Articles

Idomeni migrant camp, before and after bulldozers

Once home to more than 14,000 refugees and migrants, the makeshift camp at Greece’s border village of Idomeni has now been evacuated and its former occupants transferred to other, supposedly better organized camps. Bulldozers have removed the detritus and the railway line linking Greece to neighboring Former Yugoslav Republic...

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Acropole Palace, Rising from the Ashes

Memories of an old, cosmopolitan Athens come alive at this historic hotel Giota Sykka | May 24th, 2016 On the corner of Patission and Averof streets – one of the most neglected parts of Athens – cement mixers buzz while workers pave the sidewalk.Abandoned for three decades, the imposing...

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Afghan interpreters see their visa dreams fading

FILIO P. KONTRAFOURI It all started with a chilling text message. It was Wali, one of a group of Afghans who worked as interpreters for the Greek military in 2010-12 during NATO operations in the war-torn country. “I’m in Turkey with my family. One of my children died in...

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A Balloon Ride over Meteora

A unique way to experience the magnificent rocks of Meteora Greece Is                   A flight by hot air balloon is a childhood dream for many of us. Besides, who hasn’t mentally traversed the African              ...

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Putin concludes official visit on a religious note

TAGS:Politics, Diplomacy, Religion

Russian President Vladimir Putin wrapped up his two-day visit to Greece on Saturday with a trip to the monastic community on Mount Athos in northern Greece – a sacred site for the world’s Orthodox Christians – where he attended events, along with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, marking the 1,000-year presence of Russian monks there, and reaffirmed the strong cultural ties binding the two nations.

On Friday, Putin and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras agreed that it was time both countries turned these much-touted historic links into tangible economic results.

Putin reiterated Russian interest in buyinge Greek railway company Trainose and a stake in Thessaloniki port – the country’s second largest – while Tsipras said Greece could serve as a bridge of understanding between Moscow and Brussels, within the context of the leftist government’s expressed intention to forge stronger relationships with countries outside the European Union and NATO.

Tsipras reiterated that strengthening ties with Moscow was a “strategic choice” for his government, while his visit to China on July 2-6 also falls within the outlook aimed at deepening economic partnerships beyond Western shores.

Putin also used the visit – just a month before the EU examines whether it will extend trade sanction against Russia over its annexation of Crimea – to display his defiance of Western critics, saying that the issue of the peninsula on the Black Sea has “closed forever.”

Tsipras repeated Greek reservations about the sanctions and insisted they were not the solution.

“We have repeatedly said that … the vicious circle of militarization, of Cold War rhetoric and of sanctions is not productive,” he said. “The solution is dialogue.”

However, given Greece’s fiscal constraints, Putin said he did not expect Athens to perform “the feats of Hercules” in the corridors of European bureaucracy.

SOURCE: eKathimerini

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Dance Party | Athens | May 28

TAGS:Special Event

The Athens Boogie and HiRollers dance troupes will be taking part in an open-air sunset dance party to the sounds of swing, jive and rock’n’roll at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in the Faliro Delta on Saturday, May 28. Admission is free of charge. Starts at 8 p.m.

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, Faliro Delta, Evripidou & Doiranis, Kallithea, tel 210.877.8396-8, www.snf.org

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Putin and Tsipras seeking to profit from historic ties

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras agreed Friday that it was time the deep and historic ties binding the two countries were manifested in further economic cooperation.

“We must transform these good relations and the emotional rapport between the two nations into tangible economic results,” the Russian leader said on the first day of a two-day official visit to Greece aimed at securing bilateral agreements in trade, investment and joint energy and transport projects.

Russia has shown interest in buying Greek railway company Trainose and the port of Thessaloniki, the country’s second largest.

Despite Russia being a major trading partner of Greece, the trade sanctions imposed by the European Union in response to the Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its support of separatists in Ukraine are biting hard on both economies.

“These are difficult times for everyone – in terms of the economy and international security,” Putin said.

“We must examine these problems and look for a solution. It is not a coincidence that an opportunity for this has arisen in Greece – a country with which we have deep and historic ties.”

Putin expressed similar sentiments when he met with his Greek counterpart Prokopis Pavlopoulos, insisting that now is the time to discuss the potential opportunities that come with closer ties and “to take specific steps” – making a point of referring to the increased flow of Russian tourists to Greece.

This visit, Putin’s first to an EU country in six months, is taking place under tight security. Roughly 2,500 police officers were tasked Friday with providing security, while the city center came to standstill as traffic was blocked.

The Russian president is accompanied by his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and a delegation of senior executives from state oil and gas companies – an indication of the importance the Russians are attaching to the visit, one month before the EU decides on whether to extend sanctions against Russia after July.

Tsipras, who is also looking to Russia in Greece’s bid to lure much needed foreign investment, said the strengthening of Greek-Russian relations was “a strategic choice” and that Putin’s visit coincides with a period during which “Greece has turned a page and looks to the future with optimism.”

Even though it has repeatedly expressed its reservations, Greece has begrudgingly complied with EU trade sanctions imposed on Moscow, but the government is looking for loopholes that will allow the export of Greek agricultural products to Russia that are not precisely defined in the retaliatory trade embargo that Moscow imposed on products from the EU.

Putin will visit the monastic community of Mount Athos in northern Greece on Saturday to attend celebrations marking the 1,000-year presence of Russian monks at the sacred site. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow will also be attending.

SOURCE: eKathimerini

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8 Contemporary Landmarks of Athens

Athens center to the coast: an architectural walk with modern pit stops to challenge the way you view the city


Athens isn’t just defined by a single architectural style. What you get is a hotchpotch of layers as each period in the city’s history slowly straddles and overtakes the previous one. The fusion of styles merge and muddle in a convoluted way so that a walk through the capital, apart from being a stroll through history, is also a dialogue of different eras. Pause, listen carefully, and you’ll hear the pulsating vibrations of scattered monuments challenging the misunderstood modern metropolis to wriggle from the grasp of the magnificent Parthenon.

Compete it does, as it seeks its own present-day identity that makes it stand apart from past glories. Modern-day Athens is using the turbulence and quandary of its generation to leave a legacy for the future – creating its own kleos (what the ancients called immortal fame).

ATHENS TOWERS

Function: 105 offices and shops, seven elevators (six public, one service) and parking space for 340 cars, but – alas – no observation deck so you’ll either have to sweet-talk a receptionist or apply for special access that’s relatively easy to get for sightseeing but not available for base jumping.

History: Athens acquired its first and only skyscraper in 1971 thanks to a briefly-imposed developmental law passed during the Greek military junta (1967-1974) granting permission for the erection of skyscrapers.

Architects: Construction company, Alivertis-Dimopoulos, started work on the double tower in 1967, using minimalist, futuristic designs by architects Ioannis Vikelas and Ioannis Kybritis.

Description: The tallest of the two glass towers has 28 floors (including basement) at 103 meters high. It is connected to a shorter 65-meter 12-floor tower via a first-floor bridge. Despite two earthquakes which were over magnitude 6 (that toppled ordinary buildings), the imposing structure steadfastly protrudes from the city skyline, a remnant of the architectural legacy of a controversial coup’s grandiose plans.

{Info: 2-4 Mesogeion Avenue, Ambelokipi • Tel. (+30) 217.705.817}

ATHENS HILTON

Function: An upscale luxury hotel with 506 rooms, an on-site restaurant and the Galaxy bar on the 13th floor with panoramic views of Athens. The hotel also has a spa and a 25mx15m outdoor swimming pool.

History: At its opening, hotel magnate Conrad Hilton hailed it as “the most beautiful Hilton in the world”. Many Athenians, however, lamented that it overshadowed the Acropolis with its 65-meter height, making it the tallest city building at the time. Nonetheless, the impact of guests such as Aristotle Onassis, Frank Sinatra, Ingmar Bergman, Anthony Quinn and the Rolling Stones running naked down the corridors made it the place to be. Its celebrity aura overtook the region that came to be known as the ‘Hilton area’.

Architects: Four top Greek architects (Emmanouil Vourekas, Prokopis Vassiliadis, Spyros Staikos and Antonis Georgiades) worked on its construction from 1958-1963. In 2003, Alexandros Tombazis and Charis Bougadelis added a seven-floor northern wing with 74 rooms ahead of the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Description: A mix of classical and modernist elements evoke the contradictions of 60s architecture, that reflected the incongruities of the lifestyle at the time. The undeniable crowning glory is the monumental relief by prominent 20th-century Greek artist Yiannis Moralis, etched onto its facade.

{Info: 46 Vasilissis Sofias Avenue • Tel. (+30) 210.728.1000}

ATHENS CONCERT HALL (MEGARON MOUSIKIS)

Function: Two large and two small concert halls offering first-class performances, conference centers, an auditorium, a digital library, gift shop, restaurant, new ice-skating rink for the winter and a lawn for starry, outdoor summer concerts.

History: Soprano Alexandra Trianti’s vision for an opera house to rival the world’s finest took the form of bricks and mortar with the inauguration of the first two classical halls of the Megaron Mousikis in 1991. Initially known as the Lambrakis shrine, thanks to the efforts of reclusive press tycoon Christos Lambrakis and the backing of the Friends of Music Society which he headed.

Architects: Acoustic studies were commissioned first, laying specifications adhered to by architects Emmanouil Vourekas, Ilias Skroumpelis and their international colleagues.

Description: The structural divisions created for optimum acoustic quality are a modern retelling of the great rectangular halls of a megaron (ancient Grecian palace complex). Despite the austere Doric lines and garish exterior, the venue is a warm and welcoming place inside. Polished marble, dazzling chandeliers and magnificent foyers are ideal for a chat between arias and bel canto.

{Info: Corner of Vasilissias Sofias and Kokkali streets • Tel. (+30) 210.728.2333 • Access: Megaron Mousikis metro station}

ACROPOLIS MUSEUM

Function: A new Parthenon ‒ displaying artifacts from the ancient site ‒ standing as a monument of the modern Greek image and custodian of Greek heritage.

History: Greek statesman Konstantinos Karamanlis chose the site in 1976, but its grand opening decades later, in 2009, reignited the age-old debate of whether the Parthenon Marbles should be repatriated from Britain.

Architects: Swiss-French deconstructivist Bernard Tschumi wanted to create a modern building that would fit into the picturesque landscape using light, movement and mathematical precision inspired by the clarity of Ancient Greek structures.

Description: A glass floor allows visitors to peer into the ruins found during the construction stage of the museum while the sloped floor alludes to the upward ascent towards the Parthenon. Highlights include the caryatid statues of the Erechtheion minus the missing kore removed by Lord Elgin. The Parthenon gallery, on the third level, is rotated 23 degrees from the rest of the building so as to be aligned directly with the Parthenon.

{Info: 15 Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, Athens • Tel. (+30) 210.900.0900 • Access: Akropoli Metro Station}

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART

Function: Modern art museum with library, labs, project rooms, auditoriums, a restaurant and a terrace with 360-degree views. Though still not officially open, visitors can get a sneak preview from time-to-time: June 21 (Concert on International Music Day) | Oct-Jan 2017 (Temporary display) | Nov (‘The Young Soloist’ children’s workshop).

History: Constructed by Ioannis Fix of the Bavarian Fuchs family in 1893, the FIX brewery, towering over scattered homes around the west banks of the now-buried Ilissos River, was once synonymous with feta cheese and souvlaki.

Architects: Post-war modernist architect Takis Zenetos renovated the building in 1957 into a state-of-the art facility with a glass-covered ground-floor facade so passers-by could enjoy the beer-making process. Abandoned in the 70s, part of the building was demolished in 1994 to make way for a metro station of the same name. Following a public uproar, 3SK Stylianidis architects were finally contracted to revamp the building.

Description: The Kallirrois Street entrance conjures the image of the now-defunct river bed. Inside, escalators lead visitors through 18,142 square meters of white-colored surroundings with sunlight filtering through the glass to create a contrast of light and shade.

{Info: Flanked by Frantzi Street and Kallirrois and Syngrou avenues • Tel. (+30) 210.924.2111 • Access: Fix Metro Station}

ETHNIKI ASFALISTIKI (HELLENIC GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY)

Function: Two sets of office buildings with the curved building housing the national insurance company. There is also an independent 500-seat conference center, library and cafe with a concealed 5-level underground parking lot for 550 vehicles.

History: The main issue during the construction of the building that opened to the public in 2006, just before the inauguration of the Onassis Cultural Center across the block, was to best utilize the view of the Acropolis. The aim was to create a building complex that would interact with the city.

Architects: Swiss architect Mario Botta is known for his use of brick and geometry. For this building he collaborated with local-based Sparch architects.

Description: The curved 6-floor building facing the Acropolis conveys motion, breaking the monotony of the curtain of boxed-in buildings that define Syngrou Avenue. The sharp corner is dramatic, giving emphasis to the slightly elevated plaza between it and the other 4-level oblong structure of office blocks. Inside the buildings there is are lighting holes that let in a confetti of natural light.

{INFO: 103-105 Syngrou Avenue, Athens • Tel. (+30) 210.909.9000}

ONASSIS CULTURAL CENTER

Function: The building’s architecture screams its very raison d’etre! A space to host modern cultural expression in all its forms, it has two state-of-the-art theaters with superb acoustics, exhibition spaces and lecture centers. There’s also a ground-floor cafe and a top-floor Michelin-starred restaurant, Hytra, with knock-out views from the Acropolis to the Saronic Gulf.

History: Soaring on the euphoria of Greece’s euro entry, the idea for the modern facility was conceived in 2000. The foundations were laid on a 3,000-square-meter plot of land covering a city block in 2004, the year Athens hosted the Olympics. Six years later, the building was inaugurated in December 2010, in the wake of the financial crisis.

Architects: French architectural practice, Architecture Studio’s design of white marble bands encapsulating the building’s facade was chosen from 66 other proposals in an international competition.

Description: An excellent sample of contemporary design. Simplicity with a twist thanks to the facade’s outer metal bands that play with the use of light, doubling the exterior as a projection screen. Popping out of the corner is a 30-meter high painting by Greek graffiti artist iNO, depicting a face emerging from crumpled paper. The real surprises lie within the art facility that covers 18,000-square-meters of internal floor space over 16 levels (though you wouldn’t know it because nine of these are underground).

{Info: 107-109 Syngrou Avenue, Neos Kosmos • Tel. (+30) 213.017.8000}

STAVROS NIARCHOS FOUNDATION CULTURAL CENTER

Function: A modern-day agora and a new home for the National Opera that has outgrown its current Academias Street address, with a 1,400-seat opera hall, 400-seat black box theater, school of dance as well as a National Library housing 2 million books, and a research center right at the center of a 170,000 square meter park.

History: The Stavros Niarchos Foundation announced its ambitious gift to the Greek people in 2006. Construction work started in 2012 with a cheeky industrial “dance of cranes” to celebrate. Now, the €596 million project is ready and set to be handed over to the Greek state in June in the hopes of heralding a new era for Greek culture (and architecture!)

Visitors, however, can still enjoy the park and a treasure-trove of activity – a taste of bigger and better things to come – at the Visitors Center.

Architect: Award-winning Italian Renzo Piano, responsible for iconic buildings round the world such as the Shard in London, the Nemo in Amsterdam, the Living Roof in California and more, was selected as one of the most influential people by TIME in 2006, the year the building was conceived. Piano says that he wanted to design a vibration more than a monument.

Design: Piano, in a playful mood, envisioned a monument rising out of the ground like a dislodged piece of the earth’s crust. As you walk up a 5-degree slope you don’t even realize you’re going upwards until it occurs to you that you’re walking onto a living roof, covered by an energy canopy that utilizes the wind and sun. With its back to the Acropolis, it looks to the future with its gaze to the sea.

{Info: Faliron seafront, southern Athens • Tel. (+30) 210.877.8396}

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US Coast Guard interest in Aegean

Charles D. Michel, the vice commandant of the US Coast Guard, held talks in Athens Tuesday with the chief of the Greek armed forces, Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, which focused on Washington’s intention to contribute to patrols in the Aegean aimed at curbing illegal immigration.

Michel’s visit came a week after US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed Washington’s interest in contributing naval forces to NATO’s mission in the Aegean. Michel and Apostolakis discussed security issues in the eastern Aegean and illegal immigration.

The US vessel is to join four NATO ships currently patrolling the Aegean, the British Cardigan Bay, the Turkish Bodrum, the German Bonn and the Dutch Van Amstel.

In a related development, the chief of the Hellenic Air Force, Lieutenant General Christos Vaitsis, is to visit Ankara on June 14, the first ever visit to the Turkish capital by an HAF commander.

SOURCE: eKathimerini

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Lonely Planet names Peloponnese top European destination in 2016

Travel guide publisher Lonely Planet has released its annual list of top European destinations to visit in 2016, naming the southern Greek region of the Peloponnese as its Number 1 choice.

“Now more than ever the Peloponnese is the perfect destination for absorbing traditional Greek life, compelling history and inspiring landscapes,” Lonely Planet says on its website.

“Travelers to Greece tend to flock to the myriad islands or marvel at the iconic Acropolis, but one of the country’s most diverse, vibrant regions is often forgotten: the Peloponnese. It remains an affordable enclave of magnificent ancient sights like Olympia, Mycenae and Mystras, which are scattered across a rich landscape of stone villages, teal seas and snow-capped mountains,” it says.

The Top Ten experiences it names are visits to the seaside town of Nafplio, the shipwreck dive in Navarino Bay at Pylos, catching a show at the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus, bird-watching at Gialova Lagoon, a ride on the vintage rack-and-pinion railway between Kalavryta and Diakofto, partying at the Patra Carnival, exploring the Medieval walled town of Monemvasia, tasting the region’s famed olives, crossing the Corinth Canal to the Nemea wine region and touring the Peloponnese’s archaeological sites.

The second destination Lonely Planet recommends is  Aarhus in Denmark, named European Capital of Culture and European Region of Gastronomy in 2017, followed by Venice, the Dordogne in France, Lviv in Ukraine, Warwickshire in England, Extremadura in Spain, the east coast of Tenerife, Textel in The Netherlands and Croatia’s northern Dalmatian coast.

SOURCE: eKathimerini

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