For many years, Alkis and I had been toying with the idea of spending Easter in Alkis's hometown - Serres , Greece. However, due to work, Alkis wasn't able to get away during Easter. As a matter of fact, the last time he celebrated Easter with his family in Serres was more than 30 years ago. This Easter, the dream of a lifetime came true. We had planned this trip since early February and finally flew to Thessaloniki on Holy Thursday - April 12.
DAY 1 - Thursday, April 12 2012
Cyprus Airways took off on time - at 07:10 - and landed at Macedonia Airport one hour and forty-five minutes later. Thanassis, Alkis's youngest brother picked us up and drove us to Serres which is about an-hour drive from Thessaloniki. As both Alkis and I wished to renew our Greek passports, we had to go through bureacracy and red tape in order to do so, only to be told that we had to get new identity cards first. Unfortunately, the Town Hall had closed by the time we got there, so we had no other alternative than be patient till Tuesday. Then Thanassis drove us to Philippos Xenia Hotel where we checked in, unpacked and got ready for lunch. As Thanassis had to go to work, we had lunch with Zoe, Thanassis's eldest daughter, her husband Stratos and their adorable little girls: 5-year-old Maria and 3-year-old Alkistis - our goddaughter. It was a beautiful, sunny day in Serres and we enjoyed a stroll in the park before lunch at Nystazos - one of the best ouzeries in Serres.
DAY 2 - Friday, April 13 2012
It was another sunny morning in Serres. After breakfast at the hotel, we walked to the town centre and did some shopping. Then we had coffee and bougatsa - the best ever! - at one of the many cafés at Eleftherias Square. Serres seems to be the least affected by the severe financial crisis in Greece. Shops, cafés, bars, tavernas and restaurants were packed. The rate of unemployment is the lowest in Greece. As I was told, this is because Serres boasts one of Greece's most fertile valleys and many people here live on agriculture and farming. The sunny weather gave way to rain and cloudy skies in the afternoon, but this did not prevent us from attending Epitaphios at Kato Kamila - the village where Alkis spent most of his childhood. It was, by far, the best Epitaphios service I have ever observed.
DAY 3 - Saturday, April 14 2012
Despite the rainy weather, we went for a walk in the park and spent the rest of the day relaxing. According to the Greek Orthodox religion, at midnight, we all go to church to celebrate Our Lord's Resurrection. Thanassis picked us up at 10:00 pm and drove us to Gazaros - a small village in the area. His sister-in-law, Yianna and her husband Babis had invited us to dinner after church. They own a beautiful house in Gazaros. I don't think I could ever thank them enough for their wonderful hospitality and the great dinner Yianna prepared after church.
DAY 4 - Easter Sunday
We spent Easter Sunday at Thanassis's country house in Lefkonas - Serres. Ah right! We had so much to eat again! Ouzomeze for starters and then Thanassis's lamb on the spit which turned out great. Bobby - their dog - had a generous portion as well!!!
DAY 5 - Easter Monday
DAY 6 - Tuesday, April 17 2012
At last, we got our new Greek passports today! And then .... off to beautiful Thessaloniki where Alkis spent most of his adolescence. It was pouring when we got there but we did enjoy a glass of wine at Electra Palace Hotel situated right on the famous Aristotelous Square and opposite the seafront.
In the evening, we had coffee with Mimis and Antonis - Alkis's cousins - and their wives Irini and Katerina - and then had dinner at Brothers-In-Law. That is where I had a small accident. I fell down the slippery, luminated stairs but , thank God, I did not get hurt!
DAY 7 - Wednesday, April 18 2012
It was still raining in Thessaloniki, so I enjoyed shopping at Cosmos Mall - the largest shopping centre in Northern Greece. After shopping, we had lunch at Friday's with Antonis and Irini. In the evening, we met up with friends and had a delicious Cretan dinner at Athivoli , Ladadika which I strongly recommend. If you visit Thessaloniki or if you live there, give it a try! Reasonable prices and great food!
DAY 8 - Thursday 19 April 2012
All good things eventually come to an end. We flew back home from Thessaloniki at 11:00 am. At 1:30 pm, Alkis and I were having lunch at home. I feel I have recharged the batteries and I'm now ready to go back to school on Monday and cope with yet another hectic end-of-school-year and final exams.