Extended visiting hours for museums and archaeological sites

Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Yeroulanos announced new extended visiting hoursof a number of museums and archeological sites in Greece on May 18.
The ministry said that the list will be further enriched in the future weeks, depending on the availability of staff.
The list includes some of the most popular sites and museums in Greece such as the Acropolis of Athens – Archaeological Site, which will be open from 8.00-19.00, all year round; the Thessaloniki Museum of Byzantine Culture; the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki; the Archaeological Site of Philippi; the Archeological Museum and site of Mycenae; the Archeological Museum and site of Epidaurus; the Archaeological site of Mystras; the Archeological site and Museum of Afaia, Aegina; the Archeological Museum of Messenia; the Archeological site of Ancient Messene; the Catacombs on Milos island; the Herakleion Archeological Museum; the Archeological site of Knossos and the Spinalonga island on Crete.
The list also includes the Archaeological Museum of Drama; the Church of Panagia Kosmosoteira (Our Lady, Saviour of the World), in Ferres; the Grevena Archaeological Collection; the Museum of Asian Art, Corfu; the Archaeological Collection of Arta; the Byzantine Museum of Ioannina; the Ioannina Treasury; the Fortress of Ioannina; the Igoumenitsa Archaeological Museum; the Nekromanteion of Acheron; the Athanasakeion Archaeological Museum in Volos; the Archeological site of Nea Aghialos, Magnesia; the Byzantine Museum of Fthiotida at Ypati; the Monastery of Osios Loukas; the Corinth Archeological Museum.
Ministry of Culture & Tourism:  Brief Guides to Archaeological Museums in Greece Part I & Part II; YouTube: Culture in Greece [VIDEO] [Photo 3: The Nekromanteion of Acheron – Oracle of the Dead]
(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)

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Christmas in Greece

Traditionally, the Christmas holiday period in Greece lasts 12 days, until January 6, which marks the celebration of the Feast of the Holy Theophany (Epiphany).
There are many customs associated with the Christmas holidays, some of which are relatively recent, “imported” from other parts of the world (like eating turkey on Christmas day and decorating the Christmas tree).
The modern Christmas tree entered Greece in the luggage of the country’s first king, Otto of Greece, who ascended to the throne in 1833 – yet, the tree did not become popular until the 1940s.
In the past, Greeks decorated small Christmas boats in honour of St. Nicholas. Today, they are increasingly choosing to decorate boats, instead of trees, reviving this age-old Christmas tradition. Undoubtedly, celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Greece is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Xmas: A Word of Greek Origin
Where did “Xmas” come from? Some transliterations of Greek spell Christos as “Xristos.” The “X” stood in for the first letter of the word Christ (ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ).
“Xmas” has been used for hundreds of years in religious writing, where the X represents the Greek letter X (chi). While in modern times Xmas is regarded as a kind of slang, it was originally considered to be a perfectly respectful.
Christmas (“Χριστούγεννα”), the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus is one of the most joyful days of the Greek Orthodox Church.
Christmas Elves
Greece’s hobgoblins are called “kallikántzari,” friendly but troublesome little creatures which look like elves. Kallikantzari live deep down inside the earth and come to surface only during the 12-day period from Christmas until Epiphany. While on the earth’s surface, they love to hide in houses, slipping down chimneys and frightening people in various ways.
Throughout Greece, there are customs and numerous rituals performed to keep these hobgoblins away. In Epirus, residents place twelve spindles in front of the fireplace to prevent the kalikantzari from climbing down the chimney.
On Christmas Eve, in the town of Grevena, people place a large log in the corner of the house and set it alight. As the fire burns, lasting until the Feast of the Epiphany, it protects the family from the naughty kalikantzari. On the island of Cephalonia, women burn incense at the front door of their houses making the sign of the cross in order to repel these undesirable “guests.”
The “kallikántzari” disappear on the day of Epiphany when all the waters are blessed, and they return to the earth’s core.
Sweets & Treats
Traditional culinary delights symbolise good luck in the New Year and adorn the white-clothed tables. “Melomakarona” (honey cookies) and “kourabiedes” (sugar cookies with almonds) are the most characteristic. In the past, melomakarona were made exclusively for Christmas, while kourabiedes were prepared for the New Year.
Today, this distinction is not observed anymore and both melomakarona and kourabiedes are prepared and consumed throughout the festive season.
Another traditional custom that dates back to the Byzantine times is the slicing of the Vassilopita (St.Basil’s pie or New Year Cake). The person who finds the hidden coin in his/her slice of the cake, is considered to be lucky for the rest of the year.
At the meal table there is also a special decorated round loaf called “Vasilopsomo” or St. Basil’s bread -which is really identical in form to the “Christopsomo” or “Christ bread” eaten on Christmas Day – and the “Photitsa” or “Lights’ bread” that is eaten on Epiphany.
“Kalanda” or Carols
The singing of Christmas carols (or kalanda, in Greek) is a custom which is preserved in its entirety to this day. On Christmas and New Year Eve, children go from house to house in groups of two or more singing the carols, accompanied usually by the sounds of the musical instrument “triangle,” but also guitars, accordions, lyres and harmonicas.
Until some time ago, carollers were rewarded with pastries but nowadays they are usually given money. Listen to some sound extracts with Greek Christmas carols (Kalanda) from Ikaria Island. Things to Do, Places to Go…. 
A Christmas spirit is taking over the squares and streets of the country’s major cities, as local authorities organise a variety of events and festivities, culminating with New Year’s Eve countdown parties in central squares.
Festivities in Athens revolve around Syntagma Square and its Christmas tree, with daily concerts throughout the season, while the National Garden turns into storybook Magical Forest for children.
Thessaloniki runs the country’s biggest Christmas village: the Helexpo pavilions are hosting Christmas Magic City, featuring shows, workshops and a big Christmas market.
The north-western city of Kastoria celebrates with “ragoutsaria,” the local carnival that starts on New Year’s Day, with every neighbourhood forming a carnival group, complete with brass band. In Agios Nikolaos, Crete, the New Year will come from the sea, with the New Year’s Eve party at the port, and Santa arriving on a boat.
And Holiday Performances
Venues and clubs participate in the Christmas spirit with special holiday performances.
The National Opera’s Christmas rich programme includes the Snow Queen ballet and Hansel and Gretel opera for children.
The Athens Concert Hall hosts the Bolshoi Theatre Academy on December 22-29, in a much-awaited performance of the Nutcracker, and the London Community Gospel Choir on December 27-28.
The recently inaugurated Onassis Cultural Centre presents Jean-Baptiste Thiérrée and Victoria Chaplin in their phantasmagoric yet poetic Invisible Circus, on December 28-30 and January 1-2.
At the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation, on December 27 & 28, the Sounds of Christmas Go Baroque: a festive concert featuring Baroque Concertos.
(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)

Alternative Tourism in Greece

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)       Dancing at the Waterfalls
The city of Edessa has launched an alternative tourist campaign by commissioning the Greek painter Giorgos Stathopoulos to produce a work of art which will be projected at nights at the city’s famous waterfalls. “We do not want to be just another tourist destination; we wish to offer our visitors such an experience that would render Edessa unforgettable and will bring them back to the city” said mayor Yiannis Sontras. His idea was to spend money on acquiring the rights to use the painting as the city’s symbol, instead of producing conventional tourist brochures. National Tourism Organisation of Greece: Greece’s tourist campaign
EDEN Awards
A number of projects aiming to promote alternative tourism opportunities in Greece has been funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Amongst these are projects related to the restoration of medieval castles, the construction of trekking routes and agro-tourism complexes. The region of Grevena – in northern Greece – won one of the 20 “European Destination of Excellence” EDEN awards last year at the European Annual Tourism Forum, launched by the European Commission to promote the development of alternative tourism, while the region of Florina won in 2007 an EDEN award as one of the “Best Emerging European Rural Destinations of Excellence.”
Green Passport
The “Green Passport Campaign” launched by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) aims at raising tourists’ awareness of their potential to contribute to sustainable development by making responsible holiday choices. To assist them, an online guide has been produced offering tourists useful tips on how to minimize the impact of their journeys on the environment. The guide will soon be available in Greek as the Hellenic Society for the Protection of the Environment and Cultural Heritage has undertaken its translation, showing that Greece is following a worldwide trend of growing ‘green tourism’ at rates that treble those of conventional mass tourism.   

Christmas in Greece

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  Traditionally the “Christmas holiday period” in Greece lasts 12 days, until January 6 (Epiphany). There are many customs associated with the Christmas holidays, some of which are relatively recent, “imported” from other parts of the world (like eating turkey on Christmas day, decorating the Christmas tree). Greeks are increasingly choosing to decorate small Christmas boats (see picture) instead of trees, which are widely considered an imported custom. The modern Christmas tree entered Greece in the luggage of the country’s first king, Otto of Bavaria, who ascended to the throne in 1833 but the tree did not become popular before the 1940s.Still, Christmas in Greece maintains, in many respects, its originality, particularly in rural areas.
Christmas: A Word Of Greek Origin
Where did “Xmas” come from? Some transliterations of Greek spell Christos as Xristos. The “X” stood in for the first letter of the word Christ (ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ). “Xmas” has been used for hundreds of years in religious writing, where the X represents the Greek letter X (chi). While in modern times Xmas is regarded as a kind of slang, it was originally considered to be a perfectly respectful abbreviation, especially as it included a form of the cross in the shape of the “X”. Christmas (“Χριστούγεννα”), the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus is one of the most joyful days of the Greek Orthodox Church.
Christmas Sweets
In the past, the honey cookies (melomakarona) were made exclusively for Christmas, while sugar cookies, or kourabiedes, were prepared for the New Year. Today, though, this distinction is not observed anymore and both melomakarona and kourabiedes are prepared and consumed throughout the festive season. Another traditional custom that dates back to the Byzantine times is the slicing of the Vassilopita (Basil’s cake or New Year Cake). The person who finds the hidden coin in his/her slice of the cake, is considered to be blessed for the rest of the year.
Christmas Carols
The singing of Christmas carols (or kalanda, in Greek) is a custom which is preserved in its entirety to this day. On Christmas and New Year Eve children go from house to house in groups of two or more singing the carols, accompanied usually by the sounds of the triangle, but also of guitars, accordions, lyres or harmonicas. Until some time ago they were rewarded with pastries but nowadays they are usually given money. Listen to some sound extracts with Greek Christmas carols (Kalanda) from different parts of Greece. Thrace & Pontus & Epirus & Ikaria Island
Christmas Elves
Kalikantzari are little creatures that live deep down inside the earth and together with the legends of Greece, play an important part in the customs and traditions of this holiday. From Christmas until the Feast of the Epiphany, residents in Epirus place twelve spindles in front of the fireplace so that the kalikantzari see them and do not climb down the chimney. On Christmas Eve, in the town of Grevena, the followers place a large log in the corner of the house and set it alight. As the fire burns, lasting until the Feast of the Epiphany, it protects the family from the kalikantzari.

Greek NASA’s Scientist Honored

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)    On August 8, the Prefecture of Grevena will honour Thanasis Economou, a scientist whose name is linked with most of NASA’s 50 years if history. Born in Grevena Greece, Economou left the country in the early years after the WWII. In 1964, he finished his studies in nuclear physics at Charles University in Prague and in the same year, he joined the Laboratory for Astrophysics and Space Research at the University of Chicago, which he never left. Economou started working for NASA again in 1964, its youngest scientist at the time. As early as in 1966, he contributed to NASA’s missions to the Moon (1966-1968 ) and in subsequent endeavours such as NASA’s Apollo program (1961-1975). Throughout his career, he has developed tools and techniques that enabled several of NASA’s famous missions to be carried out successfully, such as the latest Mars Pathfinder mission (1993-1997). Today, Economou is pleased with his achievements and often says that when people ask him about the most impressive image of space, the answer he gives back is the Earth, adding that this valuable commodity that is called ‘environment’ is in need of our protection and respect.

Γίγαντες στη Μηλία Γρεβενών

Της Γιώτας Μυρτσιώτη

ΘΕΣΣΑΛΟΝΙΚΗ. Στον παγκόσμιο χάρτη της παλαιοντολογίας, η Μηλιά Γρεβενών για τον επιστημονικό κόσμο αποτελεί όχι μόνο ένα από τα σημαντικότερα κέντρα, αλλά ένα από τα πιο «επικίνδυνα τοπία». Στην περιοχή αυτή πριν από 2,5 – 3 εκατομμύρια χρόνια κυκλοφορούσαν τα πιο επικίνδυνα θηρία: ελέφαντες -mammut borsoni- ύψους 3,5 μέτρων, βάρους 6 τόνων και με τους μεγαλύτερους χαυλιόδοντες (μήκους πέντε μέτρων) στον κόσμο, μαχαιρόδοντες (τεράστια αιλουροειδή), αρκούδες, μαστόδοντες (anancus), ρινόκεροι, τάπιροι (συγγενείς των ρινόκερων με κολοβή προβοσκίδα), γαζέλες, ιππάρια (μικρόσωμα άλογα με τρία δάχτυλα στα πόδια τους), ελάφια, αγριόχοιροι και άλλα επικίνδυνα ζώα. Continue reading