meat and spinach), chicken with mushrooms, a soft Greek goat cheese, bread, homemade wine and a wonderful tzatziki. This was topped off with a sweet cheese filled pastry. Got back to our apartment about 2:30 am. I cannot find the words to express the hospitality and welcoming I experienced. Especially considering the fact that few spoke any English. The young ones (high school to college age who did know English best) kept us engaged in conversation all evening.We will be picked up before noon the Sunday to be taken to the big Easter feast the centerpiece of which will be goat roasted in an outside wood fired oven. I am very well aware that this is a very special opportunity to experience Greece in a way that few non-Greeks are blessed to experience, a very special experience with wonderful people.

Easter dinner was another feast fitting of a king. Everything was beyond words delicious. We had roast goat, roast chicken, both cooked in an outdoor wood burning oven. The meat was cooked with lemon potatoes. We also had tomato and cucumber salad, feta cheese, soft goat cheese (homemade). Tzatziki, a sour cream based spicy sauce, roasted chicken liver, spanacopita, tiropita, bread, homemade wine. We topped it all off with a Georgian cake made by the grandmother’s helper, a sweet yeast bread filled with Nutella and covered with chocolate and gelato. Cooking in the old wood fired oven was quite a task. Starting the heat up at 9:00 am, putting the meat and potatoes in at 11:00 am and monitoring the bake until done.

A Redneck Easter in Greece

My children tell people that they are half Greek and half Redneck. Well, let me tell you about Easter here in Kalamata, Greece. The fellow who runs the shop at the street level of our apartment told us that we are in a great place for “bang bang” on Saturday night.

It is a tradition in Messenia to throw purchased or home made explosives the Saturday night before Easter. They also fill cardboard tubes with gunpowder and light them like flares, called “saites”. A travel site said that the practice of celebrating in this way is most prevalent in the capital city of Kalamata. It can be deafening and it can be quite dangerous. My children can now say that they are 100 percent redneck. Looking forward to a bang up Easter. It will be like being on Samish Island, Washington on the fourth of July.

Just saw another confirmation of Kalamata redneck status. Saw a refrigerator on a front porch. A few derelict cars in the front yard on cinder blocks would clinch it.

Looking forward to Good Friday service with Tina’s family.

What a delightful day here today. Calm sea, no clouds and in the low 80’s. This was a kickback day.

There is a container ship anchored outside the harbor, it looks like it is setting on a table top, the sea is so calm.

The few Greek language lessons I did on the trip to the Carolinas did not take. Tina can get along OK so I am relying on her and the fact that most people speak English. I do reply in Spanish frequently, just to throw people off. Tina has not caught on but the locals still just answer me in English, not fooling them.

Went to the Good Friday procession. It is huge here with three church’s separate processions converting at the Port. A great celebration. I do not have any pictures because as we were leaving our apartment a lady cautioned us about the “bumps”. I thought she was warning us about pick pockets. So, I put our phones and wallets back in the apartment. She was warning us about the explosives the locals toss during the procession. So no pictures. Great explosions thought. I think some were dynamite.

Have not yet seen one of the “saite” flare things. But, I have heard that there are ten deaths every year due to their use. Further confirmation that there are rednecks here.

Settling in

Thought I would start a new post as our stay in Kalamata will be a week. We will be checking out of the resort and going to an apartment. We will be closer to Greek life and away from German tourists. Don’t know if that will be good or bad. I did discover a new character flaw that I have. When I hear Germans speaking, in my mind I think that they are plotting the invasion of Poland.

Last evening Tina’s cousins took us to one of their favorite restaurants. What a great feast we had. They are a great family. Their son, Panioki, speaks great English. Their daughter, Angeliki, is also very good actually excellent considering that she is just thirteen (not sure of the spelling of Greek names). The food was delicious and seemed to keep coming and coming. I truly hope that we will be able to repay their great kindness and generous hospitality.

For sunny hot weather, this is probably not the optimal time of year to come to Greece. Mostly overcast and in the 60’s. Not really unpleasant but jacket weather. It looks like the natives are getting ready for the huge influx of tourists that will be happening in a month. Pools and decks are getting a good cleaning, new stain on the outside woodwork. Also, the locals will soon migrate from the beach side cafes to the in town cafes. Speaking of cafes, I note that there is a remarkable difference in prices between the beach side cafes and the in town cafes.

I also note that the architecture here is different from the expected while washed structures. Here it is Phoenecian in character.

Made it to our new digs. Top floor with a huge patio/terrace. Next to where the cruise ships dock.

Seeing the cruise ship reminded me of times when I was a lad living in Eureka, California. Dad was fascinated with ships. He would take me to the docks when a large cargo ship was in port. Dad would talk his way onto the ship and he and I would get a grand tour of the vessel. Sometimes he would invite one of the crew home for a dinner with our family. With the world being so very security conscious now, I doubt that such an adventure would be possible these days.

In Greece

Made it to Athens, the first stop for our time in Greece. The last time I was here I got my pocket picked on the way into Athens. This time I was over cautious. Tina picked a great hotel in the middle of the city with a fabulous view of the Acropolis from our balcony.

I noticed that we are in another time zone here in Greece. So Emma is just four hours ahead of us here. In CT during daylight saving time there is a twelve hour difference. That makes me feel very far away from her.

Heard from Jim. When we left for the airport he was on his way to Naples for a soccer (football) game. Evidently Naples won and Jim was in all the excitement.

Second day in Greece and we are on the go again. Off to the bus station to find the bus to Kalamata. I heard that the bus makes no stops so I refrained from coffee this morning.

Got to the bus station to make the 11:00 am bus. It was fully booked. So we got tickets for the 12:30 bus. The Athens bus station is definitely not a tourist attraction. But what bus station anywhere is anything but a necessary stop. The gypsies in the bus station sell necessities such as small packets of Kleenex. I recall them from the last time we were in Greece. Can be really pushy and annoying.

Found out that the 11:00 bus was an express, the 12:30 is a local.

Made it to the resort. Very nice. Style is very Scandinavian: sauna, steam room, lots of wood and a large variety of massages, Tina will like that. Since we are next to the water we can hear the surf.

The place we are staying the first nights in Kalamata is very Scandinavian. Minimalist furniture, a spa, a sauna and a lot of German and Scandinavian guests. Very nice with sweeping views.

They have the apparatus to make Greek coffee in the breakfast room. The waitress taught me the process and I made a cup to take to our room.

It is fun and it tastes great.

We noted that the rain was muddy. Upon doing some research I found out that during this time of year there are duststorms in the Sahara. The dust in the air mixes with the rain. In the uncommon times when the dust is red, it is called a “Blood Rain”. It reminds me of times in the southwest when it would rain mud.

In the Eternal City

Wednesday, our first full day in Rome. Met Jim briefly for breakfast. Jim sent us off to visit the Colosseum and Roman Forum as he has class. Had a great tour guide for the Colosseum and Forum and only six people in our tour. The history and stories the guide told us was well worth the price. Colosseum was built in 8 years, no government regulations, the Republicans must have been running things. Cost of entry for the Romans to attend was 0. The Democrats must have gotten in.We had lunch then went to see the statue of Moses as suggested by our apartment landlord. The place was closed minutes before we got there – bummer. We used the subway to get back to our apartment. Found that visiting Hanoi prepared me for traffic in Rome. The difference is that the vehicles are bigger. The same principal for crossing a street applies. Fix your eye on your destination, don’t make eye contact with drivers and trust in God’s mercy.

On Thursday we visited the Vatican. Again we had a great tour. There were only five people on the tour and we had a fabulous guide. We were able to scoot around the great masses of people. The Sistine Chapel is indeed a world treasure.When I was getting ready for the trip I jokingly said that we would spend Easter with the Pope. It looks like we may. During the tour Tina asked about getting seats for the Easter service at the Vatican. There will be thousands here. The guide said that would not be likely but you can ask the Swiss Guards on the way out. So, Tina did and was given three passes for seats. Wow, that’s my wife, I brag.

We also visited St Peters, spectacular.After lunch we went to San Luigi dei Francesi and I had the great treat to see Caravaggio’s St Mathews series. The Calling St Mathew, The Inspiration of St Mathew and The Martyrdom of St Mathew. I am always humbled when I see a Caravaggio. To see three significant paintings in the corner of the small church where they were originally commissioned and hung is truly amazing, a special memory that will stay with me and be one of the highlights of this trip.Afterwards we went to the Pantheon and came back to our apartment for a long nap. Jim had to finish a paper and call about his internship for the summer. Jim has proved to be a great and informed guide for our visit to Rome.We are certainly blessed to have built in travel guides to Rome and Vietnam.

Made a short trip to Tivoli. I believe this was the site of Hadrian’s Villa. The Villa d’Este, which is on the site of the old Roman Villa is the most spectacular set of gardens and fountains that I have ever seen. This alone is worth a trip to Italy.

And we were able to go to the Easter service at the Vatican. We were able to get close seats because we were on site early. You cannot get any more”High Church” than this.

The Pope passed within a few feet of us when he traveled around the crowd in hi “Popemobile”.

Lots of security.

Jim took us for a picnic lunch in the Villa Borghese Park. This is a typically Roman thing to do on an Easter afternoon.

We then made short stops at the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.

Big crowds.

A Day in Dublin

We have a part of a day in Dublin then off to the airport and a flight to Rome. A sunny day here.

Looking forward to seeing Jim in Rome, wishing Emma could be with us as well. However, she is continuing her adventure in Vietnam.

Had breakfast at the hotel. Interesting to see how they serve honey.

We will do a little sight seeing and shopping before we go to the airport.

Did not venture far but did get a photo of a building that had been the site of a gun battle during an insurgency. You can still see the bullet holes in the facade of the building.

Bus to the airport and on our way to Rome. Meeting Jim in the eternal city.

As I was about to leave Dublin I stopped for a Guinness as I felt it would be a sacrilege to leave Ireland without having one. I was chatting with a fellow traveler in the Bloody Horse Pub and mentioned that I was on my way to Rome. He said that Rome will be a fine place once it’s finished. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

First Day – Dublin

Made it to Dublin at 5:05 am and proceeded to make a classic mistake. We went to the hotel and slept. Now acclimating to the time change will take another day. Hotel is great. The Iveagh, they let us check in at 6:00 am.

Went to the Trinity University, the location of the Book of Kells. Quite a line to get in but was able to get tickets for the afternoon. In the meantime we stopped for a small lunch at a place recommend be our neighbor, Julia. The Pigs Ear. Had a great meal.

We we then saw the Book of Kells. Dates from about AD 800 and is said to be one of Ireland’s greatest treasures. Even more interesting, I thought, was the Long Hall.

We also visited the park that was in full spring Bloom.

Today is our 25th wedding anniversary.

Soon to start two Easters

It’s Saturday and we leave Monday. We had the floors sanded and urethaned, the house is upside down. The furniture getting back into place, which pleases Tina. Dust everywhere from the sanding. The odor of the urethane makes habitation an issue. But, we are starting to prep for the trip.

We have some Euros, tickets and passports. Dog will be groomed and we aresoon to start packing.

We are leaving some great spring weather here. It is said that spring in New England is as near to Eden as you can get.

Sunday evening and we are packed and ready. Well, we say that we are ready. Tina has been working like a Mad Woman getting a handle on the dust from the floor job. Looks great now.

First stop will be Ireland, the Emerald Isle. I have never been to Ireland nor the U.K. Anticipating a lot of green. I recall the only advice that my father’s stepfather gave me. Charlie was a hard man. He had been a teamster in the Klondike during the Gold Rush. The advice was “stay away from the Irish”. Looking back on my life, I should have heeded that pearl of wisdom.

The other thought about Ireland that I recall is a ditty that was taught to me by Ray Rhoades. Ray was a trader on the Navajo reservation. I knew Ray when I was in the Air Force in New Mexico. It goes:

“Ireland was Ireland when England was a pup,

“And, Ireland will be Ireland when England’s time is up

“So, if ya don’t like me Blarney and ya don’t like me sass,

“You can bend down and kiss my wild Irish… Rose”

I don’t think Ray had any other Irish thoughts. He was dyed in the wool Cajan from Louisiana. Ray was also the only white trader on the reservation that I knew who was liked and respected by the native Americans. Maybe because the feeling were mutual.

Well, we are on our way. Julia Sauter gave us a ride to the airport. Hugh lines so it was good that we are early.

Tina and I will be celebrating our anniversary in Dublin. 25 Years.

Last Night Out

Our last evening was spent north of Washington DC in Columbia MD. Tina’s cousin lives here and invited us to dinner and stay over. The evening had a number of highlights in addition to seeing Susan and Bruce. Rich and Amanda joined us with their recent addition, Landon. Landon stole the show. We had another treat, a WW II vet, a Marine Colonal who had led his unit ashore during a number of amphibious landings. The colonel had visited Rich’s history class and gave first hand accounts to the class. It turns out that Bruce’s dad was supporting one of the operations at Peleliu Island from his Navy Destroyer.