25th March Celebrations on Ithaca

Greeks love to celebrate, be it their birthday or name day (γιορτη), religious holidays, bank holidays or national days. Whatever the celebration – Greek people celebrate to the full, throwing themselves into the spirit of the day!

25th March in Greece is a national holiday – to celebrate the start of the Greek Uprising/the Greek Revolution/the Greek War of Independence in 1821. It also celebrates the Annunciation (Ευαγγελισμος): the day Archangel Gabriel paid a visit to Mary to inform her that she would be giving birth to the son of Christ on 25th December.

In fact 25th March is a day of three celebrations as it is also the “name day” of all those named Ευγγελος (boys) and Ευαγγελια (girls).

25th March parade in Vathy, Ithaca

25th March parade in Vathy, Ithaca

A day off work and school, church services in the morning to commemorate the occasion, followed by a parade through the streets of cities, towns and villages by the school children of all ages, either dressed in blue and white (national colours) or for the younger children the traditional costumes. A marching band often accompanies the parade and local characters will join in as well.

25th March parade in Vathy, Ithaca

25th March parade in Vathy, Ithaca

 

After the parade, people will make their way home to indulge in the traditional meal of Μπακαλιαπος (fried cod fish) and σκορδαλια (mashed potato and garlic). As this day also falls in the Lenten period where no meat or fish should be eaten the Orthodox church decreed an exception for the 25th March allowing the salted cod fish to be eaten.

Vathy, Ithaca

Thanasis, a Vathy (Ithaca) fisherman and avid Olympiakos fan

ΧΡΟΝΙΑ ΠΟΛΛΑ ΕΛΛΑΔΑ

Carnival Season

Carnival season in Greece (“Apokries”) starts 3 weeks before Easter.

Vathy, Ithaca

Carnival time in Vathy, Ithaca

Fancy dress processions through the streets, dancing groups and music bands. Bystanders throw confetti, streamers and sometimes firecrackers.

Vathy, Ithaca

Vathy carnival procession

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clean Monday (“Katheri Leftera”) marks the beginning of Lent when meat, dairy and eggs are avoided by those who observe it.

If the sun shines on Clean Monday, families picnic outside with “lagana” (an unleavened flat bread), taramosalata, shellfish and salads, followed by sticky deserts. The skies are filled with colourful kites – another part of tradition.

Paliokastritsa, Corfu

Our Clean Monday feast on Palikastritsa beach

Winter Weather on Ithaca

This Blog was written by our Ionian Villas manager on Ithaca, Sue White.

Sue lived on Kefalonia for 18 years and has now been living on Ithaca for 5 years.

Sue is a taxi driver on Ithaca – one of twelve drivers.

Sue looks after our clients and is able to give a valuable, personal insight into the history, culture and lifestyles of Ithaca.

Sue has her own website: Ithaca Travel Services

“A lot of people who visit Greece in the summer are under the impression that there is wall to wall sunshine year-round. In my taxi, apart from being asked the usual list of questions as to how I ended up being an English lady taxi driver on a small Greek island, the conversation then switches to ‘the weather’.

It’s not only tourists who have an interest in the weather. The locals here on Ithaca also have a very healthy interest on the subject, and of course they are all experts! From fishermen, shepherds and even the all-knowing γιαγιαδες (grand matriachs), I hear conflicting predictions about the weather but this last summer they all seemed to agree with each other. In August temperatures of 40 Degrees the talk was of a ‘βαρύ Χειμώνας’ (a heavy winter) – and they were right.

After a reasonably mild November and December, the New Year kicked off with freezing cold temperatures and snow, swiftly followed by days of torrential rain. For the first time in 10 years the snow settled all over the island – not just the mountain villages but also on the beaches!

Ithaca

January snow on an Ithaca olive tree

When the snow was washed away by days of relentless rain, the mountain streams flowed down the valleys to resemble a Lake District landscape (apart from the olive trees!). Ithaca, an island rich in pasture land and olive groves, is now super lush and green.

Ithaca

Snowy Stavros village

One of the effects of the snow, say the fishermen, shepherds and γιαγιαδες, is that invasive bugs have been frozen and they are now predicting a good olive harvest next October.”

Ithaca

Post snow streams

December Newsletter

Ionian Villas is coming up to its 5th birthday. With a big thank you to our guests over these 5 years, our Ionian programme has grown to feature over 200 properties.

We continue to visit all the properties each year.

Our new properties for 2017 are:

1-bedroom properties: Olitsi Apartment on PaxosLydia on Kefalonia; Fassoulou’s on Ithaca.

2-bedroom properties: Angelika on Paxos; Bougarini on Paxos; Delia on Paxos.

3-bedroom properties: Agni Bay on Corfu; Anetta on Corfu.

4-bedroom properties: Chiara on Paxos; Beach Villa on Kefalonia.

6-bedroom properties: Athanasia on Paxos.

7-bedroom properties: Marina on Paxos.

Kythira. In the earlier days of Greek Islands Club, before it became part of a larger corporate image, we started a small programme on the southernmost Ionian island: Kythira.

Village of Agnondas, Kythira

Village of Avlemonas, Kythira

We returned to Kythira in October this year to meet up with old friends. We were delighted to see that little, if anything, had changed in the past 25 years.

We will be introducing our Kythira programme in the new year. Kythira is not for the package holidaymaker or the lover of swimming pools and will appeal to the more intrepid Grecophile.

Have a look at Andrew Bostock’s piece on Kythira in the Guardian

Holiday Snaps. We are keen to add your holiday photos to our website. If you have any images, which you would like to share – please send them to us in an email.

What is happening in Greece today? The UK’s media coverage of life in Greece is often scant. Very few of us know and understand how austerity measures are affecting the Greeks. Greek Crisis is a blog dedicated to the understanding of the current Greek (but also European) economic, political and institutional crisis. It was created by Prof. Aristides Hatzis of the University of Athens, after many requests by his students seeking a source of reliable analysis on the Greek current affairs. Its aim is to post commentary and reports published mainly in the major U.S., European and Greek media and to encourage a rigorous discussion.

Walking on Paxos. Before roads were built on the islands, communication between island hamlets and villages was via a network of pathways. Many of these paths have become overgrown or the stone walls on either side have collapsed, making access difficult.

Paxos

Paxos path clearing

On Paxos, a hard working group of locals are clearing these paths so that eventually all parts of the island can be reached on foot. Come to Paxos in May and explore olive groves coloured by a profusion of wild flowers. 2 people staying at Olitsi Apartment 8th to 15th May would pay £225 per person for the apartment and an Easyjet flight for around £150 each.

We hope to see you again on one of the Ionian islands – do get in touch if you would like us to search for a special island escape.

Vivienne, Alex and I wish you all a very Happy Christmas.greece-olive-snow

Fiscardo Before the Sun Umbrella Invasion

2016-04-28 07.20.15 (1824 x 1368)Fiscardo is undoubtedly one of the most colourful and prettiest ports in the Ionian.

In 1953 an earthquake destroyed all Kefalonia buildings except those in Fiscardo and a few outlying villages.

In my early Greek Islands Club days we took on a small programme of village houses for those visitors wanting to spend lazy days people and boat watching on Fiscardo waterfront.

In the early 1980’s a coffee on Fiscardo waterfront would have cost around 25 cents in today’s money.

Many of the Greek islands still hold on to a simple lifestyle and do not let the demands of blinkered tourism dictate their future. But whereas an older island generation may not want change, the younger generation will naturally be aspirational: the BMW versus the donkey.

Running a travel business often leads one to hypocrisy. I always tried to offer holiday opportunities to those wanting to escape the crowds and to get to know and be part of a simple Greek island community. In 1990 the BBC Holiday Programme asked me if we would host a film crew in Fiscardo. I said yes. Holiday bookings to Fiscardo soared the following year and Fiscardo started to take on a more chic appearance.

A coffee on Fiscardo waterfront can now cost 4 Euros.

The following photos were taken in 1990 when my mum (Buz), my wife (Vivienne) and I introduced Lorraine Chase (as the Presenter), a BBC researcher plus a cameraman and sound man to the beautiful landscapes of northern Kefalonia and Fiscardo.

You will see that there were only a very few café bar tables and chairs and wooden fishing boats outnumbered fibreglass cruisers. There were also no waterfront sun umbrellas. Today’s waterfront wall of sun umbrellas provide welcoming shade but I still prefer the openness that existed pre-invasion and also the look of traditional, rickety cafenion chairs and chipped metal tables.

But life goes on and Fiscardo will still dazzle and delight.

Lorraine Chase in Fiscardo

Selfie with Lorraine!

Fiscardo waterfront Lorraine Chase

Lorraine & my mum!

Fiscardo waterfront

Fiscardo waterfront 1990

Fiscardo waterfront

Vivienne and Alex at Villa Theodora – this is now a waterfront bar.