Monday, December 31, 2007

Winter holidays in Milan and London

This winter we took some days off to visit Milan and London.
Our visit to Milan was our first together and despite the shortage of time (just a weekend) we managed to find enough time for sightseeing and, of course, shopping! Unfortunately we couldn't take the tour of the roof of the Duomo, as it was very slippery due to the ice formed because of the low temperatures. We did attend a mass though inside the Cathedral and it was impressive.
We also visited a display of cribs ('presepi',΄'φάτνες'), so we were in the Christmas spirit, too.

Then we went to London for the actual Christmas days (we arrived a few days before and left on the day after, or 'Boxing Day' as it is called because of the habit of breaking the Christmas box, a box with gifts for employees in the old times shops - nothing to do with the sport of boxing, which is totally inappropriate for the day! :-)

This visit was purely for leisure and we did not combine it with work - in fact we had the company of Maria's brother and wife and our two nephews, so it was still Christmas with the family!

London was quite cold and foggy (surprise, surprise) but we had a good time visiting sights new and old (such as the Natural History Museum with the dinosaurs, which excited our nephews...) We were surprise though to see that nothing (including public transportation!) was working on Christmas Day! We managed to find an event held on this day, though, and it was the 'Peter Pan Cup Swimming Race' in which members of the Serpentine Swimming Club are competing in their annual race across the icy waters of Hyde Park's enormous lake. Quite a spectacle and it reminded us of the Greek custom of jumping into cold waters to reach for the cross on Epiphany Day.

So we leave this year with a splash and wish everybody the best for the New Year!

Season's Greetings!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Nice places that are not far away

The past couple of weeks we had the opportunity to go on excursions in places not far from Athens. Which, reminded us that some times you don't have to travel far to find places of interest.
Here they are then:
The Acrocorinth, the Isthmus of Corinth, the lake of Vouliagmeni and the Heraion. (including a photo with the beautiful lighthouse near Heraion).

Monday, September 24, 2007

Back to the roots...

Together with Stathis' cousin and his wife (Agis and Christina) we went to visit the village of their grandfather, an almost deserted (except for a couple of families) village in the mountainous area of Achaia, near the town of Kalavryta. There is no asphalt road to the village so we had rented a 4WD vehicle.

It was the second visit (after more than a decade) for Stathis and the first for Maria.

The view of the church under a rock (resembling the famous rocks of Meteora) is indeed breathtaking.

Other photos in this post depict the old school and a view of the village in old times (probably the early 20th century).

You will also see Stathis and his cousin in front of a commemorative plaque, honouring the fighters of a battle between the local resistance during WWII. The fighters were led (as inscribed in the plaque) by the brother of our grandfather, a prominent figure of the resistance and air force officer.

The village is near another Meteora-like sight, the monastery of Makellaria (see it and read about it in English here and in Greek here).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

It's not over yet!

We are now both in Rhodes spending time with family and friends. Here are two photos from our visit (day trip) to the nearby island of Chalki :

Sunday, August 05, 2007

It's a cool, cool summer! (Part 8)

...and so we have come to the last day of our summer vacation abroad for this year! How did we spend it? It probably comes as no surprise that we started by visiting Copenhagen's most well known symbol, 'the Little Mermaid' statue. You can read the statue's adventures (quite a few vandalisms) here.

Then we visited two museums (although the bright sunny weather was calling for us to get out!), the Kunstindustrimuseet/The Museum of Decorative Arts and Amalienborg, the Christian VIII's Palace (the part that is open to the public), and watched the change of the guards in the Royal Palace.
You can see a photo of Maria with one of the guards (doesn't he look like the 'brave tin soldier' of the Hans Christian Andersen's story?)

Ah, we were very lucky to see a gathering of the European Royals in front of the Palace and they were kind enough to let us take a picture of them (...and if you believed that, we've got a bridge to sell you).

Next in our programme was the opposite of royalty: a visit to Freetown Christiania, a partially self-governed neighbourhood of about 850 residents in an island (Christianshavn) in the city. It wasn't (or shouldn't be) so much of a tourist attraction, we guess, but we were curious to see it. You can see a photo of Stathis by the exit with the inscription 'You are now entering the E(uropean) U(nion)' an obvious reference to the self-government status of the neighbourhood.

A tip: use the boat-bus to cross to the island of Christianshavn (by the way: this is an artificial island). It's much more fun than walking over a bridge.
Next was a stroll in the city including Nørrebro (we expected it to be more lively and it wasn't) and Nyhavn.

To finish our day and have dinner we chose a restaurant in Gråbrødre Torv, which we agreed is the most beautiful square in the city.

This led to several strange experiences! First, a couple of Cypriots were sitting next to us. This may not sound as much of a coincidence, but then they left and a Greek couple (unrelated to the couple that had left) took their place. And as you can imagine Copenhagen wasn't swarming with Greeks... Then, we had to wait A LOT for our main course. And when we asked the waitress why was that, we realized that our order had never been sent to the kitchen! An embarrassed waitress promised us that we would get our food in seven minutes - which of course was a promise that was not kept: our dinner arrived about twenty minutes -or more...- later! The upside was that the whole dinner (for two persons, including an appetizer and two desserts) was not charged as the restaurant felt (and correctly) that they had exceeded the limits of our patience...
...So that's it for 2007! Thank you for reading our stories and don't forget to send your comments! We are now sort of continuing our vacation in Athens (actually in a hotel in Vravrona for a few days) but also going to work every day.

Next stop Rhodes!

It's an ABSOLUTely cool, cool summer! (Part 7)

As promised before, here're the pictures taken inside the ABSOLUT icebar in Copenhagen. Since they were taken with a mobile phone's camera the quality is poor, but you get the idea...

Saturday, August 04, 2007

It's a cool, cool summer! (Part 6)

This morning we said goodbye to the hospitable place of our home exchange partners and crossed again the Øresund bridge (see Part 1) on our way to Copenhagen.
We had booked a room at the Hilton Hotel at the airport. This will be convenient on Sunday as we fly in the morning and don’t really want to have to wake up early to travel to the airport. And it’s very easy to get to the city centre as the trains are frequent and fast.

We are fortunate enough to have a sunny weather so we go for a walking tour of the city (and a bit of shopping and window-shopping). Maria was here rather recently so she acts as a guide for Stathis who was last here seventeen years ago!

A reminder of the social character of the country: in the main square there are two 5X5 soccer fields as the World Cup for the Homeless is organized (and sponsored by the Ministry of Social Affairs of Denmark).

We returned to the hotel for a late afternoon siesta and to prepare for the night:
First we went to the Absolut Icebar. This is a bar (obviously sponsored by the Absolut Vodka company) where everything is made of ice! This includes the glasses, the tables, the seats – everything! They serve Absolut cocktails of course. The temperature is -5o C so one cannot stay for long and has to wear the clothes provided by the bar (including gloves and boots). Unfortunately the camera’s batteries died just before entering the bar so we only have a photo of poor quality of Maria getting dressed. (We did take a few pictures inside using the mobile phone but we cann’t upload it it just now-we’ll do it once we return to Athens).

Next we had dinner at the Custom House restaurant, a new and lively place by T.Conran. Following that we had a night stroll at Nyhavn, a place that resembled a lot a Mediterranean harbour filled with restaurants and people sitting in the open air. Are we really in the cold North? we wonder. As we often say to each other, appearances can be deceiving…

And another thing: if you want to listen to 'our' soundtrack of this year's vacation press here.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

It´s a cool, cool summer (Part 5)

So... was it a summer day today? It started as one! And off we go to Malmö again! We feel energized and ready for some physical activity, so we decide to rent a river bike and see the Malmö canals.

Then we thought we ought to do our duty as tourists and visit some, at least, of the city museums (besides, we had free entrance with the Malmö card - see part 4). We found ourselves first in the technical museum where Stathis was fascinated by the old trams and trains and Maria by an old BMW tricycle (about 250cc and entrance from the front of the car!).

We both felt claustrophobic in an old U3 (WWII era) submarine and later got excited by the technical experiments that explained physics and science in general to kids (or ill educated adults like ourselves).

We had to eat, too, so we paused our museum visits to refuel: oddly enough, we decided to eat Greek. We noticed a modern Greek restaurant (not touristic at all, with a rich and not expensive lunch buffet and even an original name: Greekway). And the food wasn´t bad, either...

Next we went to the Malmöhus, or the Malmö Castle. This is a 16th century fortress, now home to a diverse museum with an aquarium, local folklore, art and various exhibitions. We thought the outside deserved a photo.

The day´s programme included also a live jazz concert. We listened to a Swedish trio (called Musicmusicmusic) in a beautiful setting in the old city - but our summer weather was over: like the rest of the audience we enjoyed a wet concert...

Tomorrow: Copenhagen!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

It´s a cool, cool summer (Part 4)

Today the local newspapers had major news: ´Finally Summer has arrived!´- which meant that we would have no rain, a glorious sun (most of the time) and around 20oC. That´s why we finally had breakfast in the nice garden of our house. We then decided to go to the city of Malmö, which is less than half an hour from Lund.
We didn´t know what to expect from the city, so we were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves in a city rather big (third biggest in Sweden), with beautiful buidings, a historic centre, pedestrian streets full of life and shoppers, parks and museums, lots of new constructions including an unfinished city tunnel (a long underground tunnel for trains and cars). Plus a regenerated harbour (a Swedish version of the Docklands of London) around a new city landmark, the ´twisted torso´building (apartments and offices) by Santiago Calatrava.
A word of advice to Malmö visitors: do buy the ´Malmö card´. For only about 18 euros we had free parking, free public transport, a 90 minute guided tour by bus and free or discounted entrance to museums and activities, for two days! In fact we plan to go to Malmö tomorrow, too, as we feel we didn´t manage to see all the city has to offer. Let´s hope that the weather will continue to be on our side.
Ah, we forgot to tell you about yesterday evening: we went for dinner to a picturesque village by the sea, called ´Skanör´. A lovely place, with postcard houses - and equally lovely is its twin village ´Falsterbo´. We should add a few words here about some nice dinners we had so far. First at the Handelsbaren restaurant in Åhus. Lovely setting, and the food wasn´t bad either. Then in Skanör the Skanörs Gästgifvaregård which was the most expensive but also the most exciting as far as tastes (and sizes!) are concerned. And finally (at least so far) the Salt & Brygga in the Malmö new harbour area with a view of the Öresund bridge, friendly owner and staff and selected organic ingredients in all the dishes.
Well, we can´t wait until tomorrow... will it be as good as today? We hope so! Stay tuned for details!