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A heaven on earth > Mycenae in Greece November 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Mainland.
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This post has been moved to our NEW dedicated Travel blog > http://travel.homeboy.gr

Read the original article at > http://travel.homeboy.gr/?p=128

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A passion for tea > Tea for one November 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Nicosia, Food Cyprus, Greek Taste Local.
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While most of us make it from a teabag, for one Nicosia woman, the quest for a perfect cuppa has become a lifetime’s adventure

Cyprus is a country renowned for its coffee culture, so the idea of a tea bar may seem somewhat strange. That hasn’t put off Gabrielle Duval though, who has recently opened Brew Lounge and Tea Bar in old Nicosia, which serves more than 24 types of tea.

“Cypriots associate drinking tea with being ill but I’m convinced that Brew will show that drinking tea is an entire lifestyle,” the 30-year-old said. “We have an amazing variety on offer, including classic teas from Sri Lanka, India, China and Japan to name a few, as well as herbal, scented and iced teas.”

She added that she is confident that Cypriots, “will embrace this new lifestyle that they’re not currently familiar with, much like they have done over the last decade with wine, with which we can draw similar analogies.” Duval explained that she has been a tea lover since the age of 18, “when I had to stop drinking coffee for medical reasons and needed to find an alternative.”

While studying in Toulouse, France, Duval discovered a quaint creperie, where the owner initiated her to tea. “This was the beginning of a journey which has been expanding ever since.” She said that she took the decision to open a tea bar in Nicosia, “to follow my passion, indulge in it and share it with others. This became urgent when I couldn’t find any decent tea to drink on the island.” When asked what her favourite is, she hesitated. “That is an impossible question as the variety is so great, with each tea having its own separate character. A different time of day and mood will dictate my choice.”

A teabag is how most of us will take the drink, but Duval said that the contents are the lowest grade of the leaf. “When the leaves are gathered and stored at source, all the leaves that don’t pass the quality requirements of the tea houses are ground together with the rest of the sediment to produce tea bags. Tea has been popularised and made available to the masses through a teabag, but it’s worth noting that it was considered a luxury item until just after WWII.”

So, how does one make the perfect cuppa? “There are certain basic rules and each type of tea has its own way of being brewed,” she noted. “For example, a black tea should be brewed with water of 95 degrees celcius for about five minutes, while green tea should be brewed at 70 degrees and should not infuse for longer than three minutes.”

A true connoisseur will not add milk or sugar, nor will they eat or smoke during a tasting. “The choice of tea pot is also important,” Duval stated. “For example, earthenware pots are ideal for many of the fragrant Chinese black teas as the tannin, the chemical compound, is absorbed by the pot, thus enhancing the next pot to be drunk.”

She also spoke of the drink’s health benefits. “Tea contains anti-oxidants, some are high in vitamin C, while most are diuretic. Some even have properties that lower the body’s temperature, which is great during Cyprus’ hot summers and highly beneficial when running a fever.

Brew also sells rooibos, which, according to Duval, is not technically a tea as it comes from the red bush plant grown in South Africa. “This contains no theine [caffeine] whatsoever and has become popular around the world with those who must eliminate all caffeine from their diet.”

Brew Lounge and Tea Bar, 30b Hippocrates Street, Nicosia, tel 22 100133.

Sampling a tea > We couldn’t leave without a tasting so Duval proceeded to make us an ‘Au Revoir’. The Chinese green tea is blended with traditional Moroccan nanah mint and naturally scented bergamot from Calabria and pepper from Madagascar.

Brew uses a water purifier as the water on the island can be very hard, Duval explained. She poured hot water over the loose leaves, which clearly unravelled and expanded as they absorbed the water, “which releases the flavour.” The contents were left to infuse for three minutes in a glass teapot. The taste and smell was quite minty, while I could also clearly detect the black pepper. I had never before tasted such an unusual tea but it definitely got the thumbs up. Delicious!

An Art Gallery without walls November 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Cyprus, Arts Exhibitions Cyprus, Cyprus Nicosia.
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Ten artists from around the world gathered in a cloud of dust last week to create the second part of an International Sculpture Park

I could see white dust filling the air from the main road but thought nothing of it. However, approaching the park, the scene was quite breathtaking. A woodland slope was host to a group of ten dust-coated artists, each working on individual pieces of limestone. Over two weeks they had been carving sculptures as part of the second International Sculpture Symposium held in Ayia Varvara.

These ten sculptures were unveiled last week and have taken their places alongside ten existing sculptures at the International Sculpture Park, that were created during a similar event last year. Despite being on a hillside outside Nicosia, the park is called ‘international’ due to the participation of overseas artists, from as far afield as Cuba and Argentina.

“The International Sculpture Symposium is an EU-funded programme that helps Europe’s regions form partnerships to work together on common projects,” said Christos Lanitis, one of the artists and a member of the Friends of Fine Arts Association, which first realised the dream of a park. “By sharing knowledge and experience, these partnerships enable the regions involved to develop new solutions to economic, social and environmental challenges.”

Last year, the first symposium had sculptors from France, Germany, Spain, Poland, Bulgaria, Georgia, Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus working together to set up the first part of the park. “The association’s aim is to promote both Cypriot and foreign artists by organising exhibitions in Cyprus and abroad, and, of course, educating our members and the public about the arts in general and cultural and artistic events in particular,” said Christos. The Ayia Varvara Community Council donated the land, which, in addition to the sculptures, is home to eucalyptus trees and a small chapel of the Holy Cross that sits on top of the hill.

The scene from this year’s gathering was reminiscent of Edward Scissorhands, with clouds of dust surrounding each artist as they worked away on sculptures in the open air. Some were in overalls sans T-shirts due to the heat while others were covered from head to toe in clothing and masks. Tools were scattered around the area, and the atmosphere was cheerful despite the pressure to finish in time for the unveiling last Sunday. “Some of us have worked together on other symposiums,” said Nabi Basbus, from Lebanon. “But it’s such a nice time for all of us because we meet new people and live with them for 15 days, meanwhile doing what we love, so we’re one big, happy family.”

Although last year’s symposium did not have a theme, members of the Association decided to adopt the idea of having one from now on. “It was Christos Lanitis’ idea to focus this year’s sculptures on one theme, the sea, because he’s such a fan,” says Christiana Megalemou, PR spokesperson for the symposium. “The idea was to give all these people from different backgrounds a theme so they could elaborate and create something the way they understand and view it.” Although some of the artists’ English was on the poor side, it was clear that they were all happy to lend each other a helping hand whenever necessary, and, of course, the language of art was widely spoken.

The Friends of Fine Arts Association, a registered non-profit organisation, has big plans for this large stretch of hill. At present, however, describing the area as a park is a little misleading. There is little greenery and few facilities. “Nothing has happened yet apart from the roofed kiosk and seating area but our objective is to create a sculpture park with no admission fee, that way making it accessible to everyone,” said Christiana. “It has already become an educational destination for schoolchildren and college students, and we’re hoping that a cafeteria will also be operating for the community and the youth in particular.”

This is encouraging, but improvements to the site in the last year have been fewer than organisers had hoped. The reason is simple. “Lack of funds and sponsors,” said Christiana. “The younger generation might appreciate what we are trying to do here, but the truth is that a lot of people don’t understand or simply don’t see the point of it.” The EU funds 50 per cent of the costs involved, but the rest have to be covered by other sponsors and more need to be found.

The idea of a gallery without walls is intriguing enough but the fact that it also enables people to respond to these pieces of art, explore them and think about the sculpture in relation to the landscape, is a thrilling concept. However, the sad fact is that although people, regardless of race, creed and colour had gathered at this small village just outside of Nicosia to create a beautiful, creative recreational area, it’s a wonder if it will ever be fully appreciated.

The International Sculpture Park is situated in the village of Ayia Varvara, (Saint Barbara), Nicosia district, Cyprus.

Related Links > www.friendsoffinearts.org.cy

It’s in your hands > the Cyprus Euro November 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Cyprus, Business & Economy, Cyprus News.
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As of January next year, the euro will be the official currency in Cyprus. A new exhibition in Limassol hopes to answer any final questions

New Year’s resolutions may be slightly different this January. If a wealthy and prosperous 2008 is top of your list, make sure you envision the cash filling your wallets in euros. As the island enters the euro zone on January 1 2008, you will have to say goodbye to those National symbols that have graced Cyprus’ notes for so many years. As Cyprus adopts the euro, the Cyprus pound will be completely withdrawn from circulation within a one-month period.

The intensive campaign to inform the public about the euro kicked off back in March with the slogan ‘The Successful Adoption of the Euro is in Your Hands’. It marked the beginning of a one million pound campaign that even included a special white and yellow euro bus travelling to the more remote villages encouraging the public to become less sceptical, and more at ease with the idea of the euro. Dual prices are now displayed in shops, and you can’t miss the newspaper and magazine adverts displaying blue hearts emblazoned with the euro symbol.

But most Cypriots don’t change their habits easily, and there are still many that are a bit bewildered by the ins and outs of the euro adoption. To come to their aid, an exhibition has opened at the Lanitis Centre in Limassol, focusing on the euro and providing plenty of information on what the implementation of this new currency will involve.

With six different theme rooms, you can find out about the various Cyprus euro coins that we will soon be using, learn about the history and the benefits of the euro, and hopefully find answers to important queries that may still be puzzling you. Organisers explain that the point of the exhibition is to illustrate the importance of the euro in daily life, as well as the benefits involved when it comes to exchange, travel and investments abroad.

The euro was first launched in January 1999 as an electronic currency, but attempts to create a single currency went back 20 years prior to that because of the economic crises of the 1970s. In January 2002, the euro became a reality for 12 countries of the EU and is now a part of daily life for 315 million Europeans living in the euro area. As Cyprus enters the euro zone along with Malta, you may be wondering what exactly Cyprus’ notes and coins will look like?

The notes Cyprus will be using are identical to those currently used in the rest of Europe. It may be a little sad to think that Cypriots will no longer have notes unique to the country, but the point of identical designs is to represent the harmony of contemporary Europe.

Each euro banknote depicts a 20th Century European architectural design. The front of the notes depicts windows and gateways to symbolise European spirit, openness and cooperation. Unlike the notes, however, the euro coins will depict unique national designs on the one side. Interestingly, the symbol chosen for the new currency (€) is inspired by the Greek letter ‘epsilon’, the first letter of the word Europe. The two parallel lines indicate the euro’s stability.

Go along to the Lanitis Centre and you will also be able to have a look at a photographic exhibition named ‘Cyprus-Europe’ which documents the relationship between the island and Europe from ancient times to the present day.

The Euro: Our Currency > An exhibition aiming to make the Cypriot public better aquainted with the euro. Opened October 26, 7pm, until November 5. Evagoras Lanitis Centre, Carob Mill, Limassol, tel 25 342123.

So what exactly happens on January 1 2008?

  • When the euro replaces the pound as the official currency of Cyprus on January 1, euro banknotes and coins will immediately be put into circulation. All bank account details that are normally denominated in pounds will automatically be denominated in euros
  • For a period of one month after the adoption of the euro, banknotes and coins in Cyprus pounds will circulate in parallel with the euro and will be accepted for payments in all shops and enterprises, but any change will be given in euros. From February 2007, cash in Cyprus pounds will cease to be legal tender and will not be accepted for payments
  • Withdrawals from bank accounts will only be in euros
  • ATMs will only issue euros
  • All non-cash transactions, by means of cheque, card, etc, will be carried out in euros
  • Banks will exchange pound notes and coins for euros free of charge, up to a ceiling of Cy£1,000 per customer, until June 30 2008
  • Dual display (in pounds and euro) of the prices and services provided to consumers in all companies, shops, restaurants etc. is compulsory right up until September 2008. This means you will constantly be able to compare prices as you adjust to the new currency
  • National website for the euro > www.euro.cy Toll free telephone line for the euro is 8000 2008.

Challenging times for Greek fashion November 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Fashion & Style.
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The sixth glamorous edition of the Diners Athens Collections InStyle took place from October 24 to 28 at the Athen’s Zappeion Hall

Six fashion seasons ago, a large and representative group of Greek designers brought their enthusiasm and hopes together, joining forces for the first edition of the Athens Collections, essentially the country’s first ever fashion week. Two-and-a-half years on, the Diners Athens Collections InStyle has become a local institution and an international fringe event to watch.

Beyond catwalk shows organized by the Hellenic Fashion Designers Association at Zappeion Hall, the Athens Collections are bearing more fashion fruit: The new dynamic has driven local designers into European showrooms and trade exhibitions, Greek designer pieces being carried by stores in Paris and Hong Kong via Moscow and the creation of a professional Athens showroom, among others.

While developing local designer identity and business is still high on the Greek fashion week agenda, visible and encouraging efforts are being made. The event has now reached a critical point, however, and good fashion management is essential for its survival. Creating a viable industry is a long-term investment for all those involved.

Thousands of visitors attended the sixth edition for Spring/Summer 2008 which unfolded October 24-28, with foreign fashion professional guests noting that while some collections were European-level material, others have a long way to go.

A special guest, the American-with-Greek-roots designer John Varvatos opened the event on Wednesday, October 24, showing his Spring/Summer 2008 menswear collection previously shown in New York.

What emerged from the Athens shows? Think Greek for next summer, with a number of designers reworking their heritage in, often, amusing ways. Also, a predominance of dresses, an emphasis on the waist, big flowers, jerseys, ball shapes, volume playing, and earthy versus bold colors.

On the guest designer front, Avtandil’s summer black has become a signature trait of the Georgian designer who showed in Athens for the third time. No ethnic touches here, but an elegant strictness reflected in pajama stripes, flares and cigarette trousers. Spain’s Miriam Ponsa, who showed in exchange for Yiorgos Eleftheriades’s appearance at 080 Barcelona, featured exciting latex dipped in liquid and applied with cotton, experimental, yet ultimately wearable pieces. Cyprus’s Aphrodite Hera threw out well-thought ideas, including big ruffles, large zips and holograms on evening wear, while Cyprus-based Ramona Filip came up with youthful looks in earthy colors with full-sleeved, A-line trench coats and things to wear, including pieces for the working woman.

For Deux Hommes, it was a defining moment. Coached by fashion consultant Jean-Jacques Picart, the duo brought complicated simplicity and a refreshing fluidity. Focusing on their Greek heritage, the collection reflected hard work, featuring Minoan elements, reproduced vintage tourist 1970s silk prints, an emphasis on the human form accentuated by ideas of Greek pottery and gigantic sequins, with deep blue and burgundy.

In his quest for a modern silhouette, Yiorgos Eleftheriades was in chic mode and playing with harness, white and earthy shades. Strong menswear included individual pieces like suit-like dungarees and a one-piece trouser-shirt. At his second line, Collage Social, the designer came up with techno floral prints, multi-volumes and wrinkled fabrics, reflecting individual originality in the 1980s.

Angelos Bratis is clear on his fashion language and his execution matches his vision, clear and well-fitting. This time it was all about “curves and elegance” in a collection where “motion comes from the wind.” On the catwalk this translated into morning-through-evening pieces, a new geometry and fluidity versus non-fluidity, while black left some space for egg-yolk. Bratis makes it all look effortless, but don’t be fooled, every detail counts.

A sense of doom overtook the audience at Maria Mastori and Filep Motwary as black-faced models appeared on the catwalk. The design duo, Mastori does the accessories, Motwary the clothes, presented a collection with a deep sea spirit reflected in ropes, huge pearls and fishnets. Working with organic elements, this collection was a reminder that fashion expresses strong emotions.

Vasso Consola treats knits as fabrics and makes them look sexy, think hot beachwear with plenty of bare skin. There was knitted architecture in striped catsuits, built-in belts and stripes. Color was a dominant force in Orsalia Parthenis’s collection where lime mixed with orange, for instance. At times a more fitted silhouette, at the waist, took the brand forward while safeguarding its tradition of relaxed, comfortable living.

Loukia’s long experience allows her to have a light hand when designing ready-to-wear: A two-piece trench, held together with buttons or ribbons, is an example. She played with volumes, signature applique lace, frills, boudoir poms poms, satin, lace and cotton. With every single piece incorporating a Greek element, from chitons to knots, Erifilli worked on a strong color palette from mauve to brown through canary yellow. The collection’s centerpiece was an intriguing fabric based on a combination of chiffon and metal.

In the space of a fashion show and with a much-appreciated sense of humor, Dimitris Dassios offered his riveted audience a retrospective of Greek history from antiquity to the 1821 revolution. Gold, turquoise and mother of pearl jewelry was set against a backdrop of white paper pleated dresses.

A sparkling collection came from new kid on the Greek fashion block, Vrettos Vrettakos. Sponsored by Swarovski Hellas, the young designer showed elaborate pleated and twisted leather mixed with silk tulle as well as short, Swarovski crystal numbers for the evening.

Pavlos Kyriakides’s penchant for jersey, from silver to gray, gave high waists and pieces to wear, including something not often seen at Zappeion, suits. A good fit with a 1980s touch, it was a softer collection, without excluding occasional military references and constructed sleeves.

With her snorkeling gear, as she appeared at the end of her show, Daphne Valente dived into the sea and came up with fish, in the form of jewelry, prints and embroidery, in white, silver and splashes of turquoise. Never forgetting her pleated past, she also fused pleats with the fish motif. Christos Costarellos presented a very pretty collection of long and short silk chiffon, silk satin, gazar, and cotton lace in lavender and quiet mint, among others. Reflecting their age compared to previous seasons, Mi-Ro duo went for fluorescent geometry, while adding menswear. There were nice details here: crocodile sling-backs with sportswear laces and Venetian straw on bags.

Complementing her hat wear, in a country where wearing them is generally perceived as eccentric, Katerina Karoussos showed ready-to-wear featuring comfortable shirt dresses and nostalgic polka-dot numbers coming up with alternative, though seen before, choices for women with a desire for old-style Cote d’Azur. Vassilis Zoulias’s foray into apparel produced a sweet collection defined by the designer’s signature nostalgia for all that was chic in the 50s and 60s. This translated into a concise show of big flowered fabrics, as well as vichy and plaid, where the designer seemed to switch his attention from hot-selling accessories to clothes.

Veteran Makis Tselios came up with funky preppy looks for boys, think stripes, bermudas and knee-high socks, and bright-colored shantung for the ladies, guys got some of these too.

Finding creative ground between pleasing good clients and moving forward with one’s vision is a challenge some local designers face. For Christos Petridis at Costas Faliakos, the first part of the show featured bermudas, trousers and tops, followed by “Bijoux” pieces and Grecian pleats for the evening. At Christos Mailis, designer Pericles Economopoulos went for wearable looks made of stretch gabardine and shantung, with an emphasis on the waist.

An Africa-inspired techno-tribal theme gave Frida Karadimas’s 1950s silhouette a new direction with a beige-to-gold color palette featuring thick linen, details such as snake skin and metal motifs, with straightforward cocktail given an edge. Away from the theatrical approach of past seasons, Katerinalexandraki took the wheel motif to carry her work forward. With a penchant for leggings, she gave her casualwear sequined details that gave the ilk a shine.

Working on volumes, Konstantinos loosened up with big flower prints, earthy colors and shiny fabrics, moving the brand forward. Also by Konstantinos, the Miss Denim young collection reminded fashion folk that all it takes to express yourself through fashion in one single T-shirt.

Adolphe William Bouguereau’s “The Birth of Venus” became a central theme at Kathy Heyndels, where the print appeared on dresses, for example. There was plenty of cocktail and evening with rich, beaded embroidery and a white goddess finale. Daywear was not high on the list of Cyprus-born Yiannos Xenis, whose bare backs and sexy prints reinforced the idea that the Yiannos Xenis woman will not go unnoticed. There was asymmetry and vibrant fuchsia, layers of silk satin, more attention to fit is necessary.

Elina Lebessi is all about the dress, from morning to night. Applique beading was a major story here, from a turquoise caftan to a jumper dress with some transparency. There were mid-thigh hemlines, while the designer seemed to go for a sexier silhouette.

Black was the opening statement at Simeoni, who went on to develop a few themes, including a brown leather florin motif, while also playing with volumes and asymmetry, twists and folds. Sexy silhouettes built on chiffon, silk and jersey continued at Veloudakis, where the designer Christos Veloudakis showed two collections. Familiar column dresses, extremely low cut at the back, opened the show at Chara Lebessi, who went on to work on the collar, while going for white, black, brown and charcoal. Andria’s opening play on black and yellow led to quieter things, black and gray, through girlishness, an emphasis on the waist and pleated dresses.

A few ideas at Fanny Voutsela remained unexplored, with a loose, comfortable silhouette for a woman who enjoys her femininity included pleated silk. A high-neck, big-sleeved, high-waisted flare jersey trousers piece was all Lena Katsanidou. While there were some fabulous pieces here, such as a transparent lace gown with high collar, the collection lacked coherency. Victoria Kyriakides was also a bit scattered with a disco mode, with graphic sequins, but also jersey, ropes and thick-lace needlepoint.

Michael Aslanis twisted things round by using celebrity, Greek and foreign, clippings on caftans, dresses and trousers. He then moved on to an endless parade of large flowers, polka-dots, embroidered jeans, eveningwear and wedding hour sprinkled with children’s wear.

There is little doubt that Vassilios Kostetsos has a vivid imagination: Taking the idea of brocard, adding baroque music, he asked his audience to believe that the collection was inspired by Romy Schneider and Alain Delon. But he seems to forget that both actors, and lovers, for a period, had their own senses of style. Nothing to do with his catwalk show of Playboy-inspired bunnies, peep-toe ankle boots, to be fair they were funky, corset ideas, and showbiz numbers, in a show for local media consumption.

Ditto for Nikos-Takis, where the fashion duo’s successors Charis and Elias kept their public “hostage” for over an hour of video-wall retrospective, followed by a Hollywood-inspired collection of old-fashioned gowns and an appearance by a girls band. Nikos and Takis ought to be respected for their 45-year fashion career and the fact that their business is still going strong. But this show is an extravaganza that this fashion week cannot afford.

How does one survive more than 40 shows? Branded Diners Athens Collections InStyle water and a constant supply of mints proved life sparing this time round, snacks ought to be next edition’s challenge.

Late scare from German underdog November 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Basketball.
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Panathinaikos defeats Bamberg 66-61

panathinaikos_bamberg.jpg  Panathinaikos’s Vassilis Spanoulis (center) against Bamberg, which threatened the Athens club late in Wednesday’s Euroleague game.

Defending Champion Panathinaikos held off a challenge from German basketball team Brose Baskets Bamberg late Wednesday night to win its second of as many matches in the Euroleague’s Group C.

Playing at home, the Athens club maintained control despite a late rush from the visitors for a 66-61 win. Panathinaikos, top in the group ahead of Partizan Igokea on point difference, led throughout the game and took an 11-point lead in the final quarter, but the German team rebounded to reduce it to just one point in the final minute of play. “Once again, what matters the most is the fact that we won the game,” said Panathinaikos forward Dimos Dikoudis. “There is no doubt that we can and should improve our performance but it’s still too early… Things will get better. Our goal is to finish on top of the group,” he continued.

Sarunas Jasikevicius led the scoring for Panathinaikos with 11 points, while Dikoudis and Dimitris Diamantidis added eight points apiece. The Germans felt they could have caused an upset against the reigning European Champions. “I’m disappointed that we didn’t win the game, but I’m happy about our performance,” said Bamberg coach Dirk Bauermann.

Greece’s two other Euroleague representatives, Aris and Olympiakos, were to play their second round games last night. Aris, on a 1-0 record in Group B, was due to play at Le Mans, looking for its first win. Olympiakos, also triumphant in the opening round, was scheduled to meet Union Olimpija away in Group A.

Athens Metro’s late hours a concern November 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Transport Air Sea Land.
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The company that runs the Athens metro is concerned that track maintenance could suffer if trains operate for longer hours, as the capital’s Mayor, Nikitas Kaklamanis, has requested.

AMEL, the operating firm, and Kaklamanis have discussed the possibility of running a pilot scheme whereby trains will run into the early hours of Saturday and Sunday rather than stop just after midnight.

However, sources said yesterday that AMEL is worried that under this revised schedule, the time engineers have to maintain the tracks will be reduced from seven hours each day to five. AMEL also estimates that extending the timetable by two hours every Friday and Saturday night will cost the company some 300,000 euros a month. Two-thirds of this cost would be staff overtime.

If the pilot scheme is carried out, it is likely to take place between February and March when the service between the Ethinki Amyna station and Athens International Airport will be suspended so that the new stations at Holargos, Nomismatokopeio and Aghia Paraskevi can be opened.

Related Links > www.ametro.gr