Ahhh, Greece. We’ve dreamed of you for so long!
We’ve been traveling a lot this past year. And when we were planning out trips we wanted to take while living in Italy, we dreamed of going to Greece for Easter break.
It’s no easy feat to decide exactly where in Greece to go- the options are endless! But we like to travel a little off the beaten path-and so we decided on the Island of Rhodes- almost all the way to Turkey.
From there, we decided to stay near Lindos, a village on the other side of the island from the bigger, more touristy Rhodes Town.
I have to tell you, Lindos was the perfect pick for us.
The weather was great, and the beaches and the charming village uncrowded in late April.
So uncrowded that many of the shops and restaurants were just opening for the season, and some of them were still making preparations to open for the busy summer season ahead. I imagine in July/August the area is very hot and crowded and completely different from our experience.
My goals for this trip were to eat well, read, sleep off the horrid illness that I couldn’t shake, and dip my toes into that beautiful blue green Agean Sea.
Hallelujah! I managed to do all of the above, and more.
We rented a beautiful house within walking distance to the small village of Pylonas. I knew it was bound to be good when the driving directions said “turn right at the sign for the Mycean tombs!”
We could have easily spent the entire week at this house without leaving- it’s loveliness was unmatched to anywhere we’ve stayed, which made me so very happy since I was sick, and more importantly because one of my favorite parts of planning trips is finding beautiful places to stay.
Surrounded by a garden, fruit trees and olive groves- it was our own little piece of paradise for the week. We felt so spoiled!
We had heard there were donkeys we could feed in the olive groves surrounding us and finally on our last day we found them! A little donkey family- mom, dad and baby.
I’m not sure I’ve seen anything cuter than this fuzzy little baby donkey.
Oh my word.
Because Rhodes is a bit off the beaten path- it was somewhat challenging to book flights there from Milan. On the upside, we ended up having to fly there a day earlier than we wanted to, and so we arrived in time for all the festivities of Easter.
Easter is huge in Greece. There are celebrations every day- starting with the Friday night solemn procession through the village representing Christ’s journey to the cross.
I had done some reading ahead of time about what might be happening on Good Friday- and so we found ourselves eating dinner in Lindos and joining the procession through the village later that night.
The next day, Chris and I were driving past Pylonas and saw this pile of wood in the parking lot of the Kyra Church.
I found details about the Easter bonfire in a book that was at the house. In it was a section specifically about Pylonas and their continuing tradition of this bonfire, usually held after midnight mass on Saturday night.
The locals build a huge bonfire, and attached to it is a stuffed “Judas” in effigy. It symbolizes the punishment of Judas, who betrayed Christ with a kiss in the garden.
Such a dark, interesting tradition- and we didn’t want to miss out on experiencing Greek Easter to it’s fullest. We decided to stop by a little bar in town “The Pylona Arms” and hoped to find out more.
We met the lovely owner Carole, and got the scoop on the big bonfire that night. We were told it started shortly after midnight mass, but to be there around 11:30 to see everyone arriving.
Kyra Church in Pylonas
After a power nap (I was still sick…) and another lovely dinner in Lindos- we arrived at the Kyra Church in Pylonas around 11:30. People were starting to gather, and were very dressed up. They were carrying unlit candles- which would be lit later after the bonfire. We found a spot to sit on the grass overlooking the bonfire pile- and watched the crowd grow.
They seemed to be waiting for something- but we didn’t know exactly what. One of the women we met at the Pylona Arms earlier was chatting with me and told me that everyone was waiting for the arrival of the priest and the holy light.
All of a sudden a group of cars came screaming into the parking lot. Literally screaming, with horns blasting and lights flashing.
A sacred flame (representing Christ being the light of the world) is flown in from Jerusalem, and the priest delivers this light to the church and the bonfire, straight from the airport. Later all the villagers would light their candles with this holy light and carry them home. The belief is that if you can get your candle home still lit, your home will be blessed for the coming year.
After the bonfire was going strong, the candles were lit, prayers were said and the priest carried the light into the church- the fireworks started. We stayed through those and then wandered back to the house and fell into bed.
The locals stay up into the wee hours celebrating and throwing parties. The bonfire is guarded all night, and the next day we saw the giant pile of ash where the bonfire had been.
In this part of Greece, they don’t have church services on Easter Sunday, since they had gone to mass at Midnight the night before and stayed up all night partying. It is a day of celebration and feasting.
We had made reservations Sunday afternoon at the Skala Beach Taverna for a traditional Easter Feast, which was an all day event. It ended up being our favorite place that we returned to again and again during our stay.
We enjoyed a delicious selection of meze (small Greek plates) including hummus, pita bread, dolmades, fried feta cheese sprinkled with honey and sesame seeds. Later we were served roasted goat and lamb with traditional sides of Greek rice, and roasted vegetables.
I would have never known the details of the Easter traditions had I not found the Lindos Fan Club page on Facebook ahead of time. A few weeks before the trip I “liked” their page and then checked back a few times as the trip got closer, and even during the trip. It was fantastic!
We got tips on Easter festivities, restaurant recommendations, and photos to get us excited as the trip got closer. This is something I am going to try more of as we travel- it ended up being an invaluable part of our trip’s success. Thank you to the lovely folks that are in charge of that page!
The kids have voted it hands down, their favorite trip of all time. We all loved it, but I think they especially loved it because we did very little sightseeing. It was the perfect mix of sun, relaxation and adventure. Oh, and food of course!
More on the food later- I think it deserves it’s own post!