March 2009

March 2009

  • March 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

March 2009

March 2009, March 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

From Agni and Corfu, we are pleased to say that the sun has at last come out, and hopes are high, as we write, of a sunny state of affairs for one of the long weekends known in Greece as ‘tri-imera’.


March 2009, March 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

The tri-imera is a canny manipulation of a Public Holiday and a weekend so that everyone gets three days off that can, with a little more fiddling, turn into four or even five days of holiday. This particular tri-imera marks the last weekend of Carnival, which most parts of Greece celebrate with great gusto, and the official start of Lent, known as Clean Monday.

This is not the place for a theological lecture, but it is worth noting that this three-day holiday manages to combine pagan and Christian revels and traditions in a most enjoyable way. The Corfiots have always celebrated Carnival with great wit and ingenuity, but much of what now goes on dates back to Venetian times, and some of the most traditional costumes belong to this period – the long black ‘domino’ gown of the doctor or notary of the times, Punchinello, the ballerina and so on. Today, political figures local and international are widely satirized. Corfu has its own traditions, involving the local brass bands and public theatrical entertainments, unintelligible to non-speakers of Corfiot dialect but wickedly funny. The three weekends of parties and processions end, literally, in a blaze of glory, with the public burning of the figure of King Carnival.
Clean Monday is an unofficial Public Holiday – food shops open for the morning only, and everyone hopes for a breeze, for the tradition is to take a picnic (of appropriately Lenten food) and go off to fly kites.


March 2009, March 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

It is perfectly possible to buy a readymade kite, but dedicated dads make their own, and competition is keen.

As with so many Greek customs, there is something enormously appealing about this occasion. There is an unsophisticated, old-fashioned joy in the whole event; strangers chat to each other, children in their best clothes romp on hillsides and cover their white tights and new chinos with grass stains and it is all part of the day. Food is grazed on all day long – fresh spring onions and garlic, fragrant lettuce and dill, shell fish, squid, cuttle fish, pulses – all turned into utterly delicious dishes, none of it offending the rules of Lent – well, very little of it anyway. Halva for dessert, plenty of good Greek drink – ouzo, tsipouro, local wine – and the unique pleasure of eating food that has travelled the least possible distance from its source to your lips. Food such as oranges straight off the tree, clams brought up from the sea that is tickling your toes, wild asparagus from the slopes above Nissaki.


March 2009, March 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Clean Monday in Corfu is a unique and wonderful experience. The breeze seems to blow away the last vestiges of winter and leaves you refreshed and revived for whatever the summer may bring.

When it comes to news from the world of travel, surely we should turn to our very own Agni Aunt, Polly Vromikos, always the first with the travel scoop! Over to Polly, then.....

A Greek Baptism

by Stella, from the Corfu Agni office
Being the end of the winter, most people have spent last year's money and it is still a couple of months until the new season begins again. However, here in Greece these winter months are also a time when weddings and baptisms take place and are a good opportunity for friends and family to get together for a celebration. This month our own Sofri is celebrating his younger daughter's baptism and it is something we are all looking forward to.

For those who have never been to a Greek Baptism, let me tell you a little about what goes on. A few weeks before the day, friends and relatives are issued an invitation which is usually written as if by the Baptismee his or her-self and often says 'Dear friends and relations you are all invited to see me being plunged into the water and my godmother will give me a beautiful name' There follows the date, time and place of the baptism.

On the day, Mum has very little to do with the arrangements as the godparents organize everything, including the child's clothes. Guests are given a Baptism pin to wear. Baby is brought to the church wearing everyday clothes and the Priest begins the lengthy ritual. During this time the guests very often mill around outside the church or wander in and out! (At the ones we've been to it didn't look as if anyone was taking much notice except for the parents and godparents!)

At a certain point baby is taken to the back of the church and stripped naked, wrapped in a large towel and the godparent takes her to the font where the Priest anoints the baby with oil all over and then dips her into the font three times*. This is not just dripping water over the forehead but total immersion (imagine, oily slippery baby!) and then given back to the godparent. Most babies, probably having quite enjoyed things up to this point, from now onwards scream the place down! After more lengthy prayers and incantations baby is then taken back to the changing area and dressed in the Baptismal clothes. The ceremony ends with each guest being given a small present and sweets or cake.

Most baptisms in Greece take place when the baby is 6 months or older so that they can better withstand the shock of being immersed. (*The water in the font is usually warmed first).

end of column


Agni Aunt

Agni Aunt, March 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Surely the most electrifying news this month must be the announcement that Ryanair is considering charging its passengers one pound to use the toilets on their aircraft. If this becomes standard, then it cannot be long before other budget airlines follow the example set.

Agni Aunt, March 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

We foresee wild-eyed hordes of desperate travellers bursting into Arrivals at Corfu and making a mass invasion of the public loos because, as we all know, you never seem to have the right coin when you need it. There will be people who are so sure of their ability to hold their waters for a few hours that they will refuse to even carry a spare pound coin, and we all know what that can lead to.

Billy Connolly may have provided the answer, indirectly. In his new series covering a journey around northern Canada, much of it involving travel in small aircraft, he pointed out with a certain amount of gleeful menace that smaller planes simply do not have toilet facilities and you either do not drink before or during the flight or you carry – and he held up what looked like a milk bottle. Well – fine if you are a male, but ….


At first, we envisaged flight attendants selling tickets in exchange for pounds, punching them like bus clippies used to. Ding-ding to act as counterpoint to the bing-bong of the in-flight announcements. Then we learned that coin-slots will be installed on w.c. doors. That will be fun when there is a spot of turbulence and passengers are seen crawling along the cabin floor trying to locate their coin and hold on to their waters.
Clearly Ryanair is trying to discourage its passengers from drinking during the flight. In which case, we must applaud the attempt to improve the initial image of the British holidaymaker.

A pound a pee indeed! Goodness, they’ll be asking you to pay for sick bags next!
Incidentally (and honestly) the head of Research at Which? Holiday apparently commented that Ryanair was prepared to plumb any depth in order to make a fast buck, to which we, at the Agni Newsletter, have no reply.



While I appreciate the compliment from the Agni Team about always being first with the news, I must be fair and say that on-line news sites, forums, and the general tendency of the public to look at their blogs, e-mails and spam before brushing their teeth first thing in the morning, means that it is impossible to know who first hears the news of anything.
The Ryanair initiative held the public’s attention for a few hours, much as the lack of a pound coin will do to the unfortunates travelling from and to Euro zone countries, but in the end, it all flushed away into cyberspace, where it belongs.
And there I should stop, before I get too carried away.


Saint Valentines Day in Kefalonia

Saint Valentines Day in Kefalonia, March 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

by Francesca, from the Kefalonia Agni office
The taverna was gaily decorated for our Saint Valentine's Evening - but not with traditional themes of hearts and love. As the carnival season starts at the end of February the taverna was decked with masks of clowns, streamers and some Christmas fairy lights thrown in for good measure. There was a live band playing bouzouki music and the taverna near the campsite was packed. A larger than life character walked in through the door looking like a Greek version of Hagrid with long curly black woolly hair and a matching woolly moustache. His oversized voluminous black shirt was unbuttoned to the waist and he wore black trousers which were too long for him so they ended up being rouched at the top of his boots.

Saint Valentines Day in Kefalonia, March 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

It didn't take long for him to be roused by the music and, putting a paper serviette upon his head, he added a wine-filled glass and started to dance until the glass inevitably fell to the ground along with its contents. Undeterred he started to fill another glass so we found some umbrellas and put them up to make sure we wouldn't get soaked with wine again. This caused a riot of laughter from the next table and the children started to take photos on their mobile phones.

Saint Valentines Day in Kefalonia, March 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

After performing some other comedy acts including making castanets out of 4 empty wine glasses the piece de la resistance involved whipping the tablecloth quickly away from the table leaving the crockery and cutlery in place - however this went wrong and his unsteady hand meant that he thrust everything from the table onto the floor just so that he could use the table-cloth to dance a Rembetiko (Greek traditional dance using head scarves between the hands) clenching the cloth beween his teeth.

end of column