Colourful ticker-tape blew all around as the parade made its way through the streets of Xanthi. Locals and tourists lined the route, cheering, waving and dancing along to the loud mix of music. Bright, garish and traditional costumes were everywhere. The atmosphere was intoxicating, and this was before the Ouzo had even been broached in earnest.

Today was the end of the Spring festival, held every year for a fortnight in February, celebrating the folklore and history of Thrace and northern Greece, as well as providing entertainment, concerts and the final parade.

Michael had come here straight from the Venice Carnival at the start of the month. Last year he had been in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and Rio. In terms of size Xanthi could not compete with those larger and more famous events, but as Michael had found, that was to its benefit. This was a friendly, personal carnival. The locals joined in with enthusiasm rather than cursing the influx of tourists. Michael had lost count of the number of houses and cafΓ©s he had been invited into to enjoy the hospitality of strangers. The locals, a mixture of Greeks, Turks, Macedonians and Bulgarians, who seemed to co-exist in perfect harmony, were unfailingly exuberant, outgoing and companionable.

He had taken in open air musical concerts in the ancient amphitheatre, street theatre, historical reenactments and numerous exhibitions. He had heartily enjoyed the local fish, salad and meats all washed down with Raki and Tsipouro. The hangovers and sleeping until midday had been worth the zealous pace of living over the fortnight.

The parade arrived at the entrance to the Old Town, next to the Kosynthos River, where the crowds gathered in a swirling celebratory mass as dusk gave way to night. Here the carnival would end with the Burning of the Tsar and a spectacular fireworks display. The partying would carry on late into the morning.

Reality could wait until the morning when Michael would have to think about getting out of the country. The money from home had run out. The gap year was coming to an end. The thought of the London School of Economics and four grey years of studying lay ahead.

Unless he didn’t go back. It was the first time the thought had expressly presented itself, although it had been lurking in his subconscious unformed for the last few months. What was stopping him? Expectation, for one; his parents for another; Brexit more than anything, although there was still no settlement on the rights of UK citizens living and working within the EU.

But given the choice of a simple life in the Mediterranean sun working odd jobs and moving from one adventure to the next, or the stuffy safe career in the city, it was obvious which he would prefer. And while he still had that choice his mind was set. The first firework shot into the night sky, the crowd roared, Michael raised his bottle of Ouzo and drank, the strong aniseed flavour catching his breathe. To my new life, he thought.

There was so much of the world still to see, so many new people to meet, and that night Michael determined to see as much of it as he could.

Written as part of The A to Z Challenge 2018. Click HERE for more details of the challenge.

Each day in April we will visit a different town or city in the European Union, whose name will begin with the letter of the day – today its Xanthi in the Northeast of GreeceΒ  – for a story based on a theme also corresponding to the same letter.

Over the course of the month and 26 stories, we will visit all 28 member countries to complete a farewell tour before Britain leaves the political union next year, touching on the history, politics, culture and people at the heart of Europe.

For a full list of stories and places visited, visit here: THE A TO Z CHALLENGE 2018.

63 responses to “X IS FOR XANTHI, GREECE”

  1. A pleasant story after yesterday’s really heavy one. Good on Michael deciding to follow his heart than succumb to what was expected of him. Nice read, Iain

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Michael is having a great time. His parents will be horrified but he is certainly learning more than he would at uni. I’m a bit apprehensive that he will plunge into alcoholism and lead a short and pointless life. However I think he will find a purpose but this is very dependent on the people around him who become his friends.

    Anyway good luck to him.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great tone and it sets the stage perfectly for Michael’s big decision. “But given the choice of a simple life in the Mediterranean sun working odd jobs and moving from one adventure to the next, or the stuffy safe career in the city, it was obvious which he would prefer.” That is a great and far reaching decision. I wonder once Michael picks one will he ever wonder about what life would have been like if he took the opposite path?


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ah, the big choice. To live a wandering life or a safe one? Of course, there’s no reason why he couldn’t do both. Lovely story.

    (I did pop by yesterday, but I couldn’t stay. I’m sure the story was lovely, but Holocaust stories are “triggering” for me, and I’ve learned it’s best to avoid them, no matter how well done they are. Sorry.)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The choice is never easy. I hope he can enjoy and see as much, while he still can.Most of all,I hope he doesn’t regret the decision. Lovely word-painting, Iain. Thank you for the rich virtual tour of culturally-rich Xanthi.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Such an exuberant story. Michael is having such a fun time. I can see why he’d want to stay or keep on travelling to enjoy and experience more sights and cultures. But my old fart/ parental neurones are firing and worrying about the money – will odd jobs be enough to sustain him?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Perhaps for a while, but will he get so far and realise that perhaps there needs to be more purpose to his life? But then there is the joy of just living in the moment and going with the flow.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ah! Lucky are those who have the guts to break away from conventional wisdom and live on a whim. Good for Michael. It is risky but worth it if you are an adventurer.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Iain! This brought me back to the Mardi Gras celebrations..not in New Orleans but Chicago :). Would love to be part of the Xanthi celebrations…ItΒ΄s a good decision when Michael makes his fantasy a reality, LifeΒ΄s short why have regrets at the end. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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