Saturday, 18 April 2015

Arriving in Athens: April 2015

Arriving in Athens: April 2015

Good Friday. We left Melbourne thirty two hours before after chasing the sun westward for nineteen hours, with an extra thirteen hours in airport lounges, we arrived.

As we flew in the sun was shining but the waves below us had white tops. And as we landed the airport was sun filled - as you would expect of Greece - but the distant mountains were snow topped, and the wind bent the airport grasses which rippled like waves. 

Syntagma Square


You come up from the railway station into the centre of Syntagma Square, into the bustling center of Athens.
Here we found people sunning themselves, great dogs lying in the sun, and a general spring busyness and happiness at the return of the sun, and the upcoming Easter weekend.
Takis saw a seller of koulourakia and could not pass it by without buying one to eat on our way to our hotel. We walked carefully through the throng.  I was hauling our small suitcase, and he (with back pack) was manipulating his walking cane, while nibbling his koulourakia.

The Old and the New, side by side












Ermou  Mall


Easter and this mall was full of Buskers

Baloon sellers

Harmonion players

And gloriously coloured food

Both of us were very tired, but we decided to try to stay awake until at least six that afternoon, so we took off down Ermou Street, a walking mall paved with marble bricks worn  smooth by many passing feet – OK for rubber-soled sneakers, but dangerously slippery for the tap of my leather soles.

The Greeks love shoe shops

That day the mall was bustling with window-shoppers and general wanderers, many dressed in parkas with fur collars, for while the sun shone the wind still came from Russia. And we found it was worth the struggle, tottering down to Metropolitan Square through the crowds, to one of our favourite cafes.


We sat looking out at the still-being-renovated Metropolitan Cathedral and at the happy holiday makers crossing the marble (gum smudged) courtyard paving. But the wind whistled around our necks although we sat in shelter and under a heater.
Easter 2015
However the sunlit scene in front of us entranced and the sound of the Cathedral bells tolling funereally completed our Easter vision. The poignant sound of Megala Peraskavi (Big Friday) was two slow strikes on each of the four bells. 
And nearly everyone had a phone to their ear


 We were not alert enough to attend any services but retired to our hotel room to watch the Epitaphios processions, as it took place all around Greece.

Easter Saturday is when every goes out shopping and the mall was crowded. We meet a couple of relatives for coffee late in the day.
Saturday night there is a service for the arriving of the flame from Jerusalem. This flame is first lit in the Temple of the Sepulchre, Jerusalem. Then it is brought from there (in a lantern) by air to Athens. It is then distributed to all churches in Greece for the Saturday midnight services, with the help of the Aegean Airlines . (I believe the airline may be rethinking this gift to the church next year!)

Everywhere I noticed Greek flags and came to the conclusion this both a religious and national celebration.

Easter Sunday marks the high point of the holiday, but that day everyone is with family - probably even back in village where they grew up - and the mall is empty. So different from the previous day, this day we found only a few passing tourists all forlorn as they passed empty cafes, and shop fronts boarded up for the day.

Easter Monday all is still quiet. Quiet for us too, as the previous night Takis came down with a severe chest infection and we had to delay our departure! (I found myself buying newspapers and we spent a few days discussing the articles about the Greek economic situation, and shook our heads about other articles about the aftermath of Easter, resulting in the usual post-Sunday service firework disasters. This year there were two deaths and five seriously injured, three of whom had limbs removed!)

 But soon we were ready to return to our schedule, and returned to the airport to fly back to Lemnos.


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