Easter at Karpathos island

Olympos is a rather secluded place in Karpathos island where traditions are fading in a very small pace. They consider themselves descendants of the Byzantine empire and is one of the few places in the world where a visitor can experience Byzantine traditions.
Photography / Text: Michael Pappas

I had been already travelling for 16 hours and I had just reached Rhodes island.  I needed 3 more hours to reach Karpathos island.

I would stay in the island for the whole Easter week and from the previous week I had contacted the local authorities to book me a room and find me a car for the first week. Without those arrangements the trip would be very hard.

The car rental office was by the port. I filled the car with gas because I knew that where I was going there would be no gas stations. The itinerary was good up to a point, then it became harder. Very narrow street right beside a canyon, with a lot of rocks above, many of which have fallen in the street. But when I saw the village of Olympos I forgot everything, it was so beautiful!

I left the car at the entrance of the village (after all, circulation of any vehicle is prohibited in the village) and I started walking to check the place. All the streets were narrow. Some people were in the coffee shops. I found a lady with a traditional costume that owned one shop and I entered to drink a coffee. After a while I found another lady and she welcomed me into her house. It was a typical Karpathian house with walls full of handmade dishes and hand-woven textiles. The night fell and I had to go and get some rest after all those hours of traveling. My hotel was situated in Diafani, a small village by the sea, about 10 klm from Olympos.

Next day, on Tuesday before Easter, I headed for Olympos village without knowing if something interesting would take place. As I was walking through the streets of the village I saw smoke coming out of a house's chimney. I approached the house and I saw that the landlady was baking cookies in a traditional oven. A few meters down the road I saw another woman baking her own cookies in her oven. Both of them were dressed in traditional costumes. When I asked one of the woman if she wore the costume the whole day she asked me "which costume do you mean? these are my normal clothes!".

On Wednesday I attended the ceremony that took place around midday. I sat inside the church until the mass was over. Nobody came. Father John was the only person (except for myself) in this mass.

On Thursday I went to church at 3:00 at night. I came across Father John and his wife, they were waiting for some people who worked in the fields or people with farms to get the blessing since they would not make it to the official mass.

I found a local guy in his way to buy the lamb in a farm that was on the mountain. I got into his car. When we reached the farm I saw more people waiting to buy their lambs also. The lambs were killed on the spot and delivered to the buyers. Fresh meat, literally. 

That evening I attended the mass in the church of Olympos. The atmosphere was full of reverence and the church was full of people. 

In the morning of Good Friday, I watched the decoration of the epitaph. It took place in the front yard of the church from the women of the village. All of them wore traditional costumes. There was something I saw for the first time in my life: after the decoration of the epitaph they placed on it photographs of their beloved ones that had passed away within that year. 

On Saturday I followed the priest's wife to her house. She burnt fire and prepared the oven. She brought the lamb to roast it. She put it in the oven and she closed the lid firmly. The lamb would be roasted during the night.

In the evening I attended the Resurrection mass. The church was full, all women were dressed with colorful clothes and with golden coins passed as necklaces around their necks. The kids outside were busy with their firecrackers. 

Next day, Easter day, I reached the village early in the morning and strolled around until noon, I was invited in the priest's house again for Easter supper. In the Easter supper I had the chance to be part of his family, since apart from his wife, his daughter with her husband and their child were there. It was a great honor for me.

P.S. The lamp that was roasted in the wooden oven was delicious!

#olympos #byzantine #spring #easter #christ #medieval #orthodox #religion


Easter at Karpathos island

Επαρ.Οδ. Όλυμπου-Διαφανίου, Όλυμπος 857 00, Ελλάδα
Olympos village, South Aegean, Greece