saturday morning off we went to popi's village. i had no idea what to expect by a greek "village." we drove out of thessaloniki into beautiful lush scenery - green mountains and wild yellow flowers and mountains in the background as we left the sea behind. off the highway, we passed through little villages with old men sitting outside of the cafes as the women were at home preparing for easter dinner, popi explained. we arrived in popi's village - where she lived until she was 3, her dad lived there until he was 32 - called nigrita - bigger than the other ones we passed through, but just as quaint. popi's familiy were the sweetest people ever - we met her parents, her aunt and uncle and their two children, and her grandma who reminded me so much of my senora in salamanca.
we wandered around the town, filled with 4x's as many people as usual with all the family's back in town for the holiday and were supposed to go to a restaurant where the butcher had saved the best meat for us (i dont know if they have ever had any foreigners visit before) but it too was packed so we ate in the backyard which was even nicer. we had greek salad with cretan tomatoes and juicy black olives, french fried potatoes, fresh bread, the most flavorful meatball-sausages, carrot and cabbage slaw, and the suvlaki with red onions (we were told we had to eat 5 skewers each and the proper way to eat it is to pull it off the reed skewer with your teeth). stuffed, and not wanting to think of eating for the rest of the day, or weekend - yah right - we got into the cars and drove into the mountains.
arina, me, popi
up and up we went, passing roaming cows on the street, we arrived at an old monastery in the valley - absolutely breathtaking and serene, it was like a mini-village on its own. monastery of timios prodromos. old cobblestones, vines crawling up the little houses, bright blue paint still intact on the ceiling, smiling nuns, and we had to wear skirts into the church. the chruch inside was really old, but it was amazing the quality of the paintings still on the walls - and yes, i got in trouble for trying to take a picture even with years of church-visiting experience and art history background knowing that flash is not allowed. oops. they had an old museum showing the ancient process of making olive oil there in the gift shop (sounds bad but they were all locally made products) and popi's family bought arina and i some powdered sweets, handmade soaps, chamomile flowers for tea and a little jar of olive oil wax. was so sweet of them, we were spoiled. we tried to continue up the mountain but it was another hour to where her dad wanted to show us where he used to go as a boy scout, so we turned around and went to another look out point to see the sunset.
on our way back we stopped in serres, a cute town that reminded me of parma and met up with popi's friend chris, would had been out "celebrating" all day it seemed. the bars were all packed with young people filling out onto the streets with loud trance/techno music. very interesting. amusing.
later that night, it was time to go to church - at midnight. the whole town went to the church with lit candles and a red egg in hand. the courtyard was full outside and the priest talked through a microphone, loud fireworks were being exploded by kids on the street making everyone jump, and everyone's face was glowing in the candlelight. then we cracked our red eggs - a greek tradition (red=blood, egg=life) - where the stronger, uncracked egg tries to out-crack everyone's. my egg won in the nose cracking (top) but lost in the bottom. hmpfh.
candles and red eggs
after the midnight service, it was dinner time. we had locally grown goat - delicious - and mayiritsa soup, which was simmering during church, made with offal/liver, dill, rice, lemon/egg mix. was tasty and popi's family was impressed that we finished it! arina learned some greek dance moves after dinner, but i couldn't even move from my chair from tiredness...and the thought of all the food we'd be eating for easter sunday :)
popi's aunt and mum mixing the egg and lemon together before adding it to the soup. and some dancing.