It's my first time on the island of Sifnos for the festival of Elijah the Prophet.
The island is part of the beautiful Cyclades region, located between Serifos and Kimolos. It has a long tradition in angioplasty and cooking as it the birthplace of Nikos Tselementes, the greatest Greek chef of the 20th century.
I get myself a quick cup of cold coffee at the shops along the harbor and left quickly to find the path to the monastery. I walk for quite some time away from the capital and I feel lost as I don't know where to find this path. From afar, I see three men with their donkey loaded with stuff. I understand that they are going to the monastery and I rush to catch up with them.
We started climbing. The climb is rather difficult, but the other men could climb much faster as they are used to do that. I struggle to follow them. I've been walking for 20 minutes, when two other men on their donkeys catch up with me. One of them offers to put my bag on his donkey. I refuse because I have photographic equipment inside and I am afraid that they might drop it. However, I was really having a hard time climbing. The man sees me and he tells me that if one starts with 1 kilogram on his back, it will feel like 10 kilos by the time you reach to the top. This is how he convinced me so we put my bag on the animal's back. I could now climb much easier and enjoy the view from above.
After one hour I reach the top, at 680m altitude. The monastery is built around 1650AD on the ruins of an ancient acropolis and the view is unique.
Visitors and pilgrims climb up in every way they can. I'm lucky to reach the monastery before sunset. In the evening, the locals cook to prepare the food they will offer the next morning to the visitors but also feed those who had already arrived. Early in the next morning, the final preparations take place.
Someone saw the priest coming to the monastery. I went out to meet him. People had told me that every year he climbs all the way to the monastery barefoot, a path full of sharp rocks and thorns. I saw him coming but unfortunately, he was not barefoot this time. Later I found out that just before he can be seen from the monastery he puts his shoes back on so that people would not see him!
As soon as everything is prepared, the evening Mass will take place and after that, a feast follows in the courtyard with local musicians. There are food and drink for everyone, free of charge. I am happy to see that many young people also join the feast and make it much more vibrant and lively.
I would like to thank everyone I met there, young and old, especially Kostas Troulos, a young man, one of the event organizers.