Every year the Greeka site has a photo contest.  I have been tempted to enter but have not because there are so many GREAT photos of Greece in the blogosphere.

Yet some of my photos and some of Karin’s are as good, I think, as this year’s winners.  So, maybe in 2010 . . .

Koufonisia Here is the number one winner in Greeka’s contest.  They won 4 nights on Mykonos.  There are lots of other prises as well.

 

 

 

dolphin This is my favourite of the top twenty because I know how difficult it would be to get this shot.  It is in 9th place.

 

 

Here is the link for all the winners.  Any photos up-loaded to the site will be entered in next year’s contest.  So pick your best and send it in.

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Guest post by my wife, Karin:

A big decision has been in the making over the past few months in our house by the sea. Deliberations going back and forth, with discussions of personal dreams and desires. Which has been fun in a way, because these "meetings" required only my husband and I and usually a couple glasses of ouzo!

It all started last year, in fact, with our 10 day trip to Prague for the Christmas Holidays...and it was Love At First Sight for both of us! When we left, I dragged my feet, cried a few "real" tears, and vowed to come back. Michael, as always, was a bit more quiet about it all, but actually his mind started thinking...slowly at first, but gathering momentum as the year passed. A busy summer came, and fall and winter were before us.

Now as wonderful, lovely, etc as life can be here on this beautiful island of Paros, it has one BIG drawback. When the tourists go home, and the island belongs to the locals again everyone sighs a big sigh of relief. For a couple of months we really enjoy the peace and quiet….the empty roads….the empty beaches. Then reality hits us....when the shops close, restaurants close, friends go back to their "other" homes in various places...and we are suddenly left with what feels like: nothing. OK, the scenery is still to die for, but culturally, it is about a 0 on a scale from 1 - 10! We have no TV (long, technical story – others on the island do) and we can only read just so many books. And how many times can you walk around the island….talking to the sheep?

That is the time a person starts dreaming their dreams...of getting off the island and finding some culture that inspires! But where? As everyone knows, the economy this year sucks so it has to be someplace close to home and not so expensive to get there.

Turkey was an option, as we travelled there last year and thought how much we would enjoy going south, to Bodrum perhaps, and stay a month or two. But somehow that did not appeal as it really is not that much different weather wise to here. (Is it possible to admit that we get tired of sun every day? People who live where it is cold and grey would never say yes to that!) Then, in a flash, we both looked at each other and said, "PRAGUE"! It just sounded and felt SO right.

From Michael again:

So this Thursday, Thanksgiving in the US but nothing here, we are on are way off island until March. I will be keeping up this blog as I find Paros and Greece items to write about—probably about the same frequency as I have the last few months. But even better, Karin will be joining me in writing about our Prague adventures. Those readers who have seen her past photo journalism efforts know they are in for a treat.

Please add this link to your readers, RSS, bookmarks, favorites, whatever you use: http://www.parosparadise.com/CzechMates

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Arachova upper town w mountains Last year in May when we visited the ancient site of Delphi we also spent some time in the town of Arachova, near the Mt. Parnassos ski area.  We enjoyed it and could see it would be a lively place during the ski season.

The report below, lifted directly from Athens News Agency, indicates that it is almost time to go back.

Ski resorts in northern Greece ready for first visitors

Maintenance work in most of the ski resorts in the northern part of the
country has been completed and all the facilities are ready for
visitors, as the first snow has started to fall in those regions.

The Mt Voras (Kaimakcalan) crown in the prefecture of Pella is already
covered with snow and temperature has dropped several degrees below
zero. The ski resort will be in full operation after the maintenance of
the ski lifts is completed.

In Naousa, the "Tria-Pente Pigadia" ski resort is ready for winter
sports lovers, while the first snowflakes are being expected at
Vigla-Pisoderi ski resort in Florina, northwest Greece, which usually
opens by mid November.

Ready for the tourists is Seli in Imathia Prefecture, while the ski
resorts of Vitsi in Kastoria Prefecture and Elatochori in Pieria
Prefecture, as well as Vasilitsa, Lailia and Falakro in the prefectures
of Grevena, Serres and Dramas respectively, are also preparing for the
winter.

Our May 2008 photos of Arachova are at:  http://picasaweb.google.com/ParosShepherd/Arahova?feat=directlink

Our Delphi photos are at:  http://picasaweb.google.com/ParosShepherd/AncientDelphi?feat=directlink

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Wow! I am impressed with Google Maps.  Either they are getting better all the time or I am just discovering some cool features.

In just a few minutes I put together the map below.  It is a customised version of Paros showing a couple of my favourite beaches as well as the private villas that we have for rent.

I am going to have fun highlighting more of Paros’s features.  Please comment with what you think I should show.

Cheers


View Paros Hospitality in a larger map

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OlympicTorch The Olympic Flame is in the news again.  I can not think of anything that is more travelled.  It makes a round of the world every two years for both the Winter Olympics and the Summer Games.

Last Thursday there was a handover ceremony in Athens's Olympic Stadium attended by dignitaries of both Greece and Canada.  The flame is headed to Vancouver, Canada for the 2010 Winter Olympiad—and Paralympics.

The flame reached the stadium after a circuit of Greece starting in ancient Olympia where the lighting ceremony was held last week.  It won’t reach Canada until taking a circuit of the world.

AncientOlympia In 2004 the flame was on Paros but my photos are of backs of heads of the crowd and the feet of the runners.  So here is a dramatic photo of a statue of ancient Olympia during the 2007 wild fires.

Photograph: Petros Giannakouris/AP

chestnuts Being from the west coast of the USA, “Chestnuts roasting by an open fire” was never part of our winter traditions.  So I will never forget our first visit to Germany when we stepped out of a train station and there was an open fire with roasted chestnuts.  I immediately bought some and Karin and I tasted them on the spot.  I spit my bite back out; Karin politely swallowed but did not have another.  We found them dry and bitter.

Now fast forward to this week when a friend shared their harvest of walnuts and chestnuts.  We looked askance at the chestnuts and decided to use them as autumn decoration.  Then a few days later I received a news item from the ANA:  “Annual Chestnut Party begins in Kavala”  This inspired me to do a little research.  I found that they can be prepared any number of ways.  Since it is still too warm for a fire and the barbeque is a hassle, I opted to steam a few of the chestnuts.  Twelve minutes later we dipped them in melted salted butter and gingerly took a nibble.  Eureka! they were quite good.

I also learned the chestnut has a long and noble history.  The tree is considered the tree of Zeus and Alexander the Great planted them during his travels as a substitute for grain.  Many cultures have followed suit as they grow well on mountainous terrain.  So in October many northern Greece communities have Chestnut Festivals.  The one in Kavala is said to consume 5 tons of nuts and 1,000 kilos of wine.  I think that may be an exaggeration on the chestnuts but not the wine.

Photo from Eternally Cool Net

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Last May Karin and I had a great time helping our American friends Al and Ardy with their motor scooter club tour. It was so popular and successful in that inaugural year that they have expanded the program for 2010.

rallylogo The greatest addition is a series of competitive rallies. Called ScooterGiro Cyclades, it is a competitive Time, Speed, Distance road rally, conducted in the spirit and traditions of classical road rallies. Participants will ride three measured distance courses on Paros and three on Naxos. There will be trophies for each island as well for the combined Cyclades Champion.

Visitors can buy a package tour including accommodation and some meals; locals can enter the competition on their home island. Scooter enthusiasts who want to enjoy the Greek islands without competition are welcome as well. For all the details or to contact the organisers see their web site: http://www.scootergiro.com/

This event reinforces my belief that whatever your interest: Do It Better on Paros!

P.S. Al and Ardy are also putting together an Italian ride in June featuring a Vespa factory tour. More Here

This week Karin and I are trying to enhance the stay of two guests who had their plans thrown awry by the ongoing difficulties with Olympic flights. In deciding what to serve for breakfast Karin couldn’t remember what was considered a “Greek breakfast”. So she did what we always do when a question arises: Google It.

It turns out she couldn’t remember because the answer is None. Or as another blog put it: The Greek Non-Breakfast

breakfast The writer there explains that traditionally the Greeks would have a quick cup of something warm like tea and then pack up some cheese, olives and bread before heading off to work. Now we always see the Greeks around a pastry shop between 10 and 11 A.M. The big meal is about 2 P.M. followed by quiet time until 6. At least that is typical on our little island.

So we served the popular favourite: yoghurt, fruit and honey with local, fresh-baked bread and coffee. The Americanised version of a Greek breakfast--except the Greek yoghurt is much richer.

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Ragoussis The new Prime Minister of Greece, George Papandreou, has appointed his “old confident” Yannis Ragoussis as Minister of the Interior—also of Decentralisation and e-Governance, whatever that latter is.

Besides being a local Parian, Ragoussis is better known for his approximate five years as Paros Mayor.  His election threw out a long-term administration and brought in many reforms.  He was quite popular and was known for accomplishing many improvements in island facilities and administration.  Although our new airport and Parikia by-pass road seemed to die during his watch.

Its interesting that he is in charge of decentralisation in a Socialist government.  In my experience leftist governments are strongly the opposite.  Maybe it is political double-speak.  We shall see.

Ragoussis is also described as a senior party member and has served as a minister in former PASOK governments.  I am sure it will serve Paros well to be so well connected.

Hmm, where to go for a Sunday outing today?  Well, friends had told us about a big “hole” in the rocks on the very southern tip of Paros.  This shows on the map as Cape Fanos; there are no roads there.

Tripiti So we parked our scooters at the end of the road to Tripiti Beach then headed across a farmer’s goat pasture and up the hill to the cape.

As we looked back at the beach we saw a group of about eight senior citizens (that’s about all you see around in late September) enjoying the beach and snorkelling.  It looked tempting but we were on a mission so we kept trekking along the goat trail across rough rocks.

CapeFanos We skirted a few high cliffs that had Karin on edge.  He he. Then in the distance we saw what looked like a cave but with sunlight beyond.

Sure enough as we got closer we saw first an indentation in the hillside that turned out to be a big hole.  There were numerous caper bushes growing around the edges but I am sure no one would be interested in picking them.

FanosArch

This photo shows the hole side of the arch that we saw from the westerly shore.  In effect the hole was a cave that caved in.

Its always a joy to discover something new on a Sunday walk.

(Don’t forget you can click on the photos to see them more clearly.)

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Years ago Naoussa was our favourite place to go on a Sunday morning to read the newspaper over a coffee and pastry.  But as it grew more upscale and touristy we went less and less.  It’s often referred to as a Mykonos wannabe for its high prices.  You can count on one hand the number of meals we have had there in nine years.

Now that will change as a friend who has been coming to Naoussa for 30 years introduced us to the Meltemi Taverna.  Its located on the marina pier; just turn left at the bridge.  By the way most of the tavernas as you turn right on the pier have the reputation as tourist traps.  But if you continue to the right around to the old harbour you will find some very good, if high end, restaurants.

I tend to judge a taverna by the quality of its giant beans and its stifado(stew); both were excellent at the Meltemi as was everything else we had.  I can’t comment on the price because I am sure our host got a special Greek price; I know I was shocked at how low the total was for food and drink in Naoussa.

Guinness At a quarter to 8 I started talking about a new holiday that I predict will be as big as St. Patrick’s day all over the world.  September 24 is Arthur’s Day and 2009 is the 250th Anniversary of the founding of the Guinness Brewery in Dublin, Ireland.  World wide at 17:59 GMT people raised a glass of the dark stuff in a toast to founder, Arthur Guinness.  All heads certainly turned when we did the same in the middle of a traditional Greek taverna.  I don’t know what the proprietor thought of me bringing in my own black cans.  Guinness does go well with Greek food but we can only get draft in few places during high season, so the widget cans have to do when we want to reminisce about Ireland.

P.S.   I had a left over can so the next night I made a Guinness and maple syrup sauce to glaze salmon steaks.  It was quite good but the best part was it only took 1/4 of the can which left the rest for the cook.

Australia has not been high on my list of places to visit but I often hear and see good things about the people of Sydney.  Here is an example.

“To get people excited about the Sydney International Food Festival and celebrate international food, national flags of participating countries were recreated using popular local foods of each nation.”

                    Greecefood

More eatable flags at Toxel.com

GreekFlag

Clan of the Cave Bears in real life!  American author Jean Auel made a career and several novels about the emergence of modern humans from the clash with Neanderthal types in prehistoric times—or is that still going on.

meteora Anyway Greece has now opened to the public one of the sites where these events actually happened:  Theopetra Cave in Trikala prefecture near the famous Meteora.  This site, well known in archaeological circles, has been excavated since 1987.  Artefacts have been found dating from between 50,000 BC and 3,000 BC.  They include stone tools from the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic, pottery from the Neolithic, plants and seeds that indicate diet as well as skeletons from 15,000, 9,000 and 8,000 BC.  Rich diggings by anyone’s standards.

The cave has a large entrance that opens to a large rectangular chamber of 500 sq.mtrs (5,000 sq.ft.).  It is the only known site that contains evidence of two major cultural transitions:  the replacement of Neanderthals by Homo sapiens and the change from hunter-gathering to farming.

So Greece is not only the birthplace of democracy and western civilization; it is also a home town of humans.  Wouldn’t you like to attend a family reunion here?

Facts from ANA

Yesterday was a quiet day; a little on the warm side and humid.  Karin wanted to get out and do something but riding our scooters on the asphalt would be hot during the day.  So we decided to have an early dinner and then in the evening ride over to Prodromos, a small village that I had only passed by in the last eight years on the island.

Welcome When we turned off the highway and into the main village square we discovered a sound system and chairs being set up for a concert that evening.  So we decided to kill some time and wait the hour or so before the music started to see if we wanted to stay.  There is a local group that we don’t particularly care for, but a friend had told us they liked this one. 

A Greek village welcome

To start we walked through the narrow footpaths—no cars allowed—admiring the details of the old, traditional Greek village.  Around one corner we were suddenly looking through a large glass window at an open hearth oven as a man and woman were loading several pots of various size and shapes into it.  Karin used a little Greeklish to discover that this was a community oven that would now be sealed for 12 hours until Sunday morning.  The main thing being cooked was Revithia, a bean soup, that is best when baked in this traditional method.

Oven

Well used oven

When we finished wandering the streets it was dark so we headed back to the main square and went into the one village taverna for an ouzo.  Just as we finished we heard the music starting so quickly grabbed the free suma and nuts on offer and sat down.  We were surprised to see not only a friend from Aliki who plays the drums, Yannis Paroussis, but also another friend and hotel owner, Ioannis Xydis.  We knew he was an ex-professional singer but had previously only heard about his impromptu performances after the fact.  So this was to be our first time hearing him perform.

Yannis

Ioannis Xydis in Prodromos

We were shocked.  He is very good!  I won’t give a concert review but this group of about 5 musicians and another 5 singers put on a fantastic show full of Greek themed music without much of the heavy folk music that we usually hear.  The audience was really into it and several gave impromptu dances which were also good.

Dancing

Feeling the music

This group is good enough to be performing at a night club with a cover charge and expensive drinks.  Here we were in a pleasant village square full of people who knew each other and served free drinks and snacks.  Thank you Paros.

I have not written or commented about the wild fires in Greece because the TV cameras on the international news—and non-stop on Greek TV—have shown so much.  Also they did not materially affect visitors or travel.

That changed this morning when we noticed a tall column of dark smoke beyond our hill.  The strong North wind was blowing it out to sea before it came our way.  Karin had plans to visit our friends who lived on the hillside so she hopped on her scooter and headed out to take a look.

She managed to capture some of the drama with her camera.  The fire was above the Glifa beach, about 5 kms from our home.

smoke Approaching the area.

Step1 At first the fire was far away.

Step2 But in just a few minutes it jumped up the hill.

Close Getting close; time to leave.

Helio Helicopter to rescue.  We saw two helicopters and four airplanes dumping water.

As far as we know there was no homes burned or injuries on Paros from this fire that lasted a couple hours.  Later as Karin was watching the water planes refill from our friends hillside terrace she commented what a dangerous job for the pilots.

This afternoon we read in the news that sure enough a water plane pilot was killed in an accident this same morning off of Cephalonia while fighting a fire there.  We owe more than we can ever repay to fire fighters.

BeachRepairOne can tell where our Piso Aliki beach at the south end of Paros ranks in the scheme of things when it is August before the maintenance crews and their equipment arrive.

Though I must say that the village street cleaners do clean it regularly starting in May.

We are not sure what the purpose of this machine is but there does seem to be more sand and less rock above the water line than before.

ClubMedPerhaps they were getting ready for the visit of the Club Med ship.  Early Wednesday morning Karin was sitting on our veranda reading.  Then she went inside to prepare her breakfast.  When she came back out to eat it she was surprised by this view.

If she hadn’t seen it in previous years she would have thought it was plunked down by a time machine as there was no sight or sound beforehand.  Again it looms much larger than the photo indicates.

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AntiParosConcertEarlyYesterday August 6th conflicted with the full moon.  I say conflicted because the annual festival for our village of Aliki is held on 6 August; a busy night of music, dancing, food, drink and people watching.  But Karin and I decided that this year we would rather go the Full Moon celebration on Antiparos.
The above photo is before the group “L’anima”  arrived.

We were glad we did; this was one of the best string quartets that we have heard in years of attending concerts in three countries.  There was no program so I can’t tell you about the group or the music they played other than it was obviously very well done.  It seemed their instruments had better tone than others that I have heard.  Their web page


AntiparosConcertLate This photo is of the moon rising over the south end of Paros.  Why is it always smaller in photos then in real life?

The location and atmosphere might have had something to do with the enjoyment of the music.  Although I was quite annoyed on a few occasions when some of the crowd to my left and rear, my good ear side, thought it was an audience participation event and proceeded to hum to familiar tunes.  Believe me, their voices were not in good tone.

Not only was this high quality concert free but the committee served free wine—out of glass bottles, not the typical plastic jug.  Then to top it off when we went to the Nautica Cafe to have an ouzo while waiting for the ferry home they served an antipasto plate with it.  This used to be traditional but lately the cafes and bars have cut costs by serving nuts or nothing.

My conclusion:  Everyone who visits Paros should make a jaunt to Antiparos.

I have just been playing with a cool web site which has actually been of value to me during this busy time of meeting arriving guests.

MarineTraffic.com tracks a great many sea-going vessels around the world, including all of the Greek island ferries.

Features include:

Location and speed of ships

Live web cams of ports, showing ships in sight

Photo gallery of ships, yachts and the like

Ability to search boats by name

Browse around; its fun. 

Rodanthi

Since I live about 20 minutes from the ferry port I use it to make sure the ferry has left its previous port.  The only drawback is the ferry speeds are given in knots while the Google map is scaled in miles and kilometres.

The photo is of the Rodanthi which I am meeting about 4 A.M. tomorrow.  When I first came to Paros 9 years ago this was a standard ferry.  Now it is one of only two or three old and slow boats still in service.  Very hard to judge it’s arrival time.

Hmm, maybe this is the excuse I have been looking for to buy a Blackberry, Palm or what have you to track the boats live from the port as well as at home.

Shakespeare Last night we went into Parikia for a mixture of culture and school play.  As an extension to their English language studies a group of young people, with the help of their teacher, of course, presented a series of Shakespeare excerpts.  There were sonnets and parts of plays around the theme, The Ages of Women.

The leads all did a credible job but it was obvious that some of the supporting cast was forcibly recruited.  Over all the costuming, music and presentation were well done which made it an enjoyable show.  The Elizabethan-style juggler stole the show, however.

Juggler In the advance publicity one of the players commented that as they rehearsed they understood the meanings of the English words and phrases but when they read a Greek language translation it lost meaning because of the different style of expression between Greek and English.  This cultural difference is something we experience every day.

As usual we capped off the experience with a gelato from Gelato Sulla Luna.  The pistachio was heavenly; made on the premises.  Do visit Denise there and say hello from Michael of Aliki.

1 July seems to be a common date for new laws to take effect.  Here is a new one for Greece: 

A smoking ban went into effect throughout Greece on Wednesday,

prohibiting smoking in all enclosed spaces and public services.

The law also prohibits the sale of tobacco to and by minors, the use of tobacco products in all enclosed public spaces, airports, public transport stations and on public transport means, snack shops, etc.

I first saw something last winter about this law but had not paid attention thinking that there would be more in the news.  I have not seen anything until now.  To me that indicates that enforcement will be quite lax, as it usually is on most regulations in Greece.

Maracaibo Bar Also I do not see it making much difference on the islands.  I was here two years before I ate inside an enclosed restaurant—that was during our first winter, I admit.

Photo is of your typical smoking section on Paros.

So we will see if the passing of new laws spoils our Greek island paradise.

Facts courtesy of ANA.

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The Athens Urban Transport Organisation, OASA, announced a new “tourist ticket”:  three days of unlimited travel on all modes of public transport for 15 Euro.

While we personally seldom spend more than 24 hours in the Athens / Piraeus area this sounds like a good deal even for two days.  We find we are hesitant to take unfamiliar buses because they may turn the next corner and go a different direction.  With this ticket you just get off at the next stop and take a different bus—a nice adventure of discovery.

The old one day, all mode ticket only cost about 3 Euro but included only one trip to or from the airport.  So you couldn’t pop into Athens during an airport layover without buying two tickets.

Bus400

This new tourist ticket also includes the tram to Glyfada and Piraeus as well as the Bus 400, which is a hop on, hop off service for the major attractions.

We have found Athens a terrible place to walk due to cars blocking the footpaths.  Now you can take the Metro, or bus, or tram, or train everywhere and don’t need to walk.  Cheers!

Anyone interested in geology, volcanoes, minerals and the like must go to Milos.  Everyone else will find it quite an interesting island with a lot of variety and differences from other Cycladic islands.

Adamas We stayed in the port town of Adamas but found the fishing village of Pollonia more pleasant; it reminded us of our home village of Aliki. 

 

 

 

RomanTheatreOther pleasant places were Plaka and Tripiti which overlooked a Roman theatre which overlooked an ancient port.

I won’t post photos here of the two areas that one always sees in articles about Milos, Sarakiniko and Papafragus, but we did go there and enjoyed the experience.

The highlight for me was the Mining Museum and the abandoned sulphur mine (see previous post for photo).  The latter is difficult to find over rough and not clearly mapped roads. (Clues are to keep going straight and watch for signs reading Thiorichia in Greek letters.)

MilosHill If you are into buying property on a Greek island, Milos should have some cheap places left because more than half the island is remote and undeveloped.  A lot of the rest is wind swept with open mines, so you need a tolerance for dust and in places the slight smell of sulphur.

At the abandoned sulphur mine—the workers just up and left one day in 1958 when they found out the owners were bankrupt—I was fascinated by all the volcanic rock and minerals of infinite variety and colour laying everywhere. 

CavesWe were also intrigued that the island has countless caves that were adapted for current use by the inhabitants.  

Among the minerals being actively mined to this present day are bentonite, perlite, kaolin, and baryte.  Look them up, if you want to know more.

 

O!xamos Another highlight of our Milos visit was a meal at the O! Hamo taverna.  We have never seen anything like it in Greece for charm and character.  Then we were pleasantly surprised by friendly, efficient service and to top it off, the food was great.  I strongly advise any island hoppers who are getting tired of the traditional taverna to make a point of discovering this place at the edge of Adamas.  Its a place to write home about!

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My wife, Karin, and I just returned from 6 days on Milos and Sifnos. Hopefully I will write up more about these islands, but here are a few photos to get started.        Click to enlarge.

Firiplaka

The first is Firaplaka on Milos.

 

 

 

 

 

SulphurMineThe second is an abandoned sulphur mine on Milos.

 

 

 

 

 

Vathy

 

This is the village of Vathy on Sifnos.

 

 

 

 

 Kastro

 

The old and new plus ever-young Karin in the ancient village of Kastro on Sifnos.

 

 

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Like really young!  Then the following will appeal to you.  It is an offering from the IOS PASS.

slammer IF YOU MISS IT.....4 SHURE YOU REGRET IT FOREVER. SLAMMER BAR..... THE 1 AND ONLY..... THE MOST FAMOUS BAR IN THE CENTER OF THE VILLAGE. TRY THE REAL SLAMMER AND GET READY TO PARTY.

 

Or how about the epitome of Ios:

faroutbeach-club THE PARTY PLACE AT MYLOPOTAS BEACH. GROOVY....COOL....FUNKY.... NEVER MISS THE WET T-SHIRT CONTEST. FOR SHURE YOU´LL FIND THE BEST LOOKING T-SHIRTS ALL OVER THE WORLD. NO FAR OUT - NO IOS!

In my opinion Ios is for the under 25 crowd to burn them selves out in a few nights and then come to Paros to recuperate.  We have something for everyone—including wild jam-packed beach bars and all night night clubs—but on Paros there is more.  Browse our web site to see what.

P.S.  The Ios Pass is another example of someone being creative to support their Greek island lifestyle.  More ideas here.

What to Monument Valley Arizona and a Greek pop singer have in common?  I don’t know.  Watch this music video and maybe you can tell me, if you understand Greek that is.  This song, Alitissa Psyche, is from Anna Vissi’s latest album, Forbidden.

 

What makes this blog worthy is that Anna Vissi will be including Paros in her concert series this summer.  She opens 29 June in Athens but most other venues and dates are not yet firm; they include Thessaloniki, Sifnos and Santorini.  I am sure they will be posted on her web site:  www.annavissi.net as they become available.

In the mean time enjoy some of her music from Amazon:

A healthy soft drink?  Well, considering that I think red wine is a health food, reader beware.

The Greek island of Chios has recently announced a new soft drink named Mast.  The islanders call mastic, the active ingredient of this new drink, the gift from God.  It already flavours many products, mainly chewing gum, liquors and sweets.  It is also used in many cosmetics for its soothing benefits.

mastic The mastic “Pistacia lentiscus” is an evergreen shrub of the Pistachio family cultivated for its aromatic resin mainly on Chios in the eastern Aegean.  Within the European Union mastic spice production on Chios has been granted protected status much like a grape varietal.  Although the plant is native to the Mediterranean region only the mastic trees of southern Chios weep the mastica resin when their bark is scored.  The island’s production is controlled by a co-operative of medieval villages.

The aromatic, ivory coloured liquid is then sun dried into a brittle, translucent solid.  When chewed the resin softens and becomes a bright white, opaque gum.  Chewing the gum is said to soothe aching stomachs.  People of the Mediterranean have used it as a medicine for gastrointestinal ailments for thousands of years.

Claims for mastic include cholesterol reduction to lesson high blood pressure and heart attacks.  Mastic oil also has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.  Oh yes, it cures bad breath too.

So, if your corner store doesn’t yet stock Mast, come visit Greece.  If the wine and the mastic does not cure your ailments the light and the air will soothe your soul.

This post was re-written from a Press Release through Athens News Agency.

Photo from here.

SeaUrchinRoe I must not travel in the right circles.  I have been on Paros for nine years and just ate sea urchin roe for the first time.

It was served as a starter/appetiser at a fish taverna to a tour group of Vespa owners.  We were along for the ride.  I would say the dish was well received although a few were not brave enough to try it.

I enjoyed it though I would not rave about it.  It seems that most delicacies, such as caviar, are an acquired taste.  Although I was so involved in the gastronomic experience that I forgot to take a photo.  This one is from Italy but looks exactly like what we were served.

Sea urchin is quite popular in Asian cuisine, including sushi.  Several organizations are studying how to commercialize its aquaculture. 

When I first arrived on Paros it was not uncommon to see piles of sea urchin shells left by fishermen who had harvested the delicate innards.  The last few years, however, the eatable variety has been scarce.

Here is a recipe from an Oregon State economic project:  With the roe from a dozen sea urchin use salt, pepper, lime juice, butter or olive oil. Sauté while stirring gently at very low heat.  Cool and serve with crackers or toast.

Enjoy!

Olympiclogo Watching Olympic Airways become Olympic Airlines become Olympic Air continues to be interesting. The most recent development sees the new owners, Marfin Investment Group, announce a public contest to design a new logo.

They are calling for new logos to be submitted by professional designers, advertising companies and the like. Then the public will be able to vote on three finalists. Watch this space for a link to the yet to be created voting web site. The winning designer will receive 20,000 Euro.

Even better, those voting will be entered into a draw. Fifty winners will receive two round-trip tickets each for OA flights in Greece or abroad from October 1, 2009. So start day dreaming about where you want to fly.

During Olympic Games season the organizing committee is very zealous about only allowing sponsoring companies to use their name and five interlocking rings symbol. The Greek airline, however, appears to have an equal claim. In any case they are insisting that the rings remain part of the new logo. That appears to be the only restriction.

For more information designers should contact Marfin, voters should follow this blog. I will post the link as soon as it is announced.

Update: I just discovered the voting site on 3 July; it expires 5 July. It is in Greek only.

Read more about Marfin Investment Group and Olympic Airlines

I just discovered a cool IMAX film called “Greece: Secrets of the Past”. It’s a professional, to the tune of $4 million, combination of aerial and close-up video along with digital re-creation of how the scenes appeared in ancient times. The result is visually stunning as well as educational. Ideal for know before you go.

 

Get your own DVD here:     

                                 

It is now Eurovision season—one of our annual highlights.  Last year’s post contains some background so please go here if you are not familiar with this European Song Contest.  It is nothing like American shows such as American Idol. 
http://parosparadise.blogspot.com/2008/05/expat-life-eurovision.html
This year’s broadcast comes from Moscow, which was last year’s winner.  The first round of preliminaries was Tuesday, the second round tonight, Thursday and the finals on Saturday.

We find it quite interesting that Turkey and Norway are running neck and neck with Greece a distant third.  Last years 100% telephone voting was extremely disgusting because of fans voting for their neighbours instead of the music.  So this year 50% of the votes come from a panel of judges.
We look forward a thrilling finale!
Update:  Alexander Rybak charmed the viewing universe and won by the greatest margin ever.  Norway was not our favourite; we liked both Iceland who came in second and Azerbaijan who placed third.  It was gratifying to see results based upon merit although regional voting was still noticeable.

Laurence Family and Leona (Ireland) dinner This recent trip to the US reminded us how well we eat here in Greece. There are the obvious differences of locally grown vegetables and eggs as well as the more subtle difference in the preponderance of “packaged” or prepared food in the US, not to mention the fast food outlets on every major intersection.

There are regional cuisines in the US such as southern and tex-mex but even more so in Greece with a geographical area about the same as a mid-sized US state. Here the regional differences developed in ancient times when travel was limited. Now an organization has been created to promote the gastronomy of the Aegean islands. Their new web site is:

http://www.aegeancuisine.gr/

This group has also published a book by well known Greek cook, Diana Kohyla. It presents recipes and traditional products of the southern Greek islands.

Here on Paros our most successful workshop has been Greek Farmhouse Cooking with Eddy. He offers one day classes for the casual tourist as well as intensive three day sessions for the dedicated cook. Read more at

http://www.parosparadise.com/cooking.htm

So combine farm produce grown for taste rather than ease of transportation, traditional home recipes and motivated chefs and the result is well fed islanders and in my case a pot belly.

steaks Of course we had some very good meals in the US as well. The exception that proves the rule is steak—here they do not age the meat or cut thick steaks. The photo is of New York strip steaks rubbed and grilled by our friend Andy at his home in Oregon.


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