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Following the Artemis trail in the Troodos Mountains December 9, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus.
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Schussing Above the Beaches in Cyprus

This eastern Mediterranean island might be best known for beer-guzzling summer tourists from Britain and a perennially nasty tug-of-war between Turkey and Greece.

But for some, Cyprus is turning into a year-round destination thanks to its benign winter climate, and a few snow-capped peaks.

The serenely wooded Troodos Mountains, in the central part of the Greek-administered southern side of the island, reach elevations of 6,400 feet and from January to March enjoy fairly reliable snowfall. There are two small resorts and four lifts on the slopes of Mount Olympus, all run by the Cyprus Ski Federation, which has snowmaking equipment to make up for any snowless periods. The best time to visit is in late January and early February, when natural snow is usually at its best.

Residents say that more and more people, both Cypriots and foreigners, ski there every year. Perhaps they’re tempted by the somewhat apocryphal claims of being able to ski and to swim in the sea on the same day: it’s possible, but apparently few do it.

Related Links > http://www.cyprusski.com/MAIN/default.aspx

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World Assembly of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad December 9, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora, Shows & Conferences.
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Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis addressed the opening of the World Assembly of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) in Thessaloniki yesterday.

The Council is set to elect a new leadership following the retirement of its president, Andrew Athens of the US.

Karamanlis told delegates that those Greeks living abroad who have retained their Greek citizenship will soon be able to vote in Greek National elections at Greek Embassies and Consulates in their country of residence. The number of eligible voters is estimated at 2 million.

Passport centers working overtime December 9, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News, Tourism.
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The government is boosting the numbers of staff at state services processing new passports in an effort to help meet strong demand for the travel document as Greeks prepare for holiday trips abroad, a source said.

More than 5,000 applications for new passports are submitted every day, and authorities have struggled to keep up with the work before the old passports expire at the end of the year.

Offices which process passport applications will start operating around the clock as of Monday. Officials say that by working for 24 hours, they can approve more than 5,000 applications per day and cut backlogs. Thirty police officers will be also rushed through basic training today and tomorrow to help with the department’s staffing needs, the source said.

As demand for the new passports has increased with the holidays approaching, so has the time needed to process them. Last month, authorities took five days to ready the travel documents while now the task requires up to 10 days. Sources added that the ministry may also keep passport desks at police stations open for 24 hours until the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the Hellenic Federation of Travel and Tourism Enterprises (HATTA) said yesterday that travelers who leave the country with the old passport in 2006 will be allowed to re-enter in the new year. HATTA said yesterday that all Greek embassies have been instructed to inform local travel authorities that Greek travelers will be allowed to return to Greece with the previous passport.

Private islands a top target for investors December 9, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.
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Billions of euros expected to be spent over the next few years in building resorts or sanctuaries for tycoons

Patroklos, a 4-square-kilometer islet off the coast of Attica, in the Saronic Gulf, is considered prime real estate by prospective investors. The son of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon was involved in a controversial bid.

The purchase of one of the 60 private islands in Greece has become a particularly attractive proposition for tycoons and business groups thanks to the high cash flows they have enjoyed in the last few years.

Shipowners, entrepreneurs and mainly funds from abroad, such as Cyprus or the Middle East where the rise of oil prices has allowed for a great flow of capital, are the primary so-called island-hunters, who want to turn them into a “private paradise” or to realize tourism-related or real estate developments. In their frequent visits to Greece, foreign entrepreneurs usually talk about their investment interest in real estate and tourism, something which remains a relatively untapped source in this country.

The owners of those islands have by now realized the value of their assets and are rushing to make the most of them in the best possible way. One of the moves recorded a few months ago was the acquisition of Skyropoula, an islet of 4 square kilometers next to Skyros in the northern Aegean.

Sources suggest that the island was sold for 6 million euros by the Antoniadis family to one or more members of the Cypriot Haji-Ioannou shipping family, whose best-known member is Sir Stelios, the founder of easyGroup, which includes easyJet and easyCruise. Another recent purchase was that of the islet Kythro, near Lefkada. It is reported that Kythro, which measures 0.8 square kilometers, has cost an unnamed Greek investor some 2.5 million.

These are cases of private investments which will only be used by the islands’ new owners. Yet the island market has a far greater appeal if it involves the islands being developed for tourism with the construction of holiday housing complexes.

Such is the case of the 0.5-square kilometer island of Alatas in the Pagasitikos Gulf, near Volos. Reports suggest that the island has been leased for the next 50 years by United Five Development of Cyprus, which is expected to invest more than 50 million. These funds concern the construction of major hotel units of 900 beds, complete with restaurants, recreation facilities, tennis courts and swimming pools.

There are similar plans for Arkoudi island, in the Ionian north of Cephalonia. A  100 million investment that will create 300 jobs is in the works. The project will cover 4 square kilometers comprising 140 super-luxury accommodation units, a marina, a spa center and an 18-hole golf course as well as many other sports facilities. Entrepreneur Giorgos Stavropoulos is in charge of this tourism investment. This is one of the most important developing projects in Greece, as it will create an all-new destination for tourism.

Another island sold is Drymos, acquired by a group of British investors involved in property development. The purchase of the Cycladic island, which measures 3 square kilometers, is estimated to have cost 4.2 million.

Yet the island which generates perhaps the greatest investment interest is Patroklos, off the Attica coast in the Saronic Gulf. The position of the island, owned by the Giatrakos family of lawyers, and its size of 4.2 square kilometers, have attracted investors’ attention as it has the potential to be turned into a fine tourism resort. Israelis, including the son of former prime minister Ariel Sharon, had been involved in its possible purchase, although the deal has now definitely been abandoned and interest is turning to a foreign tourism group.

Experts believe the price tag on the island is expected to exceed 100 million, as its distance of just 850 meters from the Attica coast renders it a highly attractive destination and appropriate for developing a luxurious holiday resort as well as a marina.

Real estate experts argue that the price of every island depends on a variety of factors. The closer it is to the mainland, the more its price rises, as access to it becomes easier. No private island has infrastructure such as public utility connections, power, water, telephone, making it more important for an island to be near the mainland.

Other important factors include whether an island has underground water reserves to be drilled, beach potential or any natural harbors that can be approached by vessels.

But the main factor is whether an island has the essential documents so as to be transferred. These documents need a lot of time and maneuvering through the ministries of National Defense, Environment and Culture before they are issued. Every island sale requires an opinion by the Archaeological Service confirming the non-existence of antiquities and by the Forest Service about the non-registering of the island as forestland. It also requires a certificate from the National Defense and the Merchant Marine ministries, via the Greek navy, attesting that the island in question is not under any national security restrictions.

Consequently there are difficulties in the transferring of private islands near Turkey, as well as the Echinades islands in the Ionian Sea, since the latter area has entered the Natura 2000, a European Union program, according to which certain areas are protected and no access to them is allowed. All those documents may well require up to 12 months before they are issued.

More confusing is the inclusion of all Greek islands in the border regions. This means that the state maintains its right to repurchase each island if it so wishes and if the private status of the island is clear. If an island changes hands, the state can still repossess it from its next owner within one year.

Most of the owners of islands who have now put them on sale have inherited them from their ancestors, who in turn acquired them straight after the Turkish occupation, in the 19th century. As a result, many owners have had to take matters to the Supreme Court in order to claim them. Most of the owners have been granted a decision which gave them the title deeds. In any case, anyone interested in buying an island must be extremely careful with the title deeds and the accompanying documents. Most islands for sale have the full set of required documents.

Over the years, several Greeks bought an island mostly for their own private use, such as well-known Skorpios, which measures 0.8 square kilometers, bought by Aristotle Onassis. Today Skorpios has been completely abandoned, with some rumors circulating about its upcoming sale by Athina Onassis, the tycoon’s granddaughter, although this has been officially denied.

The shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos, Onassis’s biggest rival, also acquired Spetsopoula, southeast of Spetses, in order to host to his important guests. Revmatonissi, off the island of Paros, was purchased by Dolly Goulandris, while shipowner Panayiotis Tsakos bought Atokos island in the Ionian.

Cypriot group ready to invest 2 billion euros on the island of Dokos > One of the recent efforts to purchase a Greek island came from Cypriot group Kerlengou Island Investments Plan Ltd. It concerns the uninhabited island of Dokos, which measures 12 square kilometers and is located between Hydra and Spetses, just off the eastern coast of the Peloponnese.

Reports from Cyprus suggest that Costas Kerlengos acquired the island on November 17, following a private auction by the Livanos family, the island’s previous owner. Dokos cost its new owners 180 million.

Kerlengos’s aim is to turn the island into a holiday destination by developing hotel units, housing complexes in the form of villages, as well as isolated luxury houses, investing a total of 2 billion. He also intends to sell up to 12,000 plots of land, starting at 75,000 each.

The first studies regarding the future development of the island have already started. Due to the existence of many antiquities, the Kerlengos group can only use 7 square kilometers of Dokos, as the rest must remain undeveloped. Kerlengos stated that interest has already come from parties in Greece, Cyprus and the Middle East, and that he has lined up a Greek architectural firm to assist with the development. Construction is due to begin in early 2008.

Marianna Vardinoyianni honored December 9, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Lifestyle.
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Monday December 4 was an important day for UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Marianna Vardinoyianni and her associates in Paris.

First a lunch at the Salon Pompadour at the Hotel Le Meurice given in her honor by former president Valery Giscard d’Estaing to celebrate her designation by the French Republic as a Knight of the Legion of Honor.

The lunch was attended by Princess Isabelle of Liechtenstein, Princess Aikaterini of Yugoslavia, Takako Matsuura, wife of UNESCO’s director-general, composer Jean-Michel Jarre, singer Nana Mouskouri, Greek Ambassador to France Dimitris Paraskevopoulos and Greece’s Ambassador to UNESCO Giorgos Anastasopoulos, along with members of Vardinoyianni’s family and friends from Greece.

Vardinoyianni was also a guest at the annual dinner given by Anne-Aymone Giscard d’Estaing in the Galerie des Batailles at the Palace of Versailles, along with former empress of Iran Farah Pahlavi, Princess Victoria of Sweden, and Princess Astrid of Belgium.

Prior to the dinner was a concert at the Opera Royale by Dee Dee Bridgewater, Grace Bumbry and Gospel Dream in aid of the Fondation pour l’Enfance.

Giant who changed the face of shipping December 9, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Books Life Greek.
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‘Onassis’ the new book by George M. Foustanos

The exhibition “Aristotle Onassis: Beyond the Myth,” held by the Onassis Foundation with the cooperation of the Benaki Museum’s Pireos Street Annex to mark the 10th anniversary of the shipowner’s birth, was a resounding success.

The crowds of people who flocked to see the exhibition confirmed that the self-made businessman from Smyrna, who escaped the flames of the Asia Minor catastrophe to seek his fortune, first in Argentina and then in the US and Europe as master of the seas with his fleet of tankers and of the air with Olympic Airways, was a modern-day Odysseas.

The exhibition closed on November 15 but an excellent book by George M. Foustanos, published by Argo in Greek and English, details his meteoric rise through the realms of shipping, business, petroleum and airlines as well as his turbulent private life. He knew tragedy as well as success, with the death of his son Alexander at the age of 25 in a mysterious plane crash.

Foustanos, also from an old shipping family, has painted a moving portrait of Onassis, whom Lloyd’s List called one of the “giants who changed the face of shipping.” This luxury publication makes for an ideal gift to give to others and to oneself.

Understanding an ancient Greek computer December 9, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Science.
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New Tech Helps Identify Very Old Tech > 2000 Year Old Computing Device

theantikytheramechanism.jpg A fragment of the 2,100-year-old Antikythera Mechanism at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

“It was a pocket calculator of the time.” John Seiradakis, University of Thessaloniki

Imagine tossing a top-notch laptop into the sea, leaving scientists from a foreign culture to scratch their heads over its corroded remains centuries later.

A Roman shipmaster inadvertently did something just like it 2,000 years ago off southern Greece, experts said. They claim to have identified a handful of puzzling metal scraps found in the wreck as the earliest known mechanical computing device, which pinpointed astronomical events.

Known as the Antikythera Mechanism, from the island off which the Roman ship sank, the assemblage of cogs and wheels looks like the innards of a very badly maintained grandfather clock. But the first clockwork devices appeared more than a thousand years later in Western Europe.

Seiradakis, a Professor of Astronomy at the University of Thessaloniki, was among an international team including British, Greek and U.S. scientists who used specially developed X-ray scanning and imaging technology to analyze the corroded bronze, revealing hidden machinery and a form of written user’s manual.

“We have used the latest technology available to understand this mechanism, yet the technological quality in this mechanism puts us to shame,” said project leader Mike Edmunds, professor of astronomy at Cardiff University. “If the ancient Greeks made this, what else could they do?”

He spoke at a two-day conference on the Antikythera Mechanism that opened in Athens on last Thursday. The team’s findings were also published in Nature magazine. Ever since its discovery a century ago, the complex mechanism has baffled scientists.

Edmunds said the 82 surviving fragments, dated to between 140-100 B.C, contain over 30 gear wheels, and “are covered with astronomical, mathematical and mechanical inscriptions.”

“It was a calendar of the moon and sun, it predicted the possibility of eclipses, it showed the position of the sun and moon in the zodiac, the phase of the moon, and we believe also it may have shown the position of some of the planets, possibly just Venus and Mercury,” he said.

The box-shaped mechanism, the size of office paper and operated with a hand-crank, could predict an eclipse to a precise hour on a specific day.

“The design of the mechanism is very wonderful, making us realize how highly technological the ancient Greek civilization was. Much more so, perhaps, than we thought,” Edmunds said.

The new study of the ancient device, with the aid of Hewlett-Packard and the British X-Ray equipment maker X-Tek, more than doubled the amount of the inscriptions readable on the mechanism.

“We will not yet be able to answer the question of what the mechanism was for, although now we know what the mechanism did,” Edmunds said.

His fellow team member Xenophon Moussas, an Associate Professor of Space Physics at Athens University, speculated that the device could have been used for navigation at sea or for mapmaking. The first comparable devices known in the west were clockwork clocks developed during the Middle Ages.

Nature magazine suggested that the know-how for these mediaeval clocks may have reached Europe from the east after the fall of Baghdad, capital of a highly cultured, prosperous Islamic state, to the Mongols in the 13th century.

The Antikythera device was probably made on the island of Rhodes, which had a long tradition in astronomy and applied mechanics. The sunken ship, thought to have been carrying plunder from Roman-conquered Greece to Rome, is believed to have sailed from Rhodes. It sank in the first century B.C.

The wreck was found in 1900 by Greek sponge-divers 164 feet deep and just off the small island of Antikythera, on what is still a busy trade route between southern mainland Greece and Crete.

A systematic search of the wreck revealed a group of bronze and badly weathered marble statues, as well as the Antikythera Mechanism, in what remained of its original wooden casing. All the finds, including wine jars, pottery, silver coins and plates, are now at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.