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Athens > Train spotting June 9, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Architecture Greece, Greece Athens.
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The new Athens underground offers more than a train ride.

There is nothing quite like this railway anywhere in the world. And because this is Athens, cradle of Western civilisation, there probably never will be. This is one Athenian experience that visitors to the Greek metropolis can be certain of enjoying: the Attiko Metro.

This glittering cross between a mass-transit system and a museum sets a benchmark for urban infrastructure.

Though the ancient Greeks are credited with developing the European idea of the "polis", or city-state, and produced brilliant architecture, they were, oddly enough, no great shakes as urban planners.

When a population grew too big, ancient Athenians either built on the rubble of the old or founded new cities nearby.

Add to all that a massive and haphazard population growth since the mid-19th century, and by the late 20th century Athens was one of Europe's most chaotic urban disasters.

The most pressing need had long been a mass-transit system. It would have to be mostly underground, so that such grand vistas as the Acropolis, the sacred hill crowned by the Parthenon, were not compromised.

But beneath modern Athens lie the remains of its predecessor cities – 3000 years of them, a buried treasure house.

As the Attiko Metro general manager Fady Bassily has put it: "Nobody overrides an archeologist in Greece."

But this presents a problem: How do you build underground tunnels without destroying archeological treasures?

The $A2.5 billion Attiko Metro project has managed this in a way that has kept both town-planners and what Bassily calls "archeology's fundamentalists" happy.

Video cameras on the front of tunnel-boring machines alerted archeologists to sensitive terrain.

The city's main underground station in Syntagma Square, the heart of modern Athens, introduces the visitor to the planning triumph.

The main concourse is stylish 21st century marble and metal designed to handle 450,000 passengers daily.

But the walls catch the eye: On display are startling cross-sections of the cities' historic strata.

Seen through a plate-glass window to our right is the pit of the Peisistratid Aqueduct. These elegant terracotta pipes are traces of a water-supply system built in the 5th century BC.

Above it are the strata of later eras: tombs from the 4th century AD, then the 3rd, the 2nd and the 1st. (In the box-shaped 4th century tomb lies a human skeleton.)

The higher the eye moves, the more recent are the remains, including six Christian graves and a cistern of the Ottoman period (15th-19th centuries) when Turks occupied Athens.

Five of the 23 new Metro stations are within the boundaries of ancient Athens. Each has its built-in museum. At Panepistimio, a stopping-off point for some of today's delightful eating-places, the highlights are ancient kitchen objects – a 2500-year-old black-glazed cooking-pot and jugs and drinking vessels.

At Evangelismos, near a major hospital, we find small amphoras of different ages for storing medicinal oils, and a 2nd century marble urn for ashes of the dead, and some more terracotta pipes.

Athenians tell you that the last two stations – Acropolis, jumping-off point for visitors to the Parthenon, and Dafni, near a monastery renowned for its 11th century Byzantine mosaics – have the most striking museums.

At Dafni, the wall windows offer glimpses of the remains of agricultural buildings on farms that supplied the ancients with food.

And at Acropolis, probably the most beautiful of all five museums, sections of a road almost 3000 years old are on display. Here are the road's earthen layers, central wastewater drains, and vertical pipes that carried the overflow from nearby households.

Attiko Metro's digging, which began in 1992, has so far turned up more than 10,000 objects, covering a wide range of activity.

Some artefacts underline what we all knew – the ancient Greeks' taste for the erotic. The artwork on one jar shows three naked couples entwined in one bed, clothes strewn about to indicate the orgy's urgency. Another notable find was the tomb of a dog, along with the dog's collar and bottles of perfume intended to make the pet's afterlife more comfortable.

So many new finds are now available that the Greek Government announced it would build another museum near Acropolis station.

The $A70 million structure will be designed to house the so-called Elgin Marbles once Britain returns them. But the British Museum's peeved reaction to this news indicates the marbles won't be coming back soon.


Buses, trolleys and tram operate in Athens and suburbs.

Images from the Hubble elescope are projected on the ceiling of the Monastiraki metro station in Athens. The network was delayed by more than two years because of geological complications and archeological finds, including the discovery of the ancient river Iridanos.

For more information please visit > http://www.ametro.gr/

Cultural Olympiad > The Institution June 9, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Athens 2004 Olympics, Culture History Mythology.
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The Olympic Games, as it is widely known, include a programme of cultural events in their organization, which take place during the Games as well as in the interim four-yearly period between the Games.

Once the city of Athens took over the organization of the 2004 Olympic Games, Greece put forward the establishment of a new institution, the Cultural Olympiad.

The goal was to identify the Olympic Cultural Events as an autonomous entity, with a distinct character and function: to reflect the ideas and values embedded in the Olympic Ideal through a series of activities and initiatives. Until then, the cultural aspect of the Olympic Games was important but in a rather supplementary way. The proposed institution would usher the Games into a new era focusing on the development of human relations by means of culture. The underlying rationale was that the very nature of the cultural events on offer would capture the true value of the Olympic Ideal and reinforce its resolve to unite people. As a result, the Games would leave the country of its birth with a new added value.

UNESCO, in its 29th session of the General Conference (1997), unanimously welcomed its co-operation with the Cultural Olympiad organised by Greece. In 1998, Evangelos Venizelos -at the time Greek Minister of Culture, Juan Antonio Samaranch – at the time President of the International Olympic Committee, and Federico Mayor – the at the time Director General of UNESCO, founded the International Foundation of the Cultural Olympiad, thus establishing its headquarters in ancient Olympia. The Foundation operating as the custodian of the newly launched institution conveys its international status to the latter.

Once the political and international aspects of the Greek initiative were defined, the time was right to put theory into practice. The preparation for the new institution had to be complete by the end of the Games in Sydney, so that the Cultural Olympiad could make its official start.

Indeed, in 2000, the administration and running of the Cultural Olympiad was entrusted by law to the Hellenic Cultural Heritage S.A., a legal entity under the supervision of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture recently renamed as The Hellenic Culture Organization (HCO). HCO became fully operational within a limited amount of time in order to meet the demands of this endeavour – with the financial support of the Greek government.

As soon as all preparations were complete, an agreement among the Hellenic Ministry of Culture, the International Olympic Committee and Athens 2004 was finalized and signed. It established the Cultural Olympiad of the 2004 Olympic Games. HCO announced its events calendar, which included a 100 point programme of various types of cultural events for the period between 2001 and 2004. The Cultural Olympiad was inaugurated with Bob Wilson’s production of “Prometheus” at the Athens Concert Hall in January 200l.

The Report of the first two years (2001-2002) offered an impressive account of activities planned and realized. In total, 48 events related to music, dance, theatre, cultural heritage, architecture, ecology, artistic creativity on the Internet, books, poetry, painting, ceramic art and film had been held. A significant initiative in 2001 involved an international symposium, entitled “Rethinking Culture”, that took place in Olympia. Prominent people from across the world, including distinguished intellectuals and arts people, attended the conference that led to the signing of the “Charter of Olympia”, a political manifesto proclaiming culture, peace and social cohesion.

The Report shows an active trajectory from the part of the Cultural Olympiad while also allowing room for improvement. The main axiom, that the events be original and have a distinct international character, has been followed to a considerable degree. However, in a country with such a wealth and variety of cultural activity, the distinctiveness of the Cultural Olympiad needed to be articulated and reinforced. At the same time, new aspects should be added to the initial approach, further elaborating and clarifying the message originally put forward. It follows that the conclusions of the Report will help fine-tune the architecture of the new institution.

A brief look at the organisation of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games shows that Greece was given the opportunity to put forward a new institution, and carry the responsibility for its implementation. The purpose of the institution is to add a permanent value to the Olympic Ideal, one that promotes the understanding and mutual respect of different cultures through a series of activities that resonate globally comprehensible human values. Moreover, the Cultural Olympiad has the potential to succeed as long as it is perceived as being something different from already existing cultural activities. In conjunction with the Olympic Games, the Cultural Olympiad can reinforce mutual understanding and, ultimately, become the catalyst that unites us all.

The Cultural Olympiad, as an institution, consists of three distinct areas, as presented during the official 2003-2004 programme launch:

The first area refers to the arts culture, and comprises the cultural events. These events must be original, and highlight co-operation between cultures. They must have distinct international features and be easily distinguished from currently ongoing cultural activities. Simultaneously, they must be designed in such a way so as to offer the possibility to be communicated internationally.

The second one refers to the culture of everyday life. Through a series of initiatives, the Cultural Olympiad raises awareness through symbolic participation in the latter, but, mainly, seeks tangible outcomes. The initiatives mentioned must have an exemplary character for others to follow suite. The most prominent example, to date, is the co-operation with UNICEF, whereby 1.4 million children are being immunized against the six main life-threatening diseases with funds provided by the Cultural Olympiad. Concurrently, this partnership has yielded a unique collection of UNICEF Christmas cards carrying the message of the Cultural Olympiad around the world.

Finally, the third area refers to the institutionalization of the Cultural Olympiad. Countries supporting the Olympic movement were asked to set up a National Cultural Olympiad Committee. More than 70 countries have already responded. Meanwhile, an International Committee has been established to award the “Kotinos” prize, something that will take place at the closing ceremony, in September 2004.

Read more > Click this link >


Athens > The art of shopping June 9, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Athens.
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Do you like shopping?

Are you one of those who jump at any occasion to visit the shops? Are you an unredeemed bargain hunter who forages through the markets armed with your trusty credit card? Does the joy of discovering a secret source give you as much pleasure as the purchase itself? Or do you prefer to kit yourself out fully at the beginning of the season? Whatever your shopping style, these pages of our Athens Guide have been designed as an irreplaceable tool to help you get the most out of your shopping experience.

We will share our shopping philosophy and practice with you, and give you a guide to shopping in the five Athens districts where the heart of the city's marketplace beats most strongly. Five districts where you will not only find the most interesting stores, but feel the rhythm of the marketplace and have a good time as you go.

Shopping can be the best way to begin or end a difficult day. And by this we don't mean just hitting the stores (expensive or otherwise), emptying your wallet, pushing your credit limit. We also mean browsing through a good bookshop for something that will take you to new destinations, buying a gadget spotted in a window that is just the thing to brighten up your desk, choosing a small treat for yourself or a gift for a friend, splurging on something from Gucci or Armani.

Shopping can be lots of things, a combination of all those moments that give you a lift: visiting the shops, having coffee with a friend, opening the bag at home, experiencing the pleasure of that special purchase that makes you feel good or look even better. Shopping, in other words, can be a marvellous…form of alternative therapy.

A look at the shops in Athens is enough to persuade even the most difficult shopper that Greece's capital is perfectly at ease among the world's fashion metropolises. And this is not only because all the great designer names and global brands are there in its shops, and at prices that can compete with any city in Europe: Greece, and Athens in particular, creates fashion, international fashion. From Giannis Galatis in the '60s to Sofia Kokosalaki, the pet of today's international catwalks, Greek designers are at the heart of things.

Let's be on our way, then, for a relaxed and relaxing tour of the city, for shopping and coffee: we'll go to Kolonaki, to the "Historic Centre" of Athens, to Neo Psychiko and neighbouring districts along Mesogeion Ave., to Kifisia and Glyfada. In each district we selected the shops that mark its particular life style and define its particular character. Among them you will discover small gems, the places we call 'secret shopping', as well as easy solutions to ordinary or more difficult shopping problems.

So, let's go shopping!…

Watch out for our next posts with more details to come!

Sounds of the city > Athens > free mp3 download June 9, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Athens.
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Sounds of the city > Athens

Download a free audio guide for your city break and find out how not to stick out as a tourist.

An 9.67 MB free to download mp3, requires approx. 3 minutes to download (depending on your internet connection speed). Has a duration of 0:24:08 hrs and was produced in 2006. We have tested it, downloaded it and its virus or other malacious spyware free. We recommend it.

The mp3 is provided "as is" by the English newspaper The Guardian.

Sounds of the city
Download a free audio guide for your city break and find out how not to stick out as a tourist.

The link (if above does not work for you) is the following >


Cyprus flag for Stelios June 9, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in News Cruises.
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Cyprus flag for Stelios’ $400 million Greek cruise investment

EASYGROUP chairman Stelios Haji-Ioannou is to register up to $400 million worth of ships under the Cyprus flag for cruises around the Greek islands, reports said yesterday.In an interview with Reuters in Athens, Haji-Ioannou said the market value of the order was $400 million, “but obviously we got a better price than that.”

The new vessels, which will be Cyprus-registered, will be deployed on three and four day cruises around the Cyclades islands, such as Mykonos, Syros and Santorini, marking a major investment in Greece’s tourism industry, Haji-Ioannou said. The first two ships are expected to be delivered in 2008 and the next two a year later.

Haji-Ioannou was in Athens to sign a letter of intent with Greek shipbuilder Neorion Holdings for the construction of two, 500-passenger cruise ships with an option for a further two vessels.

The son of a Greek Cypriot ship owner, Haji-Ioannou turned his back on the traditional family business in the mid-1990s to found the no-frills easyJet airline.

But he said he saw fresh prospects in the Greek cruise market and would use his new ships to tour smaller and more picturesque ports, letting his clients spend more time and especially evenings on land.

“We believe the enjoyment, the holiday experience comes from the destination, not so much from cruising. We’d like to go to smaller places that are more interesting,” he said.

The four new ships mark a major expansion in easyCruise’s current fleet of just two vessels which entered service last May on the French riviera. The two existing ships, easyCruise1 and easyCruise2, are designed to carry just 170 and 100 passengers respectively.

“Tourism by cruise ship has been neglected in Greece for too long. There were too many obstacles,” said Haji-Ioannou. “But it’s beginning to look like some obstacles have been removed.”

With its white-washed villages and sunny Aegean islands, tourism is a major source of foreign exchange and tax revenues for the country, accounting for about 15 per cent of gross domestic product and more than a sixth of total employment.

But investment in Greek tourism remains hobbled by bureaucracy, restrictive regulations, highly seasonal demand, and a relatively concentrated number of destinations.

“In general, the government is very supportive of investment in tourism,” Haji-Ioannou said. “The project touches anything from tourism to the merchant marine sector, to shipbuilding, to export credits.”

In a separate statement, Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis hailed the deal between easyCruise and Neorion.

“The deal proves that the economic environment in Greece is attractive to making big investments,” he said. “This specific investment will enhance both the tourism and shipbuilding sector and be a positive development for the Greek economy.”

Lavrion Technological Cultural Park June 9, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.
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In June 2006 the Conference and Exhibition Centre of Lavrion Technological Cultural Park – LTCP will celebrate its first anniversary.

The history of Lavrion and the unique industrial tradition of the building have rendered the Conference and Exhibition Centre a significant event pole in the wider region. The recently renovated halls of LTCP cover an area of approximately 1,280 sq.m. while the nine conference halls have a 1,200 person capacity. They operate throughout the year and are fully equipped to support the organization of demanding events.

The Conference and Exhibition Centre has two halls, Michanourgio I and Michanourgio II, with a capacity of 600 and 450 persons respectively. In the Old Pharmacy there are two additional halls, Farmakio I and Farmakio II, that host 100 and 80 persons respectively and five break-out rooms of 25-30 persons. The individual buildings are close to each other allowing the visitors/delegates to view the historic monuments, while the gardens and spacious parking spaces also ensure the successful events organization. Moreover, the LTCP has an open-air theatre of a 1,200 person total capacity, ideal for all types of cultural events.

LTCP was inaugurated in June 21, 2005. Since July of same year, some more of 40 events have taken place in the venue, such as fashion photography, product presentations, meetings, movie and spot shootings, concerts, social events, etc.

Lavrion Technological Cultural Park was founded at the site of Compagnie Francaise des Mines du Laurium in 1992 by the National Technical University of Athens, with the collaboration of local institutions, the people of Lavrion and the support of the Greek State and the European Union.

For more information: www.lavrioconference.gr

In Athens > Google Researchers Propose TV Eavesdropping June 9, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Internet & Web, Media Radio TV.
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By capturing TV sound with a laptop PC, Google can identify the show and use that information to immediately return personalized Internet content to the PC.

Two Google research scientists want your computer to watch television with you so it can deliver personalized Internet content at the same time.

In a research paper presented last week at interactive television conference Euro ITV in Athens, Greece, (see our article Digital Interactive TV European Conference in Athens) Google researchers Michele Covell and Shumeet Baluja propose using ambient-audio identification technology to capture TV sound with a laptop PC to identify the show that is the source of the sound and to use that information to immediately return personalized Internet content to the PC.

“We showed how to sample the ambient sound emitted from a TV and automatically determine what is being watched from a small signature of the sound—all with complete privacy and minuscule effort,” Covell and Baluja write on the Google Research Blog. “The system could keep up with users while they channel surf, presenting them with a real-time forum about a live political debate one minute and an ad-hoc chat room for a sporting event in the next.”

The scheme is described in the research paper using a term that seems to be an oxymoron: mass personalization. It might also be characterized as a mixture of oil and water, a combination of television broadcasting and Internet narrowcasting.

“Mass-media channels typically provide limited content to many people,” the paper explains, “the Web provides vast amounts of information, most of interest to few. … Our goal is to combine the best of both worlds: integrating the relaxing and effortless experience of mass-media content with the interactive and personalized potential of the Web, providing mass personalization.”

Not to mention massive profits. Marketers would kill to know exactly who’s watching what when. With such a system, Google could extend its online dominance into television, and presumably radio, by offering advertisers unparalleled insight into the mass media audience.

The paper specifically contemplates the proposed system’s potential as an advertising tool. “A similar procedure [to Google’s online keyword bidding process] could be adapted to mass-personalization applications,” the paper says. “Thus, content providers or advertisers might bid for specific television segments.”

But making television less relaxing might be a hard sell. The couch potato evolved through a process of natural selection: TV viewers enjoy kicking back and zoning out. It’s quite possible that mass personalization really is a contradiction in terms.

In time, however, Google may find a way to make it work. “This project is still in very early R&D stages and we don’t have any specific product plans to announce at this time,” Google spokesperson Sonya Boralv says in an e-mail.

“It’s an interesting concept because we all sit with out laptops while watching TV,” says Cynthia Brumfield, president of media research consultancy Emerging Media Dynamics. However, she balances her curiosity with some skepticism. Describing a media-multitasking scenario where she imagines watching TV while fielding phone calls, sending instant messages, and surfing the Internet, she admits, “It just seems awful to me.”

According to Boralv, the system wouldn’t be that intrusive. She writes, “If you were watching the news and wanted to delve deeper, this type of system could allow you to do that easily by automatically collecting related material and Web links for you. The beauty of the system that Michele and Shumeet describe is that it wouldn’t be a distraction. If you don’t want it you can ignore it and the PC browser will quietly update pages without bothering anyone—no input required and no audible output to form a distraction.”

Those appalled by the prospect of Google tapping your television take heart: The proposal suggests user privacy would be respected. “[O]ur approach will not ‘overhear’ conversations,” the paper says. “Furthermore, no one receiving (or intercepting) these statistics is able to eavesdrop, on such conversations, since the original audio does not leave the viewer’s computer.” Perhaps there’s a lesson here for the National Security Agency.

There is, of course, an easier way to get audience data than listening with a laptop: Google could partner with telcos and cable companies in their respective efforts to deliver next-generation interactive television using Internet-style networking. The only problem is that IPTV, as the marriage of television and broadband networking is called, belongs to Microsoft. Microsoft is the major vendor of software for IPTV network operators and it has plans to be the Google of IPTV.

The trouble is, as Brumfield observes, “Google wants to be the Google of IPTV.”

Given how wary of network operators like AT&T and Comcast are of Google, the company’s best bet may be to make the Internet so appealing that it eclipses television completely. “What [this technology] might end up doing, if it were deployed and gained traction, is siphoning even more people away from the TV to the Internet,” Brumfield says.