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Grab your skis, it’s time to hit the slopes > part 2 February 2, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Mainland.
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Kalavryta, just 203 kilometers from the heart of Athens > Located on the northwest side of the Helmos mountain range in the Peloponnese, just 203 kilometers from Athens, the Kalavryta ski center is by no means the largest of Greece’s resorts but has become a mecca for serious skiers and snowboarders in recent years.

The season got off to a great start regarding the white stuff, with Kalavryta opening its lifts on December 16 – this author being one of many snowboard enthusiasts battling to be the first on the slopes to make fresh tracks.

In operation since 1988, there are 12 trails with a range of difficulty from beginner to the very difficult Stiga 1 and 2 trails from the 2,340-meter-high summit – where on a clear day skiers are treated to a sea view – as well as excellent off-piste skiing and snowboarding among clusters of pine trees.

Kalavryta also offers free lifts for beginners as well as student discounts, while the always lively chalet at the base of the mountain often hosts memorable parties in the evening.

The town of Kalavryta itself – just 14 kilometers from the ski center – has its place assured in the hearts of Greeks for its association with the struggle against Turkish occupation in 1821 and the Nazi massacre of over a thousand villagers for resistance activities during WWII. An old schoolhouse has been converted into a museum dedicated to the memory of those killed and is also well worth a visit.

Equipment can be rented on the mountain but there are several rental outlets in and around the town where prices are more reasonable. A range of accommodation can be found via the website www.Kalavryta-ski.gr, while those seeking a more luxurious option can look to the recently opened Castle Resort perched just above the town www.castleresort.gr.

Parnassos, the largest ski center in the country > The largest ski center in Greece is located 180 kilometers from Athens at Parnassos. The official website’s claim that the ski center is “the best organized in the country” is a valid one with 13 lifts and 18 trials covering 22 kilometers in total stretching down from the 2,200-meter summit in two sections. While much of the mountain features wide open pistes with plenty of easy and intermediate runs, for the more adventurous, the mountain also boasts 12 off-piste trails, such as the challenging Sahara trail on the Fterolakka section of the mountain. The nearby town of Arachova just 17 kilometers away is a hub of activity during the ski season, with many visitors choosing to use it as their base rather than stay in the many smaller and more cozy chalets and hotels on the route toward the ski center. While the claim that Arachova is the Myconos of winter is a little far-fetched, what is an attractive winter resort town in a spectacular setting at an altitude of 960 meters draws many Athenians at weekends. This makes it the winter resort to be seen in and ensures a lively atmosphere. Useful websites > http://www.parnassos-ski.gr, http://www.arachova.gr.

Vasilitsa’s superb off-piste trails > What has been in recent years arguably one of the country’s most underrated winter sports resorts, Vasilitsa now rightly stakes its claim as one of northern Greece’s star attractions.

Situated in the prefecture of Grevena, the resort is 250 kilometers from Thessaloniki in the heart of the Pindos mountains in the northwest. Due to the quality and quantity of snowfall, Vasilitsa boasts some superb off-piste trails deep among clutches of towering pine trees, hugely popular with snowboarders.

Boasting majestic views from several vantage points around the mountain – the summit of which is approximately 2,700 meters – Vasilitsa boasts three chalets, seven lifts and 16 trails in total, offering a wide range of difficulty from beginner to advanced.

The two most difficult trails can be found at the 2,113-meter summit of the Alexander the Great lift.

The first lift (Elimeia) was built in 1975, however, the resort has since undergone two major expansions, one in 1993 and the second in 2000, both of which have contributed to making it one of the best ski resorts in Greece.

As well as the three chalets close to the mountain – of which Distrato offers cosy accommodation with magical views of the slopes – there is plenty of accommodation available in the small picturesque village of Smixi nearby, which also boasts wonderfully traditional tavernas and restaurants to while away the evenings beside roaring fires after a hard day on the slopes. At 417 kilometers from Athens, it may be a tough ask for capital dwellers to make the trip but it is a journey definitely worth taking. Useful websites > www.vasilitsa.com, www.snow-vasilitsa.gr/modules.php?name=Chalet_Distrato.

Mt Pelion’s small but beautiful resort is ideal for the family > Well known all over Greece for its spectacular natural beauty, the Pelion region is also home to one of the country’s smaller yet beautiful ski resorts.

Located in the prefecture of Magnesia on Agriolefkes, the Pelion peninsula’s highest peak, the resort’s setting among dense beech trees is as stunning as would be expected. The resort has six pistes tailing down from the 1,471-meter summit which caters mainly to beginner and intermediate levels, making Pelion an ideal option for families.

There are plenty of accommodation options in the charming village of Hania just 2 kilometers away, and further down the mountain at Potaria (12 km).

Pelion’s proximity to the city of Volos (27 km) makes in obviously popular with residents of the city as well as day-trippers from the surrounding area during the peak season. Weather permitting, the center also offers the unique experience of night skiing on Saturdays.

Being at a lower altitude than most ski resorts in Greece, Pelion can tend to suffer from a lack of snow on occasion so check the snow reports carefully well in advance of any trip. Pelion is a year-round tourist attraction, however, so there are plenty of other options, including hiking trails, walks and over 20 villages dotted around the mountain all retaining traditional Pelian architecture to explore. Useful websites > http://-www.skipilio.gr/home.htm, http://www.pelion.gr.

Kaimaktsalan: Up in the clouds > Greece’s highest ski resort, Kaimaktsalan, is known as the “Arachova of the north” due to its stunning setting, organization and charming village abodes. If that’s not enough, its location between 2,040 and 2,524 meters means it has the best snow in the country.

Perched on top of Greece’s third-highest peak – the other two being Olympus and Smolikas – Kaimaktsalan also features a quaint chapel, Prophitis Ilias, at the summit. The resort features wide open pistes and some challenging off-trail opportunities, making it an ideal place to test and improve your technique. The previously abandoned settlement of Aghios Athanassios has been transformed into one of northern Greece’s most picturesque mountain villages boasting beautiful, cozy hotels, spectacular villas and quaint boutiques. There are plenty of equipment rental options available on the mountain as well as some luxurious accommodation in the chalet with suites on offer featuring jacuzzi’s and the all-important fireplace.

Appealing attractions nearby are the hot springs of Pozar, also known as Loutra Loutrakiou to southern Greeks, where tourists and locals visit during the winter months. The town of Kerasia, featuring traditional houses, a park and cherry trees, is also well worth a trip. Useful website > http://www.kaimaktsalan.gr.

Seli’s stunning panoramic views, a skiers’ paradise > Having installed the very first ski lift in the country back in 1934, Seli is Greece’s oldest resort. Located in the Vermion Mountains in the north of the country, Seli is to Thessaloniki residents what Parnassos and Kalavryta are to Athenians.

Just 95 kilometers away from Thessaloniki, Seli draws many visitors from the city as well as many more from neighboring Balkan countries. It is a skiers’ paradise with mainly downhill runs catering to all levels.

Stunning panoramic views of Mount Olympus – Greece’s tallest peak – and Mount Athos are also possible from the summit of the Efkleia lift on a clear day.

In total, there are 11 lifts and 19 trails, a spacious parking area and plenty of accommodation options at the two mountain shelters as well as in the nearby towns of Naoussa and Veria, which are 20 kilometers and 24 kilometers away respectively.

There is also a small village at the base of the ski center with several cafes, bars, tavernas and ski schools. Useful websites > http://www.seli-ski.gr, www.meteo.gr, www.snowreport.gr, www.snow-forecast.gr.

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Grab your skis, it’s time to hit the slopes > part 1 February 2, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Mainland.
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Fresh snowfall perfect for skiers > Greece’s ski resorts are likely to benefit this weekend from the recent cold snap around the country. Let’s take a look at what facilities are on offer for skiers, snowboarders or those just want a closer glimpse of the white stuff.

Greece isn’t just for sun and sea; here are six of the country’s best winter sports resorts, from Kaimaktsalan in the north to Kalavryta in the south.

02-02-08_vasilitsa.jpg  A child learns the basics of skiing at Vasilitsa, in the prefecture of Grevena. More than 20 ski resorts operate all over the country, snow and weather conditions permitting, of course.

So it’s deep into midwinter and the resolutions you foolishly thought you’d be able to keep in 2008 have already been broken. So what next? It’s time to hit the slopes.

It’s the time of year that many of us will be maniacally flicking and clicking our way through winter holiday brochures and websites trying to decide where to go for a week of winter fun. No doubt France, Switzerland, Austria and neighboring Bulgaria – a burgeoning winter holiday destination in recent years – will make it on to many a short list. But hold that thought. If it hadn’t crossed your mind before, your best winter break ever could be right here on your doorstep.

Greece is one Europe’s most mountainous lands, yet the fact that few people realize that this also makes the country a great winter sports destination is baffling to say the least. Such is the popularity of summer tourism that a winter break in Greece barely registers on the radar of the average winter sports enthusiast. Enter the world of what is perhaps one of the country’s best-kept secrets.

During the December-to-April ski season – snow permitting, of course – more than 20 resorts operate all over the country. And while they cannot match the apres ski glamour of their richer and more modern European counterparts, the beautiful settings, reasonable prices and ambience of picture-postcard mountain villages more than make up for it.

There are some fantastic places to hit the slopes and kick back and relax in equal measure. Here are six of the best. Read Part 2 >

The Death of Patroclus at the Pergamon Museum, Berlin February 2, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Europe.
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Today at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, the Alexander S. Onassis Foundation will present a dramatized reading in German of “The Death of Patroclus.”

It is the sequel to a successful series of readings from Homer that the foundation held at the Onassis Cultural Center in New York, the Art Museum of Liechtenstein and the Antiken Museum of Munich. The director, Georg Rootering, has worked in many countries. He is assisted by Frank Raddatz, dramaturge to the Dusseldorf theater where the work was rehearsed. Dr Bernhard Zimmerman will give a brief introduction linking the ancient text and modern readings.

The Greek ambassador to Berlin, Anastassios Kriekoukis, and Liechtenstein’s ambassador to Berlin, Prince Stefan von und zu Liechtenstein, will attend the performance, along with many German government officials.

Runciman Lecture at King’s College, London February 2, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Books Life, Hellenic Light Europe.
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“Philhellenic Images as Pictorial and Political Statements” is the title of the 17th Runciman Lecture next Tuesday at King’s College, London.

Fani-Maria Tsigakou will argue that such images shed light not only on 19th-century artistic trends but also on ideological concepts. Tsigakou is the curator of the Department of Paintings, Prints and Drawings at the original Benaki Museum in Athens. She did her doctoral dissertation for London University on Edward Lear, more than 1,000 of whose drawings are in the collection of the Gennadius Library in Athens.

The British Embassy in Athens and the British School of Archaeology also have original drawings by Lear. Lear’s Greek works are a “complete record of the Greek landscape in the mid-19th century,” Tsigakou notes in her book “Athens through the Eyes of Foreign Artists-Travelers, 16th-19th Centuries” which came out recently in a bilingual Greek-English edition from Oistros Technis publishers. During her postgraduate studies, Tsigakou met Sir Steven Runciman, who wrote the introduction to her book “The Rediscovery of Greece” published by Thames and Hudson in 1981, which has been translated into Greek, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

Memorial day for Jewish-Greek martyrs and heroes February 2, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News.
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A day of events to mark a memorial day for Jewish-Greek martyrs and heroes of the Holocaust is being organized by the Athens Prefecture and the Central Council of Greek Jews on Tuesday, February 4.

At noon, the president of the Central Jewish Council of Greece, the presidents of the Jewish communities of Greece, the president of the Greek Survivors of Nazi Concentration Camps, the Israeli ambassador, representatives of the governments of Italy and Spain, political parties and Parliament will lay wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Syntagma Square in Athens. A minute of silence will be observed at 1.30 p.m., followed by the National Anthem and a presentation of arms.

At 6.45 p.m. President Karolos Papoulias will arrive at the Athens Concert Hall for a memorial ceremony. Candles will be lit in memory of the 6 millions Jews of Europe who were slaughtered, 67,000 of them from Greece. Athens Prefect Yiannis Sgouros will deliver the keynote speech, followed by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, Central Jewish Council of Greece President Moisis Constantinis, Thessaloniki Jewish Community President David Saltiel, Athens Jewish Community President Beniamin Albalas, and Union of Greek Survivors of Nazi Concentration Camps President Beri Nahmia. The ceremony will continue with an acknowledgement of the part played by Spain and Italy in saving Jewish lives. Among the speakers will be Rachel-Lola Angel, who was saved by the Spanish consular authorities, and Armando Modiano, whose life was saved by Italian consular authorities. The pupils of the Athens Jewish Community’s primary school will present a play at 8.30 p.m.

The Jewish Museum of Greece has set up an exhibition, “The Holocaust of Greek Jews: 1941-1944: Personal Testimonies,” in the foyer of the Athens Concert Hall.

First name in hat for Archbishop February 2, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Religion & Faith.
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Bishop Ignatios of Dimitrias who is based in Volos town, became yesterday the first metropolitan since the death of Archbishop Christodoulos to declare his candidacy to become the new head of the Church of Greece as the contest threatens to be marred by scandal.

The Holy Synod is due to meet on Thursday to elect a new Archbishop but Ignatios stole a march on his rivals by putting forward 10 points on which he wants to focus if he succeeds Christodoulos.

Several candidates are expected to follow suit. Among the expected contenders are Bishop Efstathios of Sparta, Bishop Ieronymos of Thebes and Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki.

However, Bishop Chrysostomos of Messinia caused a stir by claiming he was blackmailed by people who want him to support the Bishop of Sparta. Chrysostomos said that he was withdrawing his support for Efstathios as a result of the pressure being put on him.

A total of 77 hierarchs will vote for the Church’s next leader. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent in the first round, a second round will be held and the Bishop with the most votes will win.

Municipality of Maroussi to bar cars February 2, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Transport Air Sea Land.
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Municipality of Maroussi to bar cars from its main shopping streets during peak hours

Pedestrians will be able to walk freely on the streets in the center of Maroussi from Monday, it was revealed yesterday. The Municipality has decided to block cars from entering the cobblestone roads in the center of the northern Athens suburb during shopping hours.

Barriers will prevent vehicles from driving into the pedestrianized area between from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and from 10 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. as well as from 5.30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday and Fridays.