I am on a trip to Missolonghi to visit the summer festival of Saint Simeon.
During the first night I went up the monastery to attend the evening Mass. In contrast to the winter festival that I could take my car and park it inside the monastery, this time the police had blocked the way and would not allow any cars to go through, as there is not enough room for everyone. Nearby this spot, there is a soccer court which is being used as a parking lot. From that point you can either take the bus that is available to take you to the monastery or go on foot. I saw other people getting there on foot, so I decided to tag along. It was dark, so I was using my mobile phone's flashlight to see the way. Along the way I tried to take advantage the headlights of the bus that was passing by and take the picture of an old man walking alone. After about fifteen minutes I arrived at the monastery.
The next day I went down to the town of Missolonghi to find homes where the participants were getting ready. Indeed I found a few homes and went inside. Each group was moving to house after house to pick up each of its members. Musicians were following them who were also getting inside every home. The family was offering several treats of food and drink to the guests.
All the groups gathered around the Cathedral of Saint Spiridon. The place was filled with horses. I had to look after myself so I don't get hit by them. I could have found a place where they prepare the horses by washing and combing them but I didn't manage to find one. The participants took the flags and banners with the priest's blessings and off they went to their march across the town's streets with the horses. The parade ends at the monastery where the party goes on at the groups' joints.
The place around the monastery is filled with people. You can hear music coming from different places. The participants are dully prepared and can accommodate a lot of people who wants to watch the festival. Visitors can join any group where food and drink is offered freely to them. The party goes on until the morning. The have to pause when the Morning Mass commences.
The Mass starts early in the morning. A few people have come to attend and I wander around to have a look at people sleeping in the surrounding fields, inside the woods. In there, the horses of the groups sit and wait. The Mass gathered a lot of people, but I was instead waiting for the mass baptisms to start. Roma people will bring along their unbaptized children to get baptized. Some of them are not too young. The baptism takes place inside the temple. At the same time and day there is another Mass taking place at the small church inside Missolonghi's lagoon.
This time I chose the baptisms and I would come back another year to visit the lagoon.
The only access to that church is by boat. There were many boats carrying people. I took the boat many times to and fro the island to have a good chance for a nice picture. At the church there was laying of wreaths, Evening Mass and finally a dance started by the participants and the musicians that were attending.
During the last day, the groups came down from the monastery, gathered around the exit of the town and got ready for the parade that will take place. A lot of people have gathered to see the parade. After the parade ended, the party continued. It moved in several joints around the town of Missolonghi where the party went on until the morning.
No matter the fact that this custom takes place twice a year, by the same people, they are very different in character. The winter one is more atmospheric and cozy and lasts for only a couple of days. The summer one lasts three days and the visitors and participants are a lot more. Each one has its own beauty and character.