The Catamaran Adventures of Noel and Ceu
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Our Big Fat Greek Easter – This is What the Cruising Life is About

Current Location: Astipalea, Egeo, Greece
Current Position: 36 32.85 N 026 21.25 E Click to view map.
Distance sailed since last post: 91 nautical miles. View the map of our voyage track here

We love visiting new places, but most of the time we are just another yacht bringing yet more tourists from whom the locals can extract some money.

Sometimes it is ridiculous fees and charges – like the total of 300 euro to check in and out of Turkey – plus another 350 euro to get an extended stay so that our boat could stay for the winter.

Then there are the merchants who hassle you to buy. First they try to guess your nationality. Then, using the appropriate language, they call out,

“Hello. Where are you from?”

Now, why do they ask that? Because they know that you won’t want to appear rude by not answering.

But, once you answer, you have now entrapped yourself in a conversation. And are they just being friendly? Far from it – their goal is to entice you into their store, “just to look”. They may also offer you some tea, and tell you that it is rude to decline.

But, apparently, it is not rude for them to then try to sell you stuff, and refuse to accept a polite, “no, thanks” as an answer. In fact, often you do have to become quite rude to get away.

In Tunisia it was often so bad that you dare not stop to admire something, lest the whole procedure begins. Such a shame that they spoil it – they miss out on potential sales, and we miss out on potential bargains. But just not worth the agro.

But every now and again you have true cruising experience. Such was our Easter weekend in Astypalea.

On Good Friday we were anchored in Agios Andreas, on the north side of the island to avoid the SE winds. We decided to take the 6km walk to the town.

After 2km we hitched a ride from a large friendly fisherman who drove us all the way up to the Hora at the top of the hill.

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We spent half an hour poking around the old castle and then went down to check out the small harbour. After that, we climbed the 200+ stairs to the Hora again, and found a delightful restaurant, Al Dente, at which we had the best meal we have had in ages – octopus in red wine sauce, calamari with linguini, and cheese croquettes, plus half a litre of wine, all for 18 euro.

The owner, a big fat cheerful lady in her 30’s then told us to come up on Easter Sunday afternoon for a party in the square.

On Saturday night we went to the Greek Orthodox church to see what happens.

We arrived at about 5 to 11 at night. We sat down on some chairs where some women were sitting. A handful of others also came in.

At 11pm two women at the front started singing and chanting.

We all stood up. They carried on singing and chanting.

After a while we sat down again.

Every now and again the priest would come out of a painted door, speak to the singers, and retreat behind the door again.

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More people kept arriving. Each one would pick up a few taper candles. They would kiss the picture in the middle of the hall, and then light and place the candles in a sandbox. Then they would kiss a couple more pictures on the side wall before they sat down.

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The singers continued. The priest wandered in and out. Every few minutes there would be a big bang as a youth outside set off a firecracker.

Most people sat quietly, but a few talked. After a while we noticed that all the women sat where we were, and the men sat in another section. Oops, I guess I was sitting in the wrong place! We noticed that most of them were carrying additional candles or lanterns, unlit.

At about 5 to midnight the priest came out with a censer which he shook at various corners of the room, filling it with incense.

He retreated behind a door. Then the lights went out, leaving only the candles burning. This, I presume, represented the darkness of Christ in the underworld.

Then the lights came on and the priest appeared with some lighted candles. The congregation lit their candles and lanterns, and everyone, including the singers went outside into the courtyard. Once we were all out, the church door was shut.

The priest then talked for a few minutes. Presumably he told the resurrection story.

When he was done, the bells started ringing. Huge numbers of firecrackers exploded with a concussive deafening noise that reverberated around the closed walls of the courtyard. Fireworks exploded above us, dropping spent ashes on our heads. And the house next door looked like it was aflame, so bright were the red flares on its roof. Sorry, but Ceu was too busy covering her ears so no pictures of the fireworks!

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And then everyone went home.

The next morning we were invited our supper by our neighbours, Boudewijn and Schubert on El Canard from Holland, who also invited Knut form Nocturne, our other neighbour.

But first we had to go and checkout the party in the square.

After climbing the 200+ steps we found not a lot.

But the lady from Al Dente waived us over! We were to join their family and friends party – about 10 people enjoying pork, lamb, lamb livers, salad and wine.

So we did. And we ate. And we drank wine, and some more wine, and some wine, and a bit of wine.

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People danced on the patio. We even joined in.

People danced on the tables. We didn’t join in. But we did clap.  The lady on the right is our hostess.

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George, who had retired from Athens as the living here was cheap (180 euro a month for an apartment) and the government had cut his pension, supplied the beat with his bongo drum. There was Greek and Cretan music.

 

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One man had his eye on one of the women, so they tried to pair them up. There was dancing on the tables, and many calls of “Yammas!” as more wine was poured.

Alas, eventually we had to depart so as to make the dinner date with El Canard.

Once there we had some more food – a fantastic past, with more wine and some rum.

And many tales of adventures on the seas. We got to bed at midnight.

The next morning we left early to sail to Santorini with a nice fresh breeze on our port quarter.

Now THAT is what cruising is all about!

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