Mysterious Places in Athens, Greece | Mysterious Greece

The city of Athens has a history spanning over three thousand years. As you can imagine, the capital of the Hellenic Republic of Greece is the birthplace of countless important figures, revolutionary ideas, legendary stories, and mysteries. Here are some of the most mysterious places in Athens, Greece.

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Mysterious Places in Athens

  • Ardittos Hill
  • Mount Pentelicus
  • Davelis’ Cave
  • The Dragon Gate
  • The Acropolis Hill

Ardittos Hill | Mysterious Greece

Ardittos Hill is located at the heart of Athens, surrounding the Kallimarmaro; the historical Panathenaic Stadium which was built in 330 BC and reconstructed in 144 AD. Adrittos Hill was the area where ancient Athenian judges would take their oath.

The green hill has attracted many curious researchers of the unexplained over the years. It has been observed that the area is oddly quiet. Visitors often report that birds avoid entering the wooded area, which is unusual. Cats, on the other hand, seem to be attracted to this area.

Others say that they feel a strange energy surrounding the hill. Moreover, there are reports of peculiar findings in the area, such as candles, ropes, and remains of ritualistic activities. But why is that?

Ardittos Hill has been considered a sacred place since ancient antiquity. The area houses the temple of Artemis Agrotera, an important Athenian landmark, and the temple place of Fortune Goddess Tyche. But most importantly, it was the location where the Micra or Lesser Eleusinian Mysteries were taking place. These mysteries were a set of secret rituals organized by a cult dedicated to goddesses Demeter and Persephone. If you are interested in learning more about these mysteries, don’t forget to check Helinika’s dedicated video.

It is worth mentioning that a street named Odos Agras, right next to Ardittos Hill, is also the center of various urban legends. The street is known for the house of the Nobel laureate and poet, Giorgos Seferis. But, according to an urban legend, someone who walks on this street might end up walking back in time. Just like the main character in the Woody Allen movie “Midnight in Paris”. Imagine exploring Athens only to come across one of Greece’s most important poets!

Moreover, although Athens has indeed a large amount of stray cats, the street has a… disproportionate amount of felines roaming around. On the street you can also find the so-called “House with the Cats”, which is reportedly always guarded by two cats that stand next to its front door. Witnesses have said that the cats stay so still that they look like statues. Not only that, but the house, which is not clear whether it is inhabited or not, has a sign with the following verse:

I will not reign, to serve I detest, the cat I remain.”

Mount Pentelicus | Mysterious Greece

Mount Pentelicus or Penteli is one of the mountains of Athens. It is known for its marble, the Pentelicon marble that was used to construct the Acropolis of Athens. The mountain is one of the most mysterious places in Greece since antiquity.

According to some reports, there is a spot on Penteli where drivers experience a weird phenomenon. A street that seems to be going slightly uphill manages to defy gravity. When cars stop there, they start moving on their own. They move upwards – as if gravity is reversed.

Some observers suggest that there is an optical illusion, and that the road actually goes downhill. Others say that there are strong magnetic fields in the area that pull the cars in a seemingly unnatural way.

Mount Pentelicus is also associated with countless urban legends and myths. There are reports of mysterious hitchhikers who disappear in people’s cars. In the past, people have reported UFO sightings while visiting the area.

In the 1990s, Penteli became a feared place after it started attracting groups of devil worshippers. One of this groups, consisting of two young men and a teenage girl, committed a series of sacrificial murders of young women in the area of Pallini, a municipality at the foothills of Mount Pentelicus.

The mountain also has its own “haunted” estate. That is the tower of the Duchess of Plaisance, Sophie de Marbois-Lebrun. The French noblewoman and philhellene, moved to Athens in 1834 and spent the rest of her life in the newly founded Hellenic Republic.

The Duchess reportedly lost her mind after the premature death of her beloved daughter, Eliza. Rumor has it that she turned to spiritualism and later to witchcraft. She wanted to communicate with Eliza and she invited mediums and necromancers to her tower. As a result, the estate is rumored to be “haunted” with countless spirits, including the spirit of Eliza.

But the most mysterious place of Penteli is without the doubt its notorious cave: Davelis’ or Pan’s Cave…

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Daveli’s Cave | Mysterious Greece

Although Daveli’s Cave is located on the southwestern side of Mount Pentelicus, it deserves to be examined separately. That is because it sparked people’s curiosity since antiquity.

To begin with, ancient Athenians believed that the chthonic god Pan who resided under the surface of the Earth, was able to visit Athens by exiting this Cave on Mount Pentelicus. Nymphs were also considered to reside next to the cave. After the battle of Marathon, when Pan allegedly helped the Athenians win by causing panic to the Persians, Athenians would enter the Cave to worship Pan.

Over the years, when Greeks left their pagan past behind, chthonic deities were considered demonic. They resided under the surface of the Earth – where hell is located. Byzantine and Ottoman Greeks feared the cave. Farmers and shepherds that passed by Pan’s cave would often run back to their villages in terror, reporting sightings of terrifying monsters that exited the cave. As a result, a small church was built right at the entrance of the cave dedicated to Saint Spyridon and to Saint Nicholas.

The cave is mostly known today as Davelis’ cave, instead of Pan’s cave. That is because the infamous 19th century brigand Christos Natsios or Davelis, used the cave as a hideout. According to some rumors of that time, Davelis had a secret love affair with the previously mentioned Duchess of Plaissance!

Due to its pagan history, new age occultists started visiting the cave to perform rituals. The devil worshippers of Pallini were allegedly frequent visitors of the cave as well. But today, the majority of its visitors are climbers, hikers, and nature lovers.

In the past, cave explorers and hikers have reportedly managed to fully explore its vast tunnel system, which, according to some, could lead someone to the center of Athens. This is no longer possible; the tunnels have been closed down for unspecified reasons.

What makes the history of the cave even more interesting is the fact that it sparked the interest of the government of the United States. During the Cold War, NATO and the US military reportedly explored the cave with the help of the Greek military.

Rumor had it that they wanted to use it for a secret military base, since its tunnels could lead to the sea and therefore would be the perfect location to keep some of their submarines. Others suggested that they wanted to produce or store secret nuclear weapons for a short time period.

Many explorers confirm this scenario, since electronic devices often stop working when entering the cave. Not only that but concrete was used to seal some of the tunnels, as if the military wanted to protect the public from dangerous substances… if not from the monsters that terrified medieval Greeks.

It is worth mentioning that the secret military works at Penteli were reported at the local press at that time. Today, many people have come up with some additional scenarios – some realistic, some less realistic- about what happened at Daveli’s cave in the ‘70s. For example, they suggest that the cave can serve as a portal to other dimensions, hence the appearance of strange beings over the years. A German tv-series called “Dark” has a storyline that bears many similarities to this scenario.

The Dragon Gate | Mysterious Greece

If you have ever read any of the Harry Potter books, then you might remember of the Diagon Alley but also some magical buildings and train platforms that muggles -non wizards- would simply ignore. A strange building like this exists at the heart of Athens.

This is no other than the narrow and tall building at the street Akadimias 58a. The odd structure has an architecture with many gothic references, which is rare to see in Athens. At the same time, despite its appearance, most people ignore it completely while passing by. It looks odd but stays unnoticed at the same time. A surprising fact is that there used to be an iron dragon on top of the main gate for many years, which was removed mysteriously overnight. Nobody really knows who removed the dragon and why.

There are many official and unofficial reports regarding the so-called “house with the dragon gate”. According to some older rumors, the building was used by secret societies, perhaps by the “Free Masons”, for their mysterious meetings.

People who lived in neighboring buildings often said that they would see people dressed in peculiar clothes enter the building. Thanks to its gothic elements and the scary dragon on top of the gate, many people believed that dark rituals were performed there. It didn’t help when some explorers managed to enter the building in the late 20th century, only to find an altar, a small church and religious icons stuffed in there.

It has been recently revealed  that it served as an additional entrance (in GR)  to the house of the German-born Green-national architect Ernst Ziller. Ziller is the mastermind behind some of the most beautiful and unique houses and mansions of Athens.

His estate located on street Mavromichali 6, is somehow connected to the “house with the dragon gate”. Rumor had it that it was later purchased by the very prominent family of bankers, the Loverdos, to store a secret private collection of ancient and medieval relics.

A few months ago, the Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported that the building has been turned into a Museum with the consent of the Loverdos family. The visitors will be able to see the private collection of relics that is now maintained and stored there, along with the building’s very unique interior.  

It is worth mentioning that the fact that the building belonged indeed to Ziller (a prominent architect) and later to Loverdos (a prominent banker), doesn’t mean that it was never used for secret meetings of mysterious people in the past…

The Acropolis of Athens | Mysterious Greece

The Acropolis of Athens is very different from the rest of the previously mentioned areas, since it evokes positive rather negative feelings and emotions. In many ways, it could be described as the opposite of the Hill of Ardittos. It represents light, wisdom, and excellence. A place that fills you in with positive energy. At the same time, it is one of the most mysterious places of Athens, of Greece, and of the world.

The ancient citadel consists of many ancient Greek temples from the 5th Century BC that were dedicated to the Olympian gods. The most prominent of them all is no other than the Parthenon, the temple dedicated to Athena, protector of the great city.

Over one million people from around the world visit the Acropolis of Athens every year. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the greatest symbol of democracy, since it was the great leader Pericles who was behind the great works on the site. Visiting the Acropolis of Athens is not just a cultural trip but perhaps… a trip in time.

Do you have any other mysterious places to add to this list? Feel free to comment down below!

The Most Underrated Greek Destinations | 7 Unique Places to Visit in Greece

underrated greek destinations

There are plenty of hidden gems to discover in Greece. We have previously seen Greek destinations that foreign visitors might ignore, but locals visit frequently. These include Halkidiki and Mount Pelion. But there are some incredible places in the country that even Greeks often snub, unless they live in close proximity to them.

Some of these places are the birthplaces of important Modern Greek figures. They have landscapes and architectural styles that you may not associate with Greece. Let’s explore together some of the most underrated Greek destinations.

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Seven Underrated Greek Destinations

  1. Missolonghi
  2. Syros Island
  3. Salamis Island
  4. Arcadia Region
  5. Kithira & Antikithira
  6. Kavala
  7. Xanthi

Xanthi | Unique Places in Greece

Xanthi is a unique city in the region of Thrace in northeastern Greece. Since it is not located right by the sea and due to it’s a bit colder climate, many Greeks and foreign visitors rarely travel to Xanthi. The exception is, of course, the well-known annual carnival festival.

But Xanthi, especially its old town, has a very unique and beautiful architecture that it is hard to find in Greece. Its local bazaar attracts many visitors every Saturday. And let’s not forget that the city was the birthplace of one of the greatest Greek and European composers: Manos Hatzidakis. His beautiful home is now a Museum that everyone should visit when in Xanthi.  

Kavala | Underrated Destinations in Greece

Kavala is another city in northern Greece. This time, situated by the sea in eastern Macedonia. Due to the fact that it is located far from Athens, it is not such a popular destination as other places in Greece.

But the city is not only beautiful, but it also has many monuments that showcase Greece’s long history. It was founded in the 7th century BC and it was an important fort city of the Byzantine Empire. As a result, it has countless monuments that are worth a visit. Not only that but Xanthi is also connected to the Roman Via Egnatia hiking trail.

Kithira and Antikithira | Lessen-Known Greek Destinations

Another beautiful Greek location that is not easy to reach from Greece’s big cities, is Kithira (or Kythera). Kithira is an island located in the south-eastern tip of the Peloponnese peninsula. It is associated with another, much smaller island named Antikithira (or Antikythera).

The islands have a long history, beautiful landscapes and beaches, and a unique architecture with a Venetian influence. When it comes to Antikithira, you may have heard of the famous Antikythera Mechanism; the oldest example of an analogue computer that was used to predict astronomical positions, among other things. The mechanism was discovered at a shipwreck off the coast of the remote island of Antikithira.

Arcadia Region | Underrated Places in Greece

Arcadia is a region in the Peloponnese. The region has a long history and it has been featured in many mythological stories – including the story of Arcas and the god Pan. Since it is not connected to the sea, it is not a popular destination for people who visit Greece.

But Arcadia is an area you should definitely visit once in your life. To begin with, the area has been traditionally inhabited by one of the oldest Greek tribes: the Arcadians. The Mountains of Arcadia are full of picturesque, authentic villages. Tripoli, the city of Arcadia, is known for its brave people. They played a crucial role in the Greek War of Independence.

Salamis Island | Unique Greek Destinations

You may know the island of Salamis thanks to the naval battle of Salamis against the Persian Empire in 480 BC. It is in close proximity to Athens and it belongs to the administrative region of Attica. Although many Athenians visit Salamis for a short visit, it is rarely the first choice for their summer vacation.

But the island has a long history and it is featured in countless mythological stories. Not only that, but it was the birthplace of the ancient tragedian Euripides. The island has beautiful monasteries – including the historic monastery of Faneromeni-, various beaches, and forests.

Syros Island | Underrated Greek Destinations

Syros is a Cycladic island, just like Santorini and Paros. But fewer people know about it and even Greeks rarely consider it for their summer vacations. Perhaps that is because it was an important industrialized port island with an atmosphere that distinguishes it from the laid-back neighboring islands.

Syros is an impressive island with numerous neo-classical mansions – especially in its main town, Ermoupolis. The mayor’s house of Syros is one of the most impressive municipal buildings in the entire country. Ano Syros, a second town, was built by the Venetians. It still maintains a medieval atmosphere.

The island is the birthplace of many important Greek figures from antiquity till modern times, including the illustrious writer Emmanuel Rhoides and the legendary musician Markos Vamvakaris. If you love history and architecture, Syros island is an island you should add to your list.

Missolonghi | Unique Destinations in Greece

The most underrated place to visit in Greece might be Missolonghi – which today is mostly known for its salt. It is rarely on the list of Greeks and foreign visitors, unless they have any ties to it. Missolonghi did not only play a crucial role in the Greek War of Independence, inspiring the philhellene Lord Byron to participate in the revolution, but it is also one of the most unique Greek destinations.

The town, situated in Aetolia-Acarnania in West Greece, has a picturesque architecture but also a functional and modern urban planning that is hard to find in most Greek cities and towns. Moreover, it is one of the few places in Greece where you can safely ride your bike. It has many landmarks (including the Garden of Heroes), museums, and cultural centers. The first prime minister of Greece, Spyridon Trikoupis, was born in Missolonghi. The same applies to countless other important Greek figures.

A picturesque place that you should visit is Tourlida, an island in Missolonghi Lagoon, known for its picturesque fisherman houses on piles. Tourlida is connected to the shore by road and you could easily cycle there from the town of Missolonghi!

All of the above places are also known for their delicious local cuisine. The makaronopita (pasta pie) of Missolonghi, the loukoumi and frisoura of Syros, the chylopites of Arcadia, the anthogalera of Kithira…

If you enjoyed this video, feel free to like and subscribe. Do you have any other underrated Greek destinations to add to the list? You can leave a comment in the comment section!

Share YOUR “Summer in Greece” Story (Deadline: End of May) [Extended]

story

Since we are approaching the 2000 subscribers milestone, it is time to prepare a subscribers’ special video. This time, I would like to share YOUR short stories. The topic is “My Summer in Greece”.

If you would like to participate, you can choose between two options: a) a TRUE funny/romantic/horror vacation story you experienced while visiting Greece (as a foreign visitor) b) a nostalgic childhood memory (or memories) from the “χωριό” (chorio) (for Greeks and the Greek diaspora).  

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Requirements:

-The story should consist of 100-500 words.

-It should be written in English (channel’s main language).

-The plot should have a very clear beginning, middle, and end.

-Authors should avoid using inappropriate language; punctuation is important.

-It should be saved as a pdf/word document and uploaded on the Google forms (see link down below).

-The story must be original and not copy-pasted from an external source.

-The author should sign with his/her real name or a pseudonym and include his/her country of origin.

-All stories must be submitted by the end of May.

Anyone who watches/reads Helinika’s content and has visited Greece at least once, is eligible to submit his/her story. Stories that do not meet the above requirements, will not be included in the video.

I look forward to reading your submissions!

Pronouncing Fraternity Names in Greek | Fraternity Letter Pronunciation (Alpha Chi, Pi Kappa Phi…)

Have you ever wondered how fraternities and sororities are pronounced in Greek? Although American fraternities and sororities are named after Greek letters (in various combinations), they sound nothing like they would sound in Greece.

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Pronouncing These Fraternities:

Alpha Phi Alpha

Alpha Tau Omega

Alpha Sigma Phi

Alpha Epsilon Pi

Pi Kappa Phi

Pi Kappa Alpha

Phi Gamma Delta

Tau Kappa Epsilon

Theta Chi

Sigma Alpha Epsilon

Sigma Phi Epsilon

Kappa Alpha Psi

Sigma Chi

Sigma Ni

Delta Tau Delta

Delta Sigma Phi

Lambda Chi Alpha

Omega Psi Phi

Zeta Beta

Greek Superstitions, Old Wives’ Tales, and Urban Legends | Greek Beliefs

Superstitions, old wives’ tales, and urban legends exist all around the world. Although the people who admit believing in some of them are often ridiculed, we all subconsciously follow some “unwritten rules” that do not necessarily have a rational background. According to Forbes and Psychology Today, superstitions and magical thinking are hardwired to our brain and are essential for our survival.

Here are some of the most common beliefs from (Modern) Greece that are not directly connected to the official Christian Orthodox traditions. The video includes Greek superstitions, old wives’ tales, and urban legends. You will learn more about the vaskania (evil eye) and stories such as the sacrifice to the bridge of Arta.

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Greek Superstitions

Superstitions are called “δεισιδαιμονίες” in Greek. Here are some of the superstitions many Greek people still believe:

  1. Mati/Vaskania (Evil Eye)
  2. Touch Red
  3. Gifting Perfume
  4. Itchy Palms
  5. Knock on Wood
  6. Sneezing and Hiccups
  7. Owl on the Roof

Greek Old Wives’ Tales

Greek old wives’ tales usually revolve around health issues, pregnancy, and motherhood. Here are a few old wives’ tales from Greece:

  1. Getting a Cold from Being Cold
  2. Sleeping with Wet Hair
  3. Shape of the Baby Bum
  4. Using Garlic and Onions Topically
  5. Dreaming of the Groom

Greek Urban Legends

Greek urban legends differ, depending on whether they originate from villages, small town, or big cities. In general, urban legends in villages revolve around spirits and hauntings. In bigger cities, urban legends differ:

  1. The Dead Hitchhiker
  2. Haunted Locations
  3. The Stone Bridge of Arta
  4. Neraides
  5. White Vans
  6. Yello, Mormo, Lamia, and Other Boogy(wo)men
  7. Vampire Islands

You can watch the video and learn the details regarding these superstitions. If you are new here, feel free to explore the rest of Helinika’s pages.

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What Was the Byzantine Fire (Liquid Fire)? | Byzantium (Eastern Roman Empire)

One of the most mysterious and fascinating aspects of Greece’s Byzantine history, is the so-called “Greek Fire” or “Liquid Fire” (Ύγρόν Πυρ). Western Romans called it “ignis graecus” and it was no other than the powerful weapon that saved Constantinople multiple times from Arab and Rus invaders. The weapon was the most well-hidden secret of the Byzantine Empire.

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What Was the “Greek Fire”?

As the name suggests, “Greek Fire” was an incendiary weapon – a highly flammable liquid consisting of secret ingredients. It was used to start fires and destroy the enemies’ vessels and equipment and for inflicting serious injuries; either by throwing it from above or by spraying it with a device that resembled a flamethrower. The latter was called “cheirosiphon” and, as the name suggests, could be held as a gun. It is also estimated that “Liquid Fire” was used in ceramic grenades as well.

What makes this weapon exceptional is that it was used in naval battles, since the liquid was reportedly water resistant. The ships that carried it were usually the “dromon” type. Other empires also used weapons that produced fire, but the Greek patent was considered the most powerful in Medieval times. It was especially feared by European Crusaders. At the same time, the weapon had its own shortcomings; it was hard pointing it to a specific target, especially when it was windy.

“Ignis graecus”, as it was called by the westerns, was mostly used for defense purposes. Due to its destructive powers, people feared it similarly to how people fear nuclear weapons today. Emperor Romanos II had insisted that the weapon should never fall “at the wrong hands”. It should be protected similarly to how Byzantine princesses and the imperial regalia are protected.

When Was “Greek Fire” Invented?

It is estimated that “Liquid Fire” was created around 672 AD by a Christian Greek architect and chemist named Kallinikos. Kallinikos had sought refuge in Constantinople, after escaping Syria some years earlier. Assyrians were reportedly using incendiary arrows since the 9th century BC but it is not clear whether he got the inspiration for the “Liquid Fire” from them.

Ancient Greeks were also reportedly using flammable substances to attack their enemies. Thucydides mentions that a long tube on wheels, which blew flames, was used in the siege of Delium in 424 BC. Other civilizations had also come up with their own flamethrowers.

Kallinikos, however, came up with a substance that was allegedly more powerful and destructive than anything they had seen before. It is worth mentioning though that the British chemist and historian JR Partington has a different theory for the invention of “Greek Fire”. According to him, several Byzantine chemists who had inherited the discoveries of the Alexandrian Chemical School, contributed to the weapon’s creation.

“Greek Fire’s” Secret Formula | Byzantine Secrets

The formula behind “Liquid Fire” was a guarded military secret. The secrecy surrounding the weapon hasn’t help historians discover its ingredients. Any formula you might have heard is based on speculations.

One theory says that the main ingredient was saltpeter. Other theories suggest that the fire resulted by the combination of water and quicklime. Modern historians suspect sulfur, alcohol, resins, naphtha, coal from a willow tree, animal fat, and other ingredients.

Do you know any other theories? You can leave a comment down below. If you are new here, feel free to subscribe and check the rest of my videos. In the description you will find many helpful links. See you again on Monday!

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Greek Easter Traditions | How Greeks Celebrate Orthodox Easter (Pascha, Πάσχα)

Easter or Pascha is one of the most well-known religious celebrations and cultural holidays in the Christian world. It commemorates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and it symbolizes the victory of life against death, light against darkness, good against evil. Easter can refer to a period of time, including a 40-day period of fasting, the Holy Week, and Easter Sunday. But the term usually refers solely to Easter Sunday.

Do Greeks Celebrate Easter? | Greek Orthodox Easter

The most prevalent religion in Greece is Orthodox Christianity. That makes Easter a very important religious celebration. Many people choose to spend this time in the countryside with their family members, partaking in most, if not all, religious and cultural traditions. Here is how Greeks celebrate Orthodox Easter (Πάσχα).

How is the Date of Greek Orthodox Easter Determined? | Greek Easter 2021

The Greek Orthodox Easter Sunday for 2021 is the 2nd of May (02.05.2021). That is almost a month after the Catholic Easter Sunday. Easter is a moveable feast, and it shifts dates on a yearly base.

Traditionally, the Christian Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon. But, since a different calendar is followed nowadays (the Gregorian Calendar), some extra days are added in the calculation; usually, 13 additional days. In general, Easter Sunday in Greece is celebrated between the 4th of April and the 8th of May.

How is Orthodox Easter Celebrated in Greece? | Greek Easter Traditions

The most important Greek Easter traditions include the “Sarakosti” (Σαρακοστή) – the 40-day fasting period-, the “Holy Week” – which is called “Great Week” in Greek (Μεγάλη Εβδομάδα)-, the “Anastasi” -the Resurrection Night-, and the feast of Easter Sunday (Κυριακή του Πάσχα).

The Sarakosti: the Great Lent or Great Fast period, which starts on Clean Monday (7th Monday before Easter Sunday) and lasts till the Anastasi (Resurrection Night). The people who partake in Sarakosti start by eliminating meat from their diets and eventually give up other animal products, alcohol, and oil. Participating in the liturgies is an important part of this 40-day period. Moreover, Orthodox Christians try to show strength against all temptations, such as lust, while battling with their negative emotions and dark side of their personalities. Just like Jesus Christ did for 40 days in the Judaean Desert.

The Holy Week: the last week of the Sarakosti is abundant of liturgies and religious traditions. Fasting intensifies and it is generally recommended to avoid playing music and laughing out loud. The week revolves around the Passion of Jesus and to his Crucifixion. The Great Thursday is dedicated to the Last Supper, the Great Friday to His Crucifixion, and the Great Saturday to His burial. On the Night of the Great Friday, the tradition of “Epitaphios” occurs. An embroidered icon of Jesus Christ before His burial is decorated with flowers and the chanters are chanting mournful hymns. What follows is the procession of the Epitaphios. The attendants follow the Epitaphios around the village/town/neighborhood, holding candles.

The Anastasi: on the night of Great Saturday, Christian Orthodox Greeks attend the Liturgy of the Resurrection of Christ (Vigilia Paschalis). Just before midnight, the priest calls the attendants to collect the light (Δεύτε Λάβετε Φως). Christian Orthodox believers then greet each other and embrace. The priest lights the candles of the attendants with the “Hagio Phos” (Holy Fire), which is brought to Greece and distributed to all churches from Jesus Christs’ tomb in Jerusalem. The fire symbolizes hope, and the exchange of fire symbolizes the Christian union. A non-religious but rather cultural tradition is to use fireworks to light up the sky. Also, many Greeks return home after the liturgy and eat the traditional “Magiritsa” (Easter Lamb Soup).

Easter Sunday: the Sunday after the Resurrection Night is the Easter Sunday. Greeks prefer spending this day outdoors. Barbequing with friends and family is quite typical on Easter Sunday (Kyriaki tou Pascha). Lamb, kokoretsi, and boiled eggs are always on the table. The eggshells are painted red. Activities such as egg hunting and meeting the “Easter Bunny” are not included in the Greek Easter traditions.   

Local Easter Traditions: every region in Greece has its own customs and traditions. In Corfu, there is the tradition of “Botides” that occurs on Great Saturday. Locals throw ceramic pitchers full of water from their balconies. In Chios island, there is the “rouketopolemos” that occurs on Resurrection Night in Vrontados town. The churches Agios Marcos and Erithiani fore rockets at each other. The church that hits the bell tower of the other church first, wins. In Kalamata, there is the controversial “Saitopolemos”. In Hydra island, the “Epitaphios” procession takes place in the sea. In Leonidio, they launch sky lanterns. In many parts of Greece, “Judas” is thrown in a public bonfire.

Greek Orthodox Easter Greetings | Easter Wishes in Greek

  • Καλό Πάσχα (Kalo Pascha) – can be translated as “Nice/Good Easter”; general greeting.
  • Καλή Ανάσταση (Kali Anastasi) – can be translated as “Nice/Good Resurrection”; used before the Resurrection.
  • Χριστός Ανέστη (Christos Anesti) – can be translated as “Christ was Resurrected”; used right after the Resurrection has been announced by the priest.
  • Αληθώς Ανέστη/ Αληθώς ο Κύριος (Alithos Anesti/ Alithos o Kyrios) – can be translated as “He has Truly Risen/ He has Truly (Risen) the Lord); the response to “Christos Anesti”.
  • Χρόνια Πολλά (Chronia Polla) – can be translated as “(May You Live) Many Years”; general greeting.

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The Dragon Slayer, the Mermaid, and the Secret of Marmara | Legends from Medieval Greece #2 (Byzantium)

Interested in stories from Medieval Greece (Eastern Roman Empire)? Last time we discussed the Marble King, among other Byzantine legends. Today, we will discover the stories of the priest who vanished in Hagia Sophia, the secret of the Sea of Marmara, the giant Mermaid, and the Christian dragon slayer.

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The Priest Who Vanished in Hagia Sophia

One of the greatest architectural wonders of Byzantine history is the Orthodox Christian Basilica of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom). The Church is located at the Old City of Constantinople and it is surrounded by numerous legends. One of these stories is the legend of the vanishing priest.

When the Ottoman troops attacked the city of Constantinople on the spring of 1453, they entered Hagia Sophia in search of civilians who might have sought refuge there. According to the legend, a priest was holding a liturgy at that time.

Before the troops were able to catch him, he entered a door and vanished. The door closed behind him and couldn’t be opened nor destroyed. Rumor has it that the door will open once Hagia Sophia becomes a Greek Orthodox Church again. The priest will reappear and continue the liturgy.

If you know any additional details regarding this legend, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section.

The Hidden Secret of the Sea of Marmara

The Sea of Marmara, also known as Propontis, connects the Aegean Sea to the Black Sea. It is the area ancient Greeks from Megara explored before they established the colony of Byzantion, as we’ve seen in the first episode. There is reportedly a part of Propontis that is always calm. The passage is safe to cross, no matter the weather conditions. According to a Byzantine legend, this part of the Sea of Marmara has a secret. That is the Hagia Trapeza, the Holly Table of Hagia Sophia.

According to a book by the Greek intellectual Dorotheos Monemvasias, three Venetian ships had reportedly taken the Hagia Trapeza and other relics from Hagia Sophia, intending to bringing them in Venice. The Byzantines wanted to protect the Christian relics from the Ottomans who had invaded Constantinople.

As the Venetians transported the items, the vessel that transported the Hagia Trapeza sunk. The Holly Table is reportedly still at the bottom of the sea for someone to discover and the area seems to be unaffected by the weather conditions.

The Giant Mermaid

When hearing the term “mermaid” a beautiful creature comes to mind. Half woman, half fish, probably looking like Ariel. But there is a mermaid in Greek folklore, that is feared by sailors and islanders all over Greece. This is the Gorgona (Γοργόνα) – a giant mermaid who is supposedly related to Alexander the Great.

Although inspired by historical figures of late antiquity, the myth of the Gorgona probably originates in Byzantium. This was the time period in which the mythical sirens, the half bird – half women creatures turned into the mermaids we know today.

According to this legend, princess Thessalonike, half-sister of Alexander the Great, had washed her hair with the water of the “Fountain of Immortality”. That meant it would be impossible to die, even if she tried to.

When her brother, Alexander, died, the princess was shocked. She attempted to end her life by jumping into the sea from a cliff. But, instead of dying, she turned into a mermaid. A giant mermaid to be precise who terrified sea men and islanders.

Thessalonike then migrated to the Black Sea but she would sometimes return to the Northern Aegean in search of her brother. The legend says that she desperately asks the sailors if King Alexander is alive. If they give her a positive reply, she dives into the water, looking happy. If they reply “no”, Gorgona destroys the vessel. After a while, she regrets her action and starts crying, causing a storm.

Do you know any other variation of this story? Comment down below.

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St. George, the Dragon Slayer

George of Lydda was a Roman soldier of Greek origin who is recognized as a Christian Saint. The Saint is associated with a Byzantine legend, the one of the evil Dragon. There are many variations of the story but the most popular one takes place in Libya.

George of Lydda was passing by a Libyan city (Silene), when he saw a beautiful woman crying, while being transported to an unspecified location. Saint George overheard that the woman was selected to be fed to a bloodthirsty Dragon that terrorized the area.

The Dragon looked like a winged giant lizard. It breathed fire and was able to kill humans from a distance. Rumor had it that it had arrived in the area centuries ago, causing chaos. The locals managed to appease the beast by offering it two sheep. And they would do the same every year to make sure that the dragon doesn’t attack their city. But there was a time when there was no more livestock to feed the Dragon. Or, according to another variation, the Dragon couldn’t be appeased by feeding on animals. It demanded human flesh.

For the past few years, a member of the local community, usually a peasant, was selected annually to be fed to the dragon. The selection process was not clarified but we assume that they used a draw. That year, the unlucky human to be sacrificed was no other than the beloved princess of the city. The locals protested but no one was willing to take her place.

Saint George was moved by the story. He wanted to end this custom, just like Theseus did in the myth of the Minotaur. The soldier Saint followed the trail that led to the Dragon and stopped the princess from entering the Dragon’s lair. He volunteered to be the offering. But as the beast laid down, waiting to be fed, Saint George revealed a spear and killed the dragon to everyone’s surprise.

It goes without saying that the local King named the soldier a hero and offered him a fortune. But Saint George distributed the treasures to the locals instead. It is important to note that Saint George is not the only Christian Dragon Slayer. Similar legends and stories have spread all over the world. If you know any of these, feel free to share in the comment section.

Now, if you haven’t watched the previous videos covering various Byzantine legends, don’t forget to do so. In Helinika’s channel but also in helinika.com, you can find plenty of videos and articles on the Greek language, history, and culture. Don’t forget to subscribe and follow Helinika on social media to stay connected.

What Was the Byzantine Fire (Liquid Fire)? | Byzantium (Eastern Roman Empire)

One of the most mysterious and fascinating aspects of Greece’s Byzantine history, is the so-called “Greek Fire” or “Liquid Fire” (Ύγρόν Πυρ). Western Romans called it “ignis graecus” and it was no other than the powerful weapon that saved Constantinople multiple times from Arab and Rus invaders. The weapon was the most well-hidden secret of the Byzantine Empire.

Greek Stores and Shops | Stores You Can Find in Greece

greek shops

What are some typical Greek stores and shops? What stores can you find in Greece? What is a periptero? What is a bakaliko? Where do Greeks buy sweets from? And what about the bread? Today we are talking about some typical Greek shops you can find in almost every corner!

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The Marble King, The 100 Gates Church and More | Legends from Medieval Greece #1 (Byzantium)

People around the world read and narrate myths from ancient Greece or legends from Medieval Central and Western Europe. But stories from Medieval Greece are lesser known. Here are some legends from Greece’s Byzantine Past (Eastern Roman Empire). Keep in mind, that some of these legends are based on real historical events.

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The Legend of the Last Emperor (Constantine XI Palaeologus or…?)

Constantine Palaeologus is an important historical figure; he was the last emperor of the Byzantine Empire. His reign lasted for four years, from 1449 AD until his death in the battle of the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 AD. But Constantine is also known as the “Marmaromenos Vasilias” (Μαρμαρωμένος Βασιλιάς) – the “Marble King”.

According to a legend, when the Ottomans started taking over the city of Constantinople, an angel transformed the emperor into marble and hid him beneath the Golden Gate of Constantinople. The legend says that Constantine will be revived one day and return the city to the Greeks.

But is this legend really about emperor Constantine? Some scholars argue that the “Marble King” is Emperor of Byzantine Nicaea, John III Doukas Vatatzes, who died 200 years before the Fall of Constantinople. He is often called the “Father of the Greeks”, since he was one of the most peaceful and just emperors to have ever existed, according to the scholars.

Many people who have heard this story from their grandparents, mention certain signs and omens that will prepare us for the return of the king. For example, a bright star, probably the Star of Bethlehem that shined on the night Jesus Christ was born, will appear in the night sky.

Have you heard any other variations of the story? Feel free to share in the comment section down below.

The Church with 100 Gates

The story of the “Marble King” has inspired other legends across Greece. An example of that is the legend surrounding the historical church “Panagia Ekantotapyliani” (Παναγία Εκατονταπυλιανή) in Paros island.

 The Byzantine church is dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother of God and its name “Ekantotapyliani” means “100 gates”. The church reportedly has 99 visible gates and a hidden one that, according to the legend, it will be revealed when the marble king awakens.

In another variation of the legend, the 100th gate will be revealed when another hidden door will be found in Hagia Sophia, which is allegedly under the ground. This will be another omen that the Marble King will be awakened soon.

Kassiani’s Wit and the Emperor’s Ego

Kassiani or Kassia is a historical figure. She was a Byzantine abbess and poet who lived between 810 AD and 865 AD. According to an allegedly true story that has become a legend, Kassiani almost became the empress of Constantinople, but her wit and overall attitude scared away emperor Theofilos.

The mother of Theofilos, Thekla, had organized a “bride-show”, a Byzantine tradition that bears similarities with many other traditions around the world. The most beautiful maidens of the Byzantine Empire had gathered at the palace as soon as Theofilos was old enough to get married. Kassiani was rumored to be the new empress. She was the most beautiful and smartest of all the contestants.

The young woman immediately caught his attention and he approached her saying that the “worst things come through women” (Ἐκ γυναικὸς τὰ χείρω), referring to Eve. But Kassiani replied “the same for the better things” (Kαὶ ἐκ γυναικὸς τὰ κρείττω), referring to the birth of Jesus Christ by Mary.

Theofilos failed to understand Kassiani’s humor and became defensive. As a result, he rejected Kassiani and selected another woman, Theodora, instead. Kassiani ended up following a monastic life which is explained by scholars in two different ways. She either fell into depression after her public rejection or that was her initial plan anyways.

The Devilish Dog

A legend that has survived over the years is the one of a vicious black dog that would target monks and priests at Mount Athos. Some said that the dog was possessed, other that it was a demon residing in hell. But some believed that it was the devil himself.

Saint Parthenios, bishop of Lampsakos, who lived in the 4rth century AD in the Byzantine Empire, was allegedly attacked by this dog but managed to escape by blowing at it and making the sign of the cross. In his book “From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium”, William Dalrymple briefly narrates this story.

If you liked these stories and you are interested in learning more about Greece’s Byzantine history, don’t forget to subscribe and stay connected. In next week’s episode, we will reveal the hidden secret of the Sea of Marmara, the dragon slayer Saint, and many more Medieval Greek legends.

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