Here I come again with more envy-creating news of brilliant blue skies, sunshine, clear water, ripe fruit --- this time on Sifnos, complete with well-dressed Bishops and a wonder-working Ikon!
DAY ONE -- Dear NikolettaG (Eleni) met me at the dock and we zoomed up up up to Geronti Pension, our half-acre Eden in Ano Petali. A vine-covered patio with a view of hills and sea, a divinely comfortable bed for a nap, a few cats and a rooster... bliss! That night we walked the path to Artemonas & Margarita’s small taverna on the square. Marvelous "imam" (eggplant stuffed with tomatoes garlic, onions… addictive) and the best “chips” (fries) this side of heaven. I don't want to know how much fat was involved. Walking back, we crossed over a stream where frogs actually were bellering braacck braack, just like Aristophanes' "The Frogs" as Eleni (retired classics teacher) was careful to point out.
DAY TWO -- The beach! This place is so off-season, not even a shop selling beach towels. On sandy Platy Gialos on May 27, exactly 6 people including me. Water was chilly for five seconds then totally vitalizing. That evening brought the Big DO—the annual Panagyric when the Island's treasured miraculous Ikon is taken on a tour of each village, as has done for over 150 years. Once, it came to each place via small boat. Now it's brought to the main port to a large Ferry and taken to Chryssopygi, a church on a spit of land. Half the Greeks on Sifnos, dressed in Sunday best, were crammed onto the rocks around the church, including Eleni & me. The ferry gangway lowers to a small boat which people get on, including a cleric in festive regalia with a big package. Meanwhile, Milos-bound tourists on the large ferry are out on deck, wondering what the heck this unscheduled stop is about! The small boat nears the shore (as all the other priests are inside, donning their special attire). When they set foot on shore, flares shoot up, a band plays, people cheer. The Bishop and gorgeously robed priests parade up to the church courtyard. Little girls in navy skirts formed a cordon as people lined up to kiss the Ikon. Hundreds of pennants, blue, white, yellow, and national flags -- fluttered over the church as the sun set. There was a Lot of Chanting by priests who stood around the Ikon along with two very stylish Athenian-type couples. Eleni said they are the official Sponsors of the observance (it costs a bundle because afterwards there's a free banquet for all comers). Holy bread was passed around, throngs rushed for the banquet room, but we opted for the bus up to Appollonia. Quite an event, bringing together an entire community, whether or not they attend church most of the year. A sturdy few are up all night, as the Ikon is moved from village to village throughout the wee hours.
MORE DAYS -- Next morning Eleni went to sit with the locals in a cafe to await the ikon procession. I tried to go meet her with our new Pension neighbor, John (a funny & charming retired anthropology Prof. from Lafayette College, went to U of Penn... small world). Alas, we were hopeless on directions so we settled for a cafe attached to the village pastry shop -- Goood Choice!! We ate something extremely caloric and traded jokes about academia and religion until we heard the band playing, and got another look at the Ikon and some rather tired priests and ikon-carriers. Later, a beach visit (yay!) Eleni didn't go in the water; she never goes in until the end of June -- I guess I'd be the same if I lived here year-round as she does! Instead she brought her laptop to the cafe overlooking the sands. The next several days featured more of this delightful non-agenda of beach, nap, dinner. Eleni once lured me off on a hike to a hidden-away church with Very Special Murals. However, after more than an hour going uphill, when she revealed that we were to descend into a gorge, go a few KM further, then climb out again, I begged off on grounds of Extreme Elderliness. At 9:30 (2130), while eating dinner, she remarked that, if we’d gone on, we would be back just about now. Exactly, I said.
Next: Athens, the TA dinner-fest, Naxos dream-time, a quick Syros stop, then Home.