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The Athenian Riviera January 19, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Athens, Hotels Greece.
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Sandy, clean, organized beaches; suburbs nestled in trees; malls; funky clubs and restaurants; piers and ports; sports clubs; historical and natural sites -the are plenty of reasons why locals, tourists, and demanding travellers alike are re-discovering the «Athenian Riviera»

After half century, the Attica coastline, from Piraeus to Sounion, is once again dubbed the «Athenian Riviera»

Athens, summer of 1960. Newspapers of the time note that «the hot weather is pushing Athenians toward the Saronicos coast for a dip». Vouliagmeni beach «accommodates those in search of luxury, and Varkiza beach though not organized, covered by golden sand and is accessible to the masses, especially after the completion of Sounion Avenue».

Piraeus residents favor Paraskeva beach, Kastella, whilst the Athenian elite prefers «musical» weekends at «Asteria», Glyfada. Before the end of August, late Prime Minister Constantinos Karamanlis, minister Constantinos Tsatsos, among other dignitaries, inaugurate the Vouliagmeni beach, as part of a bigger plan to develop the greater Megalo Kavouri area. Part of the same plan are the 76 bungalows and a hotel of 150 beds designed by K. Boutsinas, at the Lemos area. It is the summer that Maria Kallas sings «Norma» for the first time in Epidaurus; Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher enjoy a cruise in the Aegean; international artists, tycoons, and stars visit Athens on private yachts.

The question «does Greece need luxury tourism?», led to the decision to build 82 landing docks and re-fuelling points for private boats. The booming of the Athenian coast, coinciding with the birth of «Astir Palace», was finally becoming a reality.

Today, at the «heavy duty» tourism conferences, it is generally recognized that the Athens Olympics have brought yet another change to the greater area: the whole coastline, from Neo Faliro to Glyfada, has been restructured. Public areas, parks, beaches, and playing fields have been re-built. The all-time favorite «coastal avenue», the Athenians’ summer hot-spot- has been upgraded.

The former international airport of Hellenicon has been transformed into a metropolitan park. The new tram line connects the city center with the heart of the commercial district and the malls of Glyfada. With its new infrastructure, clean beaches, and mediterranean climate, Attica, is now «on the map» as a tourist destination. The Attica coastline, from Piraeus to Sounion, is once again dubbed the «Athenian Riviera». After half a century, the «Asteria» (stars) of Athens twinkle again.

Attica shoreline: A pilgrimage
the largest port of Greece and an urban center, has been inhabited si nee the Neolithic era. In the beginning of the 5th century BC, port to the city-state of Athens, Piraeus was connected to the city by the Long Wall. It developed into a politically powerful, trading, and economical center, and a hub for the production of hand-crafted items. Traces of the ancient fortress remain in Zea, Freatida, and along the Piraeus coastline. After 1850, and especially after 1922, when Piraeus received the largest portion of the refugees from Asia Minor, the city developed rapidly.

Take a stroll in the streets and the squares of Piraeus. Visit the tomb of Themistocles, leader of the Athenian army during the Persian Wars, in Freatida and the beautiful neoclassical building of the Municipal Theater, which houses the Museum of Setting Design by Panos Aravatinos. The Public Gallery, featuring works by Lytras, Vyzantios, Axelos, and Volanakis, the Maritime Museum, and Battleship Averof in Trocadero, are also worth a visit. Climb up the hill of Prophet Elias, and enjoy the stunning view from Veakeion. Take a walk in Zea (a.k.a. Passalimani), the most popular promenade in Piraeus.

Cut through the Pavlos Kountouriotis coast and the Votsalakia beach to reach Kastella, to enjoy the magnificent sunset. At that very spot, the Royal family used to swim during the reign of King George I, and wealthy Athenians and Piraeus residents, including merchants, business people, and ship owners used to stay at the country homes designed by architect Chiller. Visit Mikrolimano or Tourkolimano, as some still call it, because the pasha’s harem used to bathe there, during the Ottoman rule in Greece.

Today, this alcove brims with ultramodern sailing boats and yachts. Traditional taverns and minimal restaurants stand next to the historic Yacht Club of Greece. From the Dilaveri coast and its intense high life, cross the small bridge that takes you to the Peace and Friendship Stadium, its newly created parks, playgrounds, and athletic venues. In Faliro, the remaining neoclassical mansions and the promenade flanked with palm trees evoke images of an era when Athenians rode their carriage to the coast to enjoy its «hot springs». Follow the road to Alimos, hometown of ancient historian Thucydides, which features the largest marina in Greece and a beautiful organized beach.

Take a ride on the Coastal Avenue towards Glyfada, making a stop at the Pierides Gallery and another one at the sculpted Theater of Exoni. Continue towards Voula and Vari and visit the archeological site of the 4th century BC cemetery in Gourna. Pass through Vouliagmeni and Varkiza, to come to Lagonissi, Saronida, and Anavyssos, which features natural salt mines and the myth of the «Sunken City», mentioned in Elias Venezis’ novel «Galini».

The road will take you to Cape Sounion. From the top of a rock that plunges into the sea, stands one of the greatest ancient Greek monuments: the temple of Poseidon, ruler of the sea. A strategic and sacred location, the temple was a religious center since the Archaic Period as evidenced by the oversized marble Kouri, male statues found next to the rich merchants and sailors buried in its courtyard. The first temple was completely destroyed by the Persians and was rebuilt in 444 BC, during the «Golden Age» of the Athenian Democracy of Pericles. The new temple was Doric, built in its entirety of white marble from the Agrileza mines.

A magnificent, imposing monument, it has remained almost intact for five centuries. During the early Christian period, the area was deserted and became a place of inspiration for travelers, and the romantic literary figures, who used to carve their names on its pillars, Lord Byron was one of them. Even today, when sailors pass by «Kavo-kolones» (the «cape-columns») turn to pay tribute to the shrine. One night every year, hundreds of Greek and foreign visitors gather to watch a unique, ancient natural «performance»: the August full moon …

Tucked in a green oasis, surrounded by pine-covered hills that plunge into the sea, Vouliagmeni maintains today its original character and is being enriched with gardens, playgrounds, parks, and pedestrian walks. Due to its natural beauty and upgraded infrastructure, Vouliagmeni was selected during the Athens Olympic Games as the grounds for the Triathlon and Bicycle competitions-Individual timing.

Its golden beaches, long, sandy and clean, all carry the blue flag of FEEE. Take a ride from St. Nikolaos Pallon towards Megalo Kavouri, go around Lemos and the bay of central Vouliagmeni, to end up at the small coves below the Limni, at the Faskomilia area.

Oceanis, at Lemos, is an especially popular beach, which was revamped in recent years and now offers a restaurant, bar, and water sports, among other things. It also offers access to the physically disabled. The most fashionable beach in the area is that of the «Astir Palace» complex, featuring golden sand, clean waters, impeccable facilities, and water sports. The adjacent organized beaches, also clean and attractive (A and Β Voula beaches, Varkiza beach, and the public beach at Lagonissi), offer beach bars, water-slides, mini soccer facilities, etc.

There are many sports and water sports schools and facilities in the hotels of the area or the yacht clubs. There are also tennis courts and the Public Sports Center, which offers a modern gymnasium, a soccer field, basketball and volleyball courts.

In the Vouliagmeni area, there is a shopping center and a plethora of hotels, cafes, and restaurants that respond to a wide range of tastes and demands: the beautifully refurbished «Gourmet Club House»; the classic «Grill Room» in «Astir Palace»; the quaint little taverns in Saronida and Lagonissi; the coastal avenue clubs and the romantic, also refurbished «Moorings» that features gourmet cuisine. Finally, the state-of-the-art marina at Lemos can accommodate all types of boats.

The history of the town
The coast of Vouliagmeni was inhabited very early in history. The «Makra Akra», as the Lemos peninsula was called, was one of Attica’s areas, where excavations revealed ruins from the end of the Neolithic era (3,000 BC). At the same area, at Mikro Kavouri and Lemos, excavations revealed proto-Helladic settlements, a priests’ settlement, and ruins of a classical fort.

In 1942, children from the Vouliagmeni orphanage, stumbled upon seemingly insignificant ruins, while playing on the beach. Ultimately, parts of columns, marble pedestals, and a piece of an inscription referring to the ancient temple of Apollo Zostir were discovered. Parts of this very important temple, built at the end of the 6th century BC, columns and the altar dedicated to Leto and her children, Apollo and Artemis, are still there, in «Astir Palace’s» grounds and are, according to urban legend, responsible for the positive energy of the area.

The Vouliagmeni Limni (Lake)
On the coastal avenue, going southwest, where the town of Vouliagmeni ends, there is one of the most impressive natural sites of the Athenian coastline: the lake with the hot springs and the deep secrets that gave the town its name.

Scientists speculate that 2,000 years ago, at the same spot, there was a huge underground cave with hot springs and sensitive limestone rocks. Gradually, the hot springs suffered erosion eating up the rock on the roof of the cave, which sank, creating, due to its difference with the sea-level, the lake.

Research by a team of cave-specialists at the end of the 70’s revealed that the precipice connects with the sea, but they cannot say with certainty at what depth. The lake water comes from the mixture of the seawater with the water of the underground cave through cracks in the limestone walls. It contains a considerable percentage of salt and has healing qualities. Its temperature is between 20 and 27 degrees Celsius, steady year-round, reaching 35 degrees at the deeper areas.

Around the lake, steep cliffs compose a serene and imposing setting. The cliffs’ shadows, reflected in the calm, emerald waters, create a mysterious ambiance. During the Turkish rule, the Lake was called «Karachi» or Black Waters, due to the water’s color.

Today, the Lake features a bar and a hydrotherapy center with fully equipped auxiliary facilities for the visitors. The swimming facilities and hydrotherapy center are open daily, year round, from morning to sunset. The cafeteria is open until late in the evening, in the summer. The area has been declared a natural park, is included in the national catalogue «Natura 2000», and is protected by the international treaty «Ramsar».

More secluded spots
On the way to Lemos, there is trail after the marina on the right, that leads to a rocky coast and the chapel of St. Nikolaos. The chapel was built out of pebbles, in a natura grotto, by a local sailor, who maintained it up until recently. The municipality of Vouliagmeni is responsible for it now.

At the entrance from Papanastassiou hill, across the Athletic High School of Kavouri, a narrow street leads to the LOK monument at the top, dedicated to those who sacrificed their lives during World War II. The panoramic view of Vouliagmeni, and the whole of the «Athenian Riviera» and the Saronic Gulf from the top is breathtaking.

Related Links > http://www.astir-palace.com/en/

Melina Merkouri’s favorite Greek recipe January 19, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Recipes.
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Lamb roll in grape leaves

Ingredients for 4 persons >
1 kg lamb (leg)
150 gr manouri Greek cheese
150 gr kefalograviera Greek cheese from Crete
½ cup fresh goat butter
150 gr fresh grape leaves
1 cup olive oil
½ cup white wine
1 fresh onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1 medium carrot
2 lemons
2 bunches celery
1 bay leaf
1 bunch of mint
1 bunch of thyme
1 bunch of oregano

Preparation >
Debone the lamb leg, trim the fat and spread the meat on your work counter. Sprinkle with thyme, oregano and garlic (all ground) and add the lemon juice. Cut the cheeses into small strips and place them in the center of the meat. Roll the meat. Dip the grape leaves in salted boiling water briefly.

Carefully cover the lamb roll with the grape leaves. Place the roll in aluminum foil or tie with cooking string. Chop the onion, carrot, and celery and sauté them in olive oil and butter, together with the bones you had removed from the lamb.

Place the vegetable mix evenly at the bottom of a ceramic pan, add the lamb roll and pour wine and water over them. Preheat the oven at 180 ° Celsius and let it cook for 45 minutes. Remove the juice from the pan, strain it, remove excess fat, and add finely chopped mint. Cook for 5 more minutes.

Remove the foil or the string and carve the meat. Place it in a serving platter adding baked potatoes and fresh vegetables for garnish.

Wine Suggestion > This dish goes perfectly with red Merlot wine, preferably from the Peloponnese.

Wine events for dedicated aficionados January 19, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Wine And Spirits.
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Winetasting for professionals and amateurs alike

Wine lovers in search of developments in the local market have much to choose from this and next month.

Wine is taking over the Athens Concert Hall this weekend, with about 40 producers gathering to showcase their produce this Saturday and Sunday at “Oinotelia.” In the Athens Concert Hall’s foyer, gourmet choices such as caviar, salmon and cheese will accompany wine, while producers will present their goods in the banquet hall.

Also on the agenda are two seminars: discussing winetasting for beginners and why wines differ from one another, both delivered by specialist Simos Georgopoulos. The event, featuring Spain and Portugal as honored countries, is organized by Oinotrapeza, a company specializing in wine-related products and services.

At the Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali Street and Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, Athens.

Following the success of the previous two editions, the third edition of “Voroina” will take place on January 28 and 29 at the Hotel Grand Bretagne. It is organized by the Wine Producers’ Association of Northern Greece Vineyard (ENOABE), with a 5-euro entrance fee which includes a winetasting glass.

Visitors here will taste a broad range of wines, including appellation of origin as well as regional flavors. Besides winetasting, the union will also honor wine specialist journalist and author Nico Manessis for his efforts to promote Greek wine.

The Wine Producers’ Association of Northern Greece Vineyard is also behind the Wine Roads of Northern Greece, a travel program for local and foreign wine aficionados wishing to discover wine produce on location.

At the Hotel Grande Bretagne, Constitution Square, Athens.

‘Wine summit’ > Dionyssia 2007, a presentation and winetasting event for consumers is being organized at Zappeion Hall on February 23, 24 and 25. Billed as a local “wine summit,” the event will encompass a broad range of about 100 Greek wine producers, including a few foreign labels via their local representatives.

The event alternates annually with wine exhibition Oinorama. Organized by Vinetum under the aegis of the City of Athens, the event is defined as a postmodern version of ancient wine feasting, dedicated exclusively to bottled wine. Entrance to Zappeion Hall during the two-day event is set at 15 euros and includes a pass to return, a Riedel winetasting glass and the exhibition’s catalog.

For more information call 210 7660560 or log on to www.dionyssia.gr

Internet dialer virus hiked OTE bills January 19, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Police & Crime, Telecoms.
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Thousands of customers of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE), who received massive phone bills after an Internet “dialer” virus connected them to phone sex lines while they were online, will not have to pay for these calls, the state telecoms watchdog said yesterday.

The Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT) said that it had ordered the company that runs the “901” phone lines, which charge very high rates per minute, to deactivate them all immediately. The regulator has also instructed OTE not to charge its customers for calls made to these numbers by the dialer virus.

The EETT issued its decision after receiving thousands of complaints from OTE customers shocked at receiving inflated bills for calls they had not made.

Phone customers in other countries have experienced similar problems with dialer viruses hijacking their Internet connections without their knowledge.

UPDATE > 21 January 2007

OTE clarification > The Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) clarified yesterday that it had not been responsible for a virus that installed itself on some customers’ computers and automatically dialed expensive 901 phone sex lines run by a company called Maknan. This led to a number of people receiving vastly inflated phone bills. The Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT) has ordered OTE not to charge for these calls and for Maknan to shut down its 901 lines. OTE said it will abide by the decision but said it had nothing to do with the setting up of the phone sex lines or the overcharging of customers.

Bespoke finds Athenian home January 19, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Fashion & Style, Shopping.
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Local outlet offers garments made from scratch, made-to-measure and ready-to-wear

At the Kolonaki store and studio, three fittings are required when working with local tailors and two when foreign tailors are involved. Bespoke Athens collaborates with top luxury brands such as Moxon, Loro Piana and Oswald Boateng.   

Is it the ultimate in dressing or simply a way of life? Bespoke, handmade menswear tailored exclusively on one’s body enjoys a long and varied history around the world. A niche market, it is all about pleasure and catering to specific, individual needs.

“Our customers are not high-income clients, but hobby clients,” says Vassilis Bourtsalas, founder and owner of Bespoke Athens, a two-year-old venture which offers bespoke services as well as ready-to-wear apparel and accessories.

At the Kolonaki premises, where clients may savor a glass of port or whisky while discussing their own specific garment requirements, the decidedly masculine atmosphere is further enhanced by the smell of wood.

Coined in London’s traditional tailoring hub Savile Row, the term “bespoke” goes back to the days when fabrics were spoken for. Today, however, bespoke appears to be a confused area on a global scale. While the luxury industry’s ubiquitous brands are increasingly promoting the idea of customization as an extra service in a demanding field, at the opposite end of the scale, the essence of bespoke remains unaltered. Similarly to haute couture, it translates into limited production and inherited skill.

“Confusion benefits all areas beginning from made-to-measure and below, but it does much damage to bespoke. This is because it has undervalued the craft to the point of annihilation,” says Bourtsalas.

Take Greece, for instance, where a once-booming field of top-quality craftsmen has been reduced to about a dozen tailors operating around the city of Athens. According to Bourtsalas, an extraordinary tale of supreme craftsmanship led by the Greeks in Istanbul, for instance, seems to be coming to an end. This is one of the reasons why he decided to step in.

With a history in clothing, beginning with Bourtsalas’s grandfather running a textile outlet, and his parents taking over to develop a major women’s ready-to-wear store, by the age of 18, Bourtsalas was running his own menswear department within the family business, selling fused, ready-to-wear suits. Two years later, he left Greece and headed to the United States, where he studied business and marketing, studies which were followed by a 10-year stint working in corporate positions. Back in Athens, he was appointed general manager of a major publishing firm undergoing restructuring and went on to develop a consulting firm for local business. Reaching a turning point in his life, Bourtsalas left the corporate environment behind and returned to menswear, his great love.

At Bespoke Athens, the readymade section is all about full-canvas, handmade suits. This is made-to-measure, where alterations include longer sleeves and even two to three button-holes, for instance. Customers choose a suit and, if alterations are in order, the company then contacts the brand to order a new suit which will incorporate the necessary changes. This kind of customization may include a fitting.

“This is the most booming product in the industry. It’s something like bespoke, but it has nothing to do with bespoke. It is quicker,” says Bourtsalas, adding that “it works provided that the original pattern fits well.”

In the bespoke department, the handmade, full-canvas suit is patterned from scratch on the body. The work is carried out by two or three local tailors as well as foreign tailors all collaborating with Bespoke Athens. Currently the international roster of professionals includes a tailor from London, in town every two months, and one from Istanbul. A work in progress, these collaborations are constantly developing according to Bourtsalas’s findings and needs.

“This is a dying art and therefore we are constantly conducting research,” he comments.

Suits are delivered in two months, following three fittings, local tailors, and three months when working with international tailors and two fittings. As for the prices, bespoke suits begin from 2,000 euros for local tailoring and 3,500 euros for foreign craftsmanship.

For Bourtsalas, immense pleasure derives from executing exclusive orders. So far, Bespoke Athens prides itself in the making of a vicuna coat in collaboration with Loro Piana as well as a suit made of a Moxon, Super 210, 180-gram fabric, the 81st to be made in the world.

On the ready-to-wear brand level, the philosophy at Bespoke Athens is clear-cut: From shirts to suits and ties, everything is luxurious and handmade.

“All our brands are on the high-end in terms of construction, some are very well known, others are lesser known, because this is an industry which does not advertise all that much,” says Bourtsalas.

One the well-known end lies Oswald Boateng, the hip menswear designer who specializes in both bespoke and pret-a-porter.

“He is new Savile Row blood, but one who keeps the basic principles of English tailoring,” says Bourtsalas of the London-born designer of Ghanaian provenance.

Other brands at Bespoke Athens include Moxon and Loro Piana in the textile department; made-to-measure suits from Italy represented by firms such as Ravazzolo, Regent from Germany, Arnys from France and, of course, England, where old and new school coexist through

Chester Barrie and Boateng, among others. Coming up in two months is a new collaboration with Chicago-based Oxford Clothes. On the accessories front, a broad range of items includes ties, seven and 11-fold pieces, from Robert Talbot and Turnbull & Asser, among others.

At the age of two, Bespoke Athens is a toddler waiting to grow up, where a primarily youthful clientele, think 25 to 45 year-olds, is eager to experience the soft touch of what is truly personal. Inherited or acquired, the taste for bespoke has a future here, with Bourtsalas aiming to develop a signature style, a local school of bespoke made in Athens, which would ensure a new generation of tailors continuing the trade.

“We can’t pull down all the awful buildings in town, but we can change our aesthetics,” says Bourtsalas. “We can change the way we dress.”

Triple treat in Salonica January 19, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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January 25 will be a busy day at the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki as three major exhibitions open at the same time, literally, at 8 p.m.

Self-dubbed modern artist Marc Charpentier, a Frenchman living in Greece, will present “Pacman Kiss and the Snoop’s Flying Saucer” until March 4. The exhibition brings together paintings, models made of recycled cardboard, MDF constructions, digital photographs, designs and a lot more where the artist has transformed flat surfaces into multidimensional canvases.

“Somewhat Different: Contemporary Design and the Power of Convention,” running until March 8, is a compilation of 148 design objects by designers from Germany, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and Spain. The spotlight is on 47 German designers whose work is based on themes of modern-day sociopolitical issues, juxtaposed with works by other Europeans. The object of the exhibition is to showcase the different roles of a designer, including those of an artist, a manufacturer and a marketer.

Five Greek designers are the subject of the third exhibition at the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, titled “Schemata: Unveil the Obvious.” Presenting mostly items of industrial design, the artists are Andreas Varotsos, Yiannis Georgaras, Sotiris Lazos, Alkaios Hazarakis and Christina Skouloudi, all of whom have shown their work for the past four consecutive years at the international furniture expo IMM Cologne in Germany.

Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, 154 Egnatia Street, (inside the Helexpo Center), Thessaloniki, tel 2310 240002.

Related Links > http://www.mmca.org.gr/

History of Greek film on exhibit January 19, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Greece, Movies Life Greek.
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Among them, the 1958 film ‘Lake of Desires’

Aglaia Mitropoulou, the late founder of the Greek Film Archive, remains a prominent figure for having supported Greek film, documenting its history and projecting the industry abroad.

A photography exhibition opening Saturday in northwestern Greece, at the Rizario Exhibition Center in Monodendrio, Epirus, features pictures from a book by Mitropoulou, “Greek Film,” a bible for cinephiles of Greek movies.

Tracing the local industry over the ages, “Greek Film” was recently rereleased (Papazisi Publishers) and edited by Mitropoulou’s daughter, Maria Komninou. It was presented at the Thessaloniki Film Festival last November.

The exhibition’s opening, over two days, will include speeches by Komninou, an assistant professor at Athens University, film director Pantelis Voulgaris, journalist and writer Marlena Politopoulou, and Takis Tzimas, the managing editor of the magazine Photographos.

The first day of events will be staged at the Rizario Exhibition Center and will continue on Sunday at the Ioannina Culture Center. The exhibition will run for several months through August. Stretching as far back as the early 1920s, it spans a period that includes Theo Angelopoulos’s 1998 Golden Palm winner “Eternity and a Day.”

Besides the pictures from “Greek Film,” the exhibition will also include photographs from the Greek Film Archive and contributions from the personal archives of Angelopoulos, fellow filmmakers Nikos Koundouros, Michael Cacoyannis and Lila Kourkoulakou, as well as the producer-costume designer Denny Vachlioti.