“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”. – Marcel Proust
Perissa Beach, Santorini was on my all-day program with Notos Travel in late June. Our guide Kaiti with driver Mercouri showed us the best spots to swim and dine. The beach had the classical Greek seashore atmosphere: lounge chairs, restaurant and dressing rooms. I went to the end of the beach, without crowds near the cliffs. I was only sorry I did not have water sneakers. The rocky beach makes the North Fork of Eastern Long Island mild.
Despina, a gracious beach attendant, showed me a dressing room. “I was baptized Greek Orthodox in Crete,” she said. “My son, George who works with the Perissa Beach touring boats is Greek Orthodox.” Despina and George are Albanian. Despina introduced me to her son George and his fellow workers Magda, Vania and Maria. They arranged a take-out lunch that I could take with me. Talking with the persons who make tourism work gives one an insight of Greece.
Swimming in the clear blue waters of Perissa Beach is like a television Caribbean beach commercial. Swimming underwater and seeing the beach floor is a sight a person remembers. Most of the work force is from every part of Greece, former Russian republics and other countries. Their honesty and promotion of tourism is excellent. I did not see anyone taking advantage of the tourist’s pocket. In fact, the labor force tried to save the tourist money.
“Perissa is a beautiful beach situated 15 km southeast of Fira extending for 7 km on the southeastern side of Santorini. The beach features unique characteristics, black sand, crystalline waters and various beach facilities. However, the enormous rock called Mesa Vouno that rises from the sea is the main attraction of the beach and the entire area. Visitors are left spellbound by the stunning view of the rock especially when it shines inthe dark.”1
Perissa is a nice tourist resort witnessing a huge tourist movement that starts from in the middle of the summer season. The village offers a great variety of hotels for all tastes and budgets, restaurants, taverns, cafes and bars. The area is extremely developed with modern amenities and quite inviting while retaining its strong traditional character. From Perissa, a small path crosses the mountain and leads to the ruins of Ancient Thera. The excursions can be made by foot or riding donkeys.”2
Western and Eastern civilizations recognize the fact they have been influence in some way by Greek and Byzantine civilizations that assimilates all, keeping Greek language and culture alive for over 5,000 years. I recently travelled to the mountainous village of Dimitsana
in late spring. Green mountains with wild flowers gives a spiritual peace. I hired local taxi driver Demetri Tsokas to show me around town. Dimitsana was active in supplying the fighters with the essential material for ammunition. “We had powder; Dimitsana made it,” wrote Theodoros Kolokotronis. Gunpowder is an important element of the area’s cultural identity. It is kept alive in memory and narratives.
A donkey was in the coble street, waiting for owner. We stopped at Lousios Café Zaxaroplasteio (Pastry) House for snacks. Spiros Sergopoulos is the owner with telephone 3722522007. Traditional, straight out of a movie, everyone greeted us with Greek hospitality. Graviara sandwiches in thick country bread, melomacarona (honey dipped cookies) 10 euros per kilo ($12 per 2.2 lbs.), chocolate loukoumi, ravani, kataifi and other pastries. Charalambos N. Baxevanos, the Vice Mayor of the municipality of Gortynias was present The Lousios Café displayed his Dimitsana specialty pastry. A Papou (Greek grandfather) and staff member Valentina Petrova told us the history of the Café.
Dimitsana is a stone-built village with remarkable mansions, most of which are now restored. It is a typical sample of Gortynia‘s architecture and it is registered as a traditional one. The statue of Patriarch Gregory V dominates the central square and the family houses of both him and Germanos III of Old Patras can be seen.1
Dimitsana’s Library contains today about 35,000 books, manuscripts and documents. In Dimitsana’s Museum, housed in the Library, there are collections of weaving, looms and handicrafts and an archaeological one. The Elementary School was built 1898–1910, by a donation of Andreas Syngros, and is a characteristic sample of that period. It operated as a girls’ school until 1930 and later as county court. The museum preserves the bones of Metropolitis Germanos III of Old Patras (Palaion Patron Germanos), which were transferred to Dimitsana from Patra, in a bronze reliquary. You will also find the saddle of Papaflessa’s horse, as well as other portraits of great figures of the Nation and a folklore collection.2
Demetri’s friend is Father Panagiotis, who is from Kandila, the village next to Paleo Pyrgo, our village. He is protopresbyter of the three Dimitsana churches of Agia Kiriaki,
Agios Haralambos and Agioi Taxiarhes. Agia Paraskevi was damaged by the Greek Civil War of 1945. The mountainous villages, who were intensely pro- monarchy and Greek patriotism, suffered the most at the hands of the communist guerillas. Every nation has its own painful story. Many believe the 2018 economic crisis is worse than WWII, because their land and monuments are in the hands of foreigners.
Father Panagiotis showed us the iconography many in the style of Russian iconography, chalices, vestments and religious banners. “Our church is Russian style,” he explained. Three rows of icons over the main altar screen, half domes over columns on the sides, ornate chandelier and a half dome reminded me of the churches I saw in St. Petersburg and Moscow. The holy relics of Agia Paraskevi, Agiou Panteleimon, Agios Athanasius of Chrisanoupolis, the Wonderworker and protector of Gortynia, and Agios Dionysios tou Sophou (who was born in Dimitsana and became Patriarch of Constantinople (1467-71) are worshipped in Agia Paraskevi.
It is not politically correct to state this fact: Only through the Greek Orthodox Church could young men gain an education and elevate themselves through the priesthood during the five centuries of Ottoman slavery. The martyred statue of Patriarch Gregory V dominates the central square. We visited from the outside his family home and Germanos III of Old Patras. The OrthodoxMetropolitan of Patras Germanos III (1771–1826), was born Georgios Gotzias. He played in important role in the Greek Revolution of 1821, having diplomatic and political activity. Germanos was born in Dimitsana, northwestern Arcadia, Peloponnese. Before his consecration as Metropolitan of Patras by Patriarch Gregory V, he had served as a priest and Protosyngellus (Chancellor) in Smyrna.
A monument overlooking the mountains hold special significance to Dimitsana. The memorial honors Filotheos Hatzis, the Cypriot Metropolitan of Dimitsana who fought for his flock and the Greek Revolution of 1821. The Hellenic Spiritual Group of Cypriots in Greece (EOPK) remembered the life and work of this spiritual man in cooperation with Mayor Demetrios Vlachos Dimitrios Vlachos and the commissar of Katokopia, Nicosia, Cyprus Andreas Fragoulidis. The 2010 memorial made, Dimitsana and Katokopia twin cities, sealing their unbroken ties.
“The Cypriot Archbishop, as they used to say at the time, is a man of the Church who still makes us proud today,” EPIC President Iraklis Zachariades, who also publishes the Greek Cypriot newspaper “Cypriot Hellenism”, explains in the “Phileleftheros”. The representation of the person of the Cypriot Metropolitan was discovered by H. Zachariades after a persistent search in the sources. Filotheos Hatzis came from the villages of Nicosia. At the end of the 17th century, a young man left Cyprus and went to Constantinople to serve in the Ecumenical Patriarchate as Secondary of the Deacons of Cypriot descent, Patriarch Gerasimos III (1794-1797).
Filotheos remained a metropolitan there for 26 years. One of his first works was the erection of the episcopal mansion. Great emphasis was given to the famous School of Dimitsana. He was very interested in education, by establishing or strengthening schools in his episcopal region. He was introduced to the Filiki Eteria secret Society by the Bishop of Old Patron Germanos. He was totally given the fight. Hatzis gave the spirit of the revolution together to the entire population of Dimitsana, which is a unique phenomenon of the Greeks’ struggle.
Filotheos did not live to enjoy the uprising of his people. At the beginning of 1821, he was invited by the Turks to Tripoli, then the administrative capital of the Peloponnese, along with other hierarchs of the Peloponnese, the bishops of Monemvasia, Christiania, Olenes, Nafplion and Argos and Androusis.
The Turks in 1821 Tripoli knew the Revolution was about to erupt. They demanded the appearance of every area’s clergy and staff to come to Tripoli with the purpose of imprisonment and torture. The clergy knew if they refused to go to Tripoli, the revolution would not begin, resulting in genocide. For the good of the nation, they sacrificed their lives, endured martyrdom. Later they were beheaded, with their heads being paraded in the streets of Tripoli. All of them total of 18 people, were arrested in Tripoli and imprisoned with bulky chains around the neck. The Cypriot hierarch, who was not able to withstand the tough life in prison, died there by the hardships on September 10, 1821.
Dimitsana is linked with the Greeks of Smyrna, Constantinople, Cyprus, secret Greek society of the Filiki Eteria and Russia. Catherine the Great’s “Greek Plan” in the 1770’s that resulted in the Battle of Tseme, off the coast of Chios immortalized by the sea landscapes of Ivan Aivazovsky, was backed by the Greeks of Dimitsana and the Peloponnese.
After the Orlov events, some inhabitants of Dimitsana bearing the name “Tasoulis” (Greek: Τασούλης) migrated to Minor Asia fleeing the Albanian ravaging of Peloponnese. Upon arrival in Koldere, in 1777, near Magnesia (ad Sipylum), they changed their name “Tasopoulos” (Greek: Τασόπουλος).4 This constant movement from the Peloponnese and Crete to the safety of the historic 2,500 year Greek cities of Asia Minor continued until WW I when the Western Powers divided up the Ottoman empire.
“Come back and see our beautiful monasteries in the Lousios Gorge, the Peloponnese, Mount Athos,” said Father Panagiotis. “A nation that forgets its past has no future” – Winston Churchill.
For the past 50 years, the Greek American community has been elevated through the accomplishments of the shipowners. Stavros Spyros (3 July 1909 – 16 April 1996) was a multi-billionaire Greek shipping tycoon. Starting in 1952, he had the world’s biggest supertankers built for his fleet. Propelled by both the Suez Crisis and an increasing demand for oil, he and rival Aristotle Onassis became giants in global petroleum shipping.1He had scandals, marrying two sisters, and ruthless business dealings along with Onassis.
Stavros Niarchos decided to give back to Greece with his Stavros Niarchos Park on the outskirts of Athens at Kallithea. My last evening’s touring in June 2017 was at the Stavros Niarchos Park with my old friends from the late 1970’s, Erica Haralambithou, Doris Christopoulou, Erica was our guide at an Archdiocese Symposium program in 1977. We have an active friendship. Her Father, Dr. Haralambithou, was President of the Maraslios Pedagogical Academy (a 2-year Community College of Pedagogy), in Athens during the 1960’s. Her mother was a medical doctor. Doris was a trained opera singer married to the late Legislator Mr. Christopoulou. Her daughter, Ioli, received her Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
The Stavros Niarchos Park is a green space in Athens. It looks like Flushing Meadow Park in Queens, except modern with a library, auditorium for operas, computer section and modern library that was being developed in 2017. Getting to the Park is very difficult with public transportation. He/she needs a taxi, that can cost 50+ euros from Athens center or a friend with a car. I was only able to get there because of our friends’ car transportation.
Seeing the Greek flag flying inspired hope for the future. The Niarchos Foundation is financing all costs because of the economic condition. Opera was being hosted. A display of the complex like that in the Queens Museum of Flushing Meadow Park was displayed. A Pool of water with jets gave us a feeling of being at the sea. We arrived in time for our free tour. The guide was excellent speaking in Greek and English. We were given an in-depth look of who, what, why and so what questions of the Stavros Niarchos Park. Features I noticed included: an area for parking bikes; flowering bushes in excellent landscaping; modern multilevel interior floors that were spotless as if no one ever walked into the area; auditorium; library with computers, study and meeting rooms; technical and audio studio; bust of Spyros Niarchos, roof top platform to take photos of Athens, Olympic Stadium and the Mediterranean Sea to the West and the 1896 Olympic Breal cup of Spiro Louis.
The Cup is made of pure silver. On the top part of the Cup there is the inscription “OLYMPIC GAMES 1896, MARATHON TROPHY DONATED BY MICHAEL BREAL”. The remaining surface of the Cup had a relief decoration depicting birds and aquatic plants, which were known to exist in the swamp lands of Marathon in ancient times. With this reference, Breal wanted to give the Cup a symbolic significance and connect the ancient Olympic Games with the modern ones. Today, the Cup belongs to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, which acquired it at an auction held on April 18, 2012 by Christie’s in London. A delegation from the Municipality of Amarousion, the birthplace of Spyros Louis, attended and bid in the auction. The Cup was sold by the grandson of Spyros Louis, who has the same name.2
Their website, that is performing an excellent public relations campaign says “The Greek National Opera (GNO) ( www.nationalopera.gr ) has already been transferred in its new premises at SNFCC, inaugurating a new era in its multi-year history. Within the new facilities it is possible for the GNO to further expand its multifaceted activities as an artistic and educational organization, that span Opera, Ballet, experimental projects, children’s performances and educational programs, as well as the preparation of the next generation of dancers and socially beneficial actions. The Stavros Niarchos Hall, with the unparalleled acoustics, aesthetics and unique technical specifications, and the Alternative Stage, a versatile space for experimentation and research, alongside the state-of-the-art auxiliary spaces, provide unlimited possibilities to the GNO rendering it able to play an ever more important role in the artistic scene of the country.
The new 28,000 m2 (301,000 sq. ft.) auditorium is an architectural jewel, designed to enhance the opera experience for patrons and artists alike. Its world-class acoustics, mechanical capabilities, flexible staging, and innate beauty position it for immediate entry into the world opera circuit, ready to play host to the most technically demanding operas, international multimedia art productions, and formidable solo vocalists.
The auditorium is in par with the best European opera houses, and its multiple stages configuration allows for efficient scene changes and the staging of complicated productions. The comfort of the 1,400-seat main auditorium is being equaled in the backstage dressing rooms and rehearsal spaces, and the technical capabilities extend to the scenic design and costume shops.”3
The new building for the National Library of Greece (NLG) ( http://transition.nlg.gr/ ) will modernize an institution founded in 1832, allowing it to strengthen its research role while expanding, at the same time, its focus from an exclusive research facility to an all-inclusive public resource. In its new and enlarged role, the Library will support patrons of all ages and education—from academic researchers to children and young adults destined to become the next generation of users.
Within its new premises, at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, the entrance to the Library leads into a large open lobby that provides an immediate visual orientation to all the organization’s functions. The NLG Public Library Section, bolstered by a significant book collection and other media, will include separate areas for adults, teenagers, and children and will offer a wide range of educational and cultural programs. …4
Kapogiannis Tours took us to Metsovo to see a way off life that is now history. The Tositsa’s Museum is a priceless historical monument to one of the great Epirus merchant’s whose wealth helped form the Greek nation.
The Tositsa family lived in Metsovo in a traditional way. The mansion was built in 1661 and renovated in 1954. No plumbing or bathrooms. Fine carved woodwork, bright rugs and linens, and hand carved Vlach furniture decorated the interior. I noticed one item: GUNS. They were everywhere on the walls. Tositsa was a tough, no- nonsense family, with courage to protect their own. One can help but admire persons with toughness in an age of political correctness. Cretan icons of the Cretan School Byzantine era from the 1650’s was hanging, Guns and icons were part of life. We were the first group present at 9 a.m. Our guide was Thothoros an educator, who gave life to his narration.
The Tositsas family were Epirotan immigrants who amassed large fortunes. They gifted their wealth to the Greek nation either to fund the armed struggle against the Ottomans or to provide valuable structure for the creation of a new State. Epirotan Benefactors rebuilt Greece
The museum is maintained by the Baron Michael Tositsas Foundation. Baron Michael Tositsa (1885–1950) was the grandson of Konstantinos Tositsas, one of the younger brothers of the National Benefactor of Greece, Michael Tositsas. Although he did not maintain relations with Greece, he was convinced, after years of correspondence and personal meetings with Evangleos Averof, to establish a charity foundation in order to help his homeland. The Foundation was established in June 1947 under the name “Foundation of Baron Michael Tositsas” and its main purpose was the development of the greater Metsovo area, from where he originated.
The Foundation funded the refurbishment of his ancestors’ house in Metsovo, which today is a folk-art museum, as well as the reconstruction of the town’s elementary school which had burned down in 1947. The Foundation also funded the construction of a hospital, a sawmill, a creamery, a gym, a ski center and many other public benefit and development projects. Furthermore, the Foundation funded the completion of more than 107 schools in Epirus as well as the construction of a student dorm in Kato Kifissia (Athens suburb) for university students from Epirus.1A museum that shows a way of life that is vanishing.
The Heritage Museum of Epirus on 2514 Broadway, Astoria, NY, has similar exhibits of the life of the Epirus nation.
The Heritage Museum of Epirus on 2514 Broadway, Astoria, NY, has similar exhibits of the life of the Epirus nation.
Summer is a time of reunions in the East End of Long Island. Queens’s residents travel to Mattituck to enjoy the sea breezes. The Kambia Society of Chios recently had an outdoor barbecue picnic on Sunday, July 2nd at the Transfiguration of Christ Church on Breakwater Road in Mattituck. Traditional and Modern Greek music was played. Member and guests renewed family and cultural bonds. The town’s traditions are kept alive by Greek-Americans from Astoria, Whitestone, Bayside, Flushing, New York and the tri-state area. The Society is a member of the Chian Federation located in Astoria, New York.
Demetrios Mihalios with two generations of his family: daughter Sophia Mihalios (2nd from left) and granddaughters, Katie, Emma and Sophia.
The officers are the following persons: John Mihalios, President; Lambros Zoumas, Secretary; Lambros Giamboulis, Treasurer; Diodoros Mihalios, Lefteris Kaloudis, John Mihalios, Teddy and Demetri Mihalios, Bill Zoumas and Lambros Koutsouros, Board Memebers; Sophia Gatanas, Demetrios Mihalios, Lily Mihalios; Evangelia Kaloudis, Nikolaos Kaloudis, Emma Maletakis, Irene Mihalios, Kellie Mihalios, Sophia Mihalios, Maria Mihalios, Katie Maletakis, Sophia Maletakis, Despina Mihalios Kalogeras, Avgoustis Psarros, Michael Psarros and others. The “Youth of Kambia”, President John Mihalios and Father.
A vibrant youth presence was seen in the “Youth of Kambia”. The officers include: John Mihalios, President; Nick Sideras, Vice-President; Maria Zoumas, Treasurer; Kalliope Koutsoumbis, Assistant Treasurer; Maria Mihalios, Secretary; Jimmy Koutsoubis, Assistant Secretary; Sophia Axiotis, Markella Axiotis and Peter Sideras, Board Members.
President John Mihalios is a Greek-American youth fluent in Greek. “We started the Kambia Youth Society four years ago,” he said. “We are trying to keep our culture and traditions alive. We hold a dance every year. Three hundred youth attended. Everyone goes back to Kambia in the summer. It is gratifying when our social events go well. We feel we are a community that remembers our Greek roots.” John Mihalios, President of Kambia Society with wife Irene (left) and cousin Sophia Gatanas (left).
Nicholas Kaloudis, a former student of our Modern Greek University classes, said he “was from Kambia, Chios.” An outstanding scholar and winner of numerous scholarships, Kaloudis is in the Physician Assistants Program at New York Institute of Technology. Evangelia Kaloudis, his mother, explained “my late husband, Chris, was from Kambia. We keep our family ties strong by being part of the Kambia Society.”
Kambia is a small village at the northern part of Chios. It lies at the foothill of the Pelinneon Mountain, the tallest in Chios. One looks down and sees the Mediterranean Sea and the coast of Tseme, Turkey. Cherry and chestnut trees with olive groves are abundant. The Fortress of Kambia (or Fortress of Orias) is the main tourist attraction. The Genoese were in control of the town and island from 1261-1566. Then, it became part of the Ottoman Empire until 1912. In June, Kambia holds an annual Cherry Festival or “Yiorti ton Kerrasion”. The town holds several festivals during the summer months.
“Our village is ancient with two castles at Kastilli and Agia Paraskevi,” said Michael Psarros. “A historic battle took place with Venetians, Genoese and Saracens. Gold is hidden in the grounds. The government prohibits digging on these sites.” Avgoustis and Michael Psarros have a unique interest in preserving their town’s history. Sophia Gatanas, a professional in the Steven Papadatos architectural firm, gave a warm greeting to all at the picnic. “My godson is Kostas Koutsoubis, a physical therapist at NYPT in Flushing by St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.” Everyone from Chios is interconnected.
Demetrios Mihalios and his late wife Sophia are members of the Transfiguration church, Mattituck and a local Queens church. “I left Kambia in 1960 by entering the merchant marine. When we landed in New York City, I left and married Sophia who was from Kambia. I was a painter for many years. Today three generations of my family are at the reunion.” The late Sophia Mihalios was a driving force in the Ladies Philoptohos Society of the Mattituck Church. Their daughter, Kellie Mihalios is an outstanding professional in the Home Mortgage industry.
Rev. Constantine Makrinos, presbyter (priest) of the Transfiguration Church said “I am from Kardamyla. I am pleased to be at this social in a town where Greek traditions are kept and handed down from one generation to the next.” There are social and economic differences in the infrastructure of the southern and northern parts of Chios. In the “Voreiochora” (northern parts), residents are involved in animal farming. From the 18th-19th century onwards, many turned to shipping, especially in north-eastern Chios. Shipping is centered in Kardamyla and the neighboring island of Oinousses.
“I enjoy singing the songs of Kazantzides with my brother-in law Elias Liakaris,” said Lefteris Kaloudis. Kambia in 1950 was the largest village in Northern Chios with about 1300 persons. Now there are only 40 persons all year round.” President Mihalios added that “in the summer it’s difficult to park your car, because of so many people returning to the village. On September 8th, a special event is held at our Church of Panagia Despina.
“We have a slow tsifteteli and syrtos,” said President John Mihalios and his brother Demetrios. “We hold on to the ancient civilization of Smyrna that has vanished. When we have weddings at Panagia Despina Church, everyone in neighboring villages is invited. Our weddings are like those held in Constantinople. Two hours of continuous dancing with everyone having the opportunity to dance with the bride.”
The Erythraia Peninsula opposite Chios was to epitomize the preservation of modular musical tradition…as the four beat ballos, four beat tsifteteli, seven beat kalamatianos and 9 beat zeibekiko,” said the Heraklion Alatsata Association in the CD album “Blow in, breeze from Asia Minor.” These beats are heard in Kambia’s music. Old narrative songs of Greece and Asia Minor are played in Chios. The musical culture of Asia Minor was influential, especially following the destruction of Asia Minor in 1922 and the permanent resettlement of refugees in the town of Chios. The old tunes of syrtos, zeibekiko and tsifteteli are played at gatherings such as the Kambia reunion picnic.
Demetrios Mihalios and Despina M. Kalogeras said a phrase spoken by Chiotes for years. “Tseme is opposite us. We see the lights of Tseme”, referring to the coast of Asia Minor, Turkey. Modern day Tseme is a province that is part of the prefecture of Izmir (Smyrna). Prefecture is similar to the states of New York or New Jersey. A county such as Queens, Nassau, Suffolk are considered provinces. Chios, Samos and Tseme were part of a civilization known as Ionia that encompassed the western coast of Asia Minor on the Aegean Sea. To the Ancient World, the Ionians were one of many Greek tribes. To the Asians, the Ionians were all the Greeks who are called Giounan (Giounan) today. Such was the power and radiance of the Greek cities.
They overshadowed every other Greek presence in the East. According to Herodotus, the Greek Ionian cities included: Phocaea, Clazomenae and Erythrae (part of Tseme) in the north; Colophon, Teos, Lebedus and Ephesus in the center; Miletus, Myus and Priene in the south and the islands of Chios and Samos. The heart of Ionia was opposite Samos at Ephesus, Miletus and Priene. They formed an Ionic league that held joint festivals and athletic competitions. The colonies were economically strong but strategically weak. The area occupied was 90 miles long and 30 miles deep. The seaports of Ionia flourished from 8th century B.C. until the Turkish conquest of the 15th century A.D.
The Ionians, according to tradition, fled to Asia Minor from Greeceʼs mainland to escape the invading Dorians. Athens claimed to be the Mother City of all Ionian colonists. Modern scholars believe the Ionians were a mixed group from Attica and Boeotia (modern day Evia). After their immigration, they further mixed by intermarriage with native groups such as the Carians. Nevertheless, they spoke the Greek dialect spoken in Attica and Euboea. Kambians enjoying themselves with a beautiful new baby, born to carry on traditions.
Their Greek dialect distinguished them from the Dorians and Aeolians.
Smyrna, originally an Aeolic colony, was occupied by Ionians from Colophon, becoming an Ionian city. The coastline is mountainous. The most striking mountains were Mimas and Corycus, in the Erythrae peninsula that is part of modern Tseme facing Chios. The western part of Asia Minor was known for a fine climate in antiquity to modern times. Ionia enjoyed the reputation of being the most fertile of all the rich provinces of Asia Minor. Ionia has given world civilization famous men of philosophy, science and a school of art that led to the accomplishments of 5th century Athensʼ Golden Age.Kambian Society had a large turnout at picnic in Mattituck.
Homer spoke in the Ionian dialect and is perceived to be from this region. Kambia Society conjured memories of a unique Greek/Byzantine tradition that is held alive in 2012.
The Blue Eye or Syri I Kalter is a natural treasure in Northern Epirus, Albania. The contrast of blue and light blue colors of the waters with natural vegetation and ancient oak trees make it an oasis of coolness. I travelled with a Danish/German group from Corfu by boat to Saranta, Albania. Hara Armeni of Charitos Tours with Natasha of Joy Cruises arranged the trip with the assistance of their colleagues Katerina and Chrysa last May. The 22 miles from Corfu to Saranta was calming. Our Albanian tour guides were Matilda Guci, Tomor Tare and Lambi , the bus driver made this excursion unforgettable with their pleasant smiles. An all-day trip of a lifetime for under 80 euros including lunch, transport and port taxes was enjoyable without crowds and pushing. It was a peaceful excursion where he/she could enjoy the natural beauty.
We passed through a beautiful country side and several Greek Orthodox churches, seeing the border of Northern Epirus, Albania and Greece’s Epirus. We passed through the river Bistrica to get to the Blue Eye, where there is a country restaurant.1Gypsys camps were along the road.
The temperature of the spring is 10 Celsius (50 Fahrenheit). The Blue Eye also represents the largest source of drinking water in this part of the world, which is currently explored only up to 50 m of depth. The water in the inner part of the spring appears very dark blue, like the pupil of an eye, and a lighter color of blue as an outer ring – the iris, which gives the impression of a blue eye.
Goats grazing along the river, with numerous fountains by the restaurant. A blue ramp leading to a patio by the Blue gave a feeling of being untouched by 2018. Baby frogs were on the river rocks, along with dragon flies and butterflies. The sign said “In this unique area along the river karst (landscape underlain by limestone that has been eroded by dissolution, producing ridges, towers, fissures, sinkholes, and other characteristic landforms), resources meet, typical aquatic vegetation, different species of maquis and type plane tree…creating the image of a small jungle. ..a bat, mammals like the wolf, jackal, fox, hare, wild dove, and several species of reptiles.”
Southern Albania holds numerous archaeological wonders the country’s stunning nature and landscapes also make it a worthwhile destination. The region’s mountainous territory has dramatic landscapes. On that excursion, we visited the ancient city of Butrint , a UNESCO World Heritage site.2 Take this pleasant, stress free excursion with Charitos and Joy Tours.
“Our home in the city of Saranta in Northern Epirus is near the harbor,” said Billy Litos, my electrician and part of my network of confidants. “Our city is beautiful. We spoke only Greek at home, because we are Greek. Our dream was to immigrate to free Greece. Our city has many restaurants.” Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace, which was Greek Orthodox in character 100 years ago, was carved up by global interests into non-Greek Orthodox states. Population exchanges, during the fall of the Ottoman Empire, eliminated the indigenous populations. This process continues in 2018 with the problem over the name “Macedonia” by Greece and FYROM.
One afternoon “Pyrrhic Victory” was echoed for two hours by a radio talk show over American politics. A Pyrrhic victory is a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat. Someone who wins a Pyrrhic victory has also taken a heavy toll that negates any true sense of achievement.1Who was Pyrrhus ? He was the King of Epirus during the 300’s B.C, that is shared b y Greece and Albania. He was the second cousin of Alexander the Great and one of the greatest generals in History.2
Alexandros Goudas and Anna Gouda proprietors of Elite Pastries Cafe at 47-36 Bell Boulevard, Bayside, NY, Eleni Soulioti and staff are from Saranta and neighboring village of Episkopi. They have told me stories of the beauty of their land. “We are 100% Greek and are related to journalist Demetrios Tsakas .” Mr. Tsakas is a former Mathematics educator from Argyrocastro – Gjirokastër, Albany. His writings are read in the United States and internationally. “Write about your travels to Northern Epirus,” he said. “ Northern Epirus is Greek. You must write about our land.”
I travelled with a Danish/German group from Corfu by boat to Saranta, Albania. Hara Armeni of Charitos Tours in cooperation with Natasha of Joy Cruises arranged the trip with the assistance of their colleagues Katerina and Chrysa last May. The 22 miles from Corfu to Saranta was a beautiful, spiritual experience. It was raining, yet we saw a beautiful rainbow at sea. Archaeological excavations of the ancient town were present.
We passed the impressive remains of a 5th or 6th century AD synagogue. “During the 5th Century AD there was a large and wealthy Jewish community that lived in Saranda (Ancient name: Oncheasmos); the only remains of this can be found at the Synagogue Complex in the center of Saranda, just near the city hall. These old ruins represent what was once a community center and old school used for bible studies. During the 6th Century the buildings were converted into a basilica but later destroyed either by an earthquake or by Slavic invasion.
Initial excavations to the the site were conducted in 1984 when Albania was under Communist rule. Later, further excavations were made by the Hebrew University Institute of Archaelogy and the Albanian Academy of Sciences.
Many different mosaics and other different Jewish symbols can be found at the site even today, noticeably the seven-branched candelabrum surrounded by citrons (lemons) and a ram’s horn. These can be seen on the two mosaic pavements.
Other mosiacs which can be seen include animals, trees, religious characters and a structure/shrine.3Modern multi floor apartment buildings, Tirana Banks buildings, excellent landscaping,
Saranta is from the name of the Byzantine monastery of the Agioi Saranda meaning the “Forty Saints”, in honor of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. They were a group of Roman soldiers in the Legio XII Fulminata (Armed with Lightning) whose martyrdom in 320 for the Christian faith is recounted in traditional martyrologies. They were killed near the city of
Sebaste (present-day Sivas in Turkey), in Lesser Armenia, victims of the persecutions of Licinius, who after 316, persecuted the Christians of the East. In antiquity the city was known by the ancient Greek name of Onchesmos or Anchiasmos and was inhabited by the Greek tribe of the Chaonians. In a medieval chronicle of 1191 the settlement appears to be abandoned, while its former medieval name (Anchiasmos) isn’t mentioned any more. From that year, the toponym borrows the name of the nearby Orthodox basilicachurch of Agioi Saranta, erected in the 6th century, ca. 1 km (0.6 mi) southeast of the modern town
Geographically, it is situated on an open sea gulf of the Ionian Sea in the central Mediterranean, about 14 km (8.7 mi) east of the north end of the Greek island of Corfu. The city is known for its blue deep waters of the Mediterranean. The city, according to the Albanian Committee of Helsinki, has lost more than half of its ethnic Greeks from 1991 to 2001, because of heavy emigration to Greece.4
Our Corfu tour showed us a modern city with new building, clean streets, without homeless persons. We stopped at the Erdano Bar for lunch. My tour guides Hara and Natasha arranged a salt- free lunch that was delicious. The prices were compatible to Greece. This was a trip from Corfu that everyone should take to see this strategic city.
Klaudjan Baxhija, my former university student, who was the son of a university professor and military general, wrote in a paper that “Albania is the ‘Land of the Eagles’ or Shqiperia. Illyria is the historical and cultural roots of Albanians. Illyria’s borders were always living mixed population of Albanians and Greeks. They lived next to each other and sometimes one could not even put a border line between them. There is never enough to tell about Albania.”The Corfu excursion through Saranta to Butrin was in “the footsteps of Byzantium.” Byzantine culture is alive in the countries’ history it touched today in 2018.
“What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life. And, most importantly, cookies.” ~Rudolph Giuliani
The grandparent-grandchild relationship can have lasting positive effects in promoting the Greek language, culture and Greek Orthodox religion. Efforts to help your kids know grandparents help them learn their Greek heritage that remains with them for the rest of their lives.
The Federation of Hellenic-American Educators & Cultural Associations of America and Hellenic PAIDEA of America held an education event to honor grandparents and parents of the Greek Day and Afternoon Schools on Thursday evening May 31st, 2018 at 6:30 p.m. at the Stathakion Cultural Center (22-51 29th Street, Ditmars Boulevard and 23rd Avenue in Astoria). Over 200 persons attended. A reception followed. The event was organized by Mrs. Stella Kokolis, the President of the Federation of Hellenic-American Educators and Cultural Associations of America, Vasiliki Filiotis, President of Hellenic Paideia of America and Adriana Filiotis, Chairlady organized the event. President Demosthenes Triantafillou, President of the Greek Teachers Association Prometheus, donated $1,000 to The Federation of Hellenic-American Educators & Cultural Associations of America, cementing harmony and cooperation between all Greek Educators Associations. State Senator Giannaris, State Assemblywoman Simotas and City Councilman Constantinides send citations to honorees. Plagues by The Federation of Hellenic-American Educators & Cultural Associations of America and Hellenic PAIDEA of America were presented to all honored persons.
The Program included: M.C.: Dimitris Philippides, Reporter HELLAS FM; NATIONAL ANTHEMS: of Greece and USA; INVOCATION; GREETINGS OF HONOR GUESTS, General Consuls of Greece and Cyprus; Mr. Petros Galatoulas, President of the Hellenic Societies of Greater NY; REMARKS, Dr. Ioannis Efthimopoulos, Director of the Hellenic Education of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Dr. George Tsioulias, Address keynote: “The role of the Greek-American parents towards the Greek education of children of the second and third generation”; Presentation of a small program by students of our Greek schools; PRESENTATION OF THE AWARDS ΤΟ THE HONOREES BY: Dr. Ioannis Efthimiopoulos, Principals of the schools, Mrs. Stella Kokolis, Mrs. Vasiliki Filiotis and RECEPTION.
The grandparents and parents honored were the following persons: Stella and Lukas Agrapidis; Effie and John Sergentakis; Athina and Leo Giakoumis; Helen and Steve Verveniotis; Priscilla and Nikos Panteleakis; Lenia and Elias Batas; Maria and Dr. Spyros Kokolis; Steve and Sylvia Raptis; John and Michelle Lambrakis; Panagiotis and Aikaterini Papazaharias; Kleoniki and Theodoros Batsilas; Chrysoula Douroudakis Demiris; Kaliroe Diolitsis; Demetrios Diolitsis; Mrs. Marianthi Raptis; Mr. Michael Vitellas & Mrs. Elli Vitellas; Ms. Vasilios Michas; Mrs Alexia Iasonas; Mr. John Pyrovolakis & Mrs Panayiota Pyrovolakis; Mr. Kostis Sophokleous & Mrs. Gretchen Sophokleous; Basil Latousakis and Mrs. Stella Latousakis; Mrs. Nektaria Trikounakis; Dr. and Mrs. George Tsioulias; Dr. and Mrs. Spryo Mezitis; Mr. John and Mrs. Ekaterini Barou; and Mr. Michael and Mrs. Maria Hartofilis.
Keynote speaker Dr. Tsioulis said. “We must teach, reach and motivate Greek American children, one needs to understand their environment, the school systems they attend, their own culture, traditions and habits. Teachers of the Greek language must integrate modern technology, such as the internet in their classroom, as well as use the language of the students for motivation. Grandparents, Parents and families must play a significant role in inspiring the students to learn Greek language and culture. Culture activities such as theater, dance, music and visits to Greece can help curb the dropout rate of Greek students from the Greek schools.”
Mrs. Kleoniki and Mr. Theodore Batsilas are Greek grandparents from Kastoria who speak Greek to their children and grandchildren. They have instilled a love for Greek civilization in the daughter Joanna Batsilas Kapsalis, PharmD, and Tom Batsilas an accountant who attended the Arete and Stephen Cherpelis Greek Afternoon School of St. Nicholas Church Flushing. They continue instilling the Greek language and tradition in their children who attend Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Hicksville and St. Nicholas Church of Flushing, NY. ”We help in raising our grandchildren, speaking Greek and instilling a love for the Greek culture,” said Mrs. Batsilas.
“I was Vice President of the PTA of the Stephen and Areti Cherpelis Greek Afternoon School,” said Chrysoula Douroudakis Demiris, a NYC educational teacher’s assistant. “Greek is spoken to my sons, Vasilis and Nikolaos. They are proud of their Cretan heritage, with a strong relationship with their grandparents. Dina and Nikolaos Douroudakis. We are all proud of the sacrifice of our family who fought in two wars: “the Asia Minor Campaign from 1919 to 1922 and the Battle of Crete, a period of six years. In our home hangs the “Certificate and the National Resistance Hero Medal” given by Minister Stilianos Koundouros, Department of Defense of the Hellenic Republic on June 2, 1962, to my grandfather Sifis Douroudakis. The proud Cretan ethic of fighting for Greece, Greek language and culture was instilled in us and the grandchildren.”
International Greek-American-Epirotan artist Marianthi Raptis family travelled four hours round trip to see her honored. “We came to honor our Mother,” said Peggy Baurkot, a Greek-American attorney. “Our daughter Juliana minored in Greek at Rutgers University, touring Greece with her program.” Marianthi Raptis of Whitestone, New York international art exhibits have been part of the exhibitions of the Greek Artists Guild at the Stathakion Cultural Center, 22-51 29th St., Queens, NY, 11105. “I have drawn my ancestral home and village church in Epirus,” the artist explained. “I enjoy drawing scenes of nature. I have participated in three Art Exhibitions of Greek Artists Guild (https://www.facebook.com/GreekArtistsGuild).” Artist Raptis has donated her art work to non-profit organizations such as Prometheus Greek Teachers Association and the Heritage Museum of Epirus in Astoria.
Mrs. Stella Kokolis, an organizer of this exceptional event is a great compromiser, negotiating and settling education disagreements. Her generosity is legendary. When someone needs funding for a project or a scholarship for a student, Mrs. Kokolis gives money from her own pocket. The educator is one of the giants of our time in the field of bilingual education. In 2009, the educator was named “Greek Teacher of the Year 2009” by The National Herald newspaper in New York. The 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Hellenic News of America honored on October 14th, 2012 at the at the Concordville Inn-Best Western Hotel & Conference Center in Concordville, Pennsylvania. Mrs. Kokolis has united us in keeping our Greek heritage alive in America. . “Let us reflect on the admirable work that the teachers have devoted to their students through the decades,” she said. “With courage and perseverance, let us continue to kindle the light of Hellenic education.”
The Hellenic Paideia of America Organization played an active role through the leadership of President Vasiliki Filiotis, Adriana Filiotis and Georgia Filiotis who works behind the scenes. The Filiotis family is well known in Astoria, New York for their community activist services. “Greek is important to the languages and cultures of the world. Greek recorded ancient philosophy and is the basis of languages. Every language contains Greek words. The language spread Christianity. We support Modern Greek language studies and urge all youth to enroll. The Hellenic Paideia Organization’s goal is to encourage Greek-Americans and their friends to speak Greek. We must leave an inheritance to the next generation. European culture and civilization, of which our own country is a part, are rooted in ancient Greece.
The Program M.C. Dimitris Filipidis and Petro Galatoulas, President of the Federation of Greek Societies are genuine Greek patriots. They are fighting for the name Macedonia to prevent a future Slavic ambition of acquiring Thessaloniki and Greek Macedonia. “The holy soil of Macedonia is Greece and Greece is Macedonia,” they both believe. Both leaders are voicing opposition to Turkish military boats that are cruising illegally in the Greek Aegean. A rich awards program in honor of grandparents and parents reinforced the support of the Greek language and culture.
Emmanuel Moustakos, of the St. NIcholas Flushing Boy Scout Troop #268, celebrated his Eagle Scout Court of Honor on May 12, 2018, at Laterna Restaurant in Bayside, NY. He was joined by Fr. Aristidis Garinis of St Nicholas, Flushing. Emmanuel and his parents are active members of the St. Nicholas Flushing community.
Emmanuel is a graduate of the St. Nicholas Flushing William Spryropoulos Day School and serves as an altar boy. Emmanuel is a Junior at Archbishop Molloy High School. For his Eagle Scout project, Emmanuel organized a drive to collect slightly used and new clothing for the mission at The Greater Allen Cathedral in Jamaica, NY.
Trains, Bicycles were prevalent in Venice in late autumn 2017. Women with 3-4 All our train reservations were made online in the USA. We avoided validation at train stations.This helped avoid stress in overseas traveling. Women in spiked heels were bicycle riding in Ravenna. Tourists shoving and pushing in Florence and Venice during an off season was unbelievable. Italians were courteous, helpful with our luggage. Train travel from Venice to Florence, Aquilieia (Bologna) and Ravenna was excellent. All the trains rain on time. Clean with modern seats. Even the old trains were comfortable.
The major problem in travelling was luggage. Finding space on trains forluggage was a nightmare, in addition to lifting. The best suggestion offered was “come to Venice with a carryon suticas.” How can you go on a two week trip with one, small suitcase?
Train travel showed us the beautiful, rolling green hills and fields. Affluent with rich natural resources, Northern Italy is carrying the taxation burden of Rome.
We were vigilant for pick pockets at the Bologna train station. Our vigilance must have scared the pick pockets away because we are New York City street smart. We accidentally travelled from Venice to Bologna second class instead of our first class tickets. The conductor wrote on the ticket that we are entitled to a refund. Seat reservations are mandatory in first class, not second class. The high speed train on our return trip from Florence to Venice was modern. The newer trains had computerized bathrooms.
Refreshments – Ravenna to Florence.
staff who helped us
Travelling without guides and knowing English is possible in Italy. We created our own customized excursion with free walking tours and internet information. Hospitality was prevalent among the Italian middle class. I felt I was with our own people in Greece.