Walkers on the National Road

Chat and items of interest about Crete and Greece.
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Walkers on the National Road

Postby johnincrete » Sat Aug 27, 2016 9:38 am

As I drove last evening along the National Road between Chania and Kalives, I passed many people in small groups and singles walking but not in "normal" hikers gear. I made a mental note to be very careful when I returned in the dark. Sure enough, in the dark, there were more walkers, some facing the traffic flow and some dangerously with the backs to the traffic. Many had flashlights but none that I noticed had anything lighting to the rear. Only two wore high-viz jackets. The traffic in both directions was very heavy. A very dangerous situation with so many impatient drivers trying to advance up the queue of traffic, relying on drivers being overtaken moving well to the right. Of course, there was the normal incidence of cars with badly adjusted lights causing dazzle.

Anyone know who these people are and where they were going?

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Re: Walkers on the National Road

Postby filippos » Sat Aug 27, 2016 10:14 am

Almost certainly participating in the annual pilgrimage to Myriokefala in Rethymno province which culminates on 7th September with celebrations centred on the most important church in the village, The Church of the Virgin Mary. The Monastery of the Virgin, dates back to the 10th century. During the week or so prior to 7 Sept several thousand people walk to the village.

We visited four years ago when we went on a village charabanc outing. Apart from all the religious activity there was a large street market, every taverna was packed and there were more than a few street BBQs.

There's some information here and here (and several other sources if you Google the village name)

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Re: Walkers on the National Road

Postby Jean » Sat Aug 27, 2016 10:54 am

I think that they were walking to the chapel of Agios Fanourios / Άγιος Φανούριος which is located along the national road between Agii Pantes and the Vrysses turn off. It's the saints name day today and there is quite a big feast there every year.

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Re: Walkers on the National Road

Postby Clio » Sat Aug 27, 2016 12:27 pm

Yes Jean is right. It's a bit early for the Myriokefala pilgrimage, which actually culminates on September 8 when Orthodoxy celebrates the birth of the Virgin Mary - whose "miraculous" icon in the village church is the focus of the event.

However, I now have a peg for my Myriokefala story which I may have told here before, but can't find in the archives.

Years ago, staying with the Zografakis family in Arghyroupoli, I noticed a stream of people walking purposefully south - some carrying small bags, one or two barefoot.

When we learned that was the pilgrimage to Myriokefala we went up by car to have a look and it was as Phil says - quite a big affair with a market, and rest and first aid facilities for the walkers, some of whom had slogged all the way from Rethymno to worship at the church of the Panagia*.

That night my husband said he fancied walking the stretch of the trail from Arghyroupoli, and would get up early to do so. When I woke up next morning I thought he was putting on his boots but it turned out he was taking them off, having walked there and back in no time at all and found it an unexpectedly powerful experience.

I don't know how many kilometres it is between the two villages but it's quite a schlep, and uphill all the way. He said it was unlike any of our many other walks in the Cretan mountains - effortless, like flying, like being carried along. (This from someone not normally given to fanciful ideas, and with absolutely no time for miracle-working icons).

When I tried to explain that in my halting Greek to our hostess Lefteria, she wasn't surprised: it's well known, she said, that bare feet doing that walk are miraculously undamaged.

Possibly johnincrete's Agios Fanourios pilgrims also believed themselves under divine protection -but more likely they assume that local traffic anyway, will know what's going on, and make allowances for them.

* The church is rather special - well worth a visit at another, quieter time.

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Re: Walkers on the National Road

Postby filippos » Sat Aug 27, 2016 12:33 pm

Yes, I'd forgotten that one, Jean and you're probably right.

It could be something of both but Agios Fanourios is more likely, especially if coming from Xania direction. Also, it's probably a bit soon for the majority of walkers to be heading for Myriokefala more than a week before the celebration although some do walk a very long way: I've noticed in previous years, at about this time, quite a lot of 'highway walkers' coming from east of Rethymno.

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Re: Walkers on the National Road

Postby SatCure » Mon Sep 05, 2016 11:27 pm

It was definitely Agios Fanourios. Our friends in Georgioupoli invited us to join them. However Kefalás has its own tiny church of Saint Fanourios (the saint of miracles). Most people call it the "Welcome to Kefalas monument", not realising what it really is. A service is held there every year, with free food provided afterwards.

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