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EasyGroup eyes Cyprus hotels sector November 1, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Hotels Cyprus.
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EasyGroup, which owns low-cost airline easyJet, plans to branch out on the Mediterranean holiday island of Cyprus with its easyHotels franchise, a company spokesman said on Wednesday.

EasyHotels is looking for business partners on the island, which is visited by more than 2.3 million tourists a year. The tourism sector represents about 15 percent of Cyprus’s gross domestic product.

“This is an opportunity to expand the brand,” said Marios Missirlis, a spokesman for the chain in Cyprus. “We are now expanding rapidly. There are two hotels, one in London and one in Switzerland. Another two will open in London by the end of this year and we have signed contracts with a Dubai-based firm to open 38 easyHotels over the next five years in North Africa, the Middle East, India and Pakistan.”

The construction cost of the 38 hotels will be in the region of $400 million (209 million pounds), he said, referring to global hotel expansion plans announced in April. The first easyHotel opened in August 2005 in Kensington, London, with prices starting from 30 sterling a night.

Missirlis said four and five star hotels would not be the type of establishment the easyHotel brand would be interested in. “The hotel brand is a low budget,” Missirlis said, adding however, that part of the criteria included safe and clean locations.

Other than that, the brand would not be focussing on particular geographical areas. “All areas are being considered,” he said, adding that since placing an advert in the local press on Sunday, 17 queries had been made by hotel establishments. Business partners would be required to make the investments to meet the group’s requirements. “EasyHotel will not do any investment. The investment is in our brand,” said Missirlis.

The island’s hoteliers welcomed the move, but said it must be supported by flights by easyJet. Stelios HadjiIoannou, the founder of the group, is of Cypriot descent.

“At the moment its more important for easyJet to fly into Cyprus than for easyHotels to open in Cyprus,” said hoteliers’ association chairman Haris Loizides. “This is how we look at it. We are in desperate need for extra flights.”

Earlier this year local leisure group Louis signed a franchise agreement with easyCruise, another division of the easyGroup specialising in low-cost cruises.

Cyprus cricket closes a remarkable year November 1, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Cricket Hockey Rugby.
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The performances of the Cyprus national cricket side surpassed all expectations at the European Cricket Championship 4th Division in Belgium almost securing the participation in next year’s 3rd Division championship, just falling short to Finland in a decisive match.

It was the highlight in a year where cricket has enjoyed a considerable upsurge at both the international and domestic levels. Apart from international recognition gained by the performances in Belgium the Cyprus Cricket Association also succeeded in improving the quality of youth cricket and the local league which finishes today.

In Belgium, Cyprus faced a difficult opposition. The winners, Finland, were well organised and well funded, sporting matching tracksuits bristling with sponsorship logos. Cyprus had one shirt per player washed each night after the game. Nevertheless Cyprus took second place, beating both Slovenia and Luxembourg in thrilling games, equal on points with winners Finland, missing out only on run rate.

From the outset of the competition Cyprus earned a justified reputation as a good bowling side, with opening fast bowlers captain Mike Kyriacou and Christos Markides out-foxing the opposition top batting order. Swing bowler Singha Arthanayake followed up and taking their wickets.

Batting was the team’s weak spot, struggling to come to terms with the damp Belgium weather, and the uneven bounce of the wickets. These were conditions that favored the Northern European teams, and certainly not a team used to playing under the Mediterranean sun.

After the first day of the championship, Cyprus shared first place with Luxembourg, both teams winning their first game with Slovenia and Finland the losers. It was a bitter pill for favorites Finland to swallow, making them all the more determined to do well in their next game against Cyprus, the game effectively decided the championship. (more…)

The hidden history of a writer’s legend November 1, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Greece, Books Life Greek.
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The mansion of Penelope Delta, a Benaki Museum branch (see related photo at our Flickr Photo Gallery)

Since the first decade of the 20th century, generations of Greek children have been raised with the books of Penelope Delta (1874-1941), the distinguished novelist who breathed new life into children’s literature.

A highly cultivated woman, Delta was sensitive to a child’s world, possibly because of her own strict upbringing, but was also very interested in Greek history and involved in the tumultuous political events of her own time. This is how as a writer she was able to narrate the scenes of Greek history to children without being didactic or simplistic. Her famous novel “In the Years of the Bulgar-Slayer” for example, is set during the reign of Emperor Basil II.

Her work on that novel involved correspondence with Gustave Schlumberger, a historian who specialized in that period. “The Secrets of the Swamp” (1937) takes place during the Macedonian struggle and “A Tale with No Name” (1911) was inspired by the Goudi 1909 rebellion.

Delta, the older sister of Antonis Benakis, was raised in Alexandria and later moved to Athens, where she married the Phanariote entrepreneur Stephanos Deltas. Still, Ion Dragoumis, then the vice consul of Greece in Alexandria, remained her true love.

Until her rumored suicide in 1941, the Delta family lived in a mansion in Kifissia, where she wrote her best-known novels, such as the “The Life of Christ”, “Mangas” and “Trellantonis”, the last of which was inspired by her brother Antonis.

The mansion belongs to the Benaki Museum, one of Delta’s three daughters made the donation in 1989, and is now officially one of the Museum’s new branches. It opened recently to the public with a small exhibition that pays homage to Delta’s work and personality. The mansion is also where the Museum’s unique collection of Greece’s historical archives have been moved.

The exhibition > Held in one of the ground-floor, bare rooms, the only other space open to the public is the adjacent room in which a wooden, Byzantine icon screen owned by the Delta family is the only object on display, the exhibition includes display cases with the books that Penelope Delta wrote, her diary and other documents. The latter include the correspondence that Delta had with intellectuals and writers who supported the use of the demotic language, among them Yiannis Psicharis, Costis Palamas, Manolis Triantaphyllidis and Demetris Glenos, a contentious issue. A large panel reproduces family portraits and traces the long genealogy of the Benaki family.

Delta was friends with some of the most distinguished intellectuals and politicians. Her father had been a political associate of Eleftherios Venizelos and had served as Finance Minister in the the first Venizelos administration. One photo shows Venizelos standing at the entrance to the Delta mansion; the photo was taken shortly after Venizelos escaped an assassination attempt in Paris.

The Historical Archives of the Benaki Museum, a separate department since 1955, moved recently to the premises of the Delta house. It is one of the richest archival collections in Greece and comes, for the most part, from the personal collection of Antonis Benakis.

The collection documents Greece’s history over the last three centuries. The period of the Greek War of Independence is amply represented in the archives of some of the war’s heroes. Important archives refer to the period of King Otto’s rule and the 1843 revolution, the period of the Venizelos goverment and the subsequent period of the national resistance.

A separate section includes archives and manuscripts of Greek composers from the 19th century to the mid-20th century and of poets and writers, among them Dionysios Solomos, C.P. Cavafy, Angelos Sikelianos and Gregory Xenopoulos.

Historical Archives Department of the Benaki Museum > The Delta House, 38 E. Benaki Street, Kifissia, tel. 210 8079878. Open: Mondays, Wednesdays-Fridays 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., Tuesdays 10 a.m. – 5 p.

Portraiture from past to present November 1, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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Before the invention of photography, portraiture was mainly a genre that was addressed to the higher social classes. But with the new photographic medium, and especially after the invention of the carte-de-visite in 1854, a portrait glued to a piece of cardboard the size of a traditional visiting card, portraits became accessible, popular and commercially appealing images.

“The Photographic Portrait: From a Trace to Allegory” which is the title of a group exhibition taking place at the Tsichritzis Foundation for the Visual Arts in Kifissia, includes specimens of the photographic portrait from the early, sepia-tinted carte-de-visites to the digital prints of today. The exhibition is organized in collaboration with the Thessaloniki Photography Museum and is held on the occasion of the 13th International Month of Photography.

From the contemporary works, the portraits of Cubans by Charis Kakarouchas (an exhibition on his work is currently on display at the Benaki’s Pireos Avenue annex) stand out for making everyday poor people look stately as well as for the use of light that resembles 16th-17th century Dutch painting. The exhibition includes portraits from early 20th century Kastoria by Leonidas Papazoglou and postwar portraits of female rural workers by Dimitris Letsios. With so many faces staring out at the viewer, this is a moving and engaging exhibition about history, tradition and lineage.

At the Tsichritzis Foundation, 1 Gregori Afxentiou street, Kifissia, tel 210 8017287, to November 10.

Niarchos Foundation backs cultural park plan November 1, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.
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Agreement to be signed for library, opera house, green area at Faliron

The Faliron delta’s former racetrack, whose fate has been hotly debated since the end of the Athens Olympics, has been selected as the site for the cultural park that will be built by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. But Costas Askounis, mayor of Kallithea, to which the delta area belongs, remains skeptical about the issue.

Within the next 12 months, the Greek government is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, launching the biggest cultural infrastructure project ever to be seen in the country: the construction of new premises for the National Library and a Greek National Opera house on a 200,000 square meter plot at the former racetrack in Faliron. Plans also include a green area that will host cultural, educational and entertainment activities.

Last Friday, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis received a letter from foundation board member Andreas Drakopoulos outlining the foundation’s offer. Afterward, the government announced that the cost of the studies and the construction and equipping of the new venues would be met by the foundation exclusively. Once the venues are up and running, the responsibility for their operation will pass into the hands of the state.

The meeting last week at the prime minister’s residence, Maximos Mansion, made the foundation’s intentions official. Both the government announcement and the note to Sunday’s press from the foundation make it clear that before the final agreement is signed there will be a preliminary study carried out to examine all the parameters of the project, in cooperation with all the relevant ministries and state services.

“Provided that this phase is successfully completed, based on the judgment of our board of directors, only then would our foundation be able to commit fully in order to materialize these projects and to sign the relevant memorandum of understanding with mutually agreed upon terms and presumptions for all parties involved, to guarantee the projects’ finest possible operation,” said the press release from the Niarchos Foundation. If all goes according to plan, construction work will not be completed before 2013 at the earliest.

The idea was initially conceived in 1999 when the foundation considered funding the construction of a new National Library. Once the idea matured and the relevant ministries became involved, the hunt for the location began, but ran into several obstacles.

The idea for the coastal strip of the Faliron delta was first introduced by the government itself. But in 2005, authorities began thinking more and more that maybe the same space could also house a Greek National Opera house as well as a cultural park.

Discussions on the project were put on the front burner and the public works minister briefed the mayor of Kallithea, to which the delta area belongs.

The final plan for the cultural park foresees two building of 60,000 square meters, leaving 14 hectares free for building a green strip. Kallithea Mayor Costas Askounis,  appeared skeptical and asked for a common policy on the coastal strip and the former racetrack.

Great pianist honored with Rachmaninoff November 1, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece.
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The late Gina Bachauer, one of the world’s most celebrated pianists, performed her first recital in Athens at the age of 8.

The Athens Concert Hall is hosting a concert in memory of Gina Bachauer on the 30th anniversary of the celebrated pianist’s death. Organized by the Gina Bachauer Association (at the Friends of Music Hall on November 6 at 8.30 p.m.), the concert is also a celebration for all aspiring pianists who have been inspired by the great virtuoso. The program consists of works by Sergei Rachmaninoff, one of Bachauer’s most influential teachers.

Performed by the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra of Bucharest and conducted by Christian Mandeal, the program will begin with “Vocalise,” opus 43, followed by the composer’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No 2 in C minor and symphony No 2 in E minor. Soloist Aris Garoufalis, founder of the Gina Bachauer Association, will perform on the piano.

The former princess Irene of Greece will also honor Bachauer, her former piano teacher, by attending the performance, while all proceeds from the event will go to a scholarship fund for young pianists. The Gina Bachauer Association was founded in 1979 and since 1980 has endowed over 30 scholarships to young artists.

Tickets for the performance are already on sale at the Athens Concert Hall box office and are priced from 19 euros to 70 euros for the distinguished zones, with a special ticket of 11 euros available for students. The concert is sponsored by HSBC Bank, Titan Cement and the Pavlos and Alexandra Kanellopoulou Foundation.

Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali street and Vassilissis Sofias Avenue. For information, tel 210 7282000 and 210 7244251.

News in brief November 1, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News, Telecoms, Transport Air Sea Land.
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OTE says ADSL clients up tenfold

Greece’s largest telecom operator OTE said yesterday it had more than 400,000 high-speed Internet (ADSL) subscribers at the end of October, an almost 10-fold gain since the beginning of last year. OTE is seeking to increase the amount of its broadband Internet clients to offset the erosion of its core fixed-line telephony revenues as users change over to other carriers and to mobile phone companies. OTE’s ADSL clients were about 45,000 people at the start of 2005, while in 2004 the number of subscribers was negligible. OTE aims to reach about 500,000 ADSL clients by the end of this year, while its broadband network is expected to have 750,000 portals throughout the country.

Contract for Thessaloniki underwater tunnel signed

A consortium led by Hellenic Technodomiki yesterday signed a contract with the Greek government to build an underwater tunnel in the northern city of Thessaloniki, it said yesterday. The agreement, expected to be ratified by Parliament in four months, will see construction begin on the 6.5-kilometer undersea artery, which will cost about 472 million euros, by March 2007, the company said.

Train suspended

The Hellenic Railway Organization (OSE) said yesterday that trains will not run between Aghioi Anargyroi, western Athens, and Corinth from today until the end of the year. The service is being suspended due to engineering work in the area of Kakia Skala. A replacement bus service will operate until the work is completed, OSE said.