Coronavirus: Lockdown Extended in Attica; 1,790 Cases Friday

coronavirus
Credit: Greek Reporter

Attica will remain under strict lockdown measures until March 8, Nikos Chardalias, Deputy Minister for Civil Protection announced on Friday.

The stringent anti-virus measures in Attica were meant to last until March 1, but the recent spike in coronavirus cases and intubations in the area, home to Greece’s capital city Athens, caused officials to extend the lockdown.

Dr. Vana Papaevangelou, a renowned epidemiologist and member of the special coronavirus committee, warned Friday that Attica’s ICUs have reached 88% capacity.

The lack of space in the region’s hospitals is particularly worrying to officials, who fear that any more pressure on the healthcare system could lead to overflowing hospitals.

Attica, along with Kalymnos, the Kordelio-Evosmos district of Thessaloniki, Evia, Achaea, and Arkadia are all considered “extremely high risk areas” in terms of viral transmission.

According to Papaevangelou, there are a total of 12,000 active cases of the coronavirus in Greece currently.

Intubations remain high; 1,790 coronavirus cases Friday

The number of coronavirus patients undergoing intubation, an intensive treatment in which a tube is placed in the throat to facilitate breathing, remains high in Greece.

As of Friday, 371 people are intubated in Greece’s hospitals, which is four more than those being treated on Thursday.

A total of 325 intubations were recorded in Greece last Friday, and just 293 the week before, indicating a worrying increase in patients with Covid-19 who require the invasive treatment in Greece.

Greece recorded a total of 1,790 cases of the virus on Friday, out of the total 50,334 coronavirus tests that were conducted across the country during the day.

The current figure represents six more than the 1,784 instances of the coronavirus that were diagnosed in Greece on Thursday, just one day before.

Total of 790 cases diagnosed in Attica; 150 in Thessaloniki

Of the 1,790 coronavirus cases recorded in Greece in the past 24 hours, 790 were located in Attica, home to the city of Athens.

Instances of the virus were particularly high in the city itself, where 212 cases of Covid-19 were identified.

In Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, a total of 150 cases of Covid-19 were identified in the last 24 hours.

Tragically, 29 people with the coronavirus passed away in the country over the past 24-hour period, which is 10 fewer than those who died with the virus on Thursday.

New measures at Greece’s borders

Chardalias announced new measures regarding Greece’s borders during a press conference on Friday.

At the border crossings Evzonoi and Kakavia, which lie across the border from North Macedonia and Albania respectively, only 400 people will be allowed into the country.

The border crossings, which normally experience heavy traffic, will now only operate from 7 AM to 7 PM, and all those passing through the stations will have to take a rapid test for the coronavirus.

If anyone tests positive for the virus, they will be denied entry into the country. Additionally, all those entering the country through these specific checkpoints must enter a 14-day quarantine.

1,326 coronavirus patients have been discharged from Greece’s ICUs

Since the beginning of the pandemic, a total 188,201 cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in the country, including all those who have recovered from the virus.

Of the cases diagnosed in Greece in the past seven days, just 62 are associated with foreign travel and 2,462 have been linked to contact with a known case.

Of the 371 patients intubated currently, 84.9% are over the age of 70 or suffer from preexisting conditions.

Additionally, a total of 1,326 patients have been discharged from ICUs around the country since the beginning of the pandemic.

The 29 new deaths recorded on Friday bring the total number of fatalities in the country to 6,439, and 95.7% of those who have passed away with the virus were over the age of 70 or suffered from underlying health issues.

When Will Americans Be Allowed to Travel to Greece This Year?

Americans Greece
Americans are eager to travel to Greece after being barred for the most part during 2020. Will the situation change soon?Credit: Greek Reporter

Americans have been a major part of summer tourism in Greece in past decades. Although they may not make up the largest contingent of visitors, they spend more than most others — and that was noticed last year.

The difficult Summer of 2020 meant far fewer travelers from nearly everywhere in the world, as weak after week and month after month went by without Greece allowing Americans to visit the country.

Despite the UK having far more coronavirus infections and deaths that the US per capita, no Americans were allowed to visit the country except those who held a Greek passport.

That kept millions of Americans on US shores last summer as they put their European vacation dreams on the back burner for another year.

Hope is in the air

So where do we stand today, as the vaccination programs continue to roll out and many in the US are beginning to dare to dream of vacationing once again? What are the realistic prospects for jetting off to Greece in a few short months?

More than 66 million vaccination doses have been administered to Americans as of today, reaching 13.6% of the total U.S. population, according to federal data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The U.S. is currently administering over 1.4 million inoculations each day, leading many to hope that real inroads are being made against the virus. Hope is in the air.

2020 was Catastrophic year for tourism in Greece

Last year of course was a catastrophe for Greek tourism, with the loss in revenues reflected in a 4% drop in the entire country’s GDP. Tourism directly employs one out of every five people in Greece — and many more indirectly.

Although UK citizens were eventually allowed into the country, many who would otherwise have come to the Greek destinations they flock to annually stayed home last year. Whether because of the quarantine restrictions or fears of becoming infected while traveling, the numbers did not pan out well last year.

Russia, another main source of tourism revenues for Greece, was also not allowed to send any of its citizens to Hellenic shores last year due to the high rate of coronavirus infections there. The drop in visitation from these three countries alone meant devastation for many in the tourist industry in Greece.

All the nations belonging to the EU’s Schengen Zone, including Greece, are still barring most Americans from entering.

Flight bookings rising at record pace

However, there is light on the horizon. Flights are being scheduled for the Summer as we speak.

The British/German travel giant EasyJet stated last week that advance bookings for some of its Greek flights were up an eye-popping 600%.

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Emirates and United Airlines have begun opening up their flights to bookings as early as April 30.

While this may be a tad optimistic, it may be technically possible for some Americans to leave the country at that time, since may older people will have had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine by then.

EU leaders are meeting today to discuss the creation of a vaccine passport or vaccine certificate — heavily promoted by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for months as a way to safely reopen the tourist gates after the pandemic.

Global vaccine certificate system?

Whether or not this certificate, even if created, will be globally accepted is another question.

France and Germany have noted their unease with the certificate system, saying it will create inequities since some will be unable to acquire vaccinations in time for Summer.

It appears now that, by June 3, there will be a total of at least seven nonstop flights from the United States to Athens — not too shabby considering the near-total travel lockdown of last year.

Of course, this can change in an instant if Americans are not allowed to leave the country or barred from specific destinations.

  • From Newark, service will begin on April 30 for United Airlines and Emirates on June 1
  • From JFK Airport, service will begin on May 1 for Delta Air Lines and June 3 for American Air  Lines. Delta will fly every other day from JFK beginning May 27
  • From Philadelphia, service will begin on June 3 for American Airlines
  • From Chicago, American Airlines will begin their Athens service on June 3

Naturally, it could happen that, just as last summer, the only US residents who hold Greek passports will be allowed to enter the country. But the reopening of the ticketing process gives potential travelers hope that things truly will be different this year.

At the present time, Greek hoteliers have stated that they are not planning on requiring that guests be vaccinated before their stays.

However, like last year, you may be required to present proof that you have tested negative just prior to boarding and perhaps again after landing at your destination.

Greece moves unilaterally to reopen tourism

In the past, Greece has demonstrated a willingness to take the bull by the horns and make its own moves to welcome tourists, as seen by its recent deal with Israel to open a quarantine-free travel corridor using a digital vaccine certificate system, which Greece has already created.

To begin in April of 2021, this may act as a trial balloon for future vaccine certificate and travel corridor options for the rest of the EU.

As Prime Minister Mitsotakis said earlier this month, “It would be good to achieve this on a European level, to be united. If this doesn’t happen, we will proceed bilaterally with all the countries that interest us.”

Some travel experts say that since Greece has taken such measures already, opening up to the UAE as well — which is also not approved by the EU — that may bode well for Americans’ prospects to make it to Greece this Summer.

And parenthetically — this would also make it theoretically possible to get into Greece via the UAE, which will begin its nonstop flights to Athens on June 1.

Greece still reeling from virus

However, clouds are still on the horizon since Greece itself is still reeling from spikes in coronavirus infections, with the Attica region still in strict lockdown.

With March almost here, it is difficult to believe right now that it would be possible for foreign tourists to visit Greece in the early Spring.

The Greek retail sector is poised to reopen on March 8 — granted there is no further worsening of the situation.

Restaurants and cafes are of course closed at the moment, without being able to even carry on curbside service.

With this in mind, it may be prudent to start thinking about planning a late Summer or early Autumn trip to Greece. It is cooler at that time as well and of course just as stunningly beautiful.

Eyes on the bottom line

Greece will be grateful to have Americans back if they have their eyes on the bottom line because US residents traveling there spend much more on average than most other tourists.

Arrivals to Greece from the US grew at a staggering pace in the last decade, with Americans doubling their numbers during the period 2008-2018, from 613,000 to 1.1 million.

According to data supplied by INSETE, the Confederation of Greek Tourism, Americans spent a whopping 1 billion euros in 2018, with overnight stays numbering 11.7 million in Greece that year.

The number of arrivals from the US grew 26.9 percent in 2018 over the previous year as well.

And in 2019, the figures were just as impressive, leading experts to believe the interest in traveling to Greece will remain high.

According to figures published by the Bank of Greece, revenues from American tourists in Greece during the first quarter of 2019 went up by a whopping 118.9 percent compared to the first quarter of 2018 – which in itself of course set records.

Tourists from the United States now come in second, only after the Germans, in absolute terms of the amount of money they spend in Greece.

German Embassy Celebrates Bicentennial of Greek War of Independence

Greek War of Independence
The Battle of Navarino. Credit: Ambroise Louis Garneray from chateauversailles.fr/Wikipedia/Public Domain

The German Embassy in Athens will begin its year-long commemoration of the Greek War of Independence on Friday with a celebration of 21 famous German philhellenes.

The commemoration, using the hashtag #germanphilhellenes2021, will take place across all the social media accounts of the German embassy and will appear every Friday, highlighting the lives of these well-known Germans who were devoted to Greece.

Some of the figures to be remembered in this commemoration include the amateur painter — and full-time military officer — Karl Krazeisen, whose depiction of Greek War of Independence hero Theodoros Kolokotronis was used on Greece’s old 5,000 drachma bill.

Germans sustained highest number of casualties among all foreigners in Greek War of Independence

Another German who gave his talents to the cause of the Greek revolution was Heinrich Treiber, who embalmed the body of the first head of state of the modern country of Greece, Ioannis Kapodistrias.

The German embassy pointed out that of al the philhellenes all over the world who flocked to Greece during its war to overthrow Ottoman occupation, Germans sustained the highest number of casualties overall.

As was also true in Great Britain and the young United States at the time, the cause of Greek liberation swept through the ranks of men who were willing to sacrifice their lives so that Greeks could establish their own nation as free men.

Leipzig University professor Wilhelm Traugott Krug also published a pamphlet in support of the Greek cause called “The Rebirth of Greece,” which became a rallying point for intellectuals who were interested in the establishment of a modern Greek nation.

Romantics across Europe idolized ancient Greece

German romantics, much like the Englishman Lord Byron, had long idolized Ancient Greece as an ideal, almost a Utopia, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe had likewise written about his support for a new Greek nation in his seminal work “Iphigenia in Tauris.”

But it wasn’t only Greece that was impacted by Germans’ love for their country — back home, Germans took heart from the establishment of the new Greek nation origin out of the darkness of Ottoman rule.

The Embassy says in its announcement on the commemoration that the Greek War of Independence and the new state “were a source of inspiration both for public discourse and the arts and affected the creation of a nascent German identity.”

The statement goes on to say that “it is undeniable that the Greek War of Independence is an important milestone and inspiration for the development of democracy and parliamentarianism both in Europe and much farther away.”

The commemoration is a collaboration between the German embassy, Greece’s National History Museum, the Society for Hellenism and Philhellenism, and the Philhellenism Museum in Athens.

The 1821 Greek Revolution Began in the Fierce Mountain Stronghold of Mani

Mani Greek revolution
“Victory or death” reads the sign over the cross in the Greek revolutionary flag of Mani. Credit: dimitrisvetsikas1969/pixabay

Mani was the place where the Greek uprising against Ottoman rule actually started and not in Kalavryta on March 25th, 1821 – as is often believed.

Although that date was later designated as the day of revolt and the beginning of the War of Independence, revolutionary acts took place in several areas across the Peloponnese as early as March 17th of that year.

Mani was the first area on the Peloponnesian Peninsula to declare open revolution, and they did so on March 17, 1821.

According to written testimonies, the elites of the region – which had been granted privileged status by the Ottomans — including the appointment of the Bey — asked their leader to be the very first to declare war against the Ottomans.

Their bold declaration was in line with the plans of the secret revolutionary society Filiki Eteria. 

At the call of Petrobey (Petros Bey) Mavromichalis, all the Maniates chieftains gathered in Tsimova, today’s Areopolis, and decided to begin fighting against Ottoman rule.

This led to the lightning-quick liberation of Kalamata and the creation of the Messinian Senate.

However, none of the written testimonies recorded mentions an actual official gathering in Mani at which the proclamation of revolution took place.

Impregnable Mani

Throughout the period of Ottoman rule in Greece, Mani remained virtually impregnable, despite repeated attempts by the conquerors to enslave it.

The area enjoyed a kind of independence through its alliance with Venice.

Its mountainous, barren terrain made it easy to defend it from attacks. It was only in 1776 that the area was declared a semi-independent tribal hegemony under the direct jurisdiction of Kapudan Pasha.

One of the area’s chieftains was appointed Bey and it was only he who was responsible for keeping law and order.

Previous to that, Mani had become “the biggest bully of the Ottomans and the refuge of the Greeks,” as local folklore has it.

Due to its peculiar status, there were continuous armed conflicts in the area between the Maniates and the Ottomans.

Hardened warriors of Mani

In fact, this was why the Maniates were also the only experienced, hardened warriors in the Peloponnese.

The fierce reputation of the locals, combined with the relative independence of the area and its terrain, which could serve as a base and at the same time as a refuge, had made Mani the most appropriate place to start the revolution, in the eyes of Greeks and their foreign friends alike.

Despite rivalries and disputes which cropped up between the large clans of the region during the last decades of the Turkish occupation, several revolutionary movements were able to take root and the Maniates participation in the great revolution began to take form.

The leaders assembled at Kitries, at the home of Petrobey Mavromichalis, the last Bey of Mani, and signed an agreement on conciliation and joint preparation in October of 1819.

In addition, many Maniates chieftains, and Petrobey himself, rushed to become initiated in Filiki Eteria, reinforcing the belief that any universal Greek uprising had to be supported by the Mani people.

In fact, Filiki Eteria founder Alexandros Ypsilantis’ original plan was to go there himself to declare a revolution; however, that ultimately did not come to pass because of the dangers entailed by his move into European territory.

Portrait of Petrobey Mavromichalis
Portrait of Petrobey Mavromichalis, the last Bey of Ottoman rule.

The cancellation of the Ypsilantis plan, instead of frustrating the Maniates, only intensified their revolutionary fervor. Military unrest in the region, as in the rest of the Peloponnese, had been growing since early 1821.

Proclamation of the revolution

Following the orders of Filiki Eteria, Grigorios Dimitriou Dikaios, known by the nom de guerre “Papaflessas,” along with great chieftains such as Christos Papageorgiou (who took the war name of Anagnostaras) and Theodoros Kolokotronis, came to Mani, and traveled around the villages to recruit fighters.

Preparations were carried out in secrecy in East Mani, where the presence of Ottoman forces was virtually non-existent.

Petrobey Mavromichalis had somehow successfully managed to cover up the presence and movements of the chieftains in that area.

He had also avoided going to Tripolis in late February, when the Ottoman governor of the Peloponnese – in order to weaken the insurgency in his territory – had summoned all the local leaders of the Peloponnese on the pretext of conferring with them, but in reality desiring to detain them there.

To cover his tracks, Petrobey Mavromichalis sent a message that he was ill and sent his son Anastasios to Tripolis to represent him.

In this way he successfully reassured the Turkish leadership of his loyalty while at the same time buying important time for the chieftains.

The proclamation of the revolution at the Areopolis of Mani took place on March 17, 1821 according to local oral tradition, since there are no written testimonies of this monumental event.

Nevertheless, on March 17 every year in Mani, a ceremony attended by the President of the Hellenic Republic commemorates the fateful beginning of the Greek War of Independence.

Real Greece in Mani

Recorded live, watch a tour of one of the most historical and beautiful towns in Greece, Areopoli, as we are visiting the area of Mani to discover the rich history, gastronomy and wonderful proud people known as Maniates. Also visit Limeni and Oitilo and all the other traditional villages of the Mani Peninsula. #Uknown #Spectacular #Greece

Posted by Greek Reporter on Friday, 6 July 2018

Greek-American Brothers Explore Beauty and Legacy of the East Med

Greek-American brothers
Mark Matthews and his brother Sean Mathews in Athens. Photo supplied.

Inspired by their family’s Greek roots and their love for the region, two Greek-American brothers are looking to explore the modern legacy of what connects the Eastern Mediterranean with their new storytelling platform, called Levendeia.

“The Eastern Mediterranean is fascinating,” says Mark Mathews, a Columbia University Middle Eastern Studies Major and co-founder of the site with his brother Sean. “It faces a host of challenges, but it is also ripe with energy and creativity.”

“The idea behind Levendeia,” he explains, “is to look for the things that unite countries in the region, their distinct Mediterranean essence and bring that to life through story telling.”

The brothers say the name of the platform, Levendeia, is intended to showcase the interconnectedness of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Originally an Italian word, “levantino or levanti,” was used by Venetian sailors to describe people, and particularly sailors, of the East during early Ottoman times. The word eventually took on a negative connotation in Italian to describe brigands and raiders of the sea.

But in the East, an entirely new meaning arose. In Greece, Turkey, and the Arab world, the word actually came to be associated with gallant bravery. The Ottoman Navy called their sailors Levends (pronounced Lewend in Arabic).

In Arabic, the word continues to be used as a first name, and in Turkey, in addition to the upscale neighborhood of Levent in Istanbul, the word can describe “a strapping and good-looking young man.”

Throughout Greece, the word has maintained its positive connotation, and in addition to variations of it being used as a last name, such as Leventis, it may be used to describe those with valor and a passion for living life in full.

“It’s interesting to see the progression of this word through the region,” Mark Mathews said. “I ask my Greek friends or Turkish friends about it, and while the meanings are similar, each seems to have a slightly different take on it.”

The two young Greek-Americans decided to examine the region through a new perspective based on their time spent living, working and traveling throughout Greece, Turkey, and the Arab countries of the Levant.

Greek-American brothers
The two young Greek-American brothers with their father, Peter Mathews, in the former Greek fishing village of Alacati in Asia Minor, Turkey. Photo supplied.

“Anyone who has spent time in the region, who takes the time to understand its history, can see there is so much that unites the countries here,” Sean Mathews told the Greek Reporter.

With part of the brothers’ Greek family history coming from the island of Oinousses, near Chios, they grew up with fascinating stories of seafaring and trade. “Our Grand-Pappou was a sailor. As little kids, our Pappou loved to tell us stories about sailors in the Mediterranean,” Sean Mathews said.

Greek-American brothers
In this photograph from the 1930’s the boys’ Pappoú, Kostakis Mathews (Matheos) is pictured on the right, and their great-grandfather Michalis Matheos on the left. The family was originally from Oinousses, Greece.

When the boys started traveling and studying more about the Eastern Mediterranean they began to see how connected their history and culture was with others.

“Today, if you visit Palestine or Lebanon you will find they know more about products like Mastiha from Chios, which they use in their ice cream and desserts, than countries in Western Europe,” Sean shared with Greek Reporter.

“We have had conversations with people in cities like Beirut or Amman, and when we discuss our Greek roots there is this immediate link that forms,” he added. “Of course there are the obvious things, like the role of the Greek Orthodox Church, the food, the drinks — but there is also a shared mentality.”

Levendeia seeks to examine how this mentality is brought into positive light by art, entrepreneurship, and lifestyle. The platform aims to bring together people from all countries in the region, regardless of religion or country of origin, and create a hub for storytelling.

“Whether I’m in Athens or Istanbul, I meet and speak with young people our age who have this desire to grow their business and make changes in their cities, but they have an awareness of their past. There is a conscious effort to push for reform and change, but also find a way to make sure it coexists with tradition and respect for that past,” Mark Mathews said.

More about Levendeia and its mission can be found here.

Temperatures in Eastern Mediterranean Rise 3 Times Faster than World Average

Temperatures in Mediterranean rise
Tourists stroll on the Acropolis. Credit: Greek Reporter

Temperatures in the Eastern Mediterranean are rising three times faster than the global average, with the effects of climate change already felt in Greece, mainly in Crete and the eastern Peloponnese, according to Climpact.

Climpact scientist Nikos Michalopoulos of the National Observatory of Athens spoke on the forum on “Mitigating the Impact and Adaptation of Greek Agriculture to Climate Change” saying that Greece might be forced to restructure the cultivation of crops in the coming years.

“The Eastern Mediterranean and the Arctic Circle are the two most important hot spots in the world in terms of the impact of climate change,” Michalopoulos said.

The scientist noted that due to the particularly high temperatures a decrease in crop yield is expected.

An increase in the frequency of extreme weather events will bring more frequent crop damage and reduced water availability due to prolonged droughts, which, consequently, will result in increased water demand for irrigation.

In addition, he noted, the increase in temperature and humidity in the air will result in the proliferation of pest and weed diseases that affect crop yields qualitatively and quantitatively.

“We expect an increase (in diseases) during the growing season due to rising temperatures, pressure on water reserves in areas which are already vulnerable, reduced soil organic matter and increased risk of damage, salinization and degradation of agricultural soils and increased risk of agricultural land loss,” Michalopoulos said.

The scientist stressed the importance of the agricultural sector in Greece, which produces 4 percent of GDP and along with tourism are considered the sectors that can contribute to the national economic growth.

Feta Pasta TikTok Video Recipe Goes Viral World-Wide

Feta pasta tik tok cheese recipe
Original photos: Instagram/Jenni Häyrinen @liemessa ; Illustration: Greek Reporter

Feta, Greece’s most famous cheese, has become viral world-wide thanks to a feta pasta TikTok video, featuring an easy and tasty recipe of feta cheese with pasta.

The baked feta pasta was originally created by Finnish food blogger Jenni Häyrinen in 2019. After she shared the recipe on her blog it spiralled.

In September last year, she wrote: “The feta cheese sales went up 300 per cent, the shops were running out of baked feta pasta ingredients and by this date the original uunifetapasta [her original recipe] post has over 2.7 million views. Finland has 5.5 million inhabitants…”

Now the recipe is enjoying a resurgence as more people discover it. As with many internet successes, one video spawns another and now on TikTok the viewing numbers are in the millions.

Feta Pasta Tik Tok recipe

The recipe requires three fresh ingredients (tomatoes, a block of feta, fresh basil) and a few store cupboard ingredients (olive oil, seasoning, pasta, garlic) and is cooked in under half an hour.

Anyone can make this. The only skill here is boiling pasta.

It essentially requires you to put your cherry tomatoes (whole), garlic (with skin on) and block of feta all into a baking dish, coat in olive oil, season and add some oregano.

Put the dish in the oven for about half an hour at 200C, boil your pasta, and wait for your baked items to turn a golden brown.

Once you’ve removed them from the oven you’ll want to squeeze your garlic out of its skin.

Then, mix the ingredients together with your pasta in the hot dish and serve. You can add fresh basil at this stage.

History of feta

Cheese-making is an ancient practice in the Mediterranean, with the production of cheese from goat’s or sheep’s milk dating back to the 8th century BCE in Greece.

This history is accompanied by ancient myths about cheese production, including one in which Apollo’s son Aristaios, raised by nymphs, teaches mankind the art of preparing milk for cheese production.

A cheese resembling feta is mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey. In the ancient work, the Cyclops Polyphemus is described as a shepherd who lives with a cave full of cheese and milk taken from his flock.

Feta, in the form we know it as today, was first mentioned during the Byzantine era.

Most often, is made from a mixture of sheep’s and goat’s milk, but there are variations in production.

Any way it’s made, authentic feta is delicious.

Greek Director Dimitris Lignadis to Remain Detained on Rape Charges

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Lignadis sexual abuse charges
Dimitris Lignadis is brought to the court on Thursday. Credit: AMNA

The investigating magistrate and the prosecutor ruled early on Friday that former Greek National Theater director and actor Dimitris Lignadis should be further detained until trial.

Lignadis, who concluded his testimony before a prosecutor on Thursday, has been detained since Saturday evening over charges of sexual abuse and rape.

He is accused of two rapes. One of a 14-year-boy, in 2010, and another for which the victim has been deposed in front of prosecutors but the details of which have not been made known as of yet.

In a lengthy memo submitted to an investigative magistrate on Thursday, Lignadis denied the charges.

“I have never expressed an erotic-sexual interest in underage individuals, nor have I ever had any erotic-sexual contact with any underage individual, with or without their consent,” he stated.

He dismissed the charges against him as “lies” and claimed that the allegations have been “fabricated” by the board of the Greek Actors’ Guild in retaliation for criticism from Lignadis over how it runs the association and handles its finances.

“These people have envied me since the start of my career,” he said.

The case, which has been brought forward by the Greek #MeToo movement, prompted by Olympian athlete Sofia Bekatorou, has shocked public opinion in Greece.

Government under fire over Lignadis

It has also led opposition parties to accuse the conservative government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis of a cover-up.

Lignadis was appointed to the post of National Theater artistic director by the Minister of Culture, Lina Mendoni.

Both Mitsotakis and Mendoni are accused of being aware of Lignadis’s illegal activities, yet they put him at the highest post of Greece’s National Theater.

In a tense parliamentary session on Thursday, Mitsotakis defended his minister by saying that the government acted as soon as the allegation became public and by firing Lignadis.

He also announced on Thursday that he will bring about new legislation to tighten sex abuse laws and help victims.

But the #MeToo movement “should not become a victim of vulgar political exploitation,” the Prime Minister cautioned, accusing main opposition SYRIZA and its leader Alexis Tsipras of “left-wing Trumpism.”

He said that the opposition has been behind a social media campaign to link the Conservatives with the alleged pedophilia scandal.

Leader of main opposition SYRIZA Alexis Tsipras hit back at the accusations of populism, saying the responsibility for the scandal belongs to the Prime Minister.

“We are not going to judge or much less condemn anyone, but let us all ask ourselves. Are there are no political responsibilities that are tantamount to a political scandal?” he asked.

 

Greek Diaspora Commemorates Homeland’s Bicentennial

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Greek Diaspora in NYC Greece Parade
The Evzones, Greece’s presidential guard unit, at the annual Greek Independence Day parade in New York City. Credit: Hellenic Army Press Office

Every year Greek Diaspora and Greece celebrates its national day on March 25th. This day commemorates the start of the War of Independence fought against the Ottoman Empire.

On March 25, 2021, Greece will commemorate the 200th anniversary of its great national day.

This bicentennial will be marked with great pomp and ceremony not only in Greece but in Greek communities of the diaspora around the world.

Tragically, Greece missed out on celebrating the centennial of this historic event in 1921 due to the conflict in Asia Minor against Turkey.

Most countries celebrate their national day at the end of their revolution or the termination of hostilities after their war of independence. But that is not the case for Greece.

The principal reason why Greece embraces the start of its war of independence as its national day is because historians are unanimous in pinpointing that actual day. However, they cannot agree on the exact year that Greece actually achieved its independence.

In effect, the war of independence lasted over a decade and territorial victories were achieved over a protracted timeline.

“Freedom or death!”

The Greek War of Independence began in 1821 with the rebellion of the Greeks who had been under the rule of the Ottoman Empire since 1453.

The Greek revolution itself started on March 25, 1821 with patriots uttering the slogan “Eleftheria I thanatos!” meaning “Freedom or death.”

This was, of course, a modern twist on the Ancient Spartan dictum that required Spartan warriors to return home either victorious — or dead and carried upon their shields.

Modern Greece can be described as a small country, with an inquiring mind, an independent spirit, and a global outreach.

Its sparse population of slightly more than 10 million inhabitants who live in the contemporary state of Greece is deceptive in many ways, considering the vast impact that Greeks and Greek culture have made, and continue to make, in the world.

The global outreach of Greek Diaspora

Census reports from around the world estimate that the Greek diaspora, which includes first-generation immigrants, and those of the second or third generation with Greek ancestry who were not born in Greece, is approximately 7 million.

The Greek mindset, however, has always embraced a peripatetic nature and a global outreach. This explains the existence of Greek communities in every corner of the world.

The unsettled, adventurous nature of Greeks has been a hallmark of their character since time immemorial.

Even in ancient Greece, Homer recorded that Greeks had long been wanderers and travelers venturing through foreign seas and lands, motivated by trade, science, intellectual curiosity, poverty, or war, and in consequence creating colonies and cities far and wide.

Oldest and largest diaspora

As a result, the Greek diaspora became one of the oldest and largest on the entire globe.

Today, the Greek diaspora can be found in every single corner of the world, with significant numbers in the United States, Australia, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Argentina, Germany, Italy, Armenia, and South Africa.

The largest contemporary concentrations of the Greek diaspora are in the USA, Canada, and Australia.

The city with the single largest Greek community outside of Greece is on the other side of the world, in Melbourne, Australia.

On every occasion that I visited Melbourne, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Greek being spoken everywhere I went. It forced me to do a double take to make sure that my plane had landed in Australia and not in Greece.

Greek Diaspora in Canada

The largest Greek immigrant stream to Canada commenced after the second World War.

The first-generation of Greek-Canadians were mostly self-employed in the service sector. They established restaurants, retail outlets and small businesses.

Having instilled the value of education in their children to mitigate the effects of discrimination and improve their career opportunities, the second and third generation of Greek-Canadians have joined the ranks of white collar professionals such as lawyers, accountants, public servants, academics, scientists, engineers, nurses, and medical practitioners.

Greek-Canadians can be found in every province and territory in Canada. However, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver have the largest concentrations of Greek-Canadians.

The 2016 Canadian census recorded that 271,405 Canadians were Greek by ancestry and 62,715 people in the country had been born in Greece. A more recent publication, Greeks around the Globe, records that the Greek-Canadian population actually totals about 450,000.

Right to vote

Greeks of the diaspora will receive a special gift during the bicentennial year.

The Greek government has initiated legislation to give Greeks living abroad the right to vote in national elections, effective in 2021. Greek expatriates will be able to vote from their current place of residence.

More specifically, the right to vote will be given to expatriates who can prove that, over the past 35 years, they once resided in Greece for an uninterrupted period of two years.

However, Greek expatriates will be able to vote only for at-large members of Parliament, elected on party lists, whose number will expand from 12 to 15 in the 300-seat Parliament.

The 2021 bicentenary will provide Greece and the Greek diaspora around the world with an opportunity to celebrate the resilience and the accomplishments that this small country and its people have achieved during the last 200 years.

But even more importantly, it will empower all Greeks to strive for even more spectacular accomplishments in the service of humanity during the next 100 years.

Dr. Constantine Passaris is a Professor of Economics at the University of New Brunswick and an Onassis Foundation Fellow. He was recently included in the inaugural edition of Who’s Who in Greece 2020.

The Awe-Inspiring Natural Landscape of Greece’s Zagori

Zagori Greece
The famous arched stone bridge in Vikos-Aoos National Park. Credit: Erik1980/CC BY-SA 3.0

Zagori is a region and a municipality in the Pindus mountains in Epirus, in northwestern Greece just northeast of Ioannina.

It is an awe-inspiring natural landscape with an incredibly well-preserved network of 46 villages and features national parks, a monastery, rivers and waterfalls.

Looking for a splendid all-year-round getaway to a place that is considered to be one of the most beautiful and rich eco-systems in all of Europe? Look no further.

We have compiled a few of the many places worth visiting to make your experience unique:

Monodéndri

Zagori
Panoramic view of Monodendri; in the background lies Vikos Gorge. Credit: Vincent C Aout/ CC BY-SA 3.0
Situated at an altitude of 1,060 meters (3,278 feet) and listed as a national monument, Monodendri is one of  Zagori’s most picturesque villages.
It hosts some beautiful two-story mansions and narrow streets that pass the village’s paved stone courtyards. The Monastery of St. Paraskevi can be admired from afar and a rocky trail that starts at the central square will lead you to the stunning Vikos Gorge.

Vikos Gorge

Zagori
View of Vikos Gorge. Credit: Skamnelis/CC BY-SA 3.0

The famous Vikos Gorge, the enormous canyon which is visited by many tourists throughout the year, is actually accessible from many vantage points.

While there, you will have the opportunity to walk the famous Vradeto Stairs at the edge of the gorge. These  1,200 meter stone stairs connect the villages of Vradéto and Kapésovo.

Monastery of St. Paraskevi

Visit an abandoned monastery at the edge of Vikos Gorge which dates back to 1413-1414. This is a place where you can stop and meditate while taking in a unique view of the gorge.

 Vikos–Aoös National Park

The core of the park, an area of 8,402 acres, comprises the spectacular Vikos Gorge. The park’s remoteness and relatively small human population, rich plantlife, and a plethora of large mammals such as the brown bear, is what makes this park unique.

It is one of the last true European wild areas, hosting a variety of natural habitats and ecosystems that rank it among the most valuable parks for nature conservation in Greece.

It is home to many rare, endemic and protected plant species as well. Aside from trekking, sport enthusiasts and nature lovers alike can also enjoy rafting in the Aoos river, which is also a unique way to explore the beauty of the landscape.

Waterfalls in Illiochori

Unknown to most people is the village of Iliochori, built on the eastern slopes of Tymfi. It is a small, quaint village that is home to three spectacular waterfalls that form two natural emerald-colored pools.

The waterfalls, located at “Balta di Striga;” the highest of them reaches a height of 25 meters (82 feet). The hiking route is very pleasant, with a marked path that begins at the village square — if in doubt, you can always ask one of the villagers, who will surely be able to show you the way.

The Famous Stone Bridges of Zagori

zagori greece
Konitsa Bridge, in Vikos-Aoos National Park. Credit: Michael Paraskevas – panoramio/CC BY-SA 3.0

The bridges of Zagori are iconic presences in the area; all of them are constructed with stone yet each of them is unique in their own way. Surrounded by gorgeous landscape, these bridges are worth a stop, even if just for a quick selfie!

Be sure to see them all, including Kondodimos (or Lazaridis) Bridge, Plakidas or Kalogeriko (Monk) Bridge, Milos Bridge, Kokkoris (or Noutsos) Bridge, Pitsionis Bridge, and Mirisis Bridge.