Kastellorizon is the Easternmost island of Greece, very near the shore of Turkey and the city of Kas. I have spent two weeks during the Greek Orthodox Easter on the island and got to see the customs and meet very interesting local people.
The island has only one town on it, which serves as the main port, also known as "Megisti". It is inhabited by less than 400 people and the architecture has a strong Italian influence.
The city of Kas in Turkey is so near you could actually reach by swimming and boats travel to and fro almost every day, especially during the summer, serving tourists or merchandise. This is a bigger city of approximately 6000 inhabitants, so people from Kastellorizo visit it often for shopping and nights out.
Kastellorizon has also a second very picturesque port, called Mandraki. I found it as I was walking along the coastline of the town. There are some taverns and cafes there but were closed during the Easter period. I am guessing some of them would be open during the summertime. In Mandraki also lies the cemetery of Kstellorizon, which makes it the Easternmost Greek cemetery.
The main church (Constantine & Helen) of the town lies at a spot called "Chorafia" which is a higher place of the town. The streets inside the town are very narrow and beautiful. Some of the houses have curved edges so they leave room for people to go through. In this church all Liturgies and Masses will take place during the Easter as there is only one priest available in town.
It is a good idea when photographing a religious event to get to know the priest. Luckily, Papayoryis (father George) kept a joint outside the church (Paragka), serving booze and local dishes to people. This is a traditional custom for the Easter as I found out and was taking place until 10-15 years ago. It originated from the people working in the ships. They used to take down the ships' sails and build tents at this place to celebrate Easter. The celebration kept for 6 days. Nowadays, only the paragka of Papayoryis is up and is not made of sails, but with scaffolding and nylon sheets.
As I had arrived quite early for Easter, the peak of the Easter is between Wednesday and Easter Sunday, I was taking long strolls around the town which made feel very calm and care free. There were only a few people around and you thought you had the island to yourself.
On Holy Wednesday The Great Unction takes place at the church during the evening Mass. Papayoryis would give a blessing to everyone attending the Mass, by putting olive oil on their foreheads and hands.
During my time on the island, I had the chance to meet Stavros Choulis, who lives in a traditional old home on the port with incredible view and is very hospitable and good enough to have me inside the home. He got me really drunk with Souma (traditional spirit made of distilled grapes) and even showed me pictures of his family. His mother gave birth to 16 children.
The next day I found myself at a local home where they were preparing a Judah mannequin which would get burned on the Easter day. The mannequin was made by a Dutch lady who is staying many years on the island and used to keep a puppet theater back in her hometown in the Netherlands.
Food in Kastellorizon is really great and consists mainly of fish and seafood. The taverns all served very well cooked meals with relatively low prices. The local fishermen provide daily with delicious Mediterranean fish!
During the Evening Mass on Holy Thursday, the Gospels are being read and on the 5th the crucified comes out and a litany takes place inside the church. The Cross is then fixed at the center of the church for everyone to worship.
Good Friday, as in most places around Greece, the most photogenic event takes place, the litany of the Epitaph (the tomb of the Christ). The Epitaph is prepared inside the church and on Friday night, it is being carried around the town and people follow along with lit candles, chanting. The Epitaph is being escorted by small children and army force.
The litany then goes back and brings the Epitaph back in the church.
I always like spending the Easter in small places with not too many people. Especially the Greek islands have very nice traditions and atmosphere during the Easter. Kastellorizon was a very nice experience and its people very friendly and hospitable. I hope to come back one day!