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Rhodes > the old town is simply stunning December 26, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Islands Aegean.
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There are even plans for a new seven-star hotel in Faliraki.

Stay in the gorgeous Old Town with its ultra-stylish boutique hotels and the island’s best restaurants and you’ll think you are on a different planet. Rhodes used to be one of the poshest places in Greece, and inside the Old Town walls it still is, with smart jewellers and leather wear boutiques. Every time I visit, I discover new nooks and corners in its labyrinth of lanes and alleys, and there are plenty of sights to see.

The big attraction is the spectacular Palace of the Grand Masters, built for the leaders of the Knights of St John in the 15th Century and lavishly restored in the 1920s by the Italians, who snatched Rhodes from the Turks in 1912, and were allowed to keep it after the First World War, until it became Greek again after World War II.

Nearby, the domed Mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent is the most splendid relic of nearly 400 years of Turkish rule. Next to it, the 19th Century clocktower has the best view of the Old Town, though you need a good head for heights to climb up rickety stairs to the top.

Another Ottoman relic is the Hammam, a huge Turkish baths with cavernous steam rooms and plunge pools that’s still used by locals, just bring your own towel and soap.

The Archaeological Museum, in one of the lodges of the Knights of St John, is worth a look for its collection of graceful carvings and ceramics from the ancient cities of the island.

The Old Town’s only drawback is that none of its charming hotels has a pool, but for a quick dip in summer you can make do with tiny, surprisingly clean beach by the harbour, where you can also watch the yachts and ferries come and go. Or take a 10-minute walk along Plateia Eleftherias, the harbour esplanade, to discover a mile-long sweep of sandy beach and clear blue water, complete with loungers, sunbeds, and stalls selling ice cream and ice cold beer.

For huge pools and all the trimmings you want from a real luxury resort, you need to look outside town. But you don’t have to look all that far to find the Aldemar Paradise Royal Mare, a huge complex with everything you could want for a family holiday, eight pools, including an enormous saltwater pool, a heated indoor pool and kids’ pools, one with an 80-metre water slide, a private beach with heaps of watersports, and four tennis courts. There’s a big choice of bars and restaurants, and if you take the all-inclusive option you can use them all. The rooms are big and comfortable too, but book early for a room with a sea view.

Lots of my fellow guests never left the hotel, but if you do get itchy feet there’s plenty to see and do around the island. If you want to do it yourself, car rental is cheap, taxis are plentiful and there’s a good bus network. Or climb aboard an organised tour. Lindos, a much-hyped white village about 35 miles from Rhodes Town, is as pretty as it is claimed to be.

It’s also a real tourist trap, with dozens of overpriced souvenir shops and cafes, but at least the view from the hilltop above the village, where yet another castle of the Knights encloses the ruins of the ancient city of Lindos, is worth the hike.

The famous Valley of the Butterflies is another point to explore. But know that the butterflies are only there from June to August.

If you have surf-mad teens, drive out to Prasonissi, at the western tip of Rhodes, a huge double crescent of windswept beach that is perfect for windsurfing and kite-boarding, you can rent windsurf boards by the day. Scuba diving is popular too, several professional outfits, run by British dive teachers, offer learn-to-dive courses in Rhodes’ calm, novice-friendly waters.

Best of all, Rhodes is open for business longer than most Greek islands, the main town is big enough to work well for a short break even through the winter.

Cava d’Oro
(22410 36980 or log on to www.cavadoro.com) is next to the medieval city walls, just a few minutes walk from the ferry dock. Bedrooms have stone walls, arched ceilings and are pret tily decorated. Tiny breakfast-bar-terrace to the rear. 

Camelot (22410 36980, www.camelothotel.gr) is a pension in a medieval building a short walk from the Old Town’s busy main squares. Choice of simple double or triple room with en-suite WC and shower or twin room with separate toilet and shower. Pretty pebbled inner cour tyard, lavish breakfasts and very attractive surroundings. 

Fashion Hotel Nikos Takis (22410 70773 www.nikostakishotel.com) is a fabulous new hotel in the Old Town, owned by two of Greece’s best known fashion designers. Great location next to the palace of the Grand Masters. Suites with four poster beds, carved wooden furniture, embroidered silk soft furnishings and luxury bathrooms, views over the rooftops and ramparts of the Old Town. 

Aldemar Paradise Royal Mare (www.aldemarhotels.com) is a huge all-inclusive resort (6km from town) with greatfamily facilities, animation and entertainment. 

Alexis, 18, Socratous stree
t (22410 29347 – booking advisable) is one of the best restaurants in Greece, specialising in fabulous seafood in the heart of the Old Town. Photos of celebrities who have dined here since it opened in 1957 adorn the walls. Fresh fish perfectly grilled, good wines, and choice of tables and a sunny terrace. 

Alexis Four Seasons, 33, Aristotelous street (22410 70522) is a bit less formal and cheaper than its big brother, with an equally good seafood menu and tables in a pretty courtyard shaded by vines. 

Meltemi, Akti Koundourioti (just turn up) is a family-run restaurant with a terrace which looks out over a mile of beach. The sea is just five steps away if you fancy a pre-lunch dip. Uncomplicated menu with good choice of hot and cold appetizers, grills and fish dishes.


The longest wedding dress in Cyprus December 26, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Fashion & Style.
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The longest wedding dress train ever seen in Cyprus is set to be unveiled on Christmas Eve in Paphos.

The dress is the creation of local man Andreas Efstratiou, with the train set to measure 102 metres.

“It has taken ten people three months to finish the dress and it is simply stunning,” the 46-year-old said. “It is off-white and cost £8,000 to make.” The bodice alone features 3,000 Swarovski crystals and is worth £3,000. The tulle fabric was bought in France, with the dress also featuring a lot of lace.

Efstratiou said he had been involved in the design of wedding dresses ever since his mother introduced him to the art when he was 10 years old.

“I am doing this to show people on the island that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.”

The dress will not be worn at a wedding and is simply a showpiece for Efstratiou’s exquisite design work.

Five-hundred women applied for the privilege of modelling it, with the competition won by a local 23-year-old woman named Katerina. The first official public glimpse will take place between four and five pm on Sunday at the Kato Paphos port.

The longest wedding dress train in the world measured 1,203.9 metres (3,949.8 feet) and was made by Cindy Predhomme and France Loridan for Une Semaine Chrono in Caudry, France on August 5 this year.

“If I ever become a millionaire, I will make a train measuring 2,000 metres in order to get into the Guinness Book of World Records,” Efstratiou chuckled.

Cyprus to obtain its National Theatre December 26, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Cyprus, Stage & Theater.
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Cyprus Theatre Organization Board of Directors Chairman Demetris Karagiannis welcomed on Friday, the Council of Ministers’ decision to approve the construction of the new Cyprus National Theatre.

The new building, which will be situated in Nicosia, at the old GSP stadium premises and will cost 9,4 million Cyprus pounds, aspires to give a new momentum to the theatre activities on the island. The building will include two state-of-the-art stages (550 and 150 seats), offices, an exhibition area, a foyer, a bookshop, a restaurant and a cafeteria.

The building will be constructed based on modern specifications and will provide all necessary facilities for people with disabilities, while it was included among the nine best public use buildings internationally, according to Estates Gazette. The construction will commence at the end of 2007 and will finish in 2010.

”With this project the Cypriot theatre makes a big step forward not only because the Cypriot Theatre Organization was, perhaps, the only theatre without a home, but because from this building, a momentum will emerge so that the idea of theatre will rise in the Cypriot peoples’ minds,” the organization’s Board of Directors Chairman Demetris Karagianis told a press conference.

Cyprus Theatre Organization Director Antis Partzelis described this day as the happiest day of his life. ”This day marks a new era for the Cyprus Theatre Organization,” he added.

2007 diary honors ‘fourth service’ in 2 World Wars December 26, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Books Life Greek, Greek Culture.
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The passenger ferry Hellas, 2,295 tons, owned by Coastal Shipping of Greece, was sunk by a German aircraft in Piraeus on April 24, 1941 as it was being boarded by British soldiers and civilians trying to escape the German advance. Many passengers were killed but only one crewman.

The Hellenic Maritime Museum has issued an excellent bilingual diary, certain to fascinate all Greeks as well as others who are interested in the Greek fleets.

In texts by Vice Admiral (Ret.) Paloumbis, it tells the story of the Greek Merchant Navy’s part in the two World Wars of the 20th century as a “fourth service” for “freedom, democracy, world peace and prosperity,” as Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis said in a congratulatory message to the book’s authors, Vice Admiral Paloumbis, who edited the book, and Anastasia Anagnostopoulou-Paloumbi, the head of the Hellenic Maritime Museum.

The latter in turn thanked the Ministry and particularly the Piraeus Port Authority, who subsidized the publication. “The Museum feels it should make the Greek Merchant Marine’s contribution to the two wars better known,” she said.

The stories are told through original photographs that depict the horror of war, the reality of life at sea, the hard life of seamen who spend long periods away from their homes even in peacetime, and who fight heroically for their country when its freedom is at stake. Much of the material was provided by the collector Meletis Methenitis and Captain I. Tzamtzis. Research was by archivist-librarian Cleopatra Rigaki and archaeologist Penelope Vouyiouklaki. The English translation is by Stephen Stafford. 

New CD with music by Theodorakis December 26, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Greek.
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Ritsos’s ‘Romiosyni’ and Elytis’s ‘Axion Esti’ on double CD with music by Theodorakis

Composer Mikis Theodorakis, whose pioneering music had the people singing the words of some of the greatest Greek poets, has released a CD of his music to Yiannis Ritsos’s “Romiosyni” and Odysseas Elytis’s “Axion Esti,” sung by George Dalaras and Tassis Christoyiannooulos, with narrations by actor Giorgos Kimoulis.

Theodorakis attended a press conference this week to announce the release of the recording in time for Christmas, with officials from the sponsor ERT and Universal Records.

Profits from sales will go to benefit the non-profit Epistrophe Association for People Fighting Addictions. The association uses a 12-step method, approaching the recovery “one day at a time.” The association has a halfway house in Kallithea that is home to 11 youths and is subsidized by Constantine and Geli Angelopoulou.

At the press conference, Theodorakis caused a stir by asking why ratings are so important and questioned their reliability. He suggested that ERT, as the state media, broadcast “Romiosyni” and “Axion Esti” at a prime time.

In ‘Ave Maria,’ the gift of Callas for world leaders December 26, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Classical, Special Features.
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A set of recordings by Maria Callas is the gift that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will be presenting to foreign leaders this New Year, a gift that will stand the test of time.

The set consists of 20 CDs and DVDs on which the late diva is heard singing the operas that made her famous as the “greatest voice in opera.” Another reason for Karamanlis’s choice is the 30th anniversary of Callas’s death. She died alone in her Paris apartment.

Maria Callas filled theaters around the world, including Epidaurus and Herod Atticus, with her voice and made Greece famous in opera houses in many capital cities.

Christmas Day messages December 26, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Culture.
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Christmas Day messages; Greece’s municipalities support homeless and needy

The birth of Christ was celebrated by Christianity on Monday throughout the world with devoutness.

In their Christmas Day messages, the heads of church referred to the meaning of the days. Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos in his Christmas Day message noted that “we must begin from today a new life worthy of the call of Christ.”

Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos stressed that “Christmas is an opportunity for our spiritual growth, for the cohesion of the family and the interception of the new order of sovereignty which changes the stable values of our culture.” 

Meanwhile, the Athens Municipality, as well as other Municipalities of the country, offered “luncheons of love” to the homeless and the needy.

The Greek Red Cross did likewise. They distributed food from the foundation’s installations at 3rd September Street in Athens.

Christmas carols for political leaders

The annual tradition of Christmas caroling a day before the holiday was again celebrated in Greece, as most political leaders received groups of carolers.