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Greece hopes to make it three straight wins October 11, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Football.
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Bosnia is next up for the Greeks in Euro 2008 qualifier tonight, Thodoris Zagorakis’s final game with the national team

Greece, the defending European champion, will be looking to make it three straight wins tonight in Bosnia following Group C victories over Moldova, away, and Norway at home, both with a 1-0 score.

“It would be nice to win, but the important thing is that we don’t lose to Bosnia,” said midfielder Giorgos Karagounis.

Bosnia, a group underdog, will be trying to win for the second time in four matches following victory against Malta, a loss to Hungary and a draw with Moldova. Greece, Norway and Turkey lead Group C with six points. Bosnia is fourth, two points behind.

“One point is not enough and we would lose all chance in the case of a negative result,” Bosnia coach Blaz Sliskovic said yesterday. “I expect a very tough game but I believe that we have enough strength, capability, and desire to come out with a positive result,” added Sliskovic. He had quit after a 3-1 home defeat by Hungary but reversed his decision.

Bosnia conceded two early goals against Moldova last Saturday but came back in the second half to grab a point.

Tonight’s match will be Greece captain Thodoris Zagorakis’s last with the national team. Zagorakis, who turns 35 later this month, led Greece to its unexpected Euro 2004 title in Portugal. Tonight’s match will mark his 119th international appearance.

“My time with the national team is over. I thank God for everything I have experienced with the team,” Zagorakis said before flying to Bosnia. “There are things you want to give, but at some point you realize you can’t anymore.”

Zagorakis, who has played for Leicester City and Bologna, returned to Greece last year to rejoin PAOK. He made his international debut against the Faeroe Islands in 1994.

Greece will be without injured defender Yiannis Goumas tonight. Bosnia will miss suspended captain Sergei Barbarez, while striker Zvjezdan Misimovic is considered doubtful.


U.S. Bid Cities learn from Athens 2004 Olympics October 11, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Olympic Games.
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Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley will be visiting Athens, the host city of the 2004 Summer Olympic Games, this weekend to meet with Greek officials in charge of organizing the 2004 Summer Olympic Games, to learn about hosting an Olympic Games.

Chicago is one of three cities, along with Los Angeles and San Francisco, bidding to become the U.S. candidate for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

CBS reports that Alan Sanderson, University of Chicago sports economist, will be watching the Mayor’s trip to Athens. He said, “I don’t know what he’ll learn there because he’ll be told a certain story”, adding that the Mayor would come back and talk about increased tourist visits or the increased infrastructure. Sanderson said he thinks Athens has gotten a small bounce from the Olympics, but it is a very short-term effect.

Daley also visited Beijing in May and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa arrived there on Monday.

When asked if a Chicago Olympics can ever pay for itself Sanderson said, “short-term, absolutely not. Long-term, as I’ve been quoted, maybe you break even”.

Gyros, souvlaki and more at Greek festival October 11, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora Festivals.
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The Greeks have a word for it. You probably can understand, however, that up until recent times Americans could never quite pronounce those words when it came to Greek culinary labels like “hummus” and “spanakopita” and “souvlaki” and “gyros.”

At least that was the observation of Larry Kriticos, who can remember customers at his Olympia Grill and visitors to the annual Galveston Island Greek Festival floundering with all the ks and ps and ys when they attempted to place an order for a dish they had learned to love, but could not remember the correct terminology.

But with eateries like the one the Kriticos family operates on the Seawall cropping up all across the United States, it just makes sense that many of the recipes that make up the Greek menu have become so familiar, customers no longer struggle to verbalize their orders.

Kriticos participates in this week’s upcoming Galveston Island Greek Festival, Friday through Sunday, by preparing the meat, both the souvlaki (shish kabob) cooked on open pits and the gyros (ground meat) cooked on a rotisserie and served with pita bread. The Greek restaurateur explains the gyros that are accessible in the United States are, for the majority of U.S. diners, more appealing than what they would be able to buy in Greece.

“In Europe, the cylinder-shaped loaves that are cooked on vertical rotisseries are made out of a single kind of meat, either lamb or pork or beef, but in this country, the recipe is almost always a combination of meats. The wheels of meat we use are a composition of 70 percent beef and 30 percent lamb. Otherwise, the American and European formulations are almost identical, the ground meat is blended with spices like oregano and mint, rolled tightly into a cylindrical loaf, skewered on the spit and spun in front of a standing broiler that grills the outside of the loaf as it turns. But because the combination of meats turns out to be the tastier example of gyros, even Greeks who come here and sample our version fall in love with it.”

Kriticos likes to relate the story of Alexander the Great, who tried to keep his soldiers happy by devising recipes that would satisfy them while they were out on military excursions. He helped them conceive a cooking method based on using long knives to skewer meat, hold it over an open fire and then cook the meat by repeatedly turning the knives.

The pita, which is served either as an accompaniment for the meat or as a bread for a sandwich, is, according to Kriticos, one of the world’s first health foods.

“That’s because the barley in the pita is looked upon today as one of the healthiest grains in our diet,” he explained.

The Greek-style of cooking souvlaki comes from the words souvla, meaning sword, and aki, meaning little. Gyro comes from the term gyrating grill. In Greece, ground meat grills are not called gyro. They are called souvlaki, just like the word for the skewered sticks of meat.

Everyone thinks of gyros as Greek hamburgers. The outer layer of the spinning meat is sliced off, caught in soft pita bread and spread with tzatziki (a yogurt-garlic sauce) and topped with chopped onion and tomato.

The 24th annual Island Greek Festival takes place at the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, 19th Street at Ball. There is a $3 admission price. In addition to placing orders for souvlaki or gyros, ticketholders can purchase complete Greek dinners, consisting of pastitsio (baked pasta and meat casserole), Greek salad with feta cheese and Kalamata olives, dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), spanakopita (spinach and cheese turnover pie) and tiropita (cheese turnover pie). Among the beverages that will be available is Greek Island Iced Tea made with Mavrodaphne wine and cranberry juice over cracked ice. Wondrous homemade desserts also will be for sale.

For information, call 409-256-0463 or visit www.assumption.tx.goarch.org.

Get your fill of Greek dishes October 11, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Taste World.
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On October 21, St. Anne’s Orthodox Church will host its third Annual Mid-Valley Greek Food Fest at the Lewisburg Grange Hall in Corvallis.

Proceeds from the event will help fund the maintenance and ongoing restoration of the hall, which was built in 1910.

The food festivities include authentic Greek dinners, desserts and entertainment. Among the classic dishes prepared on site will be spanakopita (spinach, onion and feta cheese phyllo-dough pie), pastitsio (casserole with ground beef and lamb, cheese, pasta and bechamel sauce), Greek salad (cucumbers, onion, tomatoes and Kalamata olives), hummus (mashed chickpea dip with garlic and olive oil) and lamb and chicken kabobs.

Complete dinners are $10, $5 for ages 12 and younger. Greek desserts and coffee also will be available. Greek wines and spirits will be sold separately.

Festival-goers will be able to tour the grange hall and the Orthodox Christian chapel on its second floor during the festival. Tours will be held on the hour and include an explanation of Orthodox icons.

The festival will run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 6000 NE Elliott Circle, at the intersection of Highway 99W and Lewisburg Road in Corvallis. For information, call (541) 231-7610.

Exploring a Greek treasure island October 11, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Islands.
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Beyond the fly-and-flop resorts and sophisticated villas, Crete bears the evidence of centuries of civilisation.

I am in a cave in Crete. This is not in itself surprising. Crete is, after all, an island of many caves, some of them grand, deep and mysterious. For example, a few kilometres away is the Dhikteon Cave, which is a cave with a car park, an entrance fee (€4), and a history steeped in Greek myth (Zeus is supposed to have been born there). There are handrails to guide you and your fellow travellers as you troop downwards into a vast stone throat of ancient stalactites and stalagmites, and a café where you can buy sandwiches afterwards. It’s a baroque sort of cave, and you can see why Rhea (Zeus’s mother) picked the place out for the little chap’s arrival. There’s even what looks like an ancient birthing pool at the bottom, now lined with low-denomination coins.

No, the surprising thing about my cave is that, for a cave often frequented by foreign visitors, it’s extremely pokey and a bit damp. It’s also very dark. A man of few words and a grubby plastic bag full of bike lights had accosted me at the entrance. He’d held up a finger.

I’d handed over the required change, and he’d given me a light, which didn’t work. Neither did the next one. Luckily, the third let off a feeble yellow glow that seemed adequate, at least to him, and he’d beckoned me inside.

To enter the Trapeza Cave, which you will find near the tiny town of Tzermiado on Crete’s Lasithi Plateau, is to unpeel one of the last layers of human history on the island. Fall down through the centuries, back beyond the heyday of the Ottoman Empire and of the Venetians, past Byzantium and beyond to the Romans and the ancient Greeks – all of whom very evidently left their mark on Crete, and you reach the era of Europe’s most ancient culture, the Minoans. But even the Minoans are not as ancient as the people that once lived here.

The man with the bag of lights points to a dark corner: “Skeleton here.” And then to another: “Skeleton here.” And another: “Family skeleton here. Mother and father.”

There’s nothing much to see, really: just dark patches of earth in the gloom, the bones themselves having been removed after their discovery. However, the skeletons that once lay here dated back to Neolithic times, the remains, perhaps, of one of Crete’s founding families.

The island is alive with this sense of the rise and fall of civilisations, of how each new era has built upon the remains of the last. And as you emerge blinking from this dank, cramped hole in the mountainside, you’re left with a sombre sense of how transient our own “modern” age might be.

Cheer up, though, because the view is spectacular. The Lasithi Plateau is a vast agricultural plain, green with crops and spotted with old windmills, which lies about 30km to the east of the tourist hub of Agios Nikolaos in eastern Crete.

Getting there by car from Agios Nikolaos is tricky: beyond the town of Neapoli, the narrow road screams upwards into the mountains, then wiggles alongside scree-sided peaks. However, the plateau itself is stunning, stretching lush and verdant as far as the eye can see and guarded on all sides by forbidding grey shoulders of hills. A loop of road encircles the plain and takes in various crumbling villages, as well as slightly larger hubs of Tzermiado, Psychro (for the Dhikteon Cave) and Agios Georgios, all of which bask in a summer somnolence of ripening citrus fruit and braying donkeys. Ancient, black-clad old ladies tote vast piles of vines on their heads; oranges and bananas are for sale at the side of the road.

It all seems centuries away from the bronzed outer layer of Crete’s historical onion, which lies way back on the north-eastern coast. Here, Crete very proudly celebrates the 21st century. Our self-catering villa, set in a secluded bay east of Agios Nikolaos, is a lesson in modernity, from its array of technology, internet access, DVD player and the like, to its private pool and elegantly tiled terrace.

Here, sophisticated desires for indulgence and relaxation can reasonably assert themselves, perhaps with a quick walk to the beach, or a feast of meze and braised lamb at the nearby hotel. It’s a world of poolside drinks and tennis lessons; scuba gear and pedalos, and, as such, the contrast with the island’s interior life is breathtaking. Yet even here, Crete can catapult you thousands of years backwards in the space of just a few kilometres.

The E75 highway drills determinedly along the full length of the north coast, but is regularly punctured by brown signs diverting you to sites of ancient archaeological interest. Even in the north-east of the island, where we concentrated our efforts, it would have been easy to become blasé, were it not for the sheer mind-boggling antiquity of the ruins themselves.

Try Lato, for example, a classical settlement with astonishing views down to Agios Nikolaos, once its harbour, which lies inland on a green knoll. Here, amongolive trees and grazing goats, the remains of a theatre clearly demonstrate that Crete has been a place of pleasure for centuries.

Or there’s the Minoan town of Gournia, visible from the road to the east of Istro, which dates back to 1,500BC, its streets picked out in the low-rise remains. Even more impressive, though, is the ruined Minoan palace which stands just a few hundred metres from the town of Mallia, one of Crete’s most popular package holiday destinations. A vast central square is shaded by huge amphoras standing like sentinels; traces of halls, corridors and staircases demonstrate humbling complexity of design.

The biggest draw, however, is Knossos, a place steeped in legend until it was uncovered and partially restored at the beginning of the 20th century. The palace lies in a peaceful, pine-scented vale a few kilometres to the south of the capital Heraklion and even early in the day, is busy with time-travellers gawping at its five-storey stonework. It’s an unmistakable monument to confidence and grandeur, making it all the more astonishing that, until relatively recently, it had been erased from the face of the earth.

For history on a gentler scale, we venture to Kritsa, a tiny village near Lato’s ruins. A narrow road winds upwards through the white stuccoed houses and it’s the perfect place to shop for tourist trinkets, lace sold from stalls at the side of the road, or just relax over a salad in its solitary square. Despite the quiet, there’s a sense that things will get busier here soon: a van loaded with chairs and tables passes through, its klaxon alerting local café owners to an imminent sale of vital plastic furniture. Below the village, the Byzantine church of Panayia Kira provides a solemn contrast. Low-rise and rough on the outside, it boasts incredibly intricate frescoes inside that date back a mere, in Cretan terms, thousand years or so.

Crete’s many-layered history is nowhere more apparent than at Spinalonga, the fortress-topped island reached from the small town of Elounda, to the north of Agios Nikolaos. It began as a Venetian military outpost in the 16th century, was occupied by Turkey in the 19th, and eventually became, of all things, Europe’s last leper colony, which closed in 1953. At each rebuilding, the old foundations were added to and adapted to the building’s new role. These days a €10 boat trip will give you an hour to explore the tumbledown ruins: a small exhibition of photographs giving a particularly poignant insight into the family lives of the lepers who were incarcerated here.

After all that, return to the present for a while: collect your thoughts over a coffee and bougatsa (a sort of cheese or cream filled pie) in Heraklion’s busy but beautiful Platia Venizelou, or buy lunch at one of the restaurants beside Agios Nikolaos supposedly bottomless inshore lake. Then take off to the shady date palms and overpriced beers of Vai Beach at the far east of the island, where you can spend some time browning your own outer layers. After all, if there’s one thing that the astonishing array of relics in Heraklion’s Archaeological Museum tells us about the life and death of civilisations, it’s that we should seize every opportunity to enjoy Crete in the here and now.

Crete’s historical sites are open Tuesday-Sunday 8.30am-3pm. Entrance fees range from €2 – €4.

The Archaeological Museum at Heraklion opens daily from noon to 7pm. Entrance is €6.

The Diktaion Cave opens daily from 8am-7pm. Entrance is €4.

The Trapeza Cave is open every day; entrance is free (unless you need to hire a bike light).

Greek National Tourism Organisation > www.gnto.gr

A stylish boutique hotel October 11, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Hotels Greece.
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On the fifth floor of the Lato Hotel is a small roof garden, overlooking the harbour fortifications built by the Venetians in the 16th century when Heraklion was one of their major trading posts. From the outside, the Lato seems a simple 1970s concrete block topped with trellises, but two years ago it was converted into a stylish little boutique hotel.

Dining is taverna-style with one hard-pressed but amiable waitress looking after the candlelit tables. The style is simple, linen napkins and matching tables and chairs represent the limits of the garden’s sophistication.

Among the starters, grilled octopus with pink peppercorns, tomato and onions, designed by the restaurant’s creator Agapi Gogolou, is a delight. Mains include a stunning seafood assortment, souvlaki or sautéed fillet of veal. The wine list isn’t cheap but the Lato’s own-label red, white and rosé are all quaffable at €15. Desserts, called “Sweet Intentions” on the menu, include Lato ice cream in a caramel nest and Lato pastry.

Immediately below you can see the vaulted arcades of the arsenal where La Serenissima repaired her ships. Opposite sits the squat 16th-century fortress in front of which fishing boats chug and rowers practise sculling. But the real thrill of the Roof Garden comes from the fact that it’s situated under the airport’s flight path. As night falls, jets pass along the horizon and then bank and swoop down over the restaurant in a blaze of colour.

Expect to pay around €45 per person for three courses, excluding wine and coffee. Wines start at €15.

Lato Boutique Hotel, 15 Epimenidou Street, Heraklion, Crete (2810 228103; www.lato.gr); open 7pm to midnight daily from May to October.