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Athens relatively more expensive than many richer cities August 14, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Living.
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But inhabitants enjoy a more leisurely life

Life can be expensive in two ways: either because prices are high or because incomes are low. In Greece, both conditions exists.

The data contained in a study published by Swiss banking group UBS is revealing: Athens may not be among the most expensive cities in the world, but it is a middle-ranking one.

However, it ranks well below the middle in purchasing power and wage levels. Impressively, the Greek capital ranks among the cities with the highest level of rent in the world, competing with places whose inhabitants enjoy far higher incomes and where infrastructure is much more developed.

Living the good life > Despite these drawbacks, Athens, in terms of overall economic well-being, is competitive with London, Paris and Dublin.

The economic prosperity, or well-being, index takes account, beyond income levels, of quality of life factors such as free time and leisure activities. Obviously, if income is lower, one must have more free time and leisure in order to compensate.

Taking New York City as the base case (100) among the world’s most expensive cities, in terms of prices, the Greek capital ranks in at 37th place with 73, just below Dubai and above Lisbon.

The most expensive cities in the world are Olso (121.5), London (110.6), Copenhagen (109.2), Zurich (107.4) and Tokyo (106.8).

This, by itself, means little, unless one also looks at disposable income. In terms of gross wages, Athens is at 42.8 (again, with New York at 100), while, in net income, it is at 48.6. Thus, the low level of wages makes us perceive prices as even higher, since purchasing power diminishes. Indeed, in terms of purchasing power, Athens stands at 60.7. This is quite a large discrepancy with the prices index.

The biggest purchasing power is found in Zurich, followed by Geneva, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Luxembourg and Dublin. The cities with highest wages are Copenhagen, Oslo, Zurich, Geneva and New York City.

High rents > Rental levels are also indicative of property prices and both are high in Athens, relative to income levels. An average 3-bedroom flat in Athens is rented at $1,570 per month, about the same price as in Stockholm, Frankfurt and Luxembourg, cities with significantly higher incomes. The top range for a 3-bedroom flat in Athens, about $2,560, is also comparable to these cities.

On the other hand, there is a bigger range of prices for smaller apartments. Rents for a 2-bedroom flat range between $650-980, with the average at $790. The average rent in Athens stands at $710, a level higher than Brussels’s and almost double Prague’s.

The highest rents are found in London and Tokyo, where a 3-bedroom apartment can rent for as high as $10,000. New York is also quite expensive, as is Hong Kong and, surprisingly, Rio de Janeiro.


Security at Athens airport is tightened August 14, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in News Flights.
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Officials at Athens International Airport said yesterday that stricter security measures for passengers flying to destinations in the USA, Great Britain and Canada would continue until further notice, following the discovery last week of an alleged terrorist plot in the UK to blow up airliners on transatlantic flights.

Passengers flying to destinations in these three countries will not be allowed to take large items of hand luggage on board the aircraft, officials said. They will also be barred from taking any form of liquid, gel or cream onto the aircraft with them.

Olympic Airlines advised travelers headed for these countries to arrive at the airport at least two-and-a-half hours before their flight is due to leave, as the added security is making the check-in process longer.

Authorities said that all luggage for flights to the USA, Britain and Canada is being scanned before being loaded onto planes. Airport officials said that the measures would change according to the demands of aviation authorities in these three countries.

Letter from your Editor > August 06 August 14, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Editorial.
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Dear Valued Reader,

I am thrilled to have you with us!

Welcome to your Gateway to Greece’s and Cyprus’ Daily (english speaking) News, Culture, Lifestyle and Travel Guide.

Consider this blog as your one-source, reliable and friendly news provider catering the needs of all of you who are eager to know what’s going on in Greece and Cyprus as well as about the Greek culture and related activities in other countries of the world.

You may be a local Greek or Cypriot residing in Greece or Cyprus. You may be a Greek of Diaspora residing in any other country of this planet, or you may be a “foreigner or a visitor” (or should I use the term a Philelline which means Friend of the Hellenes, the Greeks?) who is planning a visit to Greece or Cyprus either on business or pleasure-wise.

No matter of your nationality, ethnicity, color, race, religion, age, language, politics and sexual orientation or other little details such as these described (which are totally unimportant and of no interest to us as we do not discriminate people) you are here, reading the HomeboyMediaNews blog and we do thank you for this.

As this blog grows, both in terms of daily visitors, readership and news or articles posted, we are creating additional categories so that you will be able to find the exact ones mostly appealing or those ones which are of most interest to you.

Today we have added three new, additional categories which are “News Cyprus Occupied”, “Travel Testimonials” and “Lifestyle Gay Life”. Our intention is to add new categories as we deem necessary.

The Editor and Publisher of this blog is currently on vacations. Just for a short time, returning back to our base in Athens by end of August. That, however, does not prevent us from updating our blog. We may, at certain times, slow down a bit of our news and entries in general, but we will keep on blogging! Exactly just like we do keep on rocking!

What we also have already planned to do in the forthcoming near future, is to re-vamp a bit on our blog pages. That means we will do some re-designing and re-styling of our blog. Our passion is to provide you with a unique yet fresh look! No definite dates have been set yet, but this re-vamp will be ready for our Fall edition! So, do check us back! Oh, and by the way, our e-shop is going to be soon on-line! Will keep you updated.

In the meantime, enjoy the summer for as long as it lasts! Make sure to put a smile on your face, ’cause it’s so nice to be happy!

And to all our Greek and Cypriot readers, “Chronia Polla” for tomorrow’s religious and national holiday of August 15th, where we celebrate the Dormition of our Lady Virgin Mary. “Kalo Dekapentavgousto!”

See you and talk to you later,

The Editor and Publisher | HomeboyMediaNews | Athens

August events in Cyprus August 14, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Cyprus.
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29.08.2006 > Limassol Wine Festival 
Venue: Municipal Garden, Limassol
When: 29.08- 10.09.2006

Since ancient times Cyprus became a festivity place to celebrate the production of wine. The Wine Festival in Limassol may be considered a variation of the ancient festivities, a revival of the ancestor worship and rites in the honour of Dionysus, the god of vine and wine and Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love.

In the antiquity our ancestors worshipped this god and goddess by drinking wine, which rejoiced them. While making sacrifices, gods received the smell while man ate the meat. Wine accompanied and corroborated the banquet. The gods high on Olympus Mountain enjoyed the nectar, which is the quintessence of wine. In ancient Greece the wine became the drink of gods and man.

Come to the festival to see how the wine should be enjoyed – with friends, music, dancing, laugh and love.
10.08.2006 > Troodos Open Tennis Tournament 

Venue: Dolphin Tennis Courts, Troodos Square
Info tel: 22666822

Troodos Open Tennis Tournament organized by the Cyprus Tennis Federation will be held at the Dolphin Tennis Courts from the 29th of July till the 12th of August.

Forthcoming September events in Cyprus August 14, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Cyprus.
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22.09.2006 > Cyprus Rally 

Where: Cyprus
When: 22.09 – 24.09.2006
Info: 22313233

Cyprus International Car Rally (World Rally Championship) organized by the Cyprus Automobile Association.

Further information > http://www.cyprusrally.org.cy

13.09.2006 > JOAQUIN CORTEZ in Cyprus 

Venue: Stadium Eleftheria, Nicosia
Date: 13 September 2006
Time: 20:30 Tickets: CYP £15

JOAQUÍN CORTÉS, the world’s greatest spanish flamenco star presents the show “MI SOLEDAD” (“My Solitude”).

Joaquin offers us a journey to his most personal emotions. Through the vehicles of the music and of his unmistakable trademark “zapateado”, Cortes takes us straight to the soul of his art, using a rich palette full of the colours of flamenco.

Special care has been taken with the lighting, designed to create different environments, making this show unique.

For a while the costumes used for this show were of special designs of Giorgio Armani, keeping as usual his simple and elegant style, with basics colours such as black, white and dark red, colour of blood and wine; But now the colourful new designed of Jean Paul Gaultier are done by the prêt-a-porte master for this show of Joaquin Cortes, which portrays the full vitality  of life, joy and any other emotion.
Contact: Alma Productions Ltd
Tel/Fax: +357 25 822 842
e-mail: info@almaproductions.net

01.09.2006 > Paphos Aphrodite Festival 2006 
Where: Medieval Castle Square, Paphos
When: 01.09 – 03.09.2006
Time: 20:00
Info: 26822218

The Paphos Aphrodite Festival in co-operation with the Mariinsky Theatre of Saint Petersburg will present the opera “Un Ballo in Maschera” by Giuseppe Verdi.

The Pafos Aphrodite Festival is an amazing display of artistic and cultural talent, an event organised in the Pafos Castle square each year. The Pafos Aphrodite Festival Cyprus company, which runs the show, has successfully organised G.Verdi’s opera Aida by the Bolshoi Opera Theatre. This took place in September 1999 and received international acclaim.

In 2001 two major works were staged, Nabucco by Guisepe Verdi, and Zorba the Greek, a ballet based on Nicos Kazantzakis’ novel, with music by the internationally renowned Greek composer, Mikis Theodorakis, and choreographed by Lorca Massine. Both performances were produced by the National Opera of Poland, Opera Narodowa –Teatr Wielski.

In 2002 the Pafos Aphrodite Festival Cyprus presented Turandot by Giaccomo Puccini, staged again in collaboration with Teatr Wielki. In year 2003, the company presented G. Puccini’s TOSCA, performed by Arena di Verona.

For details regarding this year’s event, directions, and booking tickets, please visit the official website of Pafos Aphrodite Festival Cyprus.

Further Information > http://www.pafc.com.cy/default.asp

Paddling the Wine-Dark Sea August 14, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Islands.
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Adventure meets Old World charm in this adrenaline-filled sea kayaking journey around the island of Crete.

“I am a philosopher,” says George Stavroulakis, a 64-year-old retired Greek sea captain. We are sitting over a plate of souvlaki and watching the sun set from a seaside restaurant in Hora Sfakion, Crete.

After traveling the southern coast of Crete by kayak for the previous seven days, I am just about ready to drop everything and follow his advice. I’ve fallen in love with Crete’s dramatic coastline, delicious fresh food, hospitable people, and rich historical past.

When the outfitter The Northwest Passage invited me on their eight-day sea-kayaking trip, I had two reservations. I had kayaked only once before, and I hadn’t been on an organized trip since I was a thirteen-year-old summer camper. I imagined myself either fighting waves as I capsized a barely seaworthy vessel miles from shore or donning a yellow hat to follow a guide with a raised umbrella around a tourist-crammed site.

The trip materialized, however, as the ultimate in what I never knew existed: posh adventure travel. I spent the days exhausting myself by cruising calm, turquoise-blue seas in a small red kayak, hiking rugged coastal mountains, and exploring sea caves, white sand beaches and Crete’s globally unrivalled bounty of hidden ruins, Roman, Minoan, Venetian, and Turkish. I spent the nights in tiny Mediterranean villages, eating savory moussaka, souvlaki and fresh feta cheese, being treated to nightly massages, and meeting the most hospitable people I could have imagined. Why go to Crete? With its calm, clear weather, drastically beautiful landscape, and dense history, a more apt question might be: Why go anywhere else?

The winds were gusting at 40 miles per hour and we stood warily on the beach watching white-capped waves crash about 300 yards from shore. “Wait, so do we actually have to go out in this?” said a fellow trip-mate. My stomach turned while I imagined myself capsizing and sinking in the chop. In a matter of hours, however, I graduated from the double to the single kayak and was ready for the safety procedure of intentionally capsizing and exiting the boat. Mike, the tanned, hunky 38-year-old co-leader of my trip, grabbed my paddle and pushed off from my boat. “See ya! Wouldn’t wanna be ya!” he yelled. I cringed but took a big gulp of air, plugged my nose and dove under the water. I was halfway out of the boat before it turned over and was breathing again in less than a second. “Is your fun-o-meter is spinning like crazy?” he asked, grinning. How could my fun-o-meter not be spinning? A handsome (and skilled) kayaker was watching over me, I had just done my first “wet exit,” I was paddling by ancient caves carved out for Roman tombs and gazing at a beautiful stretch of sandy umbrella-dotted beach.

After my first kayak session in Matala, I dined on a vegetarian pita at Cafe Nikos and then spotted a small sign pointing the way to Red Beach. From there, I set out on a 30-minute hike that took me past the ruins of an ancient Minoan port town and over a hill with a spectacular view. Red Beach could be mistaken for a seacoast version of Eden: beautiful tanned nude men and women walk down the shore with golden-haired toddlers in tow. The water is a translucent shade of turquoise, and in the summer and fall, endangered sea turtles congregate to nest and hatch their young.

Practical Info: Hotel Zafiria (phone: 28920 45112) offers beach-view rooms with balconies. Pension Silvia (phone: 28920 45127), a small bougainvillea and geranium-covered hotel, is a little further from the beaten path and rents simple rooms. Both hotels, and many others on the southern coast of Crete, are open only from April to October.

“Man, I would love a big Amstel right now,” said Gordon, a tall Canadian from the tour group who was my hiking partner for the day. “And a shower,” he added. “And a chair.” Amen to that, I thought, as we walked into the town of Agia Roumeli, my feet were numb from 10 miles of downhill pounding and a cold brew would’ve hit the spot, but I had to admit I was enjoying myself. We had walked through the Samaria Gorge, a pine and cypress filled fissure dotted with aquamarine pools of river water, and had hardly seen a single soul. Though the gorge is much loved by tourists, in the off-hours it retains a sense of undisturbed serenity. In fact, you can hardly munch a sesame-honey bar (the Greek version of a Powerbar) without a kri kri, a small, deer-like goat native to Crete, coming out of the trees to eye you. In 1962, the gorge was established as a national park to protect the overhunted kri kri and other rare wildlife, such as eagles, owls, vultures, and the Cretan polecat. In April and May the gorge teems with wildflowers, and at the end of it the ruins of two castles overlook the ocean, one easily reachable by a steep half-mile walk from the coastal village of Agia Roumeli.

Practical Info: No roads connect to Agia Roumeli at the bottom of the gorge and the last ferry to Hora Sfakion, where a road leads from the coast, leaves at 6 pm in the summer and fall, and earlier in the low season. In order to avoid the crowds, get a late start and stay overnight. The simple but comfortable Hotel Agia Roumeli (28250 91432) offers rooms and the similar Hotel Kri Kri (28250 91089) rents rooms starting at about 45 euro.

As if kayaking through royal blue and turquoise water while gazing at towering green mountains weren’t enough, on our way from Agia Roumeli to Loutro we stopped at a small cross-shaped stone church presiding over the edge of a wide sweep of uninhabited bay. Created in the 11th century, the Byzantine Agios Pavlos (Saint Paul’s) is only reachable by boat or foot. Every Mediterranean beach town that has any pride seems to insist that Paul, on his voyage from Caesaria to Rome, crashed upon its shores, so small shrines abound. This shrine is particularly beautiful with its remnants of frescoes and host of golden icons.

It seems that on this trip, whenever my arms and shoulders started to ache from paddling, some beautiful white sand beach would flicker into view, usually just in time for lunch. One day it was Marmara Beach, a 50-yard stretch of sand and marble stones insulated by sea caves and rock outcroppings perfect for cliff jumping. Three small white stucco buildings, including a miniscule chapel, dot the hillside above the beach just below the mouth of the Aradena Gorge. A hairy, two-and-a-half-mile hike up the gorge leads to the one-family mountain village of Aradena and the nearest road. After checking out the sea caves, I debarked from my boat and climbed the rock stairway leading from the southwestern end of the beach to a small cafe, where I savored the spectacular view, a plate of ancient salad (the cafe’s specialty, a mixture of fresh beans and vegetables), and a cheese pie with local honey.

Practical Info: The owner of the cafe, Chrisostomos Orfanoudakis (6942 20156), rents rooms in the small white buildings above the beach starting at 25 euro from April to October. To get there, take a water taxi (about 20 euro) west from Loutro or walk the two miles along European long-distance footpath E4.

“I lived in New York City for 20 years,” said Pavlos Fradelakis, a native of Crete and the manager of the Daskalogiannis Hotel. “I came back for a visit, and I took my return ticket, tore it in two, and threw it away!” he continued, making a flamboyant ripping motion and throwing his hands in the air. We were sitting at the table closest to the water in front of his hotel, sipping Mythos, Greece’s most popular domestic beer, and watching the people go by, as he does every day of the summer.

When I rounded the corner into Loutro after the eight-mile kayak from Agia Roumeli, the view was so perfect I felt like I had stumbled upon an old Hollywood movie set. The ruins of a 250-year-old castle and a 500-year-old Venetian castle stood watch at the southern end of the small bay, and picturesque blue and white houses lined the shore in a crescent on top of the water. But Loutro is the real thing: Though it can host about 900 tourists, it is rarely full and retains the flavor of a laid-back Mediterranean fishing village. I spotted a wizened old man sitting over a large bucket of fish, baiting hooks next to a restaurant’s back door. Behind the hotels, old multi-colored boats live out their years after being retired from the seas. Besides the music and voices that drift from cafés into the night air, the town is silent. There are no cars here, only a 20-minute ferry ride or a three-mile hike from the nearest town, Hora Sfakion, can get you to Loutro. “This is the best life,” says Pavlos, who hasn’t left since he arrived for that visit 14 years ago. “It’s a quiet life and things are the same year after year.”

Practical Info: Hotel Daskalogiannis (phone: 28250 91514) rents attractive modern rooms with balconies for about 60 euro and has the only public Internet connection in town. Hotel Sifis (phone: 28250 91337) next door rents cheaper rooms with seaside views for about 45 euro.

On our way to Hora Sfakion, we docked on Sweetwater Beach, an hour-long, two-mile paddle from Loutro, to refuel with cappuccino. (This kayaking business is hard work!) The beach’s stretch of smooth white stones has several freshwater springs and acts as a camp for a motley group of nudist-hippies. As we walked along it, a Swiss man by the name of Villy came out to greet us, wearing nothing but his birthday suit and a pair of flip-flops. “Hallo!” he exclaimed. He was quite friendly and told us that he had spent 24 hours a day for the last three weeks entirely nude. Before climbing into our kayaks again, Villy showed us his camp, including the spring he used as a refrigerator, and got ready for his morning swim. As we took off, all we could see of him was his bare behind and snorkel tube poking up out of the water.

By the end of the trip, I’ve seen more than my fair share of beautiful coastline, conquered a few kayaking anxieties, and emerged stronger, tanner, and more relaxed. After I wave goodbye to my tripmates, George, the former sea captain and driver for the trip and my newfound friend, whisks me off in his car. Before we part ways, he tells me to write something good about Crete, where he has lived most of his life when not piloting ships around five continents. “I was born here, raised here, and I’m going to die here,” he says. “I hope, I hope!”

The Northwest Passage (www.nwpassage.com) offers eight-day sea-kayaking trips, including accommodations, most meals, equipment, and instruction along the southern coast of Crete. Trips with a yoga instructor for daily beachside yoga sessions are also available.

Trekking Hellas (210 3310323, www.trekking.gr), an Athens-based organization, offers nine-day hiking trips in the gorges and along the coastline of southern Crete.

For information about tourist activities and destinations throughout Greece, including Crete, contact the Greek National Tourist Organization (www.gnto.gr).

The tourism office in Hania (28210 92943) can provide information about tourist activities in the region, which includes the southwestern coast of Crete.

The Mountaineering Club of Hania (28210 44647) maintains the popular E4 Trail, which runs along the southern coast of Crete. The Club organizes occasional excursions and can provide some information about hiking and climbing in the area.