As a photographer interested in the Greek culture and traditions, I had a strong interest to photograph the Easter in Olympos. This 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.
The traditional Easter in Olympos comes to its peak on Easter Tuesday, that is the Tuesday after the Easter. This is the day where the main Icons of the central church are taken down and carried around the village in order to visit every church and perform memorials.
These are four Icons painted on wood and probably weigh around twenty Kgs each. The route is approximately eight to nine kilometres, with most of it being uphill, downhill and off- road.
Papa Yannis is leading the litany, the priest of the village, who is over eighty years old. He really makes it look too easy. I have asked him to stop at a point that he wasn't feeling too well, but he never did and kept on going.
The first big stop is at the cemetery of the village, where we stop for a couple of hours. Papa Yannis will perform a separate memorial for each grave.
The relatives of the deceased have treats with them to offer to anyone attending. Make sure you don't say "Thank you" when you take something. Instead you should say "Theos s'horeston" (may God forgive him).
A memorial is also held a the cemetery's chars.
The litany continues and the second stop is at a spring where people can have some water. Papa Yannis will also take some water with his bouquet of basil and spray at people as a blessing. He will also wet a corner of Virgin Mary icon so that She gets cooler from all the tiring litany.
The road continues and if someone carrying an Icon gets tired, someone else changes him. There are even a few tourists who come almost every year to see this custom. Some are so experienced that even show the way if someone forgets.
Young ladies that are unmarried wear their traditional dresses which are colourful and have necklaces made of golden coins hanging from their necks. The litany reaches back to the village with a very steep uphill. The view is really nice since you can enjoy the view of the sea from afar.
The Icons return to the main square where a special place is set to host them for the next step.
All the unmarried girls stand in their traditional dresses in front of the steps of the church and an auction takes place. Families are bidding for each icon, so that they are able to take it back to the church. The winning family will carry their Icon inside and place it back to its place.
Finally, the winning families will have dinner, offered by the church community inside the women's place of the church.