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All aboard for the sail of the century July 12, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Islands Ionian.
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Imagine skimming the surf of an azure sea, just you and the wind in harmony under the blazing sun. Imagine learning about the joys of windsurfing off an idyllic Ionian isle!

Ever since my father rigged up a sail on our sturdy little dinghy and uttered the words: “You’ll never capsize this thing,” and then watched me keel it over with an almighty splash, I’ve thought that sailing is not for me. Wind and I, so to speak, were a bad combination. Then a friend invited me on a windsurfing trip to the Ionian island of Lefkada, one of the globe’s breeze hotspots, with ideal conditions for learning. On the basis that a board might be easier to handle than a boat, I decided to go along for the ride, even if it all led to a watery end.

Lefkada is not insular in the purest sense of the word, since its north-eastern tip is connected by a causeway to the mainland, where the airport is situated. Our coach trundled across a drawbridge on to the narrow strip of stone to reach the island’s tiny capital, also called Lefkada. The name comes from the southern cape of Lefkata, from whose white rocks the poetess Sappho is said to have hurled herself after a spot of love trouble.

A sharp left turn away from this mini metropolis sent us bowling south along the coastal road. Pine-clad hills rose steeply on our right, with glassy sea visible to port. As we scooted through the lively seaside resort of Nidri, with its regimented rows of sandal-and-ouzo boutiques, I spied the forested islets of Madouri, Skorpios – which is owned by the Onassis family – and Meganissi, half-submerged like green turtles out in the gulf.

A winding descent into olive groves brought us to Lefkada’s windsurfing hub, the bay of Vassiliki on the island’s southern shore. Its long crescent of pebbly beach arcs at one end to a cluster of waterfront tavernas, shops and houses. This is Vassiliki town, home to just 400 locals. At the other, the beach comes to an abrupt halt at the foot of a vast mountain, whose vital statistics, I would later discover, help to create the desirable sailing breezes in the bay. Stretching across all this is a big banner of shimmering blue Med. Even I had to admit that it looked inviting.

My home for the next week was to be the windsurfing centre of Club Vass. The club started out with a couple of mates, Roger Green and Tony Booth, hiring out half a dozen sails on the shore. Sixteen years later, it has grown into a Level 5 Royal Yachting Association training centre (the highest grade possible), with a clutch of instructors and brand new kit every year.

Wakeboarding, waterskiing, scuba diving and mountain biking (yup, up that huge peak for the iron-thighed, otherwise through olive groves) have been added to the core windsurfing discipline. A couple of years ago the club built its own hotel, complete with pool, and this year it has introduced a childcare programme. This is a canny move, designed to retain the custom of loyal clients who have just moved into nappy terrain but don’t want to give up their annual pilgrimage to worship Zephyros.

If you’re an old hand at windsurfing, you can just pitch up after breakfast, grab some kit and head out into the bay. Otherwise you’ll be taking group lessons. I joined other rookies on the grass in front of the clubhouse for our first class. Flanking us were large sheds with windsurfing sails hanging like bright butterflies and boards stacked in orderly rows.

Our instructor, Carol, was a tanned, wiry woman with sun-bleached plaits who looked as if she could effortlessly outrun Lara Croft. She kicked off the lesson with some theory, including an explanation of apparent wind, which is a mixture of true wind and induced wind created by the windsurfer moving through the air. You trim your sail, apparently, to the apparent wind.

Carol also described how the cross-shore wind gets whipped up in the afternoon thanks to sun-warmed air whooshing over the mountain. This wind is nicknamed Eric, after the French speed windsurfer Eric Beale, whose legendary hangovers meant that he only surfaced in the afternoons. As humble beginners, however, we would not be enjoying – or risking – a one-to-one with Eric, but would take advantage of the more gentle on-shore sea breezes in the morning.

On-shore is a reassuring word when you look out into the broad expanse of bay into which you could inadvertently head, although if you went far enough you would reach the welcoming shores of Ithaca or Kefalonia. Happily, a rescue boat is always at hand to track down straying surfers.

Theory lesson over, Carol leapt on to a windsurfing board attached to a pole in the ground and began to explain how to tack (turn upwind) and gybe (turn downwind) by tilting the mast, doing some nifty footwork and swivelling the sail.

We began by standing on the boards without a sail – harder than it sounds, and a good test of balance. Then it was sails on and in we plunged, staggering with our rigs across the pebbled shallows into deeper water. Sail successfully hauled up into position, I was up and away, the wind filling the sail and the board chuntering gently across the water.

Gazing at the horizon, the boom light beneath my fingers, I began to understand what all the fuss was about. Changing direction requires a delicately-balanced shuffle around the mast as you flick the sail to the other side – I can’t imagine that I looked terribly sporty or stylish in the process, but the feeling of achievement when I first managed it was tremendous.

The week flew by all too quickly. On my last morning, flushed with the week’s sailing success, I noticed one of the instructors standing on the beach gazing out to sea. When I asked what he was looking at, he replied dreamily: “Dolphins! It’s an amazing feeling to be sailing out there with them swimming along beside you.” Tacking and gybing aside, that prospect was enough to make me want to come back to Vassiliki. Windsurfing? It’s a breeze.


Holiday details: Club Vass (www.clubvass.com) is open from the beginning of May until 28 September. Private lessons cost about €40 per hour.

Further information: to find out more about travelling to Greece, contact the Greek National Tourism Organisation www.gnto.gr


A Grecian Getaway July 12, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Islands Aegean.
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The numerous islands lying in the Aegean Sea are breathtakingly beautiful and offer some of the most idyllic places to enjoy the Mediterranean lifestyle, it’s cuisine and culture.

Some of the islands such as Tilos near Rhodes have resident populations of less than 300 people, so you really are getting away from it all and experiencing parts of Greece relatively untouched by tourists.

Here are some great deals to the Aegean Islands:


Samos is the best of every Greek island rolled into one – fresh water springs, lush forests, acres of olive trees, long beaches, deep gorges, mountain villages and classical ruins. The home of Pythagoras (he of theorem fame), the island is over 50 kilometres long and has two large towns – Samos (the capital) and Karlovassi. All along the coastline sit small bustling port towns and quaint villages. For walkers and explorers, the possibilities are endless. And hedonists won’t be disappointed either, the food and wine is out of this world.

Enjoy Samos while staying at the Original Korali Apartments, where each bedroom has its own south-facing balcony. These peaceful apartments can be found set back from the sea, just a five-minute walk to the shops and beaches of Ormos Village. These accommodations feature modern, cool-tiled bathrooms, bedrooms with a double or twin beds, and a separate kitchen/dining area.


Ikaria has remained relatively undiscovered until now. This Aegean paradise is bountiful with wildlife, flora, archaeology, walking trails, sandy beaches, and a multitude of other attractions to keep any visitor occupied for the whole of their holiday. Even Swiss walkers have long felt Ikaria offers the best walking trails in Europe, with steep barren cliffs, lush cypress forests, sandy beaches and seascapes. In springtime, there are whole fields of lavender and the lanes are lined with wild lupins, hedgerows full of cistus, briar roses, and yellow gorse.

The aptly-named Villa Panorama offers amazing views of the sea and adjoining cliffs from every studio. The stylish, modern accommodations have been built to the highest standards and the rooms are large and airy. With pine furnishings throughout, there are three single beds, kitchen facilities and excellent en-suite tiled bathrooms. Each open-plan studio has its own large terrace, where you can enjoy lengthy sunsets across the Aegean.

Different color in komboloi beads July 12, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Culture Heritage.
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We have been asked if the different colors of Komboloi beads, has a special meaning. Actually, no. There’s no special meaning in the colors. Here are some additional details >

Worry beads (komboloi or kompoloi) are made in many materials, wood, fruit seeds, semi precious stone, coral, but mostly in Genuine Amber. The beads used are both, newly cut and rare old antique Amber beads. Komboloi craftsmen can make your own worry beads set, exactly the way you want it to be, any size, number, or color of beads,  or in any decoration finish you desire.

Recent and rare antique worry beads, are usually made only from genuine amber. Amber, is fossil tree sap, (resin), of ancient trees. It formed about 30-60 million years ago, and became fossil, by the polymerization of the organic compounds of the resin. Amber has been known to man for thousand years. Homer refers to it in the Ulysses (459-464) and the ancient Greek name for amber is electron.

Amber was always of great value to man, and for that reason it is used through the centuries to make valuable prayer beads. These prayer beads, are found in many different cultures and civilizations, from the East Mediterranean, to Japan.

Amber is light, specific gravity is close to 1, so it floats in water.
When burned or drilled, it releases strong resin smell
It has resinous taste
It has hardness of 3 on the Mohs scale
Gets electrically charged
Changes color by use

The number of beads varies, between 19 to 99. Greek worry beads, are usually 33, Arabic worry beads are 33 to 39, and some Buddhist prayer beads are 99. No matter the origin, the number of beads is always odd. Antique worry beads are rare, as amber by getting used and aged, becomes fragile, so it is really difficult to find and intact worry bead in our days.

The color of antique amber is usual brownish, for not transparent amber, and dark honey color for the transparent amber.

Sites of original Olympics have been shattered by time July 12, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Athens 2004 Olympics, Greece Mainland.
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The sites of the Panhellenic Games of ancient Greece – forerunners of today’s Olympic Games – still retain a haunting beauty.

The four locations, Olympia, Nemea, Delphi and Isthmia, were considered sacred places when they played host more than 2,000 years ago to the famous athletic contests.

Olympia and Nemea nestle in valleys dotted with olive groves, vineyards and spire-like cedars. Delphi perches on the side of Mount Parnassus with a spectacular view of a plain filled with olive and cypress trees and the Gulf of Corinth in the distance.

The ruins at Isthmia stand on a hill overlooking the deep blue waters of the Saronic Gulf to the east. To the west, the ancient acropolis at Corinth clings to a mountaintop.

The Panhellenic Games were open to Greeks from the region’s city states and their colonies around the Mediterranean and Black sea coasts.

Besides the athletic events, there were competitions in poetry, theatre and music. Famous Greek playwrights like Aristophanes presented their latest works in honour of the gods.

Although the temples and most of the sports facilities have been shattered by time and earthquakes, the on-site museums have many interesting displays of artifacts related to the games.

The museums have undergone extensive renovations and expansions in preparation for the expected influx of visitors who attended the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens.

At Olympia and Nemea, where Zeus, lord of the heavens, was worshipped, the stadiums are still intact, with seating on grassy slopes.

In Delphi, high above the temple to Apollo, god of the arts, there is a well preserved stadium with marble-block seating for 6,500. It was built in the third century BC, then expanded by the Romans in the second century AD.

Near the temple of Poseidon at Isthmia are some of the starting gates for the races. Here the short distance race, forerunner of the modern-day 100-metre dash, took place to open the athletic festival, held in honour of the god of the sea.

For each gate, posts were inserted in holes in a stone sill. The starter held strings attached to wooden bars between the posts. When he let go of the strings the bars fell and the race was on.

The runners competed in the nude. Legend has it that an athlete in 720 BC deliberately lost his shorts so he could run faster, and the tactic was adopted by all.

While all the games attracted thousands of people from the Greek-speaking world, you had to speak Greek to compete, Olympia became the major games centre beginning in 776 BC, about 200 years before the others were founded.

The Greeks “wanted a politically neutral place” so everybody would show up, says Jeremy Rutter, professor of classical archeology at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.

Olympia was way out there in a no man’s land, neither particularly close to Athens, nor Sparta,” the two great rivals in early Greek history.

Both Sparta and Athens also hosted games. “The Athenian games were quite big, but there were some people who just didn’t show for those because they didn’t want to have anything to do with Athens.”

The Olympic, Pythian (Delphi), Nemean and Isthmian games, held in a four-year cycle, were considered a kind of Grand Slam, as in modern-day tennis or golf.

Athletes who won in their events at all four games became heroes to residents of their city states. Sometimes they were awarded free meals for the rest of their lives, or they would be given a cash award.

Winners received a crown made of leaves. At Olympia, it consisted of wild-olive branches. At Delphi, bay leaves were used. Wild celery was the leaf of choice at Nemea and Isthmia.

One of the most famous athletes of antiquity was Theagenes of Thasos. His first win in boxing came at the 75th Olympiad in 480 BC and in the pankration, a combination of boxing and wrestling, at the 76th in 476 BC.

He later won three victories in the Pythian games, nine in the Nemean and 10 in the Isthmian. But the four big games weren’t the only ones he competed in.

“There were literally hundreds of local festivals for athletics” to honour various gods, says Nigel Crowther, professor of classics at the University of Western Ontario in London. They made up the circuit.

Theagenes toured Greece competing in the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, at Sparta and hundreds of other places. Ancient sources say he won as many as 1,400 crowns in his chosen events.

The Panathenaic Stadium in downtown Athens links the ancient to the modern games. The first structure on the site between the hills of Agra and Ardettos was constructed by Lykourgos in 330-329 BC.

It was later restored by the famous Roman nobleman Herodes Atticus in AD 140-144. He paid for the marble seats, many of which are still in use.

The stadium was the centre of competition during the first modern Olympics in 1896, held about 1,500 years after Theodosius the Great nixed the ancient ones in AD 394. At the 2004 Summer’s Olympic Games, the marathon finished there.

If you go . . .

Delphi: Easily reached from Athens by bus or with a tour company. Tours can be arranged through hotels in the capital. Chat Tours, for instance, runs day trips to Delphi. Buses leave Athens for Delphi from Terminal B, at Liossion 260, which can be reached by taking blue bus No. 024 outside the National Gardens.

Olympia: There are two trains a day from Athens to Olympia, both leaving in the morning from the Peloponnese station. Take bus No. 057 from El. Venizelou in Syndagma Square. Buses leave from Terminal A, at Kifissou 100. Take blue bus No. 051 from the corner of Zinonos and Menandrou near Omonia Square. Lots of companies run tours to Olympia.

Isthmia: Take a bus from Terminal A or a train from the Peloponnese station in Athens to Corinth. Then catch a bus from Terminal C in Corinth to Isthmia. Ask to be let off at the museum.

Nemea: The modern town is reachable from Corinth by bus. The games site is about four kilometres from the town. If coming from Corinth by bus, ask to be let off at the ancient site. Tour companies don’t generally include either Isthmia or Nemea on their itineraries, but tours by taxi from Athens can be arranged, or go by rental car.

Related Links > Greek National Tourist Organization www.gnto.gr  

Cyprus > Divided island July 12, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Occupied.
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July 20th, 1974 > Phase 1 > August 15th, 1974 > Phase 2

Turkish military troops invade in The Republic of Cyprus and occupy the Northern part of the island.

More than 200,000 Greek Cypriots become refugees into their own land, their own country. They are forced to leave from their towns and villages where they were born and raised, generation after generation.

More than 1,500 Greek Cypriots are still considered as missing persons.

32 years since 1974. Cyprus is a divided island. Nicosia, the capital city, is the only divided city in Europe.

Still little progress has been made in the political arena.

We do not forget. The borders do not stop in the military check points. The borders go beyond, like they used to be, before July 1974.

We do not forget. We do not forget.

For 32 years Cyprus is a divided country. Let freedom and justice and peace restored back. Now!

The following two articles are reprinted from their original sources. The writers talk about what they have seen during their visits to the northern, turkish occupied, part of The Republic of Cyprus, a member country of the European Union. The only country which is divided. For 32 years.

Some pictures have been added to our Flickr photo gallery. Review them. The articles which follow are copyrighted material, same applies to the photos posted.


European Parliament declaration: Cyprus religious heritage July 12, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Occupied, Religion & Faith.
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The European Parliament has adopred a written declaration calling on greater efforts to protect and preserve religious heritage in northern occupied Cyprus.

The written declaration by Member of the European Parliament Panayiotis Demetriou and Italian member of the European Parliament Iles Braghetto was signed by 407 MEPs.

According to the Cyprus News Agency, the declaration condemned the pillage of Greek Orthodox churches and monasteries and the removal of their ecclesiastical items, called on the Commission and the Council to take the necessary actions to ensure respect for the Treaty and the protection and restoration of the affected churches to their original Greek Orthodox status, called on the Commission and the Council to examine this matter under the relevant chapters of the negotiations with Turkey and instructed its President to forward this declaration, together with the names of the signatories, to the Commission and the Council.

According to the declaration, more than 133 churches, chapels and monasteries that are located in the occupied northern part of Cyprus controlled by the Turkish army since 1974 have been desecrated, 78 churches have been converted into mosques, 28 are used as military depots and hospitals and 13 are used as stockyards, and their ecclesiastical items, including more than 15,000 icons, have been illegally removed and their location remains unknown.

Speaking at a press conference here, Demetriou said that the importance of this written declaration is mainly cultural as it aims at the protection of Cyprus religious heritage which is mainly consisted of churches, icons and other ecclesiastical items, but also a political one as it has drawn the attention of the members of the European Parliament towards the invasion and occupation of Cyprus and its consequences.

The basic consequences are known and include the destruction of our cultural religious heritage, he added. He said that for the first time after the standstill of the last years, the European Parliament turns without any reservation with a positive way towards the problems raised by our side and this impact is surely positive as regards the substance of the problem because the reason of this destruction, which is the ongoing occupation of the northern part of Cyprus, is being detected.

“My goal is to send out this declaration to the UN Secretary General, UNESCO, the Council of Europe, the World Council of Churches and the Vatican,” he added. “I have also made some preliminary negotiations, given the responsibility of the EU to protect the cultural heritage of all of its member states, so as to have a fund included in the EU budget for next year to repair the churches,” he added.

A press release issued by Demetriou’s office said that Turkey reacted fervently from the beginning against the declaration, sending to all MEPs a memorandum by which it “refused” the churches have been desecrated or converted into stables and warehouses.

Cyprus MEPs Yiannis Kasoulides, Adamos Adamou and Kyriakos Triantafyllides as well as Greek MEP Costis Hadjidakis cooperated with Demetriou with a view to achieve a mass and manifold support to the declaration, the press release said.

It noted that Greek MEPs Stavros Labrinides, Panos Beglitis and Nicolaos Sifounakis also promoted that declaration at the Socialist Group while the contribution of French MEP of the European People’s Party and Coordinator of the European Parliament High-Level Contact Group with the Turkish Cypriot community Francoise Grossetete and the Spanish Socialist MEP Felipe Sanchez-Guenca Martinez was important.

Greece expanding information society July 12, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Internet & Web.
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Greece is known for many things, its sun-kissed islands, lively Athens, and as the birthplace of Democracy, but its latest reputation may become its quick climb up the information-technology ladder.

Having lagged behind many of its fellow European countries in Internet usage, including e-commerce and e-government, Greece is now taking a leap into a more wired future, according to government and private-sector reports.

While having an overall estimated Internet usage of 25 percent of the adult population, Greece also reports some of the lowest level of broadband penetration in Europe, currently at around 2.5 percent to 3 percent, compared with a high of over 20 percent elsewhere in Europe. But, the country is starting to make up for lost time, with its government investing heavily in tech infrastructural improvements and companies such as OTE, the country’s telecom giant, formerly state owned, rushing to expand its broadband network.

With an expected capacity of 750,000 ADSL ports available by end of year, the company recently launched “OTE On the Broadband,” a broadband roadshow, slated for appearances in 29 cities to help sell OTE’s faster Internet service to a citizenry that had been accustomed to slow connection at home and business.

According to Yorgos Ioannidis, CEO of OTE’s Internet division, OTENET, a key part of the company’s marketing strategy involves making broadband more “relevant” to the average Greek, particularly by associating broadband with sports, music and games.

The motto for the roadshow is “Make Your Life Easier,” said Ioannidis. The road show includes a moveable Net café. On the broadband front OTE estimates it will have approximately a half million users by the end of 2006.

In addition to OTENET’s “Broadband Roadshow,” the company is also hosting an academic contest called “Innovation 2006,” which is soliciting entrepreneurial ideas from young Greeks, with the caveat that they must be sent in over the Internet. Ioannidis noted that within days of launching the contest there were nearly 1,000 applicants and thousands more are expected to apply by the August closing date.

“We (want to) trigger youth to think innovatively,” the OTENET head said.

Part of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Secretariat for Information Society, has also been working making e-technology more relevant to the average Greek citizen. (more…)