Kittie Howard


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Easter in Thessaloniki, Greece



As Easter approaches, I'm entertaining nice thoughts about past holidays:  the smiles . . . a little something that stuck in the mind's eye -- a panoply of tulips near the front steps to my mother's house and when I opened the door the aroma of good things cooking in the kitchen flooded my senses. Yes, that's what happy memories do. They flood the senses and wrap the soul in warm fuzzies.

Such is the feeling now. Even though it's cold outside and spring's a no-show, I feel warmed and blessed by so much. So many good things. From the Hallmark angel my niece gave me to family trips and gatherings to an Easter in another country that was also very, very nice.

Thessaloniki, Greece.

In 2004, my husband and I spent Easter in Thessaloniki. It's a traveler's story for a lazy afternoon as to how this came to be, but, suffice it to say, we were delighted it did. Even if we aren't Greek Orthodox and even if Easter's dates float among the Christian faiths, it didn't matter. Oh, but life's roller coaster can take some magical turns. I'd like to share one of those turns. Come on. Don't be shy. Put on your virtual Nike's. We've got some hoofing to do before we get to what infused the senses . . .

With about a million residents, Thessaloniki sprawls from the Aegean Sea to the mountains. (Mount Olympus is in the background.) Alongside the sea is a corniche where one can walk and browse shops, stop at one of the many outdoor coffee shops or restaurants or get an ice cream cone and just walk and walk. (Wikipedia)

The port is huge, one of the largest in Europe.  (Wikipedia)

Our hotel was in Aristotelous Square (formerly known as Alexander the Great Square), in the hotel to the left. (Wikipedia) Prior to Easter, people packed the square, in a hurry to complete pre-Easter errands. Others fortified themselves with cups of coffee or something to eat in coffee houses and seafood restaurants on either side of the Square prior to entering the melee.

Not far from the Square were more coffee houses and restaurants along the corniche. In one direction, the corniche led to the White Tower . . . 
The White Tower is the city's signature landmark. It is one of 15 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Thessaloniki, also considered Greece's cultural center by many. Love that corniche! (Wikipedia)

A cup of coffee and an ice cream later and we circle back. This ruin (forum and baths) isn't far from the city center and was discovered by accident in the 1960s. Whether in Thessaloniki or elsewhere, it seems like everywhere one goes in Greece there are the most fantastic archeological treasures.



Also nearby: the Old City (Ano Polis) and narrow, cobblestone streets and tucked away shops. The Old City was a beehive of pre-holiday activity, especially the flower market. oh but the arrangements and bouquets were amazing. Floral scents and the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee and the displays in confectioners' windows stirred the senses beyond words. (Wikipedia) 

But regardless of where we went, from the moment we stepped into our hotel lobby, Red Easter Eggs were on counters in every shop everywhere one went. No one I saw took an egg, but everyone was careful not to bump the bowl of eggs at the counter. It was amazing to stop for coffee and see the bowl of red eggs or go into shop after shop and there they were, magnificent, absolutely glorious in their simplicity. I would later spend another Easter in a Christian Orthodox country with the same custom of displaying red eggs, but this display wasn't on the magnitude found in Thessaloniki. I later learned that Greece is known for its Easter celebrations, and many Greek-Americans trek to Greece in order to be there for the holiest day on the Orthodox calendar. (Note: Commercial dyes exist to color the eggs, but many prefer to boil the eggs in a bit of vinegar added to water that includes the skins of yellow (Spanish) onions.) (Food Network)



Within easy walking distance of our hotel was the Panagia Chalkeon Church. When we went inside, our eyes popped. Strewn on the floor, as if a carpet, were bay leaves. Hundreds and hundreds of bay leaves that rustled beneath our feet, each crunch releasing more of its fragrant aroma. The bay leaves came from gnarled trees outside the church, to the left, that were said to be from the time of St. Paul's ministry. Scholars say he wrote his first letter to the Apostles from Thessaloniki.

I'll never forget the red Easter eggs, Orthodoxy's symbol of the blood of Christ and the re-birth, in a simple bowl in an old church with bay leaves on the floor.





32 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Beautiful city! You'll have to make some red Easter eggs this weekend.

Ms Sparrow said...

What a wonderful way to spend Easter!

Suze said...

Kittie, I'm so glad I read this. My heart is soothed by the tradition of the red Easter eggs.

Teresa Evangeline said...

Kittie, What an absolutely perfect way to spend Easter. Beyond lovely. Thank you so much for sharing this. Greece has long intrigued me.

☆sapphire said...

I really enjoyed this post because I once spent three weeks during my summer vacation in Greece, mainly in Athens and Aegean islands though I didn't visit Thessaloniki. The city looks like a big one. It was fun to explore "the most fantastic archeological treasures" there.
I love Greece!

D.G. Hudson said...

I love these traditions in other countries, thanks for sharing the symbolism and the scenes of the city.

It's always a pleasure to read a travel inspired post. Plus - I'd never heard of the red egg tradition before.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Kittie,

It looks so gorgeous. I LOVE Greece, but I have never been to Thessaloniki...

I have a surprise for you... For the A-Z challenge I am featuring blogger friends/authors. AND I didn't have an R book. Alex came to the rescue and suggested your new book Rings of Trust. What I do is create a cool intro for your book and then VOILA there it is.

I hope you are excited about this because I would really like to feature you book. PLEASE let me know as soon as possible. I have you penciled in... BUt I'd like your okay first.

Thanks,

Michael ... Here's my blog link ... http://writing-art-and-design.blogspot.com

Kittie Howard said...

Thank you for your lovely comments. Oh, but we share a love for Greece. On a table in our living room, I have an oval container, with a little rabbit in the center surrounded by red eggs, I purchased during the trip. But nothing replaces the vivid memory of all those red eggs and the amazing experience of walking into that church.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Kittie .. Thessalonika looks gorgeous - and what a lovely Easter break you had - obviously as shown in the photos. I love the red eggs ..

Cheers and appy Easter this year - Hilary

Nicki Elson said...

Those red eggs are so cool! I'll see if I can convince the kiddos to do some of those this year---but I'll have to dump in lots of extra red coloring, I guess cuz eggs always come out of the red pink!

Beautiful city. Glad you enjoyed your Easter there. Thanks for sharing your experience & these pictures.

Marguerite said...

Thanks for the lovely tour of Thessalonika. Greece is a beautiful country and you were so lucky to have spent Easter there. Hope you get some Spring weather soon and have a Happy Easter!

mshatch said...

what a special trip that must've been! I've been wanting to go to Greece forever *sigh*

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

How wonderful to visit Greece and learn about some of their traditions first-hand. Seeing all the red eggs everywhere must have been something else. Maybe I'm a little dense, but what was the significance of the bay leaves on the church floor? Maybe something along the line of laurel being associated with victory?

Fascinating stuff. Thanks so much for sharing. You might not be in Greece this year, but I hope you and your family have a very Happy Easter!

David Macaulay said...

So cool Kittie - I do love Greece and sure miss it..

Gail Dixon (Louisiana Belle) said...

What a wonderful tradition with the red eggs. The church with all the bay leaves must've taken your breath away. I'd love to visit Greece one day.

Out on the prairie said...

What a lovely rea tospend easter at. I almost forgot about the eggs. My youngest receently converted with her marriage, i shall see if she prepared any.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Thanks Kittie,

SAME to you and your family. So happy you are on board.

Haddock said...

Never seen Easter eggs in this colour before.

Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks for the armchair traveling! I spent a spring in Greece, long ago, with a university archaeology tour. I remember it snowed on Mt. Olympus, and the gorgeous windflowers poked up through the snow. Earlier than Easter, though, so I missed those red eggs. How beautiful!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Have you ever watched House Hunters International? It's for this very reason. To feel as if I'm there. To experience everything the guest is experiencing. Thanks for sharing this, Kittie. I was right there with you for a moment.

turquoisemoon said...

Ooh I loved this story. Thank you for sharing Easter and red eggs. Delightful!!!

gigihawaii said...

What an incredible journey! I am new to your blog, having come from Linda Starr's post today. Hubby and I intend to see Turkey and Greece via a group tour someday. Hopefully, in the near future!

Inger said...

What a wonderful vacation at Easter. Thanks for sharing. And, as an asides, I still haven't gotten a router for WiFi, but as soon as I do, I will order your book. Happy Easter dear Kittie to you and your family.

Sherry Ellis said...

What a great place to spend Easter! I love the pictures! (It's funny - my son just made a batch of all red Easter eggs. I thought he was nuts, but apparently he knew something I didn't!)

Beth said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful story with us. As much as I love celebrating holidays at home, there's something special about seeing how they celebrate in other parts of the world. Happy Easter!

Misha Gericke said...

I'd love to go to Greece one day.

Dyeing the Easter eggs red is really an interesting custom. :-)

Sandra said...

Lovely story, thank you, Kitty, which I enjoyed reading.

Happy Easter to you!

Linda Starr said...

at first I thought those were tomatoes, ha, love the white tower.

Julie Flanders said...

I didn't know about the red eggs, how interesting! I love to learn about different traditions like that.

Also love the photos, I think the White Tower is my favorite. It was fun to read about your trip. :)

Vagabonde said...

What a great post! I did not know about the red eggs or the basil leaves in the church – it must have smelled so delicious! I can understand how you would recall such a wonderful time in Greece. I enjoyed your description and pictures a lot.

Barbara White Daille said...

Beautiful photos, and a great story, no matter what got you there.

I didn't know about the red eggs, a great detail.

Barbara
Twitter: @BarbaraWDaille
A to Z: Goals, Glinda, and the Great and Powerful Oz
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William Kendall said...

Gorgeous, Kittie! I'd love to get out there myself someday.