Saturday, 15 June 2013

After Carnival Season: Clean Monday!

Clean Monday is the first day of Lent (signalling the start of spring) and refers to the leaving behind of sinful attitudes and non-fasting foods.

Greek Dancing

Kite flying, Chrissi Akti beach
Kite flying, Chrissi Akti beach
Kite flying, Chrissi Akti beach

It is a public holiday in Greece where it is celebrated outdoors with consumption of shellfish and other fasting food, a special kind of ofazyme bread called "Lagana" and the custom of flying kites.  It is said that the higher your kite flies, the further away your troubles will be.

By Donna Southgate-Smith

Thursday, 13 June 2013

APOKRIES: A Time For Celebration!

With February brings Apokries which is carnival time in Greece and a time for celebration, a feast of dance, wine and meat before the sacrifies and fasting of Lent.

The tradition started in Ancient Times and is believed to be as a worship to Dionysos, the God of wine and feast. The word Apokries literally means saying goodbye to meat and in Orthodox tradition is the preparation period before Lent.

The carnival parades take place on the last day of Apokries and it’s the last time until after Easter that church weddings are allowed.

The largest parade in Crete is held at the historical town of Rethymno and has 20,000 participants and over 100,000 spectators. The theme of the floats are decided by teams of friends and all are original with custom made costumes each year. 

By Donna Southgate-Smith

Agia Lake: An Oasis for Bird and Nature Watchers

Although the season has started, Mistral hostess Donna Southgate-Smith and her keen birding husband Harvey, have found time to explore the local area.

"The island of Crete in the south of the Mediterranean, and just 300 kilometres north of North Africa, is ideally situated for migrating birds heading north in the spring to make a quick pit-stop before heading onto their main breeding grounds throughout mainland Europe"

Black-winged stilt
One of the best areas to watch this wonder of the natural world is Agia Lake in north west Crete.  Just 10 kilometres west of the main town of Chania, the lake attracts bird watchers from all over Europe during the main migratory months of April and May.

Yellow Flag Iris
Birds seen on this occasion included black-winged stilt, little crake and hoopoe. In May you should also be able to see squacco heron, little bittern, baillons crake, night heron, booted eagle, glossy ibis, bee-eater, whiskered tern and many more.

Agia Lake
For the younger ones, its's usually possible to see a few of the dinner plate-sized stripe necked terrapins, as well as geese, ducks and gigantic bull frogs!

If you're not into bird watching, don't worry - there is a very good coffee shop and taverna!  Agia Lake is well worth a visit just to experience the calm surroundings set against the stunning back drop of the White Mountains.

By Donna Southgate-Smith

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Greek Easter Experience

Traditional Easter Bread

Easter at the Mistral - culminating in a Sunday unlike any other!  From the devouring of a whole lamb and succulent pig barbecued to perfection, to red eggs and traditional music, evoking the passion and perseverance of life in the mountains of Crete.

Dancing the Syrtaki
By the time guests sat down to the feast, Easter had moved from Good Friday with Christ's funeral bier paraded through the streets, through the big mass on Saturday evening, when all lights are put out in churches at midnight signifying Christ passing through the underworld and then a mass of candles lit to declare his rising, to rejoicing and feasting on Easter Sunday. The red painted eggs symbolise his blood and rebirth. These are recklessly knocked together and the owner of the last uncracked egg is considered lucky. 

Every year the Gialamarakis family, extends unlimited hospitality to guests, relatives and friends. For the devout, Lent is over and Christ has risen and for everyone else spring has sprung.

By Linda Talbot