Traditional Greek Easter Celebrations in the Ionian

Spring has sprung in the Ionian – temperatures are nudging 20 degrees. Greek Easter is late this year, May 5th – Easyjet and Ryanair April and May flights provide the perfect opportunity to see how the Ionian islanders celebrate it. Easter in Greece or “Paska” is THE most important (and loudest) celebration of the year.

For Greek Orthodox Lent, those who so wish will abstain from eating meat and dairy products for seven weeks. On Palm Sunday churchgoers are given a cross made of palm leaves and the strrets leading to village churches are strewn with palm fronds and flowers. Holy Thursday is egg dyeing day. Good Friday is a holiday and most shops and businesses are closed and restaurants do not serve meat dishes. The procession of the bier of Christ is held on Good Friday evening. Led by a band or choir the bier is normally draped in a gold cloth and decorated with fresh flowers. The procession passes the local village churches.

On the Saturday night the festivities start in each village square – an occasion for all the family. It starts with the Resurrection mass where the Priest and the Church Elders form a procession and the ceremonial candles are lit. At midnight the intoning priest is drowned out by firecrackers and fireworks. Friends, family and strangers are embraced and greeted with the words “Christos Anesti” – “Christ has risen”. After this, everybody goes home for a meal of “margueritsa” (traditionally a lamb’s innards broth) – the fast is over. If their candles are still burning, a cross is made above the doorway with the soot from the wick, to protect the house for the coming year.

Easter Sunday is the official end of Lent and the fasting turns to serious feasting. Goats and lambs are turned on garden spits from early in the morning; the family wine is brought out and the dyed, hard-boiled eggs are cracked – a similar principle to conkers, where you hit the other person’s egg and the one that breaks is the loser.

Bicentenary of Edward Lear’s Birth to be Celebrated in Corfu!

Photo – Villa Aphrodite’s view over Mon Repos

Edward Lear is well known for his limericks and nonsense rhymes such as “The Owl and the Pussycat”. Lear however dedicated more of his time as a landscape painter. He travelled on foot and horseback through 19th Century Greece, Albania, Southern Italy and the Middle East making drawings, watercolours, lithographs and paintings of landscapes, which he sold to wealthy clients.

Lear returned to Corfu many times. He referred to the island as “No other spot on earth can be fuller of beauty and of variety of beauty.”

To celebrate the bicentenary of Lear’s birth, an exhibition of his works of art will be held (25 May to 31 August 2012) at the Corfu Museum of Asian Art, which is part of the elegant Palace of St Michael and St George close to the Liston and the heart of Corfu’s Old Town.

Just a few kilometres outside Corfu Town, just above Mon Repos (where Prince Philip was born) and set in large private grounds above the sea is Villa Aphrodite, which offers sumptuous accommodation for up to 10 guests.

Are you an Extreme Escapist? Find out in Paxos

Photo – Voutoumi Bay, AntiPaxos

On Paxos you can escape the crowds. There are no large hotels, only 3 small ports and the island is covered by olive groves hiding sleepy hamlets. It’s not that strenuous to get there: a 3 hour flight from UK to Corfu, a 10 minute taxi to the port and a 1-hour hydrofoil journey. If, for you, Paxos does not provide enough of an escape but you are still expecting comfort and a swimming pool – try AntiPaxos.

The idea of a holiday escape to a tiny Greek island will appeal to many people. Ingredients of a real escape will probably include a completely different environment, peace and quiet, balmy evenings, warm seas and the freedom to do what one wants when one wants. The tiny island of AntiPaxos has all these ingredients but it’s important to peek under the surface to make sure it’s the right escape for you.

Villa Violetta and Phoenica provide total privacy. Pathways lead from each house to two sandy beaches. There are no roads, no street lights and no traffic lights. You might spot the odd beaten-up jeep but donkey transport is predominant. Goat paths criss-cross the island – many walking trails. With a population of around 20 one is unlikely to bump into many people. With no light pollution the night sky is theatrical.

But – there are no shops (Violetta’s & Phoenica’s caretaker can deliver provisions from Paxos or the regular speedboat service between the islands allows you to shop on Paxos). There are only 4 tavernas and they do not always open at night. Excursion boats call into the two sandy bays most mornings and disgorge scantily clad day trippers for a few hours.

AntiPaxos is 4 kilometres long, 2 kilometres wide and lies 1 mile south of Paxos (a 20 minute speedboat trip). A wilderness of maquis and wild olive trees hides a small number of cottages and private vineyards. When the last inter island speedboat departs at 5.30pm you should have the sandy beaches to yourselves. There are only 3 villas for rent on the island.

A stay on AntiPaxos will provide an unusual and romantic escape but without the usual trappings and distractions of a more built-up resort, it’s important that you get on with your partner!

Discover the Real Ithaca

Ithaca is an island which will appeal to those wanting to escape a busy, noisy lifestyle. But will there be enough to occupy the wound-up mind, which sometimes needs more than a week to jettison unwanted pressures and can refuse to sit happily with simple and peaceful island distractions?

Recharging batteries is important and the small ports of Kioni and Frikes are perfect sleepy venues to do little but gaze at fishermen cleaning their nets. Island exploration however, will introduce many more natural delights to help the mind forget home based anxieties.

Hiring a boat (with outboard engine) is a great way to find a deserted beach and explore a beautiful coastline with just the company of seabirds. Pack a picnic or moor up alongside one of Kioni or Frikes’ waterfront tavernas for lunch.

Hiring a car will provide easy access to many parts of Ithaca but the more hidden parts are more difficult to find.

Katrina Parsey is our Ionian Villas agent on Ithaca. Katrina is a poet, storyteller and walker. With a few winter breaks back in UK as an actress, theatre director, writer and teacher, Katrina has spent the last 12 years on Ithaca. Over these years she has discovered a variety of walking trails and now leads daily walks (when the weather is not too hot) to introduce Ithaca’s more inquisitive visitor to the island’s people, history, mythology, flora, fauna and hidden landscapes.

Katrina says “Join me on a cultural walk exploring the sites and stories of Odysseus and Penelope. Or come along to the Folklore Walk, taste local wine, cheese, oil and olives on an ancient land. See the old olive press and wheat mill at Agrotiri. Walk along shepherds’ trails and discover the past and present of Ithaca’s farming culture.”

Leave your worries on the doorstep and discover an island which many have heard of but few visited.

Back-packing / Island Hopping Nostalgia

Photo – Greek island travel at sunriseIf, like me, you know what PJ Proby looked like and you owned at least one pair of flared loons, you most probably visited a series of Greek islands when you were in your late teens/early twenty’s.

Ferries were cheap and ubiquitous. A few hundred Drachma would pay for a waterfront room and a plate of lemony squid and a crunchy salad. A carefree attitude, a simple local lifestyle and a sense of intrepidity (no job to go back to) often meant catching another ferry to another island on a spur of the moment whim.

Then one gets older. A family happens. A job constricts. Comfort becomes more important. The cost of living in Euro Greece becomes higher. One is more trepid in travel planning.

My wife and I have Ionian island hopped on many occasions over many years. The travel and accommodation has varied but connections have been convenient and memories of the travel have always been good. When escaping from a stressful lifestyle it might seem best to stay in one holiday place but to experience two or more islands during one holiday can be uplifting and more memorable. It also makes a holiday seem longer than it is – two experiences are better than just the one.

Even if you only have one week for a holiday it would be possible to combine a few days on Paxos and AntiPaxos; Paxos and Corfu; Paxos and Lefkas; Corfu and Lefkas; Lefkas and Cephalonia; Lefkas and Ithaca; Cephalonia and Ithaca – but a week on each would be better.

At Ionian Villas we can arrange comfortable accommodation for your island hopping experience and we can help tailor-make your itinerary. There are different travel options for each island combination – call us on 01903 717874 to see if something appeals. Try something different this year!

© 2018 Ionian Villas Limited

Call us on: +44 (0) 1243 820928    ..or email enquiries@ionian-villas.co.uk

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