Help Save the Cretan Landscape!

Take a look at this short video and then please consider seriously signing the petition against the planned development of a 2600 hectare resort on the Greek island of Crete.

Ecologists, archaeologists and politicians have all lent their voices to the protest against the construction of a 7,000-bed luxury resort on the virgin coastline.

The land is located in an area of the island that is a biological hotspot, rich in vegetation and rare plants. The 16-mile peninsula also contains archaeological evidence of farming techniques employed in the Mediterranean since antiquity.

Opponents to the scheme, led by historical ecologist Professor Oliver Rackham, from Cambridge University, argue that the multimillion-pound development is not suited to a region that in most other countries would have been designated a national park. If built, the Cavo Sidero project would comprise six tourist villages, three golf courses, hotels and other top-end facilities across 2,600 hectares (6,400 acres).

The British developers have rejected the arguments against the project, claiming that a comprehensive environmental impact study had been carried out. However, environmentalists fear that Greece could face a tourist development disaster similar to that suffered by Spain. "We have never faced anything as dangerous. It will lead to a massive urbanisation of the Greek landscape on the same disastrous scale ... seen in Spain," said Kriton Arsenis, a leading conservationist.

Just under 11,000 people, including more than 500 scientists and archaeologists from more than 80 countries, have signed a petition against the development and the Council of State, having already met, has said that it will investigate the issue and come to a decision next year.

As I write, people are signing the online petition and the number is fast approaching the 11.000 mark, though the original target was 10.000. Please lend your voice in order to prevent this destruction, by going to the site of the online petition HERE.

Many, many thanks!

Obama Babies?!

I just read that there is expected to be a boom in the number of babies born in the USA in early August, 2009 - 9 months after Obama won the Presidential election! These are already being called Obama Babies.

It seems that celebrations after the victory went on well into the night and, well, we'll see the results of those celebrations in early August. Obama himself was born 9 months after John F. Kennedy was born, so I suppose he may well be a JFK Baby!

I remember quite a long time ago there were national power cuts, which meant there were no lights and no forms of entertainment powered by electricity, so, it was claimed, couples resorted to other forms of entertainment powered by something else. I can't recall if there actually was a boom in births 9 months later, but perhaps they should have been called Blackout Babies, or something similar!

I'm not sure how much research has been done into the subject, but I suppose there could be a lot of correlations between particular events and births nine months later. Here in Greece, there may well have been a boom after the national football team won the European Championship in 2004. It was such an unexpected and unlikely victory that the whole nation went into ecstasy! I suppose you could call them Otto Babies, after the national coach - Otto Rehagel - who incredibly converted a no-more-than-competent team into European champions, a feat that will certainly not be repeated in our lifetime. Perhaps if the Greeks were not so conservative on the issue of naming children, the baby boys born 9 months after the victory could have been called Otto! But the likes of Otto Papadopoulos doesn't really gel, does it!

I don't know what the "Blackout Babies" could have been called - Sparky, perhaps? I certainly hope we don't get a glut of Baracks and Michelles come next August!

Holidays on the Greek Islands

I think that one of the main reasons for someone taking Holidays to Greece is the number and variety of islands here. There's no other country like it in that respect in Europe. A holiday on the Greek islands offers you the kind of relaxation you cannot get on the mainland.

Of course all of them offer the sea - and there are so many beaches to choose from! But they also offer spectacular countryside and other sights. Off the west coast there are the Ionian islands, including Corfu and Kefalonia, which are much greener than the islands on the other side of the mainland. Kefalonia is the island where the book and film Captain Corelli's Mandolin was set. So if you like what you saw in the film, then Holidays to Kefalonia is for you!

The large islands of Rhodes and Crete, south of the mainland, offer not only great beaches, but also beautiful countryside and historic sights - the ancient Minoan site of Knossos in Crete and the castle of the Templar Knights in Rhodes. Smaller islands include Santorini - an ancient volcano! - and Kos, not far from Rhodes.

All of the islands offer accommodation to suit all tastes and pockets, and I would definitely recommend that you should visit at least one of the Greek islands. Perhaps you could visit a different one each year!

The Grocer and the Credit Card

I thought I'd share this rather amusing story I heard recently. It's to do with the way banks just issue credit cards to people without being asked - usually ending up with the recipients getting even more into debt and the banks increasing their income. This is a true story of something that happened here, by the way.

A man who received a credit card from his bank, without applying for it and without being asked, phoned up the bank to find out why it had been sent to him. He claimed that he hadn't asked for it.

The bank said that was true, but they considered him to be a good customer and had issued the card and sent it to him anyway.

"But I don't want it! I want to cancel it," replied the customer.

"Well, if you want to cancel it, you'll have to come to the bank with the card and we'll cancel it for you, otherwise, you'll receive bills from us every month," was the bank's reply.

So the man - who was a grocer - went to his bank to cancel the card and took two large sacks of potatoes with him. The bank manger was looked curiously at the potatoes, but didn't say anything. After they had finished with the cancellation, the grocer got up and started walking towards the door.

"You've forgotten your potatoes!" called out the manager.

"No, no," replied the grocer. "They're yours! I've already billed you for them, but if you don't want them, then you can bring them to my shop and we'll cancel the bill."

I take my hat off to that man!!

Colossus of Rhodes to be Revived

Colossus of Rhodes, imagined in a 16th-century engraving by Martin Heemsker

The island of Rhodes has presented its ambitious project to revive one of the world’s seven ancient wonders, the giant sculpture of Colossus.

The original statue was erected in homage to the sun god Helios and stood in the harbour area of Rhodes, visible to passing ships. The modern-day wonder will also stand in the harbour and be dedicated to celebrating peace, being built - in part - out of melted-down weapons from around the world.

The project, led by the German artist Gert Hof, will capture the symbolisms of the the ancient monument, but it will not try to copy the original sculpture. The new Colossus has been conceived as a highly innovative light sculpture, a work of art that will allow visitors to physically inspect it by day as well as enjoy - through light shows - a variety of stories it will "tell" by night. It is planned to be the world’s largest light installation, a structure that has never before been seen in any place of the world.

The original Colossus stood 34 metres high before an earthquake toppled it in 226BC, but this modern structure will be between 60 and 100 metres high. The cost has been estimated at around 200 million Euros, but already, international organisations led by the World Trade Centre Association plus a network of exporters who promote peace through trade, have committed to supporting the venture.

In a statement, Yannis Hadzimarkos - president of the Dodecannese Islands' Chamber of Commerce - claimed that, "The new Colossus has been the dream of Rhodians for many years. It will be a marvellous opportunity for the economy of the region even if it is naive to think it will be easy."

Olives Ready To Eat!

In a previous post - Collecting Olives - I described how we collected the olives that were for eating and not to make oil, and the start of the process before they were ready to go on the table to be eaten.

As I said, we cover the olives in water in jars (see photo above) for 20 days, changing the water every day. Well, after the 20 days have passed, what you do is change the water again and add 3 tablespoons of rock salt. You leave them like this for 3 days. After this, you remove the water and cover them in half water, half vinegar and leave them for another 3 days.

When that has passed, you put them in glass jars, covered in olive oil. It is recommended that you place in the jar either 2 cloves of crushed garlic and 1 tablespoon of parsley or 1 quartered lemon and some celery leaves.

The olives are now ready to eat. And are especially delicious for having been collected from our own trees!

Money, Money Everywhere And Not A Cent To Spend!

First of all, my apologies to Taylor Coleridge for the post title!

I imagine that the economic crisis is getting the same amount of media coverage everywhere else as it is in Greece. However, it seems that here the crisis has been an opportunity or excuse for all the stuff that has been bubbling just under the surface for quite a long time now to come out into the open.

While in other countries the interest rates are being cut, in Greece the banks have not only not cut the rates, but have actually increased them! This has acted as a catalyst for all the financial and economic woes to burst to the surface. Greeks - the people not the country - have the highest rate of indebtedness in Europe. If you look at the following factors, it won't be hard to understand why.

The salaries and wages in Greece are amongst the lowest in Europe and yet the actual cost of living is one of the highest! What this has led to is a situation where people are using their credit cards just to cover their basic living expenses. Of course everyone knows that this is not a solution, but people are in such a desperate situation that they can see no other way to survive. Now, combine this with the fact that interest rates on credit cards are the highest in Europe and I think you can get an idea of how fragile things are here!

Banks are acting as if they are a law unto themselves as regards interest rates and their treatment of customers. Even though a law has been passed that they cannot repossess or auction people's houses for debts of less than 20.000 Euros, there are still cases of people losing their houses for debts as little as 700 Euros! They have increased interest rates and cut down on the number of loans that they grant - both personal and business. We now have a situation in Athens where loan sharks are putting up posters in the street and hanging around banks to get the custom of those rejected by the bank!

I don't know how we're going resolve this situation, but it seems that in Greece, at least, we are heading not just for the bubble to burst, but for it to explode in glorious technicolour. As I said in my post title, there is money around but most of us cannot see it. I am no economist, and perhaps I am a bit simplistic in my outlook, but surely we have the intelligence and the knowledge to be able to find a way of using the resources that exist to ensure that we can all live comfortably.

10 Examples of Corfu Architecture

Another post in the Lists of 10 series. This time it's a look at examples of the different styles of architecture that can be seen in Corfu. The island variously belonged to the Venetians, French, British and, for a short period, the Russians and the most obvious witness to this is the different architectural styles to be seen - mainly in Corfu Town itself.

This was originally called the Loggia Nobilei (1663-9) and was considered the most important of the Venetian buildings. In the 18th century it was transformed into a theatre - Teatro San Giacomo - before becoming the Town Hall in the early 20th century.

This 17th century Venetian building is located in the same square as the Town Hall, and is the Catholic cathedral for the island.

This early 18th century Venetian building is located at the southern side of the main Spianada square in the town. For a brief period of time, this building housed the first Greek university.

Perhaps the best-known part of Corfu Town, the Liston is the most characteristic sign of the French presence on the island. Designed by Matthieu de Lesseps in 1807 and based on the Rue de Rivoli in Paris, its name comes from the Venetian practice of having a list of noble families in the Libro d'Oro or Golden Book and only those on this list were allowed to promenade here.

This building was built between 1814 and 1824, during the British presence here and is a monument to Georgian architecture. It has two wings dedicated to the Archangel Michael and St. George and now houses the excellent Museum of Asian Art.

Another example of British architecture, in the main Spianada Square.

This neo classical building was built after 1830 by a Greek architect to house the parliament of the Septinsular (7 island) Republic, which was a semi-autonomous republic including all the island in the Ionian Sea, with Corfu as its capital.

Another neo-classical building, which was the home of Ioannis Kapodistrias, the first Governor of Greece after 1831.

This is an example of a preserved Venetian mansion in town. You can see the characteristic Renaissance porch at the front, which forms a balcony on the first floor.

This is an example of an urban building built during the British period. These were taller than the Venetian buildings and went up to 6 storeys. They also had broader frontage with numerous entrances.

Photos courtesy of Municipality of Corfu

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