Spetses: international chanting in the zen garden of Argosaronikos

P2_greyThere are just some destinations that simply remind you that the essence of happiness lies in the “aller-retour”, more specifically – in the silence situated in the back of the moon and in the scarlet sun. On the “Island of Scents” (Isola delle Spezie), reality is a tribute to time.

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It is the new memories you create today together with the people of the island and the nostalgia of yesterday with everything you have experienced and carried like a good luck charm that remains within you.

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Pondering on those envious childhood moments where the small motor boat moved to the crest of the waves and vividly recalling your father who first brought you to the cape of Spetses. The image of your mother standing by you at every motion of the sea as your brother impatiently waits for the opportunity to fully press the boat pedal. Those youthful summers bring back that intense salty taste, especially when passing by the Tselevinia area. Passing by the small island of Dokos (one of the most popular yachting destinations in the Argosaronic Gulf), you could form the greenest image, that could be painted even lying down. You just want to bow down to the grandeur of Poseidonion Hotel (see relevant article in Greek).

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During the Easter celebrations, travellers are welcomed by ceremonies of mysticism, where the waters glow with the bright colours of fireworks leaving an unforgettable after-celebration feeling. The luxury setting is concentrated in the Bays of the Old Harbour, Agios Nikolaos, in Agios Mamas and Kounoupitsa.

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Amongst the mass of people that have gathered together as if it is the peak of the summer in August, one can attend the Holy Friday worship service without experiencing the typical outdoor noise. As the Holy Epitaph decorated in an assortment of flowers exits the church, the gentle singing hymns of the clergy accompanied by a female choir leave the Metropolis of Agios Nikolaos in a candlelit procession through the narrow streets of Spetses. The crowd continues to stroll past the Kapodistrias Estate occasionally making small stops in front of the dim-lighted homes advancing parametrically to Dapia. The crowd finally gathers at Poseidoniοn Square, where the four surrounding church Epitaphs of Agios Nikolaos, Ascension, Agios Antonios and Agios Ioannis Prodromos parishes meet.

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If networking is synonymous for the new age technology ambassadors during the sacred days of Easter, then nothing will prevent millennial users from rejoicing at the Metropolis of Spetses. It is beyond remarkable how easy people gain respect for Archimandrite Gregory Nanakoudis (Preacher of the Metropolis of Hydra, Spetses and Aegina) through his captivating approach. Instantly, the surrounding visitors are magnetised by the spur of the moment selfie snapshots taken by Father Gregory himself, as the strong dose of faith and grandeur captivates the mass of people.

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But Father Gregory takes the worship service to another level by tagging and commenting every single precious moment, revealing the unique ceremonies and rituals in the most creative and innovative way. More specifically, on the evening of Easter Sunday, we all gathered at “Aghia Mama” for the traditional “Worship Service of Love” where the reading of the Gospel was recited in a multi-language congregation. Hearing the service in English, Armenian, French, German, Georgian, Danish, Spanish, Italian, Latin, Dutch, Ukrainian, Romanian, Russian, Turkish, Filipino, the Homeric Age Language, the Tsakonian dialect, and the Seychellois Creole from the Seychelles created the most powerful feeling of connection amongst the people gathered outside of Agios Mamas and confirming that there are no boundaries when it comes to faith.

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Purely by luck and coincidence we were in Spetses for the celebration of Protomagia – the 1st of May and of spring. Walking through the Old Harbor of the island, the eye cannot even begin to absorb the abundance of flowers previously picked and beautifully decorated into wreaths and floral arrangements.

There is a simple explanation… the Zarnten nests here, something more than just a typical florist shop décor. An exquisite colorful array of bright florals surrounds and naturally decorates the island’s everyday life and unique moments in a distinct way. Aggelos gives the best of himself from the moment you are welcomed to the island and until the moment where the flower finds its special place, irrespective of its form or shape. Nature is already smiling.

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In a well-hidden blooming courtyard situated in the heart of the city beside the Clock Square, Effie greets us outside of the Twin House”. holding a “welcoming treat”. Right outside of our doorstep, we were surrounded by the loveliest and perfectly landscaped plants and flowering vines creating a long-lasting shade area.

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One of the “musts” of breakfast are the homemade fresh sweets prepared by Effie herself. The fork awaits and clearly shows preference for the “bougatsa”, which is served straight from the oven every morning. The breakfast also entails fresh sweets from the neighbouring Pastry Shop “Vanilla”, which doesn’t give you much of a choice but to embrace the opportunity to indulge in a little extra sugar at the beginning of the day.

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At “Vanilla”, the mixer works away blending together innovation with tradition in order to produce delicious almond delights, an assortment of sweets and pies, the traditional Greek “kourampiedes” and every kind of sugary and syrupy inspiration one could only dream of. Situated in the Dapia area, above St. Antonios church, visitors are greeted by the owners of “Vanilla”, Sophia and Yiannis. The delicate pastel colours of the Patisserie are most welcoming together with Sophia’s enormous smile and Yiannis’ friendly personality.

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Surrounded by vivid colours and fragrances, we began our tour by strolling through the narrow streets of the island. Moving across the coastal front, we continued our journey by climbing the hill to the Kasteli area where we enjoyed the serene atmosphere and relished the panoramic view of the island. We absorbed nature by exploring the remaining perimeter of the island, measuring 25 kilometers in length.

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Lefteris was the specialist for assisting in our selecting our means of transportation (bicycle, motorbike, four-wheel quad). With his several years of experience and professionalism, he continues with the same passion. Lefteris “Rent a Moto” can be found across the Town Hall of Spetses, towards Kounoupitsa. He welcomed us together with Eleni, ensuring a smooth and safe journey around the island [tel. +30.22980.73584, e-mail: lefterismoto@yahoo.gr].

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We stopped atMare Monte”, where we were greeted by Ms. Maria who was surrounded by the most beautiful lavender gardens. We slowly approached the doorstep of the sophisticated stone-built mansion where we were introduced to Ms. Eleni, the soul and spirit of the luxurious suites. We also met Fotini who eagerly assisted us in the kindest manner with the most beautiful smile one can ever encounter.

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On one of the evenings on the island, Yiannis provided us with the finest table at “Mpoumpoulina”. With over 20 years of expertise in the seafood and meat cuisine, Yiannis continues to greet his guests arrive at the port of Spetses and start their journey towards Agios Mamas. Chilled ouzo accompanied by freshly fried calamari and calamari accompanied with hearty red-wine sauce brought directly from fresh morning catch just hours ago. The top-rated dish of the evening is most definitely the Greek shrimp “saganaki” brought to our table straight from the skillet together with an herbed potato salad.

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During the celebration of Greek Easter, culinary inspiration and new recipes are a must. Who would ever think that a conversation in Italian with sweet Rossella would be the reason for reserving a lovely table at “Orloff”  – a neoclassic building erected in 1802 that once served as the island’s Port Authority headquarters of the early 1800’s. Christos introduces visitors to the authentic Greek cuisine, with the Easter Dinner after the Midnight Church service.

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Aside from the cheese platter and the pleasant flavor of the salad, we were served homemade Mageritsa soup with its silky smooth texture of egg-lemon liaison. Accompanying the traditional Greek Easter soup recipe, we were served smoked lamb with aromatic herbs. A cold glass of Moschato Limnus enhanced the rich flavors of our meal which ended our night’s celebration.

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Easter day was celebrated right next to the seaside at “Kaiki Beach Club” . Nikos, Kostas and their attentive team welcomed us and arranged to cater to our every need. The contrast of the red Easter eggs positioned beautifully on the white tablecloths immediately caught our eye. The Beach Club is located on the beach front in front of the Anargyros College and Korgialenios School facilities. After cracking the red eggs which symbolises the resurrection and new life, we were served with caramelised onion pie, mizithra cheese, smoked pork tenderloin and spicy chicken salad. An unusually unique radish salad served along with potatoes stuffed with minced meat and cheese were served before the traditional kokoretsi and roasted lamb specialties. The sinfully delicious galaktoboureko served with cinnamon and the chocolate with orange “saragli” were definitely the highlights of the evening.

After the exceptional dining experience, we walked to the beach front listening to the soothing music where we arrived at the beach beds situated in front of the turquoise waters. In creating a calm and relaxing environment, one can also enjoy a massage by the sea. Various services are also available to the customers, including personal key storage boxes.

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The “Burning of Judas”, a unique tradition where an effigy is filled with straw and wood and set on fire ended the festivities on the night of Easter at the Poseidonion Square. The custom is accompanied with a firework display which can be seen all over the island and across the Argolic Coast, outstandingly organised by “Tzimanoparea” in collaboration with the Municipality of Spetses.

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Spetses Island fullfils every visitor’s expectation and the diverse selection of entertainment during the Easter season is by far countless. As the beauty is concentrated in one single area, it is difficult to capture every little moment experienced in just over a 24 hour stay. Undoubtedly when leaving Spetses, the endless beauty of the island leaves you with the promise of returning to the people, the incomparable service and thrills of the island so well positioned in the Argosaronic Gulf. One can wander from one end to the other, from  Liotrivi, to Mouragio [tel. +30.22980.72387] and the Tarsanas to Akrogialia, τον Patralis and the Water of Love (Nero tis Agapis) to the traditional tavern at the bay of Zogeria.

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Reminiscing to the carefree years of childhood where many weeks were spent on the island, one of the most treasurable destinations was Zogeria’s Tavern where the intense smell and taste of the traditional Beef dish with fresh tomato sauce was a classic meal. The transparent waters at Agia Paraskevi beach and the image of the bright light attracting fish while fishing close to midnight remain distinct to this day. Hearing the sound of the Armata’s fireworks marked the beginning of each school year.

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When your ancestors you loved dearly are no longer alive today, it is in your hand to preserve their legacies by re-creating your own personal experiences in the land you have learned to love. With logic and sensitivity, your own experience should mark the beginning of your own family’s journey by linking the bridge to further generations … and remember that every moment is recorded in the traveller’s DNA.

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The nostalgia for the past, the desire for the unknown, and the longing to learn something new create a thirst for discovering a new destination. In every journey, we move ahead with the sensation that we are returning to our past, to everything we experienced the very first time. Maybe that’s why we love to travel…

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** Credits to Faye Skenteris for the co-creation in the translation and proofreading of the original article

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