In the Summer of 2011, Ionian Village campers again traveled across Greece, visiting monasteries and venerating relics of our Orthodox Saints. Read all about their amazing experiences!
All campers, medical and clergy staff arrived safely at Ionian Village!
Our first stop after leaving the Athens airport was at the Corinth Canal for some great souvlaki! Arriving at camp to cool weather, campers toured the grounds with their cabin mates and counselors. The campers were served a welcome dinner of Greek lemon chicken and potatoes, salata and watermelon before watching the counselors perform a welcome skit. Sent to bed early our tired campers are excited about their first day in camp tomorrow!
Today marked our first day at camp! Our day started with chapel, then campers began rotations of Orthodox Life (OL), Arts and Crafts, Athletics and Music and Greek Culture. Our evening activity was an IV recent favorite: Junkyard Wars! Before building and racing their Junk-mobiles, campers participated in a series of activities to earn their junk: Charades, Paddle Ball, Boggle and creating a poem as a group using the line “Day 1 at camp was a lot of fun,” not knowing what the person before wrote.
Here’s what cabin Delos wrote:
Day 1 at camp was a lot of fun,
Everyone singed and laughed a lot
We all became ne and slept on cots
We shared funny stories on our blankets on dots
The cook makes good potatoes- enough said!
I pray the bell won’t ring so I don’t have to go to bed!
I met so many cool awesome amazing friends!
I know that the fun will never end because IV is so much fun,
Especially the siestas! ;)
After chapel and our Greek breakfast, it was off to spend the morning at Castro Chlemoutsi where campers climbed the walls of the castle built by the Franks in 1220. After spending time exploring the castle campers visited a church housing the relics of St. Mamas - a young boy who faced cruel tortures after proclaiming his Christianity.
Once back at camp, campers rotated through their usual stations and prepared for the evening's dance where the theme was to be the biggest nerdy-geekiest geek possible. Dancing continued until 10- then it was off to bed early so that everyone could get a good night's sleep before the 5:00 AM departure for Kefalonia tomorrow.
Today's blog submitted by Rev. Fr. Dino Pappademos, 2011 Clergy staff member from Elk Grove, CA.
The ferry boat schedule changed on us at the last minute today, so we had to wake up at 4:30 AM, get on the bus by 5:15 and board the ferry by six to go to Kefalonia. We arrived on the island by 8 AM and started the hour-long bus ride zig-zagging up and down mountains to get to the New Jerusalem Monastery and the Church of Saint Gerasimos. When we arrived, we were able to venerate the relics of this beloved 16th century saint, whose body is still intact and still exudes a wonderfully fragrant scent. In the church, we climbed down a 12-foot ladder, one at a time, to stand in the underground cave where Saint Gerasimos lived for the last 19 years of his life. The original church is built over the cave, but the monastery recently built a newer and much larger church next to it. We visited the larger church and had a personal tour given by the iconographer who has completed all of the magnificent iconography alone over the past 18 years. Then we stopped at a picturesque seaside restaurant for a delicious lunch of stuffed tomatoes and all the trimmings. Got back on the ferry and returned to Ionian Village in time for Vespers and dinner. The night is ending with a rousing game of “Underground Church.” All in all, a wonderful day filled with many blessings and lots of fun.
Rise and shine campers! Time for Chapel, Breakfast, making travel pillows in Arts and Crafts, learning the Greek National Anthem in Music and Greek Culture, talking about forgiveness in OL, playing World Cup Soccer in Athletics, Pastichio for lunch, a nice loooooog siesta, free time (Tavli, frisbee on the grass, hanging out with new friends...), Vespers, Night with God, Devotionals, lights out. A busy day, but a fun one!
A day of tradition at IV today… Divine Liturgy followed by a breakfast of Loukoumades, group and cabin photos and the 41st annual sandcastle competition! We all enjoyed a beautiful sunset and a cool evening on the beach while eating Gyros and Greek S’mores… chocolate dipped Pappadopoulos crackers with melted marshmallows. After our night on the beach it was time to spend time bonding with cabins- some made bracelets for each other in the Arts and Crafts room, others played board games together.
Our ferryboat left at 8:00 this morning, bound for the island of Zakynthos. Before leaving camp, campers grabbed a juice box and a cheese toast from Kyria Sophia for the ride to the port.
Once arriving on the island, campers walked to the church of St. Dionysios where time was spent in the church viewing the beautiful iconography and venerating the relics of St. Dionysios. The Church houses the body of St. Dionysios which is still in tact but blackened and armless due to attempts by Turkish soldiers to destroy his body in the 18th century.
After visiting the church campers had time for lunch and shopping on the island before catching the ferry back to the Peloponnesus and back to Ionian Village. It was a beautiful day and many campers were moved by the beauty of the church and of learning of the many miracles attributed to the patron saint of Ionian Village, St. Dionysios.
Campers spent the morning exploring the grounds at Ancient Olympia. Professional tour guides led them through the grounds and they raced one another on the racetrack.
After lunch it was off to the water-park known as Aquasplash for some water-sliding fun and Modern Greek music listening. Upon returning to camp, it was time for a few camps sessions. In preparation for the upcoming feast day celebration we’ve begun praying Paraklesis in the evenings before dinner.
After dinner, campers and staff dressed “like a Greek” for the dance. Some were in togas, some in more modern attire. All in all it was a great night under the stars!
Today was a great day in camp: OL, MGC, Athletics and tie-dying camp shirts in Arts and Crafts. In MGC (Music and Greek Culture), campers prepped for an upcoming concert we’ll be attending Thursday night. Free time was spent working on Greek Drama skits for tonight’s performance. Our weather is heating up but campers stayed cool in the pool during free swim today. It always seems that during the "in-camp" days is when you can see the biggest growth in camper's friendships. They spend so much time together, learn more about one another and, in today's situation, learn to work well together to create a great skit for performing.
In camp activities today, followed by a unique cultural experience! Tonight, campers and staff dressed in their best and boarded the busses bound for Ancient Olympia. Our destination was a concert being held in the ancient amphitheatre. The performers: Yiannes Kotsiras, Dimitris Bassis and Dimitris Mitropanos. The performance of traditional and modern Zembekika and modern Greek songs lasted for over three-hours with no intermission. Watching and experiencing the crowd of over 5,000 locals was an experience in itself. All were singing and dancing together as if we were one big family. It was an exceptional cultural experience shared together that will most likely be etched into our minds forever.
A special evening at Ionian Village tonight as we celebrated candlelight midnight Divine Liturgy in our amphitheatre under the stars. It was celebrated as a teaching Liturgy where our priests would stop during the service to explain what was being done on the Altar with more detail. Campers were able to enjoy this beautiful and special time together in prayer as well as learn more about the symbolism behind certain details of our Orthodox traditional Liturgy.
This morning we woke to start the day with banana and Nutella crepes before preparing ourselves for the IV Olympics. Our competitions began with land contests, which included foot races and World Cup Soccer. After lunch and siesta our contests moved to the pool for a relay race and synchronized swimming show. The evening wrapped-up with final contests on the basketball courts- some of which included the classic game of roe-sham-bo and a watermelon-eating contest. Congratulations cabin Kerkyria for taking home the winner trophy!
Today introduced the campers to over two thousand years of religion and history in Greece. We began our morning with a trip to the monasteries of Ossios Loukas, Venerable Luke. The campers enjoyed quintessential Byzantine art in the churches while venerating the relics of Luke that were only given back to Greece from the Vatican in 1986. Of the two churches we saw, one was the oldest that we will see while in Greece. It was completed after the death of Ossios Loukas around 11th century AD. Campers and counselors alike enjoyed the bookstore and the wide variety of hand painted icons, in particular.
From church we left for a delicious lunch before heading to the ancient site of Delphi. Delphi was a sanctuary in Classical Greece. The sites patron deity was Apollo, the god of music and poetry. Although it was very hot on site, the campers walked up to the stadium at Delphi to take pictures and admire the ruins of the once sacred site. The theatre remains mostly intact and also still carries noises clearly from the center of the stage to the very last row. From the theatre at Delphi to our own mini theatre at IV, the kids enjoyed performing their original songs with their cabins for the rest of the camp for music night. Each cabin created a song that captured their experience at IV with humor and a lot of heart. A few counselors wrapped things up with a touching acoustic rendition of “Wind Beneath My Wings”. It was a beautiful ending to a wonderful day. There is sadness and anticipation around camp, but tomorrow promises to be an enthusiastic last day in-camp.
After some of our participants endured a 5 hour layover at the Newark,NJ airport, a passport mistakenly left behind in a train, a pair of sneakers lost, boarding passes and seat assignments switched around... all participants arrived at Ionian Village safely and with no luggage lost! It was a long travel day- for some more than others- but nothing that a vespers in the outdoor chapel, a delicious home cooked dinner of Greek-style chicken and potatoes and an counselor welcome skit set to the tune of GLEEFA could not fix.
Before the arrival of some 60 campers (campers whose flight was delayed from New Jersey), some 80 campers (campers whose flight from New York was not delayed) and staff members who had been patiently awaiting the arrival of their peers made a run-through tunnel to greet their new friends. It was loud with music playing, horns and whistles blowing and 80 of their newest friends excited to help them get settled into their home away from home.
Our first full day at camp today- Arts & Crafts, Music and Greek Culture, OL, free-time and a brief swim test! Tonight's activity was "Minute to Win It" where cabins went from station to station answering questions or completing tasks in just one minute. After just 24-hours one can see the bonds already forming among campers as they work together to set the table a mealtime, chant and cheer in the hopes to be dismissed first to pick up their food at lunch and dinner and as they work together as a team during the evening activity.
Our first excursion off the grounds of Ionian Village was a quick trip down the road to a town called Castro visiting13th century castle called Castro Chlemoutsi. The castle was built by the Franks on top of a 300 yard hill and at one time was the largest castle in the Peloponnese. The purpose of the castle was to protect the town of Glarentsa which was an important commercial town in Medieval Europe. During the Byzantine era it was used as a lookout tower from which to sound an alarm in the event of an enemy attack, as well as an escape proof prison for dangerous hostages.
Today, campers were allowed to climb throughout the interior of castle as well as the perimeter. It’s interesting to imagine that in 1427 Constantine Palaeologos, the last Byzantine emperor, drove out the French from the castle and lived there for some time with his wife. Today, we walked the same grounds that this emperor once did.
Back at camp it was time to prepare for tomorrow’s Divine Liturgy by participating in “Night With God.” Campers rotated between 4 areas of discussions- “Ask Father”, “Saints and Relics”, “Byzantine Chant” and “Icons”.
This morning’s Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the outdoor chapel, under the pines and the sound of the mourning doves. It was a cool morning with a slight breeze, which made for a comfortable outdoor celebration. Fr. George Chioros from Newport New, Virginia mentioned during his sermon how wonderful it was to celebrate the Liturgy outdoors with so many young people participating in the service.
Today was a day of Ionian Village tradition. After celebrating the Liturgy, it was time for Kyria Sophia’s delicious Loukoumades! Then it was off to take group photographs with cabin-mates and a whole-camp photo as well. After a swim in the Ionian, lunch and siesta, campers headed back out to the beach for the Sand Castle Competition. Our extremely busy day concluded with “Junk Yard Wars” where cabin-mates participated in a series of competitions to earn “junk” in order to build their wheeled contraptions with. Once the junk is earned, each cabin has 20 minutes and one roll of duct tape to build moveable go-cart type contraptions to race other cabins with. Congratulations cabin Tripoli on your Junk Yard victory tonight!
Our day began with a trip to the ancient ruins of Olympia. Campers walked the grounds of the original Pan-Hellenic games and raced one another on the starting block of the track.
After a buffet lunch fit for an Olympic champion it was off to AQUASPLASH for some water park fun! Waterslides, bumper-cars, bumper-boats…
Our tired and waterlogged campers arrived back to IV ready to celebrate the 4th of July in Greece. After a celebratory dinner prepared by Kyria Sophia, it was time to dance to the tunes of DJ America (AKA counselor Jonathan Limberakis).
One of the many highlights of the evening was the entire group of 202 campers and staff dancing “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionare in its entirety. Quite a sight and very impressive!
Early wake up today, to catch a ferry to the island of Kefalonia to visit the New Jerusalem Monastery and the Church of St. Gerasimos. The original church of St. Gerasimos was built over the cave where he retreated for several years. Today, all 202 campers and staff members were able to ascend the narrow ladder down into the small cave.
After lunch at a taverna near the water campers were given some time to enjoy a swim on a beautiful white sand beach. Returning back to camp we were greeted with Gyros and watermelon to enjoy on our IV beach. For dessert- Greek S’mores: toasted marshmallows wedged between two Chocolate Papadopoulos cookies!
After a busy excursion to Kefalonia yesterday, it was nice to have a day in camp. Our usual rotations consisted of OL, MGC, Athletics and Arts & Crafts. It was our first full-day back at camp for what seems like a while, and as described by one of our counselor’s Calli Copoulos “it feels like if an outsider were to look in at us today, they would see that we’ve all become one.” We tie-dyed camp shirts, and played World Cup in Athletics. Our campers are learning new variations to Greek folk dances and preparing for our night out in Patras tomorrow.
After a battle of chants (“IV” on the left side of the amphitheater “Agape” on the right!) it was time to play 4-rounds of the exciting and athletic game of Underground Church in which the “Christians” try to escape being captured by the “Roman’s” and make it to the safe ground of the Church which happens to be a location around camp that is kept secret. Christians need to look for the Gold Cross to know where the Church is. Some of the “Roman’s” had secretly converted and would help the Christians escape captivity and at the end of the game stood trial and execution… with water balloons.
It was a busy day, but at the same time a relaxing day simply because we had a chance to get to know one another better in our beautiful and peaceful camp environment.
Today's blog submitted by counselors Marina Maib and Arianna Ranahosseini.
After a partial in-camp day consisting of free swim on the beach and four short sessions-Orthodox Life, Athletics, Arts & Crafts, Music and Greek Culture-all 218 campers and staff loaded the buses and departed for an adventurous day in Patras. The campers visited the new church of Saint Andrew Cathedral, built in 1979, where a small mnimosinos service was held in remembrance of those loved ones who have fallen asleep in the lord. Campers were also able to venerate relics and the cross of Saint Andrew as well as visit the old church, built in 1835. Campers drank from the underground well and filled their water bottles of the holy water to bring home with them. Following the church visit, we headed downtown for a short shopping excursion where campers indulged in new clothing from Zara, frappes, ice cream and much more! The night ended with a beautiful rooftop dinner at the restaurant Iphyena overlooking the sea at sunset. Many pictures were taken, tiropitas eaten and memories made to end a fun-filled day for Ionian Village. Campers arrived back at camp exhausted but looking forward to the Kalavrita excursion in the morning!
At 6 a.m. the IV bell rang and it was time to wake up for a long, hot day in Kalavrita! Campers indulged in chocolate croissants before loading the buses to the Kalavrita region to visit Megaspilion, Agia Lavra and the memorial site from World War II. The first stop was Megaspilion Monestary where we viewed what is said to be the first icon ever written, the cave where Luke the Evangelist wrote his Gospel, and one of the most expansive reliquaries in Orthdoxy where relics of saints such as Saints Haralambos, Simion, Theodore and Barbara are displayed. Next, we headed to Agia Lavra to visit the old church where Bishop Germanos raised the banner and proclaimed the independence of the Greek nation from the Turks in 1821. At Agia Lavra, the campers were given time in the bookstore to find their saints icon. Unfortunately, because of the recent falling asleep of the Geronda (head monk) of Agia Lavra, we were unable to venerate the relics of Saint Philarette and Saint Alexios. Our next stop was lunch where we were joined by Fr. George Birbas, the village priest of Kalavrita, and ate delicious mousaka. Following lunch, campers headed to the village church where Fr. George shared the story of the Nazi invasion and destruction of Kalavrita in December of 1943. A teenager at the time, Fr. George was one of the only boys of his generation to survive the massacre. After some fun shopping time in Kalavrita where campers purchased worry beads, soccer jerseys, frappes and ice cream, we headed to the memorial site of the World War II massacre, where 1300 men, women and children were martyred. Campers joined in singing the memorial hymn and took a moment of silence in their memory. The day was exhausting and excruciatingly hot, but nonetheless rewarding. Upon our arrival back at camp, campers had Kyrie Sofia’s delicious macaronia and spent time creating memories with new friends at the black and white themed glendi where we closed the night singing and dancing. After a long three days of traveling, the campers look forward to the next 5 in-camp days ahead, consisting of fun sessions, evening activities and free swim at the beach!
Today's blog submitted by Counselor Alexis Kelleher.
Campers were excited to spend a day in camp after two big days of traveling. The day began with an Orthros, breakfast, and then our usual rotation of activities. Following dinner the campers enjoyed two activities before our late Liturgy. They made postcards to send home that will serve as reminders of what they have learned at IV. Continuing with one of our themes of distancing ourselves from the label of the "Me Generation," the postcards included four promises to themselves that began with "i serve...". These postcards will send the campers back into the IV mindset after they get home, which will fuel them to continue serving others and looking beyond themselves. The other night activity allowed the campers to sit with the priests and discuss various inner struggles as well as controversial traditions in the church to gain a better understanding of our faith.
We did not have our usual vespers in the evening because of a special teaching Liturgy that took place at ten. This service allowed the campers to see the meaning behind many of the details of Liturgy that are too often overlooked. The service took place in the amphitheater, which was illuminated by a few spotlights as well as individual candles that the campers each held. It was a special night under the stars and the campers felt a deeper connection to their faith through both the knowledge they gained as well as the beauty of the whole night.
Today was a day of three-legged races, soccer match-ups, water contests and watermelon eating contests. Faces were painted, matching outfits were created among cabins and everyone came together in friendly-competition and support for one another to celebrate the Ionian Village tradition of the Olympics. Congratulations to cabin Kerkyria and Epiros for taking home the championship trophies!
It was a special Vespers service tonight as His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios arrived at Ionian Village. Tonight he prayed Vespers with the entire camp, and will return tomorrow to spend the day with the campers. He spoke tonight about how the campers are the Church, not the future of the Church, but the Church of today. It was an intimate and special service at the Outdoor Chapel- one that many will be sure to remember.
Our camp greeted His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios for a special lunch today after a swim in the ocean. We also welcomed 30 children of the Archdiocesan Youth Choir for lunch and a craft project. After lunch, siesta and Vespers we welcomed His Eminence and the choir members back to camp for a special performance by the choir. After the performance the choir members and our campers danced together and enjoyed a midnight snack of cheese and tomato "Toast", french fries and pizza. His Eminence hosted a reception for dignitaries and guests and were treated to a dance performance by our campers.
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios visited Ionian Village for lunch today, before departing for Athens. Before lunch, he sat in on a few OL sessions and offered advice to campers and staff on how to keep the IV spirit alive once we leave camp and how to apply what we've learned to our daily lives back home.
Tonight was Music Night where cabins were to work together creating a song for performance. The night closed with the entire camp singing "Alleluia" in the amphitheater under the stars before being dismissed for their cabins.
The day was spent on the island of Zakynthos visiting the church of St. Dionysios and venerating his holy relics. After, there was time for shopping and lunch on the island. Upon our return to camp, Kyria Sophia and the kitchen crew had prepared a traditional Paniyiri for our last night at Ionian Village- lamb, potatoes, dolmathes, tiropeta... followed by dancing! Fr. Jason closed the night with one final talk in the amphitheater reminding campers to "be the bee" and to remember that the "i" generation doesn't necessarily need to imply a selfish connotation, but that we can make it mean something selfless such as iServe, iLove, iForgive, iHelp...
Tomorrow we leave for Athens. Campers are excited for the weekend ahead, but departing from our little oasis and our IV Agape home will be a sad one.
Due to heavy travel and lack of internet access the past 3 days, the blog has needed to take a small break. This entry will serve as Summer Travel Camp's final entry.
Our travel to Athens included a stop for delicious lunch of stuffed peppers, tomatoes and grilled vegetables just outside of Deliphi on our way to Ossios Loukas. Campers spent time at the monastery known for the quality of its fine mosaics considered some of the best surviving examples of 11th century Byzantine mosaic iconography. The church and monastery is dedicated to "Venerable Luke", a local hermit and monk who founded the monastery. His relics are preserved in the church, and campers were able to venerate his relics as well as have their crosses blessed.
After a good nights sleep in Athens, our Saturday began with a ferry ride to the island of Aegina to visit the Church of Saint Nectarios and the Holy Trinity Monastery founded by Saint Nectarios. Campers venerated his relics, visited his tomb, walked through his house and filled their water bottles with holy water. Many campers were moved to tears from their experiences at the Monastery.
After Aegina, we traveled to the ocean-front town of Glyfada for shopping, dinner and ice cream. A quick stop on the way back to the hotel at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to watch the changing of the guards and take photos next to the Evzones.
Sunday morning began with a celebration of the Divine Liturgy before heading to the Acropolis. After visiting the Acropolis Museum it was time for shopping in Monastiraki Square for some last minute shopping. Our last day as campers at Ionian Village will conclude with a farewell dinner dance.
Campers depart early in the morning for the airport. It has been an exciting few weeks and campers have had many wonderful and life changing experiences. Campers will depart with a new outlook on their faith and heritage, with many new friends and with a challenge to "be the bee" and always strive to be the "little i"! Kalo Taxidi campers- please keep IV AGAPE alive in your heart!