A Trata Disasta and Clean Monday Sweeps in on the Wind!

The last twenty-four hours have been pretty ‘yuck’! After returning back to my studios in Molos, the lurgy that I’d been fighting for days now wreaked its revenge. I spent the night shivering and struggling to get warm. The air con was cranked up to the max and I put as many layers of clothing on that I could without suffocating myself. As morning broke, the chills now became a fever so paracetamol was washed down with hot honey and lemon.

Yesterday I’d arranged a visit to the Skyros Island Horse Trust otherwise known as Amanda’s Farm. Frosini was going to take me and pick me up an hour later. I had to send text messages to both of them to apologise and explain my predicament. What a bummer. What’s going to be another bummer is that if I don’t make some kind of miraculous recovery, I’ll also miss Trata, the pinnacle of the Skyros Carnival.

I had a sort of premonition that I would get sick during this trip. I’d been struck down with an awful virus in December which had practically wiped me out for the whole of the month and I wasn’t in a rush to experience that again. Hence undertaking a course of pre-biotics before I left and also determinedly wearing a mask as soon as I left home. Anyway, the damned thing got me and it got me good!

At around midday my host Helen came to see if I needed anything for the room. She took one look at me and could see that I was in a bit of a state. She asked if there was anything she could do but honestly, all I needed to do was get through the fever and keep hydrated – I had all the supplies that I needed for this.

A couple of hours later, there was a knock at my door and Helen’s mum was calling ‘Kiria, Kiria’. I opened the door to a tray of freshly made hot avgolemono broth. Never mind my body melting, right now my heart is melting at the kindness and thoughtfulness of this gesture. It was almost as if my whole being had been craving for this soup. It was like being wrapped up in a big warm hug!❤️

I don’t want to go on about my ailments – it doesn’t make for very good reading (or writing) but I spend the next twelve hours in a deep sleep which is a rarity for an insomniac like me. Even the howling wind outside played its part in lulling me to sleep.

It would be a stretch too far to say that when I woke up the follow morning that I felt refreshed and invigourated. Far from it but I had definitely come out of the fever stage. I greeted Clean Monday by showering and washing my hair and throwing open the windows to let in the fresh air. I have yoghurt with honey and tinned peaches for breakfast and try and test the water to see if I’ll be fit to go up to Chora later.

Once my hair is dry, I put on my coat and go for a short stroll around Molos. Today it is grey and overcast. It looks like it had rained overnight and there is no let up with the wind. Overnight huge mountains of seaweed had been washed up onto the beach and some of the mounds are taller than me. The wind dries the seaweed until it becomes light and papery. It then casts it up into the air and sends it swirling into the streets and into homes. My boots that had been left outside my door was full of the stuff this morning. Helen’s poor mama has spent most of the morning sweeping it from the terrace and the corridor. I wonder if it’s collected and composted for gardens?

Oh my word it’s great to be out in fresh air again and boy is this air FRESH! I continue the stroll down to the marina and back to Eleana’s Studios. I think that I may be good to go!

Again I’m unsure as to what time any events will be taking place today. I do know that on Clean Monday, the community here dress in their traditional costumes and dance their traditional dances. This I don’t want to miss. I send Helen a quick message to see if she can give me any insight into this and she tells me that I should go now. After a quick call to Frosini I’m on my way up to Chora. It’s really busy and most people have already staked their claim in the bars and tavernas that surround the square. Before I try and find a good vantage point I want to go to a souvenir shop to pick up a chain of small goat bells. I’ve never been one for buying souvenirs. I suspect that a lot of them have been mass manufactured in China anyway. However, since working for Hidden Greece and having set up my home office, it has now become a bit of a shrine to my Greece travels.

The shop is run by an elderly man who has an enigmatic presence. I’ve often seen him sitting on a chair outside his shop, large white moustache and wooden stick in hand. The shop sells the shepherd’s canes, a whole range of goat bells, the leather shoes as worn by the Geros, wicker baskets, wooden sieves and a mish mash of everything else. Goat bells purchased I now go back to the Square to stake out a good vantage point.

There is no chance of getting a seat in a cafe of bar and all of the street furniture in the square is taken. That’s apart from the end of a bench close to the little church in the corner. I sit here until there are signs of activity. There is a lot of waiting around. All of the dancers seem to be present but there are no moves to get things going yet.

It’s a good opportunity to look at the beautiful traditional costumes and the ones of Skyros really are lovely. The skirts and tops of the ladies are made from a taffeta type fabric and sometimes a fine brocade. Underskirts of made of lace trimmed fine cotton and then of course the headscarf and black shoes. I notice one lady who is immaculately made up. Some of the younger dancers come to her to have their headscarves tied, which she does with a skilled hand. She has an air of a school teacher about her or rather someone in authority. Maybe she is one of the dance teachers, I don’t know but I get the sense that she will feature quite highly in the dances.

The costumes of the men are also very interesting. They have white gaiters and ballon shaped pants with many folds and drapes. Their cotton shirts are finished off with a waistcoat and black cloth cap or a bandana type scarf. It isn’t only the dancers that are in costume. People of all ages are wearing their national costume with pride today.

Eventually, the dancers gather and the music begins. I position myself in between the music desk and a table of refreshments for the dancers. The lady that I thought might be a dance teacher was absolutely mesmerizing. From the moment she started to dance her face became aglow with joy. The tiny little gestures with her handkerchief were carried out with such precision. This of course is the same for all of the dancers whose movement of the body results in an almost spiritual uplifting that comes through in their faces.

The video that I have of the aforementioned lady dancing with her partner is unfortunately a Facebook Live video. The signal wasn’t very clear so apologies for the poor quality, but I wanted to share the beauty of this lady and her partner’s dancing. You will see this a few minutes in from the start of the video.

One lady is wearing a costume that is different to the others and I’m curious to know why. She appears to be the only one dressed in red. Her headdress is different too – more of a hat which has an emblem on the front and then a much longer headscarf than the one the other ladies wear. Her shoes are completely different too. Instead of black shoes with a heel, she is wearing flat slippers. The toe of the slipper is so shallow that I have no idea how they stay on her feet whilst she’s dancing. The musicians playing the music are also exceptional.

Here is a compilation of some of the dances that I was able to see – they are absolutely fascinating.

Now this uplifting performance by the dance troupe has finished, it is now time for everyone else to get up and dance. The square fills with people, some in costume and some not – it doesn’t matter. Everyone wants to take part.

After watching for a little while I head to a bar on the edge of the square for a cup of tea and a raki. I hope that this will give me a magical boost to keep me going a little longer. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. I call Frosini and ask her to pick me up at the Nefeli Hotel. I want to take one last photograph of the statue of the Geros outside this hotel before I head back to Molos. I have to pack as tomorrow I leave Skyros for the next leg of the trip.

By the way, Trata it seems was a fantastic success. By following the Facebook page Skyros Island Friends, I could at least see how some of the event went. Solidarity with Turkey and Syria in the wake of the disastrous earthquake was pledged.

The photographs and videos on this page are absolutely exceptional.


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  1. I love to see the dancing when I’m in Greece – love the way that all the traditions and dances are passed through the generations

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