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Short vacations this summer for the Greeks April 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Tourism.
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Most Greeks will be taking relatively short vacations this summer, with the concentration chiefly in the month of August, according to a nationwide opinion poll conducted by KAPA Research on behalf of Aggeliioforos newspaper, the results of which appeared in the paper’s Sunday edition.

More specifically, to the question of which month they would select for their summer holiday, 55.1 percent of the respondents replied August, against 33 percent who said they would opt for July, 6.7 percent for September, and 2.2 percent for June, while 3.0 percent did not reply.

Regarding the duration of the vacation, 31.2 percent of the respondents said they would go away on holiday for only one week, while 22.2 percent said 10 days, and 15.8 percent said one month.

In addition, the most popular holiday destination was Chalkidiki, preferred by 33.3 percent of the respondents, followed by Crete with 8.2 percent.

The nationwide opinion poll was conducted from April 16 to 18 on a sampling of 900 men and women, of which 300 were in Thessaloniki.


Pafilia Gardens Apartments in Pafos, Cyprus April 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Cyprus.
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Pafilia Gardens will offer one-two-and three upscale bedroom apartments in the seaside community of Pafos, Cyprus

Pafilia Gardens in the prestigious Kato Pafos district is scheduled to be completed in late March 2008. Upon completion Pafilia Gardens will rank as one of Pafos most desired addresses.

Pafilia Gardens developed by Pafilia Properties will boast eighty-five elegant one-two-and three bedroom spacious and airy apartment units with open-plan living in the heart of the beautiful seaside resort town of Pafos. Pafilia Gardens apartments will feature spectacular sea and mountain views and large verandas. Some of the units will include gazebos and roof top terraces. Residents at Pafilia Gardens will enjoy award winning contemporary architecture, two large Olympic size pools with the main pool having a cupola and a hand crafted wood and stone footbridge crossing over the pool.

Pafilia Gardens is one of the most notable projects by Pafilia Property Developers, a family owned business that has been building world class properties on Cyprus for over four decades. This small family business has grown into an international property development company with a worldwide staff of over 400 headquartered in Pafos, Cyprus. Pafilia Property Developers maintains an international network of over 15 offices; on Cyprus, across the UK and Europe.

Pafilia Property Developers maintains an impressive ongoing inventory of over 500 properties including but not limited to quality freehold homes for sale with all modern amenities and conveniences to spacious apartments and exclusive custom-designed villas.

Pafiia homes are known for their outstanding architectural design and attention to detail. They are characterized by indigenous landscaping and undisturbed natural beauty.

Residents at Pafilia developments enjoy superior living environments complimented by access to excellent leisure facilities including swimming pools, poolside changing rooms and showers, tennis courts, sun terraces and recreation areas. The developers take great care to ensure that Pafilia communities blend harmoniously with the natural surroundings. Environmental concerns are paramount to preserve the islands natural beauty.

Pafilia Properties are always located close to sandy beaches, golf courses, designer shops and world class restaurants.

For more information on purchasing a home or renting a holiday property on Cyprus visit www.pafilia.com

The Olympic experience April 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Athens 2004 Olympics, Testimonials.
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It is an account of my experience watching my sister play softball in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. Vanessa now teaches math and is the head softball coach at the high school we attended, Riverside Poly.

It didn’t hit me until I was sitting in a small bar in what is called the centre of Athens. As I sat and watched the Opening Ceremonies on a Greek television station, the Olympic rings emerged from the manmade lake that filled the middle of the Olympic Stadium. The rings were aflame, as were my emotions. Just miles away, my sister, Vanessa Czarnecki, was awaiting her time to march in as an Olympic athlete for the Greek softball team.

The search started long ago for Greece when my sister was still in high school. While her traveling team was representing the United States at a softball tournament in Canada someone approached her, knowing that my mother was born in Greece. At the time, the International Olympic Committee for Athens 2004 stated that Greece, the host country, needed to have a team for softball, a very new event, in order for it to qualify as an Olympic event. USA Softball began searching for more Greek-Americans like my sister to make up the roster. My sister said she was interested in playing for the Greeks, and the rest is history.

After more than 200 countries had passed through the stadium, it was finally Greece’s turn, or “Hellas” as Greece is said in the Greek language. My oldest sister Scarlett and I searched the television, hoping to spot Vanessa. There she was, smiling ear to ear, screaming with her softball teammates as one camera zoomed in on them. Vanessa’s Olympic experience had begun, and so had mine.

People I run into ask me about my time at the Olympics and I’m speechless. There are so many fascinating things on my list of events. We attended gymnastics, basketball games, volleyball matches and went sightseeing. All of it was fun, but not important. What was important was seeing my sister in her greatest moment, ending her career in the best way any athlete could.

It was the Olympics in its birthplace, Athens. It was what most regard as one of the most exciting sporting events.

Read the rest of this article > The Olympic experience

A modern-day Grand Tour April 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Testimonials.
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Before the official start of my spring break, I took an 11-day trip to Greece with my school. I love Greece. A complicated mixture of ancient beauty and modern sensibilities, I would recommend Greece to any astute traveler. The entire country has an earthiness, a tranquility, and a realism that was incredibly refreshing.

We took a ferry from Italy and on our way, we passed Ithaca, the legendary home of Ulysses, the ancient hero of “The Odyssey.” We spent three days at Olympia, where the first Olympic Games were said to be held in 776 B.C. In one of the most peaceful places I have ever been in my life, we lounged in the shade of broken columns that once held up the Palestra, the training facility for the ancient athletes. (Palestra is still the modern Italian word for a workout gym). We visited Sparta, Corinth and Delphi, where we tried to invoke the ancient oracle (to limited success, I must confess).

A word about Athens. Who would have thought that after seven months without even a whiff of an iced caramel macchiato, I would have found a Starbucks practically every other block in Athens? Imagine the reaction of 60 American teenagers upon the sight of a Domino’s Pizza, you’d think we had been living in the Gobi Desert!

It’s a bit ironic, when you consider Italy’s reputation for pizza (which I can vouch for, the pizza, in general, is amazing. It’s just different). Italy is by no means the Gobi Desert, but even in Rome, one is hard-pressed to find a McDonald’s, and many would argue that this is for the better. I credit the 2004 Athens Olympics for bringing so much of what American capitalism has to offer and in that moment that I was sipping my iced coffee, was I sorry? I’m a little sorry to say that I wasn’t.

We were also in Athens on Greek Independence Day, March 25, which marks the day the Greeks gained independence from Turkey, a power that had ruled the country for more than 400 years. I mention it because I got to see the national celebratory parade. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so shocked to see missiles and tanks rumbling down the main streets of Athens, but I was. From scuba divers marching in full wet-suited regalia, and what looked like special forces with machine guns, the show was meant to intimidate. For me and the other Americans I was with, it was more than a little unsettling, as the most militaristic parades I’ve ever seen feature the occasional submarine crew and a fire truck. Missiles? It made me realize the different ways in which countries display their national pride and unified strength.

Read the rest of this article > A modern-day Grand Tour

The Monastery of Machairas > a day trip April 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Nicosia.
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For a lunch with a view, grab a picnic and head towards the Monastery of Machairas

For those living in Limassol, Larnaca and Nicosia, this is an easy day trip with not much driving involved. The same cannot be said for those doing the route from Paphos, especially those who detest motorway driving and vow only to use the back roads, for whom the round trip would be 300km.

No restaurants this time, take a good picnic and make use of one of the marvelous picnic sites en route, all of which are well equipped with wooden tables, chairs, barbeque areas and good toilet and washing facilities.

The route from central Nicosia is simple > travel out through the suburbs of Strovolos and aim for Kato Deftera. A short distance from the centre, take the turn to Tamassos, reckoned to be one of the oldest Cypriot settlements. The road is well signposted with the now-familiar brown signs. It’s worth taking the time to walk the half-acre site and explore the subterranean tombs then take a moment to wonder at what other treasures from the past must lie, as yet undiscovered, beneath your feet. Mind you, not everyone has been clued up on the need to preserve and conserve our unique heritage as demonstrated in 1836 when two farmers dug up a magnificent, life-size bronze statue of Apollo that they hacked to bits and sold for scrap.

Returning to the main road, carry on through the villages of Kampia, Kapedes and Lazanias, you are now well out of the flat zone of the sprawling suburbs of the capital into the calm, peace and quiet of the forest, which leads to the north slope of Mount Kionia, atop of which sits the quite magnificent Machairas Monastery. This is a truly stunning location with views right over to Nicosia and since 1148 has been a safe home for hermits and monks in addition to offering a welcome to thousands of visiting pilgrims.

machairas_monastery.jpg  Two bad fires, in 1530 and 1892, resulted in a bleak, stone skeleton until the Leventis Foundation stepped in and sensitively restored the building in 1998. The big draw is the icon of the Virgin Mary attributed to Luke the Evangelist, along with a small Museum dedicated to a photographic history of EOKA hero Grigorios Afxentiou. You can carry on 1km below the Monastery to visit Afxentiou’s hideout, the Krisfigeto tou Afxentiou, which is basically a bunker but also now a shrine to Afxentiou, who met his death on March 3, 1957 after a local farmer informed on him to the British colonial army. Soldiers surrounded his bunker and the brave Afxentiou, despite being wounded, managed to hold off a platoon of 60 for 10 hours before being finally dispatched with a petrol bomb and explosives. It’s easy to spot even from the road as the statue erected in his honour is a massive sculpted figure of the man, standing arms akimbo and guarded by a huge eagle.

The road continues to be a bit twisty but with a good surface and it’s worth winding down the windows to sniff vigorously at the pine-scented air and keep an eye out for the clumps of wild flowers that seem to cling, limpet like, to the rock faces.

Make your way to Gourri and stop at the wooden sign at the village entrance pointing to the Textile Workshop. This was once the village school and is set on a side road a two-minute walk away. When inside, you will be welcomed by either Elli, Margarita or Androulla, three talented ladies from the village who have, with the assistance of the Community Council and the Ministry of Culture, managed to revive the almost lost art of the loom. The passion these ladies have for their work is obvious as they patiently explain the basics of weaving and will proudly show you samples of some of the best decorative pieces you have seen in a long time. These include everything from towels, curtains, tablecloths, rugs and cushion covers. They are also in great demand to make priests’ vestments, olokentita, as well as weaving maktras, the bright red cloth used for Holy Communion. It’s a lovely little place that is giving a bit of life back to this rather sleepy village and hopefully attracting more quality tourists.

Next stop is the hillside view looking down to the Apliki dam and the village of Palaichori nestling in the distance. Again, it’s the sheer quiet and calm of the area that makes you want to sit on one of the benches, pour a cup of coffee from your flask and take some time to reflect on the sheer beauty of the surroundings. It’s now time for those traveling from Nicosia to turn back and follow clearly marked signs for the E903, leading them back to the capital.

Limassol and Paphos-based drivers will start the journey by taking the Agia Filaxis turnoff at Limassol then carry straight on through what is a lovely, leisurely drive climbing slowly till 35km later taking the turn off signed to Zoopigi. Another quiet, contemplative drive until taking the turn at the entrance to the village of Agios Theodoros, making sure you take the higher, right-hand road, which will take you onto the E903 which you travel on to Palaichori and basically from there work the trip in reverse. Returning you will find it quicker to get onto the motorway, take signs marked to Limassol, which will get you back to Paphos at around 4pm having left home at 9am. It’s a long but a very worthwhile trip, one you will certainly wish to take again as going off some of the roads we traveled, there’s a great many more places of interest waiting to be discovered.

The Yiaskouris Winery in Cyprus April 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Wine And Spirits.
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Some fine wines are produced by one of Cyprus’ most modern small wineries

Pachna is a village in the Limassol district perched at an altitude of 750 meters on the southern slopes of the Troodos mountains. It enjoys an ideal climate for vine cultivation and has long been the heartland of the Cypriot Krasohoria, wine villages. Yiaskouris and Monolithos are the two local wineries, and both have created a reputation for quality using mainly local grape varieties.

Yiaskouris winery has also successfully mastered the imported grape variety of Shiraz. Christos and Doros Yiaskouris are the dynamic duo behind the winery’s success that bares their family name. With Georgia, Christos’ wife equipped with a post-graduate degree in chemistry, they make up an admirable team. Christos is a US university graduate in electrical engineering and is in full control of the mechanical and electrical equipment of the winery. The business side is looked after by Doros, also a US university graduate, in business management.

This is a trinity that is envied by many in the field and the dynamic trio now owns one of the best equipped wineries on the island. While touring the winery, you can’t miss the modern vacuum press, stainless steel vats and perfectly-kept cellars. However, the secret of the Yiaskouris brothers’ success is based on the fact that they own many of their vineyards, a much higher number than the average ownership by small, independent wineries on the island. In a winery with its own vineyards it would be possible to produce high-quality wine that would not vary, significantly, from year to year. And, plans are afoot to expand with more ownership of selected vineyards. They rightly believe that you cannot make a great wine from grapes of unknown and unspecified origin, bought from all over the place.

The Yiaskouris brothers have also given serious consideration to Shiraz as an imported variety worth giving extra attention. The potential of this grape in Cyprus was evident at a recent tasting of Yiaskouris wines. The Shiraz grape, the main grape used for most Rhone wines, seems to have adapted to the dry and hot climate of the island and the tasting proved that the Yiaskouris brothers are among the island’s top wine producers, capable of producing exceptional reds.

2005 Yiaskouris Dry White, D. Yiaskouris Winery, Lemesos Region, Alcohol Volume 11.5% > While opening the bottle, I noticed that this Xinisteri varietal was of 2005 vintage. I have always believed that Xinisteri cannot keep long but, curious by nature, I decided to taste it. The result was a pleasant surprise. This is the only white wine produced by the winery and is vinified exclusively from Xinisteri. The typicity of the grape is evident both on the nose and on the palate. Clear, straw yellow colour of medium intensity, it has aromas of gallant apples, pear, lemon blossoms and freshly cut grass. Pleasantly balanced in the mouth with crispy acidity, grapefruit, light bodied and a Xinisteri finish of medium intensity. Drink now at 9 degrC with marinated, grilled chicken, village salad or tomato, goats cheese and citrus fruit based salads, fried Mediterranean fish and seafood.

2003 Yiaskouris Dry Red, D. Yiaskouris Winery, Lemesos Region, Alcohol Volume 13% > A satisfying blend of Carignan and Grenache. It has a bright ruby red colour, damson, black cherry and plum with some exotic spice aromas and very sensuous earthy tones at the back stage. On the palate, it maintains that brooding, dark, solidly packed, warm, fruit quality. Light to medium, dry with supple tannin and crisp acidity. An everyday red, delicious to drink at 16-17 degrC with pork roasted in balsamic vinegar or grilled veal chops with herby sauces.

2002 Pakhna Wines Shiraz, Cava Yiaskouri, Limassol Region, Alcohol Volume 12.5% > Traditionally, this ordinary Shiraz has been the one of the best reds in Cyprus. Deep red with a purple rim, aromas of black fruit, cherry and anise, and a touch of Asian spice are evident on the nose. Herbal plants, medium bodied, balanced tannin, slightly high in acidity and concentrated fruit. Drink now at 17 degrC with grilled veal chop and Asian spice or stewed meats.

2001 Pakhna Wines, Shiraz, Oaked aged, Cava Yiaskouri, Limassol Region, Alcohol Volume 12.5% > 2002 and 2003 vintages were exported but the 2001 vintage has a deep crimson red colour. The nose reminds of wild fruit and hot earthiness, plum, black cherry, mulberry and hints of roasted herbs. Elements of pepper and spice follow. The sip is concentrated with ripe fruit, black pepper, liquorice, medium body with harmonious tannins and oak. Good, long aftertaste with some ripe fruit and dusted cocoa. Syrah pairs well with heavy foods. Oaked Syrah is awesome with barbequed food. Spicy foods are also pair well with spicy Shiraz, at 17 degrC. This is one of the best matured Cyprus wines that I have tested.

The D. Yiaskouris Winery Ltd, 6 Kyriakou Matsi Street, Pachna, Limassol, Cyprus, tel 25 942470, 25 374082, 99 633730, fax 25 351662.

Tori Amos’ new album based on Greek mythology April 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life.
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American singer/songwriter Tori Amos is set to crash back onto the music scene with her ninth studio album, “American Doll Posse.”

This time Amos has taken a unique approach to her music and has emerged with five alter ego’s, all of whom contribute to the album with their own distinct voices. The quintet creates a compelling portrait of the role women play in today’s society, expressed on the album both musically and thematically. The five alter ego’s are representations of Tori, incarnating a number of the heroines and goddesses of Greek mythology.

Tori Amos said, “Once music started to dictate to me what the women were going to be I had to go and do the internal work and build their psyches, so I went to the Greek Pantheon because I thought people were more familiar with it, and then started to develop their stories”.

Through her research, Amos looked back to a time when the idea of females in all their different facets, were considered divine. Buried deep in ancient Greek history, she discovered what would become the foundations for her new group of confidants.

Amos wanted to illustrate to other women that there are many unexplored aspects of the feminine personality.

“Women are relating to this project because all of us, we’re complex creatures and I think we’re being unfair when we say well we have to be a part of the intellectual set, or we’re part of the rebel-rousing set, and then we paint ourselves into these corners instead of stepping out of one painting into another and thinking of ourselves as an exhibition not just a painting,” said Amos.

The “girls” are currently rehearsing together for their world tour starting in Rome, Italy on May 28th. Let’s hope “musical differences” don’t force any splits. “American Dolls Posse” is released on April 30 through Columbia records.