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Monday the 19th of February 2018 is a national holiday thus a day of celebration.
Clean or Ash Monday, “Kathari Deftera” in Greek, marks out the 40-day period of the Great Lent for the Eastern Greek Orthodox Church, which is called “Sarakosti.”

seafoodClean Monday puts an end to the preceding three week Carnival celebrations. Invites Orthodox Christians to leave the sinful attitudes associated with Carnival behind and prepare themselves for Easter.

The tradition of Clean Monday in Greece involves food for adults and fun for kids!

The tradition menu for this day wants dishes based on seafood such as seashells, shellfish like shrimp and mussels, cuttlefish, octopus and more. Trade mark of the day is the taramosalata, (a dip made out of the salted and cured fish roe from carp or cod, mixed with olive oil, lemon juice and bread crumbs), the lagana, (an unleavened flatbread baked only on that day) and of course, ouzo drinking.

Clean Monday’s favorite game for kids is the Kite flying and this is a part of the tradition.
Friends and families organize picnics to open areas, so as to fill the skies with their kites and enjoy their meal at the nature.
In older times, kites used to be handmade, for that many traditional workshops were involved in making kites for over 70 years. Nowadays the wooden kites have been replaced by plastic ones, but there are still some kite-making handcraft. The secret of a successful kite is in its balances and tail.

aetoi kids
If there weather is good, you can see the traditional kite flying in almost every open air location of the city, such as Philopapou hill

For those of you that like seafood, a must see is the central market of Athens. Specially for that day it is open from Sunday 22:00 non stop until Monday 13:00 and it is unbelievably crowdy.
Athenians are visiting this market for their sea food shopping after their carnival’s last night parties.
If you decide to pay a visit please take care of your personal belongings.

seafood varvakios

Published in The Greek way
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25th March. A National Holiday for the Greek Independence Day

The 25th March is a major double National Holiday, a historical and a religious one. All schools, banks, all kind of shops and business as well as all public services come to a standstill.

Greeks celebrate the War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire. The “Greek Revolution” was a successful war of independence waged by the Greek revolutionaries between 1821 and 1830. At the same time, Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the “Annunciation” by archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she should become the mother of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

1821 Greek revolution

The festivities in Athens start one day prior on the 24th March with the annual students parade. School students and other youth associations, dressed in school uniform and traditional dress, march in front the Tumble of the Unknown Soldier, located at the yard of the Hellenic House of Parliament in Syntagma square.

On the 25th March, the grand military parade starts at 11:00 am making its way from Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, past Hellenic Parliament at Syntagma Square, the Academy of Athens on Panepistimiou Street and ends at Omonia Square. The grand parade includes squadrons from the Hellenic Armed Forces, civil and military marching bands followed by a procession of military vehicles, while air Force planes and choppers are overflying. So, if it happens to be in Athens on that day don’t be surprised!

military parade Athens 25 March

The parades are attended by the president of the Greek democracy and other dignitaries, along with hundreds of locals who gather along the streets. Smaller local parades are taking place practical at any city neighborhood or country village! So if you plan to travel by car on the 25th of March try to avoid crossing villages between 11:00 – 13:00.

Tip: The Greek custom on Annunciation Day is to eat “bakaliaros skordalia”, a delicious crispy fried Cod fish with a spicy garlic sauce made of potato and olive oil, available at all restaurants and tavernas throughout Athens and the rest of Greece.

Greek food tradition for the 25th March

Published in The Greek way
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This is an ideal place to enjoy a day away from the busy center of Athens. If you carry your supplies you can enjoy a picnic at nature.

panorama kessariani1

Mount Ymettos is a long, narrow mountain of 20 km total length while its highest peak reaches 1,026 m.
6.4 Km (4.0 miles) away from Syntagma square

Highlights of the western part:

- The Orthodox Monastery of Kessariani

It is believed that the monastery was established in Byzantine times in ca. 1100 as this is the date of construction of the surviving church. But, the site has a far longer history as a cult center. In Antiquity, before being taken over by Christians in the 5th/6th centuries, it was probably a site dedicated to goddess Aphrodite.
Moreover, next to the Monastery there are remains of the 10th/11th centuries such as a large early Christian basilica to the west, and a smaller church further.

Early monks of Kessariani had their cells and refectory equipped with a Roman plan bath-house with hot and cold baths and a warm water heating system.
During the Ottoman occupation the luxurious bathhouse was transformed into a more utilitarian oil press, parts of which have been preserved.
During World War II all the trees of the surrounding hill were cut down. In about 1964 the Athens Friends of the Tree Society “Philodasiki” took charge and have planted them after. The large garden of the monastery is now a peaceful sanctuary.

Please keep in mind that Kessariani Monastery is an active church. So, if you intend to visit it dress appropriately. Inappropriate clothing includes sleeveless shirts, shorts, miniskirts e.tc.

Kessariani Monastery is an excellent starting point for a hike, a bicycle ride or just a picnic on Mt. Ymettos since it has paths that lead to the forest. The scenery and the full city view makes Kessariani Monastery a popular recreation spot, especially on the weekends.

panorama monastery

- The aesthetic forest

The whole area, successfully reforested by Philodassiki after extensive efforts was declared an “Aesthetic Forest” in the Presidential Decree PD 71/94. The aesthetic forest covers an area of 4,460 acres and surrounds the Byzantine Monastery of Kessariani.
It stretches from the edge of the city to the rocky slopes of Ymettos at 760 meters altitude. Medium and strong slopes dominate the area (30% - 65%) the area is ideal for leisure activities such as hiking and cycling.
Various species of trees grow in the forest, but cypresses and pine trees predominate.

- Botanical walk

The garden that originally established in 1964, on land near the Monastery of Kessariani, was the home of over 200 different species of plants from Southern and Central Greece, the Aegean islands and Crete.
Altitude: 360 - 410m
Orientation: Northern - Northwestern

Αlong the paths the visitor can see many species of plants and trees with their Greek and Latin names written on beautiful wooden signs.
The aim of the garden is threefold: conservation, education and pleasure. The conservation of rare and threatened with extinction species is the primary purpose of most botanical gardens today. The members of Philodassiki Society are very concerned with the ever increasing growth of plants on the Red Data Book list. Of paramount importance is, therefore, the existence of the nursery of Philodassiki for the multiplication of threatened plants and their reintroduction to the garden.

 

How to get there

Public bus 224 From Syntagma To Kessariani Cemetery takes about 50 min depending on traffic.
From the Cemetery the Monastery is 2 km walk (altitude difference 275m / 942 ft) .

By taxi 20-35 mins. Cost about 7€ one way.
For your way back you need to have an appointment with the driver or use a relevant app on mobile phone (e.g. BEAT, UBER). Additionally you can walk downhill to the cemetery where there are taxis.
If you go with your private car please note that car access to the forest is prevented by bars after the dusk, especially during the summer period. Also parking is not very easy on weekends as this for the Athenians is a popular place to go.

Published in Short walks nearby

For all Christians Good Friday is the peak of the Passion Week. The day of absolute mourning and reverence for Christianity. The day that commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at the Calvary, while the church bells ring in mourning from 12 noon.

This year, 2018, Good Friday in on the 6th of April.

In all Greek churches, no mater if it is in big cities, remote villages or whitewashed islands, the Passion of Christ is devotionally revived through different traditions.

epitafios

The ritual starts in the early morning when women decorate with flowers the Epitaph in order to receive the body of Jesus after the mass.

following the Epitaphios in Plaka

The day culminates with the Epitaph procession by candlelight through the streets, where priests, choirs, military bands and the faithful crowd chant religious hymns.

If you get the chance, do not hesitate to follow it your self!

epitafios in Athens city center
It is distinguished experience you will remember for long time! If your vacation home happened to be near Plaka, Athens’ oldest neighborhood, consider your self lucky!
More-often, several Epitaph processions meet at crossroads or little hidden squares, through the narrow picturesque alleys, offering a unique opportunity to feel the vibes and make memorable photos! Go for it!

The customs of the Holy Week are always an interesting cultural experience even for non-believers.

epitafios in front of Greek Parliament

The most formal ceremony is that of the Metropolis in which politicians and influential figures of Athenian society are involved. This particular epitaph is accompanied by a military band.

In most areas, the epitaph procession begins around 9pm, for one exemption. In the Monastery of Kaisariani, the epitaph procession takes place during the day. It comes out of the church around 02:00 pm. The procession takes place on Mount Hymettus, through the flowery nature and it is accompanied by the Christian Youth Brotherhood that chants. It is a unique experience for anyone who prefers to be away from the hustle and bustle of the city center.
Find here more info and instructions of how to get there.

Published in The Greek way
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EpiphanyPeiraikiOn Jan. 6th  during the Theofania (also Epiphany or Fota) celebration takes place across Greece while the Greek Orthodox Church performs

 the “Great Blessing of the Waters”.


The ceremony is performed once on the eve of Epiphany in the church, and then again on the actual day outdoors with priests blessing large bodies of water, sea, rivers, lakes and of the vessels that ply them .
In all Greek coastal cities and villages the priests bless the waters with the Holy Cross, while many brave swimmers jump into the icy waters despite the cold weather to catch the Cross and get the priest’s blessing for the year.
The tradition wants the young man that catches the Cross will have extra good luck and blessing for the year to come. As the cross is victoriously brought back, the priest releases a white dove, as a symbol of the holy spirit.
This religious celebration commemorates the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist, according to the Orthodox Church, and the banishing of the mischievous Kalikantzaroi (goblins) back to the hollow earth for another year round, according to popular belief.

Οne of the main traditions of the Epiphany holiday is the Kalanda (carols) sung by children on Epiphany’s Eve taking the message of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River from house to house over sweets or a small amount of money.

So, do not be surprised if you hear the door bell ringing on the 5th of January morning...

Published in The Greek way

The Jewish Museum is housed in a renovated neoclassical building of great architectural interest.

Jewish museum interiorThree of its four floors are divided into three consecutive levels, of unequal height. All the levels are arranged around a central octagonal shaft, which runs the height of the building, from the basement to the roof. Its glass dome allows natural light to flood through all the levels, while the Museum’s stairway winds around it in an anti-clockwise spiral from the bottom up. Following this upward spiral, the exhibition is divided into thematic units, one per level.
The visual result is an interesting and unusual environment, with a lot of angular shapes and structures, all around the central axis of the skylight.

The area is 800 square meters and houses a collection of more than 8,000 objects, most of them rare religious and domestic artifacts which record the history and tradition of the Greek Jews.
Besides the permanent exhibition, there is a temporary exhibitions area, a Contemporary Art Gallery, an educational programs area, a library, a cloakroom, storage facilities, a photographic archive and laboratory, a conservation laboratory, as well as office space.

 

Jewish museum interiorOpening hours
Monday to Friday: 9.00-14.30
Sundays: 10.00-14.00
Saturdays: closed

Admission fees: Adults 6 euros, students 3 euros
Guided tour fees for groups: 50 € (upon arrangement)

Address: 39 Nikis str., 105 58 - Athens
Tel: 210 3225582

If you also want to visit the synagogue there is one at 5, Melidoni St.
But due to security reasons, all visitors have to either show identification or send in advance a copy of their passport along with the dates of their visit to Fax: (+30) 210 322 0761

Synagogue Beth Shalom (sfardi):
Monday and Thursday mornings: 8:30
Friday evening:
Mincha at sunset, followed by Kabbalat Shabbat
Saturday morning: 8:30
Saturday afternoon: Mincha at sunset, followed by Azkarot and Arvit.
Tel: (+30) 210 3252 875 - 210 3252 823

More information at jewishmuseum.gr

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