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Athens Art Deco gem to be demolished for Parthenon’s view August 1, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece, Arts Museums.
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A shimmering reflection of the Parthenon greets passersby glancing up at the vast wall of windows atop Greece’s new Acropolis Museum. But from inside the Museum, the picture isn’t so clear.

A row over a move to tear down two listed buildings, one of them an Art Deco gem designated a monument in its own right, the other owned by Oscar-winning composer Vangelis Papathanassiou of Chariots of Fire fame, to allow a better view of the Parthenon from the new Museum threatens to overshadow the long-anticipated Museum opening.

The 1930 Art Deco building at No. 17 Dionyssiou Areopagitou Street was built by Vassilis Kouremenos, a graduate of Paris’ Ecole des Beaux Arts and reportedly a friend of Pablo Picasso. It is “probably the most impressive example of its kind” in Athens, said Kostas Stamatopoulos of the Hellenic Society for the Protection of the Environment and Cultural Heritage.

art_deco.jpg  The entrance of 1930 Art Deco building at No. 17 Dionyssiou Areopagitou Street, built by Vassilis Kouremenos, a graduate of Paris’ Ecole des Beaux Arts.

art-deco-topper.jpg  A 1930 Art Deco building in Athens is in danger of being demolished in order to provide a better view of the Parthenon from the nearby, new Acropolis Museum.

With its pink marbled exterior, a mosaic of Oedipus and the Sphinx adorning the top story and marble statues of women in traditional dress flanking the wrought iron door, it is the most eye-catching along the broad, leafy pedestrian road leading to the Acropolis entrance. But No. 17 and No. 19, a gray building that hasn’t benefited from the care lavished on its neighbor, also stand between the new Museum and the Acropolis.

In May, Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said at a news conference that the two buildings would be removed. Greece’s archaeological council voted in early July to revoke the listed status of the more significant Art Deco building and allow its demolition. Although the council was split down the middle, with 12 voting for demolition and 12 against, the head of the council favored tearing the building down, and he carried a double vote. The Culture Ministry said it would not comment on the issue until later.

When news of the vote to tear down the buildings emerged, outraged residents and architects launched an e-mail campaign urging Voulgarakis not to sign the council’s recommendation. Without his signature, the buildings cannot be torn down. An Internet blog was launched, and e-mails of support began flooding in from around the globe.

“Both buildings are at stake,” said architect Nikos Rousseas, whose office is on the ground floor of the Art Deco building. “They are very important. … No. 17 is a monument, not just a listed building.”

Athens has sorely needed a new venue to house antiquities from the 2,600-year-old Acropolis. The old Museum on the Acropolis hill near the Parthenon temple was cramped and overcrowded. It closed down in June, and the new Museum promises to house artifacts that had remained hidden away in storage rooms because of a lack of exhibition space. A massive operation begun to move 300 marble statues atop the Acropolis into the Museum.

Greeks hope it will one day house the Parthenon Marbles, a collection of sculptures stolen  from the Parthenon in the early 19th Century by Lord Elgin and currently housed in London’s British Museum. For years, Athens has sought their return, although the British Museum has refused. But a space awaits them in a gallery on the top floor of the new Museum.

art-decox-large.jpg  The Parthenon is reflected on the windows of Greece’s new Acropolis Museum in Athens.

“The glass enclosure of the gallery provides ideal light for sculpture in direct view to and from the historical reference point of the Acropolis,” U.S.-based architect Bernard Tschumi, who designed the Museum, wrote in a promotional leaflet. The new concrete and glass facility, constructed after years of delays and fierce criticism over its location, structure and hulking size, is expected to open in early 2008. Critics say its style is incongruous with its surroundings on the edge of Athens’ old district of Plaka.

“We are tearing down two listed buildings to showcase one of dubious aesthetics and bulk,” said preservationist Stamatopoulos.

And many are now questioning whether it is right to sacrifice Greece’s more modern past in order to promote its ancient history.

“Let’s be more open-minded. Greece is not just antiquities,” said architect Rousseas, who has posted information on the building outside its front door, along with details of how visitors can help in the campaign to save the buildings by writing to the Culture Minister. The new Museum “is not the one to judge what part of history is important and what is not,” he said. “We can’t do things like that at the expense of other monuments and works of art.”

Rousseas said the listed buildings had been taken account of in the new Museum’s initial design plan, and the Museum was allowed to be constructed taller than would otherwise have been the case especially to grant visitors a view of the Parthenon from the top floor. The Art Deco buildings caught the eye of visitors as they gazed down on Athens from the Acropolis.

“Looking from above, you can see the new Museum and these buildings,” said a tourist from USA visiting Athens for a few days with his family. “They’re very pretty. There’s no reason to see them destroyed.”

Thales, an avid astronomer August 1, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Culture History Mythology.
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In ancient times, the Greek philosopher Thales was also an avid astronomer. One night, he was said to be so engrossed in stargazing that he did not watch his step and fell into a well. His servant teased him, “You are so interested in what is above your head that you pay no attention to what’s under your feet.”

Thales posited the cosmological theory that the origin of all matter is water, and that all matter eventually returns to being water.

Greek white wines August 1, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Wine And Spirits.
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Greece’s nearly three millenniums of winemaking experience is in a great strength today.

The good news is that the country is still discovering the pleasures that can result from applying modern winemaking techniques to preserve the fresh flavors of indigenous grape varieties like Assyrtiko, Roditis and our clear favorite, Moschofilero. 

We tasted several Greek white wines and the wines we’re recommending tend to be light-bodied and friendly to foods far beyond feta. We tried wines made from 18 different grapes, of both Greek and non-Greek origin. Some wines made from native grapes made us wonder if the modern world can unlock their mysteries. But that’s the thrill of tasting Greek wines: When you have a good one, you wonder if anyone since Socrates has experienced such a virtue.

2003 Avantis Beotia Malagouzia > The Mountrihas family who own Avantis has owned vineyards on Evia island since the 1830s, but really got serious about winemaking in the 1990s, replanting with an eye toward greater quality. Malagouzia is a native grape. This wine is both dry and serious: Aromas of mineral and toast overcome an aberrant acetone note; on the palate, it’s toasty and minerally.

2006 Chateau Julia Drama Assyrtiko > This wine is made by Domaine Costa Lazaridis, a large and varied producer that also makes eau de vie and tsipouro, Greek grappa. The Assyrtiko grape is often used for blending because of its intense minerality. This lean, minerally wine has pine needle aromas and flavors, along with some mild citrus. Though “Drama” is the name of the region, we love that the front label reads “Regional Wine of Drama.”

2005 Katogi Averoff Macedonia Chardonnay > Unless you were in a fraternity or sorority, good luck reading the label: The only word not in Greek on the front is “Chardonnay.” Its lean, green apple flavors have enough acidity to keep its toastiness in check.

2005 Nasiakos Mantinia Moschofilero > Fourth-generation grape grower Leonidas Nasiakos is the consultant to the Greek Wine Federation about the Moschofilero grape variety. This wine delivers light aromas of apricot and wildflowers that lead to a moderately weighty palate with flavors of peach, citrus zest and some grassiness.

2005 Skouras Almyra Peloponnese Chardonnay > Proprietor-winemaker George Skouras earned a degree in enology from University of Dijon in France. He established his winery in 1986 and is up to 65,000 cases per year of both Greek and French varietals. This wine could pass for a 1990s-era California Chardonnay: Imagine huge gobs of butter melting on a bit of toast.

2006 Skouras Peloponnese Moscofilero > We love the honesty about the Moschofilero grape from the website www.skouraswines.com: “Aromas in an average year, such as 1994, recall roses after a summer shower and hint of spice. Gray rot is a problem in poor years, when the palate is a dash of freshly squeezed lemon juice and water.” We’d say 2006 was neither average nor poor: We smelled apricot and stone, with a lean palate of apricot, citrus and mild minerality.

Greek puzzle put to the test August 1, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora Festivals.
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It’s sexy, it’s controversial and it’s been questioning visitors to Weymouth’s Greek Wine and Culture Festival, England.

Yes, the television show Big Brother’s Little Brother has been in town to challenge one of its boastful contestants. Housemate Gerry Stergiopoulos claims he is the most famous Greek in Britain, but the programme team decided to check out his claim at local hotelier George Afedakis’s popular annual feasting and tasting.

They put his view to the test to visitors enjoying a glass of Greek wine or tucking in to a range of Greek food. And there was the added spice that those questioned might actually end up appearing on the show on Monday or Tuesday when the result of people’s response will be aired.

The festival itself is in full swing and will run tomorrow, Sunday and Monday from noon until 9pm in a large marquee in front of Weymouth Pavilion, Dorset, UK.

Panta rei August 1, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Culture History Mythology.
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According to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, late-6th century BC, you can’t step into the same river twice. Of course, we know you can step into a river any number of times, so what was the wise old sage getting at when he uttered the immortal words “Panta rei”?

Put simply, and for those of you unfamiliar with pre-Socratic philosophy, Heraclitus used the river analogy to illustrate the constant state of flux that characterises our world. A river’s flowing waters are constantly changing from one moment to the next, so don’t expect them to be the same the next time you dip your toes in.

Does “Panta rei” be applicable to everyday life? What’s your opinion?

Goldie and Kurt bask in the Santorini sun August 1, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life.
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Goldie and Kurt bask in the Santorini sun on romantic break

The famously beautiful Greek island of Santorini played host to one of Hollywood’s best-loved couples this week. Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, who have been together since 1982, got away from it all with a holiday for two on the southernmost of the Cyclades isles.

After hiring a small yacht for a day trip along the coast, ever-youthful Goldie, 61, enjoyed a swim in the turquoise waters of the Aegean while Kurt put some muscle into rowing a dinghy. The nautical outing will no doubt have brought back memories of their appearance in the hit 1987 comedy Overboard. Whatever they were talking and reminiscing about, they certainly seemed to be enjoying the break, with Russell creasing up with laughter during a stop at a local taverna.

santorini_greece.jpg  Santorini island, Greece

Home to charming villages such as Oia, with its white cuboid houses and blue-domed churches set on the steep cliffside, Santorini owes its peculiar, twin-peaked, arched shape and black-sand beaches to its volcanic past. The original caldera, a seven-mile crater, forms the harbour and is where visitors flock to catch stunning sunsets. The island’s capital, Fira, is equally quirky, reached by a flight of 600 steps. Perched on a cliff, it’s best reached by mule or cable car.

Anyone can become angry, that is easy August 1, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Culture History Mythology.
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Anyone can become angry, that is easy. But to be angry with the right person at the right time and for the right purpose and in the right way, that is not within everyone’s power and that is not easy.

That was according to Greek philosopher Aristotle.

What do you say? Do you agree or not?