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The Brittanic > a major tourist attraction May 28, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Tourism.
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The hidden world of the Titanic’s tragic sister ship Britannic is set to be uncovered.

A joint team of UK and Greek divers will explore the wreck of the historic Belfast-built ship in the Aegean Sea later this year. And that expedition will open the floodgates to a super-ambitious plan designed to make the Harland & Wolff liner the central focus of a multi-million pound tourist attraction.

A key part of the Britannic Foundation charity project is to make the ship, submerged 400ft beneath the waves, available to select teams of divers. Plans are in hand to develop a diving school alongside a Britannic Museum and a hotel 40 miles outside the Greek capital, Athens.

Britannic was the third largest Olympic-class liner of the legendary White Star line and sister ship of the Titanic and Olympic. At more than 882ft, the Britannic, by then a wartime hospital ship, sank after hitting a German mine in November 1916 with the loss of 30 lives. It lay on the Aegean Sea bed, until legendary French marine explorer Jacques Cousteau discovered its resting place in 1975.

It was relocated in 1996 and then bought by maritime historian and author Simon Mills. He said: “Britannic may be out of sight, but she’s not out of mind. Everyone is fascinated by the Titanic and that explains some of the interest in Britannic. However, she has her own story to tell. While the Titanic is known for its glamour, Britannic was a serving hospital ship. When we go down there we are going to find hospital beds as well as personal artefacts.”

Just days ago, the Britannic Foundation revealed details of its first dive, due to start on September 10 which will last three days.


Ancient wine presses found on Thassos island May 28, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece.
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Greek archaeologists have discovered a complex of ancient farm houses and large wine presses on the northern Aegean island of Thassos dating from before the Roman period until late Byzantine times, the Culture Ministry said on Wednesday.

Built with walls of stone over a metre high and lined with plaster, the wine presses were found clustered on a mountain near the coastal village of Limenaria, at an altitude of 500 metres. The remains of enclosures suggest the presence of large estates which shared the use of the wine-presses, the Ministry said. Though apparently inhabited mainly during the grape harvest, the site was in use from the Hellenistic period that followed the death of Alexander the Great in 323BC onwards.

The local archaeological department has been researching the Thassos site for the past two years.

Also on Wednesday, the Ministry said another archaeological team found the remains of a rural shrine to presumed fertility deities near the town of Orchomenos in central Greece.

The shrine had sustained damage in the construction of an irrigation canal in the 1950s, but the archaeologists found thousands of votive offerings, including miniature vessels, animal idols, scarabs and lamps. They also found rare clay replicas of flowers entwined with ears of corn, representing gifts left by faithful visiting the shrine.

In ancient times, citizens of Orchomenos are known to have worshipped the Three Graces, daughters of Zeus said to represent beauty, charm and joy.

Greek Festival > Lower Hudson Valley May 28, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora Festivals.
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Whether you are looking for a tasty treat or wish to explore an exciting culture, the annual Greek Festival in Rockland County promises to deliver.

As in the past, the event will celebrate Greek heritage in a creative and captivating way. The festival, considered the county’s largest cultural celebration of its kind, will run from June 7 to June 10 at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church on Marycrest Road in West Nyack (Exit 7 on the Palisades Parkway).

Guests seeking to satisfy their adventurous appetites will be able to enjoy traditional Greek foods and pastries, such as baklava, spanakopita and Greek honey-ladled doughnuts. The festival also will include musical performances, cultural dances, handicrafts and children’s activities.

Admission to the event is free, as is parking. For times and more information, call 845-623-4023 or visit www.rockland.org 

A culinary event > food and pastries May 28, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora Festivals, Hellenic Light Americas.
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A culinary event > The Dental Center of Northwest Ohio has announced that the second annual A Toast to Health will be at 7 p.m. June 29 at Civic Center Promenade at the Erie Street Market.

The theme is “Savour the Flavour of Grecian Delights” with celebrity chefs David Rosengarten and Panos Karratassos. There will be a dinner and culinary demonstration featuring regional Greek favorites and Greek wine.

This is the second time food celebrity David Rosengarten has participated in the event. Panos Karatassos is the executive chef of Kyma, a Greek restaurant in Atlanta. Master Sommelier Matthew Citriglia will be leading wine tastings at a VIP party.

Proceeds of the event benefit the Dental Center’s program for children. Cost of the event is $150 and $250. The VIP party with wine tasting is $100. For reservations and tickets call 419-241-1644.

Food and pastries > Roast lamb and chicken dinners will be featured at the Festival of Nations from noon to 7 p.m. June 3 at St. Elias Orthodox Christian Church, 4940 Harroun Rd., Sylvania.

Dinners, which include baked half chicken or roast lamb, green beans in tomato sauce, Syrian rice and bread, and Mediterrean salad, are $10 for adults and $6 for children. The lamb is roasted outside over charcoal.

International booths will display cultural traditions of eight countries. The bakery/cafe will offer Mediterranean and other ethnic pastries. Also planned are ethnic music by a Russian instrumental ensemble, an Eritrean coffee ceremony, tours of Christian sacred art, and children’s games. For information call 419-882-4037.

Greek comedy “The Birds” at Yulman Theater May 28, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Americas.
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“The Birds” the Greek classic by Aristophanes, swoops into Yulman Theatre Tuesday, May 29, and continues through Sunday, June 3.

Directed by William A. Finlay, associate professor of theater and director of the Yulman, the production takes a contemporary approach to the comic masterpiece and features extraordinary costuming. Performances are at 8 p.m. daily, except for the Sunday matinee at 2.

Kurt Raaflaub, professor of History and the John Rowe Workmen Distinguished Professor of Classics at Brown University, will lead a discussion on “Politics in Aristophanes’ Birds” after the June 2 performance.

Show tickets are $10 for general admission and $7 for area seniors and the Union community. Call the Yulman box office at ext. 6545 for reservations.

Greek Orthodox church to hold rummage sale May 28, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora Festivals.
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The families of the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Portsmouth, will host “My Big Fat Greek Rummage Sale” on Saturday, June 2, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the church, 40 Andrew Jarvis Drive.

Items featured at the sale will include household goods, furniture, gently worn clothing, children and adults, jewelry, sporting goods, exercise equipment, tools, electronics, CDs, books and more.

In addition, shoppers will be able to feast on a variety of Greek foods and pastries. Take-out orders will be available while supplies last. For more information, call at 964-3798.

Proceeds from the “My Big Fat Greek Rummage Sale” will benefit the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.

Coming up this summer, the Saint Nicholas Greek Festival returns July 20-22, where there will be live music, delicious homemade Greek foods, pastries and more. For more information on its upcoming events, please call the church office at 436-2733.

The Greek liquid gold May 28, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Greece.
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The best olive oil is this year’s. Freshly pressed can’t be beat.

In a small taverna in Messinia, the gentleman next to me picked up the bottle from the table, held it to his nose and sniffed. He poured a small amount into a glass and swirled it several times. He sipped and rolled it around his tongue before swallowing, and noted it was “last year’s olive oil.”

I was visiting the Peloponnese region to see firsthand the harvesting and pressing of olives into oil. Freshness is key to great extra-virgin olive oil. While that bottle of last year’s oil was still good, the olive oil expert knew it didn’t come close to the fresh grassiness, bitter almond and berry sweetness that the oil held when first pressed.

This year’s pressing has come to an end. The olives that were harvested and pressed into oil in Greece and all the olive regions of the northern hemisphere during November through January are now appearing on store shelves in the cities. It’s time to take advantage of the freshest olive oil you can buy outside of heading to the Mediterranean  during pressing time.

Look on the label or bottle for a date that indicates either when the oil was harvested or the “use by” date. The harvest date should fall close to the end of 2006 or early 2007, and the “use by” dates can be good up to 2008 or early 2009.

As you drive through Greece, you see craggy olive trees, some of them centuries old, growing in the dry, rocky soil. It’s easy to fall in love with the striking countryside. The mountains and hills that rise on all sides and around every bend suddenly drop off to meet the azure sea. White stucco houses with red tiled roofs cling to the hills, and surprises await as you drive around the curves. Four tables are set up with linens, red flowers and carafes of olive oil, waiting for the lunch trade with no visible town or traffic in sight.

The olive harvest in Greece and many parts of the Mediterranean still takes place by hand on small family farms. The olives are laboriously stripped from the trees with small plastic rakes that resemble toys made for playing in the sand. The olives and leaves fall onto nets that snake through the grounds.

They are bundled into burlap bags, gently stacked onto wagons and driven immediately to the local olive mill for processing. Time is of the essence, and the Greeks process their olives around the clock to ensure top quality. The olives never sit for longer than a few hours from the time they are picked to when they are crushed into oil, to ensure top quality. This attention to detail shows, in that 80 percent of the oil in Greece is top-quality extra-virgin olive oil.

The farmers work closely with the olive mills, most ties go back generations. While technology is accepted and flourishes in this ancient land, there are still traditional stone mills such as the Giorgos Skarpalezos Mill in Messinia that processes olives according to classic techniques. As you enter the tiny structure, you have to walk carefully on stone floors that are uneven and worn smooth from centuries of use. The sound of the grinding wheels fills your ears. What strikes the senses most, however, is the heavy smell of olives that envelops you.

The olives are washed and separated from their leaves. First they are coarsely broken, then crushed between two massive horizontal stone wheels, the centerpiece of the room, where they become paste. The olive paste is quickly scooped by hand into heavy linen bags that are stacked 20 high. Pressure is gradually applied from above to extract the oil into a trough below.

The oil is vivid green, and produces a pronounced bite at the back of the throat. In a nod to technology, the oil is pressed using hydraulic power in place of muscle power as in the past. The term “first pressing” comes from this method. Less olive oil is obtained from this traditional method, but the quality is better because it retains the essence of the olive. Unfortunately, demand for this olive oil is high and it’s rarely exported.

Today most olive oil is obtained using the centrifuge method. These facilities lack the romance of the stone mills, but production is surprisingly similar to the traditional method up to the point of oil extraction. Instead of pressing the olive paste to obtain oil, today the paste is spun in centrifuge tanks.

The green fragrant oil rises to the surface and pours out a spout. It’s clearer than traditional stone-milled oil but still retains the fragrance of fresh olives. The pace and demand is great; one small local mill bottled 70 tons of oil between December and January.

Fortunately, those of you who don’t live in Greece or other olive-growing regions can still enjoy the taste of this year’s olive oil. Look for it now before it becomes “last year’s olive oil.”