19 April 2017

Easter in Santorini

As I was driven from the airport to Megalochori, the village that I would be staying in for the next four months, fireworks started to explode across the sky. I'd arrived just before midnight on Easter Sunday. There are 1,520 churches in Santorini and I learned that it was a tradition to let off fireworks at Easter, to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. I left my luggage at my apartment and walked with Ifigenia (the owner of Hellenic Culture Centre where I'm working) to the local church. Local holding flickering candles walked past, the eternal light, trying hard to protect the flame with cupped hands. It all felt so sacred.

We arrived at the church, and I jumped as a loud bang (it sounded like a canon) rang out. The interior of the church was stunning. So much colour and intricate frescoes. Ifigenia took two candles and told me to watch what she did. I kissed an effigy of Jesus, and then a bronze plaque in two places. Then the golden feet of Jesus. It was a lot to take in. I was then introduced to the three Italian Erasmus students (Natalia, Roberta and Paula) that I would be working and living with for the next few months, alongside some students of the language school that I'm helping. The village has four wineries and ten restaurants. I think I'm going to come back heavier.

I lit my candle and tried to keep it alight, but it wasn't easy. Ifigenia told me that we were going to a local taverna for a midnight Easter feast. We were served the traditional dyed red eggs, symbolising the blood of Christ (the eggshell representing the sealed tomb of Christ). You had to smash the egg with someone else's egg, and it's meant to be bad luck if the egg breaks). Then the food came, traditional Easter soup, tomato fritters (my favourite), spiced feta, grilled sardines, wild mushrooms, salad and fava. I wasn't overly keen on the soup but I wolfed down everything else. We left and lit our candles again for another attempt. I struggled to sleep in my new room, and dreamed of food.

Traditional dyed red eggs, amazing herby potatoes, feta salad and tzatziki
On Easter Sunday we went to local potter's house for another feast. As we entered his property, I saw two lambs roasting in a spit, with two people each turning the carcasses. As a vegetarian, I had to look away, even though I was prepared for it after reading the Lonely Planet Greek Island guide. I was given a tour of the potter's studio, and immediately loved a bowl and a vase with coloured circles, very Miro. I fell in love with the wine jugs and pots. Earth and Water has a great variety of ceramics on sale, as well as the chance to have lessons with Andreas Makaris, who has lived and worked in Santorini since 1985. He has won five awards at the National Greek Pottery Exhibition, and is said to be the best ceramicist in Greece.

As we waited for the food to be ready, guests took it in turns to turn the lamb (I politely declined). Eventually the tzatziki appeared, some delicious herby potatoes, potato salad, and salad with half a bowl full of olive oil which was like soup and great with fresh bread. A guest came and found the lamb's head in the bowl of bones, taking out the tongue. I had to look away! There were lots of happy dogs there! A cat had had kittens and two were sleeping in an old plastic container. The food was delicious and the people were very friendly, but by 4.30pm after eating three times the amount I would normally eat, I needed sleep. Some of us left and I slept until 11pm. Eating in Greece is tiring!

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