Greece’s New Year tradition: Vasilopita and the Golden Coin

We are in Greece where, on New Year’s Day, a centuries-old tradition is observed in almost every household, that of Vasilopita (meaning St. Basil’s Cake), a sweet-tasting lucky treat. Across the country, recipes are quite a few, but they all have one basic ingredient: the much sought-after flouri, or lucky coin. Its story began in the Greek antiquity period, when ancient Greeks would offer bread and honey-kneaded sweets to honour the gods during the major harvest festivals. Today the New Year’s Day Cake custom is kept everywhere in Greece, and…

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Tourlitis Lighthouse: The magical Greek Lighthouse

We are off the coast of the Greek port city of Andros. Rising up out of the islet of Tourlitis, a weather-worn stone spire opposite the harbor at Chora, on Andros island, Tourlitis Lighthouse looks like something straight out of a fantasy novel. The beacon was first built in 1897 just off shore from a castle in Andros. The stone column on which it was built had been shaped by millennia of natural erosion into the perfect pedestal for a coastal beacon. Unfortunately the original lighthouse was short-lived, and was…

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Vrykolakas: the greek bloodless Vampire.

The “undead dead” have always been an interesting aspect of global folklore. Many cultures seem to have at least a few popular creatures or mythic beings that are near to a Vampire. However, each culture seems to have its own “version” on the common creature. I didn’t know the Greek Vrykolakas, whose journey from human to vampire, and their life afterwards, is really interesting. While most vampire legends tend to involve drinking human blood as part of the mythos, in Greece, it does not. A person doesn’t become a Vrykolakas…

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18# Melomakarona: Greek Christmas Honey Cookies with curious origins

Sweet orange-zest cookies soaked in honey and topped with walnut? Yes, please! This treat is a holiday treat that regularly appears on tables in Greece. Known as melomakarona, if you visit Greece in Christmas time, you’ll eat far too many of these delicious Christmas honey cookies. Imagine a cross between baklava and an gooey pecan pie and you’ve got these: typical Greek Christmas honey cookies, and probably you won’t be able to eat just one. Every self-respecting Greek household has a huge pile of these on their Christmas treat table.…

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The sunken city of Pavlopetri: the oldest submerged city in the Mediterranean

Pavlopetri, in Greek: Παυλοπέτρι, is an anonymous village opposite the island of Elafonisos, on whose beach, in 1967, an exceptionally important discovery was made for world archeology: an ancient submerged city, whose topography was remained almost completely visible after 5,000 years of history. Mapped one year later by by a team of archaeologists from Cambridge, the ancient city, underwater off the coast of southern Laconia in Peloponnese, was called by the modern name for the islet and beach, Pavlopetri, (“Paul’s and Peter’s”, or “Paul’s stone”), apparently named for the two…

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The battle of Frangokastello -Crete- and the Drosoulites

We are in Greece: Frangokastello, located in the south west coast of Crete, is a beautiful Venetian castle that was built in 1371 as a garrison to impose order on the rebellious Sfakia region and to deter pirates. It is just another testament to the Venetians desire to impose their rule, as the castle was never used by them. The castle has a rectangular shape, with a tower at each corner and the remains of a Venetian coat of arms above the main gate. The buildings within the walls and…

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10 bizarre Easter traditions around Europe

As Christmas, Easter is one of the most important religious festivities for Christians and it’s the day when religious people celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday and culminates in the commemorations of Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday that this year is celebrated exactly today. Easter is very popular in many states of the globe and in some countries, especially Christian-Orthodox ones, it represents a more heartfelt feast than Christmas, unlike Christian-Catholic ones. For the ancients, this period represented instead…

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The Chios Rocket War is the most explosive Easter in the world!

We are in Greece, where, during the celebration of the Mass the night before Easter Sunday, it is customary to launch fireworks. However, nothing is as spectacular as the event that takes place in Vrontados, on the island of Chios. Rouketopolemos, literally rocket war, is the traditional manifestation that takes place every year on the occasion of Orthodox Easter, and which sees two rival parishes engage in a most unusual and dangerous tradition that has been taking place quite possibly since the Ottoman era. The churches, which sit on opposite…

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Greece: The ruins of Old Navarino Castle

We are in Greece, where the ruins of a 13th-century fortress perched above a really breathtaking Mediterranean bay. Once an important observation place, it was built in Greece in the 13th century by the Franks, on the ruins оf an anсient аcrοpolis. Its strategic location made it a prime spot for protecting the bay and as such, it endured centuries of attacks and sieges. The Venetians gained control of the fortress in the 15th century, but soon the Ottomans attempted to stake their claim to the castle. The fortress passed…

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Peace between Athens and Sparta: an agreement signed only in 1996

The Peloponnesian War of 431-404 BC between the Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta was a pivotal period in world history. Athens, the semi-democratic state that lent so many of its ideals to Rome and to western civilization as a whole in the modern age, and Sparta, the military state that seemed to have no rivals on the battlefields of the time, fought a war for control of Greece and the eastern Mediterranean Basin. But in Athens, in 404 BC the Spartans of Lysander have now conquered the Acropolis, imposed…

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Meteora beyond monasteries: a unique place in central Greece.

We are always in Greece…..this time for discover monasteries on rock pillars, once accessible only by frayed ropes. It’s well known, that the Orthodox church has always had the ability for picking spectacular locations for its sacred buildings, and Meteora is no exception. Even if it weren’t the site of the second most important monastery complex in Greece, it would still be a place absolutely to visit. In the foothills of the Pindus mountains, above the central Greek plains of Thessaly, is a series of geological wonders that stick out…

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Tatoi Palace: an abandoned piece of greek history.

Epidaurus, 1822. In contrast to the Ottoman forces still dominant in the Greece, the Constituent Assembly of the First Hellenic Republic is born. It will take another 7/8 years to be able to free most of Greece from the Turkish invader, but in 1830, thanks to the London Protocol, the Greek state will be officially recognized by the world powers and, after thousands of years, the Republic and Democracy will return to wave their flags from the Parthenon hill. It seems a story with happy ending…true? Absolutely not. In fact,…

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Old Perithia, the ghost town where the villagers refuse to leave.

If you’re looking for Perithia, you’ll have to be clear on which Perithia you’re looking for…the new, or the abandoned? 😉 We are in Greece. (this time really, in fact i’m writing from Greece) On the Greek island of Corfu, the “new” Perithia can easily be seen on a main coastal road. The village has the features of a traditional Greek village, with taverns, an olive press, busy workers and a delightful ice cream shop that comes highly recommended in all the country. But if you prefer exploring, before the…

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