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Tinos Eco Lodge: Sustainable Tourism at the Greek Islands

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Tinos Eco Lodge sunrise
Sunrise at Tinos Eco Lodge

The place to be on the wonderful island Tinos is the 2014 founded Tinos Eco Lodge, located in a lonesome forested valley next to the small village Steni.

Tinos Eco Lodge sunrise
Sunrise at Tinos Eco Lodge

Located only 20 kilometers north from the touristic hotspot Mykonos, Tinos island invites its guests to discover the traditional Greek lifestyle. After a 30 minutes ferry trip, individual tourists looking for stunning landscapes, lonely beaches and Mediterranean kitchen are welcomed by the guest friendly population of one of the most attractive locations in Greece.

While wandering through the terraced landscape on hidden pathways or climbing on nearly untouched mountains, visitors of Tinos discover ancient places, collect wild growing vegetables, fruits and herbs or just relax on hundreds of secret sandy beaches at the seaside of the island.

The city of Tinos, giving the island it´s name, is known for the beautiful miracle church placed on top of an inner city hill. Every year in August, thousands of pilgrims crawling on their knees the steep 700 meters from the harbor to the church, sending their wishes to heaven and hoping for gratification.

Tinos Eco Lodge: the place to be

tinos eco lodge big houseThe place to be on the wonderful island Tinos is the 2014 founded Tinos Eco Lodge, located in a lonesome forested valley next to the small village Steni.

Guests of the WIFI free, EU supported sustainable tourism project, enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of the ecological greened area, healthy food collected in the organic garden and an amazing view at the mediterranean sea and the islands of Mykonos and Ikaria.

Living in one of the two contemporary and comfortable stone made guest houses at the Tinos Eco Lodge you can relax on the five terraces, doing workout and Yoga sessions at the 6.000 square meter area or enjoy the healthy, fresh air, and the swim at the nearby sandy beach of Santa Margarita.

In the evening, , you will use the outdoor kitchen for traditional Greek barbecue, while enjoying the crystal clear heaven filled with thousands of bright shining stars and the natural sounds of frogs and wild goats living in the mountains next to the Tinos Eco Lodge.

At night a warm north wind refreshes your soul, when you celebrate the easiness of life with Wine and Raki produced by the local farmers of Tinos, hanging around with the lovely Greek, English and German speaking founders of the Eco Lodge, caring at it´s best about their guests.

Visitors of the Tinos Eco Lodge, interested in sustainable tourism and permaculture, can take part at professional seminars starting in September 2016.

During the eleven-days fulltime seminar up to 20 participants will learn more about living on a small carbon footprint with solar and wind power, ecological usage of water and the basics of sustainable farming, which is the concept of the Ecolodge. Two very knowledgeable teachers from England, Dr. Rod Everett and Mill Millichap with the help of a Greek assistant will give the seminar in English which completes the full curriculum for a PDC authorized certificate by the Permaculture Association . For more info and booking a place at the seminar visit the seminar website.

Five Reasons I Love Greek Food

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Gyro. Taken by jeffreyw via Flickr.
Gyro. Taken by jeffreyw via Flickr.
Gyro. Taken by jeffreyw via Flickr.

When it comes to cuisine, the Greeks definitely have got it going on!

In the past few years I have been lucky enough to visit the Greek islands of Ios, Naxos and Santorini as well as the metropolitan cities of Athens and Thessaloniki. I took away many things from these trips- great memories with friends, some historical and cultural knowledge and a pretty solid tan. One thing about Greece in general always stand out in my mind, however- it has some of my favorite cuisine in the whole world!

Being able to visit both islands and mainland cities means that I had the chance to try a variety of dishes, which are typically highly influenced by the natural surroundings. Fresh seafood is everywhere on the islands while you can typically find more diversity of choices in the cities. Regardless, it’s all delicious and I’m going to tell you why…

Five reasons I love Greek food:

1. It is SO fresh

If I were to estimate, I’ve eaten about 20-25 meals in Greece. Maybe once or twice was I disappointed in the freshness of ingredients. There’s a reason for this. The basis of many traditional Greek food dishes (such as Greek salad) include fresh ingredients such as fresh fish, vegetables, legumes and cereals. There’s really no way to fake it or substitute with processed ingredients.

Greek salad. Taken by Karl Bohn via Flickr.
Greek salad. Taken by Karl Baron via Flickr.

2. Full flavor

What I especially enjoy about Greek food is the variety of full flavors in every dish. Many herbs and spices such as dill, garlic, oregano, onion, mint, thyme, basil and parsley are necessary ingredients to most dishes, which give each one a unique, full flavor.

Dolmades: stuffed grape leaves with rice, onions, herbs, pine nuts, raisins. Taken by kennejima via Flickr.
Dolmades: stuffed grape leaves with rice, onions, herbs, pine nuts, raisins. Taken by kennejima via Flickr.

3. Pita, need I say more?

Head into any bakery and you can find a variety of fresh pitas (pies) to choose from. My favorite is the Spanakopita (spinach pie), which is made from filo pastry with spinach and feta filling. This is really similar to the versions found in the Balkans known as Burek, also equally delicious.

Spanakopita. Taken by Alpha via Flickr.
Spanakopita. Taken by Alpha via Flickr.

4. You can never have enough Feta cheese

Feta may be my favorite type of cheese and the Greeks definitely know how to do it right. Made from sheep’s milk, goat’s milk or a mixture, this crumbly white cheese is the perfect addition to salads, hence the famous Greek Salad, pies and pastries or simply served on its own. Once in Thessaloniki we were served Feta with sesame seeds and honey as an appetizer. Here is a similar recipe for a fried version. It was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted!

Feta with sesame seeds and honey. Taken by Rachel Bickley via Flickr.
Feta with sesame seeds and honey. Taken by Rachel Bickley via Flickr.

5. Gyros are the ultimate fast food

Made from meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie and served in a pita with vegetables and tzatziki sauce, gyros are the perfect fast food treat. They also come vegetarian with a feta or haloumi cheese substitute, so no one has to be left out! Everytime I had gyros in Greece they never felt super heavy like Kebabs here in Germany or typical fast food in the U.S. Plus they are so cheap! I once paid one euro for a breakfast gyro in Santorini (I couldn’t pass up a deal like that, no matter what hour!).

Check out this list from BBC Good Food for must-try Greek dishes!

The Acropolis of Athens

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The Acropolis of Athens represents the quintessential symbol of ancient Greek culture.

It provokes the ideas of the spirit and civilization of one of the most well known ancient cultures, famous for providing modern ideas, artistic and architectural marvels and deep philosophical thought to our world today and throughout history.

Perched approximately 150 meters above city level over the city of Athens, the Acropolis is visible from many points in the city below and it almost appears to be quietly watching over the city, keeping a silent wisdom that only comes from a great history and age. The meaning of the word acropolis comes from the Greek words ἄκρον (akron, “edge, extremity”) and πόλις (polis, “city”). There are many acropoleis throughout Greece, however, this is the most well known and therefore is just simply referred to as “the Acropolis”.

Evidence suggests that the hill of the Acropolis was inhabited many years before the structure was built, even as far back as 4,000 BC. From the 2nd millennium BC the area served as a fortress protecting places of worship and royal palaces, with a wall known as the Pelasgicon providing protection from invaders. Up until the mid 5th century BC there were various attacks and the wall was destroyed.

The Acropolis of Athens. Taken by Kirstie.
The Acropolis of Athens. Taken by Kirstie.

Following a victory against the Persians and the establishment of democracy, Athens became a leader among the other city-states of the time. Philosophy, thought and artistic expression flourished during this time period and Pericles, an Athenian statesman, dreamed up construction of a unique monument. Through the help of artists and designers in the 5th century BC, especially the sculptor Pheidias, Pericles began construction of the sites most important structures.

Though they have suffered much damage throughout the years, today, visitors can see the remains of four ancient buildings including the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike.

Walking up to the Acropolis.
Walking up to the Acropolis.

For me, visiting the Acropolis was a great experience on two levels. First, the ruins of the buildings are still so stunning, with small details still visible in some parts. Also, they are much larger than I would have imagined. It almost felt as you were in another universe. Secondly, it was astounding to conceive how long these buildings had stood. Essentially it was impossible, but if felt so incredible to know that you were standing in the same place that humans had for thousands of years.

We visited the Acropolis during the middle of July, which was very, very hot. Since it is perched above the city, there is little sun protection. I would recommend going in early morning or during a different part of the year such as late winter/early spring or late fall/early winter. It is open from 8 am to 6:30 pm everyday, with hours subject to seasonal change. It costs about 12 euros to enter, but with a European student card you can enter for free.

It is also relatively easy to access the Acropolis on foot from the plaza near Monastiraki. It takes about 45 min to 1 hour to walk up the winding hills (getting lost a few times of course), but it was relatively pleasant when there was shade.

[UNESCO], [Wikipedia], [The Athens Guide]

Black and Red Sand Beaches in Santorini

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Red Beach in Santorini. Taken by Kirstie.

Santorini is one of the most naturally stunning places I’ve ever visited.

The whitewashed homes built into the cliffs, breathtaking sunsets and fantastic beaches have made this volcanic Cyclades island a hugely popular tourist destination that definitely doesn’t disappoint.

One of the features that make Santorini truly unique is its geological formation. The horseshoe shape of the island is the result of the Minoan eruption of Thera, also referred to at the Thera eruption or the Santorini eruption. This was one of the largest volcanic eruptions known throughout history, dating back approximately 3,600 years ago. This destroyed all settlements in the early single island and creating the current shape of the main island of Santorini and the smaller island of Thirasia as well as a few other islands.

Today, there is evidence of the volcanic presence with many volcanic craters throughout the island. The most recent eruption was in 1950, followed by a devastating earthquake in 1956. The volcano is currently dormant, though it gives off odors from time to time.

As a result of this volcanic history, the beaches have formed with really unique sand and rock colors. The most famous ones include a black pebble beach, a white beach and a red beach.

We decided to rent ATVs and drive around the island, exploring as many beaches as we could. Since we were staying in the town of Perissa, this was our first beach, as it is considered one of the nicest in Santorini. The beach itself was a really nice black sand beach with clean, clear water. There were also tons of little shops and restaurants that were perfect for taking a break from the sun. At night, many of them turn into bars with live music, too!

Perissa Beach, Santorini.
Perissa Beach, Santorini.

After a short visit in Perissa, we moved on to what is supposed to be the most unique, picturesque beach in Santorini: Red Beach. This is located in the Akrotiri area, near to the ancient site of Akrotiri.

Agios Nikolaos church in Santorini, on the way to Red Beach. Taken by Kirstie.
Agios Nikolaos church in Santorini, on the way to Red Beach. Taken by Kirstie.

The beach was so beautiful! The deep red color coming from the red lava cliffs that flow down into the crystal blue waters was absolutely spectacular. Because of landslides the beach has been closed to the public in recent years, but you can still get this spectacular view:

Red Beach in Santorini. Taken by Kirstie.
Red Beach in Santorini. Taken by Kirstie.

We then headed in the direction of Oia to watch the sunset, making a quick stop at one of the black sand beaches along the way, which I believe was Vouvoulos Beach. There were lots of great waves and the beach wasn’t so crowded, which made the stop my favorite of all the ones we visited.

Playing in the waves at Vouvoulos Beach, Santorini. Taken by Kirstie.
Playing in the waves at Vouvoulos Beach, Santorini. Taken by Kirstie.
Vouvoulos Beach in Santorini. Taken by Kirstie.
Vouvoulos Beach in Santorini. Taken by Kirstie.

I’m really looking forward to going back to Santorini sometime in the future and exploring more of the amazing beaches this island has to offer!

Any suggestions?

[Greeka]

What’s with the white and blue in the Cyclades?

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Homes on the cliff in Santorini. Taken by Kirstie.

What could be more indicative of the Greek Cyclades Islands than whitewashed homes, built into the cliffs hanging over the sea, decorated with bright blue roofs, doors and windows?

If you think of Greece, this image has to instantly pop into your head:

Homes on the cliff in Santorini. Taken by Kirstie.
Homes on the cliff in Santorini. Taken by Kirstie.

Ahh, so beautiful, right?

Well actually, there is a much more practical purpose behind the architecture and paint choices of the homes in the Cyclades. And while different islands have different traditions, there are many similarities among them.

If you’ve ever been the Greek Islands in summertime, you know how hot it can get. The sun beats down the entire day, rarely a cloud in the sky and there are few, if any, trees for protection. Therefore, maintain a cool comfort level was a major factor in how homes were not only built, but decorated too!

Homes were built into the cliffs to provide insulation from harsh sea winds and bright summer sun and were originally constructed from stone, many times a dark, volcanic stone. This provided a sturdy protection, especially when piracy was a threat during the medieval era. The stone also acted as a really great insulator, the only problem being that the dark color absorbed a lot of sunlight, making the interior of the homes even warmer. As a solution, residents began painting their homes white to reflect the sunlight and stay cool.

As white paint was not readily available, especially in the middle of the ocean, the residents of many of the islands used asbestos to produce a white color for a low price. This was also used to paint roads and kill pests. In Santorini, however, they covered the stone in a layer of plaster made from limestone. Many people also used many different colors as an accent to the white color. Over time, blue became the cheapest and most readily available.

While blue and white homes have become synonymous with the Greek Cyclades islands today, this isn’t true off all of them and even the most famous, Santorini, used to be full of vibrant, vivid colors.

During the period of 1967-1974, however, Greece was under rule of a military government. For political reasons, such as to show support and unification, the government ordered that all new homes be painted with this blue and white concept and those that were already built must be repainted.

Here are some of my favorite photos of homes during my visit to the Cyclades islands of Santorini and Ios:

Doorway in Santorini. Taken by Kirstie.
Doorway in Santorini. Taken by Kirstie.
Church dome in Santorini. Taken by Kirstie.
Church dome in Santorini. Taken by Kirstie.
Ios landscape.
Ios landscape.
Stairwell in Ios.
Stairwell in Ios.
Church in Ios.
Church in Ios.

[Trip Advisor], [Greeka]

Thessaloniki is Greece’s cultural capital

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Signage in Thessaloniki

While the Cyclades Islands and Greece’s capital city of Athens may get the most attention in terms of tourist destinations, we can’t forget about Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city. Built upon the sea, Thessaloniki has more to offer than you may think!

Founded in 315 BC, Thessaloniki is considered to be Greece’s culture capital, as it is well known today for a vibrant nightlife, many festivals and events as well as its metropolitan development.

Thessaloniki is a major part of Greece’s economic, industrial, commercial and political core. However, you can say the backbone of the city is the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH), the largest in Greece, with approximately 80,000 students. With the current situation in Greece, public services such as the universities are definitely feeling the strain. For a school project we had the opportunity to collaborate with students from the AUTH University and you could definitely tell that they felt their campus was lacking a strong pulse.

Going just a short walk into the heart of the city, however, you can easily see how the students have shaped the way Thessaloniki has developed. Nightlife there is some of the best in Europe, with numerous bars, clubs and restaurants to choose from. Just walking outside on any given weekend night, there are people spilling out onto the sidewalks, chatting, dancing and drinking cocktails. It’s no wonder that Thessaloniki was named the European Youth Capital in 2014.

Nightlife in Thessaloniki
Nightlife in Thessaloniki

As you can expect from a location considered a “culture capital”, what Thessaloniki brings in terms of nightlife, it equally matches in terms of historical monuments, ancient sights and cultural traditions. Thessaloniki was a major metropolis during the Roman period, and the second largest and wealthiest city of the Byzantine Empire, which is evident today in the many monuments you can see there.

Some of the top sites in Thessaloniki include:

The ancient forum, which dates back to 2nd or 3rd century AD, an archeological site which features many monuments, temples and other buildings as well as the Triumphal Arch of Gelerius, built in 305 AD and a Rotunda built in the early 4th century.

The various Byzantine monuments dating back as far as the 5th century. This includes many churches as well as the byzantine walls of the city, the byzantine bathhouse and the Heptapyrgion castle.

Byzantine Walls, Thessaloniki
Byzantine Walls, Thessaloniki

The Ottoman monuments located throughout the city, the most famous perhaps is the White Tower from the 15th century. You can also find the Mosques of the Hazma Bey Cami, the Hamams (Turkish bathhouses) and the Bezesteni, a rectangular building that operated as a cloth market in the late fifteenth century.

White Tower, Thessaloniki
White Tower, Thessaloniki

Also, I would recommend visiting the Ano Polis (old city), the historical quarter of Ladidika, the traditional markets and the central Aristotelous Square.

Lastly, Thessaloniki has some of the best food I’ve had in my life! Compared to more northern countries, it is also really cheap and exceptionally fresh and delicious. We tried many restaurants during our trip and were only disappointed by one that was right in the heart of the tourist center.

Overall, considering Thessaloniki’s rich cultural heritage, excellent nightlife, terrific food options and, of course, its picturesque location on the water, you can see why Thessaloniki must be on your travel destination list!

[Visit Greece], [Wikipedia]

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