The Greek red Easter eggs explained

In Greece, Easter is the most important religious holiday. However, the Easter bunny does not bring its colorful eggs to this country. Instead, Greek Easter is celebrated with traditions including lamb, candles, and the famous red eggs. But why are they red? And what do these eggs mean to the Greeks? Here is the tradition of the Greek red Easter eggs explained.

Why are the eggs red?

The custom of decorating eggs for Easter dates back to ancient times and can be found in many cultures around the world. In Greece, however, the color of the eggs is fixed. They have to become red. This tradition is a centuries-old custom with deep religious and cultural significance. In fact, the color red symbolizes the blood of Jesus Christ, which was shed on the cross.

Painting the eggs

In Greece, the tradition of dyeing Easter eggs is a multi-day process that begins on Holy Thursday. On this day, families gather to dye the eggs red using natural dyes made from boiling red onion skins or from the madder plant. After the eggs get their red coat, they are left to dry and later decorated with intricate designs using wax and dye.

The decorated eggs are then displayed on the family’s Easter table. Besides, they are exchanged among family and friends as a symbol of love and friendship. On Easter Sunday, the eggs are cracked open and shared among the family as a symbol of new life and resurrection.

Cracking the red eggs

The custom of cracking the red Greek Easter eggs is also a meaningful tradition. Since cracking the red Easter eggs symbolizes the cracking of the tomb of Jesus Christ. The eggs are cracked on Easter Sunday. Either right after the Resurrection Service in front of the church or at home amongst family. 

The tradition of cracking the red eggs is called tsougrisma. This is a small and easy game. You take one egg, and you have to tap it against another person’s egg. The goal is to crack other eggs without breaking your own. You can choose which end of the egg you use as long as it is not broken. The person whose egg remains unbroken is considered to be blessed with good luck for the coming year.

A strong tradition

The Greek tradition around red Easter eggs is one of the most widely practiced traditions. It is a cherished part of the country’s cultural heritage. Many families continue to use natural dyes and decorate the eggs with intricate designs, passed down from generation to generation. 

The tradition of red Easter eggs is also celebrated by many Greek communities around the world, keeping the customs and culture alive for future generations. I actually cracked my first red Easter eggs in the Netherlands!

Easter in Greece

Easter is one of the most important holidays in the Greek Orthodox Church and is celebrated with great solemnity and reverence. The Easter eggs are just one aspect of the rich tradition and symbolism that surrounds this time of year. Other traditions include lighting the Paschal candle and reading the Passion of Christ. Easter is also a time for family and friends to come together, share meals, and enjoy traditional Easter foods. A spit-roasted lamb and Easter bread are some examples. The celebration of Easter in Greece is a time of joy, renewal, and hope. Besides, every island and region in Greece has its own unique and local traditions related to this special holiday. 

If you’re planning on visiting Greece to explore the Easter traditions yourself, keep in mind that Greek (Orthodox) Easter, might not be on the same day as your Easter. This year, Easter will be celebrated on the 16th of April.

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How has ancient Greek philosophy influenced modern thought?

Philosophy, as we know it today, is often thought to have originated in ancient Greece. Although many ancient Greek philosophers may not be well known to the general public, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle still form the subject of education in many countries, all over the world. But does ancient Greek philosophy still influence modern thought today? 

What is the meaning of the word philosophy?

The term “philosophy” itself is of ancient Greek origin. In fact, the word “philosophy” comes from the Greek words “philo,” meaning “love,” and “sophia,” meaning “wisdom.” Philosophy is generally defined as the study of fundamental questions about knowledge, reality, and existence. Besides, it often involves critical thinking, reasoning, and argumentation.

How did philosophy start?

First, there were only religions and myths. Difficult questions, like why the sun comes up, or what happens when you die, were answered by faith in a story people came up with. During this time, many people believed in multiple gods that worked together to create the features of our world. Everything that we now know as science, physics, or astrology.

Philosophy started when people stopped believing in these stories and wanted to know the real reason. Reasoning is the base of philosophy. As soon as people started to answer difficult whathow, and why questions about our world with rational, explainable answers, philosophy was born.

Did philosophy only start in Greece?

The word philosophy is of Greek origin. Nevertheless, the origins of philosophy can also be traced back to ancient civilizations in other parts of the world. India and Persia, for example, answered philosophical questions as early as 3.000 B.C.. However, in these cultures, philosophy was often closely tied to religion and spiritual practices. Many philosophical ideas were developed within the context of these traditions.

The ancient Greeks were the first to separate philosophy, or reasoning, from religion, starting around the 6th century B.C.. Ancient Greek philosophy was considered advanced for its time. The ancient Greek philosophers were known for their innovative and original ideas. They made significant contributions to a wide range of fields including politics, ethics, science, and metaphysics.

Ancient Greek philosophy today

Ancient Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are considered to be some of the most influential philosophers in Western thought. Their ideas have had a lasting impact on the development of philosophy and other disciplines. The works of ancient Greek philosophers are often studied and discussed within the context of philosophy and Classics departments at universities.

Here is an overview of some ways in which ancient Greek philosophers have influenced modern thought and philosophy.

The concept of democracy

Ancient Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle all wrote about the importance of democracy and the role of the citizen in a democratic society. These ideas have had a lasting influence on modern democracy and political thought.

“The measure of a man is what he does with power.”

Socrates
The idea of natural rights

The ancient Greek philosopher Zeno is credited with developing the concept of natural rights. In other words, the idea that all people have certain inherent rights that cannot be taken away by the state or any other authority. This concept has had a significant influence on modern political and legal thought.

“Nature has given to man a tongue as a means of communication, hands for the purposes of labor, and reason for the discovery of truth and the conduct of life.”

Zeno
The pursuit of wisdom

The ancient Greek philosophers were known for their pursuit of wisdom. Especially their ideas about knowledge and truth. These have continued to be studied and debated in the modern world.

“Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.”

Plato
The concept of the good life

Many ancient Greek philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, wrote about the concept of the good life and what it means to live a virtuous and fulfilling life. These ideas have had a lasting influence on modern philosophical thought about ethics and morality.

“The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.”

Aristotle

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In the Netherlands, I have met multiple Greeks who had left their country to be with the ones they love. And no, I do not mean a Dutch guy or girl. I’m talking about Greek gays and lesbians from small villages in Greece who are not allowed to express their sexual orientation at home. They come here to be who they are and return a couple of times a year to pretend they are a different person. But what if you are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, is it safe for you to travel to Greece?

State vs. Religion

Let’s start with the facts. Greece has made significant progress in terms of LGBTQ+ rights in recent years, and discrimination based on sexual orientation has been prohibited since 2004. Same-sex relationships have been legal in Greece since 1951, and the country legalized same-sex marriage in 2015. However, although the Greek state is LGBTQ+-friendly, there is one more thing to consider in Greece. Religion

The Greek Orthodox Church plays an important role in the country. Explicitly, 81.4% of Greek people identify themselves as Orthodox Christians. The problem is that within this religion, same-sex relationships or being transgender are taboo. Even though the state wants Greece as a welcoming and inclusive destination for LGBTQ+ travelers, the church has a very conservative attitude.

As an LGBTQ+ traveler, you are welcome in Greece

In Athens, it is accepted to be part of the LGBTQ+ community, there is even the Athens Pride Parade. In smaller villages in Greece, however, the church is everything. Here, the ideas towards the LGBTQ+ community are traditional. For this reason, the people here will not easily accept people that are not heterosexual. For a couple of my friends, the result is that they could never move back to Greece, be who they are, and be accepted in their hometown. Fortunately, as a tourist, things are much easier.

The Greeks love tourists, as more than 20% of the country’s GDP comes from tourism. They know very well that many tourists are not Orthodox. Therefore they are much less judgemental about a tourist’s sexual orientation. You might become the topic of village gossip, but the Greeks will never reject you or treat you differently.

What to look out for?

While it is important to be yourself when traveling, it is also important to respect the local culture and customs. This may mean avoiding public displays of affection in certain areas or being mindful of local attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people. I guess the most important thing is to not show your sexual orientation when visiting a religious site in Greece, for which certain rules apply. And when going off-the-beaten-track, you might come across some very conservative areas as well.

The top LGBTQ+ travel destinations in Greece

Athens

The capital city of Greece, Athens is known for its vibrant nightlife, cultural attractions, and welcoming atmosphere. The city has a large LGBTQ+ community and is home to several LGBTQ+ bars, clubs, and events. Make sure to visit the Gazi neighborhood. 

Mykonos

Mykonos is a popular island destination in Greece known for its beautiful beaches and vibrant nightlife. The island is a popular destination for LGBTQ+ travelers.

Thessaloniki

The second-largest city in Greece, Thessaloniki is known for its lively arts and music scene and welcoming atmosphere. The city has a large LGBTQ+ community.

Rhodes

Rhodes is a popular island destination in Greece known for its beautiful beaches, ancient ruins, and charming villages. The island is home to several gay-friendly accommodations and has a welcoming atmosphere for LGBTQ+ travelers.

Chania

Located on the island of Crete, Chania is a charming town known for its beautiful beaches and picturesque old town. The town has some gay-friendly accommodations and a welcoming atmosphere for LGBTQ+ travelers.

Patras

Located on the Peloponnese peninsula, Patras is known for its lively nightlife and welcoming atmosphere. The city has a large LGBTQ+ community.

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Greece has a rich history and culture, and as such, there are many religious and spiritual sites to visit in the country. Here are some of the top sites to consider:

The top 10 religious and spiritual sites in Greece:

The Acropolis

The Acropolis is a citadel located in Athens. It is home to several ancient temples, including the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike, and the Erechtheion. The Acropolis is considered one of the most important cultural sites in Greece. It is a must-see for anyone interested in ancient history and culture.

The Monastery of Osios Loukas

Located in Boeotia, the Monastery of Osios Loukas is a beautiful Byzantine monastery founded in the 10th century. The monastery is known for its well-preserved frescoes and mosaics, as well as its stunning architecture.

The Temple of Apollo

The famous Temple of Apollo is located in Delphi. The temple was dedicated to Apollo, the god of prophecy, and was considered the center of the ancient world.

The Meteora Monasteries

Located in Thessaly, the Meteora Monasteries are a group of monasteries built on top of towering rock formations. The monasteries were founded in the 14th century and are known for their stunning views and well-preserved frescoes and icons.

The Monastery of St. John the Theologian

Located on the island of Patmos, the Monastery of St. John the Theologian is a beautiful Byzantine monastery. The monastery dates back to the 10th century. It is known for its stunning architecture and is a popular tourist destination for those interested in religious history and culture.

The Monastery of Panayia Hozoviotissa

Located on the island of Amorgos, the Monastery of Panayia Hozoviotissa is a beautiful Byzantine monastery that was founded in the 10th century. The monastery is known for its beauty. A white-washed building, perched on the edge of a cliff.

The Temple of Apollo Epicurius

Located in Bassae, the Temple of Apollo Epicurius is an ancient temple dedicated to Apollo, the god of prophecy. The temple is known for its stunning location, nestled in the foothills of the Arcadian Mountains, and its well-preserved Doric architecture.

The Church of Seven Martyrs

The Church of Seven Martyrs is a Byzantine church located on the island of Syfnos in Greece. This unique church is dedicated to the Seven Martyrs of Syfnos, a group of Christians who were martyred on the island in the 4th century. The church is an important religious site for the Greek Orthodox Church and is known for its beautiful architecture and stunning location amongst tourists.

The Temple of Athena

The Temple of Athena is located in Sounion and is one of the most important ancient sites in Greece. The temple was dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, and is known for its stunning location, perched on a cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea.

Mount Athos

Mount Athos is a mountain and peninsula located in northeastern Greece. It is home to several monasteries and is considered a center of Orthodox Christian spirituality. Therefore, Mount Athos is known as the “Holy Mountain” and is believed to be a place of great holiness and spiritual significance.

The monasteries of Mount Athos are home to many monks and are known for their beautiful architecture, stunning locations, and rich histories. The monasteries are also known for their collections of icons, manuscripts, and other religious artifacts. However, Mount Athos is a self-governed monastic state within Greece, and access to Mount Athos is restricted to men only. All visitors must obtain a special permit before visiting the monasteries.

Why is religion important in Greece?

Religion has played an important role in Greek culture and society throughout history. First, there were the ancient Greeks, who had a polytheistic religion, with a pantheon of gods and goddesses that were believed to control various aspects of life. These gods and goddesses were central to Greek mythology and played a prominent role in daily life. After this, in modern Greece, the Greek Orthodox Church became the dominant religion.

The Orthodox Church is one of the oldest Christian churches in the world and has always been closely tied to Greece’s cultural and historical identity. Since Greece as a country knows a history of many wars and occupations, religion was what kept the Greeks together. Therefore, today it is still an important part of Greek life, with many people participating in religious ceremonies and festivals throughout the year.

What to keep in mind when you visit a religious site in Greece?

Religious sites in Greece are today still inhabited by monks or used as a place of worship by the locals. Therefore, it is important to show respect to the Orthodox church when you visit. In the country, there are rules regarding what you must wear and how you should behave at a religious site. Check this article as a guide

the monastery of timios prodromes from afar. three white buildings in steep grey and red cliff on green mountain
The monastery of Timios Prodromes on the mountain

My favorite unknown religious site

The holy monastery of Timios Prodromes offers everything a culture- and nature-loving tourist in Greece desires. Including a beautiful mountainous landscape and incredible architecture coupled with fascinating stories, religion, and exclusivity. Therefore, this monastery is the hidden gem of Greece. It is located in the North of the Peloponnese peninsula, close to the town of Astros. The drive there follows a winding mountain road through a rough landscape as well as olive groves. In addition, the view from the monastery is breathtaking, and the priest who lives there is the best tour guide you will ever meet. Continue reading to discover more about this special place in Greece.

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The tradition of Names Day in Greece

Every culture has its own unique customs and traditions, and the Greeks are no exception. One of the most celebrated traditions in Greece is the celebration of Names Day. They occur throughout the whole country nearly every day of the year. But what is this tradition of Names day in Greece? Where does it come from, and how is it celebrated?

What is a Names day?

Greek culture is intertwined with the Orthodox religion. It was actually the Orthodox church that preserved the Greek nationality throughout the many years of occupancy in the country’s history. Name days in Greek culture are, as well, an Orthodox tradition.

In the Orthodox religion, there are many Saints. A Saint is a man or woman, chosen by God to serve as an example of how to live a holy life. They are the intermediates between God and the Orthodox Christians. As a result, many Greeks pray to these Saints, celebrate their existence, and name their children after them. 

The Orthodox Church celebrates a Saint almost every day of the year, and these days, are the name days. For example, my name is Anna. Saint Anna is the mother of Mary, the mother of Jesus. She is celebrated on the 25th of July. On this day, the Greeks celebrate not only her but instead everyone named Anna. My Name day is on the 25th of July.

A note on Saints

The Orthodox religion states that Saints are people chosen by God. However, this is a religious definition. A more scientific explanation is slightly less holy. 

When the Christion Religion spread throughout Europe, the Greeks believed in their own local Gods. Getting the Greeks to join the church was difficult. You can not just take someone’s God and replace him with your own. 

What happened was that many of the local Gods were accepted into the Christian religion as Saints. This way, the religion spread while the people could still honor their own God. This did not only occur in Greece but all over the world. It was one of the reasons that Christianity was able to spread so quickly.

How is Names day celebrated?

The celebration of Names day has been a part of Greek culture for centuries and is still as popular as ever. On names days, it is traditional for family and friends to get together and celebrate the Saint’s feast day with a festive meal. Greeks honor this special day by exchanging gifts and cards with their loved ones. The presents may be anything from a special cake to a bouquet of flowers. 

It is also a custom to give a small amount of money to the person whose name is being celebrated. This is done to symbolically thank the Saint for his, or her, protection and guidance throughout the year. 

Another popular tradition on Names Day in Greece is for the person whose name is being celebrated to make a wish for the year ahead. This can be anything from good luck to health to a successful career. The wish is then passed on to their friends and family, who will do their best to make it come true.

Name days are more important than birthdays

The way Names day is celebrated in Greece almost sounds like the Greeks have a second birthday. However, for them, this day is actually more important than celebrating the day they were born.

Until the Second World War, many Greeks did not know how old they were. Neither did they know their date of birth. Birthdays have only been celebrated in Greece in the last century. Before this, a birthday was considered an unimportant, even selfish, day for the Orthodox church. Your name, however, was of great importance. 

It was considered a privilege to carry a Saint’s name, and the Greeks had to honor their name throughout life. Every Greek Anna was expected to become as righteous and virtuous as Saint Anna. An Orthodox name sets the path you should follow to lead a holy life. Celebrating Names day is therefore a way to honor a person’s connection to the church and his religious life. 

Influence on naming traditions?

The tradition of Names day in Greece is closely related to the way the Greeks name their newborns. Unlike other countries, in Greece, it is not common to use more modern names. Instead, a boy is named after his grandfather and a girl after her grandmother. Names stay traditional, and therefore the tradition of Name days remains popular.

However, it could also be the other way around. Maybe it is the tradition celebration of Names day, keeping the traditional way of naming in Greece alive. A modern name in Greece results in just one day of presents and celebration. Something no child wants when the rest of the Greeks have two! As a result, the most modern names in Greece are short for traditional names but still refer to one of the many Saints of the Orthodox church.

Do you have a Greek Name day?

There are over 150.000 English words that originate from the Ancient Greek language. And with names, Greek origin is common as well. Gus comes from Konstantinos, Kelly from Angeliki, and Bill from Vasilis. Chances are your name has a Greek counterpart, meaning you can start celebrating the Names day tradition. Check this website to see on which day your name is honored in Greece!

How to congratulate a Greek on Names day?

Do you know some Greeks and want to surprise them on their Names day? Congratulating someone in Greek is actually pretty easy. The Greeks use xronia polla on almost every occasion. On, for example, birthdays, Easter, New Year, and names day, this Greek wish is used. Xronia means years, and polla means many. Many years!

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Nature, religion, and a box of bones. The monastery of Timios Prodromes

The holy monastery of Timios Prodromes offers everything a culture-loving tourist in Greece desires. From the mountainous landscape to incredible architecture, fascinating stories, religion, and exclusivity. With just 50 reviews on Google, this monastery might be the hidden gem of Greece.

Location Overview

Arcadia, Peloponnese

Religion / Nature

2 hours

Free

Yes

No

Location

The holy monastery of Timios Prodromes lies just west of Argos, in the Arcadia region of Peloponnese. This region is known to hold the oldest signs of human life but is still an area filled with lush green mountains and a limited population today. Arcadia’s beauty made its name develop into a poetic term. The idyllic vision of unspoiled wilderness.

Driving to the monastery, you discover what poets mean with Arcadia. A small winding road leads you away from Argos. Over the mountains, along steep cliffs, and through old forests and small villages, you reach the monastery. Only the journey by itself is a beautiful adventure.

the monastery of timios prodromes from afar. three white buildings in steep grey and red cliff on green mountain
The monastery of Timios Prodromes from far

Architecture

Greeks have proven to be masters in the matter of the architecture of religious buildings. Churches and monasteries all around the country are built in the most surprising and remote places. The monastery of Timios Prodromes belongs to this category.

The monastery is located around a cave in the hollow of a cliff, 200 meters above the ground. From afar the religious site is an almost invisible structure in a giant gorge. Close by, however, the monasteries multiple story counting man-made buildings are revealed.

There is a central courtyard with a church, refectory, and guest rooms in the three surrounding buildings. Each of these buildings is integrated into the cliff, with at least one natural interior wall, the mountain itself. For the man-made part of the buildings, a similar rock is used. You can feel the connection this monastery has with nature everywhere.

the monastery of timios prodromes from the courtyard. stone building with wooden balustrade en pitched roof underneath a rocky cliff and blue sky
One of the buildings at the monastery of Timios Prodromes

History

The cave behind the monastery was used in ancient times to worship Pan. Pan is the God of the wild, shepherds, and flocks, with his homeland in Arcadia. In the 8th century, the cave started being used for the religion we know today, and in 930 the first monastery was built. Making the monastery of Timios Prodromes the oldest monastery in Greece. However, the entrance says that the opening was at 1126, and what happened in the 200 years in between is unclear.

What is clear is that the monastery has played a significant role in many wars due to its remote location. It has been a refuge for the civilian population, a military hospital, and a supply station for Greek soldiers. 

During the Second World War, German soldiers came to the monastery for food but offended the Orthodox faith. This made one of the priests very angry, and he forced a German soldier to the ground. The rest of the priests got afraid. “They will kill us all!” They ordered the priest to stop and offered food to the soldiers. The priest, however, became the high priest of the region due to this heroic attack on the German soldier.

Modern times

The monastery has been the main monastery in the area until the 1960s. Then, a nearby and better accessible monastery received the tears of the virgin Mary, something that is believed to only occur in the holiest places in Greece. People stopped coming to the monastery of Timios Prodromes. From 2004 till 2009, the monastery, as well as the road leading there, were renovated. An effortful job since materials still had to be brought up by hand. However, this did not increase the number of visitors. The monastery is mostly quiet, without tourists, both religious and cultural.

The experience

When entering the monastery, the place seemed deserted. There was no sound other than the rushing of the wind. The only sign of life was a black garden hose. Following this, lead to the courtyard of the monastery, where we first met father Germanos. He was watering his flowers, wearing capri pants, flip-flops, and sunglasses. We were afraid to disturb him or even see a priest without his religious attire. Father Germanos, however, was very pleased with our arrival. He greeted us friendly and spent the next two hours showing us around. Something very unique for Orthodox priests, who usually just mind their own business.

entrance of monastery timios prodromes with marble entrace and steel gate. A black lantern on curved ceiling light coming through hallway woman entering with backpack and long skirt
The entrance of the monastery of Timios Prodromes

The tour

The church

From the courtyard, he leads us to the church, where we light a candle and honor all the religious icons that are special to this place. In the church, some murals date back to the 18th century, and father Germanos tells a story about all of them. He describes how all Orthodox sanctuaries are located to the East but not here. This church is an exception and faces the South. Since it is built inside a cave, there wasn’t much to choose from in orientation, but the murals falsely claim the sanctuary does face East.

After the church, he takes us to a small staircase leading up to the cave where the history of this monastery started. But first, we enter the church’s attic. Here, he opens two wooden boxes, one filled with bones and the other one with skulls. The last resting place of the previous priests that served in this monastery.

The cave

The cave is extremely long and dark. He tells us how previous priests used to store food and fresh water here because it stays cool during the hot summer days. He takes out his mobile phone to turn on a flashlight and takes us to the back, where stalactites and stalagmites have grown over the years. A beautiful place!

The monastery

After the cave, he invites us to his current project, the renovation of the guest chambers. Small rooms, carved in the rock of the mountain, for his fellow priests from other monasteries. He renovates the rooms by himself, one by one, and he is very proud of his result so far. 

We climb to the roof of the monastery, where you can feel how small and vulnerable we humans are. Chunks of the cliff above have tumbled down on the roof. He proudly tells us that no one got injured from any falling rocks here. God protects all in this place.

The living quarters

At the end of our tour, father Germanos invites us into his house for fresh water and loukoumi, a traditional Greek sweet. He has a small home, with a living room and kitchen. And in his fridge is a small plate of fassolada. He explains how eating here is the same as anywhere else. Priests don’t eat meat, but do use a microwave to heat up his leftovers

Father Germanos seems sad when it is time to say goodbye and walks with us to the main entrance, continuing his storytelling. We are always welcome to come again, and may God protect us on the road home.

The buildings at the monastery of Timios Prodromes

Life at the monastery

Father Germanos lives most of his days in solitude. Or together with God but without other humans, as he calls it. He keeps himself busy with more than just praying since he has to take care of the monastery by himself. He waters the flowers, cleans the monastery, renovates the guest chambers, and gets his groceries from the villages around. 

Father Germanos has a friend in the village on the mountain on the other side. Another priest who helps him in the monastery when he asks. And he is happy when a visitor comes to see the monastery. However, father Germanos might get trapped for weeks during the winter months. Bad weather and cold can close down the road. He doesn’t worry or feel scared or alone when this happens. God will be with me and protect me, he says. His biggest fear seems to be an old cypress tree that grows in his garden. After 300 years, it started dying. He asks all his visitors how he can revive it. 

His life seems easy, and his calmness and contentedness add to the spirituality of the place. I am not religious, but the location and the openness of father Germanos at the monastery of Timios Prodromes made me feel something ethereal. Maybe not God, but at least thankful for nature and the opportunity to discover it. Grateful for my own life and happiness. Blessed with the experience of a place so pure.

Tips:

  • There are actually two monasteries with the name Timios Prodromos in Arcadia, Peloponnese. This is the one that we visited for this article.
  • Father Germanos is extremely welcoming but does not speak more than a few words of English and German. The best experience is, unfortunately, in Greek.
  • The monastery is not accessible by wheelchair or for people with difficulty walking. You can get to the entrance by car, but after you park, you have to climb some steep stairs to reach the entrance.
  • This is a monastery, meaning you can not enter with every type of clothing. Women need to wear a long skirt or dress, men can not wear shorts, and shoulders have to be covered. Read our tips for visiting religious sites.
  • Although father Germanos is really open, friendly, and even has some humor, he is also very religious. Don’t offend the Orthodox church and treat him with respect.
  • The holy monastery of Timios Prodromes is located in a beautiful mountainous landscape with many religious sites at amazing places. Combine with a visit to the small church inside an old church ruin just North of Nea Chora. Or the famous monastery of Panagia Melevi.
  • Not that much of a religious tourist? Go hiking in the beautiful mountains around, or enjoy the blue waters of the Argolic Gulf on the beaches around Astros.

Curious to learn about more hidden gems in Greece? Leave your email below and explore Greece together with us!

Is it possible to stick to a vegan diet in Greece?

The Greek restaurants abroad are mostly famous for their moussaka and mixed grill. Gyros, souvlakia, and keftedes dominate the image of Greek cuisine. Meat. With some feta cheese and olive oil to complete the true Geek taste. But is it true that the Greeks eat just meat? And what about a holiday in Greece on a vegan diet?

The Greeks don’t eat only meat

First things first. It is not true that the Greeks are only eating meat at home. Although there is a big variety in what’s on the menu in the different regions of Greece, the average Greek diet is pretty diverse. Gyros is to eat on the street and souvlakia are to celebrate. Greek mothers actually cook a lot of vegetables and legumes for their children. And when there is meat or fish, there is always a salad next to it.

It is a misconception that the Greek cuisine consists only of meat, created by the restaurants abroad. Greece actually has a higher than average consumption of vegetables in Europe and a far lower meat consumption than the US. Party due to the Greek salad that is eaten with every meal in Greece. But did you know that Greece has a lot of traditional recipes that use legumes?

Beans in the Greek culture

Traditionally, beans have always played a big role in the Greek diet. The Greeks are orthodox and with this religion comes a lot of fasting. 180 to 200 days a year, the Greek Orthodox Christians don’t eat meat, fish, dairy products, and olive oil. For more than half of the year, and at least two times a week, the traditional norm is the vegan diet. And as a result, there are amazing traditional Greek dishes based on legumes. Fava, fakes, or fassolada are just a few examples of the many tasty vegan dishes to choose from.

Apart from the religious reasons to eat beans, there used to be an economic one as well. The history of Greece knows many times of war and poverty. Legumes are cheap, filling, and easy to keep for a longer time. Especially in the Greek countryside, people kept beans in the basement underneath the house to feed the family in times of need. Even in the most recent economic crisis, which started in 2009, the consumption of beans in Greece grew.

Meat is wealth and celebration

Although beans are well known and fasting is very common, there is something that makes the Greeks unable to accept being vegan. Because, without meat or fish, how can you celebrate anything? Or how can you welcome guests to your house? Meat in Greece is a symbol of wealth and celebration. Family dinners, holidays, weddings, or just a friend coming over, all will not be complete for a Greek without meat.

Take my yiayia, she is fasting 200 days a year and lactose intolerant. Yiayia mostly eats delicious beans and fresh vegetables. However, every time I tell her I will visit, she panics. What to cook for someone who doesn’t eat meat? I tell her to just cook what she makes for herself. Trust me, yiayia’s cooking is amazing, even when it’s just bean soup. But even for her, it is impossible to welcome me into her house without meat and feta. She will spend hours in the kitchen preparing the most delicious kotopita (chicken pie) that we both won’t eat, just to have it on the table.

This might be again related to the Orthodox religion. For the Orthodox church there are a few exceptions when it comes to fasting. One of which is when “receiving another’s hospitality”. But also when you live with a non-orthodox roommate, fasting should be adjusted so you can still have family dinners. Being good to family and friends, overrules
dietary restrictions when fasting. However, the use of animal products in any situation is against a vegan’s believes.

Veganism doesn’t exist in Greece

The Greeks can’t have a table without meat, fish, or feta. Although fasting is accepted, the culture does not understand someone being completely vegan. Explaining to the Greeks that I don’t eat any animal products, is like telling them I can fly to the top of Olympus. Greeks even refuse to agree with me that their own bean recipes are in fact vegan. A fully plant-based diet is something that they just don’t understand.

The workaround when eating at out in Greece, is to say that you want their fasting food, nistisimo. This is the closest translation of vegan food into Greek. Be careful when ordering though, because nistisimo does not exclude shellfish or honey so check this yourself! Besides, many Greeks will not believe that a foreigner knows the meaning of nistisimo. Whenever yiayia orders nistisimo food, she gets vegan. While for me it used to be food with cheese and eggs. I now say nistisimo chories yala, tiri, kai auga, fasting food without milk, cheese, and eggs. Finally I get what I want, or I believe so at least. You really have to describe what you don’t want, and never use the word vegan!

Can you be a vegan in Greece?

Yes! But it all depends on where you stay and for how long.

If you do your own cooking with Greek ingredients, your food will be amazing. If you stay in Athens or Thessaloniki, you will easily find vegan food around. Even if you eat with a Greek family, vegan is a good possibility. But when you travel to smaller cities or even villages, things will get more complicated. Especially when you rely on food from taverns and bakeries, like me.

Every new trip to Greece, I start full of positivity about vegan food. There are many tasty vegan mezes you can order in almost every tavern in Greece. Options include grilled vegetables, mushrooms, and salads. There is a lot to choose from, however, none of these are full dishes. Living on these for a week or 10 days is fine, but not longer. I notice after a while in Greece how I am hungry all the time and extremely tired during the day. Living on the road in Greece, it is very difficult to get a proper vegan meal. I cannot replace meat with nuts, seeds, and legumes the way I should. And after a while my body does no longer have sufficient protein and calcium for example.

For me, it means that when I travel in Greece for a longer time, I will eat fish or chicken about once a week. Just to give my body what it needs and make my travel easy. But if you want to stick to your vegan diet in Greece while traveling, it might be smart to calculate some home cooking time into your itinerary.

Frequently asked questions

Are there traditional Greek vegan dishes?

Yes! Traditionally, the Orthodox Greeks where eating according to a plant-based diet at least half a year! Examples of traditional Greek vegan foods are fakes (lentil soup), fassolada (bean stew), and fava (split peas puree)

Is vegan food well known in Greece?

Unfortunately not. In the big cities, like Athens and Thessaloniki, vegan restaurants are available. However, for many Greeks, vegans and vegetarians are strange and a plant-based diet is believed to be something fancy and expensive. Greece actually is amongst the countries of Europe with the lowest percentage of vegans and vegetarians.

Do Greeks eat a lot of meat?

Greeks believe in a balanced diet which does not exclude anything but also not includes meat on a daily basis. Salads are served with everything, and many home-cooked meals do not included meat or fish. Legumes and vegetables are widely used in the Greek kitchen.

Which Greek coffees are vegan-friendly?

Looking at the foam on a freddo espresso or frappe, you might believe these drink must contain at least some milk. Well they don’t! Frappe, freddo espresso and Greek coffee are all without any animal products. Besides, many Greek coffee places offer plant-based alternatives for milk, so you can even enjoy a (freddo) cappuccino.

Do you want to prepare yourself for a visit to Greece? Or do you simply want to learn all there is to known about this beautiful country? Leave your email below and get the answer to all your questions!

Further reading

The coffee you must try in Greece

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Fast food in Greece

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Time to walk on water! Agios Nikolaos on Lemnos

Opposite of fanaraki beach, in the middle of the island of Lemnos is a sea so enclosed by land that is characterized more like a lake. In the middle of this shallow calm water lies a little island with on top a small white church. How much Greeker can it get? And even better, you get to walk on water on your way there!

The Agios Nikolaos, Saint Nicholas church, is a must-see when visiting the island. Not so much for the little church itself as for the way that leads you there.

Following a dirt road from the village of Pedino, you pass through a beautiful rural area that even got my Greek parents-in-law surprised. Follow the wetlands as well as the dry ones with the biggest cacti, or cactuses on the island. You will pass some remote farms until you come at a y-section, take a left and drive until the road ends. This is from where you will see the path of the island.

Now it is time for you to walk on water! A narrow concrete path surrounded by sea will take you to the island of the church. Crossing around 200 meters it is really a special experience to walk “on” the sea like this. Beautiful!

The island itself is small and the church even smaller. But the island is so remote that it is the quietest place I found on Lemnos. With water all around it is so peaceful here. Even with a whole Greek family of 12 to join you, you can find your own spot and enjoy the nature and tranquillity around.

Me and a part of the Greek family crossing the path to the island

Tips:

  • The dirt road that leads to the church is pretty long and not the easiest to drive. However, we managed with four adults in a Volkswagen up! So don’t let the dirt scare you and go!
  • Although the way to the church seems pretty accessible, walking over the water by the concrete path. There are some stairs taking you up on the island. Making the island itself difficult to visit for disabled people.
  • The church might have a lot of sea around, it is not really a place to swim. So combine the visit to this church with a beach close by, mikro fanaraki is a good one!