Travel to Greece - Essentials You Should Never Forget

Greece is a famous holiday destination and it is indeed a nice place to travel. In spite of world wide recession, travel to Greece is neither troublesome nor very expensive; rather it would be surprising to see the trains and cruises are booked in advance in the pick tourist season like in the month of July, August, and in September. Therefore those who are planning for travel to Greece, it is better for them to arrange all the trains' tickets and cruise bookings in advance otherwise it will be difficult to enjoy Greece in its fullest form.

Traveling Greece by train is a wonderful experience for the foreign tourists and most of these trains' tickets are available on 90 days advance booking. The ferry tickets especially for Athens, Mykonos, Crete, Rhodes, Santorini etc. are always in demand, especially for the hi-speed ferry boats, therefore it is safe to book the tickets for these ferry boats via online booking.

Taking lots of clothes is a big problem while traveling; however, it is wise to be planned and meticulous while packing for the clothes. A pair of jeans, a few t-shirts, a good looking comfortable wearing shoe and another pair of comfortable footwear should be taken in the bag for comfortable movement. It is always recommended travel to Greece not as tourist; it is better to dress alike local people not like foreigners. Ladies can consider for wearing Capri pants, fancy but comfortable tops, and comfortable shoes for their travel journeys. However, for religious places, shorts are not allowed nor the ladies can wear shoulder off tops or knee- length skirts.

The summer time is best for travel to Greece; however, it is good to be prepared for scorching Mediterranean sun shine to greet the tourists. Cotton wears is the best, drinking lots of liquid is good for health and antidote for dehydration; old churches are the best palace to cool down.

There are lots of tourists' attractions in Greece; however, all of them may not available around the year for visit. Therefore, it is always wise to check the respective websites for these places before you hit the said destination. For example, the museums in Athens and museums in Thessaloniki often remain closed for the maintenance but they declare their off days in advance via their websites. Other than these all public museums in Greece remain closed on national holidays, so it is always wise to check the national holiday list before you start planning for the intercity travel to Greece.

Although Greek people are quite familiar with US and UK English but it is better to learn a few local Greek phrases to tackle local people easily. Little proficiency in Greek language will help to tackle local events and people in emergency and it will provide a feel-good mood in the Greek atmosphere and in the planning for travel to Greece.

Ancient Greece Citizens

When we use the word "citizens" we are usually referring to a group of people who live in the same city, with a common origin, language, customs and laws. According to Plato, the ideal city should have no more than 5000 inhabitants, so that they would all know each other. But in 5th century Athens, things were somewhat different, with approximately 40,000 citizens, 20,000 metoici (resident aliens) and about 100,000 slaves. To these we must also add the women and children, who were never included in the numbers of inhabitants.

The male inhabitants of Athens were divided into three groups: citizens, metoici and slaves. Athenian citizens were only men 18 years of age and older whose forebears had been Athenians for three generations. These fortunate people enjoyed all the rights of free men and could be elected to all the offices of the State. The villager who arrived at dawn from Acharnes in order to take part in the daily draw for participation in some service, had the same possibility of being elected as the son of the old-time aristocrat. This ability to concern one's self with public matters naturally persupposed the existence of leisure time. Athenian citizens preferred not to work, but rather tried to be men of independent means, having others look after the cultivation of their lands and the administration of their property. Manual labour, even artistic creation, was considered by many to be degrading. Despite this, Socrates made a speech urging the poor people to work, even though he himself did precisely the opposite. The need for manpower was often covered by the thetes who were the poorest of the citizens and made their living as workers or as rural day-labourers. In this way, wealthier Athenians were absolutely free to occupy themselves with public matters, primarily with politics. But the poor citizens were obligated to present a certain minimum attendance at the Assembly, and for this reason the state had the foresight to provide some money for those who represented their tribe at sessions and trials, thus at least making good their lost earnings.

All inhabitants paid the same taxes. In addition, the wealthy undertook sponsorships thus acquiring both the moral satisfaction of their contribution and the social prestige. They served in the army in accordance with their income: as knights with their own horse and a suitable retinue, or in the navy as captains of trirenes, which they themselves took care to man. The poor but proud thetes frequently preferred the harsh life of the oarsman, solely to show their identity as free equal citizens, even though the earnings were meagre. Wealthy, poor or destitute, Athenian citizens were all extremely proud of their origin, so proud that they never called their city "Athens" but the "city of the Athenians". Participating in the administration of the Polis was taken for granted for the citizen who voted, judged and, like all people with plenty of free time, took care to be informed about what was happening in the city. This dedication of the Athenians to public life made them obey the laws and worry about any possible breach of the law which would cause them to be downgraded through the loss of their citizen's rights.

One might say that the biographers of the Athenian citizens were Aristophanes, Plato, Xenophon and Plutarch, each from a different point of view. Much of what we know about the working classes is taken from peevish references in the comedies of Aristophanes, whose sharp tongue conceals nothing. He may have been making fun of the village lout, who went to the Agora reeking of garlic to hear a philosopher speak without realising it, but he also gave us information about each person's chances of acquiring knowledge. From the kindly villager Strepsiades in Clouds, we hear complaints about his wife, a woman from the capital city, who makes him wash and take off his comfortable but dirty clothes, and we realise that an unsuitable marriage has always been a disaster. Xenophon, also, was a practical man of the city who fought far away from his homeland, became acquainted with the people of other countries and developed the taste for a city open to all kinds of positive influences, even foreign. This breadth of mind may perhaps have been the natural destiny of a dynamic man who undertook to lead his fellow soldiers from distant Mesopotamia, through the highlands of Armenia, to the shores of the Black Sea, and finally home. Plutarch, too, who was born in Chaeronia in the first century AD, has left us invaluable information about public life and chiefly about certain famous Athenians whom he included in his Lives.

Plato, one of the most significant figures in the history of philosophy, was born of a father who came from the Kodros family, and a mother from that of Solon. He usually wrote in the form of a dialogue in which he himself did not appear, although he put his views into the mouth of Socrates, his teacher. Plato enlivened his social environment in which refined men went to symposia and exchanged views about philosophy or music. At the home of the enormously wealthy Kallias, for example, intellectuals speculated on whether virtue could be taught; they would spend their evenings with music from a lyre accompanying their conversation or perhaps with the occasional song. Although all had some musical training, no one would agree to play the flute, because to do so one had to disfigure one's face by puffing up one's cheeks to make sound. At the most famous supper in history, the participants selected eros (love) as the subject for the evening. This was the Symposium at which well-to-do Athenian citizens represented by aristocrats, men of learning, poets, politicians and philosophers joined together in a lively discussion. Together with Socrates, the invited guest, they also welcomed a poor barefoot man who was fortunate enough to be Socrates' pupil and follower. Each one spoke on the selected topic, expressing his views in a witty and pleasant way. At some point the handsome Alcibiades appeared, roaring drunk, leaning on a courtesan and garlanded with Attic pansies. Even though a great deal of wine was consumed, the discussion continued without exceeding the bounds of propriety, while other groups of revellers were constantly coming and going.

They all agreed that eros has the greatest power since it awakes in human beings abilities to distinguish themselves and that it also is a factor deterring unseemly behaviour, as one is afraid to lose face in the eyes of the beloved. Everybody distinguished the transient physical attraction of Aphrodite from the uncorrupted beauty of Urania who brings souls closer together, approaching perfection. They would say in jest that eros always looks young because by leaving, he avoids growing old; and perhaps he is always immortal because he lives, is lost and is reborn again. They concluded that what is important in love is quality, to whichever sex one's love is addressed, because eros is the purpose and not the object of desire. Such were the surroundings of the golden youth of Athens who, listening to such lofty discussions, would fall in love at will, admired physical beauty and the intellectual vigour of wise men with equal ardour, and whenever required, went into battle where they won awards for valour. Athenian citizens were people who could live in a democratic world with the subtlety of an aristocrat; they obliged Plato to say how praiseworthy was the man who could distinguish between the three gradations in the human personality: free speech, courage and base desires. The ideal citizen never allows the first two to be subjugated by the last.

The large number of metoici was a purely Athenian phenomenon, as xenophobic Sparta kept those who were not from its region at a distance. Athens on the contrary, was open to Greeks from other cities and even to foreigners who wished to live and work in Attica. The metoici had all the obligations of the Athenian citizen but enjoyed very few of his rights. They lived scattered over the townships, paid taxes and served in the army only as hoplites (footsoldiers). They were able to acquire goods and slaves, but were not permitted to own land. They could worship any gods they chose, but had no right to vote nor could they be elected to any important office, only to the lower ones, e.g. as heralds or contractors for public works. Most of them were artisans, merchants and a good number acted as bankers.

Since they constituted the productive class, many of them became wealthy and distinguished themselves through sponsorships, indeed some became legally accepted into the class of citizens. On the contrary, if a metoicos attempted to usurp the rights of the free citizen illegally, then he was downgraded to a slave. In trials, metoici always had to have the support of an Athenian citizen as guarantor and it is characteristic that if a metoicos killed a citizen, he was condemned to death, while if he murdered another metoicos, the punishment was only exile. The children of marriages between citizens and metoici were not considered to be Athenians unless they won general esteem through wealth or special acts. Many famous artists and philosophers in ancient Athens were metoici and it seems that they accepted their treatment as second-class citizens without protest. Generally, Athenian citizens treated metoici with the politeness of a host toward a welcome guest, up to the point where vested interests were affected, and above all the inherited tradition of the state.

Women, in the homes of both citizens of Athens and metoici, had absolutely no right to hold an opinion or to participate in public affairs. The Athenian imagination justified depriving women of their rights since the goddess Athena had won the contest for the naming of the city by just one female vote. It was then that the matriarchy was nearly set aside in favour of the warrior protectors, who never tolerated female initiatives, which is why women were punished by being excluded from any future important decision. This happened at the time of Kekrops who established marriage as a consolation, making it the primary goal in the life of Athenian women. And of course, marriage meant having children, which is why from birth to death, the female Athenian remained confined inside the home. Girls were married very young to a husband selected by their fathers, to whom they owed absolute obedience. They had to be fully familiar with housekeeping, command the respect of the household slaves and be imbued with a spirit of economy. If an educated slave happened to live in the house then there was a possibility that the girls would learn some reading and writing; but more frequently they were taught only music and dancing.

If a daughter happened to be the sole inheritor of the patriarchal fortune, she would be given in marriage to the closest relative on her father's side, even with a brother of the same father, but never one by the same mother, because the genuine blood line was regarded as being only from the side of the mother. In the event of a request for a divorce, the interested woman had to present herself to the Archon, a virtually heard-of procedure. But even if some desperate women dared, the possibilities of being heard were minimal. There is the example of Hipparete, wife of the incorrigible Alcibiades, who at some point, could no longer stand the incongruities of her marriage. The courageous lady took her application to the Archon, but Alcibiades was notified by his friends, and instead of being divorced, caught her and shut her up in the women's section of the house, without anyone objecting.

We have a good deal of information about Athenian women from Xenophon who wrote about a certain Isomachos, about 30 years old, who married an ignorant 15year-old girl and announced her duties to her: to cook, weave, oversee the slaves, avoid waste and above all to be obedient to her husband. Plutarch also spoke of the dignity of Athenian women and the modesty of their dress, as opposed to the athletic young Spartan women whom he referred to contemptuously because they wore short tunics that showed their thighs. But it was Aristophanes who castigated the dynamic women who dared to protest; his Lysistrata demonstrated the opinion of the ancient Athenians about where the power of women lies. In the Ecclesiazouses, he notes sarcastically that everything has always taken place behind closed doors, without disturbing the calm of ignorance and custom.

Perhaps the most succinct indication of the status of women in Athenian society was that of an orator who said that women fall into three categories: courtesans for the delight of the spirit, concubines for pleasure, and wives for the acquisition of legitimate children. It appears that things were so difficult for wives that Solon instituted a law demanding that Athenian men who happened to have property from their wives, visit them in their chambers at least three times a month in order to produce a male heir to carry on the family name. In the Symposium, Socrates noted that men have fewest conversations with their wives, and mentioned the name of a certain Nikiratos who was bound to his wife by true mutual love, a very rare occurrence. Plato, too, suggested that marriage based on love would be better; but this was for the ideal utopian "Republic" and not for the Asty of reality.

The instruments of pleasure, the hetaeres (courtesans), were of two types: the common ones who were called walkers and the special ones, who lived on the support of their rich patrons. Selected from childhood for their physical beauty, they were especially trained to be pleasing. They were the only women who could circulate freely and thus many of the courtesans had the opportunity to receive an education by listening to the various philosophers. In all symposium scenes, we can see young hetaeres. Orchistrides danced and the avlitrides played the flute and chatted with the carefree revellers whom they were entertaining, whose homes were supervised with the zeal of Cerberus by the dignified lady of the house, who always carried bunch of keys at her waist. The homes of the famous hetaeres were open to philosophers and artists, who would meet in a highly intellectual atmosphere; many of these women used their charms for diplomatic or spying purposes: situations as old as society. One famous hetaera was the beautiful, learned Aspasia from Miletus, who so influenced Pericles and so provoked the envy of the Athenians.

Representations on ceramics show us scenes from a very controversial phenomenon, pederasty, which was one outlet for the instincts in a society where women were confined to their apartments and were without interests or education. Another reason was that constant wars kept the male population far from home. The rise in pederasty coincided with the cult of the naked male body which we admire in the young kouroi. But also, in a society where the father, when he was not at war was busy with public matters, it was natural for a boy to seek guidance from some older friend of the same sex, creating a relationship between an experienced person and someone to whom he passes on his knowledge. It is noteworthy that the lovers were always very masculine and never appeared to be feminine or dressed in women's clothes. Plutarch said that when the young man's beard began to grow, that was the end of the relationship, which was socially acceptable.

It was noted earlier that Plato in his Symposium presented a unique analysis of the concept of eros, the beginning and end of which was intellectual unanimity. It is possible that at this very famous supper, Alcibiades in a jest created a jealous scene over Socrates, but he himself, whom Plato called the "image of eros" died in the arms of a famous courtesan Timandra, mother of the equally famous Corinthian Laida. Of the ten people present at the symposium, only two were conscious homosexuals: the host Agathon and his companion Pausanias. As for Socrates, he was presented there as paragon of abstinence, even though he had had too much to drink, and even though he was provoked shamelessly, because in any relationship, what was important was the mind and not the instincts. It seems that pederasty rarely turned into homosexuality. This male companionship was usually limited to teen-age. Moreover, the phenomenon was restricted after the 4th century, when the various presentations on pottery show the great majority of couples to be heterosexual. But let us leave the private life of the Athenians and talk about another social presence in the Polis, that of the slaves.

In order to expand their businesses, metoici bought ever more slaves. Thus a third group of inhabitants of Athens was created: people who had few hopes of improving either their own lot, that of their children or of their children's children. In Attica, slavery had begun in the mythical time of the Pelasgians. The construction workers brought in from elsewhere to build the first Athenian walls annoyed the women and children of the local people at the well from which they all drew water, and for this reason, the angry Athenians took them prisoner and began to use them as servants. According to Plato, true slaves had to be foreigners, mainly prisoners of war; he recommended that his fellow citizens avoid buying enslaved Greeks from other regions. The slave trade flourished in ancient Greece and we wonder how a wise man like Aristotle can refer to these unfortunate creatures as being like wild animals.

The largest slave market in Attica was in Sounion, obviously for the needs of the mines in Lavrion. The slaves who were bought and became metallevomenoi (mine workers) were the most unlucky because few of them lived very long, due to the hard work and appalling conditions. To this day, the Greek word ekmetallefsi means exploitation. Family slaves had a much better fate, even though they too were considered to be a type of property.

When someone bought a slave and took him home, the lady of the house made him sit at the family hearth and the other members of the family sprinkled him with nuts, giving him a name. From that moment on, the slave was an inseparable member of the family and had to participate in sacred rituals. If he had children, they belonged to the family and when he died, they buried him in the family grave. He had no rights, apart from the possibility of appealing to the altar in the Agora, and to request sanctuary if his life was unbearable. But he had to prove his case.

No Athenian citizen or metoicos considered himself to be worthy of respect without a few slaves. It is believed that every home had an average of about 10 slaves, who looked after the household tasks and also accompanied their masters in their public appearances. In wartime, slaves followed on foot, carrying their master's weapons or holding slingshots. In the event that a slave was educated, he served as a teacher of the young people of the family, passing on his knowledge to them and accompanying them to the higher schools and gymnasia. Information has come down to us that quite a few slaves were given their freedom, promoting them to the group of freemen, but the bonds with the family always remained very strong.

Looking at the various inhabitants of Athens, we are often surprised by their way of life and by their values which are frequently incomprehensible to people living today. But we have an enormous obligation to all of them for their contribution to the heritage they left behind: to the wealthy for the mind, to the workers for the art, to the women for maintaining the family, to the slaves for the endless free and creative hours enjoyed by their masters. Pragmatists and poets, merchants and philosophers, warriors and peacemakers, the ancient Athenians cultivated clear thought with their minds which, with boldness of inspiration and freedom of expression, made them the epitome of their age, and the founders of Western civilisation.

To learn more about Athens, the Greek Islands and the rest of Greece take a look at the useful Athens Guide and Greece Guide.

Anti Paxos and Its Renowned Beaches - Greece

Just south of Paxos, connected by a 2-kilometer channel, is the smaller and scarcely populated Anti Paxos, which can be described accurately as a little slice of paradise.

Instead of people, it seems like there are more vineyards, fruit orchards, wild flowers and olive groves on this tiny island, which is only slightly more than 5 square kilometers in size. Anti Paxos has become the place where inhabitants from Paxos build their summer homes. Perhaps, it is the serenity, the isolation and the beautiful landscape of Anti Paxos that attracted them.

Nevertheless, this Greek isle is also famous for two attractions, which are the beaches of Vrika and Voutoumi, considered to be some of the best in the country mainly because of their water's mesmerizing colors. On their shallow parts, the gorgeous aquamarine hue dazzles your eyes. And on their deeper end, the crisp indigo color comes out to play with the sun.

You can find the sandy beach of Vrikia on the northern tip of the island. It is a perfect beach for swimming, sunbathing and snorkeling. If you want to grab a bite after a whole day of fun in Vrikia, you can select one of the two tavernas on the beach. Here, you can try out some of the local dishes, and complement your dining with the Anti Paxos wine. And if you get the chance to taste this special wine, grab it! Anti Paxos wine is produced in the local vineyards on the island and is rarely sold in other parts of Greece.

Compared to Vrikia, Voutoumi Beach looks initially pebbly, but when you go below the water, your feet will be welcomed by its soft sand. This sandy stretch also has two tavernas. The first is located just on the beach, and the second, which is called Bella Vista Taverna, is nestled above it. Although you need to climb 200 steps to reach Bella, it is well worth it as it offers, arguably, the most incredible panorama of Paxos. There are of course, other less accessible beaches and hidden coves around the island that is waiting to be explored. You can reach them either by hiking designated pathways or taking a hired boat.

Walking around the small island Anti Paxos is real treat. While doing so, you will get the chance to enjoy its scenic spots like the small harbor of Agrapidia, which provides easy access to boats bringing in people and supplies. You will also have the chance to wander around fruit orchards and charming villages especially Vigla.

Most of the people that visit this small island are day trippers. From the town of Gaios, you can get a taxi boat to take you all the way to Anti Paxos. This boat service runs every hour and the journey takes about 15 to 20 minutes. The ride is a great experience in itself as you will cruising through the wonderful ocean scenery - a combination of clear turquoise sea, and the towering rock formations. You may even get to cruise around the narrow straits between Mongonisi and Kalkionisi, isles. Although Gaios may be the most popular departure spot to Anti Paxos, there are also taxi boats that run from the towns of Loggos, Lakka and Mongonisi. TRANSFORMING THE WAY WE TRAVEL

Greece heads to the polls under pall of fire tragedy

ATHENS (AFP) — Greece held general elections Sunday for a new parliament in what was expected to be a close call for Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' conservatives in the aftermath of a national fire tragedy.

After one of the briefest electoral campaigns in decades that lasted only a month, pollsters anticipated a neck-and-neck race between the ruling New Democracy party and the opposition Pasok socialists.

For although the ND party led by Karamanlis carried a slim lead into Sunday's decider, an unusually high number of undecided voters and general alienation over the forest fires that killed over 60 people in August make this election too close to call.

"The fires had a very serious effect on the electoral campaign, changing both the electorate's psychology and the political agenda and forcing the parties to redraft their strategies," said political analyst George Sefertzis.

"New Democracy seems to be leading, but it is a hollow advantage given the number of undecided voters," he told AFP.

In the Peloponnese peninsula south of Athens, the area worst hit by the fires that ravaged thousands of hectares of forest and agricultural land, voters went to the polls with a heavy heart, but initial expectations of mass abstention in protest seemed unjustified.

"The voter turnout is just like in previous years," the mayor of Zacharo, the main town in the western Peloponnese where surrounding villages were badly mauled by the fires told state television NET.

"We went to vote without enthusiasm...we're obliged to go, but we don't know if anyone will help us once the elections are over," local resident George Thomopoulos told an AFP reporter in the village of Paleochori, where every home lies in ruins.

In the neighbouring village of Makistos, which only 14 homes were left unscathed, residents voted in a metal container.

"We are all in dire straits, but we must vote so that (politicians) don't forget about us," said local villager Stella Lambropoulou.

Polling stations opened across the country at 7:00 am (0400 GMT) and were to close at 7:00 pm, with exit polls expected soon after. Result projections are expected around 10:30 pm (1930 GMT).

Karamanlis, 51, is seeking a second four-year term on the strength of economic reforms that cut the budget deficit and unemployment and kept the economy growing at around four percent of GDP per year.

He called for early elections in mid-August, before the fires struck and with ND leading by under 2.0 percent, for a new mandate to continue reforms which must urgently include an overhaul of Greece's moribund pensions system.

The socialists led by 55-year-old George Papandreou, formerly foreign minister until 2004, have accused the prime minister of failing to protect Greece from the fires and of neglecting promises to combat corruption.

Both parties are desperate to garner at least 42 percent of the vote, a necessary condition for an outright majority under a more proportional electoral law taking effect for the first time in this poll.

Nearly 10 million Greeks are eligible to vote.

The 2007 race is also expected to see a far-right party enter the Greek parliament for the first time in 26 years with LAOS, a small nationalist party widely seen as anti-Semitic and xenophobic.

Voting is compulsory in Greece for citizens aged 18-70, though absence can be excused under special circumstances such as distance of residence. A 2001 constitutional revision did away with sanctions for abstention, which were never enforced in recent years.

Elections were originally scheduled to be held in March 2008.

Greece and Turkey emerging as more sheltered options

By Tim Sharp
Where do you invest when stock markets are choppy? The unlikely answer for Citywire AAA-rated New Star Global Financials manager Guy de Blonay is Turkey, Greece, Brazil and Russia.

While emerging markets are usually regarded as risky markets, Mr de Blonay reckons they are sheltered from problems involving defaults on sub-prime loans in the United States that have damaged banks in many developed markets.

Mr de Blonay said: "Our best performance is coming from parts of the world with no sub-prime exposure. I am seeing good growth from Greece which has a long-term growth cycle, and peripheral markets like Russia, Montenegro and Serbia."

He had recently increased his exposure to National Bank of Greece and Bank of Cyprus. "Cyprus is a favourable market for Russians to do business in. Brazil is also interesting and its economy is booming. Turkey is also cheap for an emerging market and while the Chinese market has exposure to sub-prime, it is a huge market and has a life of its own." He adds that investors might retain confidence in the banking and wider financial sectors once companies announce their financial results for the third quarter of the year.

This weekend was full of small frustrations

This weekend was full of small frustrations, but I learned some good lessons and added to my understanding of blogging tools substantially.

The first conclusion -- after a string of tests that kept me at the keyboard until well past midnight last night -- is that Radio was a great choice in terms of "power" features at a symbolic price, but totally unworkable for someone who wants to access the blog from any computer with an Internet hookup.

Radio resides on your "main" machine, and you have to return to it if you want to post. "Remote" posting by e-mail is theoretical. All your posts sit in the e-mail account waiting for you to return to the "main" machine, fire up Radio, and let it download the haul and publish it on the blog. What happens if you're in Greenland for the weekend? Or for the month?

I must admit my move from Blogger/Blog*Spot to Radio was rather impulsive... but, at least, that gave me a chance to analyze things in greater detail and "see the light..." (until next night).

Radio will thus be terminated soon. One of Sphaera's priorities is to report in detail on the upcoming trial of the 17 November bloody terrorists. The trial begins on March 3, only a week from tomorrow. Therefore, the migration has to be swift and send Sphaera to a stable, flexible platform.

The weekend was thus consumed almost exclusively in comparing blog tools and hosting alternatives. The next step (hurrah!) is to power Sphaera, under its own domain name, with Pmachine and host it on Pmachine Hosting.

So, onward Sphaera soldiers, and glory is ours...!!!

PS: But I'll miss Radio's news aggregator...

US to Move Troops to Turkey Under Tentative Deal

US to Move Troops to Turkey Under Tentative Deal.

This is slow and painful, but I think both the U.S. and Turko-land are condemned to live together -- and this is the rare case where I'm going to say the U.S. deserves entirely its "partner" in arms. What remains to be seen is what is the U.S. proposal of controlling the Turko intention of slaughtering the Kurds and grabbing northern Iraq's oil wells. Would American troops point their guns at their "friends and allies?"-- because it would take some muscle to stop these vandals...

I was reading in yesterday's Kathimerini daily that Greece

I was reading in yesterday's Kathimerini daily that Greece is (again) last on the list of preferred tourist destinations for EU visitors. Spain, France, and Italy take the bulk of the tourists, with Britain a distant fourth. Greece fails to win a respectable niche entirely and hovers at the bottom of the ladder, as always....

When you think that tourism is this country's single most important euro/foreign exchange earner, you'd think that the government would be 24/365 at it. But, hardly. The so-called Greek Tourist Organization (EOT) is a riddled repository of political appointees that suck up money for doing very little. Tourist infrastucture is decayed and without planning. Advertising Greece abroad is next to non-existent. Government-sponsored incentives are nil. Add to this the traditional dislike of the Greeks of offering courteous, organized service and you get the picture...

One of the most glaring examples of how Greece shoots herself in the foot (if not in the head) over tourism is the state of the Greek Aegean islands. These "jewels," abandoned during the winter, come to (relative) life during the summer, but only to receive largely cheapskate visitors arriving in charter flights or braving the waves in boats most of which are 30 years old or older (some improvement is occuring in this sector thanks to EU-directed deregulation).

With the exception of a handful of larger islands, like Rhodos and Kos, hospitality facilities are crummy and expensive. The islanders, having only a couple of months of lucrative trade, leave no opportunity to fleece go unexploited. Last summer, with the effects of September 11 biting deep, the situation was almost out of control, with prices going through the roof despite paltry demand. (This is another uniquely Greek phenomenon: when demand falls, prices rise.)

Some years ago I had stopped at a little village in Austria, somewhere near the Swiss border. It was late by central European standards and eating a meal looked less than probable. I stopped at a small restaurant. The last patrons were leaving. But the waitress was very polite (still wearing a VERY clean apron after a full day's work) and said I could certainly have something to eat, but pardon the cook for being unable to offer the whole menue. With the place practically closed, I was served a juicy steak with French fries and a side of onion salad, but, most importantly, the whole exercise was carried out with the smile on the part of the waitress.

After the meal (it was nearly midnight) I even found a private home that rented rooms to tourists -- and, again, I was received with a smile and led to a loft with a big double bed with crisp white sheets and a SPARKLING clean bathroom. Sheer bliss.

Sadly, I bet there isn't a Greek in Greece, involved in the "tourist industry," who can even contemplate this level of simple, yet enormously effective, service....

Athens' lack of progress concerns IOC; venues, security behind schedule

It all evolves with mathematical precision:

Speaking at a news conference after an IOC executive board meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, [IOC chairman Jacques] Rogge delivered a warning to the Greeks similar to one his predecessor, Juan Antonio Samaranch, issued in April 2000. Samaranch said Athens' Olympic organization was the worst he had seen in 20 years as IOC president [Italics mine].

Was there any doubt from the beginning? Did the IOC gang truly believe that Dodo Yodo Yianna's Cretan eyes alone (and a few million dollars in party money from her husband) could actually ensure that this huge business of the "games" could be organized by a country with the lengthiest tradition of untold disarray, miserable bureaucracy, and a battalion of professional malingerers and thieves at the wheel?

Rogge and Denis Oswald, head of the IOC commission overseeing preparations for the Games, cited three areas of specific concern:

The government has yet to sign a contract for security equipment.

A total renovation of Athens' main soccer venue is far from under way.

Work at several other sports venues is far enough behind to jeopardize planned test events at those sites and the amenities at the venues for the Olympics.

While the security contract is the single biggest ticket item (estimated to approach $1 billion / $1 billion, and not just $600 million) of the whole mess to be in imminent danger, the overall picture of "Olympic" construction is even scarier. Local news is abuzz with horror stories of collapsing highways and substandard public works, most of which took 10 and 20 years to "finish." Building for the Athens 2004 Fiasco is mostly in the hands of the same contractors presently seeing their handiwork elsewhere implode and disintegrate due to poor workmanship, cutting corners, bad engineering, and deep-pocket corruption. Who can ensure that "Olympic works" being built infinitely more presing time frames -- literally on the fly --with a swarm of foreign unskilled labor, won't suffer the same or even worse fate? A big, big question of quality assurance and pure safety of the facilities...

Oswald said delays at other unspecified construction sites may cause eight test events to be run at non-Olympic venues.

The IOC also is concerned that some roads may not be finished, which will have significant impact on plans to reduce the notorious Athens traffic during the Olympics.

Oswald nearly had a heart attack when, during a recent visit, he hopped in a car and headed for venues "under construction" without Dodo Yodo in tow. He saw holes in the ground (full of mud waters), he saw a sprinkling of mainly Albanian and Asian workers idling in the rain, he saw a few earth movers with engines off, and returned to his hotel in "a state of fury." There must be something VERY big that kept him from choking Dodo Yodo, Venizelos, and the rest of the sorry Greek troupe...

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