Relive Ionian Village summer 2012, as they traveled across Greece discovering their Orthodox Faith and enjoying their Greek culture
It was a bittersweet morning as we said “goodbye” to the wonderful Ionian Village campus and began our trip to Athens! Along the way we first stopped in Mystras near Ancient Sparta. Mystra was filled with much history and beauty for the campers to experience and witness. While there we visited three churches where we learned about the frescos and Byzantine iconography.
Then went to lunch at a local tavern called Dionysos and enjoyed a wonderful meal. The last stop before Athena was Epidavros, where we saw the ancient stadium that could fill up to 15,000 people. We were able to test and hear a penny drop from the center stage all throughout the theater.
After spending some time singing and clapping in Epidavros we were on our merry way to the Metropolitan hotel in Athens! Once we arrived we had dinner, and sent the campers to their rooms for a relaxing evening and then lights out. We are very much looking forward to soaking up these last few days of IV!
It is so hard to believe how quickly the days are flying by here at camp! Today, we traveled to the largest of the Ionian Islands, Kefalonia. After traveling on a bus and a ferry we made it safely to the top of the mountain to visit the church of St. Gerasimos and the New Monastery. All the campers had the opportunity to venerate St. Gerasimo’s relics as well as go down into the cave where he lived for 19 years- truly an incredible experience. We then went to lunch and enjoyed the rest of our day on the beach (we’re soaking up as much of the Grecian blue sea as we can!)
Tonight’s evening activity was Music Fest where all the campers were able to share and showcase their musical talents. Everyone put so much hard work into the performance it made it for an unforgettable evening. After having everyone sing their little hearts out they sure were tired and ready for some shut eye!
Today we had IV Olympics, which consisted of water Olympics, a pentathlon, and land Olympics. Each cabin was able work on team building skills and grow even closer. From dancing the Papamericano dance to the Waka Waka these kids aren’t afraid to get their silly shoes on. The majority of today’s games were relays and then a few that required a more creative touch. Everyone’s optimistic spirit has been contagious which makes for an even more incredible day at camp. After a long day of running around, and chanting our hearts out you can be sure we all were ready for a good nights sleep!
Sundays are probably one of the best days at camp, simply because we all get to participate in the Divine Liturgy together. After Divine Liturgy, we had a delicious breakfast (loukouomades) and then enjoyed ree swim by the pool. It wouldn’t be a Greek summer camp without some time for siesta, so following lunch we caught some shut eye.
Our evening activity was “Night with God”. It was a time where each camper and staff had the opportunity to speak to the group about what he or she was thankful for. To hear what the campers had to say really touched everyone. We couldn’t be more grateful for such a wonderful group of campers. It was an evening filled with love, joy, peace, and prayer.
Today we had a regular camp day! Many of our campers are working hard on their arts and crafts projects- we won’t tell you what they are so you can be surprised at home! There was much anticipation all day for the Sakis Rouvas concert, which turned out to be a real treat for all the campers. They were able to fully experience Modern Greek culture and music! Sakis even brought up his daughter on stage to sing, too. After a long evening it was straight back to the cabins and lights out!
After a few days of traveling we really enjoyed having a camp day! From morning Orthos to the daily camp activities we can assure you, your kids are having an absolute blast. We traveled to Patra in the evening to visit the third largest church in Europe (the largest in Greece), St. Andrews of Patras. We were able to venerate his relics and take in the beauty of the Orthodox church. Many campers visited the well to receive holy water to bring home. After visiting the church, we shopped around Patra and then ate a delicious dinner with an amazing view of the Grecian sunset.
Today was a day filled with spiritual growth and appreciation for our Greek heritage. We woke up to the birds chirping early this morning at 5:30am to start our day of traveling.
We first went to the monastery Mega Spileon, and there we saw one of the icons that the Virgin Mary laid her own eyes on. It was a very moving experience for many of our campers to see an icon that had survived being burnt 5 times. After Mega Spileon we traveled to Agia Lavra where we learned about the beginning of the Greek Revolution. There we saw the flag of the Dormition of the Theotokos that was raised by Bishop Germanos in 1821 to start the war for Greek independence.
We also visited the church of Kimisis Ths Theotokou and heard the story about the massacre in Kalavrita from the priest Papa Giorgio. After hearing about the true yet heartbreaking history of massacre we went to the memorial site to pay our respects.
Once we returned back to camp we had dinner around a bonfire and sang camp songs for the rest of the night! It was a wonderful day filled of bonding and learning about our Orthodox faith and Greek Heritage. Good night!
Today we visited Kastro Klemoutsi a historic castle, as well as the church of Kimisis tis Theotokou where the relics of St. Mammas reside. We were able to venerate the relics and learn more about a sometime overlooked saint. We sure got our exercise in walking around the town of Kastro today while we walked to a local taverna and enjoyed frappe over the beautiful Grecian scenery.
This evening we had the “Panigiri” to celebrate Panagia and eat as much meat as we could since the fast starts tomorrow! Kuria Sophia our wonderful cook and her staff really gave a feast! We had a live band and danced till we couldn’t feel our feet anymore. From the kalamatiano, to the ikariotiko, to pentozali, to tsamiko we danced them all. We closed the evening in prayer, and off to the cabins for devotionals and sleep it was!
Today was a very special day for the Ionian Village camp as we venerated the relics of St. Dionysios in Zakynthos. It was very moving for many of the campers and staff to see and kiss the feet of a 400 year old saint. After we spent time in the church learning about St. Dionysios’ life and miracles we ate a delicious lunch at a local restaurant. Following lunch, we spent a few hours at the beach playing in the sand, and mostly spending time in the water.
We arrived back at camp, got ready for the evening festivities “Greek Invasion”, and had a special visit from the priest of Megalopoli to celebrate evening Vespers with us at camp. Greek Invasion was a barrel of fun! The campers sang the Greek national anthem, did taste tasting of Greek desserts like bougatsa, played Greek “boggle” and of course had some good old Greek dancing! We closed the evening with reflections and dialogue on all the emotions we felt while visiting St. Dionysios today. It was absolutely beautiful to hear how touched many of the campers were from today’s trip. We all know what comes after the closing prayer…. devotionals, and then lights out. Time to get some rest!
Greetings! Today, our morning began with Divine Liturgy in the peaceful outdoor chapel. Following the service we all gathered in the trapezaria for some delicious loukoumades breakfast- Kurya Sophia sure knows how to fill our appetite. We spent the majority of the afternoon at free swim on the beach and later in the day had a sand castle competition. We all were so impressed with each cabin’s creativity and sand castle building skills.
Our evening activity was a “White Party” where everyone’s stellar dance moves were revealed. We closed our evening in prayer, headed quietly back to the cabins, and prepared ourselves for tomorrows big trip to Zakynthos to see the relics of Agios Dionysios! Kalinixta!
Today, our campers woke up bright and early ¾ we love the beaming Grecian sun¾ to travel to Olympia. How ironic that IV visits Ancient Olympia on the day of the Olympics (no we didn’t plan this on purpose J.) While at Olympia, our campers learned about the actual origins of the Olympics, saw ancient artifacts and statues in the museum, and even got a chance to race in the original Olympic arena, which used to hold thousands of spectators. Upon the campers’ arrival back to camp, we had another fun afternoon at the pool!
Tonight, as a camp we walked into Glyfa to celebrate evening Vespers at the church of St. Marina. This church and the surrounding community have built a strong relationship with IV these last 42 years and we are so thankful for their hospitality. The camp gathered in the amphitheater to conclude the evening activity “A Night With God”. Fr. Evagoras led a spiritual discussion sharing the life and miracles of St. Dionysios that have occurred at Ionian Village over the years. As always we close our evening in prayer and the campers return to their cabins to catch some Z’s before the next eventful day at Ionian Village!
We had a great start to our first full day of camp at IV! Our morning began with chapel followed by a delicious breakfast prepared by Kuria Sophia and her staff. The campers jumped right into their sessions ranging from Orthodox Life, Music and Greek Culture, Athletics, and Arts and Crafts. It wouldn’t be a summer in Greece with out some pool/beach time so mid day the campers headed to free swim, followed by lunch and then an afternoon siesta.
The campers had a BLAST at “Junkyard Wars” which was a time for cabins to do some team building and bonding. Each of the seven cabins created racing cars out of old junk (cardboard, plastic, ¾ you name it we had it). With frequent pauses for random dance break-out sessions, it sure was apparent that everyone had a great time. The excitement and enthusiasm was contagious! Our evening ended with Fr. Evagoras teaching the camp a beautiful hymn called Qεοτοκε η ελπις. The campers returned to their cabins for devotionals, and then lights out!
Camp has been off to a great start so far! Once the campers arrived they had time to unpack, get acquainted and take a tour of our campgrounds with their cabin staff. The evening concluded with a skit entitled “IV’s Got Talent” put together by the staff to welcome the campers and teach them the ins and outs of Ionian Village. After a long day of traveling and getting acquainted with camp it was lights out and off to bed for our very sleepy campers!
After 2 fun-filled days on the island of Kerkyra, Ionian Village safely arrived in Athens this afternoon. While on Kerkyra, we visited the churches of St. Spyridon and Sts. Jason and Sospiator. We had time to shop in the old town of Kerkya, as well as visit an amazing beach in the town of Dassia. Today, we arrived in Athens and had a great dinner at the Metropolitan Hotel, followed by a trip into town for ice cream and the watching of the changing of the guards at Syntagma Square. Tomorrow we will head to downtown Athens to visit the Acropolis, Monastiraki and Plaka, and have our last and final Dinner Dance here at the Metropolitan Hotel. Let's Go!
July 13, STC Day 14
Today, we concluded our program here on the campus of Ionian Village. Campers finished projects, bathed in the sun at the beach, and sat for the last time with their cabins in the pines during Orthodox Life. Tonight we celebrated our last Vespers service in front of the chapel, and followed with the traditional Farewell Dinner and Dance. Now, the entire program will get on the road and head to Athens, via a 2 day trip to the majestic island of Kerkyra. Athens...here we come! Let's go!
July 12, STC Day 13
Over the past few days, Ionian Village has been blessed to have the prescence of His Grace Bishop Sevastianos of Zela visit the camp. He was present for our Panigiri, Music Fest and Evening in Patras, as well as travelled with our campers and staff to Zakynthos to venerate the relic of St. Dionysios. In addition, His Grace sat in on our Orthodox Life sessions, and took part in each part of the program. Tomorrow is our last day here at camp, as we prepare to head to Athens via the beuatiful island of Kerkyra where we will venerate the relics of St. Spyridon. Let's Go!
July 9, STC Day 10
Today half of the camp headed to Kefallonia and the other half of the camp headed to Kalavryta, and we came back to camp for traditional Gyros on the beach and the Bonfire led by our Staff Member, Forno! It was an awesome day, and tomorrow we get ready to head to Zakynthos to visit the relics of St. Dionysios!
July 8, STC Day 9
The past few days of camp have been great! Our campers and staff started our larger trips by travelling to Kefallonia and Kalavryta. Saturday was an in-camp day, concluding with Great Vespers at St. Marina's in Glyfa. Today was Olympics Sunday which meant a full day of Pool, land and Pentathalon Olympics all throughout the camp. What a great day! Tomorrow, we head back on the road, and towards the last week of our program! Let's Go!
Today, the entire camp travelled only 20 minutes away to visit the town of Bartholomeio. One of the sister Villages of the camp, the campers got the opportunity to viit the church of Kimisis tis Theotokou for the first time. In addition, campers and staff had the opportunity to visit local cafes and shops and partake in one of our new found intrests...frappe! After a day back at camp of rotations and sessions, we all joined together in the Amplitheater for Saint Skits, where each cabin told the story of a different Saint of the church in a fun, and light hearted way. Tomorrow, we have an early wake up for everyone as half the camp head to Kefallonia and the other half heads to Kalavryta! #IV2012 LETS GO!!!
Again today the entire camp travelled to Kastro and Olympia. As our campers returned, the entire staff put on a Greek-Style Carnival, complete with Μαλη Γριας (Cotton Candy) and fresh pop corn. There was a "Soak the Staff: booth, a photo booth, and several other games including a Tavli tournament. The hightlight of the night were the rides on the Horse and buggy carriage that took campers all over the campus. Great time had by all!
Today, our campers and staff headed out on thier first trips, with half of the camp heading to Olympia to visit the ruins of the first Olympics, and the other half of the camp heading to the town of Kastro to visit the "Kastro Chlemoutsi" and the church of Kimisis tis Theotokou, where they had the opportunity to venerate the relics of St. Mamas.
Upon returning to camp, we went back into our regular rotations and had an awesome WHITE PARTY put on by our Aquatics Staff! It was an awesome time for all with lots of music and tons of fun!
These first few days of Summer 2012 have been exciting, exhausting, exhilarating and encouraging all at the same time. After our initial shock to the news that one of our flights was cancelled, we began to work diligently to rectify the situation. We set up a multi-national task force consisting of our staff here at camp in Greece, our travel agent, our staff in New York, as well as former Staff Members who came out of the woodwork to help our program. We spent many hours on the phone trying to assure that each and everyone of our campers would make it safely to be a part of there Ionian Village experience. This monumental task, while encountering struggles along the way such as communication and the time difference, all finally paid off this evening in Greece, when the last of our 202 campers landed in Athens and joined our staff there. I would like to thank each and every person involved in this process with the only goal of getting each and every camper to IV.
I also would like to take this opportunity to apologize to each of our families affected by this unpredictable situation. We can only learn from the past, and have the sincere hope and pray that should anything like this ever happen again, we will have learned valuable lessons from this experience. I would like to thank you for your time and patience, and for your flexibility and understanding. I fully understand there were some tense moments, and I can only again apologize, and tell you how much it means to both me and the entire Archdiocese that you showed faith in the amazing ministry. Thank you for trusting us, even when it seemed hard, and for "rolling with the punches."
We are now all here and settled. Over the next few days, we will write more about camp itself, the program, and the amazing time that our campers are already having. There have been welcome skits, welcome skits again, Greek Invasion, daily sessions, Divine Liturgy and so many more things! Make sure you check out our pictures to keep up with camp.
Leaving you, I ask that you join myself, our staff and all our campers in prayer that the Lord will continue to provide all of us here with the wisdom, patience, and strength so that each of us may fully open our hearts to this experience and to our Lord, and hear His voice.
Wishing you a great day from BEAUTIFUL GREECE,