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Live gigs in Athens > Plenty of musical action promised June 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Live Gigs.
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Hopes of a record-breaking summer of shows, unless there is a repeat of last year’s cancellations

Veteran party band the B-52s is scheduled to play at Lycabettus Theater on July 17.

Calexico has been booked for July 10 at the Olympic Baseball Arena.

It is likely to be an engaging summer for concertgoers in Athens, that is if last year’s considerable number of late cancellations can be avoided. Should all, or most, concert bookings go according to plan, this season will go down as the Greek capital’s busiest ever with a loaded agenda of offerings stretching from new, recent and not-so-recent to Jurassic acts. The action gets rolling this week before gathering momentum later this month right through to the end of July. From that point on, local concert promoters dare not book shows for Athens, a largely abandoned month for the peak holiday season.

Visiting performers expected in the coming days and weeks include Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Calexico, CocoRosie, Placebo, the Beastie Boys, Madness, George Clinton and Motorhead. Bookings for later in the summer feature the popular flamenco-hip-hop act Ojos de Brujo, Saint Etienne, Cesaria Evora, Snoop Dogg, the B-52s, James, Air, and the Blues Brothers.

Beginning to establish itself as an annual event, the Ejekt Festival, back for the third successive summer, returns this Saturday, essentially heralding the start of the capital’s music parade. The one-day event, at the Olympic Baseball Arena in Hellenikon, features a triple-bill headlined by white rap supergroup the Beastie Boys, in Greece for the first time following a failed attempt almost a decade ago as a result of apparent concerns expressed by the trio over instability and conflict north of Greece’s borders. Also appearing at the festival will be the ska-pop top sellers Madness and popular electronica act Underworld.

The Scorpions, Joe Cocker and Juliette and the Licks will gather at Karaiskaki Stadium next Monday.

Hard-rock enthusiasts should consider Motorhead, on tomorrow at the Olympic fencing facility, also in Hellenikon. The popular indie-rock band Placebo will perform at the open-air Lycabettus Theater on Thursday.

Music enthusiasts will have the opportunity to roam around town for free street shows next week when European Music Day, on June 21, is stretched into a three-day celebration. Over 100 acts will perform in more than 10 locations around downtown Athens, including Syntagma Square.

A pioneering musical figure, George Clinton, who led the progressive funk acts Funkadelic and Parliament, will perform June 30 at the Vrachon Theater with his P-Funk All Stars.

The intriguing new-folk duo CocoRosie play the night before at Rematia Theater in Halandri. Also performing out in the northern suburbs will be Omar Faruk Tekbilek and his ensemble, a worthy figure on the world music circuit, at the Papagou Theater on June 28.

Two big festivals feature next month, beginning with the Gagarin Open-Air Festival at the Olympic Baseball Arena over six nights, July 5-6 and 8-11.

Opening night will be headlined by the aging yet very relevant and dedicated Iggy Pop and the Stooges, who will be preceded by Mudhoney and the Soulsavers featuring Mark Lanegan.

July 10 will be headlined by one of this era’s more gifted acts, the Tex-Mex band Calexico, back in Greece after a visit last summer whose itinerary excluded Athens but included shows in Thessaloniki and Crete.

Local bands, including Yiannis Angelakas and the Episkeptes and cult act Lost Bodies, play the festival on July 6.

A new event, the Fly Beeyond Festival, follows less than a fortnight later with three nights of decent mainstream entertainment between July 17 and 19 at the Olympic Stadium’s Arena facility.

The bill includes Avril Lavigne on opening night, James, Air and Tori Amos the following night, and recent top sellers Pink and Sugababes on July 19.

Other concert highlights include >

  • flamenco-hip-hop act Ojos de Brujo on July 5 at the Vrachon Theater;
  • Saint Etienne, a night later at the same venue;
  • Cesaria Evora on July 8 at Petras Theater;
  • the Jan Garbarek Group at the Lycabettus Theater on July 10;
  • hip-hop superstar and bad boy Snoop Dogg on the same night at the Olympic Baseball Arena;
  • veteran party band the B-52s at Lycabettus Theater on July 17;
  • the Original Blues Brothers Band on July 25 at the Olympic Softball Arena;
  • George Michael at the Olympic Stadium on July 26.

A day for the world’s refugees June 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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World Refugee Day is on June 20, 2007

Marking the modern-day odysseys of countless men, women and children, World Refugee Day takes place around the globe on June 20.

In Greece, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR is preparing for a series of events scheduled to unfold in Athens from June 19 to June 22. The events will take place at the downtown Technopolis arts complex.

Events will kick off on Tuesday, June 19, in the presence of Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Goodwill Ambassador Giorgos Dalaras at 7.30 p.m. The evening’s program includes an exhibition of photographs and posters as well as video screenings. The event is also counting on the participation of many immigrant and refugee associations in the form of musical productions and works of arts and crafts.

Photographt and poster exhibitions will run at Technopolis to June 22, subsequently going on display at the Mavromichali 55 gallery from June 28 to July 6. The following day, June 20, a refugee artist will unveil a sculpted construction titled «Fix Your World» at 7 p.m. Events continue on June 22 with the award ceremony of the annual National Student Contest scheduled to take place at 1 p.m.

Technopolis Arts Complex, 100 Pireos Street, Gazi, Athens, tel 210 9833794. Open 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Thessaloniki hosts first festival of ancient Greek drama June 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Festivals, Stage & Theater.
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How do this country’s Balkan neighbors interpret ancient Greek drama? Lovers of theater will get a taste of interpretations of eight ancient Greek plays in seven languages during the first Theater Festival of Southeastern Europe, scheduled to open its doors in Thessaloniki this Thursday.

Eight theater companies stemming from Serbia, Slovenia, Hungary, Romania, Albania, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus are taking part in this first theater gathering, in a bridge of communication set up by the State Theater of Northern Greece.

“We are not going to see traditional ancient drama productions. It looks like our neighbors see ancient drama from a completely different perspective from what we’re used to. In Southeastern Europe, in countries that have recently experienced turbulence, timeless ancient Greek works become a basis for research on current issues, whether political, social or existential,” said the director of the State Theater of Northern Greece, Nikitas Tsakiroglou.

Euripides’ “Medea” is one of the festival’s favorite subject matters, as it will be staged by four different companies: the Turkish State Theater of Ankara, the National Theater of Craiova, Romania, Atelier 31 in tandem with Albania’s State Theater and Hungary’s Katona Jozsef Theater.

“The main question raised by the play is not the relationship between a man and a woman, but Medea’s revenge due to the insult she has been subjected to,” said Hungarian director Gabor Zsambeki of a production that he has been working on for the last 10 years.

Love is the issue that young Greek director Yiannis Paraskevopoulos is putting forward in a production of “Medea” by the National Theater of Craiova. “It wasn’t easy for the Romanian troupe to approach the Euripidean tragedy,” said Paraskevopoulos, adding, however, that they did feel the urge to comprehend the ancient tragedy’s messages.

Albanian director Mikel Kalemi’s “Medea” is “a victim driven to violence.” “She was betrayed, scorned and abandoned, and she got mad. Her revenge was so huge that the Earth mourned,” he noted. The Slovenian National Theater is staging Slovenian author Ivo Svetina’s poetic drama “Oedipus in Corinth.” The work describes Oedipus’ childhood in Corinth, with an emphasis on his existential questions, while director Ivica Buljan has focused his take on the causes behind contemporary society’s depression.

Inspired by the Theban Cycle, “My Homeland, Seven Dreams” will be staged by Serbia’s BITEF festival, directed by Nikita Milivojevic. According to the director, the play comprises seven stories or seven dreams, which result in an image of absolute paranoia, where the only certainty is that when it comes to power, fratricide rules throughout time.

The Cyprus Theater Organization is staging Euripides’ “Iphigenia in Tauris,” in a production directed by Yiannis Margaritis, while the State Theater of Northern Greece is taking part with Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata” directed by Yiannis Iordanidis.

In Thessaloniki, the festival’s performances will take place at the Vassiliko or Royal, Theater, the Dassos Theater and the Theater of the Society of Macedonian Studies.

Papaloukas sets NBA as his next objective June 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Basketball.
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CSKA Moscow’s Greek star rules out homeland return

Thodoris Papaloukas, commenting at a news conference in Athens yesterday to promote his coaching academy for juniors, contended that ‘11 or 12 NBA teams are currently interested in me,’ without elaborating further.

CSKA Moscow’s Thodoris Papaloukas, currently rated as Europe’s leading basketball player, yesterday excluded the possibility of returning to a Greek club, stressing instead that the NBA stood as his main objective.

Papaloukas, commenting on his playing future during a news conference in Athens that was held to promote his basketball academy for juniors, declined to give further details about where he could be headed in the NBA.

However, Papaloukas, a key player in Greece’s Eurobasket triumph in 2005 and CSKA’s Euroleague title the following year, did name several clubs where he felt his style of playing could blend in, these being the San Antonio Spurs, Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers and Dallas Mavericks.

Papaloukas contended that “11 or 12 NBA teams are currently interested in me,” while adding that “anyway, a trade or salary-cap change in the NBA can alter everything and then you’ll be telling me that I lied.” Papaloukas, who turned 30 last month, said the NBA was his main career objective at this point “because I’m at an age where I may not get another chance.”

The Greek player said that he had been recently approached by a leading Greek official about a return to domestic competition. He did not elaborate. “I was honored by the discussion we had, but I was totally honest and told him that a return to Greece at this stage did not rank among my priorities,” remarked Papaloukas. The Greek player, who moved to CSKA Moscow from Olympiakos in 2002, signed a three-year contract with the Russian club in June last year.

Greek food, wine exports keep rising June 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Food Greece.
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Exports of Greek food, wines and spirits abroad have risen 33 percent in the last two years and are projected to rise at the same pace this year, Panayiotis Drosos, Managing Director of the Hellenic External Trade Board (HEPO) said at the 2nd World Conference of Greek Gastronomy, held in Iraklion, Crete, and on Santorini at the weekend.

The event, the biggest of its kind ever held in Greece, hosting 154 Greek producers, was attended by 230 foreign buyers and journalists. Drosos said 2007 is an action year for Greek fish-farming products globally, as well as for Greek dairy products and beverages in the US and Canada. He added that Greece is preparing to put up a strong fight to have feta cheese recognized as an authentically Greek product.

The event was also attended by a number of renowned chefs, including Gordon Ramsay, David Rosengarten, Tsukiko Hattori and Steven Olson. Ramsay spoke warmly of Greek products, and presented a strategy that chefs and restaurants should follow to place them in target markets.

The Greek mall challenge June 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.
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The first large shopping mall in Athens opened only 18 months ago, but the city’s retail property landscape already is changing fast, with more than 10 similar projects expected to built around the capital in the next few years.

Those projects will add 382,000 square meters, or more than 4.1 million square feet, of retail space by 2010, according to figures provided by CB Richard Ellis Danos & Associates, real estate consultants based in Athens.

Developers and real estate agents are confident the market can absorb the extra space as Greece now ranks near the bottom of all European Union countries when it comes to the amount of shopping center space per resident. In 2006 there were 50 square meters of shopping center space for every 1,000 people in Greece, according to IOBE, a nonprofit research organization based in Athens. The average for all 25 EU countries is more than 150 square meters.

And the interest is there on the developers’s side as well. “There is plenty of liquidity in the market looking for the right investment,” said Gikas Hardouvelis, chief economist at EFG Eurobank, one of Greece’s largest banks.

But the ultimate success of malls here really depends on whether Greeks decide to leave downtown areas behind in favor of shopping centers. For now at least, downtown rental rates remain high. For example, properties along Ermou Street in central Athens, which include some of the city’s largest stores, rent for as much as €265, or $353, per square meter per month, the tenth highest downtown rate in the world. And, “we don’t see rents going downwards, there is large demand,” said Philip Evans, partner and head of retail services at Cushman & Wakefield real estate agency in Athens.

In comparison, monthly rents in Greek shopping centers, which are not in city centers, average €39 per square meter, according to CB Richard Ellis real estate agency in London. That rate is among the lowest in the European Union; the monthly rate in Spain averages more than €63 per square meter although it is €25 per square meter in Romania.

Among the mall projects that have been announced for Athens, two are conversions of sites built for the 2004 Olympic Games. The Galatsi Olympic Hall, where table tennis and rhythmic gymnastics events were held, will be turned by the end of 2008 into a €78 million shopping center, a joint venture of Acropole Charagionis and Sonae Sierra of Portugal. And a multistory building in northern Athens that was built for Olympics international broadcasting centre is to be turned into 40,000 square meters of shopping space by 2009 by Lamda Development of Athens.

It was Lamda Development’s earlier project, The Mall Athens, that started the city’s mall spurt. When the development opened in November 2005, it introduced Athens’s four million residents to the convenience of having 200 stores, restaurants and movie theaters under one roof. Greece’s first major mall opened in October 2005, just a month earlier, in Thessaloniki, the country’s second largest city. Located in the northern Athens suburb of Marousi, The Mall Athens covers more than 58,000 square meters and has 2,065 parking spaces, a strong lure for shoppers in a city with traffic problems like Athens’s.

Also, “the ability to choose from lots of products in the same area is one of the basic factors that have contributed to its success,” said Nikos Xethalis, general manager at ECE Lamda Hellas, the company that manages the property.

Over all, Greece’s strong economic growth and high private consumption rates are helping fuel retail activity. The country’s gross domestic product is expected to expand by 3.9 percent this year, one of the highest growth rates in the euro zone. Increases in credit and a drop in unemployment rates have helped keep household spending high. The robust economic activity, and increasing availability of retail space, has been drawing interest from foreign retailers eager to enter the market.

This year Leroy Merlin, the French-based do-it-yourself retailer, and Hennes & Mauritz, the Swedish clothing giant, opened stores while Ikea of Sweden and Zara of Spain say they intend to expand their operations in the country.

Developers, however, say dated laws, zoning restrictions and costly bureaucratic procedures cause costly setbacks. Also, the country’s property transfer tax of 9 to 11 percent is among the highest in the EU and, because it is paid by the buyer, it does deter growth, developers say.

“The largest problem for any developer in Greece is the red tape vis-à-vis permit acquisition. This is a result of land-use legislation,” said Demetra Pallis, marketing manager at Developer Reds, a subsidiary of Greece’s largest construction group, Hellenic Technodomiki-Aktor. Developer Reds is joining with Société Générale Immobilier Espagne to build the largest of the planned malls, a 100,000-square-meter shopping complex in Kantza, east of Athens.

Zoning restrictions limit which properties can even be considered for mall development and, developers say, as many as a dozen different ministries and government bodies can have the authority over permits for an average project.

Foreign investors, like Sonae Sierra, have dealt with the confusion by teaming with a local partner who has leverage with local authorities and a better understanding of building and tax laws. “This helps split planning risks with someone that has local knowledge,” said Anna Nazou, head of international business at CBRE Danos.

Greek islands that still live life at a quieter pace June 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Islands.
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Just 20 minutes by boat from the western coast of Greece, Kalamos and Kastos offer a true escape from the madding crowds

There are still some islands that do not cater to the mass tourism market and where cars are a rare sight. Kalamos, off the west coast of the southern Peloponnese, is a wooded island, 780 meters at its highest point, with several small, isolated beaches, so isolated that one of them, Asproyiali, was one of Aristotle and Jacqueline Onassis’s favorite bathing spots.

The villages are also hidden among the greenery; three large plane trees shade the port, the busiest spot on the island as virtually all transport is by boat. Summer visitors arrive by yacht, keeping the island’s economy going, while locals use their own boats to go swimming at one of the beaches or go shopping on the mainland. The port is also the center of what nightlife exists on Kalamos.

There are roads on the island but they are put to little use apart from a few Municipal vans and the odd bus or taxi. Visitors are driven about by a local youth, Panos, in the Municipality’s car.

It is a walker’s paradise and the best hiking route is from Kalamos to the island’s other inhabited settlement, Episkopi, home to less than 10 people in winter, about a 90-minute walk. The road passes through an impressive pine forest and the vegetation around Episkopi is lush, with thick hedges of ferns reaching up to 2 meters in height. Lower down the hill, thorny thickets form an impassable barrier. But there are olive trees, cypresses and laurels, even almond trees.

Twenty minutes along the route is Kastro, where a picturesque path leads down to three of the best beaches on the island, Mylos, Dafni and Poros. Overland access here is only for the more able-bodied but the walk is worth it.

Kastro, a small settlement only inhabited in the summer, is named for the beautiful but abandoned fortress right next to the Church of Aghios Georgios, built in 1854, and cared for by a neighbor, Antonia, in the summer months. Closer to Kalamos, the vegetation thins out into a pine forest suitable for picnicking.

Sea taxis are available to take visitors anywhere around the coast. The closest beach and therefore the favorite with most visitors to Kalamos is Agrapidia, about 10 minutes’ walk from the port. There is a taverna among the houses shaded by citrus, almond and pomegranate trees.

At first sight less impressive than Kalamos, its neighbor Kastos has many hidden beauties, its beaches, the peace and quiet, the age-old olive groves and a breeze that cools the port during summer. If getting away from it all is what you are looking for, this is where to find it; the loudest sounds are the crickets, the birds and the waves. The only settlement is home to some 35 permanent residents, who grow much of their own food as there is not even a single local store, but in summer the houses and courtyards fill with holidaymakers, who usually eat at one of the three tavernas or the souvlaki stand.

Again, walking is the favored mode of land transport but boats are available. About 20-50 minutes’ walk from the port of Kastos, there are plenty of pristine beaches. At Limni beach, the biggest and the furthest from the main town, there is plenty of shade but Kalada is closer. The olive groves on the island are a monument to nature, centuries-old, with huge trunks carved by time into shapes as fascinating as the rocks that surround them.

For information call > Kalamos Municipality 26460 91100, Kastos Municipality 26460 91484.