Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Unique Greek Vacation: Kastoria

Tired of traveling to central "tourist" cities and feel like you're missing out on a true, cultural experience? While metropolitan areas certainly provide the opportunity to enjoy museums and glamorous night life activities, smaller cities can offer us a more unique and well-rounded perspective on the country, as well a more authentic experience. Greece is full of beautiful locations where travelers can soak in breathtaking scenery, visit important landmarks, taste authentic cuisine, and get to know Greek culture a whole lot better.

Kastoria is one of Greece's fabulous smaller cities. Located in the western Macedonian region, the peninsula of Kastoria borders Lake Orestiada. The city is suspected to be named after the Greek word for beaver (kastoras), which makes sense upon learning that Kastoria is internatio
nally renowned for manufacturing and trading furs for more than 1,000 years!

Kastoria is known for more than just the fur trade, though. One of the city's major attractions is its extensive Byzantine motif. The Byzantine walls and churches of the town draw tourists from all around the world. In this little city, travelers can visit 17th and 18th century traditional mansions admired for their distinguished designs, as well as stone bridges (such as the Zouzouli) which are surrounded by lush forest and high peaks. Upon witnessing the intricate architecture set in enchanting landscapes, visitors can explore one of the many museums located in Kastoria including the Folklore Museum called “Nerantzi – Aibazi”.

And here's a special tip for anyone traveling during the month of January to Kastoria: Make sure to check out the Ragoustaria, an exciting, twelve day festival whose name stems from the Latin word rogatores meaning beggars. Householders are asked for gifts in order to chase bad spirits away. No worries if you can't make it to the January festivities though because Kastoria is also known for the “Orestia”, a chorus festival, its fur exhibition, and many food and drink festivals throughout the year! Another perk of traveling to the endearing city of Kastoria? Direct flights leave frequently between Athens and Kastoria, making it easily accessible!

Source: Greek News Agenda

Friday, March 18, 2011

(CBS) "If You Want to Be Healthy, Eat Like A Greek!"

For years, scientists have touted the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, encouraging those who are looking for a more healthy lifestyle to "eat like Greeks". CBS News Healthwatch recently published an article lauding the diet habits of the Greeks, saying that they reduce cardiovascular risk factors, such as obesity, high cholesterol, and elevated blood sugar. Those who follow a Mediterranean diet have been found to have a 70% higher life expectancy and an 80% better quality of life than those who do not.

Since ancient times, Greeks have maintained a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. They supplement these culinary staples with a variety of legumes, tree nuts, and seafood, while red meats are consumed in small quantities. No Greek kitchen would be complete without the quintessential Mediterranean ingredient: olive oil. Not only does olive oil add an unparalleled flavor to Greek dishes, but it is also high in monounsaturated fatty acids, which have been proven to improve cardiovascular health. Unlike many other diets which avoid alcohol, the Greek diet allows (and even encourages!) moderate alcohol intake, mostly in the form of red or white wine.

Aside from eating healthily, the Greeks enjoy frequent physical exercise, such as walking or dancing, another factor which contributes to their overall wellbeing.

American Philhellenes in the Greek War of Independence

Samuel Gridley Howe

The Greek War of Independence was seen by many around the world as a noble cause to support, given the small size of the Greek nation and its brave fight to overthrow the long-endured Turkish yoke. However, few are aware of the significant role that American philhellenes played in the struggle.

To begin with, important political figures in the United States were made aware of Greece’s needs. Adamantios Koraes, a Greek intellectual, constantly exchanged letters with Thomas Jefferson, asking for American support. Even more importantly, the common American citizen was well-informed about the goings on across the Atlantic, since the Harvard professor and great philhellene Edward Everett published correspondence from Greece in major American newspapers. It was inevitable, therefore, that some Americans would take to heart the Greeks’ battle for freedom, a concept that prominently figures in the Constitution of the United States.

The first American to join the Greek War of Independence was George Jarvis, a New Yorker. He went to Greece in 1822 and immediately became one with the passionate guerrilla fighters, adopting a Greek name and wearing the foustanella, the traditional skirt donned by warriors. During his time there, he fought in many battles and served as the famous British poet Lord Byron’s adjutant. When he died in 1828, his bones were laid to rest in the Greek city of Argos. A few years after Jarvis, Captain Jonathan P. Miller also decided to aid the Greeks. His prestige and bravery in battle is made clear by the nickname, “The American Daredevil,” that was given to him there. Unlike Jarvis, Miller returned to the United States and brought with him a young boy that he adopted. Loukas Miltiades Miller, after growing up and studying in America, came to be the first Greek-American to be elected to Congress.

However, Americans were not only involved in the military aspect of the Greek War of Independence. Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe served in Greece not only as a soldier, but also as a surgeon and a helper in the reconstruction of the country after its devastation by war. Furthermore, he established a medical center on the island of Aegina and a colony for exiles in Corinth. Howe’s work did not end there, though. Back in the United States, he authored the book An Historical Sketch of the Greek Revolution. This account of the Greeks’ brave struggles made such an impression on Howe’s fellow Americans that because of it, they raised money for supplies for the soldiers back in Greece.

Of course, these three men were not the only Americans passionate about the Greek cause. The poet William Cullen Bryant wrote about the Greeks’ bravery, while James Williams, a black slave, died fighting in Greece during the war. Furthermore, several prominent politicians, like Daniel Webster, Robert Livingston, and Henry Clay, supported the Greeks’ efforts. Even presidents such as John Adams, James Madison, and James Monroe were aware of the importance of their struggle.

To honor these men’s efforts, the American Philhellenic Society is cooperating with the United States Postal Service to issue several stamps dedicated to American philhellenes. The series, called Association of American Philhellenes 1810-1840, is due to begin circulation on April 19. Among those honored in the collection are Samuel Gridley Howe and George Jarvis.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011


This month, the Embassy of Greece, the Greek Film Center, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece team up with the Avalon Theater in Washington, D.C. to present the Greek film Quiet Days of August.

April 6, 2011 - 8:00PM
Quiet Days of August
(Isyhes meres tou Augoustou)

The figure of a woman at a lighted window, two glances in the empty compartment of the subway, the voice of an unknown man on the telephone, trigger off a human relationship. Three stories about life in Athens in August that are linked by loneliness, the need for human contact and the full moon.

Directed by Pantelis Voulgaris - Not Rated - 108 Min. - in Greek & French with English subtitles

For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit:

6th Annual ANIMFEST Celebrated in Athens

The European Animation Centre is organizing the 6th Athens ANIMFEST, International Animated Film Festival on March 17-23 at the Greek Film Archive. One hundred and forty six short animated films from 38 countries from all over the world have been selected to take part in the competition while more than 70 films will be screened on the non-competition program.

Those attending the festival will be able to enjoy a masterclass by director-animator Samuel Orti Marti and exhibitions by Babis Venetopoulos (artist and lecturer at the Thessaloniki School of Fine Arts) and Viky Betsou (lecturer at the Athens School of Fine Arts). The Almamanos Theater group will also present an animated puppet theater performance.

The program also includes a conference titled Audiovisual Means and Education: The visualization of the narrative: From Eugene Trivizas to Logicomix (March 19), masterclasses, exhibitions and lectures as well as a tribute to the Harvard University collection of the short animated films.

For information, schedules, and tickets, please visit:

Source: Greek News Agenda

2011: European Year of Volunteering

2011 is the European Year of Volunteering. Many events, exhibitions, live demonstrations and other activities are taking place throughout Europe during the year.

The objectives of the European Year of Volunteering are to raise awareness about volunteer work, to organize and improve volunteer efforts, and to provide support for volunteer workers.

One of the initiatives, the 2011 European Year of Volunteering Tour, will be making its seventh stop in Greece on March 17 to 23, setting up camp at the Technopolis venue in the Gazi district. The event focuses on people who have worked for the European Voluntary Service and are now sharing their experiences with the European public.

Each day of the event is dedicated to a particular theme: vulnerable social groups; volunteerism on a domestic and European level; humanitarian relief, developmental aid and natural disasters; intergenerational dialogue, environmental and animal protection; and, finally, culture, sports and arts.

For more information, please visit:

Source: Greek News Agenda

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Washington Post Gets a Taste of Ouzo

The anise-flavored spirit known as ouzo has long been a staple in Greek cuisine. Often paired with seafood dishes or mezedes (appetizers), ouzo has a strong flavor that can best be described as an "acquired taste". Jason Wilson, writer for The Washington Post, described his experience tasting different varieties of this clear liquor at the popular D.C. restaurant Zaytinya, which boasts a tempting menu of Mediterranean cuisine. He explained that ouzo, which is distilled from grape pomace and flavored with anise and other herbs, comes in a variety of qualities. The best brands of ouzo, according to Wilson, are those in which the grape pomace, anise, and herbs are all blended and distilled together, not mixed later in the production process. His recommendations, both from the island of Lesvos, were the brands Barbayanni and Plomari.

In Greece, ouzo is most commonly enjoyed by adding water to it. Wilson explained that the proper way to serve ouzo is in a tall glass with a carafe of water. Water is added to the ouzo until the mixture turns a white, opaque color. Only then can ice be added, otherwise a film is formed. While ouzo is sometimes seen served in a shot glass, it is meant not as a shot, but as a refreshing beverage to be enjoyed slowly so that one can appreciate the unique flavor.

Source: The Washington Post

Friday, March 11, 2011

A New Spin on Greek Cuisine

Moussaka with ice cream tomato; Greek salad using tomato sorbet, feta mousse, cucumber caviar, pureed olives and creamed onion; oven-roasted chickpeas with sour orange and rosemary; monkfish with mastic (mastiha) liquor cream from the Aegean island of Chios and braised garfish with fava bean mousse.

These are some of dishes that a new generation of Greek chefs produce, based on fine local ingredients, traditional cooking recipes, and plenty… of imagination. "A new generation of talented chefs who have taken over the Athens restaurant scene and are enriching Greece's culinary heritage with a spin on traditional favorites," writes Christine Pirovolakis, in an article in Wall Street Journal titled Not Your Typical Greek Salad.

Many of the chefs chronicled in the article studied in kitchens and cooking schools around the world, but returned to their roots in Greece to create innovative, yet traditional Greek dishes. The culinary delights that they create show undoubted international influence, but because they use fresh, native ingredients, each specialty is uniquely Greek.

To read the article in its entirety, please visit:

Source: Greek News Agenda

Remembering Maria Callas

The Grand Prix Maria Callas

The 37th International Maria Callas Grand Prix in Opera is taking place in Athens on March 13-20. Fifty-five lyric singers from eleven different countries participate in this year’s competition.

Competition judges include international opera stars such as Luigi Alva and Cheryl Studer. The Grand Prix final and the awards ceremony will take place at the Athens Concert Hall on March 20, with the participation of the Jassy Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Gheorghe Costin.

The competition is organized by Athenaeum International Cultural Centre and the Cultural Organisation of the City of Athens, under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

To learn more about the Maria Callas Grand Prix, please visit:
Maria Callas Exhibit in NY

Maria Callas: a Woman, a Voice, a Myth is the theme of the exhibition featuring costumes, jewellery and memorabilia of the great Greek opera diva, Maria Callas, jointly organized by the Consulate General of Greece in New York and the Italian Cultural Institute in New York, sponsored by the Stavros Niarchos Public Benefit Foundation.

The exhibition represents a unique opportunity to understand and experience Callas’ life and work, featuring a comprehensive collection of her personal belongings and recordings – among which 22 stage costumes, 30 jewellery pieces as well as 30 rare photographs of the late opera star, on loan from the Hellenic Parliament Foundation. The exhibition, which is hosted at the Italian Cultural Institute in Manhattan, was launched on March 2 and will run through March 30.

For more information on the exhibit, please visit:

Source: Greek News Agenda

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Apokries: Greek Carnival Season

Greece's Carnival season known as "Apokries" is a period of eating, drinking, dancing, and masquerading for the young and old alike.

Traditionally, it begins ten weeks before Greek Orthodox Easter and culminates on the weekend before "Clean Monday," the first day of Lent.

This year, the carnival season lasts from February 12 until March 7. Literally "Apokria" means 'saying goodbye to the period of meat-eating', or abstinence from meat (Apo-kreo = away from meat).

The roots of Carnival celebrations and customs can be traced back to ancient Greece and are linked to the worship of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and festivity. The processions, costumes, and feasting all derive from ancient ceremonies honoring him and other Greek gods and goddesses.
Carnival officially begins on a Saturday evening with the "opening of the Triodion," as it is called metaphorically. Triodion -also Lenten Triodion- is a liturgical book of the Orthodox Church that contains hymns with three odes instead of nine and begins to be chanted on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee through Holy Saturday, marking the launch of the three week pre-Lenten Season. The following week is a fast-free week until Meatfare Sunday which is the last day before Easter for eating meat.

The Thursday of this week is known as Tsiknopempti -Charred, Smoky or Barbeque Thursday- because of the smell of the grilled meat in the air. Tsiknopempti is the Greek version of the French Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) during which family and friends gather in tavernas or homes to eat large quantities of charred meat and celebrate, just ten days before the beginning of Lent.

The last Sunday of the Carnival period is known as Cheesefare Sunday orTyrofagos as only dairy products can be consumed on this day. Cheesefare Sunday is the final day of pre-Lent, as the Monday following -known as Clean or Ash Monday- marks the beginning of Great Lent.

During the weekend preceding Clean Monday, carnival celebrations around Greece culminate with vigorous parades, masquerade parties, reviving many traditional customs in different parts of the country, and proving that carnival in Greece is closely related to the cultural heritage of each region. The largest and most well-known Apokries celebrations take place in the city of Patras in the Pelopponese. In fact, the Patras carnival ranks third in the world for carnival celebrations, behind New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro. To learn more about the Patras carnival, visit

For more information on Orthodox Lent, visit:
For more information on Apokries celebrations in Greece, visit:

Source: Greek News Agenda

Thursday, March 3, 2011

"Health, Nutrition, and Fitness: From Ancient to Modern Times"

The Embassy of Greece presents "Health, Nutrition, and Fitness: From Ancient to Modern Times", a series of presentations that will launch with: "Farming, Feasting, and the Foundations of the Early Greek City: Recent Excavations at the Site of Azoria, Crete", a lecture by Professor Donald Haggis. The event will take place on Monday, March 14, 2011 from 6:30pm-8:30pm at the Embassy of Greece, located at 2217 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington D.C. 20008.

The Azoria Project is a case study of urbanization in the Mediterranean, exploring the Early Iron Age and Archaic town of Azoria (ca. 1200-500 B.C.). The focus of the excavation is on ancient agricultural practices, providing new evidence for the relationship between food procurement, processing and consumption, and the development of social and political systems in the early Greek world.

Donald Haggis is Professor of Classical Archaeology and N. A. Cassas Term Professor of Greek Studies in the Department of Classics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His work focuses on Minoan, Early Iron Age, and Archaic Crete and he has conducted excavations and surveys on the island for the past 25 years.

To RSVP for the lecture, please e-mail

Immediately following the lecture,

from 8:30 -10:30 p.m.:

Ancient Flavors - Modern Palates.

Dinner Celebrating Historic Food Routes of Crete at

Mourayo Restaurant, 1732 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington DC

Enjoy a fantastic dinner featuring ingredients cherished by residents of Crete through the ages. The special 4-course menu includes options such as grilled fresh sardines over eggplant puree, arugula salad with barley and dried fruits, rabbit ragout with Cretan pasta, pork tenderloin with honey, almond and fig sauce or fresh fish with mint and peppercorn sauce served over black beluga lentils.

Dinner is $65 per person, including 2 glasses of wine, tax and gratuity. Advance payment is required.

To Reserve Dinner, contact

Mourayo at: 202-667-2100

The program is coordinated by Nikki Rose, Professional Chef-Author and Founder of Crete’s Culinary Sanctuaries. CCS is a network of teachers and professionals from interrelated fields organizing educational programs to celebrate and help protect Crete's heritage. Accredited study abroad programs and public seminars are conducted on-site: historic sites, organic farms, rural communities and natural parks. CCS is an award-winning program for best practices in sustainable travel, including National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity Success Stories.