One or two of you might have noticed that I was missing for a while and you were right!
I was on the Island of Samos which is a very small Greek Island not far from the coast of Turkey and the very clever ones reading will know it was where “The square on the hypotenuse man” Pythagoras lived for a while!
The reason for all of us being in this most wonderful of places was that our son Owen was getting married to his lady Marina whose Dad was born on Samos before emigrating to Sydney as so many Greek people had to do in the tough economic times of the 1950’s and 60’s. In Ireland we experienced the same but our people went mostly to America and England.
We had a Greek Orthodox Church wedding first of all in Pythagoria near the ocean which was a very interesting and different experience. The church wedding was followed by a wonderful meal overlooking the water and a lovely musical evening. A few days later, in their little village of Stavrinides which is perched high on the top of a mountain and is reached after a series of frightening hair pin bends, we had a traditional Greek wedding when all the people of the village were included. In the 1950’s there were close to 350 people living in Stavrinides. Now sadly this number has fallen to just 25 residents although the number grows considerably when people return for the summer months.
Before the festivities started the bride Marina dressed again in her beautiful wedding dress was separated from the groom and secreted to the family village home where she waited patiently with her parents Manny and Helen while Owen and his Mum and I, accompanied by our family and his friends walked to Marina’s family home led by two musicians from the local band, where he again had to ask for her hand.
At their house which is perched on the side of the mountain with gorgeous views of the surrounding vineyards and the sea away below Marina was waiting and when we arrived she was handed to Owen by her Mum and Dad and given a gentle slap on the face by mum Helen with words of warning that if he didn’t look after her properly worse would follow!
View from Stavrinides with Turkey in the background.
I had heard of what a traditional Greek Wedding entailed and it didn’t disappoint. The band was booked for 12 hours from 6 in the evening till 6 in the morning when the sun would be up. I am glad to say I didn’t quite make the sunrise but it was close! It had been 20 years since there had been a Greek wedding in the village so it was a very important occasion for the people and you could see the joy on their faces.
There was wonderful Greek music and dancing and some of Owen’s musical friends the Mc Sweeney’s from Cork who are part of the group MKAI entertained us with music and singing. Nice to bring some Cork musical culture to the Greek wedding.
We visited another village a few days later called Manolates which can be seen from Stavrinides and as the eagle flies is probably about three kilometres away. Having a coffee there we asked the owner had he heard any music on the night of the wedding and he confirmed he had, loud and clear, and when we explained our connection with the event he was delighted. They are very proud of their Greek weddings in Samos. They are also probably the friendliest people I have ever met.
The Greek dancing is fascinating to watch and their music is entrancing and from time to time some local people would just arrive on the dance floor and we watched with interest as they did various dance movements that we had never seen before.
We also had the traditional Zorba dance and the breaking of plates and glasses and then the lighting of a fire on the ground as some spirit like whiskey was poured on the ground and a circle of fire was lighted. We actually never knew what was going to happen next.
It was now approaching 2 am and the father of the bride Manny called on Owen’s best man Vince Groarke who is a triathlon buddy of Owens to say a few words.
Vince when asked by Owen to be his best man at his wedding about six months ago decided that if he was to be a best man at a Greek wedding that he should be able to speak Greek and took lessons immediately. He already speaks about 5 languages so we were confident he would be able to master the complicated Greek language. And so it came to pass.
Vince took to the stage and said a few words in English and then in Greek. He then produced what to me is probably one of the most magical of events and one that will live with me forever. He started to serenade the bride and groom and he sang a love song in the Greek language and he gave Owen and Marina and the Greek and Australian and Irish people who listened in wonder, something they will always treasure.
Photo of Vince serenading the married couple Owen and Marina who are indeed spellbound as we all was everyone fortunate enough to be there
Thanks Vince that was special!
Ted Dwyer Family Business