Greece is the word: Xanthi!
When you first arrive it looks like any other city, outskirts full of out of town shopping and suburbs, but it holds a secret and you need to head into the centre to find it.
Now let’s not kid on, Xanthi is like many other Greek Towns and cities, it is suffering, closed businesses and shops are everywhere but it is still a bustling city full of people trying to make a living and coping with what the world is currently throwing at them. Our hotel had seen better days but the rooms were clean, the showers hot and the breakfast not too bad.
We arrived on the evening of Greek Holy Thursday after a long, hot drive through some stunning scenery. We headed into the city centre to explore a bit and found it to be full of the small shops we have come to expect in Greece, and yes, the smell of food was everywhere.
Now for you shoppers out there Xanthi has a wide range of foodie shops, from the most amazing variety of freshly roasted nut stores to stores that ground their own fresh coffee. “Delight” and sweetie shops with an unbelievable choice, forget your Fry’s you know what Delight, these treats knock it out of the water. And again there are the bakeries and pie shops, a stunning patisserie with a queue that was out the door, to fruit and veg places that would make your eyes water with choice! Again like every other city there are the stray dogs and the beggars but just be sensible and don’t do anything stupid and you will be fine.
Let’s roll forward to the next day, Good Friday in the Greek Orthodox calendar, we woke to the sound of the “sad” bells, this was something I had heard about but never experienced and it was genuinely moving. Wherever you went in the city you could hear them, tolling out the sound of Good Friday. Inside the stunning churches were all very still and quiet. Stunningly decorated plinths holding the precious books and words the Greeks showed great respect to.
We arrived at the Church just before the procession started, the inside was packed with people and the smell of candles and incense was breathtaking. The sung service was very moving and towards the end men were chosen to carry the flower decorated plinth through a packed Church out into the tiny narrow streets. I was lucky in that I had a Greek friend to explain it all to me, the plinth was going to be carried down the hill to the main town square. The mournful music of the brass band and the procession of priests and people really did make it feel like a funeral but what I did not expect was the sight before us when we reached the Square,
All photos are mine, please do not use without my permission