Originally Posted by Palarran
I'm always cautious of forecasts in the Med as they are wrong as much as right. Let us know after Tuesday what the wind does
. Windfinder, which I use, shows the wind
starting on Wednesday, but that's quite a long way off and certainly will change.
It was a false alarm
. The predicted 50 odd knots has thankfully not eventuated. Tuesday has arrived and the wind is intermittently 30+ knots today, gusting to high 30's and 20's the rest of the time (about the same tomorrow). Temperature has plummeted though - it's the first cold day for the winter with the wind chill bringing it down to just 2°.
Despite this, today was one of those days that makes winters here so wonderful at times. On the 6th of January Epiphany is celebrated and with it the blessing of the waters. It is second only to Easter when it comes to Greek festivals.
We are currently anchored opposite a monastery that was started up well over 1000 years ago. The original church was built over a temple to Apollo and ancient blocks have been utilised throughout. The current
church was extensively renovated in the 1700's and the vaulted ceiling and walls are covered in frescoes and lit softly by chandeliers.
We have been frequently treated to chanting carried over the water
, accompanied by a chorus of roosters, but this morning it needed to be experienced first hand. With the wind gusting and the actual temperature only about 4°, we rugged up and hopped in the dinghy to join the celebrations. Fresh greenery and mandarins decorated the interior
of the church (Christmas day service
had been decidedly more somber). Each of us was blessed with a bunch of fresh basil dipped in holy water
was followed by "refreshments" in a narrow small reception
room lined with dark timber, red velvet curtains and Persian rugs. A ring of portraits of abbots going back over several centuries looked down on the proceedings. We were urged to sit and plied with rich honey biscuits and kourambiethes, which are absolutely impossible to eat without getting covered in powdery icing sugar
. Home made Turkish Delight (more icing sugar to struggle with) was washed down with sweet cardamon scented black tea and then shots of
raki at 10:30 am
Fuelled and rugged up we all trooped out for the highlight. The blessing of the water includes a cross being tossed into the sea and young men diving
to retrieve it. Five brave lads lined up today, visibly shaking in the cold.
We have attended several of these ceremonies now and in clear water with calm conditions the cross used is metal and sinks. They must have experienced problems actually retrieving it at times (can you imagine the horror of a lost
cross!) so in some locations a string is tied to it. Here the cross used was timber and floated.
The joy on the winner's face was priceless
All this was followed by a sit down feast.
We were the only non locals in attendance today and felt especially lucky to be able to share in a custom that actually has its roots in antiquity. I just love it here out of season
Shot of them diving
in. That is our mast
on the left: