A life experience of a Polish girl on the Greek island of Crete.

Polka pisze wiec po polsku tez bedzie…

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

In the world of Saints

I had a weird dream. Some of my teeth were removed and I saw one tooth falling down. Generally, it is not good to see teeth while dreaming. It usually symbolizes health problems in the family or any kind of sad experience: bad atmosphere and bad people around you, lack of money and any other sorts of unpleasant events. Though, they also say that any dream that appears on Sunday, it does not come true! Hopefully. 

We are pretty superstitious in my Greek as well as Polish family, but nothing beats the prodigy senses of my mother-in –law –Paula’s power rules! She is one and the only expert starting from dream interpretation and continuing through all the ways how to reject bad energy and evil eye. 

We could not leave the house early in the morning without a little piece of garlic wrapped in a plastic bag hidden in our pockets. 

It has been six months since a family member died and as after 9 days, 3 months and later on the day of 9 months and one year after the death, family gathers in the church to pray and give a tribute to the lost one. 

We went up to Apokoronas area, to the Embroznieros village. Little, traditional place with a few huts up the hills and some olive and walnut trees. Except of church, there is absolutely nothing to do. A few houses, intense smell of burnt wood letting you know that autumn is in full swing. 

Mnimosino (μνημόσυνο) starts very early and it continues for at least two hours. People arrive, light candles, pray. Right after the mass, there is some water, juice or coffee served. Something that looks like a “birthday cake” is taken out of the church, the sugar layer is cut and everybody gets treated with a mix of barley, parsley, raisins, seeds of pomegranate and rich doze of sugar. A dead person cake, I would call it.  Served in little paper bags, with a plastic spoon. “God forgive him/her”  - we say and pack a full spoon to our mouth. Not the tastiest snack in the world, but definitely worth trying. Then, depending on the family, there are also cookies, spinach pies, croissants offered. 

Interesting experience although the whole thing with a  food consumption around the churches, it always seems to me a little bit awkward. Probably because I have never been taught to dine with Saints, shall I say?  

Right on the way from Apokorona to Chania, there is another famous church. It is a sort of suicide to park there, on the edge of Cretan highway. I wonder why so far no one has taken initiative to fix a nice and human being parking – looks like everybody is waiting for God to fix the problem (not the first and the last time). Compensation for the stress to pass the road and reach the church, is the nice cake waiting for those who managed to enter the chapel of Agios Fanourios.

Agios Fanourios – the saint in charge of lost things. He’s the one who helps us find what we are looking for, not necessarily tangible goods. You bake for him a nice, rich pita (pita is not only bread for souvlaki, but it can also be any kind of puffy cake) and miracle is supposed to happen. And it does for many people. There are lots of “tamata” hanging from the icon of Saint Fanourios. Most with symbols of men and women probably meaning that a love of their life was found. A few show a house, a  heart or simply say “Evharisto” (ευχαριστώ/ thank you). If you ever drive from Chania towards Rethymnon, it is worth stopping and visiting this place. Just watch out for the speeding cars of a highway. 

There is nothing more pleasant than a visit in Orthodox Church and then a quick Greek coffee on the way to the next church.

If we talk about any churches around Chania, there is one that through all those years has a special meaning for me and my family. Located on the Akrotiri Peninsula, off the main road to Marathi beach. Panagia Hosti – it is an old church though looking like an abandoned stone hut from outside. You must enter to realize how special this place is, with a main altar hidden in the underground chapel. Smell of humidity and burnt candles and coal. Little lizards crawling on the walls, making funny noises  - so called creatures of Saint Mary (never ever try to hurt them!) This is definitely the place to visit when you crave for the peace of mind. Better than any breathing exercises to bring a temporary relax of your senses – if, of course, you do not find it spooky to stay surrounded by Saint killing dragons or looking at you with a sight of “ I know it all”. 

Before I came to Crete, I was never fond of any “primitive” images hanging in the churches. My friendship with Saints started on the island and I can tell you, it is a nice, peaceful relationship. 

I have even started a small collection with one precious icon – custom made – just for me. 

If you do not believe, you can always treat it as a charm. Because it is, indeed.