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.

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