The whole island of Delos – the best preserved ancient city in Greece – has been declared an archaeological site and any visit to it has to conform to certain rules and regulations. No one is permitted to stay on the island in the late afternoon to enjoy the sunset and spending the night there is even more strictly forbidden, except once a year, on the eve of Agia Kyriaki (Saint Kyriaki)’s day, the 7th of July.
Agia Kyriaki is a small chapel that was built in the 19th century so that the men working on the archaeological excavations would have a place to worship. It is located on the east coast, directly opposite Mykonos. On the day when the saint is celebrated, the island’s guards and their friends from Mykonos honour her memory with a service followed by a festival, an amazing party.
Newly white-washed for the occasion, the chapel of Agia Kyriaki is so tiny that it’s doubtful whether ten people can squeeze in so the faithful gather outside in its flag-decked courtyard. After vespers, the breaking of the bread takes place. The worshippers take pieces of the blessed loaf, which is flavoured with mastiha, and make their way to the area where the guards live. There, on a small raised space, in the site of the ancient Gymnasium, a kitchen has been set up along with an open-air dining room with improvised tables and chairs made of cement blocks and planks. The master of ceremonies, Dimitris Vlassopoulos, a former guard on the sacred island, continues to organize everything connected with the fair with his family although it’s years since he retired and now lives on Mykonos.
The festival surely owes its survival to the generosity of various Mykoniates, who honour it with their presence as well, but Kyrios Dimitris remains the rock on which it is built. Every year he and his family ungrudgingly cope with expected and unexpected glitches with patience and grace, even the addition of boatloads of foreign tourists when one year some unthinking travel agents included a free lunch with their ticket to visit the ruins.
One of the most unusual treats, before the feast, is a shot glass of goat broth. Hot, extra delicious, it goes down well with the first gulps of local wine and really awakens the appetite for what follows: incomparable stewed goat with potatoes, traditional onion pie, cabbage tips with lard, stuffed vine leaves, little meatballs, kopanisti cheese, louza, and salt cod with garlic sauce.