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Carnival time in Cyprus February 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Limassol, Cyprus Paphos, Greek Culture.
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Dig out that wig and the dodgy outfit

Somewhere tucked away at the back of our wardrobe we’ve all got one. It’s that glittery and hideously bright costume that we cringe to look at but somehow still absolutely adore. We wouldn’t of course be seen dead in it under any normal circumstances. But we do love to make excuses to put it on.

There are the times that our lover seriously disappoints us and we pour the wine, put on the loud 60s music, and out comes the outfit complete with wig and bright lipstick as we prance around the house pretending to be a true stage diva, arms in the air and belting at the top of our lungs.

Then there’s the second excuse to wear it, carnival time! And no, it’s not just females who resort to such silliness. Every man seems to have an unleashed Don Juan within him and perhaps even more bizarre is that many males rejoice in the chance to dress up as women. Of course, it’s all completely acceptable during carnival because somehow absolutely anything goes, and just as long as you don’t wake up still wanting to wear your outfit out to lunch the next day, you’re absolutely safe.

Around the world, people love the idea of dressing up and having wild parties. But how did it all the crazy festivities begin? With carnival celebrations taking place in so many countries around the globe, the origin of the world ‘carnival’ is often debated, but it’s most commonly believed to come from the Italian word ‘carnevale’. The word literally means ‘to say farewell to the meat’, and because Catholics are not supposed to eat meat during lent, they began the tradition of holding a wild costume festival right before the first day of lent.

Carnival then became a yearly festivity where people lost their inhibitions and indulged in an orgy of feasting, dancing and other sensual activities. As time passed, carnivals in Italy became quite famous and spread across Europe and Latin America.

Just like many other festivities and cultural traditions, Cypriot carnival celebrations actually date back to the beginning of the last century, when homes in Limassol opened their doors and welcomed round friends and family for a feast of food and wine.

“They began celebrating privately,” says Skevi Antoniou from the Cultural Department of Limassol Municipality, “and would dress up in old costumes, completely disguising their faces. They would then go over to friend’s houses and tease them as they would pretend to be someone else. It was all about having a great laugh and experiencing one day a year when you could pretend to be anyone you wanted to be.”

The Greek word ‘Apokries’ is symbolic, as just like ‘carnevale’, it literally means ‘without meat’ and so everyone would tuck into juicy delights before the fasting was set to begin. Crowds would roam the streets singing and dancing, and even the donkeys were decorated and proudly paraded around town. The Limassol Municipality then began to realise how much people enjoyed prancing around the streets and took the initiate to organise carnival events on a yearly basis.

Although things are undoubtedly a little different today, Limassol remains the centre of all the fun, and hosts the largest parade down Archbishop Makarios III Avenue. But all the fun begins days before the parade. This Tuesday, you can go along to a big carnival fiesta outside the Mediaeval Castle, where everyone is invited to go along disguised in costumes and participate in all sorts of fun with music and dancing. On Thursday, a second dance will take place in the square of the First Municipal Market, where the Dreams Choir will be keeping you on your feet with old and new hits. At both the parties, awards will be given for the best three carnival costumes.

The big grand parade in Limassol this year will be taking place on February 18, with all the usual bright and cheerful floats and spectacles. It may not be Rio, but efforts are being made to make the carnival bigger and better each year. As festivities coincide with Valentine’s Day celebrations, you can expect many associations with passion and love. And for those of you who’ve already set your sights on the Carnival King in the centre of town, you’ll have probably realised that he represents the king of love.

“The carnival in Cyprus is really getting bigger and better each year. There are more costumes, more colour and more and more people who want to take part. The unified music means people have started dancing in the streets and have really become more enthusiastic than ever,” says Antoniou.

Some of the biggest floats in this year’s parade include ‘Antonio and Cleopatra’, ‘Carnival from Venice’, ‘Spiderman’ and ‘Oliver Twist’. But the most intriguing are the rather imposing ‘speed camera’ floats. Are the authorities trying to prove a point by any chance? The parade will be followed by the Limassol Municipality Philharmonic Orchestra, and prizes will be awarded for all the best floats, groups and individuals.

There will also be celebrations taking place in Paphos, with a grand parade on February 17 place on Poseidon Avenue as crowds gather to cheer all those taking part. Now all that’s left is deciding on your outfit. Unless of course you’ve already put on that wonderfully bizarre gorilla costume half way through reading this article.

Limassol Dances
February 13: Carnival Fiesta, outside Mediaeval Castle Square, 8.30pm
February 15: Outdoor Carnival Dancing Event, outside Municipal Market, 8.30pm

Grand Limassol Parade
February 18. Starting point, Ayios Nicolaos round about, ending at Ayia Sophia traffic lights, Archbishop Makarios III Avenue. 1.30pm.

Grand Paphos Parade
February 17. Poseidon Avenue. 4pm.

For more information, Tel: 25-745919, 25-343120

Cyprus in oil spat February 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Oil Crisis.
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Turkey asked Cyprus Thursday to cancel its tender for oil exploration and drilling rights off the Mediterranean island.

The Greek Cypriot Government, which is the only and legal Governemnt of The Republic of Cyprus, launched the first round of tenders for oil exploration and drilling rights off the divided island.

“We expect Greek Cyprus to end its initiatives to launch international tenders which violate the joint rights of the island ‘s two communities and amount to a fait-accompli,” Levent Bilman, spokesman for the Turkish foreign ministry, said in a statement. “Continuation of the tender process will adversely affect peace and stability on the island of Cyprus,” he said.

According to local media reports, the first round of licensing involves 11 offshore blocks covering a total of approximately 23,000 square miles to the south of Cyprus.

Ankara says it has “legitimate and legal rights and interests” in the oil-and-gas exploration area where Cyprus wants to begin drilling. Ankara says it wants Turkish Cypriots to have a say in the island’s oil and gas rights.

Cyprus has been divided since July 1974 when Turkey militarily invaded and occupied the north area of the Cyprus Republic following a coup by a group of Greek officers. The Republic of Cyprus joined the European Union in the name of the whole island. The Greek Cypriot controlled area of Cyprus and its Government is internationally recognized as opposed to the occupied northern area of Cyprus and its so-called Turkish administration, which is recognized only by Ankara.

A rather misleading article, until I investigate and clarify the truth February 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Occupied.
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In this article “Advice from an intellectual Greek Cypriot businessman (2)” a Turkish writer claims that “a certain Lanitis” has made statements concerning the Cyprus political issue and problem.

In this forum Anybody heard of N.C. LANITIS??? someone is requesting clarifications as who is Lanitis.

As I think that the first article is misleading and it may be un-true, since no references or sources were cited by its writer, nor facts as to when, where and full name of “Lanitis” were stated, I have sent an e-mail to my sources in Cyprus, requesting additional information and clarifications as well as statements and comments about the article I stumbled upon.

Until further notice and news are received from my sources, allow me to state that this article is considered as a false and misleading one.

If however, you have evidences on the contrary, let the truth and only but the truth, shine!

And if I prove to be wrong, I will be the first to apologise.

UPDATE > 19 February 2007

As promised I am following-up the above issue. I have today received email replies to my questions raised to my Cyprus sources. Therefore, let me state the following facts and figures, which to the best of my knowledge are true.

FACT # 1 > I would like to confirm that Mr Nicos C. Lanitis wrote “Our Destiny” in 1963. Mr N. C. Lanitis passed away in January 2005. 

FACT # 2 > I have never read the above book, therefore I am not, yet, in a position to express my personal opinion as to whether what the late N. C. Lanitis has written or ever stated in his book, which the Turkish author, Niyazi Kizilyurek, has cited and he is claiming about in his article at the Turkish “Cyprus Observer” newspaper. 

However, I am expecting a copy of his book to be send to me from Cyprus. As soon as I have the book and read with utmost care his writings I will be then able to further comment. Please bear with me.

FACT # 3 >  N. C. Lanitis, as stated above, has passed away in 2005. He had leaved out of Cyprus for many decades. There is no connection or relation between the late N. C. Lanitis to the Lanitis business in Cyprus, since he has never been a part of this business and its founder, the late Evagoras Lanitis (1921-1992).

Based on this fact, I can say that Turkish author Niyazi Kizilyurek who is an academic at The Cyprus University, is citing wrong information, from the very start of his article titled “Advice from an intellectual Greek Cypriot businessman”. The Lanitis he refers to, in his article, it is obvious, that he has never been a businessman.

FACT # 4 > From the above, one can only conclude that the statements cited by the article author, were made only for the sake of that article.

FACT # 5 > Researching on the background of Niyazi Kizilyurek, I fount-out that he is of Cypriot Turkish descent, born and raised in The Republic of Cyprus.

FACT # 6 > The fact that the book in question was published in 1963, does not escape my attention that the first inter-communial conflicts between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots started in December 1963 (just a few days before Christmas). Therefore I wonder how the late Latinis could predict in his book what he cites and claims in his article. Doesn’t really make a sence to me, yet! Or, until I lay my hands on the book and read same. 

FACT # 7 > Last but not least. Considering the Turkish propaganda, the fact that in his article at the Turkish weekly newspaper, he claims certain allegations without revealing either his sources, nor any other accurate information, I can only assume that this is done on purpose. The simple purpose of misleading the public opinion, on a worldwide scale.

FACT # 8 > Considering the Turkish propaganda, and the Turks who claim that the Northern part of The Republic of Cyprus is their so-called “state” or the so-called TRNC Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, let me point your attention to these facts and figures:

  • Turkey invaded The Republic of Cyprus, with military troops, on July 1974 and August 1974. Ever since it occupies the northern part of The Republic of Cyprus. The island thus divided in two.
  • The so-called and illegal TRNC is recognized only by Ankara and Turkey as opposed to The Republic of Cyprus (administered by the Greek Cypriot Government) which is internationally recognized.
  • Turkey has been continuously violating all Human Rights since 1974 in Cyprus as well as not adhereing to any of the United Nations declarations.
  • Despite the fact that the writer of this article is of Cypriot Turkish descent, and despite to some of his earlier articles, he is still trying to play the Turkish propaganda and to mislead the public opinion. The reasons, although I can predict some, are only known to himself.
  • The illegal and so-called TRNC administration of the occupied northern area of The Republic of Cyprus, manipulates history, geography, demographics and other information and statistics of the occupied area, by presenting false information. The occupied northern part of The Republic of Cyprus, is rich in Greek heritage, in Greek history. They use and make profits out of the property which belongs to the Greek Cypriots, be it houses, blocks of land, hotels, industrial factories, agriculture, tourism and every other business sector. They found them ready to use and claim as their “own property”. The real, simple truth, is that they have stolen it! They have forced thousands of Turks from the Anatolia of Turkey to inhabit the Greek properties, in order to change the demographics, the ones who were minority, they changed the Greek names of towns, villages, places into Turkish ones. They moved thousands of soldiers from Turkey to the occupied area of the north part. They forced hundreds of the enclaved Greek Cypriots to move from the occupied area to the free area. They deny that they still held prisoners hundreds of the Greek Cypriots who are still claimed to be as missing persons. They destroyed the Greek Orthodox churches and cemeteries. They, they, they…………….
  • CYPRUS is the only divided country within Europe, and Nicosia, the capital city, is still divided in two, just like Berlin used to be a few years back! Cyprus demands Justice, Freedom, Peace!

Lastly, for all the above facts and figures, I still have the impression and personal opinion that the article in question, is indeed misleading and wrong, due to citing bits and pieces as it deems best or as it suits best to its author.

Regions in Greece cash in on Carnival February 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Culture.
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Tens of communities around Greece have benefited financially from a growing interest in their peculiar Carnival traditions, which has boosted domestic tourism in recent years, local politicians stated yesterday.

“From zero tourism, we are now in a position where the possibilities are endless,” said Paris Koukoulopoulos, the Mayor of Kozani in northern Greece. The city’s Carnival festivities are expected to attract some 100,000 people from other parts of the country. This will bring in several million euros for the local economy.

The Carnival season begins 10 weeks before Easter and culminates on the weekend before Clean Monday. This year Clean Monday, which marks the beginning of Lent, or Sarakosti in Greek, is on 19 February.

Authorities in nearby Grevena expect more than 20,000 tourists to have passed through the area by the end of this weekend.

“We cannot make an exact evaluation but it is worth noting that over this three-day weekend, the number of visitors in the city will outnumber the local population which is 15,000,” Grevena Mayor Giorgos Noutsos said.

Xanthi in northeastern Greece and Naoussa in northern Greece are among other areas that are seeking to cash in on people coming to see Carnival parades and other traditional shows. Authorities there estimate that 100,000 and 40,000 visitors respectively will attend the festivities.

Patras will hold the biggest Carnival parade in the country. It costs around 800,000 euros but more than 100,000 people are expected to spend the weekend in the city and give local businesses a significant boost.

Hotel rooms in the area cost between 60 and 100 euros per night during this weekend and hotels are usually 90 percent full for the culmination of the Carnival season.

Patras, fasting and kite flying February 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Books Life Greek, Greek Culture.
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Kite flying on Clean Monday is a tradition in Greece

Whether you have lived in Athens for years or just happen to be in town, you will enjoy the annual three-day outdoor celebration starting this Saturday, 17 February.

Try an excursion to Patras on Sunday for the opening of its lively Carnival. On Clean Monday, this year is on 19 February, the capital will be deserted as everyone goes to the countryside and the hills to fly kites, if there’s enough of a breeze. Otherwise they stay indoors or go to tavernas, where they indulge in a delicious Lenten feast. Monday 19 February, is the first day of Sarakosti, or Lent, which means 40 days of fasting until Easter. The tables are laden with pulses, lettuce and other types of salads, olives, halva and taramosalata, and the special bread called lagana which bakers make only on that day.

When he was Prime Minister, the late Constantine Karamanlis supervised the revamping of the area around the Acropolis according to a design by Dimitris Pikionis, and he used to go there every Clean Monday to eat mezes and help children fly their kites. The current Prime Minister, Costas Karamanlis, has followed his uncle’s example, and flies a kite with his children Alexandros and Aliki at Rafina. What matters is to keep up the tradition in the family circle.

kiteflying.jpg  Kite flying near the Ilissos River on Clean Monday 1955, from the book ‘Easter and Spring.’

That is why Dimitris Loukatos, a wise professor from Cephalonia, wrote his books about the customs and feasts of Orthodoxy in different parts of Greece, leaving an invaluable legacy. The photograph of the boy with the kite is from Loukatos’s collection and it is on the cover of his book “Easter and Spring.”

As Loukatos notes, the kite “is an ancestor of today’s rockets, an image of man’s great interest in the space beyond the Earth, where he wanted to send something of his own since he could not go there himself.”

OTE competitors are offering integrated telecoms services February 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Telecoms.
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‘Quad-play’ options will soon provide one bill for phone, HD TV and Internet

Provision of countrywide Wi-Fi connections, such as the one existing in Athens’s Syntagma Square, will be the next challenge for Municipalities and Internet Providers. So far, only a few such ‘hotspots,’ and very few public ones, exist.

The very attractive packages, which combine cheap phone calls, very fast broadband Internet connections, high-definition TV and video on demand, all paid by a single fee and without fixed charges to former local telecom monopoly OTE-Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation, offered by competing telecoms firms are only the beginnings of a competitive telecoms market.

By the end of the year, we should expect even more sophisticated and integrated services, offering, for example, the ability to turn your mobile number into a fixed-line connection once you enter home, or the office. This is the so-called “quad-play” that will finally allow customers to pay one bill for all their telecoms services, both fixed-line and mobile telephony and Internet.

These services are already on offer in other European countries and at lower prices than in Greece. As a result, we should expect more price cuts by the end of the year. Most former European telecoms monopolies have seized the trend and are founding subsidiaries, such as Deutsche Telecom’s T-Home, to capitalize upon it. Even slow-moving OTE is bound to react, as it sees revenue from fixed charges decline.

There are rumors that OTE may, once again, double its ADSL Internet connection speeds by the summer, without increasing charges, as it did a few months ago: Still, the broadband speeds it currently offers  768 kilobits per second (kbps) and 1 and 2 megabits per second (Mbps), are among Europe’s lowest.

OTE’s competitors came out very aggressively in the past few weeks, offering packs with no fixed charges paid to OTE. There are two kinds of packages offered: those that combine low-price, or free, phone calls with very fast Internet connections, up to 20 Mbps, offered at prices starting at euro 15 per month; and the triple play packages, which additionally offer high-definition TV and/or video on demand, starting at euro 33 per month.

These services are offered by telecoms firms that have their own network and do not lease lines from OTE. Such providers are FORTHnet, On Telecoms, Vivodi and Tellas, while Hellas On Line is preparing its own offer.

Specifically, FORTHnet offers free local and long-distance calls, calls to mobile phones at euro 0.1650 or euro 0.1751 per minute depending on the carrier, Internet connection up to 4Mbps, but no “triple-play” services until summer, at euro 39.90 per month; On Telecoms offers fixed-line calls at euro 0.09 per call, calls to mobile phones at euro 0.17 per minute, Internet speeds up to 10Mbps and full triple-play services at euro 35 per month for those buying this month, and euro 60 for later customers; Tellas offers free fixed-line calls, calls to mobiles ranging from euro 0.1650 to euro 0.2050 per minute, Internet up to 4Mbps, but no triple-play at euro 46.95 per month and Vivodi offers free fixed-line calls, calls to mobiles at euro 0.1680 to euro 0.2200 per minute, Internet at up to 20Mbps and full triple-play at euro 65 per month or at euro 33 for those subscribing by March 15. These prices are bound to be lowered later in the year. All offer the equipment necessary for free, and varying activation charges. On Telecoms offers the NOVA digital TV package, as well.

At present, these offers are valid only for the Attica region, because the alternative providers must install their systems into OTE’s call centers. This procedure is moving very slowly, according to OTE’s competitors. OTE says there are technical difficulties involved. Consumers who switched phone providers often faced delays of up to two months. Market experts believe, however, that these services will become available to 80 percent of Greece’s population by the end of the year.

There are four points in these offers that would-be customers must be aware of: First, in the case of triple-play offers, the number of channels and/or movies on offer is not specified. That is because agreements with movie studios and distributors have not been finalized yet. Second, fax reception is not guaranteed and certain security features may come at extra cost. Third, consumers should know that, in the case of a blackout their telecoms connections will also be disrupted. Fourth, the procedure to be followed if a user of alternative carriers moves to a new home “are not specified yet,” according to a sector manager.

ERT Special Olympics Telethon wins both hearts and donations February 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Media Radio TV.
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The Greek State Radio Television-ERT Special Olympics Telethon was a great success, and not only for the sum of 700,000 euros that it has already raised, while more keeps coming in.

The great achievement was the sight of the young athletes, their spontaneity, their ready smiles and the way they faced the cameras. All that and the messages of the personalities who visited the studio raised public awareness. The image of Greek President Karolos Papoulias in his office appeared on the screen and he expressed his support for the cause, while Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis sent a message encouraging all people with special needs to participate in community affairs. “The important thing in the Special Olympics is not so much to win as to participate,” he said.

It was a serious telethon and throughout it the presenter, Maria Houkli, and Special Olympics President Yianna Despotopoulou demonstrated that television, in this case ERT, like the moon, has a bright side. There was no commercialization of the philanthropic spirit, no attempt to make the program into a show, and so there was no parade of business tycoons, TV serial stars or singers with platinum albums.

The goals were achieved, the special children won everyone’s hearts, and the fact that a sizeable sum was collected from the donations of 10, 20 and 30 euros made by so many viewers, many of them the same age as the athletes, offering their pocket money, is a tremendous achievement.