Carnival in the Plaka, Athens

Who knew that it snows in Athens?

On my way to the island of Paros to teach painting at an art school, I stayed in the Plaka, a historic district near the Acropolis of Athens, for a few days. Much like Mardi Gras, Carnival season began on Tsiknopempti or “Burnt Thursday,” February 19th, and ended on March 10th, “Clean Monday.” I had no idea.

I was freezing, so I ducked into a restaurant hoping to sit by a cozy fire, but the place was filled with smoke. So I sat outdoors on the patio and, ordering veal, was surprised when a huge chunk of meat arrived floating in olive oil. I washed it down with a metaxa, a Greek brandy, serving two purposes: 1. To digest the veal 2. To keep warm.

Momentarily, I forgot the icy chill, delighting in the music and dancing in the streets. I followed a performing group to an open stage where they enacted a hilarious mock funeral.

In celebration of spring and new life, it ended with an old man, dressed as a withered hag, kissing the dead man, who leapt up and began making love to “her.” The crowd went wild with laughter.

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