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Old Mesolongi is in search of new opportunities March 29, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Mainland, Nature.
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Famous for its lagoons, writers and politicians, Mesolongi city is now looking to move into the modern era

29-03-08_mesolongi1.jpg  The Mesolongi lagoon is one the most important wetlands in the Mediterranean. It is formed by six lagoons that are part of the Natura 2000 network. Modern cafes line the streets of the city next to the few remaining fishmongers. The young travel on bicycles, which is the main form of transport, not only for students but also for the local residents, thanks to the flat terrain.

Finding employment in this historic city, however, is far from easy. Twenty-five-year-old Thanassis Ninis said: «We have our history and the lagoon to be proud of, but only those who have the right profession will stay in Mesolongi. As an agronomist, I found a job and fish farmers can also find work. But someone who has studied information technology will not find employment here.»

29-03-08_mesolongi2.jpg  It is not uncommon to find qualified teachers working in cafes or doing jobs unrelated to their qualifications. One of the few factories in the city, which produces avgotaraho, a kind of pressed caviar, was opened by Stelios Kotsaris, who decided to take up his father’s trade rather than do odd jobs.

The town that became renowned throughout Europe for the heroic mass exodus of its people after two months of siege in 1826 and their subsequent massacre by the Turks in the Greek War of Independence has produced five Prime Ministers, Spyridon Trikoupis, Epameinondas Deligeorgis, Harilaos Trikoupis, and Zinovios and Dimitris Valvis, and numerous writers, Palamas, Malakasis, Drosinis, Travlantonis, Golfis, Lyberakis, Giannaras, Kasolas, Zalakostas and Griparis, but today, apart from its cultural heritage, it has little to be proud of in terms of economic development.

29-03-08_mesolongi3.jpg  The town was initially founded by Dalmatian pirates and fishermen who took refuge in the area. It was later called Mezzo Lagi, literally meaning “between the lakes” by Italian sailors.

Mesolongi could in fact be considered the eighth island of the seven-island group of the Ionian Islands. In the 1960s, fishing was the main occupation in this picturesque and quiet city. Large sections of the lagoon were drained at this time and the fishermen slowly abandoned fishing and became general workers. There was a large population shift, as over half the town’s residents left while others came and settled from nearby villages.

Today the young frequent the cafes and complain about the lack of opportunities in the area and the high rents. Landlords charge as much as 300-350 euros a month for a damp bedsit. Among the ultramodern cafes, the legendary ouzeri Potopoieia Trikene, run by Pantelis and Eleni, is eye-catching. Upon entering, visitors feel as though they have entered a different era, as though the store, built in 1901, has been untouched by time. The characteristic old floor tiles, clock, marble counter and awards won in Thessaloniki fairs all have their own special place. The store used to be a popular haunt for the town’s artists and writers. Its owner complains that little of the cultural spirit of bygone days now remains. Nevertheless the pedestrian zones in the center and the cafes and bars have brought with them a renaissance of a kind.

The Mesolongi lagoon is one the most important wetlands in the Mediterranean. It is made up of six lagoons that are part of the Natura 2000 network set up by the Ramsar Convention. The islet of Tourlida is connected to Mesolongi by a causeway stretching 5 kilometers long. Unfortunately, the edges of the lake have been used as a dumping ground. The rows of old wooden fishing huts that stand on stilts have now been turned into summer homes and are connected to the electricity grid, albeit illegally, to secure votes for politicians. The well-known natural fish farms or ivaria are located here and are the main form of fishing in the lagoon. The ivaria serve as traps into which the fish are herded. The leasing of the ivaria, however, has been controversial, as they are divided between the Mesolongi Municipality and the Prefecture of Western Greece which apply party criteria and charge exorbitant fees. Illegal fishing, trawling and drag nets in the Gulf of Patras are a major problem, as they prevent the fish from actually reaching the ivaria. Greece, though, is a country where everything is allowed and everything is forbidden.

For years, an incineration site on the southeastern bank of the Kleisovas Lagoon was in operation with disastrous consequences. Fortunately, the establishment of a waste treatment plant closed the site and recent water samples have shown that the lagoon is not polluted, though human activity has damaged the area. President of the Friends of the Lagoon Association Haralambos Gogousis highlighted: «The area is known for its fish, salt and eels. What people don’t know about is the tincture of iodine, a red iodine found only here, in Mesolongi and Japan. Phosphorus is also abundant but we do not exploit it. The lagoon is a reflection of Mesolongi and we are unfortunately destroying it with garbage and overfishing.»

29-03-08_mesolongi4.jpg  The town became famous for the heroic mass exodus of its people after two months of siege in 1826 and their massacre by the Turks in the Greek War of Independence. In the cemetery, this “Daughter of Greece” marks the grave of independence hero Markos Botsaris.  The capital of Aitoloacarnania prefecture is 248 km from Athens, 523 km from Thessaloniki, 198 km from Ioannina and only 49 km from Patras. There are 15,000 permanent residents, 18,000 counting students.

What to see > Historic Gateway, Garden of the Heroes, cemetery and tomb of Markos Botsaris, the Palamas Museum, the Trikoupis home, the Zinovios Valvis family home, now a library, the old Town Hall with the Museum of Art and History, the Christos and Sophia Moschandreos Art Gallery in a renovated 1835 building and the house of Razis-Kotsikas.

What to taste > sea bass, spaghetti with eel or avgotaraho.

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An all-puppet version of “The Sound of Music” March 29, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Stage & Theater.
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The von Trapp family singers as marionettes in “The Sound of Music”, the world’s oldest marionette theater, is coming to Athens next week

Finally, great entertainment for the family: The Salzburg Marionettes will be presenting the true story of the von Trapp family of singers in an all-puppet version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “The Sound of Music”.

The company is the biggest and oldest marionette theater in the world, founded in Salzburg, Austria by sculptor Anton Aicher in 1913, and now directed by his granddaughter Gretel. The company gives 160 performances a year of classics such as “The Magic Flute”, “Tales of Hoffmann” and Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.

“The Sound of Music”, adapted from the 1965 film starring Julie Andrews, premiered on November 2, 2007, in Dallas, Texas, at the beginning of a five-week US tour. In Athens, there will be five performances, beginning on 4, 5 and 6  April at the ACS Theater in Halandri, Athens, organized by Maria Frezadou. 

Frezadou was also responsible for bringing Mikhail Gorbachev to Athens, as well as Umberto Eco, Marlon Brando, Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli and Placido Domingo. Part of the proceeds will be donated toward Special Olympics Hellas. Performances will have Greek supertitles.

ACS Theater, 53 Garyttou Street, Halandri, Athens, tel 210 639334. For information and tickets call 210 7234567.

Gay rights for Greeks March 29, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Gay Life, Greece News.
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Justice Ministry looking at law for homosexual couples in Greece

The Justice Ministry has pledged to establish a working group on the rights of gay couples living together, following a request by the National Commission for Human Rights.

The Ministry said it would set up a working group, with the help of the Commission, “to analyze all aspects of the issue, international practice and the existing domestic legal and social framework.”

Clocks forward March 29, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Energy, Greece News.
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Clocks will go forward one hour tomorrow morning as summertime begins.

The time will change at 3 a.m. on Sunday, when clocks will go forward to 4 a.m.

Earth Hour March 29, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Energy.
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The lights will be turned off at Athens’ City Hall and on Lycabettus Hill for an hour from 8 p.m. today as part of a worldwide energy-saving initiative, Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis said yesterday.

The Earth Hour scheme aims to get people to switch off their lights for an hour.

Greek President and the Olympic Flame March 29, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Olympic Games, Shows & Conferences.
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This evening, President of the Hellenic Republic H.E. Karolos Papoulias, will be attending a ceremony at the Athens Concert Hall to mark the beginning of an international conference by the Athens Academy’s Center for Research into Greek Folk Art, to mark its 90th anniversary.

The subject of the conference is “Traditional Music and Modern Creativity”.

Tomorrow afternoon, the President will be at the Panathenaic Stadium for the handing over of the Olympic Flame to the organizers of the Beijing Olympics.

Olympics protest threat grows March 29, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Olympic Games.
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The Olympic Torch will arrive in Athens today ahead of its handover to Beijing officials amid heavy security with authorities anxious to prevent a repetition of protests that disrupted the flame’s lighting ceremony earlier this week.

Activists and Tibetan demonstrators disrupted the globally televised Beijing torch-lighting ceremony at Ancient Olympia on Monday, breaking a tight security cordon and unfurling protest banners during the Games organizing chief’s speech. Further protests marred the start of the relay, with demonstrators lying on the ground in front of the vehicle convoy accompanying the torch-bearers in Olympia and holding up the relay several times.

“We are planning several actions for Sunday and Monday in Athens to demonstrate against China, for sure,” Students for a Free Tibet representative Tashi Sering told Reuters. “On Monday, we will also have a peace march in central Athens.”

29-03-08_olympic_torch.jpg  The Olympic Flame will depart for China on Monday. More than 2,000 officers are to be deployed around the Greek capital this weekend. The Flame will reach the capital today, spending the night on the Acropolis. Media have been banned from the Acropolis during the flame’s arrival. A ceremony to mark the handing over of the flame will also be held at the Panathenaic Stadium in central Athens tomorrow in front of an estimated 20,000 people.

Greek officials kept details of the route’s Athens leg under tight wraps yesterday, fearing further protest action. Police said the precise route was not being made public for security reasons.

A Greek human rights group said yesterday police prevented its members from displaying a banner saying “No to the games of blood, dope and kickbacks” along the relay route in the city of Volos, and arrested one protester. Also, a group of Danish activists said police stopped 10 of its members dressed in orange from being “a peaceful part of the torch relay” near the city of Larissa. The event was organized by a group led by Danish artist Jens Galschioet.