Travelogue -From Russia to Greece with Love
Travelogue -From Russia to Greece with Love
……with Bob Nicolaides, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cash-strapped, debt-laden Greece may look like the sick man of Europe to its eurozone partners, but for rich Russians it still has many charms.
Zepko is an idyllic, undeveloped location in the eastern corner of Halkidiki, a peninsula in northern Greece blessed with secluded beaches, azure waters and pine forests. When Zepko’s owners, all retired military officers, started looking for a buyer, two Russian companies came knocking.
Earlier this month a Greek-origin Russian businessman, Ivan Savvidi, claimed that Greece only had to give the green light and Russian money would come pouring in. “If Greece asks the Russian business community then I can tell you that by October next year Greece will have become a prosperous country,” he said. “Russia has not turned its back on Greece in a thousand years – it certainly will not now.”
He was previously a deputy in Russia’s State Duma, the lower house of parliament, in the dominant party – President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia. In August Savvidi became the majority shareholder in PAOK FC, Thessaloniki’s top football club and a power in the Greek league, but beset by financial woes until he came along.
Gregoris Tassios, chairman of Halkidiki’s Hotel Association, says “there is great interest from Russia for the purchase of land, businesses, summer houses and hotels, and tourist numbers are rapidly rising”.
Since 2008, eight hotels in Halkidiki have been acquired by Russian interests and Greek-Russian joint ventures. According to the Hellenic-Russian Chamber of Commerce, 7% of the Russian tourists visiting Greece are interested in buying a holiday home, which translates into 31,000 sales annually. Russian tourism to Halkidiki is second only to the Germans, whereas only five years ago the Russians were in fifth place.
Mr Tassios says that “Orthodoxy and Mount Athos, the historic bonds between the two countries, the proximity of Thessaloniki and the long presence of Pontic Greeks in Russia are all contributing to this trend”. But Russians are tough negotiators, he adds. “They know the market is depressed and therefore ask for discounts of 30% on everything that attracts their interest.”
Besides tourism, Russians were the preferred buyers of a majority stake in the state-controlled dairy Dodoni. Russian energy giants are interested in the Greek natural gas company and there is said to be Russian interest in the port of Thessaloniki and Greece’s loss-making railways.
According to Mr Savvidi – who is a friend of President Putin – Greece missed an historic opportunity, when the crisis erupted, to strike a better rescue deal than the one it now has with the troika of lenders – the EU Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank. “Two years ago, when [then Greek PM] George Papandreou met Vladimir Putin, the Russian side was ready to help; but Athens did not raise the issue”, he said.
He believes that Russian help would have spared Greece its “loss of freedom and sovereignty”. He is however hopeful that the new government will prove keener to build a closer relationship with Moscow. “The crucial issue is not to waste any more time. I am positive that Russia will not sit idly by. I’m doing all I can to support my ancestral land.”
Despite Greece’s membership of the EU and Nato, its friendship with Russia goes back a long way.
Nigeria and Gambia unite for common tourism policies
The Gambia and Nigeria are set to improve collaboration in tourism with a view to bolstering tourist arrivals in both countries. The two countries on Tuesday agreed to strengthen bilateral tourism agreement, according to Mrs. Angela Colley-Iheme, the Gambia High Commissioner to Nigeria, at the ongoing 8th edition of “Akwaaba African Travel Market” in Lagos.
She said that strengthening the bilateral agreement would deepen tourism relations between both countries. “I am married to a Nigerian and that is why we are interested in the brotherhood relationship. We have been doing tourism for 65 years. Our Gambia Tourism Board is in Nigeria to promote tourism and also they (the Board) are here to tap the tourism potential of Nigeria,” she said.
According to her, the visit by the Board was to exchange ideas on how both countries could market their tourism potential as preferred tourist destinations among African countries. “Gambia’s relations with Nigeria is one of deep friendship, a strong partnership and a united determination to grow tourist arrivals not only to the two destinations but to the entire African region,” she said.
Iheme disclosed that the Gambia government had concluded plans to establish an airline called Gambia Bird that would fly into Nigeria. She called for the promotion of regional tourism in Africa, saying that this would help strengthen tourism in the continent.
Iheme canvassed for patronage of recreational centres, saying that visiting such places was a source of natural therapy. “Visiting beaches, parks, and other recreation centres is a source of natural therapy,” she said
Greek coin exhibition in Geneva
Twenty centuries of history are on display at the exhibition “Words and coins: From Ancient Greece to Byzantium” currently running at the Martin Bodmer Foundation in Geneva, organised jointly with Athens’ Benaki Museum.
The exhibition is enriched with material from the Numismatic Collection of the private public benefit foundation KIKPE (Welfare Foundation for Social and Cultural Affairs) on loan to the Benaki Museum.
The exhibition invites visitors on a journey through space and time. The display features coins that portray twenty centuries of history, spanning the 5th century BC to the 15th century AD – from the ‘invention’ of democracy in Greece, to the glory and decline of Byzantium.
The exhibition will run through March 17, 2013.
Prehistoric Site Found In Central Greece
Excavations near the villages of Vardali and Neo Monastiri in Fthiotida prefecture, central Greece, unearthed a 6.6-meter-tall hill that covers a space of roughly 4 hectares, regarded as one of the largest manmade hills in Greece.
The important and impressively preserved archaeological site of Koutroulou Magoula, where the discoveries were made, was inhabited during the Mid Neolithic Period (c. 5800-5300 BC).