χριστός-ἀνέστη! That’s how they say Happy Easter here: Christos Anesti!
Yes it is Easter here. Orthodox Easter fell very late this year. We didn’t plan to be in Greece for Easter, which is comparable to Christmas back home, but only recently discovered the coincidence.
Where is here? Right now we are in Crete, the southern island of Greece. Every ancient history class I ever had seemed to start by telling the story of Crete, and impatient as I was, I always wanted them to move on to Athens and mainland Greece. Now I’m here, in Crete, and Athens is waiting yet again.
Last night our BA flight from London arrived in Athens. This flight was much better than the prior leg, with attentive and courteous service. The food was … Well dessert was good. On arriving in Athens, we went to the lounge where we ate some Greek snacks while waiting for our flight to Chania.
On this flight, operated by Olympic Air, they were handing out candles for celebration of Easter, but wouldn’t let us light them on the plane. I noted a priest (dressed in full vestments) in the first row, and can swear I smelled incense.
Landing in Chania, we drove to our hotel, on the north coast of Crete. The drive was slow going at times, as we passed through towns clogged with throngs of celebrants, wending our way along the coast to the hotel where we checked in and collapsed.
This morning we had a fresh breakfast. At the buffet was this dish of red eggs, in celebration of the holiday. We expected little would be open, and so dawdled a bit before heading out.
Near the beach, our hotel was setting up this lamb to roast, but I had read that in small towns in Greece, they often roast the lambs in the town square. We confirmed this with the hotel desk, but they had only general directions to proffer.
So we headed out, down the highway and beyond, to where the road turned up and inland into the Cretan mountains, passing watching lizards and goats. As we climbed ever higher, and the road wound more intensely, goats seem to wander freely. We discovered that when one suddenly stepped into the road in front of us, just barely being missed. They keep the grass trimmed at the side of the road, and mostly stay off of the pavement.
These goats weren’t wandering. Instead they were fenced in. They found the rockiest ground in their pen and stood there. Truly they are creatures of the mountains.
The registrar had suggested we try the town of Samonas, where he was certain a tavern would be open, and where we could also see a giant olive tree that dated back to Minoan times. The tavern was not open, although the smell of families roasting lamb was intoxicating. Continuing along the road, we did find the massive tree, but couldn’t get very close.
Eventually, hungry and tired, we returned to one of the bigger villages we had passed, Stylos, where we had found restaurants open.
In the middle of the street, this pile of ash still smoldered. D was confused, but I had read that in some small towns on Crete they burn Judas in effigy on the night before Easter. We looked at the ash, and to the church just above, and I’m fairly certain that is what this was.
At last time had come to eat. The choice of restaurants was almost random (two were open and roasting lamb in the street). I don’t know whether we won or lost, but we did well.
I have had tzadziki before, but never like this. It was a revelation. And the Cretan salad, with mizithra cheese, dry bread, olives, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers was breathtaking.
For a main, D had pork and I had lamb. Both were made just for Easter. And wow! High quality ingredients prepared humbly. Just amazing. For those of you wondering about the French fries. Everyplace has French fries if they have potatoes. It’s what we all do, I guess.
We walked briefly, taking in the sights and smells of small-town Crete, before heading at last to our hotel and an afternoon break. After a nap, we found the sun setting behind the clouds and ultimately dinner downstairs.