Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What can I say about Corfu at Easter?

Let's start with "Wow!" -- and then "Thank You!" to the family that made‎ my Easter perfect. Easter is the most important Greek holiday, when families get together to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ and also of nature by spending the spring day roasting lambs outdoors and just being together. These days most people can't afford much, but they pull out all the stops for Easter. Next week, back to the New (and continuously disintegrating)  Normal...

Corfiot Easter traditions are legend, so I went to see for myself and to visit with the family of Evangelia "Litsa" Meschini (née Thinori, AFS Girls School '70), who hails from the village of Episcopi just a few km from Naousa. Her husband Aristos was a policeman there when they met/married, and they have been in Corfu ever since -- living now in Kanoni, just south of Corfu City and one of the most picturesque places of many around this beautiful island.

Corfu was never occupied by the Ottoman Turks, but instead was under relatively congenial Venetian rule ‎ from 1386-1797. That's why you think of Italy when sitting out on the various plazas drinking your freddo espresso. There are many Catholics in Corfu and so both the Orthodox and Catholic Easters are celebrated together EVERY year, not just every four -- 2017 capped by great weather and a visit by Prime Minister A. Tsipras  & family

On Good Saturday morning, the remains of St. Spyridon -- brought from Constantinople in 1456 --  ‎were led in a solemn procession by 3 of Corfu Town's 18 Philarmonic Bands playing the funeral march from Franco Faccio's opera "Amleto." St. Spyridon is credited with saving the island from "food privations" around 1553. Quite the spectacle...Followed immediately by a"First Resurrection" service in the Mitropolis‎ Church and the ringing of bells at 11 am to start the prevailing calling card of the Corfiot Easter:  the throwing of red (or whatever you have) clay pots of all sizes -- some tiny and a few as tall as 5 ft! -- from balconies all over town. Thousands of visitors jostled for position to witness a pretty amazing sight that signifies the victory of life over death, out with old and in with new, and wishes for future prosperity. You are supposed to take a shard for your own good luck, but then you wonder who is going clean up what's left underfoot everywhere you go.‎

For me, however, the religious high point was Good Friday -- with at least 35 churches in town bringing out their "Epitaphio" (Christ's flower-laden funeral bier) starting at 12:30 pm for processions around their neighborhoods led by one of the bands, a chorale group, and representative ‎Boy/Girl Scouts, etc I never get tired of this part, and by 3 pm it was Epitaphio "gridlock" at various intersections with the many people following each procession through the narrow streets. Saw my last one about 7:30 pm from the Saints Iason and Sosipater Church in the Garitsa neighborhood...Then back to the same church for The Resurrection service at midnight on Saturday when candles were lit and we said "Christos Anestis" (Christ is Risen).  ‎ Over the Old Fortress and waterfront, a booming fireworks display put exclamation points on the joyous moment. 

After The Resurrection we went back to Litsa's house for the traditional magheiritsa soup -- super delicious, but you'd better not ask me what's in it! -- and a meal including meat and cheese to break The Fast. We cracked red eggs, too, and I somehow went undefeated in that department...In the afternoon we gathered at her daughter Elena's house for Feast II. Dad Aristos had roasted a lamb to perfection in the backyard and let me pick off little burned pieces of skin (a delicacy!) before he took it down, something my mother would not have approved of‎ :) Lunch was stellar, accompanied by "oven potatoes" and a fab pitta made by Sofy, daughter #2 and quite the go-getter. They had baked revani for dessert and just to be on the safe side topped it with bourbon vanilla ice cream. I did not say no (surprise!), but after an inevitable power nap on the couch eagerly went for the long walk around Kanoni.  What gracious hospitality, and so perfect a day.

Easter in Corfu 2017 -- Double Opa!

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network.

Friday, April 7, 2017

I'm in love with a river

And the Arapitsa is not just any river.  It's a magical river that swirls down through Naousa via a succession of waterfalls‎, beginning above us at Aghio Nikolaos Grove in the foothills of Mt. Vermion and fed by the many springs in the area (and now also melting snow). I never get tired of watching those rushing waters‎!
The Arapitsa -- one of only 3 Greek rivers with a feminine name -- is not just an amazing sight. These waters once powered famous textile mills that employed about half the town, but are now largely closed and shuttered due to globalization. It used to be a pretty big deal to buy a Vetlans blanket from Naousa.‎
About halfway up the river at Stoumpanos Falls there is a poignant monument to Naousa women who jumped to their deaths in 1822 rather than subjugate themselves to the Ottoman Turks who had just killed about 10,000 Greeks and burned the town to the ground. Naousa was not liberated until 1913, but the hard-fought "Olokaftoma" episode diverted Turkish forces enough to enable the Peloponnesus to become independent -- thus the unique honorific "Heroic City" bestowed by Royal Decree in 1955.
Today, the Arapitsa flows down into the valley below, serving to irrigate the many crops...fruit trees, grapes, vegetables, and, more recently‎, kiwis. The associated springs also give us our drinking water.  And there is promise of more energy uses in the future...
There are many amazing things about ‎this Macedonian  town of 23,000 people an hour west of Thessaloniki. Just a lot going on all the time, and on so many levels.

But Naousa's indisputable and indispensable backbone is a river, the magical Arapitsa.
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network.‎