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Greek Cookery Lessons - Corfu 2010

As those of you who read my blog Authentic Greek Recipes may already know, we are offering Greek Cookery lessons in Corfu next year. You can now get full details of the programmes at the blog Greek Cookery Lessons - Corfu 2010, which will be regularly updated with the latest information.

Early Bird Registration
There is 100 Euros discount for those who book before
31 December
!

These are going to be small, friendly groups of 6 people at the most, so we may not be able to accommodate everyone - get your booking in!

Looking forward to seeing you in Corfu next year!

Greek Students Win UN Video Prize

Mariangelina Evilati and Stella Karavazaki - students at the University of Athens - won first prize recently for their short video for the Global Model United Nations contest.

Students participating in the first Global Model United Nations in Geneva were invited to submit a short video highlighting the progress being made in their country, or globally, on one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Students were asked to identify an MDG; outline the steps that have already been taken to meet the 2015 target; identify what more needs to be done; and outline their own plan of action to make sure the target is reached.

Mariangelina and Stella chose "Achieve Universal Primary Education" as their video theme.



Global Model UN 2009 Geneva

United Nations Millennium Development Goals

Lost City Discovered In Greece

The ruins of a submerged town covering an area of 30,000 square metres off the southern Peloponnese in Greece has now been surveyed by marine archaeologists. Although it was discovered by an oceanographer 40 years ago, it is only now that it can be properly surveyed, thanks to digital technology.

Known as Pavlopetri, the sunken settlement dates back some 5,000 years to the time of Homer's heroes and in terms of size and wealth of detail is unprecedented, experts say. It is believed to have been consumed by the sea around 1000 BC. Some are even linking it with the lost city of Atlantis.


"There is now no doubt that this is the oldest submerged town in the world," said Dr Jon Henderson, associate professor of underwater archaeology at the University of Nottingham. "It has remains dating from 2800 to 1200 BC, long before the glory days of classical Greece. There are older sunken sites in the world but none can be considered to be planned towns such as this, which is why it is unique."

Thanks to the fact that the settlement is located in a protected bay and to shifting sands, the explorers were able to discover a world of buildings, courtyards, main streets, rock-cut tombs and religious structures. Thousands of shards of pottery were also discovered in the seabed.


"We found ceramics dating back to the end of the stone age, which suggested that the settlement was occupied some 5,000 years ago, at least 1,200 years earlier than originally thought," said Henderson, who co-directed the underwater survey.

"Our investigations also revealed over 9,000 square meters of new buildings. But what really took us by surprise was the discovery of a possible megaron, a monumental structure with a large rectangular hall, which also suggests that the town had been used by an elite, and automatically raised the status of the settlement."

More than any other underwater site so far, the find offers potential insights into the workings of Mycenaean society.

It has yet to be understood why the settlement sank. Theories include sea level changes, ground subsidence as the result of earthquakes, or a tsunami. It is, however, the first time a sunken city has been found in Greece that predates the time that Plato wrote his tale of the sunken continent of Atlantis.

Via: Guardian



George Papandreou - The Right Person At The Right Time?


Now I don't normally get involved in politics - I haven't seen much there to really inspire me, but I do get the feeling that George Papandreou, the new Greek prime minister (seen above arriving at the first ministerial meeting yesterday), is sincerely trying to turn things in Greece. Normally I wouldn't use the words 'sincere' and 'politician' in the same sentence, but here I think the optimist in me is getting the better of the cynic.

He seems intent on changing the understanding of the purpose of a government - that it should be there just to serve, support and respect the people. At the first meeting of the new ministers he invited the head of the Citizens Counsel organisation (an NGO which looks after the interests of the citizens) to come and address the new ministers for 30 minutes, telling them of people's concerns - mainly with the public administration. This, to me, was a bold and innovative move which helped underline that the essence of what they were doing was to serve the people.

He went on to ask the ministers to disband the innumerable committees which have been set up and which seem to have no purpose other than to be a 'nice little earner' for some people and a way to do and return favours. This will save the state about 150 million Euros a year - not a huge amount in the general scheme of things, but good housekeeping nonetheless.

The minister for the newly formed ministry of Environment, Energy & Climate Change, Tina Birbila is highly experienced in the field and an author. It was refreshing to see this young lady relatively casually dressed with her backpack slung over her shoulder at the swearing in of the ministers.

Papandreou is not (comparatively) a party animal (political party). He is open to working with anyone who can help provide solutions. He is also consulting with international experts to help kick-start the dire economy here.

As I said above, I do not like the world of politics but I have so far been impressed. I know it will take a lot for a change in mentality and attitude to filter through all the levels of public administration, especially, but there is a strong feeling that the first steps have been taken. To me it seems that this may be the beginning of a turning-point in this country and that indeed George Papandreou is the right man at the right time.

Image: www.papandreou.gr

European Mobility Week - Greek Immobility Week!

16 - 22 September is European Mobility Week. Hundreds of towns and cities from countries across Europe are participating, except for - Greece! Well, actually, one town is participating (in a half-hearted way) - Lamia. But apart from that, the traffic in Athens will most likely be like the photo below - immobile! 358 towns from Spain, 375 from Austria, 155 from France....and Greece?? Perhaps their minds are all on getting votes at the upcoming national election!

Athens traffic

During European Mobility Week people are invited to participate in a wide range of activities promoting sustainable mobility. The campaign theme this year is "Improving City Climates", underlining the importance of local level efforts to tackle climate change and improve quality of life through the promotion of alternative transport modes to the car such as cycling, walking, and public transport as well as clever car use schemes such car-sharing and car-pooling.

By adopting "Improving City Climates" as the 2009 focal theme, European Mobility Week wants to establish a link with the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December 2009 in Copenhagen by demonstrating that citizens and local authorities have a key role to play in the fight against global warming by fostering a radical change away from private car use and towards more sustainable travel. By doing so, they also help to improve the quality of life at the local level.

Stavros Dimas (ironically, a Greek!), Commissioner for the Environment, stated:
"Private cars are large emitters of the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. They also seriously affect the quality of urban life. It is therefore important for public authorities and citizens throughout the European Union to adopt more sustainable modes of transport. Doing so would help reduce the impact of climate change and improve the living conditions in our towns and cities."

Last year, Budapest received the top award for its activities in European Mobility Week 2008. You can see a short video about it here.


Socrates Would Definitely Be Turning In His Grave

I previously posted about education in Greece here, but some recent reading has made me want to post again. The reference to Socrates is because 2.500 years ago he was teaching people by asking them questions and encouraging them to think and find the answers for themselves. Something which, ironically, is the opposite of what is happening in Greece today. I say ironically, because we are so proud (rightly so) of him and the other great Greek thinkers of the time and yet are doing completely the opposite. As I said, Socrates would be turning in his grave or, as we say in Greek, 'his bones would be creaking'.

The great Greeks from ancient times really were great minds and thought 'out of the box'. Their legacy can still be seen in so many areas in our life today - medicine, physics, mathematics, education etc. And yet that 'thinking' is the very last thing that children are encouraged to do nowadays.

I was reading an article in a British newspaper which was putting forward the claim that children in English schools are not being taught to think. Now this may or may not be true (I'm sure it probably is), I am not familiar with the English school system, but I thought to myself - if this writer saw the educational system in Greece, what would he say!

Learning as a child to question and to think will help us when we are older to have a society where common sense and intelligence prevail. At the moment, children just learn things parrot-fashion and with a view to just doing what it takes to pass exams. This cultivates a society of people who have learnt either how to just work in the system or how to beat or cheat the system.

The second piece of reading I was doing was from the latest report from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) on Doing Better For Children, including the data Comparative Child Well-Being across the OECD. This shows Greek 15-year-olds third from bottom (above Mexico and Turkey) in literacy and mathematics. They are also third from bottom in the percentage of 15-year-olds who have at least 4 of the basic educational tools (a desk to study, a quiet place to work, a computer for schoolwork, educational software, an internet connection, a calculator, a dictionary, and school textbooks). Greece is bottom in the state financial support of families with one person working and two school-age children.

The education - or rather 'non-education' - system needs a bomb under it. In order to qualify for university or college, nearly all schoolchildren have to go to evening classes or frontistiria. Not only is this wrong because they should be taught what is needed in the school, but also because it means children have hardly any free time and have ridiculous pressure to do homework. It also means that most families in Greece have to spend large amounts of money (which they don't have) every month for something which should be needless.

I cannot believe that people are not out on the streets every day demanding the abolishment of these frontistiria! In a time of such financial difficulty, to have to spend so much money every month for something that shouldn't exist is not only ridiculous but obscene! But people don't do anything - they just accept that it is necessary.

Schools are told by the state what books they should use - nothing is done to develop the creation of a variety of materials for the schools to choose from for themselves. Exams encourage pupils to just learn specific sections by heart and then regurgitate them. You may as well just answer like this - Q1. - Answer: page 34, para 5; Q2 - Answer: page 46, para 2 etc. You can get full marks (20 out of 20 in Greece) for composition/essay and history. How can this be? Is you essay so good it cannot possibly be improved on?

Facts, now more than ever with the internet, can easily be found - it's learning to use them that is not so easy. This is what needs to be encouraged - thinking. This is what made great thinkers in the past great. They took themselves beyond the barriers, they thought 'out of the box' as I said above. If we are so proud of the ancient Greek thinkers, then the best way to express this is by trying to do the same and encouraging young people to do the same.


Corfu Prickly Pears


In a previous post - 10 Corfu Trees - I mentioned the Prickly Pear Tree. We are now busy eating the prickly pears here! Prickly pears here are called either Frangosyka (Frankish Figs) or Pavlosyka (Paul's Figs). The latter name is used only in Corfu as far as I know and, though it is not certain, I have been told that the name comes from Pavliana, a part of the island where they were originally prolific. If anyone has any more information on this, then I would be glad to here from you.

Although we say 'tree', it is really a cactus plant and grows easily and prolifically in many areas in southern Europe. In Corfu you can find the plants all over the island. The name 'prickly pear' comes from the fact that the fruit has large, sharp thorns which make it difficult to handle. The photo above is of a large, sprawling cactus on our neighbour Soula's land.

You can see in the photo below how the fruit is picked. The tin-shaped part at the top of the long handle is hollow so that you can enclose the fruit in it and then twist and pull it off and put it straight into the bucket or basket. This means that you avoid having to handle the thorns. You'll notice it has two sizes to accommodate for different sized fruit! This is the cutting edge of village technology!


This is Soula showing the fruit that she's just picked.

These are some of the Frangosyka that we picked.

Again, when you are peeling the fruit, you have to be careful of the thorns. As well as the large, obvious thorns, there are tiny little hair-like thorns that take an age to get out of your fingers - ask me!

You can see one way of peeling in the photo below, using a fork to hold the fruit and a knife to peel it. The final photo shows the fruit as it is once the skin has been removed. I can tell you it's definitely worth the effort! The juicy fruit is definitely one of my favourites and especially if you keep it in the fridge before eating.


First, cut off the end.

Slice the skin lengthwise.

Peel off the skin to reveal the inner fruit.

The fruit ready to eat. You can see the seeds here as well. Delicious!


Virtual Tour Of Achilleion Palace, Corfu Casino And 12 Corfu Churches


Digital Innovations has produced these two great sites with virtual tours of the Achilleion Palace and Corfu Casino (see above) and 12 Corfu churches (see below). The Achilleion Palace was built by Princess Sissy of Austria in the 19th century and is visited by thousands of tourists every year. The casino used to be located in the Achilleion Palace for many years, but was then transferred to the hotel Corfu Holiday Palace, overlooking the famous Mouse Island.

The virtual tour of the 12 Corfu churches includes, of course, the Church of St. Spyridon, the patron saint of the island.

Add A Twibbon To Your Twitter Profile Image

Those of you on Twitter may have seen several profile images with ribbons or other small images in the corner. These are Twibbons and show that you support a particular cause. I've just created a Twibbon to support the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.

At the moment there are over 6600 causes on Twibbon and the one with the largest support so far has 18466 supporters.

All you have to do is go to Twibbon and create your own cause and add an image - it doesn't have to be a ribbon - to be superimposed on your profile image. You can also browse through the causes there and join whichever one you support and have the twibbon added to your profile.

If you agree that the British Museum should return the stolen Parthenon Marbles to Greece to be displayed in the new Acropolis Museum, then please click below to get your twibbon!


10 Corfu Trees

Continuing the series Corfu Lists of 10, I have posted here 10 types of tree that can be found on the island of Corfu. This is obviously not a complete list, but gives a good indication of the variety that can be found.

Olive Tree
Olives are the predominant product on the island. From the trees we get eating olives, beautiful and healthy olive oil, olive soap, olive wood and other products. See my previous posts here and here about collecting and preparing olives for eating.

Myrtle Tree

1. Myrtle will always remind me the melody out of the opera 'The Marksman' from Carl Maria Weber

Greek legend tells of a nymph called Mirsine who raced against the goddess Athena and won. Athena, in a rage then killed Mirsine whose body was transformed into a beautiful myrtle bush. Branches and flowers are often used in wedding bouquets and in classical times poets and renowned thinkers wore wreaths of Myrtle. The leaves and flowers contain scented oil, and the leaves are also used as a herb when cooking meat and fish.


Strawberry Tree


The fruit of this tree resembles strawberries and ripens from green to yellow to vivid red. This plant can live for up to a thousand years where older stems are replaced with new growth from its flattened woody base. The Strawberry tree is native to Mediterranean countries and also some milder Atlantic coasts such as western Ireland.
The fruit is edible with a delicate flavour and is used in liquors and jam making.


Judas Tree

This tree, also known as the Redbud, is so named because it is from this type of tree that Judas is said to have hanged himself after he betrayed Jesus, therefore it is said to blush with shame ever since with a display of pink (magenta) flowers. Appropriately, it blossoms around Easter time. See my previous post on this tree here.


Holm Oak

The Holm Oak is an evergreen tree not unlike the olive and is one of the trees still remaining from the primeval forests of Corfu.


Cypress Tree

Corfu - Cypress and Olive Trees Frame the Coastline

The Cypress tree is common enough in many countries, but has always been on of my favourites and you can see their elegance in the typical Corfu view above.

Carob or Locust Tree

This tree is evergreen and has brown broad bean like seedpods, which have been used as a substitute for chocolate and also to make carob flour. The Carob seed due to its uniformity of weight has been used to measure precious items such as gemstones for thousands of years, hence the word Carat as in the measure of diamonds.


Prickly Pear Tree

Prickly pear.

The Prickly Pear is also known as the Frankish Fig and is one of my personal favourite fruits. I hope to write a post about it later in the year when the fruit is ripe and you can see how it is collected and cut and eaten. These cacti can be seen everywhere in Corfu.

Pomegranate Tree

Pomegranate Tree, near Mishmarot, Sept. 8, 2006 (DSC03854) (2)

The Pomegranate is supposed to bring good luck on New Year's Day, when you take it and smash it on the ground. The seeds and the juice are delicious and refreshing.

Koumquat Tree

koumquat tree

This fruit was introduced to Europe from China in the mid-19th century and Corfu is especially renowned for it. There are distilleries on the island which produce the Koumquat liquor (rather sweet and syrupy) and you can also buy them as preserved fruit.


Twitter Petition To British Museum To Return Parthenon Marbles To Greece

Following my post on the recent opening of the new Acropolis Museum in Athens here and the post about the number of people who think the Parthenon Marbles should be returned to Greece here, I have just started a Twitter petition.

It's really simple to start a petition on Twitter, and when people tweet it, that is their signature. I have tweeted the petition directly to the British Museum and they will be updated regularly with the number of tweets and also have the opportunity to respond.

So, if you are on Twitter and agree that the Parthenon Marbles should now be returned to Greece and put on display in the new Acropolis Museum, then just tweet below. It's set up so that auto-follow anyone who tweets.

Why Make Things Simple When They Can Be Complicated?!

I would suggest that this should be the motto of the Greek civil service. Anyone who lives in Greece knows full well how it operates – or rather how it doesn’t operate. I had to deal with them again yesterday, which is why I’m writing this post now.

As in every country, there are plenty of intelligent and common sense people in Greece. The problem is that hardly any of them happen to be in the civil service. As I watched all the poor people, yesterday, running back and forth with sheaves of papers in their hands I thought how disrespectfully we treat each other. Most issues that people need to sort out are basically quite simple and yet we have to go from one desk to another, collecting papers, rubber stamps and signatures, whilst desperately hoping that we can get it all done without having to come back again (a forlorn hope).

One of my own particular peeves each time is what they call the ‘protocol number’. In almost every piece of business, the person you are dealing with will tell you that you have to go and get this number before he/she can proceed. You go find this person – usually a woman stuck in a small office somewhere – and they write down your details in a large ledger, with a number, before you can go back and continue. Almost invariably, someone else is now being attended to and you again have to wait.

Why can the person you are dealing with not just put a number in the computer? Why do we have to run off to get a number from someone writing people’s names and numbers in a huge ledger like a throwback to Victorian times? Why do we need to go to what seems like a minimum of five different people in five different departments to get anything done?

Greeks are proud – quite rightly – of the great minds that lived here in ancient times. But these people – Socrates, Aristotle, Pythagoras, Hippocrates etc – were great thinkers that thought out of the box and their ideas and discoveries are still fundamental to so many fields such as maths, physics, medicine etc today. Why can’t the minds in Greece today not think like that any more?

Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, the intelligent ones are usually not in the civil service. This is partly the reason why things don’t work simply and efficiently, but the main reason is the political cost that would accompany making it efficient. An extremely high percentage of people working in the public sector are not needed and it often seems that a lot of the procedures have been created just to justify the existence of them all. I don’t know the exact figure, but over 30% of the working population are in the public sector in Greece. This is an enormous figure, and we are basically paying a huge amount of money for these people’s salaries, benefits, pensions etc and they are not actually producing anything. Plus the fact that a large number take early retirement.

However, no government will risk the political cost of reducing the numbers and ensuring that those that remain are efficient and suited to the job. And simultaneously help create work in the private sector. I was thinking, where else is so much inefficiency and bureaucracy tolerated. Imagine going to buy an airline ticket, for example. The employee in the agency tells you that you have to go to another employee to get an application form to buy a ticket, which you fill in and then go to two other people in the office for them to stamp and sign it. Then they tell you that you have to go to the airline office itself to get a confirmation form that there are seats available. Having got that and come back to the travel agent, you have to go to another person sitting in the corner of the office who will write down your details in a huge ledger and give you a protocol number. Finally, you get your ticket! Yet this (and much worse!) happens in the public sector.

When will someone have the courage to create a public sector which is respectful and helpful to people? Wouldn’t it be great if you came to one of the services and a smiling person greeted you as you came in and asked how they could help you. Then they accompany you to one of the assistants who deals with your issue without sending you to anyone else. While you are waiting, someone else comes and asks you if you’d like some coffee. And everything is dealt with quickly and efficiently in a clean and welcoming environment, without you having to get up from the seat.

In the words of John Lennon, “You may say that I’m a dreamer; but I’m not the only one”

James Bond Driving Citroen 2CV In Corfu

Well, I couldn't resist posting this short clip of the Citroen 2CV car chase in the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only, with Roger Moore (Mr. Sauve).

The scenes are shot in Corfu and very close to where I live in the north west of the island. In the village with the narrow streets (Pagi) there is a cafeneion just where the 2CV turns upside down, where I regularly sit and have coffee. The only thing we never see there is a bus going to Madrid!! In the film this was supposed to be Spain, but those who live on the island or have visited it know that it was most definitely Corfu.

Enjoy the chase through the olive groves and the narrow streets!

Scottish Government Declare That Parthenon Marbles Should Be Returned To Greece

Scottish ministers have declared that there is a clear right for the Parthenon Marbles to be returned to their place of origin, where they were 'removed' by Lord Elgin at the beginning of the 19th century.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "Ministers believe that Greece is perfectly capable of displaying and conserving the Parthenon Marbles appropriately, and support the view that the people of Greece have a right to receive back one of their most important cultural treasures."

There is now a suitable venue for them to be displayed - the new Acropolis Museum - below the Parthenon in Athens. Hopefully, the pressure will continue until the British Museum bow to the inevitable and return the stolen property to their rightful place.

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Most People Think Parthenon Marbles Should Be Returned To Greece

Photo: Urban (Creative Commons)
The Guardian newspaper in the UK set the question "Is it time to return the Parthenon Marbles?" to its readers and up to now the replies are Yes - 96.8%, No - 3.2%. An overwhelming vote in favour of the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece to be housed in the new Acropolis Museum. The online survey still has 3 days to run, so if you wish to vote, you can do so here.

As I mentioned in my previous post here, the British Museum is fast running out of arguments or excuses as to why they should keep the Marbles. Remember, they were stolen from the Acropolis in the early 19th century by Lord Elgin (which is why some people call them the Elgin Marbles) and then sold to the British Museum.

Over the years, the British Museum claimed that there wasn't a suitable venue for them to be displayed, but that argument no longer holds since the opening of the much-acclaimed Acropolis Museum earlier this week. So now all we can say to the British Museum is - Time to return the stolen goods to their rightful owner so that they can be displayed in their rightful setting - next to the Parthenon - for all the visitors to enjoy.

For more information on the Marbles and their return to Greece, you can visit The British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles and you can also sign a petition, if you so wish, at Return The Marbles.com

10 'Firsts' In Corfu

Continuing the occasional series of Corfu Lists of 10, these are 10 firsts from the island of Corfu. These are by no means the only ones, but give an indication of the role that Corfu has played in Greece in various fields. We are talking about modern Greece, by the way.

  • The first theatre in modern Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean. The San Giacomo (now the Town Hall) in 1720.

  • The first Greek opera. In 1867 The Parliamentary Candidate became the first opera composed on an exclusively Greek libretto and was performed at the San Giacomo.

  • The first university in modern Greece in 1824.

  • The first governor in modern Greece - Ioannis Capodistrias.

  • The first library in modern Greece.

  • The first bank in modern Greece.

  • The first lighthouse in Greek waters. In 1822 the lighthouse was built in Corfu and in 1825 the first floating lighthouse was built at Lefkimmi in Corfu.

  • The first lady mayor in Greece - Maria Desilla-Kapodistria, 1956-59.

  • The first tennis club in Greece.

  • The first cricket club in Greece.

Athens Acropolis Museum Opening On Saturday

Photo: Christos Vittoratos

Finally, the new Acropolis Museum in Athens is opening. This Saturday, 20 June is the official opening and dignitaries from all over the world will be present. The museum is located at the bottom of the Acropolis hill, which has the Parthenon on top. Designed by Bernard Tschumi and Michael Photiadis, it has a total area of 25,000 sq. meters, with exhibition space of over 14,000 sq. meters, ten times more than that of the old museum on the Hill of the Acropolis.

The opening of the new museum brings back into focus the issue of the Parthenon Marbles, called by some the Elgin Marbles after Lord Elgin who stole them from the Parthenon in the early 19th century and then sold them to the British Museum because he needed the money.

One of the arguments the British Museum used to put forward for not returning the Marbles to Greece was that there wasn't a suitable place for them to be displayed in Athens. Perhaps there was some validity to this argument before, but now there is none. From what I have seen so far, it is a wonderful new museum and would be a more than fitting setting for the Parthenon Marbles. However, the British Museum do not see it that way. They allegedly offered to 'lend' the Marbles to the Athens Museum for a few months, if Greece renounced its claims to ownership!

Now this controversy has been going on for many years, but I have a feeling that the British Museum are now fighting a losing battle. To put it simply, if you buy stolen goods from somebody and then the original owner asks for them back, what right do you have to say 'No. They're ours' ?

Back to the Museum. If you want to find out more, you can visit the site www.theacropolismuseum.gr. You can even watch the opening live on Saturday via their website. For those of you who are going to be in Athens this year, the entrance tickets until the end of the year will cost ony 1 Euro. Fantastic value!

Photo: Fusslkop

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New Olympic Airlines Uniform Design - Vote And Win Free Tickets!

Following my previous post about the contest for Olympic Airlines new logo, the new owners have announced that they have chosen 3 designs for the new uniform, which the public can vote for until June 7.

Voters will be entered in a draw to win free tickets to a destination of their choice for after October 1 this year. There will be 100 winners.

To vote you need to go to the site www.oafashion.gr I have to point out, though, that the site is only in Greek.

It seems to me that the sequence is the wrong way round. Surely it would be better to choose the logo first and then the uniform, based on that? But then what do I know.


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Design A New Logo For Olympic Airlines And Win 20.000 Euros!

Marfin Investment Group, who recently took over Greece's national airline - Olympic Airlines, have announced an open competition for the new logo.

Logos may be submitted to the Contest Committee by designers, advertising companies, design firms and other related companies. The deadline for submissions is May 29th. The name of the new company will by Olympic Air, and the five rings of the current logo will be maintained, while no restrictions are placed on the fonts or colors used in the new logo, although designers are asked to keep the old logo in mind so that the new logo proposed will reflect both the tradition and the development of the Greek airlines.

Three short-listed logos will receive 2.000 Euros each and they will be put on a special website so that the public can vote. The design winning the most votes will receive 20.000 Euros.

There's also an incentive for people to vote, as 50 of the voters will be drawn randomly and will receive two round-trip tickets each for OA flights in Greece or abroad from October 1, 2009.

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Google Street View Not Allowed In Greece

I previously posted here about the company Kapou in Greece which had started a site with street views in Thessaloniki in northern Greece, with plans to expand to other cities. Well, their operations have now been suspended by the Greek Data Protection Agency and Google's plans to include Athens in their Google Street View have not been allowed until they can provide some more information.

Before they are allowed to include Greece they have been asked to provide guarantees that the service is not an invasion of personal privacy and to state how long the images will be kept. They have also been asked how they will let people know of their rights if they are photographed.

One official from the Data Protection Agency stated, "We are not going to allow our country to become a Big Brother society."

I had a look at some other cities around the world on the Street View site and, to be honest, don't see what the fuss is about. All the car registration plates and people's faces are blurred out and didn't see anything that could be construed as violation of people's privacy.

Am I missing something?

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When Does 'Illegal' Become 'Legal'? - When You Call It A 'Tradition'

Some of the traditions that exist around Greek Easter made me think of how we can get away with doing almost anything just by calling it a 'tradition'. At any other time and for whatever other reason, these things just wouldn't be allowed.

At the beginning of Lent, on Clean Monday, the village of Tyrnavos has its famous Phallus Festival. In fact, they call it' Dirty Monday'! On the Sunday and Monday the small town is filled with phallic symbols. People eat phallus-shaped bread, drink through phallus-shaped straws from phallus-shaped cups, kiss ceramic phalluses, sit on a phallus-shaped throne and sing dirty Greek songs about the phallus. Men, women and children!

Could anyone do this anywhere else or at any other time? Of course not. But call it a tradition and you've got carte blanche.

Elsewhere in Greece on Easter Saturday, we have the Rocket War on the island of Chios. Two sides fire rockets at each other across the town centre (see photos) and the winner is the side that hits the bell from the other side's church! People have been injured, houses have been burnt, people have to put protection around their houses, but - guess what? - it's a 'tradition' so it's OK!


Photos from Reuters

In other villages in Greece, 'brave' men dance in the central square with home-made rockets - lit - in their hands. Hands and arms have been blown off in the past, but, hey! It's a tradition!

Have you got anything you'd like to do, but you're not allowed to? Get together with some other people, create a'tradition' - you can surely think up some 'historical' justification - and then go ahead. You can even make it a tourist attraction!

Judas Tree

It's the time of the year here, again, when the Judas Tree - also known as the Redbud - is in full blossom. I really love the magnificent magenta-pink colour of the flowers of this tree. The Judas Tree was given its name supposedly because it is the kind of tree that Judas Iscariot hanged himself from. It is thus also appropriate as it comes into full bloom around the time of Easter every year (Easter is next Sunday here in Greece).

Corfu has a plethora of these trees - the photo above is from the land next to our house, where the Judas Tree has become entwined with another tree - and generally thrives in the Eastern Mediterranean area.


Likaholix

I recently signed up at Likaholix - a new social network where you can share your likes with other members. This can be anything you have found on the internet - sites, products, books etc. If you have at least 10 likes in a particular category, you become what is called a Tastemaker, which gives more weight to your recommendations.

I've only just recently joined, but it seems like an interesting idea, and was set up by two ex-Google employees. At the moment, joining is by invitation only, so if you're interested I have some invitations (30, I think) for my readers, if you click here.


Did You Know?

I came across this fascinating video with some facts about the progression of information technology. Take a look and see what you think.
Really - the facts are incredible!

Coffee Boycott In Greece


On Saturday, April 11 thousands of Greeks will be boycotting coffee houses and cafes as a protest against the high prices charged for coffee. Coffee prices in Greece are amongst the highest - if not the highest - in Europe.

Black filter coffee usually starts from €2.50, cappuccino and frappe from €3.50 and types of coffee like the fredochino and mochacino cost as much as €6.50. These are prices in normal cafeterias - and don't forget, Greek salaries are amongst the lowest in Europe. Each year Greeks drink 5.8 billion cups of coffee, which cost them €1.8 billion.

The boycott has been dynamically organised through the internet and there is also a Facebook group (in Greek), which already has over 8.000 members.

I think it's a great initiative and hopefully more and more individuals will use the internet and make their voices heard against profiteering.

Greek Businessman On Hunger Strike Against Cartels

A Greek businessman has been on hunger strike for over 40 days now against the cartel system in Greece. I only found out about this by chance on the internet as it hasn't been reported anywhere in the Greek media!

Mr. Theodoros Tenezos is the 39 year-old president and CEO of IRON TENCO S.A., a steel retailer, who saw his company collapse as a direct result of the sudden refusal of members of a hard-core steel cartel operating in Greece to supply him with raw materials.

He is staging his hunger strike in front of the offices of the Greek Competition Commission in central Athens, after having officially reported the matter and a lodged a complaint 2½ years ago. According to the report on the video below, he was then offered 1 million Euros by the cartel to withdraw the complaint and disappear!

This is the first Antitrust Hunger Strike in the world, according to Stop Cartel, where you can read more about the story. Mr. Tenezos had over 200 employees and the amazing and ahocking thing is that, though there is a British TV report (see below), absolutely nothing has been mentioned in the Greek media over the last 40 days!

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Earth Hour

In case you haven't heard, 8.30p.m. on Saturday March 28th is Earth Hour. People and organisations all over the world are being encouraged to 'switch off' for 1 hour at that time. The target is 1 billion people, which will be like a vote to take decisive action on climate change. This global vote is particularly aimed at the meeting of world leaders in December, 2009 in Copenhagen to agree on a post-Kyoto policy for tackling climate change.

I think this is a good and powerful idea, but I have a bit of an issue with how it is being promoted here in Greece. The impression being given is that it is a kind of competition, with the media constantly telling us that the response in Greece is No. 1 worldwide.

Now I don't doubt that a lot of people and organisations here genuinely want to do something, but in a country which has a dreadful record regarding sustainability and environmental sensitivity it seems that perhaps the understanding is missing when we think that it is more important just to turn off our lights for one hour - which is quite easy - and be the 'best' in the world than to actually do something in our lives and on a permanent basis.

Don't get me wrong, I do believe that Earth Hour is a great initiative, but there is something a lot more serious that needs to go hand in hand with it. Being first in the world at turning off your lights for an hour is just not enough.

Take a look at the short Earth Hour video below.

Kapou - New Greek Geo-Multimedia Site


I've just come across a new geo-multimedia site that has recently been developed in Greece - Kapou.gr. The aim of the site is to act as a guide with 3D photos and maps, allowing visitors to 'virtually' visit towns and places of interest in Greece. At the moment, Kapou (which means 'somewhere' in Greek) is still in Public Beta and still has limited information, but it has the potential to become something extremely useful to both Greek residents and visitors to the country.

Being a company based in Thessaloniki in the north of Greece, they have started off with that city. Hotels, restaurants, important sites, shops and entertainment centres have been listed and you can follow the 3D photos and map for each of them.

As far as I can gather, they aim to cover the whole of Greece eventually (I hope they do Corfu soon!) and I presume it will also be in English and other languages - at the moment it is only in Greek.

But I wish them well. I think it's a great idea and has all the potential to become an indispensable virtual guide.

Good luck, guys!

Corfu Music Festival


For the past 6 years, the month of July in Corfu has seen a series of concerts, seminars and discussions - The Corfu Festival, including the Ionian Concerts. I'm glad to see that this has been gradually developing from year to year - these things usually do take some time to get established - especially since the island has such a rich musical heritage.

The performances are separated into categories - Winds and Percussion, Ethnomusicology, Jazz and the Classical Experience. The performers come from Greece, USA and the Far East.

As I said, I think this is a wonderful enterprise, but I am disappointed in their website. The general design and layout I find good, but the English translation is terrible and the information in the site is obviously not properly updated. Such a shame that such a great venture should again (in Greece) be let down by poor basic organisational skills.

Anyway, I think it's a great opportunity for someone to combine a holiday on the island with some good music. The main venues for the events can be seen below.

Ionian Academy
The main venue for the Festival performances is the auditorium of Corfu University, housed in the historic Ionian Academy building.

St. George's Church
A large basilica, in the style of an ancient Doric temple, which was built about 1840 and functioned as the official Anglican church during the time of the British Protectorate.
The Old Fort
This was built by the Venetians upon the remains of a Byzantine castle and was completed in two stages. During the first period (1400-1500) the Venetians strengthened the Byzantine walls and dug the Contra Fossa moat, turning the promontory into an artificial island accessed by a movable bridge.
The second period (16th-18th centuries) began with the completion of this work (1546-1588) and ended with the additions and alterations made by the British.

Art Café
Located next to the Gardens of the Palace of St. Michael and St. George. A picturesque terrace overlooking the sea with a marvellous view and peaceful atmosphere.

For more information about this year's events, you can visit the Corfu Festival website.

Greek Mythbuster

Public Domain Images

Cambridge University have just appointed their first AG Leventis professor of Greek culture - Paul Cartledge. Mr. Cartledge is author of several authoritative books, including The Greeks: A Portrait of Self and Others (Opus)
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In his inaugural lecture, he apparently 'busted' some myths about Ancient Greece. The first of these was that there was, in fact, such a thing as Ancient Greece. Although they were united by religion and language, the city states, which numbered over 1000 and were spread from Marseille in the west to modern Turkey in the east, had different customs, political systems and calendars.

The second myth is that they were technologically backward. If you read my post about the Antikythera Mechanism, you'll see that this was definitely not the case.

He also pointed out that ancient Greeks definitely did not resemble their Hollywood impersonators. He stated that these movies "can be dangerous as well as enjoyable and provocative. They can pander to or influence cultural attempt or hatred," and thinks the Iranians were right to see the movie 300's depiction of the Persians as "an example of cultural denigration".

Finally, he busts the myth that the Greeks invented democracy in anything like the way that we recognise it now. Radical democracy was government by, for, and of the people, unlike modern representative democracies. Cartledge claims that Ancient Athenians would probably have regarded the British and American political systems as oligarchic.

Institutions vs Collabaration

Recently, someone shared with me a video with a talk by Clay Shirky on how closed groups and companies will give way to looser networks where small contributors have big roles and fluid cooperation replaces rigid planning.

Now, this talk was given over 3 years ago, but I still found it to be spot on in the way it points out that emerging technologies are enabling loose collaboration, which will change the way our society works. His observation on the emerging role of stay-at-home moms I found to be particularly relevant.

This video is about 20 minutes long, but I definitely feel that it's worth your while to watch it.

Electronic Books For Schools?

The leader of the opposition party here in Greece recently talked about introducing electronic books in schools. I think it would be a good idea and will almost certainly happen at some point, but the thing is, even with an electronic book, what is going to be contained in the book?

At the moment, children are provided with free books - which is good - but the state produces all the books and all schools have to use them. There is no choice. This situation leads to two basic problems.

Firstly, it encourages pupils just to learn things parrot-fashion and memorise specific chunks from the books to answer the exam questions. Freedom of thought is in no way cultivated, nor are children taught to think for themselves. As I mentioned in a previous post, Socrates Would Be Turning In His Grave, Greeks take pride - quite rightly - in the minds of the ancient Greeks, but the ironic thing is that Socrates used the method of teaching whereby his students were encouraged to find the answers for themselves. 2.500 years later, the exact opposite is happening in the same country!

Secondly, I always think it is dangerous for young children to be given the state's view of what they should be learning. This is especially the case with history. Authoritarian states classicly influence the minds of the youth with their own version of facts. Now, Greece is obviously not an authoritarian state, but at the same time, children from a young age are forced to take in the 'official slant' on all the subjects. Schools should be encouraged to choose whichever books they consider best, which would in turn encourage writers and publishers to strive to produce better materials and would encourage youngsters to think for themselves and answer exam questions with their own understanding and reasoning rather than just memorise critical passages from one book.

That being done, then an electronic book would certainly make life easier for them. For example, the Amazon Kindle, which is a wireless reading device, is extremely light and can hold over 200 titles that you can download in less than a minute. The cost of these books is also much less than the hard copies.


So, yes, let's have electronic books for schoolchildren, but firstly let's focus on the content and the teaching methods. Technology can only complement that, not replace it!

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