the Orthodox Tradition

Jesus replied: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
–John 12:23-25 NIV

Day 1 (Holy Thursday): Welcome to Athens!

Flight to Athens and transfer to our booked hotel at the center of the city. In the afternoon, free time at our own disposal. In the evening, we will take a walk through the narrow streets of Plaka and have dinner at a local tavern. 3 overnight stays in Athens.
Greek-Orthodox Traditions of Holy Thursday
Today Easter preparations begin. Mothers and grandmothers all over Greece bake the traditional Easter bread, “tsoureki” and dye the eggs red; red is the color of life as well as a representation of the blood of Christ; the egg is a symbol of the renewal of life; red eggs symbolize the victory over death. In the evening of Holy Thursday, church services include a symbolic representation of the crucifixion and the period of mourning begins. All over Greece, women will stay in church throughout the night to mourn for dead Jesus and decorate His “Tomb” (Epitaphios) with flowers.

Day 2 (Holy Friday): Athens Sightseeing Tour

Our sightseeing tour begins right after our breakfast. The face of the oldest metropolis of Europe seems to be younger and fresher than ever! First stop: the Acropolis, the landmark of Athens. On the more than 2,500 years old Greek monument, we can admire the remnants of a glorious era: the marble Parthenon, the magnificent Propylaea, the delicate Erechtheion with the Caryatid Porch… Afterwards, we visit the Areopagus Hill, directly opposite the hill of Acropolis. The place is famous for two reasons; the trial of Ares, the ancient Greek god of war, for the murder of Poseidon's son Alirrothios and the speech Apostle Paul gave to the Athenians about the existence of one and true God. Next stop will be the ancient theater of Dionysus nearby and in the end comes the highlight for the museum fans: the New Acropolis Museum; the museum has been included in the list with the 10 most beautiful museums in the world and opened in 2009 under the oversight of the Swiss architect Bernard Tschume. There we can find 300 statues and metopes as well as 4,000 other smaller objects from the archaic period, the classical antiquity and the late antiquity, displayed till 2009 in the old Acropolis Museum on the hill of Acropolis or – because of lack of space – in magazine photos. In the evening, we will take a walk around the city center and follow the Epitaphios Procession, a very important tradition for the Greek Orthodox Easter festivities.
Greek-Orthodox Traditions of Holy Friday
Holy Friday is the day of mourning; Greeks are not supposed to work on that day, flags are hung at half-mast and church bells ring all day in a mournful tone. The Epitaphios, the representation of Jesus’ tomb with His icon, decorated with flowers, is carried on the shoulders of the faithful in a procession through the community. All people attending the Epitaphios carry candles and sing in mournful tone or remain absolute silent.

Day 3 (Holy Saturday): Aegina Island

After our breakfast drive to the port of Piraeus. From there we take the boat to the important ancient island of Aegina (duration: ca. 1 hour).
According to the myth, Aegina took its name from a nymph, daughter of the river god Asopos, whom Zeus fell in love with and took with him to the island. From January 1827 to October 1829, Aegina town was the temporary capital of the newly founded Greek state. During that period, Governor Ioannis Kapodistrias had wonderful neoclassical mansions built to house his headquarters. Apart from the mansions, other significant attractions and sites of the island are the Temple of Apollo, the Church of Saint Nectarios and of course the Temple of Aphaia. Interesting historical fact: the latter forms an equilateral triangle with the Parthenon and the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, the so-called “holy triangle” of the antiquity. Afterwards, we will have free time for lunch and a stroll through the capital of the island. In the late evening, we all meet again at the port to take the boat back to Piraeus.
Greek-Orthodox Traditions of Holy Saturday
Today, the Eternal Flame is brought to Greece from Jerusalem by military jet and then distributed to the churches all over Greece. On Holy Saturday, preparations for Easter’s feast take place. Typical food such as the traditional soup called “mayiritsa” (with roasted organs and intestines of lamb) is prepared beforehand and will be eaten after the midnight service of Holy Saturday to break the 40-day fast. During the midnight service, everybody is in the church holding colorful candles (“lambada”) symbolizing happiness and hope. As the clock strikes midnight, the Priest calls out "Christos Anesti" (Christ is risen), and the Eternal Flame is passed from person to person. The night air is filled with the singing of the Byzantine Chant "Christos Anesti" and fireworks, and people kiss each other and exchange wishes.

Day 4 (Easter Sunday): Easter in Arcadia

Drive to Corinth. On our way, we make a photo shooting stop at the Corinth Canal; until 1893, seamen had to travel around the rugged shores of Peloponnese to land e.g. in Sicily. The spectacular cutting through the Isthmus between the Saronic and the Corinthian Gulf clearly reduced the sea routes from Athens to the Mediterranean Sea. The builders blew up the rock at a length of 6.34 km, dug 60 m deep in the earth and created a shipping channel 24.5 m wide and 8 m deep. Driving along the coast, we reach Diakopto, one of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe. Our final stop will be the traditional alpine village of Zachlorou. Through the wonderful gorge of VouraikosRiver, we follow on foot an old railroad embankment up to Kalavryta, a naturally beautiful place with a tragic history; in 1943 German occupying troops murdered all male population over the age of 14 and burned the town. There we will find our bus, which will take us to our booked hotel at the Gulf of Corinth for the next 4 overnight stays. (Total distance: 273 km)
Greek-Orthodox Traditions of Easter
After so many days of fasting, the Greeks are waiting for Easter, so as to eat! The spits are prepared for the roasting of the lamb or the goat (symbolizing the Lamb of God sacrificed for people). Appetizers, such as tzatziki, are always part of a Greek feasting table, and of course it is the time to taste the tsourekia and red eggs prepared on Holy Thursday. The ones attending the feasting table are cracking the red eggs, as they also did after the midnight service of Holy Saturday; it symbolizes resurrection and new life. Easter table is never empty and the feast can last for the whole day and night.

Day 5 (Easter Monday): Argolis – A Province Full of Glance

Breakfast at our hotel. Afterwards, drive to Epidavros and the Temple of Asclepius which dates back to the 4th century B.C. and was designed and built by the architects Theotokos and Thimotheos; the Healing Temple Asclepieion, designed for 250 patients (70.92 m x 9.42 m); the Library, built by the Roman emperor Antonios and his successors; the Gymnasium (69 m x 53 m). We also visit the ancient theater of Epidaurus, a wonder of architecture because of the absolute uniqueness of its acoustic. It is worth wondering how architects of ancient Greece managed to create such an architectural masterpiece using the knowledge and machinery of that time. The theater dates back to the 4th century B.C. but still hosts theatrical plays for 14,000 spectators. People from all over the world attend theatrical plays and concerts in Epidaurus, especially in summer months, as the experience offered at this theater is unique.
Next stop of our today’s tour: Nemea, the place where legendary Hercules killed the vicious Nemean Lion; the monster could not be killed with mortals' weapons, because its golden fur was impervious to attack and its claws were sharper than mortals' swords and could cut through any armor. Ancient Nemea was also famous in the antiquity for one of the most important ancient Greek sport festivals: the Panhellenic Nemean Games. The archaeological site includes the stadium of Nemea, which could host 40,000 spectators, and the sanctuary and temple of Nemean Zeus. Nowadays, Nemea is known for its vineyards; we visit the Palivou Estate Winery, the wines of which have been multiply awarded for their quality.
In the afternoon we approach the city of Nafplion, the absolute jewel of Argolis region. Nafplion was the first capital of modern Greece and is widely known as one of the most idyllic and romantic Greek cities. Today, you will have the freedom to discover Nafplion at your own disposal. You can take a walk through its picturesque streets with the wonderful buildings; visit the Archaeological Museum and the Komboloi Museum in the center of the old city; admire the fortified islet of Bourtzi standing on the background, while drinking your coffee or having lunch at one of the numerous cafés and taverns. And for those in good shape, Palamidi Castle is totally recommended. In order to reach it, you have to climb all of its 999 steps carved into the rock. The castle where the most important hero of the Greek Revolution Theodoros Kolokotronis was imprisoned is absolutely worth your time and energy; the view from above is breathtaking! After our afternoon break, we drive to the last destination for today: the legendary Mycenae, capital of Agamemnon’s kingdom. At Mycenae we will visit Europe’s oldest fortress and the stage for Iliad, one of Homer’s bloody epic poems. It all started in Aulis, where King Agamemnon sacrificed his own daughter Iphigenia, so that the Greeks could sail to Troy. After Agamemnon’s return from the Trojan War, Clytemnestra gave order to murder her husband. Her children Elektra and Orestes in turn assassinated their mother, to revenge the murder of their father. The story of Atrides’ dynasty has inspired the famous Greek tragic writers Aischylos, Sofokles and Euripides, whose tragedies and their modern adaptations are still being played in theaters all over the world. (Total distance: 236 km)

Day 6 (Tuesday): Sparta & Mystras

Drive to the southern part of Peloponnese and specifically to the city of Sparta, the motherland of Leonidas, who fell bravely in the battle of Thermopylae against the Persians (480 B.C). The wild nature of the area offers us a totally different experience than the typical one we would experience in the worldwide known Aegean Islands. The ancient city is located outside the limits of the modern city of Sparta; unfortunately, only remnants of the antiquity are to be expected. In the museum of the archaeological site we can see and learn anything the time has extinguished.
Next and last stop of the day: Mystras. The “wonder of Morea”, as it is known, was built as an amphitheater around the fortress erected in 1249 by the prince of Achaia, William of Villehardouin. The city was reconquered by the Byzantines, then occupied by the Turks and the Venetians and finally abandoned in 1832, leaving only medieval ruins standing in a beautiful landscape. (Total distance: 290 km)

Day 7 (Wednesday): Free Time!

Today we will just enjoy our time at the beach. For the interested ones, there are two optional trips organized to the islands of Hydra and Poros respectively.
The amphitheatrical shape of the island provided a safe shelter from Saronic Pirates. As soon as we disembark, the small narrow stone-paved streets are expecting us to explore them on foot or by the island’s traditional “vehicle”, the cute donkeys. Walk along the old promenade, take a swim in the crystal clear blue waters and find the most appropriate souvenir for you in the traditional fine-craft shops.
The island is separated from Peloponnese by a narrow strait, which offers an enchanting view of Poros town. In antiquity, Poros consisted of two islands, Sphería and Kalávria, but the last explosion of the Méthana volcano in 273 B.C. radically changed the morphology of the area. Sphería was cut off from Méthana, and thus Póros took its present-day form. The landscape of the island consists of lush pine trees vegetation, crystal clear beaches, a lively waterfront adorned with shops, cozy cafés and restaurants, a picturesque capital (it has been declared protected settlement) with grand traditional mansions and picturesque cobbled streets; all ingredients of a quiet, yet cosmopolitan, destination.

Day 8 (Thursday): Corinth & Flight Back Home

Ancient Corinth has been the richest port and the largest city in ancient Greece. Its strategical location on the connection between Peloponnese and the mainland of Greece made the city a powerful commercial center near two seaports. The city is also very famous in the world of Christianity as one of the main stops of Apostle Paul during the journeys he made to spread the word of Jesus. We visit the ancient city situated under the large fortress; the ancient central street, the agora and the Temple of Apollo is waiting for us. We also visit the archaeological site of the region as well as the museum, which is definitely worth seeing. According to the itinerary, transfer to Athens International Airport “Eleftherios Venizelos” and flight back home.

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