Friday, March 25, 2011

Thessaloniki cultural crossroads

Starting this year, the city of Thessaloniki will be hosting some of the world’s greatest cultures. This year, the admirable cultures of the Middle East will be honored all around the city, with a series of musical events, theatrical productions, film and documentary festivals, museum exhibitions from antiquity to modern times, culinary events, conferences and symposia, proving that a mystified east and an idealized west don’t exist in isolation from one another, but have always existed in a state of mutual influence.

Here you will find a brief presentation of some of the events which will take place in 2011.

Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art

The Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art proudly presents Roaming Images, Crossroads of Greek and Arab Culture Through the Eyes of Contemporary Artists.

The project researches the various concepts of image, or eikon (in Greek) or surah (in Arabic), along with the ideologies and geo-cultural climates that fostered them. The notion of image becomes therefore the universal vehicle that tells us the story of how we speak, how we think and even envision the future.
Appointed correspondent-curators will commission new works of art, organize site-specific projects or public art interventions, or put together lectures, roundtables, workshops or guided tours, accompanied by an artistic documentation. An exhibition at the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art will be curated by Iara Boubnova as part of the Thessaloniki Biennial 2011.

Stations include: Muscat (OMAN), Sharjah - Dubai - Abu Dhabi (UAE), Doha (QATAR), Manama (BAHRAIN), Kuwait City (KUWAIT), Jeddah - Riyadh (SAUDI ARABIA), Damascus (SYRIA), Beirut (LEBANON), Amman (JORDAN), Tel Aviv (ISRAEL), Cairo (EGYPT), Nicosia (CYPRUS), Ankara - Istanbul (TURKEY), Thessaloniki (GREECE).

National Theatre of Northern Greece

The National Theatre of Northern Greece presents the “Sacred wedding”, a production of the Dance Theatre in collaboration with four Israeli dancers. The show consists of two parts: “Last Supper” and “Moments from the passion of Job”.

The National Theatre of Northern Greece will also stage the play “Dybbuk” by Bruce Myers, based on Salom Anski’s work. The play is a Jewish version of “Romeo and Juliet”, a love story enriched with music and rituals of the Jewish tradition, written for two main characters.

The productions will be presented as work in progress during May 2011 and shall be repeated during autumn 2011.

Thessaloniki  Cinema Museum

The Thessaloniki Cinema Museum, in collaboration with the Jerusalem Cinematheque, the Israeli Film Archives, gladly presents the Greek-Jewish Miracle Festival, a production that brings to light important aspects of the symbiotic relation between Greeks and Jews for the last five centuries.

Three original films on Judaism and its interaction with Thessaloniki, created by Film School graduates, will be projected twice a day; a short fiction film, a short animation and a documentary. The films will be hosted in the Cinema Room of Old Warehouse A, of the picturesque City Port, where the recently renovated Thessaloniki Cinema Museum is premised, for their World Premiere.

In addition, a photo exhibition on ethnic diversity and memory will be inaugurated the first day of the festival, while the second day an elegant album with rare pictures and selected written sources will be presented to the audience. The third and last day, the Museum will host a gala dinner, where all guests will have the privilege to taste Sephardic cuisine and be ear-lured by Sephardic music.

Thessaloniki Documentary Festival SPOTLIGHT TO THE MIDDLE-EAST

The renowned Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, now in its 13th year, has since its inception
consistently showcased Israeli documentaries and hosted Israeli filmmakers, producers, journalists and other documentary professionals. This year’s 13th edition (March 11-20, 2011) is no exception.

In addition to the Israeli documentaries screening as part of the official program, many more will be included in the Doc Market, an important outlet for producers and filmmakers, through which film projects can reach buyers from all over the world. This year the Festival establishes a new collaboration with CoPro, an Israeli non-profit organization promoting documentary production in Israel by arranging for Israeli filmmakers to meet television executives and producers from around the world.

Furthermore, the opening film of the 13th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival is a co-production between Israel, Greece and France, something that will definitely enhance the visibility of Israeli film in the documentary community and will hopefully ignite a larger scale collaboration between the cinematic communities of Greece and Israel.

Thessaloniki Concert Hall

Thessaloniki Concert Hall presents chosen works from Turkey, Israel, Syria and Azerbaijan, with Yuri Zhislin (violin) and Vicky Giannoulas (piano) on April 9th, 2011 and the music ensemble “Me la amargates tu”, a tribute to the music of the Sephardic Jews with traditional musical instruments, on April 16th, 2011.

During fall 2011, Thessaloniki Concert Hall will host the opera “Samson and Delilah” of Camille Saint-Saëns, a two-day concert event with the participation of 10 pianists from Greece, Israel, Turkey, Cyprus, Egypt, USA, Armenia and Iran, in collaboration with the international non-profit organization

of Artists for Peace, and a concert with works of Arab and Israeli composers, using traditional musical instruments, in collaboration with a symphonic orchestra.

Thessaloniki Museum of Photography

The Thessaloniki Museum of Photography hosts a series of cultural events and activities on photography which will be integrated in the Museum's exhibition cycle entitled “Dialogues. Artists from Greece and abroad” .
These series will encompass a collaboration between the Museum of Israel in Jerusalem and the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography, for the co-organization of photography exhibitions from both the museum collections. It will also include the co-organization of a group exhibition of contemporary Israeli artists and photographic missions (original productions) of Greek and Israeli photographers in both countries.

These actions will cover the historical as well as the contemporary photographic periods of Greece and Israel and will also be accompanied by the publication of informational material, the realization of lectures and colloquia, audiovisual projections and workshops.

01/01/2011 - 31/12/2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Grand ambitions: ecoluxury in Greece

King Nestor was the ancient Greek fabled for his wisdom, his kindness, his banquets and a mighty palace on the Peloponnese peninsula. Homer tells in the Iliad how he sent a fleet of ships to Troy to bring back the lovely Helen, and in the Odyssey how Nestor's youngest daughter, Polycaste, bathed Telemachus, the son of Odysseus, in his tub.

Well, the palace is now a peaceful old ruin on a hill surrounded by olive groves overlooking Homer's "wine-dark" Ionian sea, Nestor's romantic bath is still there – if a bit grubby – and from the old stones you can just about see beyond the trees some buildings on the coast that future historians may well declare to be a 21st-century palace.

The place is called Costa Navarino, and it was built by a modern-day Nestor. Vassilis Constantakopoulos, aka "the Captain", was a local boy made billionaire shipping magnate, who died in January. He said his life's work was to revitalise one of Greece's most depressed regions with international luxury ecotourism.
By any measure, what the Captain and his son, Achilles, who now runs Costa Navarino, have done is extraordinary. So far, two linked, five-star resorts have been built, the Romanos and the Westin, which opens this week. They are impressive in a sparse, marbled way, full of smart design and fine workmanship, oozing money.
The ambition is impressive. Armies of local masons, gardeners and craftsmen must have been employed for years. There is a sports centre to make the Olympians gape, two "royal" villas for the obscenely rich, immense meeting halls and plazas, six restaurants, two golf courses and, literally, dozens of swimming pools because if you pay enough you get your own.

More remarkably, hundreds of square kilometres were bought up by the Captain over 20 years and the nature is being reordered. The beaches have been untouched, but roads and rivers have been diverted, reservoirs created and two 18-hole golf courses of bright green, watered lawns fashioned among new olive groves and old ruins. Some 6,000 trees have been lifted and replanted; 400,000 shrubs have been heeled in and roof gardens galore created. This is Capability Brown meets Jackie Onassis.

You walk around in wonder. How much money has been spent here? How many Helens of Troy could have been ransomed for the price?

I confess that I am not a resort person. The idea of lounging round a pool or playing golf all day is weird. So we hired a car, pootled off to the Mani peninsula and the 10 major historical sites within a few miles, watched storks in the nearby bird reserve, swam on lonely beaches and came back every night to gorge on five-star foods. It felt shamelessly lavish and we loved it.

As we moved around the area, the vast ambition of the Captain revealed itself. Three miles away, his builders were carving out monster golf course number two, as well as two more five-star resorts. One will be a Banyan Tree brand, with villas dug into the hillside, another will be built high above the lovely Navarino Bay. Ten miles on, near the city of Kalamata, famous for its 1986 earthquake and its olives, the grandest resort of them all is planned. In all, the Captain planned three golf courses, six five-star hotels, perhaps 3,000 rooms spread over hundreds of square kilometres, employing thousands. Motorways are being built to attract rich Athenians, the airport is being expanded and hopes raised that the Captain's vision could turn round the ailing Peloponnese economy.

Locals are agog at the money being spent but no one will say anything against the developments publicly. Vassilis was held in awe, but the longer we stayed, the more we heard shy doubts expressed. Does it make sense, said the whisperers in nearby Pylos, to build golf courses in an arid land, or to ask tens of thousands of people a year to fly in from around the world and threaten a virgin coastline? And what about the cultural landscape? Greece has offended purists by allowing big developments to dominate its wild places. A £800m plan by UK company Minoan for five holiday villages and three golf courses at Cavo Sidero, one of the most remote and ecologically fragile areas of Crete, has been condemned by ecologists and historians and is being fought through the courts.

The Navarino architects have tried to take account of the environment. This isn't parched Crete. The land here is degraded, monocultural olive groves, ecologically wrecked by big farmers and largely devastated by the fires of 2007 which ironically helped developers.

They have used local materials, the hotels are in scale with the landscape; the golf courses will take water only from specially built reservoirs which collect winter run-off, the hot water is solar-powered and the next phase of the development will use its own solar electricity. Collecting and pressing their own olives, and the Captain's idea to set up and fund a marine research observatory for the Academy of Athens and Stockholm University to study the effects of climate change in the Mediterranean are good. Could you call it a genuine ecoresort? Just about.

If there's a problem, it's in the scale. Whatever the Captain's intentions, this is big, risky business. What if Costa Navarino fails to attract the five-star tourists or conferences and has to be sold on? What if the price of aircraft fuel doubles or tourism to Greece becomes prohibitively expensive? Will the Captain's family ever stop buying land or will they buy the rest of the Peloponnese and rule it like Nestor? The sustainability stakes are high, the area of land being taken out of the local economy is vast. The developers argue that there is no option but to think big to have any positive social effect, and that it's possible to blend the old and new cultures. They believe they have improved the environment and argue that a degraded environment acts as a brake on development.

Come back in 10 years and how will this wild stretch of coastline have changed? With luck, not much at all. The golf courses should have blended in, the money from the jobs may have trickled to every family in the poor region, and the young people will no longer have to go to Athens to find work.

But as a reality check, we spent four days roughing it on the beaches and in the quiet villages around the development. In this parallel universe, the food was also fine, the beds were soft and the people welcoming. It felt like going back to a messy home after a lavish weekend away with people you don't know. A case of phew! Best of all, the Greek past and the hospitable spirit of King Nestor was present in both worlds.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Reducing the environmental impact of building materials

A recent study has compared the environmental impact of a range of building materials. Energy consumption, carbon dioxide emissions and water demand can all be reduced by switching to renewable sources of energy, improving technologies and promoting eco-friendly alternative materials.

Construction accounts for 24 per cent of global raw materials removed from the earth. In addition, the extraction, processing, transport and installation of materials associated with construction consume large quantities of energy and water.

This study, partly conducted under the EU LoRe-LCA project1, used a life cycle assessment (LCA) approach to compare the environmental impact of producing 1kg of a variety of materials commonly used in construction, in addition to some more environmentally-friendly alternatives. Three main impacts were considered: the primary energy requirements (related to the production, use and disposal stages of a product), the impact on global warming (measured in kilograms CO2-Equivalents) and the water demand.

The results suggest that making roof tiles out of concrete is a better option than using either ceramic or fibre cement roof materials: although ceramic tiles are better than fibre cement roof tiles in that they save 60 per cent more primary energy, concrete tiles are better again in that they save 42 per cent primary energy compared with ceramic roof tiles. In addition, it is preferable to use quarry tiles instead of ceramic tiles in flooring: quarry tiles provide an 86 per cent saving in primary energy and a 66 per cent saving in emissions.

For bricks, local clays and renewable constituents, such as straw, had lower environmental impacts compared with conventional bricks. Replacing synthetic insulation materials, such as polyurethane rigid foam and EPS (expanded polystyrene), with natural insulation materials, such as cork, wood fibre and sheep's wool, also reduces environmental impact. For example, production of polyurethane places high demands on primary energy and water consumption, whilst sheep's wool emits 98 per cent less CO2, if the wool is incinerated at end-of-life.

The energy-intensive manufacture of clinker (the main component of cement) is a major contributor to the environmental impact of cement products used in buildings. Switching to renewable sources of energy and improving technologies by making better use of the waste heat from the furnace or reducing the furnace temperature, for example, could halve the emissions of CO2 from cement manufacture by 2050.

Constructing buildings with wooden structures would also lower the primary energy demand and could be almost carbon neutral, or even carbon negative if the wood was recycled and reused at the end-of-life. Other construction materials, such as steel, aluminium, copper, glass and PVC should be reused and recycled where possible to reduce the primary production of these materials. For example, producing secondary steel (e.g. using scrap steel) reduces emissions by 74 per cent, compared with producing the same amount of primary steel.

Companies should be encouraged to construct buildings that can be disassembled rather than demolished at end-of-life, to make it easier to separate materials for reuse and recycling. For example, bolts can be used instead of adhesives to fix joints between materials. Upgrading technologies (e.g. in kilns) and techniques (capturing and reusing heat) and using local resources where possible can also reduce environmental impacts. In addition, eco-innovation should be promoted by identifying environmentally friendly products with ecolabels.

1.     LoRe-LCA (Low Resource consumption buildings and constructions by use of LCA in design and decision making) was supported by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme. See:

Source: Bribián, I. Z, Capilla, A.V., Usón, A.A. (2011) Life cycle assessment of building materials: Comparative analysis of energy and environmental impacts and evaluation of the eco-efficiency improvement potential. Building and Environment. 46: 1133-1140./p> 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sani Resort Greece Extends Its Green Programme For 2011

A privately developed hideaway set on a 1,000 acre ecological reserve, Sani Luxury Resort in Greece, Halkidiki is blessed with an outstanding natural beauty which it is dedicated to protecting and preserving. This year Sani Resort has pledged not only to continue with its extensive green programme but to build on its success – no small feat for the popular resort that features four luxury 5 star hotels in Greece! 

Under the direction of its dynamic and proactive Sani Green team, Sani luxury resort Greece is dedicated to working in a more sustainable way. Not only in continuously improving its performance in the areas of energy efficiency, renewable energy use, water conservation and waste minimisation but 2011 also sees the resort’s ‘Plant a Tree Programme’ go from strength to strength, work within the local community and the completion of an in depth wetlands study.

Sani Green Initiatives

Plant A Tree Programme 

In December 2010 the luxury Greek resort planted 4,000 trees in the Hanioti forest area on the Kassandra peninsula which has been badly damaged by forest fires in recent years. Now in its third year of operation, the ‘Plant a Tree Programme’ is helped by the guests of Sani luxury resort in Greece who are asked to contribute one Euro on check-out, which Sani Resort pledges to match. This scheme will continue throughout 2011 with Sani Resort caring for last years trees by removing any unwanted shrubbery that prevents growth and watering the trees during the dry months.

Working Within The Local Community 

In association with Friends of Urban Green, a non-profit organisation, whose board is made up of Forestry and Agronomy Thessaloniki University experts, Sani luxury resort in Greece has transformed the playground of a local elementary school into an ecological haven for children. Located in the neighbouring village of New Fokea, the playground has been renovated from its previous barren state into a fun and safe sanctuary filled with trees and greenery as well as benches and picnic tables for students to enjoy.

Wetlands Study

Offering a wide and varied environment, Sani Resort features a wetland bird sanctuary which stretches over hundreds of acres and has been declared a European Important Bird Area by the international organisation “BirdLife International” as well as being a Natura protected area. Home to more than 214 different kinds of birds including migrating mute swans, black winged stilts and little egrets,  there are two main walking trails through the area that guests can enjoy.

Sani Resort has completed a year long study of the wetlands, which has involved the monitoring of birds and their habitats, setting up a database of bird types and determining the priority species (protected and rare). Overseen by Mr. Akriotis, a professor at the University of the Aegean and the leading ornithologist in Greece, all threats and protective measures to the birds were assessed. With the first phase of the study now concluded, the results have confirmed a high level of biodiversity in the area which Sani Resort is dedicated to protecting. Of the 214 bird species recorded, 67 are on the recent ‘Red List of Threatened Species of Greece’, of which four are categorised as being critically endangered and seven as endangered.

In 2011 Sani Resort is putting further investment into the wetland conservation programme to protect the delicate and invaluable biodiversity and ensure guests can enjoy it for years to come. Detailed maps with suggested walks in the wetlands are available for guests so that they too, like the Sani Resort experts, can admire the birds.

Keen to learn more? Follow a blog on the Sani wetland study at which records the progress of the team.

Sani Green in Numbers
Sani Resort is committed to reducing its environmental footprint and in 2010 the Sani Green Recycling Programme exceeded even its most ambitious targets. Below is a break down of Sani Resort’s exceptional recycling achievements – the Greek resort will be working hard to beat these in 2011!

•   35 tonnes of paper recycled in 2010. Up from 18 tonnes in 2009 – an increase of 90%. (the equivalent of saving 2,300 trees & over 680,000 tonnes of water)

•   126 tonnes of glass recycled in 2010. Up from 28 tonnes in 2009 – an increase of 345%. (the equivalent of saving 2 tonnes of oil & 120,000 kg of raw materials)

•   870 kg of cans recycled in 2010. (the equivalent of saving 1.5 tonnes of iron core, 0.5 tonnes of coal, 40% of the water required for its production, 75% of the energy needed to make steel from virgin material, reduction of air emissions by 86% and water pollution by 76%)

•   Following the principle Reduce-Reuse-Recycle, Sani Resort has reduced the use of hundreds of kilos of plastic bottles through the use of certified water UV filtering technology and refillable Sani Green glass bottles at selected departments.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Why to Eat Like a Greek

[MEDDIET]Greek researchers offered fresh evidence of the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, reporting in a large study that it helps improve several risk factors linked to diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
The Mediterranean diet is high in monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and also relies heavily on whole-grain cereals, fruits and vegetables, fish and low consumption of animal fats. It has been shown in numerous studies and clinical trials to reduce mortality from such causes as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Experts believe the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of the foods associated with the diet confer health benefits across a variety of diseases.
In a new analysis that pooled findings from 50 different studies involving a total of more than 500,000 patients, researchers led by Demosthenes B. Panagiotakos of Harakopio University, Athens, found the diet had beneficial effects against five components of a prediabetic condition called the metabolic syndrome. The analysis found that adherence to a Mediterranean diet was associated with a 31% reduction in risk of developing the syndrome.
The constellation of components of metabolic syndrome include waist circumference over 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women, abnormally high blood pressure and blood sugar, very low levels of HDL or good cholesterol and high levels of blood fats called triglycerides. Abnormalities in these risk factors are widespread among the growing numbers of people who are obese or overweight or have diabetes.
Heart experts and public-health officials believe effective approaches to helping people shrink their waistlines and achieve normal blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels would help reduce the devastating toll of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The new study, published online Monday by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, is consistent with other findings of the protective benefit of the Mediterranean diet.
Elizabeth Jackson, a cardiologist at University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, said the study suggests that "when people are able to make improvements through diet, they are preventing the need in the future to go on medication" to control blood pressure and other risk factors. If doctors make more effort "to counsel patients on what a general healthy-eating diet is like, we can get a lot of bang for the buck," she added.
There were some limitations to the findings. For one, the benefit against the metabolic syndrome was found mostly in studies conducted in Mediterranean countries, and not in countries outside of that region.
Dr. Jackson said different designs of the underlying studies and the duration of follow-up could have influenced the results. She said, for instance, that U.S. studies, including the big Nurses Health Study at Harvard Medical School, have demonstrated the benefits of the diet in a U.S. population.
The results also reflect changes in recent years in how cardiologists look at the effect of diet on heart risk. For years, heart experts were focused on low-fat diets, but "we've really shifted our focus to thinking about other components," Dr. Jackson said. Research into the Mediterranean diet reflects how dietary fiber can affect measures like triglycerides.

Τουρισμός: Μάχη για τις τιμές στη διεθνή έκθεση ΙΤΒ του Βερολίνου

Στη Γερμανία χτυπά αυτή την εβδομάδα η καρδιά της παγκόσμιας τουριστικής βιομηχανίας, με αφορμή τη διοργάνωση της τουριστικής έκθεσης ITB Berlin 2011 που θα πραγματοποιηθεί από τις 9 έως τις 13 Μαρτίου 2011 στο Βερολίνο και το παρόν θα δώσει σύσσωμη η θεσμική και επιχειρηματική τουριστική κοινότητα της χώρας.

Στη διεθνή έκθεση του Βερολίνου θα αποτυπωθούν τα όποια οφέλη προκύπτουν για τον ελληνικό τουρισμό από την κρίση στη Μέση Ανατολή και Βόρεια Αφρική αλλά και θα δοθεί το στίγμα της πορείας της τουριστικής κίνησης συνολικά για την Ελλάδα.
Αυτή τη στιγμή, σύμφωνα με τον πρόεδρο της Πανελλήνιας Ομοσπονδίας Ξενοδόχων (ΠΟΞ) Ανδρέα Ανδρεάδη, οι προκρατήσεις στη Γερμανία καταγράφουν αύξηση 5% και το κλίμα από όλες σχεδόν τις αγορές στόχους της Ελλάδας είναι πολύ θετικό.
Τις επόμενες ημέρες η πολιτική ηγεσία του υπουργείου Πολιτισμού και Τουρισμού θα επιδοθεί σε κύκλο επαφών με μεγάλους ταξιδιωτικούς πράκτορες (Tour Operator's) αλλά και ομόλογους υπουργούς των άλλων χωρών, με στόχο την προώθηση της Ελλάδας ως ταξιδιωτικό προορισμό.

Στο Διεθνές Χρηματιστήριο Τουρισμού στο Βερολίνο, όπως χαρακτηριστικά λέγεται από τους εμπειρογνώμονες του τουρισμού, θα δοθεί η μάχη των τιμών στα τουριστικά πακέτα με προορισμό την Ελλάδα. Ήδη οι μεγάλοι ταξιδιωτικοί οργανισμοί πιέζουν για περεταίρω μείωση τιμών στις τιμές των ξενοδοχείων, όπως χαρακτηριστικά τονίζει ο Σπύρος Γαλιατσάτος, μέλος του Ξενοδοχειακού επιμελητηρίου και πρόεδρος της ένωσης ξενοδόχων Κεφαλονιάς.

Σε ό,τι αφορά την διοργάνωση της ΙΤΒ, η Μογγολία θα τραβήξει τα βλέμματα των επισκεπτών, καθώς φέτος είναι ο κύριος χορηγός πολιτιστικός - συνεδριακός εταίρος.

Παράλληλα πλήθος εκδηλώσεων θα πλαισιώσουν τη διοργάνωση για την παγκόσμια τουριστική βιομηχανία. Το πρόγραμμα περιλαμβάνει την «ITB Eco-Mobility Day», που θέτει το ζήτημα των φιλικών μεταφορών προς το περιβάλλον, αλλά και την «ITB Marketing and Distribution Day», η οποία θα επικεντρωθεί στις στρατηγικές των ταξιδιωτικών πρακτόρων και της προώθησης των τουριστικών πακέτων.

Πέρυσι στην ΙΤΒ συμμετείχαν 11.127 επιχειρήσεις από 187 χώρες και οι επισκέπτες έφτασαν τους 179.351, εκ των οποίων οι 110.953 ήταν επιχειρηματίες του κλάδου. με πληροφορίες από ΑΠΕ-ΜΠΕ