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Special Feature > Greece’s National Day…the Greek flag October 27, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Special Features.
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Listen to the Greek National Anthem
Greek National Anthem

greek flag

“Freedom or Death” ( Eleftheria i Thanatos) was the motto during the Greek Revolution against the Ottoman Empire. It is believed that the nine lines of the flag reflects the number of syllables in the greek phrase “Eleftheria i Thanatos” = Freedom or Death.

The line pattern was chosen because of their similarity with the wavy sea that surounds the shores of Greece. The interchange of blue and white colors makes the Hellenic Flag on a windy day to look like the Aegean Sea. The Greek Square Cross that rests on the upper left-side ofthe flag demonstrates the respect and the devotion that Greek people have for the Greek Orthodox Church and signifies the important role of Christianity in the formation of the modern Hellenic Nation. During the dark years of the Ottoman rule, the Greek Orthodox Church helped the enslaved Greeks to retain their cultural characteristics: the Greek language, the Byzantine religion and generally the Greek ethnic identity. Today, Christianity is still the dominant religion among Greeks. Therefore the existence of the Cross is justified.

LINK: Greek Flags from the past

Greek National Anthem “Hymn to the Freedom”

Ι recognize you
by the dreadful edge
of Your sword.
I recognize Your face,
forcibly staring at the land.

From the sacred graves
of the slain Greeks
You rise, valiant again.
Hail, Oh Hail, Liberty!

The Greek Anthem is based on the “Hymn to the Freedom”, a large – 158 strophes – poem written by Dionysios Solomos, a distinguished poet from Zakynthos Island. The poem was inspired by the Greek Revolution of 1821 against the Ottoman Empire. During 1828 the eminent musician from Kerkyra Island Nicolaos Mantzaros composed the music for the Solomos’ Hymn.

Although King Othon (Otto) decorated both them for their work (1845 and 1849), he did not think (or, maybe, did not wanted) to replace the Royal Anthem of that time with the Solomos/Mantzaros Hymn. That Anthem was a musical derivative from the German one, with a text glorifying Othon and its Dynasty.

After the overthrow of the Othon’s Dynasty, the new King George I and the Greek establishment decided to neglect the fashion of that time – to use the Royal Anthems also as National – and looked for a clearly Greek work, both with respect to the poetry and the music. The “Hymn to the Freedom” was readily there – extremely popular since the Revolution times, often recited or sung during patriotic meetings and celebrations.

“Eleftheria” – the Freedom – is a female word and also a popular female name in Greece. The Solomos’ Eleftheria is not as erotic and earthly as the Delacroix Liberty. It rather reminds an exiled ancient Goddess, which Solomos identifies with Greece itself. A majestic and demanding Goddess, an object of respect and admiration rather than of belief and passion. She has to be imperative, as the poet reviews the whole history of the Greek Revolution, comments on the negative attitude of the Great Forces, describes the pains and the offerings of the rebels, criticizes their dissensions, calls for unanimity and consolidation – always pointing to Eleftheria – the major human value.

The Greek Anthem has been written by a man of 25 years only. The Greeks deeply love and respect their emotionally-youthful Anthem. The unusual – for an Anthem – 6/4 tempo of the Mantzaros music points clearly to the most manly traditional dance of the Greeks – Tsamiko.

More information about the Greek National Anthem and a different, probably more precise translation of it.


Special Feature > Greece’s National Day…and Evzones marched on October 27, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Special Features.
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Much seen (and photographed) by international tourists and local visitors alike, the ‘tall guys’ guarding the Unknown Soldier’s monument and the Presidential Mansion, both off central Syntagma Square, are famous in their own right. Yet little is actually known about them.

The Evzones, or Tsoliades, who serve in the guard wear the traditional and historically meaningful uniform and receive exclusive forms of training and benefits. With a history spanning over more than a century, the Greek Presidential Guard was officially founded in 1868 as a regiment of the Greek army.

Today, the duties of the Evzones are of a purely ceremonial nature. The team of Evzones (meaning the ‘well-belted’, a term traced in Homer’s times) is also called the Corps, Flag Guard, Palace Guard and Royal Guard, the last two vestiges of the royal regime. Their training camp is located very near to the Parliament building and one will often see them marching ceremoniously back and forth along Irodou Attikou street whilst changing shifts.

Although soldiers making up this unit do not sleep at the training camp throughout the week and are said to be offered more food portions than the average soldier, they are also expected to be on a constant alert, and yet show no reaction to anything. For there are plenty of tourists who, while having their snapshot taken standing next to the motionless Evzones, quite predictably attempt to make the guards laugh or even twist. Presidential Guards in normal uniform are always around, however, to prevent things from getting out of hand.

Contemporary duties
The Presidential Guard is naturally not involved in any fighting activities, although up to WWII it was regarded the strongest and bravest part of the Greek army. Their uniform is a reproduction of the outfit proudly worn by guerilla fighters during the Ottoman Occupation of Greece (1453 – 1821). Nowadays, young men doing their army duty are hand-picked for the Presidential guard according to specific categories, such as height (they have to be over 1.87 metres), character, moral outlook and good health, general appearance and stamina.

Those who join the corps first complete five-and-a-half months of their basic military training and then receive one month of specific training as Presidential Guard, which they serve for the following five months. The notoriously tough specific training involves the development of the ability to stand still for an hour and the perfecting of their trademark synchronized ceremonial gait when changing guard.

“Of course it takes a lot of training to become an Evzones,” says colonel Efstathios Siamitros of the Presidential Guard. “Have you ever attempted standing completely still for five minutes? If you do, you’ll get an idea of what it may mean to do that for an entire hour.” To somewhat help the situation their ceremonial steps are carried out in slow-motion so as to protect their blood circulation following the literally motionless 60 minutes.

The Presidential guard has the following duties:
· Guarding, on a 24-hour basis, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Presidential Mansion and the gates of the Presidential Guard training camp.
· The official raising and lowering of the flag (at 9am and 6am respectively) every Sunday at the
Acropolis .
· Accompanying the President of the Republic on official foreign visits
· Offering honours and welcoming foreign officials on visit
· An annual Parade on New York’s 5th Avenue in celebration of Greece’s October 28 National Day

A meaningful uniform
The uniforms worn by Evzones (of which there are several kinds) are all hand-made at the tailor’s department of the Presidential Guard training camp. There, some ten individuals, skilled in hand-embroidery and machine-sewing, painstaking prepare the uniforms over long periods of time – the Evzones waistcoat alone takes up to one month to sew. World-famous ‘tsarouhi’ shoes are also manufactured at the camp’s shoe-making department by three to four men trained in the craft. Each tsarouhi, a leather clog with black pom-poms, weighs three kgrs and has sixty nails studded into the soles so that the Evzones don’t slip.

The outfit’s variations include the cotton summer uniform, the woolen winter one, the official version reserved for special ceremonies, as well as the ‘Cretan uniform’, an adaptation of traditional Cretan garments representing all Greek islands.

Throughout their entire service, each Evzones teams up with a partner: between them they share both training and duties. Mutual help is also appreciated when donning the uniforms, a task that can prove time-consuming – slipping into the official uniform, for instance, may take up to half an hour. Help also comes in handy with smoothing the black tassel atop the Evzones red cap, or ‘fessi’, straightening the collar, or tying properly the two-part ‘foustanella’, the traditional 400-fold kilt.

Through the hottest summer and the coldest winter, the Evzones invariably wear white woolen stockings and a leather belt with bullet holders to emphasize the waist of the ‘well-belted’ soldier.

Special Feature > Greece’s National Day is tomorrow October 27, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Special Features.
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EVZONE or TSOLIAS > The uniform

Worn by diplomats and warriors, this costume was declared the national costume for men; it is found in mountainous areas. The waistcoat is called the “fermeli” and has panels hanging from the back. They were blue, black or maroon, the latter worn by the captain of the guard. The men wear a white shirt with puffy sleeves under the fermeli that closes in front. The “foustanella” is the pleated skirt that is made of approximately 350 triangles called “langolia”. The tsarouhia are pointed shoes, which were worn for mountain climbing.

Worn by diplomats and warriors, this costume was declared the national costume for men; it is found in mountainous areas and was worn mainly in the Central and Southern parts of Greece. The costume derives its name from the pleated white skirt (Foustanella) made by triangular shaped pieces of cloth called “langolia” which are sewn together diagonally. The Foustanella skirt consists of 400 pleats symbolizing the years during which Greece was under Ottoman rule. The Greek Fighters of the 1821 revolution wore the Foustanella while fighting the Turks. Today it serves as the official uniform of the Evzones, the Presidential Guard, who keep their vigil at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens (Syntagma Square, close to the Parliamnet’s building). The remainder of the costume is composed of a white shirt with a very wide flowing sleeve, and embroidered woolen vest called the “fermeli” and has panels hanging from the back. The vest can be blue, black or maroon, the latter worn by the captain of the guard. A sash is worn around the waist, and pointed shoes which have large pompons known as “Tsarouhia” which were worn for mountain climbing.

The Evzones have represented the elite of the Greek army since the long war of independence from the Ottoman Empire (1821-32).
The word Evzone apparently means “well belted one”, and has its roots in Homeric literature.
Most people who are familiar with Greece today will know of these colourful soldiers, wearing their Foustanella (pleated kilt) and pom-pom shoes, while fulfilling their highly disciplined ceremonial duties in Athens.

RELATED LINK > http://www.presidency.gr/en/proedr_froura.htm

Greek Evzone

Special Feature > The sacrifice of Hellenic Navy October 27, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Special Features.
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In view of tomorrow’s Celebrations of Greece’s National Day on Ocober 28th, we continue our Special Feature marking this glorious day. The so called by Greeks “Ochi” (in English “No”) Day. 


Article Compiled by Rear Admiral Sotirios Georgiadis H.N. (Ret)


Both the Greek Merchant Marine (GMM) as well as the Hellenic Navy (HN), played together very important roles on the side of the Allies during WW II. The purpose of this short account is to summarize their substantial contribution to the allied war effort and associated heavy sacrifice in men and ships and present some lesser known facts.

In peacetime the roles of the GMM and HN are separate and different, but in wartime the two of them combine and operate together in as much as the needs of sea replenishment and transport are concerned. Additionally, GMM seamen are the most valued source of manpower for HN ships, due to their marine qualifications.

Although Greece remained neutral until attacked by Italy on the 28th October 1940, the Greek Government called upon the GMM to immediately commence serving the Allies from the first day of WW II, on the 1st September 1939. Early the following year 1940, the Greek Prime Minister sent the Greek Minister of Merchant Marine to London, to formalize the availability of GMM ships to the Allies. On the very first day of WW II, when Germany attacked Poland, the GMM cargo ship IOANNIS CARRAS became the first Greek casualty. She was bombed in the harbor of Gdynia, where she had arrived the previous day. Between 1st September 1939 and 28th October 1940, i.e. before Greece was drawn into WW II, about 350 allied and neutral merchant ships were lost, out of which about 100 or 28% were Greek. GMM continued to serve faithfully the allied cause to the very end of WW II in August 1945.

The HN was also the victim of Italian warplane and submarine attacks before Greece entered WW II and in conjunction with the GMM continued to serve effectively its country during the victorious five-month Greek defence against invading Italy at first and later on Germany as well. The latter came to the help of the defeated Italy on 6th April 1941, in order to overcome Greece. When, two months later, the whole of Greece finally came under German occupation, the King, the Hellenic Government and the remaining ships of the HN Fleet did not surrender, but sailed to Alexandria and continued the fight on the side of the Allies until the end of the war in Europe on 10th May 1945. A substantial portion of the State Budget of the Greek Government in Exile was funded by the GMM.

Large numbers of GMM men have also served on HN warships during the whole of the period considered. Greek shipowners and seamen, of a younger age at that time, volunteered and manned HN warships. Typical of many such cases is that of Fotis Lykiardopoulos, of the well known shipping family, born, raised and living in London, who joined the HN in 1943 in England as a volunteer, attended the British Cadet School and participated in the Normandy Naval Landings in June 1944 on board the British Frigate HMS CHELMER. Stavros Niarchos at the age of 35 and Nicolas Michalos served on the Corvette RHS KRIEZIS, under Commander D. Kiosses RHN, together with about 100 other GMM men. Michael Maris served on the Corvette RHS TOMBAZIS, under Commander G. Panagiotopoulos RHN. Stavros Niarchos was later on transferred and served on the Destroyer RHS SALAMIS.

Together with two HN Corvettes, RHS KRIEZIS and RHS TOMBAZIS, the following four GMM cargo ships participated in the allied Normandy operations:2 C/S “AGIOS SPYRIDON”, captained by George Samothrakis, C/S “GEORGIOS P.”, captained by Dimitrios Parisis, C/S “AMERIKI”, captained by Spyridon Theofilatos and C/S “HELLAS”, captained by George Trilivas.

Unfortunately WW II GMM records found were not consistent and consequently some of the data presented here is necessarily approximate. (more…)

Greece cheers continued EU protection of national drink ouzo October 27, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Wine And Spirits.
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The EU has backed Greece’s request to continue trade protection of the licorice-tasting liquor ouzo as exclusively Greek, the Agriculture Ministry said Wednesday.
Protection was also awarded for Greek spirits tsipouro and tsikoudia, according to a statement from the ministry. “Now these drinks have their competitiveness protected, both within the European Union and toward third countries,” the ministry said.  “Following particularly difficult negotiations, the designation of origin of ouzo, tsipouro and tsikoudia, which are manufactured in various regions of Greece, has been secured.”
The decision was announced following a meeting of EU farm ministers in Luxembourg. It was upheld during a debate to reform labeling wine and spirits. Greek officials also said the spirit Zivania, made on the island of Cyprus, was also granted protection.
Licorice-tasting ouzo is made from distilled residue of grapes, with anise and herbal flavoring added during production. The drink turns cloudy when water is added, and is similar in strength to vodka, with about 40 percent alcohol by volume.
Greek bar owners and industry officials welcomed Wednesday’s decision, which was made as makers of the spirit are trying to improve the image of the drink seldom associated with upscale outlets.
“In some countries there is tequila, others have whisky. Here, we have ouzo,” beamed Dimitris Brettos, who runs well known bar in Athens historic Plaka district and also produces his own ouzo. “The flavor and taste are what make ouzo unique.”

Tsipouro and tsikoudia are considered variants of ouzo, produced by a similar process but often without anise flavoring and often tastes similar to the Italian spirit grappa. Zivania is also made from grape residue but is typically stronger that its Greek equivalents.

Greece v Serbia Rugby League preview October 27, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Cricket Hockey Rugby.
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An international friendly is being played in Athens this Saturday between Greece and Serbia. This will be the first international Rugby League game to be played in Greece, with hopes that it will boost popularity and interest for a regular domestic rugby league competition to run in Athens.

Trials were held in Athens for Greek players on Saturday, and players from Australia, England and South Africa will also be representing for the Greek team. John Skandalis has been in Greece to promote the game however he will not be playing for the team this time, but several of the players from Greece’s recent game against Fiji in Sydney will be linking up with the domestic players.

The Serbian side is mixture of experienced players who have played for Serbia in the Euro B Nations Cup and World Cup Qualifiers, as well as the best young players who played in the Under-19s European Nations Cup earlier this year. There are a few debutants, and some more new players were due to attend training with the squad before the Serbians left for Athens.

The Serbian squad left Belgrade on Thursday and will arrive in Athens on Friday morning. The Serbian warm-up squad was named as follows:

1. Ivan Antic
2. Ivan Mitic
3. Milan Djordjevic
4. Mate Granic
5. Zoran Pesic
6. Marko Zebeljan
7. Nenad Grbic
8. Igor Minevski
9. Mario Milosavljevic
10. Dalibor Vukanovic
11. Soni Radovanovic
12. Nenad Tomic
13. Milos Kucancanin
14. Branko Vojvodic
15. Radoslav Novakovic
16. Nemanja Babic
17. Jovan Vujosevic
18. Haris Dajc
19. Dimitris Dajc
Coach: Marko Jankovic
Coach Assistant: Jovan Vujosevic

Let’s hope that the rugby game between Serbia and Greece will help promote rugby in Greece and attract more people to the game. It is also hoped that a domestic rugby league may be founded if there is enough support and interest.

Greece opens new tourism bureau in Moscow October 27, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Tourism.
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The number of Russian tourists to Greece increased by 50 percent in 2006, nearing the 200,000 mark, Greek officials said on Thursday during the inauguration of a new National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) bureau in the Russian capital.

In a brief address at the ceremony, Greece’s visiting Tourism Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia referred to stepped up efforts to slash red tape and the waiting period needed to issue tourist visas for Russian nationals. Other Greek officials noted that the minimum waiting period, according to Schengen Pact procedures, is now applied for tourist visas to Russian citizens.

On her part, Petralia said the wait period for tourist visas issued by the Greek embassy in Moscow has been reduced to 48 hours, whereas an average of 1,800 visas are issued on a daily basis. The issue of the visa is particularly sensitive for Moscow, with the city’s mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, also calling for a simplification of procedures.

“Russians visiting Greece for tourism are prosperous middle-class citizens, and a simplification of visa procedures would mean a measurable increase in their number,” he said following talks with the Greek minister.

Finally, Petralia said a promotional campaign to showcase Greece begins in the Russian market next month, whereas the Greek side is also aiming to strengthen its presence in various exhibitions and events in the country.

She also invited Luzhkov to Greece to attend “Philoxenia”, a tourism-related trade show in Thessaloniki, organized by Helexpo, 16 – 19 November, in the grounds of the Thessaloniki’s State International Fair.