26 April 2019
Good Friday in Rethymnon
brings promises of new life
I have gone into the centre of Rethymnon this evening [26 April 2019] to follow the Good Friday processions of the Epitaphios or the bier of Christ through the streets.
This is an experience that is unique to Orthodox countries, although the piety, colour and music have many parallels with the Good Friday processions in Barcelona and other parts of the Mediterranean.
Everything comes to a stop throughout Greece on this evening. Yet, Good Friday apart, it is surprising how many shops, restaurants, tavernas and hotels are still closed.
Two of us are spending this Easter weekend in La Stella, a boutique hotel between Platanes and Tsesmes on the eastern suburban fringes of Rethymnon. But many of the hotels, including Varvara’s Diamond, where we stayed last year, are still closed or being redecorated or refurbished ahead of the summer season. A new hotel close to the beach is the busiest – with workers rushing through all the hours to have it completed before the planned opening next month.
We had lunch yesterday afternoon in Vergina in Platanias and dinner in Pagona’s Place in Tsesmes. In both places, the welcome back was warm and over-generous. However, many of our other favourite restaurants here, including Finikas, Myli and Merem, are still closed.
Crete has climbed from fifth place to the fourth spot on Tripadvisor’s 2019 list of the best destinations to visit in the world. Greek newspapers reported earlier this month that the only three destinations that were ranked higher than Crete were London, Paris and Rome. In the rankings for 2019, Crete beat out Bali, which fell from fourth to fifth place this year.
Tripadvisor’s recommendations for Crete, which it describes as a Mediterranean jewel, include the fortresses and monasteries of Rethymnon.
This is late April and, while snow still covers the mountains behind Rethymnon, the temperatures are climbing into the mid-20s. But the beach is still deserted, and during an hour or two on Pavlos Beach yesterday afternoon, no-one else was using the sunbeds, and we had the long stretches of white sand all to ourselves, well almost.
Good Friday and Easter add an extra meaning to death and life in nature too. Beside the new-build hotel, the trunk of an old dead tree lies in a plot of land that has been marked out but is still waiting to be developed.
But colourful flowers are in bloom everywhere. Walking around the gardens at La Stella, the colours of the spring flowers and the sound of birdsong are reminders of the perennial promise of new life that Easter brings.
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