Oil wrestling

They started wrestling. Nobody was backing up. From where I was standing I could not take good pictures. When I approached the wrestlers, the watchers started yelling at me for ruining their view. I decided to be exactly behind the referee in order not to disturb anyone and when I saw something interesting I took pictures as fast as possible.
Photography / Text: Michael Pappas

I was travelling from Athens to Thessaloniki by the night train. 

I was in a bunk alone until another guy came in and sat opposite of me. It was a little bit uncomfortable, our knees were touching each other. Since all other seats were empty, we found a way to be more comfortable and sleep. We did not change a word until we woke up in Thessaloniki and I asked him if he knew any bus going to the main bus station of Thessaloniki from where I wanted to take the bus to Nigrita of Serres. He told me he was also going to Nigrita himself!

Oil wrestling - Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling
Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas

In order to catch the bus to Nigrita we had to take the first city bus to the main bus station of Thessaloniki. But the city bus did not pass and my new friend told me that we had lost the bus to Nigrita. He told me that we could take another city bus that could leave us on the highway and from there we would catch the bus to Nigrita. I had nothing to lose so I followed him, I trusted the fact that he looked so certain about that solution. Fortunately, he was right and after a while we were inside the bus to Nigrita. When I entered the bus, I crash upon a friend and photographer who laughed at me some hour before for losing the bus, he did not believe I had finally made it! 

On my arrival at Nigrita, the president of the local community was awaiting for me, we had communicated some days before. We discussed about the custom over a cup of coffee.

Oil wrestling - Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling
Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling - Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling
Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas

In the midday I arrived at the place where the wrestling would take place. Some Turks wrestlers had already arrived and they were preparing themselves. They were wearing the special leather trousers and they covered up their bodies with oil. As soon as they got prepared they started showing off in the towns streets. Musicians were accompanying them playing music as they strolled around the streets of Nigrita. When they have passed from almost all the streets of the town, they ended up in the wrestling place where a big buffet had already been prepared. After we had lunch, we went up the mountain to watch shooting games and horse races. Back to town again where food is served for once more and after the evening mass, a big fiesta commenced.

Oil wrestling - Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling
Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling - Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling
Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling - Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling
Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas

The next day, I followed the musicians that walked around the town's streets and got into several houses where food and drink were served to celebrate the day.

Oil wrestling - Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling
Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling - Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling
Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling - Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling
Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas

In the evening we ended up to the wrestling arena where people had gathered. First we watched some kids wrestling. At the same time. the adults were warming up. each one alone. Most of them were anxious regarding whom the draw would bring as opponent. There were wrestlers from Bulgaria, FYROM, Croatia, Turkey. As the time arrived for the match, they covered their bodies with olive oil.

Oil wrestling - Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling
Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling - Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling
Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling - Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling
Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas

They started wrestling. Nobody was backing up. From where I was standing I could not take good pictures. When I approached the wrestlers, the watchers started yelling at me for ruining their view. I decided to be exactly behind the referee in order not to disturb anyone and when I saw something interesting I took pictures as fast as possible. 

Oil wrestling - Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling
Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling - Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling
Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling - Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling
Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas

A lot of time passed until there was a winner. A Turkish guy won. He was the oldest one, he had won the same match the previous year.

Oil wrestling - Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling
Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling - Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling
Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas

After the match I joined all the members of the local community for the traditional meal. I thanked everybody for being so welcoming and warm, I will definitely visit them again. 

Oil wrestling - Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
Oil wrestling
Greece. Central Macedonia. Nigrita. © Michael Pappas
#traditional #food #horse #music #oil #wrestling #meal #fight #buffet #olive #races #kids #celebration

Location

Oil wrestling

8 Epar.Od. Serron-Nigritas Nigrita
Nigrita, Central Macedonia, Greece