Greece Receives First Rafale Jets from France

Rafale jets Greece
The jets flew over the Acropolis in Athens before they landed at Tanagra Airbase. Credit: AMNA

The first six of the 24 Rafale fighter jets bought from France in a landmark defense deal signed in January of 2021 arrived in Greece on Wednesday.

The initial order was for 18 jets, but in September Athens added another six to bolster Greece’s military clout in view of Turkey’s ambitions in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The jets landed at Tanagra Airbase after they flew over the Acropolis and their ownership was delivered over to Greece during a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Mitsotakis said that the jets will increase the country’s deterrent power. “The new fighters make our air force one of the strongest in Europe and the Mediterranean, and seal the Greek-French defense agreement,” he added at the ceremony.

The arrival of the first six Rafale fighter aircraft is a special moment in the strategic cooperation between Greece and France, Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said in an interview with Politico.

“It is a special moment for our strategic cooperation with France, but also for our common vision for European defense. These next-generation superior aircraft multiply the deterrent power of the Air Force and strengthen our ability to meet any security challenge in our area,” Panagiotopoulos said.

The total cost of the aircraft is estimated at 3.3 billion euros, with Athens also planning to acquire three Belharra frigates from the French shipyard Naval Group for between 3 and 5 billion euros. Greece has also expressed an interest in purchasing five Gowind corvettes from the Naval Group.

Greek pilots have been training in France for several months, along with 50 technicians.

Greece hopes Rafale jets will significantly improve defense capabilities

The Rafale is a French twin-engine, multirole fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation.

Equipped with a wide range of weapons, the Rafale is intended to perform air supremacy, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike, and nuclear deterrence missions. It is referred to as an “omnirole” aircraft by Dassault.

Versatile and best in all categories of missions, the Rafale is a true “force multiplier,” Dassault says.

The Rafale has exhibited a remarkable survivability rate during the latest French Air Force and Navy operations, thanks to an optimized airframe and to a wide range of smart and discrete sensors. It is slated to be the French armed forces’ prime combat aircraft until 2050 at least.

Greece also eyes US F-35s

In 2021, Greece’s annual defense budget reached 5.5 billion euros, a sharp 41% increase compared to 2020.

Greece is also eying to purchase the state-of-the-art F-35 fighter aircraft from the US.

Speaking after Greece and France signed the agreement to buy Rafale fighters, Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said that “sooner or later, a purchase of F-35s will be discussed.”

The F-35 is a stealth, fifth-generation, multi-role combat aircraft, designed for ground-attack and air-superiority missions.

It is built by Lockheed Martin and many subcontractors, including Northrup Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, and BAE Systems.

US Models Suggest Omicron Wave May Kill Up to 300,000 People

Models suggest that the next Omicron wave will kill 50,000 to 300,000 people in the US by March. Credit: Raimond Spekking, CC BY-SA 4.0

New models suggest that the milder but more infectious omicron variant will cause 50,000 to 300,000 deaths in the United States before March.

Although many studies show that Omicron causes less severe disease than past variants of Covid, the sheer infectiousness of the strain is likely to lead to more deaths.

“A lot of people are still going to die because of how transmissible omicron has been,” epidemiologist Jason Salemi told the Associated Press. “It unfortunately is going to get worse before it gets better.”

Although it seems counter-intuitive and difficult to conceive, experts believe that even a sliver of the high number of Omicron infections will bring an unprecedented number of deaths.

“Overall, you’re going to see more sick people even if you as an individual have a lower chance of being sick,” said Katriona Shea, to the Associated Press. Shea works with a team to amalgamate multiple pandemic models for the Biden Administration.

Shea believes that the oncoming deaths will peak at the end of this month or early February and perhaps push the overall US death toll past 1 million.

Omicron variant less severe according to South African, California studies

Taken as a whole, researchers and health officials around the world state that Omicron tends to cause less severe disease than all other mutations of the coronavirus.

Up until now, it was still unknown if this is because of the increased immunity as a result of vaccination or past illness, or if Omicron is simply less severe in and of itself.

A new South African study showed that about one-quarter of the reduced risk of severe illness from Omicron was due to the characteristics inherent in the virus itself.

“In the Omicron-driven wave, severe COVID-19 outcomes were reduced mostly due to protection conferred by prior infection and/or vaccination, but intrinsically reduced virulence may account for an approximately 25% reduced risk of severe hospitalisation or death compared to Delta,” the study said.

A new, much larger study of almost 70,000 Covid patients in California likewise showed that the variant was less severe in its effects.

The study found that Omicron variant infections were half as likely as those caused by the Delta variant to send people to the hospital. Looking at the medical records of 52,000 Omicron patients who sought care at Kaiser Permanente of Southern California, there was not one single patient who needed intubation during their hospital stay.

In a statement in line with the South African study, Dr. Joseph Lewnard, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Berkeley who was an author of the California study, stated “It’s truly a viral factor that accounts for reduced severity.”


The Japanese Bouzouki Player Who Performs Greek Rebetika

Japanese bouzouki player rebetika
Nobuka Sunohara playing rebetika with her bouzouki. Credit: Nobuka Sunohara/Facebook

It is not often that you see a Japanese bouzouki player, much less a woman, playing her favorite instrument, the bouzouki in the rebetika genre in the faraway city of Kobe in Japan.

But then again, Greece and Greeks are everywhere, leaving their stamp on every corner of the planet.

Nobuka Sunohara is the rare case of a Japanese bouzouki player, who along with her instrument has a great love for Vassilis Tsitsanis.

Reading the Facebook post that says, “Today, Bouzouki live streaming from Japan!!” may sound a bit surreal to some ears, yet that was a real live streaming that took place on January 8.

Watching the live stream of a group of eight Japanese people playing the bouzouki, rendering classic Greek popular songs, makes you realize that music knows no borders and everything is possible when you put your mind to it.

The Greek restaurant in Kobe

Bouzouki is part of Nobuka Sunohara’s life, but it’s definitely not the only Greek thing she loves.

As she tells the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (AMNA), she is married to a Greek man and they have two sons, who are 20 and 17 years old.

Like music, love knows no borders either, as Nobuka met her Greek husband when he was a university student in Japan.

Today they run a small Greek restaurant in Kobe, where the blue-and-white flies proudly at the entrance, while its colors dominate the decor.

And, of course, Greek bouzouki music plays nonstop in the cozy eatery, where one can also buy produce from Greece, like olive oil, Kalamata olives, feta cheese and other delicacies.

The restaurant where you can hear bouzouki all day long

The Japanese woman tells AMNA that she started learning to play bouzouki in 2018. The live streaming was her teacher’s idea.

“Last Saturday, our teacher, who lives in Tokyo and plays with us online in class, threw out the idea for this live on Facebook,” she said.

Initially, she wanted to sing the Greek songs she loved so much and urged her son — who plays guitar — to learn to play the bouzouki. Yet, her son chose to remain true to his rock music.

Nobuka started playing the bouzouki and now practices daily, even when she is at the restaurant — in between customers — with her love for the bouzouki growing day by day.

“It was very difficult in the beginning. Two years ago I met a Japanese man who is self-taught in bouzouki. So I started lessons with him, here, in my store, and I love playing  bouzouki.”

She was not alone in that. She found other people in Kobe who share the same love for the instrument, and now she is trying to spread that love for bouzouki to more people, and make them discover the magic of its sound.

Now 17 people participate in the classes that are hosted twice a month in her restaurant, although the coronavirus pandemic has put a temporary stop to that.

The love for Tsitsanis and rebetika

The Japanese bouzouki player is proud of her new 6-stringed instrument, custom-made as it was in the good old days of rebetika.

“Before that I had an 8-string, but I heard that the 6-string was what they used in the past and I wanted to try it,” Nobuka said, adding that she loves the songs of Vassilis Tsitsanis, her favorite being “Synnefiasmeni Kyriaki” (Cloudy Sunday).

“Tsitsanis was great,” she says. “I listen to a lot of rebetika music at home and when I’m posting a song on Facebook a lot of people help me find out more about the singer or suggest other songs.”

It is the feeling of nostalgia that these songs trigger in her, as she says.

Even though the lyrics in Greek are difficult for her, she makes sure that she learns and understands the words and then she picks up the bouzouki to accompany the lyrics.

“Many of my Japanese customers have never seen a bouzouki and I urge them to take it in their hands and try to play it. I invite them to participate in the lessons we organize,” Nobuki says.


Turkey No More: Erdogan Changes Country’s Name to “Turkiye”

Turkish President Erdogan announced that Turkey will be changing its name to “Turkiye.” Credit: Turkish Presidency

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan released a statement earlier this month announcing that he will change Turkey’s name to “Turkiye.”

“The word ‘Turkiye’ represents and expresses the culture, civilization and values of the Turkish nation in the best way,” read the statement.

“Turkiye” is the name used for the country in Turkish, and the country now wants to carry that name over to international recognition:

“In the context of strengthening the ‘Turkiye’ brand, in all types of activities and correspondence, especially in official relations with other countries and international institutions and organizations, the term ‘Turkiye’ will be used instead of terms such as ‘Turkey’, ‘Turkei’, ‘Turquie’ and so on.”

“Turkiye is accepted as an umbrella brand for our country in national and international venues,” Erdogan maintained. “Turkiye is the best representation and expression of the Turkish people’s culture, civilization and values.”

But neither Erdogan nor any of his representatives have indicated when exactly the name change will officially be instated: “The exact timing for the name change is still under consideration by the government,” a senior government official said to the Middle East Eye. “But the process is ongoing.”

Inflation in Turkey reaches two-decade high

Inflation in Turkey soared to 36% at the beginning of the month, the highest in Erdogan era, and it may be headed for the stratosphere, up to a possible 50%, some experts say.

With prices for food and drink up nearly 44% annually, Turkey’s economic status is becoming increasingly shaky; looking back at December 2021 as a whole, the country’s annual inflation rate spiked to 36.1% last month, its highest rate in the 19 years that Tayyip Erdogan has been in power.

The Turkish lira suffered the worst year it has had against other currencies during 2021; now, the dire economic situation in the country shows the reality of its currency crisis, which was created by the president’s unorthodox interest rate-cutting policies.

Inflation a result of President Erdogan’s policies

Turkish Statistical Institute data showed on Monday that in the month of December alone, consumer prices in Turkey reached double digit inflation, rising 13.58%, causing havoc for the household budgets of its people, who were forced to queue for bread in some places — while Greeks lined up in stores near the border to purchase Christmas bargains due to the relative strength of the euro.

The consumer price index computed annually was even greater than the projections of a Reuters poll forecast of 30.6%. Meanwhile, must-have items such as food and transportation rose even faster, Reuters says.

The Turkish lira lost a staggering 44% of its value last year as Erdogan ordered the central bank of the country to cut interest rates deeply in a program to prioritize credit and exports over currency strength and price stability.

King Otto, the Bavarian Who Died Longing For His “Beloved Greece”

King Otto of Greece
Prince Otto von Bayern, who later became King Otto of Greece. Credit: Oil painting by Friedrich Durck/Public Domain

King Otto, the Bavarian prince who ruled as King of Greece from May 27, 1832 until he was deposed on October 23, 1862, was a polarizing figure who tried to bring Greece out of the chaos of revolution into the modern world.

In the attempt, he made enemies of nearly all the powers at play in the dizzyingly complex world of Greek politics, leading to an ignominious departure from the country — on the same boat by which he had come to its shores. But in the intervening years, he left an indelible mark on the country by transforming Athens into the great capital city that it is today.

The second son of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, Otto ascended the newly created throne of Greece at age 17, as minor who had to have a Regency, with three Bavarian nobles ruling in his name.

The Great Powers also insisted that his title be “King of Greece,” rather than “King of the Hellenes,” because the latter would imply a claim over the millions of Greeks living outside the borders of the country who were still under Turkish rule.

Otto landed on Greek shores in state with his three Bavarian advisers Count von Armansperg, Karl von Abel and Georg Ludwig von Maurer after sailing on the British frigate “HMS Madagascar.”

Thousands lined the docks of Nafplio, the Greek capital at the time, to witness his arrival, including many heroes of the revolution such as Theodoros Kolokotronis and Alexandros Mavrokordatos.

King Otto
Prince Otto von Bayern, later to become King of Greece. Credit: Oil painting by Friedrich Durck/Public Domain

Arrival of King Otto seen as return to normalcy after political chaos

His arrival was initially enthusiastically welcomed by the Greek people as an end to the chaos of the prior years and the beginning of the rejuvenation of the Greek nation.

The 17-year-old monarch immediately endeared himself to his adopted country by adopting the Greek national costume and Hellenizing his name to “Othon (Όθων).

Prince Otto Friedrich Ludwig was born as the second son of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria at Schloss Mirabell in Salzburg, when it was part of the Kingdom of Bavaria. However, he did have blood ties to Greece, however far back they may have been; through his ancestor, Bavarian Duke John II, Otto was a descendant of the Byzantine imperial dynasties of Komnenos and Laskaris.

Queen Amalia
Queen Amalia of Greece initially endeared herself to the Greek people by adopting a version of Greek traditional dress. Credit: Unknown painter/Public Domain

London Conference of Great Powers established Otto as Greek monarch

In addition, his father was a prominent Philhellene who provided significant financial assistance to the Greek cause during its War of Independence.

At the end of the War, the three Great Powers (Great Britain, France and Russia) formulated the London Protocol of 1829, which established an autonomous Greek state under the rule of a “Hereditary Christian Prince.” The political situation remained unstable for several years, with no suitable figure found to rule as regent of Greece.

In 1832 British Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston convened the London Conference, which offered the crown to the teenage Prince Otto, which he happily accepted. The Bavarian House of Wittelsbach had no connections to the ruling dynasties of any of the Great Powers, so Otto was a neutral choice with which they were all satisfied.

No Greek political figures were consulted, but the country had been such complete chaos ever since the conclusion of the Revolution that no single group or individual could claim to represent it at that time.

Otto’s three-man regency council, made up of Bavarian court officials, ultimately proved to be deeply unpopular with the Greek people and he did away with them when he reached his majority, thereafter ruling as an absolute monarch.

Throughout his reign, however, despite all his efforts, Otto was unable to resolve the problems leading to Greece’s endemic poverty or prevent economic meddling from outside interests.

Greek politics during that time were Byzantine in their complexity, based on affiliations with the three Great Powers that had guaranteed Greece’s independence. Otto’s ability to maintain the support of the powers was key to his remaining as monarch; however, to remain effective, Otto had to play the interests of each of the Great Powers’ Greek adherents against the others, while not irritating France, Russia and Great Britain themselves.

Otto enmeshed in incredibly complex world of Greek, Great Powers politics

Perhaps no one on Earth could have ruled effectively in the maelstrom of Greek politics at the time; eventually the Greek people’s demands for a constitution proved impossible to ignore, and in the face of an armed (but bloodless) insurrection, he granted a constitution in 1843, renaming Palace Square in Athens as Syntagma, or “Constitution,” Square.

Count von Armansperg was Otto’s President of the Privy Council and the first representative (Prime Minister) in the new Greek government. After the king reached his majority in 1835, von Armansperg was made Arch-Secretary, but was called Arch-Chancellor by the Greek press.

Otto’s reign then proceeded to bumble along, making itself hated after after the Greek people became more heavily taxed than they had been under Ottoman rule; the people believed they had exchanged the hated Ottoman rule for government by a foreign bureaucracy, which they called the “Bavarocracy” (Βαυαροκρατία).

Religion was always another sore point for Otto, as he was Catholic, seen by many pious as a member of a heretic sect; one of the stipulations of the 1843 Constitution was that his heirs would have to be Orthodox.

Unrest continued over the popular heroes and leaders of the Greek Revolution, including generals Theodoros Kolokotronis and Yiannis Makriyiannis, who opposed the Bavarian-dominated regency. These giants of the Revolution were subsequently charged with treason, thrown in jail and even sentenced to death, although they were later pardoned due to the public outcry over their treatment.

Certainly Otto was in the midst of a situation that he could not control, and enormous mistakes were made in his dealings with the political figures who still played a role in Greek public life.

When Greece was blockaded by the British Royal Navy in 1850 and again in 1854, to stop the country from attacking the Ottoman Empire during the Crimean War, Otto’s standing amongst the Greeks suffered. As a result, there was an assassination attempt on Queen Amalia, and finally in 1862 Otto was deposed while in the countryside.

But when in power, he left an indelible mark on Greece by his decision to move the Greek capital from Nafplion to the great classical-era city of Athens, in a nod to its former greatness.

Tragically neglected during the centuries of Ottoman rule, with its glorious ancient past relegated to dusty history, by the 1830’s its population had dwindled to an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 people, who mainly lived in what is now the Plaka district of the city, under the Acropolis.

City of Athens recreated with masterpieces of Classical-era architecture

National University
Historic building of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

His first task as king was to make a detailed archaeological and topographic survey of Athens, assigning Gustav Eduard Schaubert and Stamatios Kleanthis to complete this task.

A modern city plan was laid out, and public buildings erected. One of the first buildings to be constructed, beginning in 1836, was Otto’s own palace, located in an area of Athens called Perivolakia.

After the palace was completed in 1843, the square in front of it was named Palace Square — but it wasn’t named thus for long, with the Greek people demanding that it be renamed Syntagma, or Constitution, Square, after they forced Otto to accept a written constitution for the Greek nation.

The palace was designed by Bavarian architect Friedrich von Gärtner with funds donated by Otto’s father, King Ludwig I of Bavaria.

That specific location was chosen because the site was the highest point in central Athens, offering not only the view of Acropolis and the Parthenon, but also a view of the sea, the Saronic Gulf.

Apart from the Palace (which later became the Parliament building), Otto’s finest architectural legacy of this period includes the stunning Classical buildings of the University of Athens, which were constructed in 1837, when the institution was called the Othonian University), and Athens Polytechnic University, which was founded in 1837 as the Royal School of Arts.

The National Gardens of Athens, which opened in 1840, the National Library of Greece, from 1842, and the Old Parliament Building from 1858 are just some of the other architectural masterpieces which still grace Athens today and which owe their existence to King Otto.

The Academy of Athens, constructed in 1859, is another of the neoclassical treasures of Athenian architecture today.

Old Parliament Building
The bronze equestrian sculpture of Revolutionary War hero Theodoros Kolokotronis in front of the old Parliament Building in Athens. Credit: George E. Koronaios/ CC BY-SA 4.0

As unpopular as the “Bavarocracy” may have been, the contributions made by Otto to the city that he loved have become an indelible part of Athens, recreating some of the greatness that was once ancient Greece. At the same time, numerous schools and hospitals were established all over the country during his reign, helping to bring the nation into the modern European world.

In another contribution to Greek culture, it was none other than King Otto who introduced beer to Greece. He had been sure to bring his personal brewmaster, Herr Fuchs, with him when he came to the country, knowing that in those days there was no beer to be had in the hot Mediterranean country.

That was an untenable situation for any German; accordingly, the Bavarian brewmaster not only produced beer during the years of Otto’s reign but also made his home permanently in Greece, staying there even after the King’s departure, introducing his own beer to the Greek nation under the label “Fix.”

Otto visited Germany in 1836, marrying a beautiful and talented 17-year-old, Duchess Amalia (Amelie) of Oldenburg. The wedding took place on November 22, 1836, but the event did not augur well for the Greek nation.

Revolution of 3 September
“The Revolution of 3 September,” Unknown Artist. This work portrays the bloodless 1843 confrontation which resulted in the formation of the Greek constitution and the curtailing of the absolute powers of King Otto. Credit: Unknown painter/Public Domain

Insurmountable political problems, lack of an heir complicate Otto’s position

Not only did the marriage not produce an heir, but the new queen made herself unpopular by interfering in governmental affairs and adhering to her Lutheran faith. Otto was later unfaithful to his wife, having an affair with Jane Digby, a notorious woman his father had previously taken as a lover. She went on to have other affairs with Greek general Christodoulos Chatzipetros and the Greek aristocrat Count Spyridon Theotokis.

Upon returning to Greece after his wedding, Otto found that his Prime Minister, Armansperg, had overstepped his bounds politically; he was then dismissed from his duties. However, his replacement left many Greeks despairing that their hopes for a constitution would ever be fulfilled after the Bavarian Rudhart took his place, and put off the granting of such a document once again.

Meanwhile, Otto was faced with almost insurmountable problems in trying to reconcile the differing interests of the parties who were the real power behind the throne, including the diplomatic representatives of Russia, Great Britain and France and their allies in the Greek political world.

According to historian Richard Clogg, the unending difficulties faced by the Othonian monarchy were the result of Greece’s endemic poverty at the time, coupled with the machinations of the French legate in Athens Theobald Piscatory, along with his opposite numbers, Russia’s Gabriel Catacazy, and Great Britain’s Edmund Lyons.

They not only informed their home governments on the political activities of the Greeks, they also served as advisers to their respective allied parties within Greece, making for a convoluted political sphere in the country.

Otto attempted to balance the power among all these parties, ostensibly to reduce their overall power, while trying to create a pro-Othon party. However, The parties themselves, however, became the entree into government power and wealth.

The religious question unfortunately came into play again after both his regents, Armansperg and then Rundhart, suppressed the monasteries. This was understandably intolerable to the Greek Orthodox hierarchy.

Once he rid himself of both of his Bavarian advisers, however, Otto allowed the statutory dissolution of the monasteries to lapse, buying him some time ad political goodwill.

Naturally, during Byzantine times, rulers had always been an integral part of the Orthodox Church. With Otto Catholic, this created yet another issue with which he had to contend; in the end, power over the Church and education was ceded to the Russian Party, while the king maintained a veto over the decision of the Synod of Bishops.

This strategy was successful for a time in maintaining a balance of power in Greek society.

Popular dislike, distrust led to public demands for Constitution

Although King Otto tried to function as an absolute monarch after the dismissal of his regents, historian Thomas Gallant states that he “was neither ruthless enough to be feared, nor compassionate enough to be loved, nor competent enough to be respected.”

By 1843, public dissatisfaction with Otto had reached crisis proportions and their demands for a Constitution were growing. As soon as his Bavarian troops were withdrawn from the kingdom, a popular revolt was underway in Greece.

This movement culminated on September 3, 1843, when the infantry, led by Colonel Dimitris Kallergis and the respected Revolutionary captain and former President of the Athens City Council General Yiannis Makriyiannis, assembled in Palace Square.

Eventually joined by much of the population of the small city, the crowd refused to disperse until the king agreed to grant them a constitution, which required that there be Greeks in the Council, that he convene a permanent National Assembly — and that, incredibly, Otto personally thank the leaders of the uprising.

Now basically without any military backing him up, King Otto had little recourse but to agree to the demands of the crowd over the objections of his obstinate queen, Amalia.

Syntagma Square named by the people of Greece

Just as the people had demanded, the square in front of the Palace was duly renamed Constitution Square (Πλατεία Συντάγματος). For the first time, the king had Greeks in his Council, adding even more complexity to his political dealings with the French Party, the English Party and the Russian Party.

These new Greek politicians joined the parties according to which of the Great Powers’ culture they most esteemed, adding their political ambitions to the mix.

The king’s prestige and power, based in large part on support from the combined Great Powers, mostly the British, suffered blow as a result of the “Pacifico” incident of 1850, when British Foreign Secretary Palmerston sent the British fleet to blockade the port of Piraeus with warships to exact reparations for the treatment of a British subject there.

Another misstep occurred when Otto contemplated entering the Crimean War, with Russia and against Turkey, Britain and France in 1853. Perhaps trying to appease the Greek people who were proponents of the Great Idea (Μεγάλη Ιδέα), the irredentist concept which had as a goal the revival of the Byzantine Empire, this resulted in another unfortunate comeuppance for the young King.

Not only was the effort unsuccessful but it resulted in renewed intervention by the two Great Powers and a second blockade of the great port of Piraeus port, forcing Greece to assume neutrality in the conflict.

Adding to this potent mix, the continued inability of the royal couple to have children also raised the thorny issue of succession and whether or not Otto should stay in power.

Coup against Otto succeeds as Great Powers recognize Greece’s self-determination

In 1861, a student named Aristeidis Dosios, the son of politician Konstantinos Dosios, attempted to murder Queen Amalia; by then she was so unpopular that he was openly hailed as a hero. His attempt, however, also prompted spontaneous feelings of sympathy toward the royal couple among the Greek population — at least for a time.

The next year, when Otto was visiting the Peloponnese in 1862 a new coup was launched; this time a Provisional Government was set up which summoned a National Convention.

The ambassadors of all the Great Powers urged King Otto not to resist this uprising of the Greek people; he and the Queen then wisely took refuge on a British warship and returned once again to Bavaria — taking with them the Greek regalia which they had brought from from there thirty years earlier.

“Greece, my Greece, my beloved Greece”

In 1863 the Greek National Assembly elected Prince William of Denmark, aged only 17, King of the Hellenes under the regnal name of George I. The second son of King Christian IX of Denmark, he and his descendants reigned in Greece from 1863 to 1924 and again from 1935 to 1973.

The exiled King Otto died in the palace of the former bishops of Bamberg, Germany, and was buried in the Theatiner Church in Munich. During his retirement, he was known to wear  the iconic traditional clothing of Greece, which is nowadays worn only by the evzones (Presidential Guards).

Αccording to Thomas W. Gallant, who wrote about King Otto’s reign in his work “Modern Greece” witnesses said that Otto’s last words were “Greece, my Greece, my beloved Greece.”

King Otto died in Bavaria in 1867, just five years after he had been forced into exile.


The English Socialite Who Caused a Stir in Greece with Famous Affairs

Jane Digby
Jane Digby, Lady Ellenborough, painted by Joseph Karl Stieler. Credit: Schonheitengaleri, Munich/Public Domain

Jane Digby, who later became Lady Ellenborough, was one of the most famous adventuresses of her times, even having an affair with King Otto of Greece — and his father — and then going off to live in a cave with the Greek general Chatzipetros.

Her exploits were so daring for the age that they almost defy belief even today, to the point that reading any recounting of her life sounds like fiction.

Born in 1807 in Dorset, England, to an admiral whose booty from his October 1799 raid on the Spanish galleon Santa Brigidia formed the basis of the family’s wealth, she was perhaps made for the adventuring life.

Jane Digby, Lady Ellenborough, painted by Joseph Karl Stieler. Credit: Schonheitengaleri, Munich/Public Domain

Digby knew many powerful men of the Greek Revolution, new Greek state

Marrying Edward Law, the Governor General of India, in 1824 at just seventeen years of age, she became Lady Ellenborough. But being wedded to a man many years her senior apparently wasn’t something Jane relished.

They had one son together, Arthur Dudley Law, who died at the age of two in February of 1830.

She quickly became attached to her maternal cousin, Colonel George Anson; however, her eye was soon attracted to the Bohemian nobleman and Austrian statesman Prince Felix of Schwarzenberg. Understandably, Digby’s affair with Prince Felix caused considerable scandal.

This second scandal quickly led Lord Ellenborough to divorce her in 1830 — an extremely unusual thing at the time — by an extraordinary act of Parliament.

She went on to have two children by him, including Mathilde, “Didi,” born November 12, 1829 in Basel, Switzerland, and Felix, who was born in December of 1830 Paris, who died just a few weeks after his birth. The affair with Felix ended shortly after the death of their son; Didi was then raised by Felix’s sister.

Digby meets Ludwig I, the father of Greece’s King Otto

Turning over a new leaf after leaving her daughter in the care of her aunt, Jane then moved on to Germany to become the lover of Ludwig I of Bavaria: and this is where the Greek connection comes in, because as we know, this was the father of the man who would go on to be named Otto, the King of the Greeks, the founder of that royal house.

However, her attention was next diverted toward Baron Karl von Venningen, whom she met at the court of Ludwig, in Munich, when she was out horse riding. Although it was well known that she was not in love with Venningen, he was head over heels in love with her and was willing to give her the social respectability of marriage. They wed in November of 1833 and had a son, Heribert, who was born on January 27, 1833, and a daughter, Bertha, born September 4, 1834 in Mannheim, Germany.

Englishwoman falls in love with Count Spyridon Theotokis

Digby may have met Greece’s Count Spyridon Theotokis (born 1805) at the court of the newly-appointed King Otto of Greece — her lover’s son — who ascended to power in the nascent modern Greek state in 1832. This time, the attraction was mutual; by 1838, Digby and Theotokis had become lovers.

Jane’s husband Baron Venningen discovered the relationship between the two and promptly challenged Theotokis to a duel, in which the Greek count was wounded, but survived. Having established his honor — at least by the standards of the day — the Baron then released Digby from their marriage and took care of their children for the rest of their formative years.

Incredibly, no doubt due to her many undeniable charms, Digby and the Baron remained friends for the rest of their lives.

King Otto
Prince Otto von Bayern, later to become King of Greece. Credit: Oil painting by Friedrich Dürck /Public Domain

Adventuress marries in Greece while still wed to Venningen

Digby had a son, Leonidas, with Theotokis; he was born on March 21,1840 in Paris. She then converted to the Greek Orthodox faith and married Theotokis in Marseille, France, in 1841 — although she was not legally divorced from Venningen until the next year.

The couple moved to Greece with their son, and built a beautiful home there together; but tragedy was once more to visit Digby when the six-year-old Leonidas fell off a balcony and died in 1846. Theotokis and Digby divorced after this event, but Jane had already heard reports of Theotokis’ many affairs.

Digby assuaged her grief by becoming lovers with Greece’s King Otto, the dashing young man who was the second son of King Ludwig I of Bavaria. Otto ascended the newly-created throne of Greece at just 17 years of age. His government was initially run by a three-man regency council made up of Bavarian court officials, but eventually he did away with them, ruling as an absolute monarch.

Digby in rendezvous with King Otto, dashing Revolutionary War hero Chatzipetros

As part of the social whirl of the court, Jane then met a hero of the Greek War of Independence, the Thessalian general Christodoulos Chatzipetros, the son of a wealthy Aromanian family. Born in the village of Neraidochori in western Thessaly, he initially followed his family’s trade, working as a merchant. In 1819 he became a member of the Filiki Etaireia, quickly rising through the ranks after the Greek War of Independence broke out in 1821.

Chatzipetros stayed in the Army throughout the war, serving in Central Greece and the Peloponnese under Kitsos Tzavellas and Georgios Karaiskakis, fighting with particular distinction in the battles of Neokastron and Arachova.

He was named a chiliarch, meaning he had the command of one thousand men, by Ioannis Kapodistrias, the first governor of the modern Greek state. King Otto of Greece then named him a commander of the Royal Phalanx (a corps of veteran fighters of the War of Independence) of Eastern Greece.

Eventually, Chatzipetros rose to the rank of Major General and was even named  to the post of aide-de-camp to Otto, but his inveterate womanizing led him to become involved in several sex scandals, including the affair with Digby, to the extent that Queen Amalia of Greece demanded his dismissal from court.

Unwilling to sever their ties even after that very public slap in the face, amounting to an expulsion from polite society, Digby became an equivalent to the “Queen” of his band of fighters, while they lived in caves together. As part of her new life, Digby rode horses and hunted in the mountains with her newest love.

Leaving former life behind, Digby departs for Middle East

However, this heady experience, like so many before, was not to last. She walked out on Chatzipetros after she discovered that he had been unfaithful to her with her maid, Eugenia. Taking the maid with her, she was then off to a new adventure — to the Middle East, where she said she had always wanted to visit.

Deciding to go for just one month, Jane decided to make it a permanent trip, leaving everything and everyone she had ever known, for good.

In mid-life, at the age of 46, after having enjoyed the attentions of the King of Greece, a distinguished Greek War of Independence hero and a succession of princes, Digby was, incredibly, about to embark on perhaps the biggest adventure of all in her life.

Arriving in Beirut, on her way to Jerusalem and Damascus, she rhapsodized about the new  landscape she saw before her, writing in her diary “The world must be very rich in beauty if there exists half a dozen places more beautiful than Beirut. The mountains, the snowy summits and rocks, and the city rising with spires and domes.”

Traveling out Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate toward Jericho, she met Sheikh Medjuel el Mezrab, a man 20 years her junior, on the road near Tiberias, in what is now Israel.

Jane Digby’s new life as Sheikha Umm al-Laban

Medjuel was a sheik of the Mezrab section of the Sba’a, a sub-tribe of “the great Anizzah tribe of Syria.” The two were married under Muslim law in 1853 and she took the name Jane Elizabeth Digby el Mezrab.

Jane had finally found married bliss; their union was a happy one and it lasted until her death 28 years later in 1881. Digby was referred to as Shaikhah Umm al-Laban (literally “sheikha mother of milk”) because of the paleness of her skin.

Digby wore Arab dress and learned the Arabic language, adding that to the other eight languages in which she was fluent. Half of each year was spent by the couple in the nomadic style, living in goat-hair tents in the desert, while the rest was enjoyed in a palatial villa that she had built for them in Damascus.

She spent the rest of her life in the city, where she befriended Sir Richard Burton and Isobel, Lady Burton while the former was serving as the British consul.

Digby died of fever and dysentery in Damascus on August 11, 1881, at the age of 74, and was buried in the Protestant Cemetery. She was famously buried with her horse in attendance at the funeral.

Upon her footstone, a block of pink limestone from Palmyra, a city that she loved, is her name, written in Arabic by Medjuel in charcoal and carved into the stone by a local mason.  A small part of their palatial house still survives, and is in the ownership of the same family who purchased it from Medjuel’s son in the 1930s.

Greek Photographer Wins Award with Stunning Images of New York’s Street Life

Greek photographer New York street life
Greek photographer Dimitri Mellos recently won the 2021 Street Photography Award. Credit: Dimitri Mellos

Greek photographer Dimitri Mellos recently won the 2021 Street Photography Award, sponsored by the Street Photographers Foundation, with his pictures capturing life in the streets of New York City.

Dimitri Mellos is a Greek expatriate who moved to New York City in 2005 to pursue his love of photography in an ideal setting, probably the setting.

For many, New York is the capital of the world, a melting pot of different ethnicities, ideas, cultures, religions, and art.

The streets of New York are like a motion picture where the plot and the cast change every minute. To shoot photographs in the Big Apple can become a pleasant obsession.

Greek photographer
“New Yorkers” by Dimitri Mellos. Credit for all photographs: Dimitri Mellos.

Dimitri Mellos and street photography

The Greek photographer moved to the United States, and New York in particular, in 2005 to attend graduate school for his PhD in clinical psychology. But as he tells Greek Reporter, he had other things in mind.

“I was born and grew up in Athens. I came here as an adult, in 2005, ostensibly to go to graduate school for my PhD in clinical psychology. However, my unspoken, hidden agenda was to also become a street photographer on the side.”

As he says, he was intuitively drawn to the particular genre because “it gives one the opportunity to create something possibly extraordinary out of the ordinary, to create art out of the humble cloth of everyday life.”

But there is more to Dimitri Mellos than creating art out of everyday life.

“At the deepest layer, my love of photography has to do with my discomfort with the passage of time. Everything passes and nothing lasts, and photography is our only chance to preserve some of these moments from oblivion.”

Greek photographer dimitri mellos
“New York City during the pandemic,” by Dimitri Mellos.

The choice of New York City

For someone who wants to pursue street photography and has a choice of place, New York is one of the first places that come to mind.

“New York is — or at least used to be — a kind of Mecca of street photography, both for historical reasons, as many of the greats of the genre worked here in the 1940s to 1980s, but also because of the great energy of the city.”

It also has to do with the New Yorkers’ ease in front of a camera, Mellos says.

“Most New Yorkers are not super-conscious around a camera, they are not as suspicious about someone with a camera, as people tend to be in some other parts of the world, including Greece, in my experience.”

Yet, the Greek photographer says, it is not only the magic of New York that inspired him. For him, it was the change of surroundings that played an important role.

“With hindsight I am shocked that I could not find inspiration in a city like Athens before, because now whenever I am there, I find it incredibly fascinating for a street photographer.

“I am mad at myself that I was so blind when I was living there, and did not manage to do more street photography in my own hometown.”

Greek photographer
“New York during the pandemic,” by Dimitri Mellos.

New York in the pandemic

Some of the pictures that won Mellos his award were shot during the Covid-19 pandemic, which ravaged the city in the first months of the outbreak.

“During the first few months of the pandemic, New York became unrecognizable, a real ghost town. The streets were completely empty, and it was an extremely sad spectacle, especially for a street photographer.”

Mellos says that during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic he was forced to stay home. He was infected in March 2020 and one month later his baby girl was born, so he had to stay home.

“During the first few months of the pandemic, New York became unrecognizable, a real ghost town. The streets were completely empty, and it was an extremely sad spectacle,” he says.

However, he could not put his camera aside. “One substitute I found for street photography during those months of isolation was to start taking photos of lonely pedestrians from my window, using a zoom lens.”

“It was incredible to see how the theater of the street somehow lived on, even when the streets were largely deserted,” the Greek photographer shares.

New York street life dimitri mellos
“New Yorkers,” by Dimitri Mellos.

The 2021 award on street life in New York

The Greek photographer does not shoot pictures as a professional. So the 2021 Street Photography Award is more of an important personal reward for him.

“I have the blessing and the curse of not making my living from photography. This prevents me from spending as much time doing photography as I would have liked, but on the other hand, also allows me to choose what to photograph and how to photograph it,” Mellos said.

“It is a fairly important award within the particular photography genre. This annual contest is organized by the Street Photographers Foundation, a group that has a very large following on social media and produces various books and publications.

Dimitri Mellos
“Self portrait,” courtesy Dimitri Mellos.

Now “mostly everyone is hunched over their phone”

After years of doing street photography, Mellos has seen a lot of changes in society, especially now that most people in the street are lost in their own personal phone universe.

“In recent years, the street has changed – it is much more difficult to capture people’s gazes, for example, as mostly everyone is hunched over their phone, even in the street and other public spaces.”

Indeed, this is something you see in public places in almost every part of the world nowadays. People are lost inside the little screen of their phones, oblivious to the people around them and the surroundings.

“The other side of this has to do with how little alert to their surroundings people have become. Everyone seems to be ensconced in their little personal bubble with their phone, oblivious to what’s around them.”

Through his shots, the Greek photographer hopes he would make people see what happens around them, be alert to fleeting moments of beauty that come and disappear at a blink of an eye, or a camera click.

“Beautiful and poetic moments are all around us, all the time. I would hope that at least a few people can be inspired from my photos to look up from their phones and pay attention to the world around them.”

Greek photographer New York street life
“New Yorker looking up,” by Dimitri Mellos.

Total of 23,340 Coronavirus Cases Recorded in Greece Tuesday

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Athens. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Public domain

Greece announced that a total of 23,340 new coronavirus cases had been diagnosed around the country on Tuesday, while 106 people suffering with the virus had passed away over the past 24 hours.

There had been a total of 101 coronavirus-related deaths in Greece on Monday; Tuesday’s total represented an increase of five. A total of 18,834 Covid-19 cases had been diagnosed on Monday in Greece.

The number of admissions of new coronavirus patients to Greek hospitals on Tuesday came to 475, showing a daily increase of 0.64%. The average number of admissions over the last seven days was 552 patients.

Meanwhile, there are 673 people on ventilators across Greece on Tuesday, showing an increase of one from the day prior.

81.43% of intubated patients with Covid-19 in Greece are unvaccinated

Among intubated patients, officials state that 548 (81.43%) are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, and 125 (18.57%) are fully vaccinated.

A total of 53 Covid-19 cases were identified after checks at the country’s entrance gates and borders.

The total number of cases as of Tuesday comes to 1,703,396. Based on the confirmed cases of the last seven days, 443 are considered to be related to travel from abroad and 2,214 are related to an already known case.

A total of 22,197 Covid-19 related deaths have been recorded since the beginning of the pandemic. Almost all of the victims, 95.0%, suffered from underlying disease and / or were age 70 years and older.

On Tuesday, officials from the EODY stated that 80.1% of all intubated patients have an underlying disease and / or are age 70 years and older.

The median age of death in those who have the coronavirus in Greece is 78 years, showing no change from several days prior.

“Twindemic:” flu and Covid-19 hit Europe

The flu has returned to Europe after temporarily being supplanted by Covid-19 last year. Countries are now on alert for the potential of a “twindemic,” a concurrent surge in flu cases and Covid-19 cases that could wreak havoc in hospitals.

Covid had pushed influenza aside last year, becoming the dominant infection across the globe. But now the flu is spreading through Europe at “a higher than expected rate,” according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Pasi Penttinen, the ECDC’s primary expert on the flu, said that “If we start to lift all measures, the big concern I have for influenza is that, because we have had such a long time of almost no circulation in the European population, maybe we will shift away from normal seasonal patterns.”

Europe is now confronted with the prospect of a twindemic as it struggles to manage the fight against the Omicron variant. The World Health Organization announced last week that more than half of Europe’s population is likely to be infected with Omicron in the next two months:

“At this rate, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) forecasts that more than 50% of the population in the region will be infected with omicron in the next six to eight weeks,” said Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe.

Source of Strange Booming Sound in Thessaloniki Discovered

Thessaloniki noise sound
A strange booming sound has been plaguing residents of Thessaloniki of late. Some describe the noise as “otherworldly.” Credit: Greek Reporter

The source of the strange booming sound plaguing residents of the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki was finally located on Tuesday.

Nearly every night since December, residents of the city have been jolted awake by the banging noise they describe as deafening, and even otherworldly.

The sound can be heard in many neighborhoods across the city, but is most audible in the area at the intersections of Kifisias and Akropoleos streets.

Agis Papadopoulos, the President of the Thessaloniki Water Supply authority, announced on Tuesday that the sound was coming from routine tuning of the water supply running through the neighborhood of Meteora, where the sound was most prominent.

Representatives from Thessaloniki Water Supply previously assured the public that the noise was not coming from any work being done on its pipes.

Papadopoulos stated that the sound was the result of an anomaly in the water flow through the pipes.

“Imagine that the water flows through the pipes like a wave. If there is some sort of anomaly in the flow, the contact between the water and the pipe can produce a sound. There was no blockage,” he stated.

Previous theories regarding strange sound in Thessaloniki

Previous theories regarding the cause of the sound included seismic and geological phenomena, but Geology Professor Efthimios Lekkas stated on television news channel ANT1 that the noise is not likely to be natural in origin; rather, it likely came from human activity.

Before the source of the sound was uncovered, Gerasimos Houliaras, the Head of Geodynamic Research at the National Observatory of Athens, reassured viewers of the news network ERT that researchers from the Aristotle University in Thessaloniki were conducting tests into whether or not the noise is coming from some sort of geological event or from something mechanical.

Witnesses reported that the sound seemed to be emanating from the Seikh Su, a hilltop forest to the north of the city.

A local resident spoke to, expressing his fears regarding the eerie noise in Thessaloniki:

“When we are at the spot where it is especially loud, we feel as if there is someone hitting the earth from the inside. There is a natural gas conductor at the spot. We are all afraid because we don’t know where it’s coming from. There are people who wake up from the noise early in the morning, at 2:00 and 3:00 AM. Yesterday, I myself was awake at 5:30 AM and I heard it.”

Thessaloniki is the second-largest city in Greece

Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city and the capital of Macedonia, is both historic and avant-garde.

The ancient city, located in northern Greece, has a rich history stretching from antiquity to the modern era, but is most noted for its importance during the Byzantine period.

During that time, Thessaloniki was a competitor with the great city of Constantinople in terms of its wealth and influence.

It is known today as a student city, because the Aristotle University, one of the best and largest schools in Greece, is located there.

Full of life and young people, Thessaloniki is an ancient city that is always on the cutting edge. Interesting bars, restaurants, and shops line the streets, and pedestrians easily stumble upon ruins from the many periods of the city’s history during their daily walks.

The White Tower is by far Thessaloniki’s most iconic monument.The current 23-meter (75 foot) tall structure was built on top of a Byzantine fortification first mentioned in the 12th century AD.

After the Ottoman Empire invaded and seized control of the city in 1430, the existing tower was built on top of the old Byzantine structure. It connected with the city’s defensive walls, which were unfortunately mostly destroyed in 1866.

Throughout its Ottoman history, the White Tower was called “the Tower of Blood” or “the Red Tower” because of its reputation as a prison in which many were brutally tortured.

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finds Ancient Carbon Signature on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity Rover found an ancient trace of life on Mars. Credit: NASA CC BY-NC 2.0

A piece of sediment discovered by NASA’s Curiosity Rover on Sunday contained carbon — a possible trace of ancient life on the Red Planet.

Carbon is a tell-tale sign of much bigger life processes, as carbon is the building block of organisms and goes through its own carbon cycle to recycle atoms everywhere in the environment on Earth. Carbon moves from the atmosphere to the ground and then back to the atmosphere.

Thus, researchers can use carbon atoms to trace a larger story of ancient life on Mars. The Curiosity Rover first touched down on the Gale Crater on Mars in August 2021. The crater, which is 96 miles long, was created by a meteor that struck Mars’s surface roughly 3.5 billion to 3.8 billion years ago. The crater is believed to have once been a lake.

Curiosity drilled into the sediment of the Gale Crater between August 2021 and July 2021. The rover then heated those samples to 1,562 degrees Fahrenheit, and the elements contained in the samples separated, releasing the carbon atoms.

“The samples extremely depleted in carbon 13 are a little like samples from Australia taken from sediment that was 2.7 billion years old,” said Christopher H. House, lead study author and professor of geoscience at Pennsylvania State University, in a statement.

“Those samples were caused by biological activity when methane was consumed by ancient microbial mats, but we can’t necessarily say that on Mars because it’s a planet that may have formed out of different materials and processes than Earth.”

Mars rock gets caught in Perseverance Rover

NASA’s Mars Rover Perseverance got a rock sample lodged in its “throat” while collecting debris in December. The rover, which collected the sample at the end of last month, has been unable to fully process the rock.

“I recently captured my sixth rock core and have encountered a new challenge. Seems some pebble-sized debris is obstructing my robotic arm from handing off the tube for sealing/storage. More images and data to come. #SamplingMars takes perseverance,” read a statement posted to Twitter by the mission’s team members on Friday.

Perseverance is a six-wheeled, car-sized rover that is currently in the process of collecting Red Planet rock samples, of which this stuck pebble is the sixth. Problems arose when Perseverance attempted to transfer the sample, contained inside a titanium tube, into a “bit carousel,” a moving structure located on Perseverance’s chassis. It was during this pass-off that the sample got lodged in the rover’s machinery.

“The designers of the bit carousel did take into consideration the ability to continue to successfully operate with debris,” wrote Louise Jandura, chief engineer for sampling and caching at NASA’s Jet propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, in a blog post.

“However, this is the first time we are doing a debris removal, and we want to take whatever time is necessary to ensure these pebbles exit in a controlled and orderly fashion,” Jandura explained.