Monday, March 7, 2011

Phallus Festival!


Well hey there! Just got back from the penis festival in Tyrnavos. It actually wasn’t as mad crazy as I was expecting, but it was so much fun, I’m so glad I went! Now I can say that I’ve been to a Dionysian pagan fertility festival! What did you do with your Monday?

In the rest of Greece, Clean Monday is spent as a family day, with the traditional activity of flying kites. In Thessaloniki today, there were free kites in Aristoteles Square and all sorts of food and I think a family-friendly parade. In Tyrnavos, a tiny little Greek town two hours from Thessaloniki and about 10 km from Larissa, they celebrate “Dirty Monday” with their annual phallus festival.

It’s pretty much just as you imagine it. We get to Tyrnavos and they set us down about a five minute walk to the town center—we know which way to go by following the crowd just let off a coach bus. The festival itself is relatively small, in keeping with the size of the town. There are stalls set up in the center and within about a two-block radius, but no further. But in this concentrated area there are more penises of all shapes, sizes, and materials than you can possibly imagine. Our first experience, as we were still on the outskirts of the festival, was with an old man with a fishing pole. There was a wooden penis tied to the end of the string and he was waving it around, calling and laughing in Greek trying to hit us with it. We knew right then it was going to be an interesting day.

Penises were everywhere. Candy penises, candle penises, bread, cake, ceramic, puppet penises galore. At one stand there were wooden penises of all different sizes, but they looked like they might serve a humorous if practical purpose. I asked the stall owner in Greek, “What is this?” meaning, “What does this thing do?” He looks at me like I’m mental and says, deadpan, “πέος”—penis. There was music blasting over loudspeakers all over the place, and it sounded like traditional Greek folksy-type music—but when I listened to the words, I’m pretty sure all the lyrics were really dirty—I recognized penis, ass, and fuck you.

The whole festival was one large joke, and I loved it! You’re supposed to giggle and snicker at everything you pass, and the people of the town encourage it. It’s amazing that this place, which is normally just like any other quiet little town in Greece, goes absolutely crazy once a year and invites everyone to come watch.

I think the best way to walk you through my day is through pictures and accompanying descriptions, so here we go. Avert your eyes, ye faint of heart!

Here’s just some examples of the variety of penis. They had tables and tables of this red penis candy, in various shapes and sizes, some with giant candy balls and some you couldn’t possibly fit in your mouth (what do they do with the excess, save it for next year? Sell them super cheap at the end?). Next is a picture of a penis cake a pastry shop had out to entice you in. The bread penis outside a bakery was as big as me, but they had smaller loaves you could buy inside. Next to the giant bread penis was a penis rocking horse that one tiny child was riding very enthusiastically, it was hilarious.



Then of course there were giant paper-mache penises everywhere that you could pose with, like this guy below or that crazy girl in the next picture…


It should be noted that there were literally all kinds of people at this festival. I actually think my age group was in the minority. As mentioned before, there were little kids, and lots of them, begging their parents for penis candy, walking around and seeing the sites. This cute little boy was trying on a hat, giggling and swinging around the balls attached to the brim. The next picture is of the old guy with the penis on a fishing pole, looking to “catch” unsuspecting passerby. And lastly was just some random guy we saw at lunch. Note the penis nose and, well, the penis, that he used to smack some lady eating her meal.

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Our lunch was amazing. We sat down outside at a table next to this Greek couple and were trying to decide what to order. We looked over to their table and they had some amazingly good-looking food, so I leaned over and used my most polite Greek to ask what it was. She told me and then was asking where I was from, what I’m doing here, all in Greek. They were so friendly and recommended things on the menu. When the waiter came he gave us a pad to write what we wanted and they offered (keep in mind this is all in Greek and I understood and communicated with them, I’m pretty proud of myself) to write down what we wanted for us. It probably would have actually been easier for us to do it ourselves, but they were so enthusiastic and excited to help us, though for a minute we thought they were going to order us way more food than we really wanted. It turned out all right, though. While we were waiting for our food to come out they whipped out a loaf of penis bread and offered it to us and wouldn’t take it back until they felt we took enough. I’m pretty sure they were locals, because they called the waiter by name, and, along with the table next to them, seemed to have brought some food from home that they also shared with us. They were so amazing—they gave us these delicious olives that they had prepared in some sauce, horta (a Greek vegetarian dish) they had obviously made themselves, and they gave us some of the delicious kalamari they had ordered. I felt bad taking all their food, and the food of the next table that they gave us, but it was so yummy and they were so nice—we ended up with a much bigger meal than we anticipated for three euro each! Here’s a picture of us with the wife, she was so sweet!


Everyone we met and talked to in Tyrnavos were really great. All throughout the streets, the “bourani people” have little fires going and are cooking bourani (μπουράνι), a spinach/nettle soup that’s the specialty of the festival and is supposed to be an aphrodisiac or good for your penis, something along those lines. Abby (in the purple above) and I made it our mission to get some of this soup. It was hard though—one pot was guarded by the penis-fishing old man, and another was in the main square and surrounded by a huge crowd. The bourani people, all middle-aged/old men, cook the soup in these cauldrons, wearing aprons with little phalluses painted on in the appropriate area. As they’re stirring the soup, they grab women from the crowd, lift them up over the soup and have them stir, and won’t let them down until they kiss this giant penis hand-puppet one guy has. It’s supposed to bless both the soup and the girl, fertility-wise. Supposedly. We kept edging closer and closer trying to figure out how to get a hold of a bowl, when Katie (middle above) and I were grabbed and hoisted into the air! It was so funny, I was laughing hysterically. Hopefully Abby got some good pictures that I can snag from her and post up later. The only bad part was my burn—they grab you from under the legs, and they sort of messed up the bandage a little, but I was fine. The second they put us down, I grabbed one of the guys and started asking for soup. I had a whole conversation with him in Greek; I’m so proud of how much I spoke today! Of course, I didn’t really know how to say it, so I just used a ton of polite words and said “I want a cup!” He told me what was in it and when I asked how much it cost he said five. I said OK and he came back with two bowls, but when I tried to give him the money he just put it back in my jacket pocket and went to get us some penis bread to dip in it—I think he was actually saying it would be ready in about five seconds, but I didn’t understand right. It was so nice of him to give us two bowls and bread for free. Plus, I asked at just the right time, because it was ready and everyone in the square descended on this little pot, but he got some for us. It was delicious, and surprisingly sweet. The two bowls were more than enough for four of us to split.

Below, a pot of bourani. The crowded square where they’re making the bourani; you can see the giant penis-puppet thing. And lastly, me doing was I did for most of the day, eating. The bourani was excellent!



I did eat a lot today. The nice people at the restaurant stuffed us to the brim like good Greek grandparents would; I ate bourani, and they had stalls of λουκουμάδες, one of my favorite Greek desserts that I’ve haven’t yet seen on my trip (when there are Greek fairs back home, I literally go to have a huge gyro and a bowl of λουκουμάδες all to myself). They were offering them with a chocolate sauce that I’ve never seen before and it looked good, but I stuck with the classic honey. I bought a penis-lolly, but I was too full to eat it and it’s sitting in my room.

I don’t know if you can tell from any of the pictures, but it was actually snowing when we were there! I couldn’t believe it; Tyrnavos is more up in the mountains, but apparently it snowed in Thessaloniki while we were gone too. I thought we’d escaped all that by coming to Greece! Apparently it’s never like this in March…At any rate, it made it a little uncomfortable to walk around—nothing was really open, everything was either stalls or outdoor tables, so we couldn’t go inside to get warm. If it had been nicer out we probably would have stayed a little longer, but we saw everything there was to see and went back early, which was fine by everyone.

I’m just so excited to take these little cheap trips to the areas immediately around Thessaloniki—it’s just a great way to get to know the country and its people. Halfway through the bus ride, we saw this huge, gorgeous white stone castle on a plateau overlooking a beach with crashing waves right below it to one side and beautiful mountains directly to the other side. It was amazing—we looked for road signs nearby and wrote down the names so we can hopefully find it and come back. I love finding things like that; it was so cool, and just popped out of nowhere!

Anyways, a very fun day, and an interesting way to kick of Lent! Hope your Monday was as bizarrely different as mine—shake it up!


  1. Hey fellow Phallus Festival fan?!! :)
    Great pictures!!! I was there too this year! You can check out my pictures here

    I see that you're living in Thessaloniki, that's my hometown!!!
    Have fun and enjoy your time in Greece!
    Γεια χαρά, Ed Gé