26 March 2017

Greek Independence Day

Greek Independence Day is a national holiday throughout Greece, and is celebrated annually in Greece, on 25 March.  This day commemorates the start of the War of Independence, which took place in 1821.  It coincided with the Greek Orthodox Church's celebration of the Annuciation to the Theotokos, when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she would bear the son of God.  

However, Greece had been part of the Ottoman Empire since 1453.  The Greek revolt was precipitated on the 25 March, 1821, when Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the flag of revolution over the Monastery of Aghia Lavra, in the Peloponnese.  The cry "Freedom or death" became the motto of the revolution.  The Greeks experienced early successes on the battlefield, including the capture of Athens in June 1822, but infighting ensued.  By 1827, Athens and most of the the Greek islands had been recaptured by the Turks.  

Just as the revolution appeared to be on the verge of failure, Great Britain, France and Russia intervened in the conflict.  The Greek struggle had elicited strong sympathy in Europe and many leading intellectuals had promoted the Greek cause, including the English poet, Lord Byron.  At the navel Battle of Navarino, the combined British, French and Russian forces destroyed an Ottoman-Egyptian fleet.  The revolution ended in 1829 when the Treaty of Edirne established an independent Greek state.

Ermioni is one traditional working town that still continues with this festival.  The day once again brought the community and visitors from afar to participate in the annual Independence Day.  Generally the day begins with mass at the 9th C Byzantine Taxiarches, meaning Archangels, church in the old village.  The people stop and pay tribute at the Museum memorial.  A procession then commences through the old village, down to the Limania harbour front, where speeches are given, poems are read and the laying of wreaths commence at the war memorial.  The event continues with the playing of national music and a march past the towns dignitaries by the children and students of Ermioni, some in national costume, and all carrying Greek flags.  This is followed by traditional dancing in the main square. 

01 January 2017

A look back at 2013 in Ermioni . . .

As 2016 came to an end, one will reflect back and realize that it has been a very difficult year for Greece for all, the islands, the mainland, the whole country has been affected by the recession and the question is when will it all end? Even the Ermionida region has had its fair share of doom and gloom, but luckily for the region, whilst strikes and protests were taking place throughout the year in the capital, life continued pretty normal in the Ermionida.  Sadly though, with today's media, the reports throughout the world thought the whole of the country was at a standstill, but his was far from the truth.  But the damaging effect on the country means that it will take months or even years for boosting consumer confidence.   Nevertheless, the BBC suggests that Greece will see the end of the recession in 2014, as a result of the Greek lawmakers, who have passed the 2014 budget, which suggests a return to growth after six straight years of painful recession.  Only time will tell.

What about tourism?  'A Global Brand' - 'A Timeless Destination' is how the country of Greece has been described.  The increasing number of tourists and the evolving profile of today's travel demands a host of new tourism offerings, and infrastructure projects.  Reports for this year, have implied 'record number of tourists to Greece'. Further reports have reported that tourism appears to have been on the increase.  Within the region, tourism was down..  Even though the capital, Athens and many other regions slashed prices, this region has continued as normal without making any drastic changes. Maybe for 2014, significant changes might be needed, or as the BBC has reported, things might be better in 2014.

Real estate has seen a steady interest from potential foreign investors.  New, comprehensive legislation is under consultation governing the construction of holiday homes.  A market which has been described as giving 'significant potential'.  Experts estimate that more than 1 million Europeans would consider a second holiday home in Greece.  Throughout Greece, investors will find a wide spectrum of opportunities, a welcome environment for new investment.  With ESPA government funding being made available for 'investments in tourism', it makes buying properties affordable and attractive.  Also with 5 year residency permits being offered for non-EU members, for a minimum spend of 250.000 Euros for real estate properties, has increased interest in this region.  There are further reports that Thematic Tourism and Eco Tourism are on the increase, which is giving the potential investor many opportunities to take advantage of government funding for tourism.    I will write about these separately, including the new planned marina for Ermioni, which will commence at some point in 2014.

Looking back over 2013, there were still many cultural activities that took place in this charming Greek town called Ermioni within the Ermionida region, which attracted many people from afar  . . .

EPIPHANY - 6th January
Generally, the day started with early morning mass in the old village of Ermioni.  From the church, a procession took place where all the people congregated at the harbour front.  The priests blessed the sea, followed by a wooden cross being thrown into the sea, together with an icon. The tradition is that young men who are destined for their forthcoming military service dress the boats, and the night before the YALA YALA, are heard around the village, singing and drinking lots of Brandy and other strong stuff, which will keep them warm when they dive into the cold sea.  Once the relics were thrown into the sea, all the men dived in and the one that retrieved both relics was blessed with 12 months of good fortune.  After this blessing and ritual, the Mayor of the region and other civic dignitaries went back to the town hall for further blessings, but this time of the Epiphany cake.

The Greek carnival got under way in February and this will be the same for 2014.  The main carnival weekend will start on the last day of February and will continue into the first few days of March. Main Carnival weekend for 2014 will commence Friday 28th February - Sunday 2nd March.   Ermioni is only a small working town, but does host an annual carnival with different annual themes on a smaller scale, mainly for children, but adults do join in.  The whole local community joined in the spirit of dancing and partying, as carnival time is for masquerade parties, parades, feasts and fun.  Although most carnival related events are historically connected with the ancient worship of the Greek god of wine and intoxication, Dionysus, masquerades and carnivals became very popular throughout Greece during the Venetian period.  Sadly like all good things, the feasting and drinking atmosphere ends with the beginning of the 'Great Lent'.

Clean Monday or Kathari Deftera is referred to as Ash or Shrove Monday.  This day marks 40 days before Easter and the first day of the 'Great Lent'.  The top of Pronos Hill is where all the activity took place.  A great place to fly kites from, because of the strong winds.  Children and adults alike, showed off their skills in flying kites.  One year saw food and wine being served, with music and dancing by the local community.

A major national holiday, which brought many people to Ermioni. This day celebrates the start of the rebellion against the Ottoman Turks, who had occupied the country for nearly 400 years. Church service started the day, with a procession that took the community and visiting people down to the harbour front, but en-route a tribute was paid at the Museum memorial.  At the front, the march took place by children and students dressed in national costumes, who filed past the town dignitaries.  Speeches were made, wreaths were laid and the day was finished with plenty of music and dancing.

Holy Thursday
EASTER in Greece . . . Effectively it is a truly magical experience to have the opportunity to participate in this religious occasion.  Here in this small charming town of Ermioni, the main event is over a 4 day period.  Holy Thursday, Good Friday morning, the procession on Friday evening, fireworks at midnight on Saturday, then the ultimate of the re-enactment of the 'Burning of Judas' on Sunday evening, whereby the harbour front is packed with visitors and the local community.  Traditional music and dancing take place, which is then followed by a huge firework display.  Considering Ermioni is only a small working town, it certainly does deliver some spectacular events.

Friday night procession
Burning of Judas on Sunday evening

ST JOHN - 23rd June
Originally a pagan tradition, but one that takes place every year here in Ermioni.  Young children dress up, students dance, everyone at the end jumps over the burning fire.  The girls wore wreaths of flowers in their hair and pulled out their wishes, dreams and fortunes from the mystic Greek urns.  Many fortunes were good, as the urns were smashed.  Later, students danced around the burning fire.  The finale was spectators being brave enough to jump over the burning fire, which was a sign of purification.

At the small mountainous village of Illiokastro, which is 9 kms from Ermioni, the celebration took place and was enjoyed by the local community and visitors from the surrounding areas.  After the church service, a procession took place around the quaint old village, which was accompanied by a brass band.  The evening continued with drinking and eating in one of the numerous tavernas which line the street.

This 11th C monastery was situated 4.5 kms from Ermioni.  On this particular evening, thousands of people descended from all over Greece and bought candles and paid their respects.  The street ascending to the monastery was lined with many market stall holders, selling absolutely everything.  Food stalls were in abundance and the police were in full forces diverting the coaches and cars.  Great atmosphere.  The morning after, saw the ceremony of blessing of horses, which apparently goes back hundreds of years.  Horse owners from around the region descended upon the monastery, then took their hoses into the large courtyard to be blessed by the visiting priest.  Excitingly after the blessings, the horses and riders rode back into Ermioni, which was nice.

During the month of July, there was an annual music festival, which took place over 3 weekends. Performances were by local artists and visiting choirs.

The largest celebration in Greece to the Holy Virgin is the Dormition, or Assumption.  In Ermioni there was a church named Panaghia, so this annual August festival had an extra special meaning, and many people from different parts of Greece came to Ermioni to celebrate.  The mass started on the 14th August at 19:00, followed by a candle-lit procession, that went down to the Limania harbour front about 21:30.  Upon return to the church, all passed under the floral epitaphios, where a blessing was given by the priests, followed by the giving of blessed bread.

On the 26th October, the Limania port area was turned into a display of fine foods and drinks made with pomegranates and presented by local taverna and bakery owners.   Potted pomegranate trees and live music created the ambiance of a small colourful carnival, which was buzzing with people.  Speeches were made describing the history and beneficial properties of this ancient fruit.  It turned out to be a great day for the community of Ermioni.  No doubt this years festival was better than previous years, as traditional music and dancing was included, as well as horse and carriage rides for children and adults alike.

OHI DAY - 28th Oct
This holiday is celebrated throughout the whole of Greece.  The day is remembered for General Ioannis Metaxas' strong reply of 'OHI' (Oxi meaning No) to Mussolini's request to allow Italian troops to come into Greece at the beginning of World War II. However, Mussolini's Italian forces did invade Greece, but were driven back into Albania by a much smaller Greek army.  In Ermioni, after the morning mass, there was a procession to the war monument.  After a brief blessing, wreaths were laid and speeches were given by representatives.  To conclude, school children and students marched past the Ermioni civic dignitaires who lined the Limania harbour side. 

Only in Ermioni and annually on the 8th November, this festival is celebrated.  It started with a service at Taxiarches church in the old village of Ermioni.  Once mass had finished, a private tribute was paid to the two Mitsas brothers who are situated outside the museum of history and folklore.  Following the tribute, which included singing the national anthem, the procession made its way down to the war monument at the Limania harbour, and once the speeches had been concluded by civil and military personnel of Ermioni, made its way back through the old village, to the church of Taxiarches church for a further blessing.

27 October 2013

Third Annual Pomegranate Festival '13

The weekend of 25 - 27 October, saw the port of Limania, here in Ermioni celebrate the 3rd Annual Pomegranate Festival, which welcomed many local people and visitors from afar.  Friday evening commenced with an exhibition at the Sygrou.  Saturday afternoon started with a cycle race to the Gorge of Katafyki, which passed a Pomegranate plantation en-route.  Saturday evening, local children dressed in costumes, rode on a horse and cart and distributed pomegranates to all local businesses.  On the Sunday morning, the port of Limania was turned into a dazzling display of fine foods and drinks made with this ancient fruit, and many cultural dishes were presented by local bakery's and tavernas for the community to sample and enjoy.  Potted pomegranate trees and live music, created an ambiance of a small carnival, buzzing with people in celebrating together this ancient fruit, which has been grown around Ermioni for centuries. Speeches were made by members of the community council, which described the history of this ancient fruit and the beneficial properties. Traditional music was played, traditional dancing took place and culinary samples were demonstrated. The sun was shining, the day was hot and again it turned out to be another great day for the local commuity.

20 September 2013

'NERAIDA' - A floating museum was in Ermioni 19 - 20 September '13

A piece of history returned to the 'island' town of Ermioni,  I suppose living her, one is privileged to learn about the history associated with this vessel, called Neraida.  She was built in Italy in 1939 and first sailed under the name of Laurana. During the Second World War, she served as a hospital ship.  After having survived the Second World War, the ship was bought by John Latsis.  Shortly afterwards, it began running passenger routes in the Saronic Gulf, under the name it still has today.

The Neraida was considered as one of the fastest ships of its day in Greece.  She became famous in Ermioni, as being the only fast steam ship to link the charming town of Ermioni, with Piraeus.  It hosted statesmen and public celebrities.  In 1956, she was used in the film 'Boy on a Dolphin', which starred Sophia Loren and Alan Ladd.

When the time came for the boat to be de-commissioned from its Argo Saronic ferry service, she was reconstructed and since, has become a floating museum.  Prior to her sailing to her final permanent home, Neraida called in to say her final farewell to all her previous ports of call, during her ferry service period.  Her final sailing was from Ermioni to Piraeus today, which will be her final resting place.

The floating museum is all about preserving and showing part of the modern Greek business history.  In part, it is also a biographical museum, contained within the historical shell of the museum-ship itself.  The exhibition contains three main sections:

  • Exhibition space A presents the history of the ship from 1939 - 1974.
  • Exhibition space B presents the chronicle of the rebuilding of the ship, from 2007 - 2010.
  • The central museum space focuses on the business career of John S. Latsis, presenting many of his business decisions and actions, within the context of international and Greek political, economic and social developments.
  • The Multi-function room, which contains a photographic exhibition, can serve as a conference space and lecture theatre, as well as hosting educational programmes.

07 September 2013

Armata on the island of Spetses

Each year, on the second weekend of September, the Armata re-enactment takes place on the Saronic island of Spetses.  It commemorates the events of the battle of 8 September 1822, in combination with the feast of the chapel of Panaghia Armata, near the lighthouse.  

The event is a re-enactment of the battle, which includes the torching of the Turkish flagship in the harbour.  This major victory of the naval forces of Spetses, was against the Ottoman fleet during the Greek War of Independence of 1821.  According to Spetsiot local historian, Anastasios Orlandos, the retreat of the Ottoman fleet was the result of an attack by the fireship of Kosmas Barbatsis against the Ottoman flagship, who set the Turkish Flagship on fire and blowed it up.  This act of heroism is re-enacted every year on the island of Spetses, with the burning of a Turkish Flagship replica, followed by a spectacular choreographed show of music with fireworks.

Thousands of people from all over descend upon the island toexperience this event.  An experience which the visitor will never forget, full of emotions and for the local people, very moving.  Prior to the re-enactment, there is music and traditional Greek dancing.

06 September 2012

Where does the name Ermioni come from?

Ancient Hermione was originally founded by the mythical hero Hermion and dedicated to the 'messenger' god Hermes, as Hermione means 'the one who carries the beauty of Hermes'.    

Many centuries later, during the late Mycenaen period, the town was honoured to Hermione, the only daughter of Helen and Menelaus, King of Sparta.  When Helen and Paris sailed together for Troy, Hermione was abandoned to the care of Clytemnestra, wife of Agamemnon, King of Argos and Mycenae.  Hermione, later married Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, the Greek hero of the Trojan War.  In the Iliad, Homer mentioned ancient Hermione's involvement in the Trojan War, 1260 - 1250 BC, under the command of the Argive King Diomedes, also the number of warships that sailed to Troy to bring back the beautiful Helen, Queen of Sparta.  Ancient Hermione has always been allied to Sparta.  

Over a thousand years later, the Augustan Roman geographer Strabo wrote about the town, as 'lying on the South-Eastern end of the Argolida, whereby history goes far back in time'.  Strabo also pointed out that 'it is not one of the lesser towns'.  Built and later re-built on the same site, Hermione has been inhabited since 3000 BC.


04 September 2012

Ermioni - Hermione........name day

Today in Ermioni, the community celebrated the name day of Ermioni, or Hermione as it is sometimes written from ancient texts.  Ermioni is actually a female Greek name which derives from the Greek messenger god Hermes. Hermione means "gorgeous as Hermes".  Hermione is an ancient Greek name which continued to be used in the early Christian years to date.

For the Greek Orthodox church, it is associated with Hermione, the daughter of Apostle Philip.  She had the gift of prophecy and was buried in Ephesus.  Ermioni was declared a saint by the Greek Orthodox Church, and the memory and name day of Aghia Hermione is celebrated on 4 September in Ermioni.

There is an evening service on the 3 September, followed by the official morning service, held at the Byzantine church of Aghia Hermione, on Pronos Hill.

The original Hermione was the daughter of Helen and Menelaus of Sparta, who married the son of Achilles, who was the Greek hero of the Trojan War.  Hermione later eloped  and married Orestes (pictured above).