Dirty Monday

In most of Greece, the Monday after Carnival is dedicated to such placid pursuits as kiteflying on Lycabettus Hill in Athens and enjoying a picnic of special foods with friends and family.

But in the town of Tyrnavos, the ancient pagan celebrations seem to have survived in what is nicknamed "Dirty Monday" - the first day of Lent which in the rest of Greece is a kind of transition day into the full austerities of Lent.

Not Your Typical Pre-Lent Celebration

In Tyrnavos, things take a different turn. The vigorous celebrations may derive from the rites of Dionysos, the god of wine and revelry and son of Zeus. In this wine-producing region, it may not be surprising that an affectionate attitude toward the god of divine drunkeness has hung on (or hung over) into the present day. The Greek matrons-turned-madwomen the Maenads were his followers, once a year taking to the hillsides in search of deer to tear apart and devour in his honor.

Um - Just What's in that Cup?

Currently, that revelry includes open display of ceramic phalluses, bizarre customs include drinking tsipoura, a raki-like beverage, from phallic-shaped vessels, and a generally raunchy atmosphere filled with sexual jokes.

All of this is limited to the last Sunday in Lent and the following day of "Dirty Monday" - the rest of the time, the town is as sedate as any other mid-sized agricultural market town in Greece.

Family-friendly? Depends on the family

In Tyrnavos, Greek women, children, and families can all be seen watching and participating, but depending on your tastes, this may not be what is generally considered a "family-friendly" event, and it is definitely not for the easily offended. Phallic replicas are openly displayed; even plastic drinking straws are in a different shape for this festival.

Some of the more conservative Tyrnavians protest the festival, but they are in the minority; here, vigorously maintaining ancient traditions is being conservative.

That's Not the Only "Dirty" Clean Monday

In Galaxidi, Clean Monday is renowned for a massive flour fight, where colored flours are thrown on everybody. Some people wear raincoats and plastic suits on this day to limit the damage, and the flour throwing can actually make it hard to breathe. Many participants don surgical masks, and that might be standard equipment for tourists. Allergic to wheat? Maybe not your best bet for a holiday.

Brave enough to check it out?

Tyrnavos is a large town located in the Thessaly region of Greece. It's located near the city of Larissa. Tyrnavos is also an important wildlife area known for its birds, and paragliders occasionally operate in the area.

Going to Tyrnavos

For most travelers in Greece, going through Larissa will be the easiest and most direct route to Tyrnavos. From Athens, drive north on the National Highway toward Thessaloniki. Turn off at Larissa. From Larissa, take the road northwest to Tyrnavos. Tyrnavos is also spelled Tirnavos.

From Thessaloniki, take the National Road southwest toward Athens until you reach Larissa; at Larissa, take the northwest road to Tyrnavos.

The last part of the drive will be on a secondary road and will involve some twists and turns. If the last Sunday of Carnival is very early in the year, you will want to confirm road and snow conditions before you go.

During Carnival, rooms will be scarce. You should arrange lodgings ahead of time; Larissa is probably your best bet.