March 2008

March 2008

A Greek Easter

To Elliniko Paskha (Greek Easter)

To the Greeks, Easter (or Paskha as they call it here) is both a religious festival and joyous celebration with more importance than even Christmas.

This year our 'Easters' fall in different months - one in March and one in April - and though UK travellers can't reach Corfu by direct means to celebrate their own Easter they can at least fly here directly to enjoy the Greek one! That's due to the new Easyjet flight from London Gatwick to Corfu starting on 31st March.

A Greek Easter, March 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel

How come Easter falls on two different dates? Well that's because Western Christianity (including the Anglican and Catholic churches) celebrates Easter Sunday this year on 23rd March whilst Eastern Christianity (including the Greek Orthodox church) will celebrate it on April 27th. Of course, as far as I am concerned, being English and living in Greece, this just means that I get to celebrate it twice! (Wonder if Nathan could be persuaded into giving us two lots of Easter holidays...)

By April, of course, holiday-makers from the UK will be able to bring with them all those delicious cut-price, after-the-UK-event chocolate Easter eggs for us to enjoy over here! The imagination runs wild with the thought of how many Cadbury's creme eggs a friend could fit into a 20 kg suitcase...

A Greek Easter, March 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel

A highlight of Greek Easter is the Saturday night Midnight Mass and accompanying celebrations - even if you are not religious this spectacle should not be missed! The entire church and surrounding streets are packed with people all clutching a candle which they will light, at the end of the service, from the Holy Flame when the priest announces the resurrection of Christ ("Christos Anesti").

A Greek Easter, March 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel

After walking back through the streets en masse to their homes (a wonderful sight in itself), they will use the flame to bless the portal above their front door with a cross of black soot protecting all those who live within through the following year. Then out comes the tasty 'mayeritsa', the special Easter soup (spring lamb broth with lemon and dill)... Now that the fasting is over let the gorging begin...!

A Greek Easter, March 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel

On Easter Sunday the Greeks also favour lamb but traditionally have it grilled outdoors over charcoal on a macho-manned, constantly-turning spit, basted with lemon, olive oil and oregano, salt and pepper. Those taking turns with the arduous task of manually turning the spit for hours on end are usually rewarded with a constantly replenished glass of local wine or retsina and conveyor belt service of tasty titbits (mezedakia) to keep them going.

Another firm favourite is the traditional 'kokoretsi' whereby the lamb's heart, the kidneys, the lungs etc. are cleaned thoroughly, cut into smaller pieces and put onto a spit in the form of a large souvlaki with an equally thoroughly cleaned small intestine wound round to bind the pieces. It is then basted and roasted over charcoal alongside the lamb (see photo above). And, despite how it may sound, it is absolutely delicious!

A Greek Easter, March 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel

In Greece, a piece of 'rare' meat is more likely to refer to an exotic animal steak than a lightly fried fillet - the locals definitely prefer their meat well done. This is just as well since the Greeks tend to eat every bit of the lamb including the brains and what they call the 'amaletita' (translated as 'the unmentionables') and truly these are better not discussed. As an honoured guest at the family feast you may well be the 'lucky' one who is proudly presented with one of these two circular symbols of masculinity as a prized treat and urged to 'Enjoy!' (Those who hate to offend, believe me, will find some small consolation in eating it well cooked as opposed to 'rare'...).

A Greek Easter, March 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel

At Easter the Greeks also like to play the game of egg-bashing with their red-painted boiled eggs - proffering each end alternately in a rounded fist for their opponent's aim with the end of his or her egg, the winner being the one whose egg gets demolished the least in the process (must have been a man who thought up this one...). Be warned though - this game always brings out the competitive spirit in men and the tears in young children!

Easter is certainly a special time in Greece, particularly on the islands as the locals realise that this will probably be the last chance they get of a break and 'knees up' before the onslaught of the summer season and all the hard work that will entail...

Might we see you here too?

Photo Caption

Photo Caption, March 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Click here to: Add a caption: March 2008

Here are some examples, offered by our Travel Guide forum members:

  • 'Now all you need is an ancient leotard!!'
  • 'OAP Specials: Free use of the javelin Tuesdays and Thursdays'
  • 'I've got a gold medal in the "Zimmer frame 100m"'

  • New Villa Carolina

    New Villa Carolina, March 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel
    View from Carolina's master bedroom, down to the pool.

    If you're unpopular with the rest of the family for leaving it too late to find a private villa with pool, then maybe your luck is in!

    Brand new on Agni Travel's books, and a perfect holiday base close to the popular upmarket village of Saint Stephanos, is the gorgeous Villa Carolina. With sweeping sea views to the Albanian coast, the villa has a lovely, child-friendly private pool, a well-equipped kitchen and lounge and features three comfortable bedrooms (one double and two twins) with all modern furnishings plus ensuite shower rooms.

    There's still chance to redeem yourself but hurry as this will fill fast!
    Villa Carolina, Corfu

    end of column

    Adrift In Athens

    "We are sorry to announce that the Olympic Flight, AO609 Kerkyra to Athens, has been cancelled due to snow closing Athens airport!"

    During the summer months, you will often see me at Corfu airport - not as a tourist, but greeting you at Arrivals. This announcement though had me concerned... No, not because I was meeting the flight, but because for a change I was supposed to be on it!

    Adrift In Athens, March 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel

    Corfu was enjoying a mild February. Bright sunny days with temperatures often touching the 20's accompanied by cooler evenings, although warm enough to enjoy a BBQ outside. So what's all this about snow? Athens was in the grip of a freak cold depression and for the first time ever, the airport was closed due to snow blocking the runways!

    Sunday 1900 hours Olympic Airways Ticket Office: Kerkyra

    "I am very sorry but your flight to Athens has been cancelled. I can book you on tomorrow's 6am flight though instead."

    With home just a 30 min drive away, Eleni and I decided that, rather than stay at the airport all night, we would go home and return the next morning refreshed and ready for a quick take-off. Or that was the idea...

    Monday 05.00am Kerkyra Airport

    We arrived to a scene, not dissimilar to that of peak summer! The departure area full and 7 planes parked on the runway! It soon became apparent that during the night several flights to Athens had been forced to divert to Corfu, forcing the passengers, like Odysseus, to spend an unscheduled night on Corfu! Flights from Paris, Madrid, Rome, Moscow and even one carrying scores of Chelsea football fans en route to a match against Piraeus team 'Olympiakos', were all crowded into the departure lounge. Blankets and an 'open' snack bar were provided to help make the wait more endurable...

    Monday 7.00am Take-off Time

    Our flight to Athens, now 12 hours delayed, was almost ready to take off. We were called to departure gate 3 and boarded an airport bus. The bus lurched forward, catching those who had neglected to hang on to the overhead straps by surprise, and whined its way towards an awaiting 737.
    The sun had risen an hour or so before and already it had started to burn through the airport mist, the runway clear and fully visible with signs of a warm sunny Greek February day ahead......

    During our impromptu stay at the airport we had met with friends who helped pass the time - listening to their joys (and sometime frustrations) whilst living in Greece. With them, we raced towards the waiting plane and started to climb the stairs... Suddenly a radio chortled and rather than the flight steward directing us to our seats, we were returned back to the bus!

    We spent the next 8 hours or so listening to airport announcements, while chatting to friends and recalling interesting website forum topics and Corfu trials! It wasn't until 4pm that the first plane took off; a French Paris-to-Athens flight. The Chelsea fans erupted into joyful song in preparation for their departure - there was still a chance they would reach Athens in time for the match.

    The Russian plane was next. Then finally the call was made for us to board our plane.

    Bright sunshine bathed the Ionian, and as we looked down over Kerkyra it was clear why she is often referred to as the Emerald Isle - blanketed by dark-green olive trees with only Mount Pantokrator towering above the canopy.

    Adrift In Athens, March 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel

    The flight to Athens is very short. A little more than a takeoff and landing. We flew down towards Paxos and just before flying over Kefalonia we banked towards Lefkada. I could imagine the thoughts of those who had been stranded at the airport: Athens closed by snow? But it's all so green below! Even the mountains on the mainland, as we continued on towards Athens, were without snow.

    Adrift In Athens, March 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel

    We started to descend and the metropolis of Athens came into view. A light dusting of snow slowly turned into a thick blanket and even the Acropolis was thickly coated!

    Only one runway had been cleared - the snow piled up into high banks each side of the runway.

    Athens was quiet. Probably still in shock! With no taxis in sight we walked to the Metro and headed into Athens.

    Tuesday AM

    Bright sunlight reflected off the snow and by mid-morning the temperature had returned to its season normal of +20c! By the afternoon the snow was almost gone...

    Agni Travel

    Agni Travel, March 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel

    Office with a view: Stella's new office may encourage her to work even more - even if she does not need encouraging!

    Agni Travel, March 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel

    Agni Travel - (almost) ready for new horizons.

    Agni Travel, March 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel

    Agni Travel Office - staff balcony for a leisurely lunch... (oops, only kidding, Nathan...!)

    March & April Events

    Friday, March 7th - Sunday, March 9th
    The main Greek Carnival Weekend (Apokries)
    A time of fun and frivolity, parties and lunacy! The climax of the celebrations is the impressive procession of King Carnival on the third and final Sunday.
    Monday, March 10th
    Kathara Deftera (Clean Monday or Ash Monday) is the first day of Lent (Sarakosti) and generally a family-oriented day with picnics and kite-flying.
    Tuesday 25th March
    The Greek National Day (equivalent to the 4th of July to Americans) and a major religious holiday with military parades and celebrations throughout the country. This celebrates Greece's victory in the war of Independence against the Turks who had occupied the country for 400 years.

    March & April Events, March 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel

    Friday, 25th April - Monday 28th April
    Greek Easter falls in April this year and is one of the most important celebrations of the Greek Calendar. Midnight Mass on Saturday evening is the key event and the resurrection of Christ is often celebrated with fireworks.

    Local News

    Local News, March 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel Local News, March 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel

    Spring is in the air and the whole island is coming to life!

    The annual Spring Clean is in progress and the locals are busy painting, decorating, fixing, airing and everything else -ing their properties for this year's tourists.

    At the same time the island's flowers are awakening from their winter siesta and everywhere is beginning to look pretty and fresh again. Welcoming...

    end of column