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Hatzigiannis to write Greek Eurovision song January 6, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Greek.
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Cypriot pop star Michalis Hatzigiannis will write the next Greek entry to the Eurovision Song Contest.

Cypriot pop star Michalis Hatzigiannis

ESC Today reports that the news was confirmed by Hatzigiannis in an interview broadcast by Greek music channel Mad TV. He added that he would not be performing at the contest. He explained that ERT contacted him and asked him to consider entering both as songwriter and performer. He felt though that with plans afoot to launch an album in the UK and US, the stigma of performing at Eurovision might not do him any favours. He did confirm that the song will be in English.

Michalis Hatzigiannis previously entered Eurovision in 1998, when he represented his home country, Cyprus. His song ‘Genesis’ ended in 11th place. Despite this, he has gone on to carve out a successful career in Greece and Cyprus with best-selling albums.

ERT hopes to announce details of their performer before the end of January, giving certain sites a good few weeks to suggest every imaginable performer known to man, before eventually claiming they got it right in the first place.


In the lap of the Greek Gods January 6, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece.
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Whether it’s visiting magnificent ruins in Corfu or chilling out on Zakynthos, Greece is a favourite destination for holiday makers.

Direct Greece has been selling tailormade holidays to the country for 16 years. Their Summer 2007 brochure features secluded, scenic villages of Svoronata in Kefalonia and Amoudi in Zakynthos. Prices average at just under £500, with bargains available from as little as £186.

With a customer satisfaction rating of 96 per cent, Direct Greece limit their number of holidays to 12,000 each year, which means they have time to research locations, visit accommodation and discover exactly what each person wants from a holiday.

Rhodes is the hot favourite for 2007. It is currently the top selling destination with almost 50 per cent of the programme already sold. Other hot spots include the mainland resort of Parga and the island of Kefalonia.

The new brochure offers seven and 14-night holidays to eight of the most unspoiled areas of Greece, with weekly flights from seven UK airports heading to Corfu, Kefalonia, Lesvos, Parga, Zakynthos, Lefkada, the Peloponnese and Halki.

Book before January 31 and enjoy free child places, single parent offers and up to an extra £50 off per booking. For a new brochure call 0870 191 9091 or visit www.directgreece.co.uk 

ba.com offers Cyprus tickets for only CYP 10 January 6, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in News Flights.
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British Airways is celebrating the tenth anniversary of its website www.ba.com and is offering economy class travellers who log on to the site next Wednesday, January 10 a one-way ticket from Larnaca to London for a mere CYP 10 (EUR 17), plus airport taxes, charges and other fees.

Customers booking this price online will need to travel by March 31, while a return-leg ticket can be bought for the same price. The offer will be available on the site only for one day.

According to an announcement ba.com is convenient, secure, and easy to use, giving travellers the chance to book British Airways flights online, check-in online and even print their boarding pass online from the comfort of their own home or office.

“This is a great offer giving travellers another reason to further familiarise themselves with ba.com and see how much the website has to offer, from excellent prices, flight network details, travel information and much much more”, said British Airways Manager Cyprus, Marianna Trokoudes. She added that “British Airways will continue to develop its website in order to make journeys to and from London as smooth and enjoyable as possible”.

Athens – London for only EUR 10

A similar offer was launched by British Airways to passengers booking economy class tickets as of January 10 to London from Athens and Thessaloniki, with the single-leg fare selling for EUR 10 plus all taxes and charges.

Foreign pros to hold workshops at Fajr International Theater Festival January 6, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Asia.
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A group of foreign instructors and scholars is to hold workshops on the sidelines of the upcoming theater festival in Tehran.

The 25th Fajr International Theater Festival, scheduled to be held from January 8 to 17, will play host to scholars from the U.S., Britain, Germany, Russia, Greece, the Netherlands, and Poland.

Peter Chelkowski (the U.S.), Joseph Raikhel (Russia), and Evdokimos Tsolakidis (Greece) are to focus on “Dramatic Aspects of Ta’zieh”, “Stanislavski System and Its Function in Modern Theater”, and “Improvising, an Approach to Directing and Acting” respectively.

Other theater experts, including Nil van der Linden (the Netherlands), Nelson Fernandez and Roger McCann (Britain) as well as Michael Olenick and Tina Kokovic (Germany) are to contribute to the program.

Greece celebrates Epiphany with traditional ‘blessing of the waters’ ceremonies January 6, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Culture, Religion & Faith.
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Greece celebrated the religious holiday of Epiphany on Saturday with the traditional “blessing of the waters” ceremony at the country’s countless ports, harbours, lakes and reservoirs, with the Nation’s political leadership also on hand at Church masses and at the water’s side.

The most prominent service was again celebrated at the port of Piraeus’ Metropolitan Cathedral and seafront, with Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos officiating at the service, attended by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, who represented the Government, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, former premier Costas Simitis and dozens of other government officials, MPs and local government office-holders. Most political leaders on hand expressed their best wishes for 2007.

On his part, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis attended Epiphany services near his home in the east Attica coastal town of Rafina, where he expressed his best seasons for the New Year, while emphasising the need for close ties between parents and children.

Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos officiated at a similar service in Istanbul, the venerable Patriarchate’s seat.

Greek Orthodox men dive in Istanbul in celebration of Epiphany January 6, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Culture, Religion & Faith.
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Three Greek Orthodox faithful dived into the wintry waters of Istanbul’s Golden Horn on Saturday to retrieve a wooden cross in an Epiphany ceremony.

His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, first led a liturgy at the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George for Epiphany, the day on which the Greek Orthodox Church commemorates the baptism of Jesus Christ.

Bartholomew, who is based in Istanbul, led the congregation to the shores of the Horn, a 2.3-kilometer (4.5 mile) arm of the Bosporus waterway, for the traditional ceremony of the blessing of the waters. He threw the cross into the cold water and the three worshippers jumped in, in a contest to retrieve it.

This years’ winner was Mario Tarinas, 27, from Istanbul, who beat a father and son from Greece to reach the cross first. Tarinas kissed the cross and lifted his arm to show it off as some 300 faithful, members of Istanbul’s dwindling Greek Orthodox community and visitors from Greece, cheered and applauded. The two other competitors, Christos Koulidis and his 16-year-old son, Alex, then swam toward Tarinas to touch the cross. All three were rewarded with a chain and crucifix from Bartholomew.

The ceremony was conducted under tight police security. Turkish nationalists, who mistrust the patriarchate because of its ties to Turkey’s historical rival Greece, have disrupted similar ceremonies in the past. The Patriarchate in Istanbul dates from the 1,100-year Greek Orthodox Byzantine Empire, which collapsed when Muslim Ottoman Turks conquered the city, then called Constantinople, in 1453.

Although only a few thousand Greek Orthodox Christians now live in Turkey, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has remained in Istanbul, and has direct authority over several Greek Orthodox churches around the world.

In rustic Greek Dishes, a fresh approach to Ancient Flavors January 6, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Taste World.
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Ask New Yorkers to name a classic Greek dish, and many would say moussaka, gooey layers of eggplant, ground meat and comfort. But a new breed of Greek restaurants here also serves dishes like rabbit phyllo, grilled branzino with artichoke confit and dandelion greens, and Cretan honey-braised lamb shank with yogurt pasta.

Trend-setting chefs like Michael Psilakis at Onera, Christos Valtzoglou at Pylos and Michael Symon at Parea, to name a few, are giving Greek food new vibrancy. Thirty-four Greek restaurants are listed in the latest Zagat guide, 18 of them newcomers since 2000. So I wondered, whether I would encounter inventiveness at restaurants there, too.

As soon as a deconstructed version of a tomato stuffed with rice was placed before me at 48 Restaurant in Athens, I knew I need not have worried. The rice had been typically seasoned with tomato, cinnamon, pine nuts and currants but was shaped like ovals of sushi. Slabs of slow-roasted tomato topped them. That the chef, Christoforos Peskias, has Ferran Adriΰ as a mentor did not surprise me one bit.

As I traveled outside the big cities, I continued to be delighted by the fresh and new. In fact, as long as I stayed away from tourist places, I was in for an adventure.

But some of the most unusual yet simple and delicious food I found was in Rhodes, the large island in the Aegean’s Dodecannese group of islands. This food was not obviously modern, but based on a sense of place and on the traditions and ingredients of the island. It’s a rustic cuisine that New York restaurants have yet to discover.

I came home with recipes I could not wait to try. Most were from Mavrikos, a 70-year-old family restaurant in Lindos, a town in the southwestern corner of Rhodes known for its beaches and a steep acropolis reached by stairs or donkey. When Lindos was a jet-setting destination, before islands like Mykonos and Patmos were on the social radar screen, Mavrikos had a star-studded clientele. Nelson Rockefeller, members of Pink Floyd and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis stopped by, said Michalis Mavrikos, who runs the restaurant.

Most of the bold-face names have moved on, but Mr. Mavrikos and his brother, Dimitri, the chef, are maintaining the family’s culinary traditions in the whitewashed dining room. Every evening, their father, Vassilis, 85, sits in one corner, near the small open kitchen, and casts a critical eye over everything.

For our party of six, Dimitri Mavrikos prepared a tasting menu of about 20 dishes. Tackling the recipes for some of them when I got home, I was happy to discover that even the most exotic-tasting dishes called for ingredients that are sold in American health food and Greek specialty stores, and also online.

Gigantes, as huge, succulent butter beans are called, were simmered in a dark, musky sauce seasoned with carob. “We can gather the carob pods from trees all around,” Michalis Mavrikos said.

Fresh local red shrimp were peeled and pounded, raw, into a paste and seasoned with onion, garlic and orange, for a rich alternative to taramosalata. It’s a dish I can try now, since fresh Maine shrimp are in season.

Freshly caught tuna loin was cured with sugar, salt and herbs, a little like gravlax, then sliced thin and served with pickled fennel. Gar, a long, skinny fish, was cooked and served in thick grape syrup, like saba, the Italian grape must. Poached skate was seasoned with herbs and pine nuts and formed into a timbale.

Meltingly tender beef had been slow-cooked in a casserole with cracked wheat and seasoned with bergamot, an aromatic citrus fruit that grows on the island and is best known as the flavoring for Earl Grey tea.

“You are probably thinking that some of these dishes, especially with the cracked wheat and exotic spices, came from Turkey,” Michalis Mavrikos said. “I assure you they do not.”

The seasonings for the tuna included fenugreek, a slightly pungent, grassy herb with seeds that can have a celery flavor. Although American cooks may associate it with Indian cooking, it grows wild on Rhodes, as does cumin, another seasoning used in some of the dishes.

If there is any non-Greek influence in the food at Mavrikos, it is likely to be French or Italian. When the Turks controlled Rhodes, the Mavrikos brothers’ paternal grandfather moved to Marseilles, where he owned a bistro. When Italy took over Rhodes in 1912 he returned, married an Italian woman and opened the restaurant in 1933. His son, Vassilis, studied cooking in Athens before returning to cook in the family restaurant.

Dimitri Mavrikos said the cooking of his father and grandparents, along with the local traditions, are his most compelling influences.

“When I plan my menus I first try to find local things, vegetables from the villages, fish from nearby,” he said. “But local fresh fish are not as plentiful as they once were and it’s getting harder to find them.” The chef travels, often to London, when the restaurant is closed in winter. “I’m always a little sad when I’m abroad,” he said. “I often can’t find real Greek food and rarely are there any Greek wines.”

Perhaps he should plan a trip to New York, where he’ll find Greek wines and respectable and inventive Greek food as well.