It was a lovely party. We left at 4 in the afternoon and it took two and a half hours to drive there, very windy roads into the mountains. All along the way you can see the damage from the forest fires last year – really devastating. Some of the villages on the main highway are nearly deserted and many homes have burned. Part of the road is national highway so it is well paved and marked and then we drove through three small villages, where only one car can get by – always amazes me how we manage. On the other side of the last village the road widens again and is paved and easy to drive. Finally we get to the site and park. We walked about 1,000 meters and they have booths selling icons, toys, and lots of food. It is in the woods and is really lovely. It is a very small church. Only about four people at a time can fit into it and there is a lovely river that runs behind and underneath it.
The priests started conducting the mass and everyone was outside. There was an icon store on site, so that’s where I bought two English-language books telling the legend (one for a friend in the US who is Greek American and named Theodora [we were at the St Theodora]).
After the mass, and the priest’s sermon (Michael says he was yelling about the crowd for only coming on these great feast days and not going to church every Sunday and not taking their children to church with them – sounded very familiar) we had this wonderful bread and then you were allowed to enter the church and take pictures.
I had to go to the bathroom and we kept seeing signs but no one really knew where they were located. We walked down this lovely path along the river and came out into a clearing with a beautiful restaurant. I asked and they said yes and were quite nice (the bathroom was nice too – Greek public bathrooms are notoriously horrid; no seats and you never put the toilet paper into the toilet – there is always a small can nearby, even in houses including ours).
When we got back we walked into the church and our friends took our picture (we forgot our camera). Outside the church is a small box with paper and pencil and you write your name on paper and put it into the box and you receive blessings from the saint. Our friend Chris was helping several gypsies (there were loads of gypsies there with the young girls on dressed up and some with make-up, which we never see here in town, but all were scrupulously clean, another thing we never see in town here) by writing their names on the paper. Unfortunately gypsies don’t send their children to school, except those who live near large cities like and the Greeks don’t like sending their kids to school with the gypsies – again it sounded too familiar.
Anyway, we left at 9 and were home by 11:30 pm. September 11 is the real Saint’s Day, but there were so many people on September 10 trying to miss the crush on the September 11, I just can’t imagine what it must be like with thousands of people there. It was doable with just hundreds and they have parking for tour buses (we saw one as we were heading out of the last village.
There are some great pictures of Agia Theodora at Outdoors.Webshots.