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Ideas for cycling trips in Greece’s natural surroundings March 24, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Cycling, Greece, Greece Mainland.
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Greek roads and drivers might not be cyclist-friendly, but the countryside is. Those who venture forth are rewarded by the experience of beautiful landscapes and villages.

24-03-08_cycling.jpg  As Greek roads and drivers are not cyclist-friendly, why not load your bicycle onto your car and drive somewhere you can enjoy cycling in natural surroundings.

Route One > A 4.2-kilometer ride at Doxa Lake. The lake is an artificial one in the mountain range outside Corinth, near Goura and Feneo. The peaceful landscape is a lush green, full of firs, black pines and oaks. The road around the lake is sealed all the way, and there are few cars. The beautiful monastery of Aghios Georgios lies just above the lake, and the sign Pontikonisi tis Korinthias leads to a strip of land and the Church of Aghios Fanourios or Paleomonastiro.

Route Two > This is a longer ride, 37 kilometers, but not a difficult one, 22 km on an easy dirt road and 15 km on asphalt. It’s best to start around 3 km out of Elati, at the crossroads for Vlacha. Leave your car, and cycle through the dense fir forest on a gentle uphill gradient of about 2 km to Vlacha. There the road flattens out for the spring and cafe, then descends into a pretty valley. At the bottom, the road goes left to Stournaraiika and right to Neraidohori-Pyrra. Turn right, keeping the river on your left. The road is mainly flat; the scenery and the sound of water are magical. This route is called “Dromos tou Xylogefyrou” or the Wooden Bridge Road. About halfway along, cross the bridge. With the river on your left, continue to the bridge below Neraidohori. You’ll hardly meet a single car. The 2.5-3 km near the village are the only part of the route where you’ll need to pedal hard. At the village, the road turns to asphalt and is flat or downhill on the way back back via Livadion Pertouliou.

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Greece > the most admired land on earth September 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece.
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Greece is widely regarded as the place where the western civilization was born many centuries ago.

It is widely acknowledged as the guiding force that has driven the human civilization for over 2500 years now. It is also the place where three continents, namely Europe, Asia and Africa, and three varying climatic conditions submerge into one. These enthralling shades make it one of the most visited places on earth today.

Roughly 16 million tourists walk on its soil every year, thus allowing several hundred thousand Greek nationals to be employed by its tourism industry. Located at the southeastern fringe of the European peninsula, Greece is spoken of highly for its world class beaches, lavish hotels and the level of hospitality it offers. Hotels in Greece are an integral part of its tourism infrastructure, which earns around 15% of the nation’s entire GDP in revenues.

Rich visuals may be recalled; if one began examining how the events of Greece had benefited the world we are part of. It was Greece that first gave the idea of democratic governance almost 2500 years ago. The word “democracy” itself stemmed out from the Greek language, meaning the rule of the people. In spite of its initial doubts, the Greek democracy survived on and was later followed by many other states. Modern states are often seen mimicking the same federal structure that Romans established around 2000 years ago. However, it should be noted down for academic reasons that Romans were more of an autocratic regime, as their later years suggest. Only parts in and around Athens had democratically elected councils to look after their people.

Greece also gets known for having gifted the world with modern Olympic Games. It was Athens in 1896, where the first Olympic Games were organized after its modern-day revival. Olympic Games have since become a rallying point for the players and athletes from all over the world to compete and people from varying backgrounds to mingle with each other. Remains of the ancient Olympia stadium were excavated and restored in the middle of the 20th century. It is the same location from where the Olympic Flame starts its journey and gets carried to the game venues. These and many other exciting stories may suggest why Greece has been admired for ages now.

The world loves visiting Greece in huge numbers as a result, providing an immense boost to its tourism infrastructure. Its scenic Mediterranean coastline and the yearlong pleasing weather make holiday making fun and frolic. Athens, Peloponnese, Cyclades and Crete are some known cities carrying immense historic significance, where most travelers prefer heading on to. Hotels in Greece would be seen having high occupancy rates throughout the year, in this process, and one should plan their journeys in advance, for the same reason, to make their trips hassle free. Travelers can buy both cheap and high end accommodation from hotels in Greece, and also try to get best deals from tour operators, which include last minute holidays.

There is enough online support available for those who might be willing to book their accommodation from hotels in Greece. Sea-side resorts and self-catering apartments should also be taken into consideration apart from prime hotels in Greece for garnering accommodation. Planning out in advance should make your Greek journey memorable, since there were plenty of activities to be entertained from apart from visiting the usual heritage sites.

The following travel agency, based in Crete, may be found to be of assistance to you > AmazeTravel.com, 46 Karaiskaki Street, Nea Alikarnassos, Crete, tel 2810 229000, fax 2810 229010, http://www.amazetravel.com/index.htm

Greece > A timeless destination September 27, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece, Tourism.
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September 27 is World Tourism Day and Greece ranks in the top 15 destinations worldwide.

Referring to the celebration, newly appointed Tourist Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos said on Wednesday that “times are more demanding for Greek tourism today and the expectations of all who are involved are far greater.” He further noted that it is important to highlight the economic dimension of tourism and its contribution to the development course of the country.

Greece ranks in the top 15 destinations worldwide. The Greek tourism sector is a continuous growth market and represents 18% of the country’s GDP, with annual arrivals projected at 20 million by 2010. 

Greece is a well established brand and a timeless destination. At present, international investors from Europe, USA, South Africa and Australia are developing integrated resorts which include golf courses, conference centres, spas and marinas. Tourism clusters are evolving, creating mini-destinations for targeted tourism investment.

Competitive advantages >
* Tourism product covers history, culture, diverse landscape, Mediterranean climate and gastronomy
* Greek Government runs an international targeted marketing campaign annually
* Greece attracted more than 16 million visitors in 2006 and is projected at 20 million by 2010
* Offers year-round tourism potential
* Provides generous investment incentives
* Streamlined licensing procedure

Greece is the solution for international investors seeking business opportunities in one of the finest tourism destinations in the world.

Investment opportunities >
* Integrated resorts
* Golf courses
* Marinas on the numerous islands
* Wellness centres and spas, Greece has over 700 natural thermal springs
* Convention centres
* Agro and eco tourism projects on the spectacular mainland or on designated islands

Greece > wind-powered island-hopping June 24, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece, News Cruises, Tourism.
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Tradition says it was down to Scylla, Circe and a cyclops. But we say Odysseus spent 10 years getting home from Troy because he was having such a cracking time.

Ever since Homer first picked up a lyre, there has been something ineffably romantic about sailing the Greek islands. It’s that profound feeling of contentment as you point your prow towards a speckle of green and a sliver of gold on the big blue horizon, and settle back to enjoy the dazzle of the sun, the creak of the rigging and the plink-plink of ice tinkling in your next island hopping.

What’s more, anyone can savour this, from beginner to bareboater, whether you have sturdy sea legs or you’re wet behind the ears. You just need to pick the right spot. Most holiday yachts, whether attached to a shore base or beach club, part of a flotilla or available for independent charter, are harboured in Greece. But even in that corner, the sailing conditions can vary wildly, so it’s important to choose your destination carefully.

Check out our guide, pick your paradise and cast off with your cossie and a smile. The Sirens are calling…

More than half of the Mediterranean charter fleet is in Greece, and that’s because of its islands. There are scores of them, and they inspire a sense of maritime adventure you just can’t get from pootling along by the coast.

Each Greek archipelago has its distinct boaty profile. The islands of the Ionian, for example, are nautical nursery slopes, with sheltered waters and lighter winds than the Aegean. You can access them either from island bases, on Corfu or Lefkas, for example, or from the mainland at Vounaki, near the airport at Preveza. Handily, there are umpteen charter flights to Ionian airports from all over the UK.

Of course, light winds can sometimes mean no winds at all, so you may end up motoring, a prospect that can turn the most placid old salt into a raging demon. And Ionian ports tend to get busy, especially in August when the islands heave with Italians.

Another option is the Sporades, where Skiathos, the main hub, has a line of waiting yachts just a five-minute taxi ride from the airport. Neighbouring Skopelos and Alonnisos are green and pretty, or you can sail to a cluster of castaway islands, including Kyra Panagia, Skantzoura and Gioura, which are entirely people-free. More ambitious itineraries could even take in the sheltered Gulf of Volos, where Jason cast off in the Argo to find the Golden Fleece. Sporades sailing is fairly straightforward, although conditions can be gusty in July and August.

Then there’s the Dodecanese, accessed by flying either to Kos or Rhodes, or occasionally Samos. These are the Greek equivalent of the Grenadines, a straightish line of islands that cry out to be sailed from end to end. This means some lengthy passages, up to 48 miles, and coupled with the meltemi winds that whoosh down from the northwest, it makes the Dodecanese an excellent prospect for the more experienced sailor. Others should think twice. Either way, charters heading from south to north, with your nose on the wind, are best avoided.

Finally, don’t forget the Greek mainland. Sailing from Athens is a bit like casting off into a maritime spaghetti junction, but point your prow in the right direction and you’ll soon be in the sheltered Saronic Gulf, with its islands of Poros, Aegina, famed for its pistachios, and Hydra, still trendy after all these years. Next door lies the Argolic Gulf, mainly a mainland experience: Nafplion and Tolon in the north, a long stretch of Peloponnese, and medieval Monemvasia, the Gibraltar of the eastern Mediterranean, in the south.

For beginners: Sunvil, www.sunvil.co.uk packages learn-to-sail weeks at Nidri, on Lefkas, for singles, couples, groups and families, suitable for children aged nine and above. You have two options: learn aboard a yacht, sharing with between four and six other students; or sleep ashore, dividing your week between instruction and relaxation. The former starts from £495pp, plus £70 kitty to cover refreshments, yacht damage waiver, mooring fees, certification and so on; the latter from £428, room-only, with two-day sailing modules adding £80 each, plus £20 to cover certification, log books and yacht fuel. Those prices include flights from Gatwick to Preveza, transfers and tuition.

For flotilla sailors: Neilson, www.neilson.co.uk has a classic two-week flotilla holiday exploring the Peloponnese and the peaceful waters of the Argolic and Saronic gulfs, including visits to Monemvasia, the ancient Venetian site of Nafplion and the island of Spetses. The base is at Porto Heli, and four people sharing a 32ft boat in August pay £1,025pp, including flights from Heathrow to Athens and transfers.

For bareboaters: Sunsail, www.sunsail.co.uk with its bases in Vounaki in the Ionian and Milina in the Sporades, caters for both bareboat charters and flotillas. Four sharing a 34ft boat in July pay from £596pp, including flights from Gatwick to Preveza or Skiathos and transfers.

Cash card holders not to be frustrated on Greek islands June 23, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Greece, Tourism.
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Who could today think of leaving home for even a short vacation without a cash card and preferably enough in their bank account?

Well, apart from a cash card and enough of a bank balance, there also must be a system that allows for interbanking, since it is impossible for all banks to operate branches everywhere. Such an interbanking network in Greece is taken care of by DIAS Interbanking Systems SA, a company linking most of the 6,680 automatic teller machines (ATMs) in operation around the country by 35 banks.

This summer, the geographical coverage of ATMs on the Cycladic and Dodecanese islands is almost up to 100 percent. Some of the smaller islands that now have ATMs, are Koufonissia, Donousa, Sikinos, Folegandros, Kimolos and Antiparos, while Schinousa and Anafi are soon to be equipped with ATMs by the Agricultural Bank (ATEbank).

Most of the Cycladic islands, particularly the popular ones, have been feeding strong competition by banks, resulting in a higher number of existing ATMs. On Santorini, for instance, the seven banks with branches on this idyllic island operate over 25 ATMs, while on Myconos, customers are serviced by eight bank branches and a total 20 ATMs.

According to bank officials, transactions through ATMs during the summer period is up over 30 percent, compared to winter, with foreign visitors in some cases accounting for 90 percent of business, especially on Rhodes and Corfu.

The entire region of the Dodecanese Islands is fully serviced by the DIAS system, together with the contribution of the Dodecanese Cooperative Bank. Here, ATMs are available even in some less popular destinations, such as Astypalaia, Leros, Nisyros, Halki, Leipsoi, Tilos, Kasos, Kastelorizo and Symi islands.

Other small island with ATMs include Psara near Chios, Paxoi in the Ionian islands, all of the Argosaronic islands, even the islet of Agistri, and the northern Sporades and eastern Aegean islands.

In Greece, DIAS operates some 6,680 ATMs, of which 4,000 are located within bank buildings, while the remaining, almost 40 percent, operate in locations away from bank branches to facilitate customers’ cash needs anywhere possible: airports, railway stations, ports, marinas, gas stations, shopping malls and entertainment parks, sports facilities, hospitals and even aboard passenger boats.

In terms of network size, the National Bank leads the market with a total 1,371 ATMs, or a share of 20.5 percent, followed by Eurobank (825), ATEbank (807), Alpha Bank (761), Emporiki Bank (706), Piraeus Bank (601), Millennium Bank (238), Geniki Bank (207), Citibank (167) and Cyprus Bank (164).

Other credit institutions contracted with DIAS include the Greek Postal Savings Bank, Marfin Popular Bank (Marfin, Laiki, Egnatia banks), Probank, Aspis Bank, Cretan Cooperative Bank, Attica Bank, Proton Bank, Hania Cooperative Bank, Hellenic Bank, HSBC, Panhellenic Bank, Dodecanese Cooperative Bank, FBB, the cooperative banks of Achaia, Lamia, Corinth, Evia, Trikala, Kozani, Ioannina and Drama, American Bank of Albania, Cooperative Bank of Serres, Cooperative Bank of Karditsa and American Express.

DIAS allows cash card holders to withdraw up to 600 euros daily, in addition to a number of other banking jobs. Transactions with the bank in which customers keep their account have no transaction fees,but in the case of using the ATM of a different bank, a fee of 1.5 euros to 4.0 euros is charged by DIAS, depending on the amount withdrawn and each bank’s fee policy. In 2006, as many as 17.6 million euros interbanking transactions were executed through the DIAS system, mostly withdrawals, totaling some 2.18 billion euros.

Hand-held video > your private guide at Greek ancient sites June 6, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece, Tourism.
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To help visitors navigate classical ruins, Greece’s Culture Ministry unveiled a hand-held device that offers high-resolution video, site diagrams, position indicators and stereo sound.

The units, with instructions in Greek, English, German and French, will be available by summer 2008 at 15 sites, including the Acropolis in Athens, Delphi, Rhodes and Knossos in Crete. Rental prices have not yet been determined.

The Ministry also unveiled new automated ticketing systems for 18 tourist sites, designed to reduce waiting times.

Enhance your Greek experience March 8, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Greece, Technology.
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If you have ever wandered around a Greek archaeological site in midsummer, clueless about what you are seeing or where you are going, help is finally at hand.

Greek Culture Ministrer on Thursday unveiled a hand-held gadget for visitors that offers high-resolution video, detailed diagrams of sites such as ancient temples, position indicators, and imagery along with stereo sound.

The battery-powered, touchscreen devices are about the size and weight of a personal stereo, weighing just 270 grams, or 9.5 ounces. Instructions come in four languages, Greek, English, German and French.

The units will be available at 15 sites around the country including the Acropolis and National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Thessaloniki’s Archaeological and Byzantine Museums, Delphi, Rhodes, Olympia, Mycenae, Vergina, Epidaurus and Knossos in Crete.

“We are offering visitors one of the most technologically advanced tourist guides in Europe,” Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said at a news conference.

The cost for assembling and programming 5,000 units came to €9.5 million. The system, developed by Siemens and Fujitsu, will first be tested in Thessaloniki and Mycenae and should be available at all sites by summer 2008. Rental prices are yet to be determined, Voulgarakis said. The Ministry also unveiled new automated ticketing systems for 18 major tourist sites, which will cut down on waiting time for visitors.

Greece is expected to draw more than 15 million tourists this year, more than its total population of around 11 million, but its famed cultural sites have until now been slow to introduce technological support for visitors, such as the audio guides frequently used at Museums abroad.