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A bit of statistics September 27, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Editorial.
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I thought I should let you know a bit of our latest stats, rankings and statistics.

Currently HomeboyMediaNews blog ranks as follows >

  • Technorati Rank: 69,462 
  • PageRank is Google’s measure of the importance of this page 6/10 (10 equals to top page rank).

A sincere “Thank you” to all of you, our valued readers out there in the world!

UPDATE > 7th October, 2006

Our Technorati stats are always getting improved. Currently HMN stands at >

Technorati Rank: 55,617 (with more than 81 links from 50 blogs)

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The enchanting Greek island of Delos September 27, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Islands Aegean.
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For centuries, the enchanting Greek islands in the Aegean have exercised a powerful charm over travelers. The image, however, is sometimes overlaid with another, one of over-development, islands clogged with boatloads of tourists, hotels and restaurants. That’s true for the most part until you pull into the smallest but most famous of the Cyclades Islands, the sacred island of Delos, the reputed birthplace of the golden-haired Apollo, god of sun, and his twin sister, Artemis, goddess of the moon and the hunt.

The Cyclades (which means “circular islands” or “ring”) are grouped around tiny, 3-square-mile Delos, once the flourishing religious, political and financial center of the Aegean. Today, not only are there no hotels, restaurants, crowds or wild nightlife, but there are some very untouristy regulations: Visitors must leave by sunset as it is illegal to stay overnight. In fact, in 426 B.C., Delos was considered such sacred ground that no one was permitted either to be born or die on the island. Instead, residents in either condition were quickly shipped over to neighboring Rheneia. Today, only a few permanent inhabitants remain: museum staff and a small team from the French School of Archaeology, that began excavating the area in the late 1800s.

And that’s where the considerable appeal of the island lies, in the wonders that have been extensively unearthed over the years. They intrigue the modern eye, for Delos is one vast, outdoor, archeological museum. It was once the wonder of the ancient world, and today the landscape is strewn with an amazing array of surviving fragments: marble columns, gateways, porticos, statues, mosaic floors and much more. Because of Apollo, Delos became a place of pilgrimage where great religious festivals were held. Events included sports competitions at the stadium and gymnasium, while scenes from Apollo’s life would be presented in the 3rd century, marble, 5,500-seat Ancient Theater (in the southern part of the island). The Sacred Lake, which was once fed by a river and filled with sacred swans and geese, is now a dried-up depression. But this is the place the ancients believed that Leto gave birth to Apollo and Artemis.

Looking out over the Sacred Lake is the impressive 164-foot-long Terrace of the Lions, vigilant guardians dedicated to Apollo at the end of the 7th century B.C. by the Naxians. It is believed that originally there were from nine to 16 of these marble lions, crouching on their haunches, with their front legs upright, who “roared in open-mouthed silence.” Today, only five remain.

The 42-foot-wide paved Sacred Way, lined with statue bases, leads to the Sanctuary of Apollo, a collection of temples built in his honor. You’ll see fragments of statues and altars as well as the huge, rectangular marble base that once supported the almost 30-foot-high statue of Apollo. Its widespread appeal is evident from the fact that one of his hands is in Delos’ archaeological museum, while a foot fragment is on display in the British Museum in London.

It was the Roman occupation that transformed Delos from a religious sanctuary into a robust international marketplace. Traders and pilgrims throughout the Mediterranean world began arriving at the Sacred Harbor for commerce around 200 B.C., which resulted in Delos reaching its most prosperous period. Evidence of that thriving era can be seen in the expansive Agora of the Competialists (on the left of the harbor). This area, once heavily embellished with statues and monuments, was where grain and slaves were traded. Foreigners who flooded the island built temples and altars to their own gods.

Today, an impressive array of cultural leftovers from that period marks the landscape. For example, a spectacular relic from antiquity still stands within the surviving portions of the Temple of Isis a statue of the goddess of health and fortune that has unfortunately lost its head. Other remains on top of Mount Kythnos include the Sanctuary of the Syrian gods and another to the Egyptian god, Serapis.

Riches derived from the huge volume of trade enabled wealthy Roman bankers and Egyptian and Phoenician merchants to build elegant one and two-story houses along narrow, twisting streets. What remain today are marble columns, plastered painted walls and some exquisite color mosaics. Especially remarkable are the dazzling mosaics found in the courtyards and floors of the houses near the Ancient Theater. Among them are the House of Dolphins that has a large, beautiful, well-preserved mosaic of gods riding on the backs of dolphins, and in the House of Masks, thought to be have once been a hostel for visiting performers, is a famous mosaic of Dionysus, draped in flowing robes, riding a fierce-looking panther. It is depicted in such incredible detail that the eye of the panther alone has more than 100 stones.

To explore this island of great beauty, excursion boats are available from Mykonos and other neighboring islands.

The wines of Macedonia September 27, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Mainland, Wine And Spirits.
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Greece may not have invented winemaking but Greek vintners were certainly among the first to domesticate vines and control the fermentation of grapes. It is generally believed that the first vineyards in Greece were planted in Philippi, in Eastern Macedonia.

For hundreds of years Greek wines dominated the market, both at home and abroad.

The basis of Western civilization was forged over goblets of wine at the gatherings (symposia) where Greek intellectuals met to discuss philosophical concepts. Ships plying clay amphorae of Greek wine crisscrossed the trade routes of the Mediterranean, and fortunes were made by merchants selling these wines throughout the ancient world.

But centuries of wars and migration gradually brought the overall quality of Greek wine down. Indeed, most of Greece’s post-World War II was plonk.

Adding insult to injury, a hefty portion of it was further demeaned by being flavored with pine resin. Tourists, convinced that they were participating in time, honored tradition, may have lapped up this retsina by the gallon, as did local villagers (for the same reason), but few critics ever suggested that resinated wine was anything more than an oddity, a pleasant beverage to swill on a summer evening in a seaside cafe along the Mediterranean.

In the past couple of decades, winds of change have been blowing across the wine regions of Greece. Vineyards ravaged by disease and neglect are being replanted. Modern Greek vintners now hone their palates and their technological skills in the prestigious enology programs at universities in California and France. Bolstered by serious domestic and foreign capital investment, 4,000 years after its birth, the Greek wine industry can now boast that its finest output is on a par with the world’s best.

The modern renaissance of Greek wine may be seen in every section of the country’s wine-growing regions, not just in the ancient land of the Peloponnese and on the sunny Aegean and Ionian Islands, but all the way up north as well, in Macedonia, where it all began.

Naoussa, the heart of Macedonia’s wine region, nestles up close to the Bulgarian border. Remote, and considerably less frequented than the islands and the Peloponnese, it is an area that has not yet fully geared up for tourism. Finding lodging in this far-off place can present a challenge, but my own overnight stay at the rural Vermion Hotel was pleasant enough to make me regret not having more time to spend there. Reminiscent of a Swiss chalet in both appearance and in its somewhat Spartan amenities, the hotel lies in a bucolic alpine setting at the base of the rocky Vermion Mountain. I’d have liked the chance to explore some of the adjoining hiking trails, some heading up the mountain, others off into the St. Nicolas Woods, but I had time only for a short morning walk around the hotel’s own park before heading off for a peek at Macedonian wineries.

Macedonia boasts 30 wineries, 12 of them in Naoussa. My aim was to visit enough of them to at least get a glimpse into the spirit and scope of modern Macedonian winemaking. Driving down from the peaks of Vermion Mountain after my morning stroll, I entered a narrow valley where puffy pink clouds seemed to have settled down on the land. But no, as I drew closer, it became apparent that these were cherry trees in full spring bloom, their lavish display intermingling with neat rows of vines. (more…)

Santorini > Greece’s pearl September 27, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Islands Aegean.
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From Athens we have flown southwest for 35 minutes. As the pilot banks to land, Santorini appears magically in the window, its great volcanic crater rising hundreds of feet out of the Aegean. Crescent-shaped with striations in a multitude of dark colors, the caldera was even more dramatic than I had expected. As for the white flecks that clung to the top of the steep cliffs like a dusting of snow, these must be the towns and villages.

In the 17th century, when it was still called Calliste “the most beautiful,” Santorini or Thera, was a round island and there are at least two explanations for how it acquired its present shape. One is a Greek tale in which the god Zeus seized the core of the island in his mighty hand and hurled it at the Titans, his archenemies. As a result, the marks of Zeus’ fingers can now be seen in the four small inlets on the inner side of the island.

A second explanation is starkly more realistic. It was here, 3,600 years ago, that the most devastating volcanic eruption ever experienced by humans took place. Exploding with a boom that could be heard all the way to Scandinavia, it created tidal waves up to 200 meters high that darkened the entire Mediterranean for several days and covered large portions of the region with volcanic ash. In one final paroxysm, it sank almost the entire western part of the island, forming today’s crater. Only two pieces of land to the west remained, Therasia and the tiny islet of Aspronisi.

Moments later we land at the Santorini airport. Our weeklong vacation has begun. This meant a few days of near-total relaxation on a beautiful Greek island. From everything I had seen and heard, Santorini was one of the most photogenic places on earth, rich in history, distinct indigenous cuisine and excellent local wine.

From the airport, on the east side of the island, a taxi took us to Imerovigli, a village perched on one of the 1,000-foot-high cliffs facing west, just north of Fira, Santorini’s capital. Our destination: Astra, a luxurious, eight-floor apartment hotel, dug into the rocks.

Our suite had a stunning view, which, in a startling visual juxtaposition, immediately brought back thoughts of the island’s tumultuous past. Rising, seemingly from the edge of the shimmering turquoise water of our private swimming pool, was a steep, dark promontory, topped with a giant crag so fractured that it looked as if it may tumble into the caldera at any moment. This was Skaros, now uninhabited, but in medieval times the capital of Santorini, a thriving little Catholic settlement where, from their inaccessible perch, Venetian nobles kept pirates at bay.

History aside, the suite was gorgeous, white, clean and uncluttered, with high vaulted ceilings. A few well-chosen pieces of furniture contributed to a sense of spaciousness and only the pillows in red, orange and pink added a splash of color. There was a sculptural feel to the place. A silver plate with a school of fish engraved on it hung on the living room wall  the work of a local artist named George Kypris.

This was to be a long, leisurely week. I would visit a couple of vineyards, but most of the time would be spent wandering around and on drawn-out lunches and dinners. We also climbed Skaros, visited Oia and walked several times to Fira. (more…)

Lipsi > the island mass tourism forgot: If you go September 27, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Islands Aegean.
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If you go >

Getting there: Olympic Airways has daily flights from Athens to Samos. From Samos, take a short cab ride to the port at Pythagorio. Depending on the season, one or two hydrofoils a day go to Lipsi for about 15 euro one way. Car ferries from other islands in the Dodecanese leave for Lipsi Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Check travel agents for schedule changes. Hydrofoil reservations are recommended only in July and August.

Where to stay: Hotel Calypso is a three-star hotel opposite the ferry dock with doubles for about 25 euro and singles for about 20 euro in May and June. In July and August, they are about 45 euro and 35 euro respectively.

The other three-star hotel, Hotel Aphrodite, above the sandy town beach, has doubles for about 50 euro and 65 euro but no singles.

Studios Anna, www.greeklodgings.gr, is on a hill above the village. It has fully equipped kitchens and refrigerators in singles for doubles, both priced at about 20 euro in May, 25 euro in June, 30 euro in July and 45 euro in August.

Almost next door, Studios Kalymnos, www.lipsi-island.gr, has doubles only for about 28 euro in May, 32 euro in June and 38 euro in July and August. Reservations are recommended only in July and August.

Getting around: One bus leaves from the harbor on the hour every hour and traverses the few roads on the island. You can find the island’s two taxis parked near the harbor with the drivers not far away.

When to go: May, June and September are ideal. Avoid July and August. These are the Europeans’ vacation months, and they swarm all over Greece with many spilling onto Lipsi. The Italians have discovered the island and locals say they hear more Italian than Greek in late summer.

More information: Greek National Tourism Organization, www.gnto.gr

Lipsi > the island mass tourism forgot September 27, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Islands Aegean.
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I’m sitting on a boat dock looking at Greece circa 1950. Jackie Kennedy hasn’t started dating Greek yacht owners. Not one beach in Greece has been introduced to a lounge chair. Few outside the Aegean Sea have ever heard of ouzo. From my seat, it doesn’t even seem Zeus has been dead that long.

Outside a tiny one-room cafe called an ouzeri, I’ve joined old men sipping the potent licorice-flavored whisky in the brilliant sun. Four men in fisherman’s hats behind us play backgammon. We watch a half-dozen fishermen drag in their lines off pastel-painted boats on an Aegean Sea that’s almost as blue as the cloudless sky.

The sun-washed docks are void of wall-to-wall restaurants. The dock’s lone souvenir shop is closed for the week. The three-star hotel next door is charging only 18 euros a night. I hear birds chirping, smell the wonderful salty smell of feta cheese from the tables around me and listen to the sea lap against the boats.

This is Lipsi, the Greek island mass tourism forgot. So far.

If you’re looking for Lipsi on a map, find a good one. It’s not on many. Lipsi is a tiny speck of rolling farmland and isolated beaches 40 miles from Turkey. It is part of the Dodecanese island chain.

Lipsi is barely big enough to hold a park. It’s only 12 square miles, has 650 people and twice as many goats. In addition to the one bus and two taxis, a main mode of transport remains the donkey. The one bank is a cash machine. One doctor and one nurse are on the island. There are 45 churches. (more…)

Norwegians name squad against Greece September 27, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Football.
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Norway coach Aage Hareide included both Riise brothers yesterday in a 23-man squad for a Euro 2008 qualifier against champions Greece in Athens on October 7.

Liverpool defender John Arne Riise returns to the national side after missing Norway’s Group C wins over Hungary and Moldova with an ankle injury. His younger brother and Lillestrom midfielder Bjorn Helge Riise will get his first cap.

Hareide also recalled Brann midfielder Peter Vaagan Moen to the squad, which remained largely the same as the line-ups fielded in Norway’s opening two qualifiers.

Norway beat Hungary 4-1 in Budapest on September 2 and overpowered Moldova 2-0 at home on September 6.