Greece is crazy. Greece is an adventure. Greece makes everything possible. Greece is living life to the fullest. Greece is on fire – full of energy. The Rocketwar unites these traits in an event that is – for sure – unique in the world.
“Something like this is only possible in Greece”, a local of 63 years, who emigrated to England, tells me. I meet him in the yard of a house close to Panaghia Erithiani that belongs to his relatives. “They built 250 ramps to fire 3000 rockets that night at AgiosMarkos.”
He is right, there is no event in Germany that can be compared with the Rocketwar. We have fireworks for New Year’s Eve and for certain celebrations, we have the “Rhine in Flames” in Cologne or the “Oktoberfest” in Munich, where the people launch a lot of fireworks. But they all go straight to the sky – everything else would be too dangerous and illegal.
Here the people launch rockets aiming at two churches, almost horizontally instead of vertically. They shoot at two beautiful churches, white on the outside and with wonderful yards. And on top of this: People have an Easter mass celebration going on in the same time. How can they go to church and pray when there is the noise and obvious danger? I ask a photographer, that I meet on the roof of a house. He is from Chios and works for an agency in Athens. He takes pictures with his camera for magazines and newspapers. “They do not care about the rockets”, he explains and pushes the button of his camera that is set to longtime exposure – 30 seconds.
“It is the holiest day of the year, the most important for them. They would never miss a celebration, whatever could happen to their churches.”
25 minutes before midnight I see people exiting Agios Markos. They carry candles, move in lines and pray to God and the resurrected Jesus Christ. At the same time the rockets are still fired to the fences and webs. But the locals do not stop, they keep on praying. A blasphemous event – that is what people in Germany would call it. But it is different. I can only understand because I saw it. I was part of it.
A young man from Athens who is on Chios to visit his relatives tells me something about the origin. “Nobody is sure about that but people say that the rocket war has a tradition of around 150 years. In the past it was less professional, without the Chinese technology for the self-made rockets. It all started because of the Turkish occupation of the island. The Orthodox were not allowed to have their Easter celebrations but so that they could go to the church anyway they just set it on fire. The Muslims stayed away, the Chians could pray.”
Markos belongs to the team of Panagia Erithiani. He has a small gas burner. A blue flame leaves the device. He bends down, lights 300 fuses and the rockets are fired, all the way over the small forest to the bell tower of Agios Markos. He is a Greek, a local. And he is like his country crazy, adventurous, living life to the fullest and on fire.
Tobias Weckenbrock (Germany)