Daniel Radcliffe turns minotaur as Greece goes to Toronto film festival

Daniel Radcliffe began the year shedding his wizardy image at a film festival, when he played Allen Ginsberg in Sundance hit Kill Your Darlings. And he’ll further bury the spectre of Potter at another festival in the autumn, with the world premiere of Alexandre Aja’s Horns at Toronto.

A fantasy horror featuring Radcliffe as a man accused of the rape and murder of his girlfriend, who then finds some devilish evidence sprouting from his forehead, Horns is one of 13 titles in the Vanguard selection of the festival. Others include Cannes-graduates Blue Ruin and Borgman, and world premieres from Brillante Mendoza and Yeon Sang-ho.

The Toronto film festival runs from 5 – 15 September and today also saw the announcement of four other sidebars. Key premieres in the documentary selection include studies of Bob Guccione and the real-life bank robber played by Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon, as well as Tim’s Vermeer, by TV magicians Penn and Teller.

Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno premieres in the Midnight Madness wing, and restorations of David Cronenberg’s Shivers and Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima mon amour will form part of the Cinematheque.

But the big reveal today was the naming of Athens as the focus of Tiff’s City to City selection, which aims to highlight an emergent cinema scene. The Greek contingent includes a trio of titles which impressed at Berlin in February, including The Daughter, The Eternal Return of Antonis Paraskevas and To the Wolf – as well as seven other films.

Speaking to the Guardian, Toronto’s artistic director Cameron Bailey explained how most of the films took direct – and indirect – inspiration from the financial crisis. “It’s not simply reportage on the protests. The form of cinema has changed. Where there’s reduced money and more instability, artists can come up with creative solutions.”

The programmers noted a consistency to the films which belied their southern European origins and felt more akin to the chiller aesthetic coming out of Scandinavia. “There was a formal and tonal coherence,” says Bailey, “a cool, astringent tone and stark, absurd humour”.

Last week’s unveiling of the first round of galas and special presentations appeared to confirm suspicions that film festival momentum is increasingly shifting from Europe to north America.


Link to video: Gravity: watch George Clooney in the trailer for Alfonso Cuarón’s new film

Venice, which precedes Toronto by a week, has secured a number of key world premieres, among them Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin, Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity and Stephen Frears’ Philomena. But those films then travel across the Atlantic to Toronto, whose world premieres include top Oscar contenders such as August: Osage County, Third Person, The Railway Man, Labor Day, The Dallas Buyers Club, biopics of Jimi Hendrix and Nelson Mandela, and WikiLeaks drama The Fifth Estate.

Bailey singles out Steve McQueen’s Twelve Years a Slave as representative of an “exceptionally strong year for the UK” at Toronto. Other British films debuting in Canada include Ralph Fiennes’ The Invisible Woman, Richard Ayoade’s The Double, Roger Michell’s Le Week-end, David Mackenzie’s Starred Up, Amma Asante’s Belle and One Chance, about Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts.

“There’s a kind of intensity of expression happening among UK film-makers,” says Bailey. “They’re upping the game collectively. There is a willingness and an ability to confront the harsh realities of life in a way that strips away artifice and niceties and shows you what the film-maker believes to be the truth of the situation.”


Enjoy great last minute August holidays with Sovereign Luxury Travel

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(PRWEB UK) 30 July 2013

Britain basked in a heatwave in July which saw temperatures reach highs of 33°C in some parts of the country. With July drawing to a close however, the Met Office have predicted a much cooler and wetter month in August. The first week of school summer holidays has been welcomed in with flash floods in Scotland, northern England and the Midlands with some areas seeing a month’s rain fall yesterday.

Sovereign is delighted to offer couples a romantic luxury holiday to Portugal from just £1,239 per person, a saving of up to £297 per couple. The luxury holiday in The Algarve includes seven nights bed and breakfast accommodation at The Lake Spa Resort and return flights departing 22 August from Manchester with Monarch. The resort boasts of panoramic views, manicured gardens and a private a lake where guests can enjoy a unique dining experience at the floating Marenostrum restaurant. Couples can while away the evenings with romantic walks along the adjacent marina and sandy beach.

Greece continues to be a favourite destination for couples looking to bathe in reliable sunshine. Couples can enjoy sunny weather with a five star luxury break to Crete. Staying at the opulent Daios Cove Luxury Resort Villas, it offers picturesque surroundings on a Greek hillside that overlook a dazzling blue Aegean Sea. The resort is a haven for anyone looking for a rejuvenating luxury holiday. Guests can choose to relax in the impressive infinity pool, by the poolside bar or pamper themselves in a range of treatments in the Germaine de Capuccini spa. A seven night break starts at just £1,529 per person, a saving of up to £1,015 per couple which includes complimentary upgrade to half board, €100 resort credit, a Deluxe Sea View Room and return flights from London Gatwick with Thomson departing 25 August.

Families who are looking to enjoy some late summer weather towards the end of the school summer holidays can book a five star luxury holiday to Mexico in September. Holidays start at just £4,459 per family of three, a saving of up to £1,779 per family. The all inclusive week’s holiday at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya includes free accommodation for children under 12; a complimentary room upgrade to a Zen Pool Suite; and return flights from London Gatwick with British Airways departing 10 September. A member of ‘The Leading Hotels of the World’, guests will experience superior treatment and luxury facilities including the award winning spa and gourmet dining. Families can spend the day at the nearby white sandy beach just minutes from Playa del Carmen.

For more information on Sovereign’s luxury holidays, read its customer magazine ‘Arrival’ online at http://www.sovereign.com/arrival-ebook, visit http://www.sovereign.com or call our expert travel advisors on 0843 770 4013.

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Greece: Escape reality

Julia Shallcrass discovers a love for cruising around the Greek Isles on a 12-night voyage aboard the Crown Princess.

All aboard the Crown Princess.

Should you wish to be treated as though you’re rich and famous, consider travelling the Greek Isles with Princess Cruises.

This is our first cruise, but veteran cruisers assure us that Princess Cruises has the best cuisine, service and cleanliness of any cruise liner.

On our 12 night voyage around the Adriatic and Mediterranean seas, we sample a taste of four countries, their culture and their antiquities – but nothing compares with dining aboard the Crown Princess.

We devour lobster. Sip fine American wines. Savour the flavour of fine dining in the Michaelangelo and da Vinci restaurants.

We eat popcorn and ice cream while lying on our recliners, watching Movies Under the Stars. Food attendants serve us milk and warm cookies at half time, lest we might starve to death.

Expect first-class service aboard Princess Cruises. All 3000 passengers on our cruise are treated like royalty. As this is our voyage of relaxation, we mustn’t pour our own water, or tidy our own room.

Cruising proves effortless travel: think cocktails, cabaret, and cooling off in the Calypso fresh water pool.

Almost every day we wake up at a new port. Our luggage remains safely secured in our statesroom, as we head for shore.

We choose an optional excursion at each port to sight-see and get acquainted with the culture. Local guides in Croatia, Turkey, Greece and Italy, share their myths and legends, and take us on a tour of their region’s famous sights, including beaches, landmarks and antiquities.

In Mykonos, we photograph a pelican posing like a white bride outside a whitewashed church. We walk along the city walls of Dubrovnik and the fortress of Corfu.

We see the remains of Ephesus, the Acropolis temple in Athens, and the volcanic preservation in Pompeii, which beholds one of the world’s first pizza parlours. We run the Olympic track at Olympia. We feel fit.

Santorini stands out as the jewel of the Cyclades group of islands in the Greek Islands. Its steep cliffs provide the foundations for white cubical houses and blue domed churches. As the soil is volcanic, you should avoid the wines and enjoy the sea views with an orange juice or an ouzo.

At the end of our Santorini excursion, we find our own way back to port. If you choose not to take the cable car, be sure to watch your step along the slippery ‘donkey track’, and think twice before riding the donkeys. Pay heed the advice of a fellow cruiser, game enough to ride a donkey: “It was okay until we got near the end – then he thought he was in the Melbourne cup”.

After each day excursion, the Princess Cruises welcoming committee steer us aboard with a cold wet cloth for refreshment. They literally roll out the red carpet.
Then they roll out the entertainment.

Comedians, singers, dancers, and musicians play at the Princess Theatre, and in the ship’s night clubs and bars. Our favourite entertainer, ventriloquist Gareth Oliver from Britain’s Got Talent, provides a full repertoire of Simon Cowell jokes and Susan Boyle songs.

On our final formal night, we dance to the band in the Piazza amongst several hundred passengers. Formal nights are renowned for high glamour, with professional photographers capturing everyone looking their best. We feel like Oscar nominees amongst tuxedos and ball gowns, and a flurry of flashing cameras. Soon we will dock at our final port in Rome, and will be back to reality.

Welcome aboard Princess Cruises, the cruise for the rich and famous: even if you’re not.

Cruise Tips

* Book your cruise with an early bird special for a discounted rate.
* Consider using the internet at each port, where it is likely to be more affordable.
* Book day trips through Princess Cruises to save any stress on shore: should your excursion return late, the ship will wait for you.

– nzherald.co.nz

By Julia Shallcrass


IMF approves $2.3 billion aid for Greece


WASHINGTON |
Mon Jul 29, 2013 4:41pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund on Monday approved a further 1.7 billion euros ($2.3 billion) in funds for Greece’s bailout program after completing the fourth review of the cash-strapped euro zone state.

Greece last week adopted the last piece of legislation its international lenders required to release the next batch of rescue loans, after two months of wrangling over unpopular measures to overhaul the economy. The total funds from the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank comprise 5.8 billion euros.

The IMF also confirmed lenders would modify Greece’s September target for how much money it needs to get from privatizing state firms, after Athens struggled to sell natural gas distributor DEPA in June.

The European Union announced the move earlier on Monday, saying Greece would now need to make only 1.6 billion euros from privatizations, down from 2.6 billion euros. But Athens will now have to recoup that money in 2014 to ensure it stays on course to lower its debt.

“Urgent steps need to be taken to address concerns about the structure and governance of the privatization program and to improve its effectiveness,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said in an updated statement on Monday.

Greece’s reform record has been patchy ever since its EU/IMF bailout started in mid-2010, leading to frequent delays in the disbursement of rescue funds.

Opposition to the bailout has also intensified as Greece goes through its sixth year of recession and unemployment hovers at a record rate of 27 percent.

The IMF’s board waived several requirements Greece had to meet by the end of June, since data was not yet available. This includes targets for overall government debt, government domestic arrears and the general government balance.

Lagarde commended Greece for cutting budgets and external imbalances, but said Athens has not done enough on broader reforms to its tax collection and public sector, which are necessary to ensure its economy returns to growth.

“Given the slow progress in public administration reforms, efforts should focus on ensuring exit of unqualified personnel to create room to hire new staff with the relevant skills,” Lagarde said.

Subject to implementation of further reforms, Athens stands to receive another 1 billion euros from international lenders in October. Greece’s rescue, approved in March 2012, will total 173 billion euros over four years, the IMF said. It is meant to help Athens recover from a sovereign debt crisis and return to markets, and protect the country from a possible exit from the euro zone.

($1 = 0.7545 Euro)

(Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Diane Craft and Dan Grebler)


Schaeuble Says Pressure on Greece Must Remain Ahead of El

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Europe must keep up pressure on Greece to stand
by its austerity pledges as he rejected the notion that the
upcoming election has put debt-crisis management on hold.

Greece’s progress will continue to be monitored after euro-area governments last week approved the latest bailout transfer
to keep the government in Athens funded through the Sept. 22
election in Germany. German lawmakers have until noon today to
raise objections to the latest Greek tranche.

“The pressure remains, so this has nothing to do with the
election schedule,” Schaeuble told Deutschlandfunk radio in an
interview yesterday. “They’re far from being over the
mountain,” he said.

As European leaders scramble to plug the hole in Greece’s
budget, Germany’s political factions are maneuvering into
position ahead of a vote eight weeks away as Chancellor Angela Merkel seeks a third term in office. Her challenger for the
office, Social Democratic Peer Steinbrueck, declined to rule out
a possible “grand” coalition with Merkel’s bloc.

With most polls showing Merkel’s Christian Democratic-led
bloc about 15 percentage points ahead of the SPD, they project a
narrow chance she could continue her current partnership with
the market-liberal Free Democratic Party. Falling short of that,
the most likely combination would be reprising the grand
coalition that Merkel led in her first term from 2005 to 2009.

Grand Coalition

Such a government would change the crisis-resolution
calculus, putting Merkel in partnership with a party that has
been more open to sovereign bailouts in Europe.

Steinbrueck, who was finance minister in the grand
coalition, said the scenario couldn’t be ruled out even though
he wouldn’t be a member of a government with Merkel.

“In a parliamentary democracy you can’t make a fundamental
decision that rules out coalitions with other democratic parties
automatically,” Steinbrueck told Welt am Sonntag newspaper in
an interview. Still, a “very, very great majority” within the
SPD doesn’t want a coalition with Merkel.

An Emnid poll published yesterday showed Merkel’s CDU and
its CSU Bavarian sister party maintaining their position with 40
percent support, while the SPD held at 25 percent.

The Merkel-allied FDP lost one point to 5 percent, the
threshold for entering parliament, while the Green Party stayed
at 13 percent, giving neither main party enough to form a
government with its favored coalition partner.

Election Promises

Erik Nielsen, chief global economist at Unicredit Bank in
London, said the election will “spell the end to the slowdown
in a number of European initiatives” and undermine questions
among some about Germany’s committment to the currency zone.

The next government “will be as pro-European, and pro
euro, if not more so, than the present one,” Nielsen said in an
e-mailed note. “The overall message to Europe and the world
from the German population on Sept. 22 will be that Germany is
as committed to the eurozone as ever. It is time for the
remaining euro-sceptics outside the continent to get to grips
with this reality.”

The German election has become entwined with the fates of
indebted states in the 17-member euro area, with Merkel
promising voters that Germany won’t write off any of the loans
made to Greece since the debt crisis broke out in 2010.

Funding Gap

Schaeuble, in a separate interview with the Bild am
Sonntag
, ruled out another writedown for Greek debt even as he
ensured that euro governments will stand by the country.

“Greece will certainly be helped beyond 2014 as much as is
needed, as long as the nation fulfills its obligations,” he
told the newspaper.

As euro-region governments on July 26 cleared the release
of 2.5 billion euros ($3.3 billion) for Greece, a European Union
official identified a 3.8 billion-euro gap expected in 2014.
Options for plugging that include tapping unused funds earmarked
for banks, having Greece venture back into the short-term bond
market
, or having putting in more money, the official said.

A review mission to Greece by the European Commission,
European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund — the so-called troika — will tackle the question in September. An
ultimate decision will be put off until April 2014, when the
European statistics office certifies whether Greece had a
primary surplus in 2013.

Unless the budget committee of Germany’s lower house of
parliament raises objections, the 2.5 billion-euro loan from the
European Financial Stability Facility will go forward.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Patrick Donahue in Berlin at
[email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
James Hertling at
[email protected]


Travel Click firm goes bust on busiest week of year for holidaymakers

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced: “Travel Click Ltd trading as www.travelclickholidays.co.uk has ceased trading with immediate effect”.

Travel Click had been running for five years from premises in Enfield, north London. The company advertised “Luxury holidays to Dubai, Vegas, Florida, Cyprus, Greece and worldwide”. But most of its business involved putting together no-frills flights to Mediterranean destinations with discounted hotel accommodation. Some of the holidays were sold through promotional websites such as Travelzoo and Secret Escapes.

The firm’s annual turnover was thought to be around £500,000, which translates at around 1,000 holidaymakers. Most of the customers affected bought package holidays that are protected by the CAA’s ATOL scheme. Those abroad should be able to continue their holidays as normal, while people with future bookings for inclusive packages should be able to reclaim the cost of their holidays. With plenty of packages for this summer still unsold, they should be able to find alternatives easily – though they will have to pay again while they wait for a refund.

The outlook for customers of Travel Click who had bought flight-only or accommodation-only deals is less clear. A leading travel-industry figure, David Speakman of Travel Counsellors, criticised consumer-protection rules as confusing: “Customers believe that when they see the Atol logo they are covered for everything the company sells, but they aren’t. The system is too complex.”

Travel Click Ltd appeared, alongside around 50 other companies on a list of “late-renewing ATOL holders” issued in April by the CAA’s Consumer Protection Group.


Live webchat: holidays in Croatia, Greece and Turkey

On Monday, from 1pm, our panel of experts on Greece, Turkey and Croatia, will
be answering your questions live. They will be on hand to offer hotel
recommendations, help find a pretty town or beach, advise on the best things
to see and do and generally help you plan for your holiday.


Greece Wins 2.5 Billion-Euro Aid Loan, Buying Time in Crisis

Greece won the release of a 2.5
billion-euro ($3.3 billion) loan installment to tide it through
the coming weeks, as European governments put off debate over
Greek debt relief until after Germany’s election in September.

Euro-area governments approved the payment today on a
conference call of senior finance officials, European Commission
spokesman Simon O’Connor said, after Greece yesterday took steps
to pare public-sector payrolls, meeting the last of 22
conditions set by creditors.

“As a result, with the proviso that the national approval
procedures are completed, which we expect to happen on Monday,
the disbursement can take place of 2.5 billion euros from the
EFSF and 1.5 billion euros of income generated to national
central banks from the securities markets program,” O’Connor
told reporters in Brussels today.

A German parliament committee votes on July 29 to give the
go-ahead for Germany’s contribution.

After the July payments, Greece is scheduled to receive an
additional 500 million euros from the European Financial
Stability Facility and to recoup the same amount from profits
made by euro-area central banks on Greek bonds in their
portfolios. These payments, set for October, are contingent upon
Greece’s fulfillment of additional requirements.

Greece is also scheduled to receive 1.8 billion euros from
the International Monetary Fund. The IMF meets July 29 to
discuss its portion, German Deputy Finance Minister Steffen Kampeter said this week.

To contact the reporter on this story:
James G. Neuger in Brussels at
[email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
James Hertling at
[email protected]


Island-hopping heaven: Taking the ferry for an old-fashioned Greek odyssey

By
Glenys Roberts

12:09 EST, 26 July 2013


|

12:10 EST, 26 July 2013

As Vangelis the boatman ferried me towards the tiny Greek island of Kimolos, I knew this was it – I’d found what I had promised myself: unspoilt Greece where you can still lose yourself in time and walk with the ancients.

More than that, my ten days of island-hopping had given me a whole new perspective on this beleaguered but utterly beautiful country.

My first stop was the much visited island of Mykonos, which is something of an Aegean St Tropez. Hire a quad bike and you can find some deserted beaches but that’s not really the point here. Better succumb to its fabulous shopping and its glamorous yet intimate hotels such as the Grace where I was made to feel like family, and beachside bars in the pretty quarter of Little Venice, where the buildings overhang the water in keeping with its Italian namesake.

Cyclades, Mikonos island

Twilight charms: The panorama of buzzy Mykonos town lights up like a jewel at night

I loved it, but my adventure really began as I piled onto the ferry alongside locals, backpackers and elderly archaeologists, with that glorious Greek lack of organisation that rolls the years right back. Off we sailed past Delos, where the sun god Apollo was born, past Naxos, where Theseus ditched his lover Ariadne, until we arrived at a vast, natural harbour created over 3,000 years ago by a violent volcanic explosion and tidal wave.

This catastrophe left only a ring of dramatic 1,000ft cliffs now known as Santorini. Up and up we zig-zagged by car to the main town of Thira – and then down and down, on foot this time, to another exquisite Grace hotel perched right above the still-live volcano set in its blue lagoon.

Everyone should see this giddy view once — and since the arrival of the cheap cruise holiday everyone can. Though Santorini’s thousands of rickety steps seem entirely unsuitable for the elderly and children, I saw game British grandmothers herding four-year-olds up and down 60 degree cobbled slopes, buoyed by the natural electricity that lurks in the air.

All too soon I was taking the ferry to my next stop, Crete, but as I stood on the deck watching the sun fade into Homer’s wine-dark sea I realised I was as happy as I have ever been. If ever I had doubts about seeing Greece the old-fashioned way rather than taking the planes that now serve most islands, they were gone. The boats were spotless, and the crews as helpful as could be.

The Grace in Mykonos

Mykonos magic: The Grace hotel may be achingly stylish, but it also makes its guests feel like family

On this leg, a Verdi opera was playing over the intercom, on another I watched the French Open tennis. To be afloat on the timeless Aegean, with mod cons too, is simply wonderful.

At the port of Heraklion, Crete’s capital, I took a taxi to Chania, 80 miles to the west with its photogenic,Turkish quarter – pretty well intact despite the ravages of World War II.

A historian could stay here forever. My hotel, the Alcanea, built in the 17th Century by the Venetians, was once the office of the Greek hero Venizelos, who in 1897 kicked the Turks out of the island and united it with Greece – Athens airport is named after him.

But you can also lose yourself in traditional hill villages where beekeepers truck their hives to pastures new at night to make the delicious honey which is on every breakfast table.

However, my favourite island, Kimolos, was yet to come. Less than four hours by boat from Athens, you get there via the better known Milos, where Vangelis was waiting for me with his water taxi Dolphin II.

Twenty minutes later, we were chugging through turquoise waters into the tiny port of Psathi. Kimolos, just 22 square miles with 500 year-round inhabitants, 74 churches, and a few bars, has an intriguing history of piracy but few modern distractions, so you can thoroughly enjoy its medicinal hot springs and blazing chalk white beaches – ‘Kimolos’ comes from the Greek word for chalk.

Chania, Crete

Multicultural: Chania’s Turkish quarter is miraculously still intact

My destination this time was the tiny, whitewashed Windmill hotel, five rooms of sheer heaven with a 360 degree view. I was only lured away when Vangelis proposed an idyllic boat trip to neighbouring Polyaigos, where he grew up in a shepherd’s hut. It is uninhabited but for some salt water drinking goats and a rare cave-dwelling seal. Back in Psathi the day finished at a beach restaurant, eating fish straight out of the sea.

As I departed for Milos on the little car ferry costing just a few euros, I reflected that a holiday shuttling between the two islands would suit every taste. Milos has hire cars, a vibrant nightlife and archaeological sites — my taxi driver, Michaelis, volunteered that the famous Venus de Milo had been unearthed here by one of his wife’s ancestors.

I had proved that in Greece you are still never very far from history – and nowhere so much as on my final island, Serifos, once home to the mythological one-eyed Cyclops. In the 20th Century it was dependent on a lucrative trade in iron ore, then they closed the mines and overnight 90 per cent of the workforce emigrated to Athens leaving it so poor it has remained virtually undiscovered. You can sit in the tiny square of its fortress capital lingering over a raki, much as they must have done when the only access was by mule.

I stayed in Aria’s self-catering complex converted from shepherds’ dwellings near a ridge so high you look down on the sensational sunsets; the wheeling hawks and some 30 other islands all seemingly floating on a looking glass sea.

Serifos

High point: Head inland in Serifos and the landscape looks like a sun-drenched Scotland

Families with children may prefer to be closer to the beach, but the thyme-scented heights are perfect for rustic walks where you meet nothing but gigantic butterflies.

As I turned in, all alone but for five billion stars, I confess, city dweller that I am, I was mildly apprehensive, especially when I saw the insects. No need to worry. A little green gecko on the ceiling ate them all – ecological perfection. And with the dawn I realised there was something reassuringly familiar about Serifos – it looks like Scotland with sun.

It was time to return to Athens where a great luxury awaited: one night by the beach in the Astir Palace and then the legendary Grande Bretagne, with a view of the Parthenon from my window. After all that island hopping I had planned to flop by the swimming pool. Instead I obeyed the siren call of the ancient stones and climbed to the top of the Acropolis with so many other tourists you could imagine the economic crisis solved.

On the islands it was unnoticeable. Tourist numbers are up on last year and since the sea is at its warmest in September – and despite their woes – they are looking forward to a glorious end of summer.

If you take my advice you’ll pack a very small swimsuit and a bottle of suntan lotion and join them.

Travel Facts

Easy Jet, easyjet.com, flies daily from London to Athens from £64 return. Doubles at Grace Mykonos (mykonosgrace.com) from £215 bb; Grace Santorini (santorinigrace.com) from £319 bb; Alcanea Hotel (alcanea.com) from £60 bb; Windmill Kimolos Hotel (kimoloshotel.com) from £69 bb; Aria Villas (ariavillas.gr) from £69 bb; Westin Astir Palace Beach Resort (astir-palace.com) from £190 BB; Grande Bretagne from grandebretagne.gr) from £207. For onward ferries, visit greeceferries.com


Greece's Unemployed Young: A Great Depression Steals the Nation's Future

Click the image to see how the cover got madeClick the image to see how the cover got made

Outside an unmarked green metal door in the hallway of a suburban Athens high school, Tina Stratigaki waits for a job interview. It’s a Tuesday in mid-July. Stratigaki, 29, applied for the job as a social worker weeks ago and had taken an hour-long test the Friday before. Based on the list of applicants posted on the wall outside the exam, she estimates there were some 2,000 candidates for 21 open positions. This is the last interview she’s likely to get before Greece shuts down for the summer holidays. Her unemployment benefits—about €360 ($475) a month from her previous job working with disadvantaged women and children—have just run out. “I’m a little bit stressed,” she says.

Jobs of any kind are scarce in today’s Greece. Nearly six years of deep recession have swept away a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product, the kind of devastation usually seen only in times of war. In a country of 11 million people, the economy lost more than a million jobs as businesses shut their doors or shed staff. Unemployment has reached 27 percent—higher than the U.S. jobless rate during the Great Depression—and is expected to rise to 28 percent next year. Among the young, the figure is twice as high. Meanwhile, cuts to Greece’s bloated public sector are dumping ever more people onto the job market. In July, 25,000 public workers, including teachers, janitors, ministry employees, and municipal police, found out they would face large-scale reshuffling and possible dismissal. An additional 15,000 public workers are slated to lose their jobs by the end of 2014.

Greece’s jobs crisis is a window into a wider emergency that threatens the future of Europe. Across the continent, a prolonged slump has disproportionately affected the young, with nearly one in four under the age of 25 out of work, according to the European Commission. (In the U.S., youth unemployment is 16.2 percent.) That understates the severity of the situation in Italy and Portugal, where youth unemployment rates have soared above 35 percent; Spain’s is 53.2 percent, the second-highest after Greece, at 55.3 percent. European Union leaders have announced an initiative aimed at guaranteeing that all young people receive a job, apprenticeship, or more education within four months of joining the ranks of the unemployed. Governments have pledged €8 billion over two years to combat unemployment in Europe’s worst-hit countries, and the European Investment Bank is offering €18 billion in loans to encourage hiring by small and midsize businesses.

Such pledges of help come too late for Greeks like Stratigaki, who are already spending what should be the most productive years of their lives poring over notice boards and alternating long periods of unemployment with all-too-brief periods of work. Absent a rapid and dramatic economic turnaround, an entire generation in Southern Europe faces years, possibly decades, of dependency and disillusionment—with consequences that can’t be measured in economic terms alone. “Our generation has depression,” says Stratigaki. “We are at the best age. We have the power to do everything. And we can’t do anything.”


Personal happiness can often be measured in the difference between what was expected and what reality delivers. Stratigaki and her peers came of age as Greece seemed set to cement its place in the ranks of the world’s richest countries. The 2004 Summer Olympics were presented to the country and to the world as a coming out party for a nation that had long been seen as one of Western Europe’s stragglers. It didn’t last. The global financial crisis revealed deep corruption in the Greek economy and an unwillingness on the part of its fellow European states to continue to prop it up. Greece quickly turned from success story to pariah. Just when Greeks of Stratigaki’s cohort were looking to launch careers and start families, the floor fell away.

Patsa makes ends meet working for her sisters startup and with help from her fatherPhotograph by Finn TaylorPatsa makes ends meet working for her ­sister’s startup and with help from her father

In Athens the crisis isn’t conspicuous. Family networks have kept the majority of the afflicted from landing on the streets. Empty storefronts are common, but so are cafes doing a brisk—if reduced—trade. Time has yet to work its fingers into the cracks and weaknesses of the city’s infrastructure. That said, it’s unusual to walk more than a few blocks in central Athens without encountering a knot of riot police, lounging on a street corner with their plastic shields and body armor. During the week of Stratigaki’s job interview, the trash collectors were on strike, leaving garbage piled around the bins. The local police, facing possible job cuts, were demonstrating, crisscrossing the city center in convoys of cars and motorcycles, sirens blaring.

Stratigaki’s struggle to find stable employment has lasted more than half a decade. In high school she was the top student in her class. She studied social work at the Democritus University of Thrace in Northern Greece, finishing her studies in 2007. While there, she held down three jobs, waitressing, bartending, and tutoring to supplement what her parents were able to give her.

Stratigaki’s first job after university was as a bank debt collector in Athens, calling people who owed money on loans or credit cards and haranguing them. She spent eight hours a day being cursed at and insulted; some of her co-workers turned to pills to fight depression. “It was the worst job I have ever done,” she says. Even so, Stratigaki excelled, bringing in payments with a calm and soothing sales pitch. In March 2009 she was finally offered a job in her field, and she leapt at the chance.

Stratigaki was hired by the municipal government of an Athens suburb to help people find jobs and arrange appointments with counselors and psychologists for individuals and couples. The position was perfect except for one thing: She wasn’t getting paid. When she asked, her bosses would tell her that the funds for her position, which were to come from both the local government and the EU, were tied up in red tape.

Desperate for the work experience, she stuck it out. She’d moved back in with her parents and worked nights tutoring students in ancient Greek and philosophy. After 13 months on the job she arrived at the office one day to find a letter telling her she was being fired. She hadn’t received payment for a single hour of work. “The crisis had begun,” she says. This time she was unemployed for more than a year.

In June 2011 she was hired to answer phones at a travel agency, using her French and English to handle calls from abroad. She worked there for six months before finding another job in social work—this time in a government center, working with women and children who were homeless, unemployed, or victims of trafficking. That job, like many in Greece these days, was given to her on a one-year contract. When it expired at the beginning of 2013, it wasn’t renewed.

Since then, Stratigaki has been out of work. She’s living on help from her parents, on her unemployment insurance, and on a partial payment of the money she says the municipality owes her, which she obtained after hiring a lawyer. Her mother has been unemployed since 2011, when she lost her government job. Her father is a clerk at a shipping company. Her brother, 25, studied nursing but works as a handyman, fixing air conditioners and installing car alarms and radios, pulling in about €200 a month.

Shortly after her government contract expired, Stratigaki tried to go back to her job at the travel agency, but there were no positions available. “I feel horrible,” she says. “I sit with my computer, searching, searching, searching.”


Studies of joblessness in the U.S. and Japan have shown that extended periods of unemployment in the early years of a worker’s career can depress earnings for decades. Nikos Kotsalos, 33, has been unemployed since November 2011, when he lost his back-office job at the national postal service. Until then he had never been without a job for more than a few months. In September he expects to finish an undergraduate degree in physics from the National University of Athens—a credential that’s barely sufficient to get an entry-level job. (To cite one example, the government recently announced it will be laying off all university security guards, except those with a master’s degree or a Ph.D.) “Sometimes we are angry. Sometimes we are sad,” says Kotsalos. “I’m 33. It’s not normal that I live with my parents. My father, when he was 33, he already had two children.”

Out of work since late 2011, Kotsalos will soon finish a degree in physicswhich may not help land a job­Photograph by Finn TaylorOut of work since late 2011, Kotsalos will soon finish a degree in physics—which may not help land a job

For young Greek adults, the sense that their lives have been put on hold is palpable. Rare is the conversation that ends on a happy note. “It’s not only a financial crisis,” says Marianina Patsa, a 34-year-old Athens resident. “It also has a severe psychological impact. People feel like they’re losers.” Patsa, a successful freelance journalist before the crisis, watched her work slip away in the months following the crash. She now works in a media startup her sister co-founded called Doc TV, earning about €350 a month. “All the rest of the bills go to my dad,” says Patsa. “If my dad wasn’t around, I wouldn’t be around.”

Many are already gone. A study by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki last spring found that 120,000 professionals with advanced degrees had left the country since 2010. When young Greeks talk about another country, they might mention its weather, its culture, or its language. Almost certainly, they’ll note its rate of unemployment. In February, Elena Vourvou, 29, lost her job in the marketing department of a major pharmaceutical company. In June her boyfriend, Nikos Bogdos, 34, was let go from his position in the supply department of a marine electronics company. The two are moving to London, where they’ve been accepted in master’s programs. “We deserve a better future,” says Vourvou. Adds Bogdos: “My country is going to be where there is work. Wherever there is employment, that’s where I’m going to live.”

Greek society and the education system have done a dismal job preparing citizens to compete in a globalized, technology-driven economy. Up until the crisis, it was the dream of every parent to have their child become a doctor or a lawyer. Now the country has an excess of both. Meanwhile, with the public sector sweeping up many recent graduates, there was little incentive for universities to offer the technical skills companies now demand. The Greek government, prompted and assisted by the EU, has started to roll out measures intended to reduce youth unemployment, including training programs, grants for small businesses, and subsidies for companies that hire young people. But those policies are unlikely to do much as long as the economy continues to sink. “I admit there are structural problems in Greece,” says Theodoros Ampatzoglou, governor of the Greek Manpower Employment Organization, the government agency in charge of tackling unemployment. “But the basic problem isn’t matching labor supply and labor demand. The problem is that there’s very little demand.”

Six years into Greeces recession, abandoned storefronts like this one are an all-too-common sight in downtown AthensPhotograph by Finn TaylorSix years into Greece’s recession, abandoned storefronts like this one are an all-too-common sight in downtown Athens

There are signs that the economy is beginning, if not to turn around, at least to plummet at a less alarming rate. After years of bleeding budgets followed by the shock therapy of austerity, the government says it expects to take in more revenue than it spends this year, not counting payments on its loans. “The progress is significant, but it has been achieved with blood,” says Aggelos Tsakanikas, research director at the Athens-based Foundation for Economic Industrial Research (IOBE). The Greek central bank forecasts the economy to start growing again in 2014.

Some Greek analysts say 2012 marked the peak of the crisis, a year in which a Greek exit from the euro appeared plausible and roughly 30 percent of the country’s top companies slashed salaries or cut working hours, according to a survey by the ICAP Group, a Greek business services firm. In 2012 the average take-home pay for a company director dropped from €105,000 to €63,000, managers’ earnings plummeted from €55,000 to €29,000, and manual laborers’ from €16,000 to €7,000.

According to Alexandros Fourlis, managing director of Kariera.gr, a jobs site owned by Careerbuilder.com, firings still outpace hirings. But the gap is starting to close. In October 2012, after four years of decline, the number of job listings began to increase. At the height of the crisis, in January 2012, there were on average more than 330 applicants for every job posting on his site, compared with a little more than 80 in 2009. For popular jobs not requiring specific skills, such as a bank teller, the number could reach as high as 11,000. Today the average number of résumés a job listing receives is back down to about 160. “The picture is still negative,” says Fourlis. “But it’s vastly improving.”


For her interview, Stratigaki has put on a white blouse and black pants. Gold-rimmed sunglasses hold back her red hair. Open sandals reveal pink toenails. On her left wrist she wears a chain with a tiny glass evil eye, a charm to ward off bad luck. The summer heat has penetrated the interior of the high school. Three young women sit near her outside the green metal door.

Another applicant in white slacks and a white linen shirt paces back and forth, from the hallway into the stairwell. He says his name is George but declines to give his last name. He’s 29 years old, holds a master’s degree in economics, and has been unemployed for a year and a half, not counting the five months he worked as a street cleaner.

“It’s more difficult for the highly qualified,” he says. “The market thinks we will cost too much.” He’s applying for a position as a secretary, a job that requires a high school degree. For a couple of minutes, he and Stratigaki discuss whether his education will be an asset or a liability, and then their names are called.

The position Stratigaki is applying for, a social worker in an office distributing discounted groceries and medicine to the city’s rising numbers of disadvantaged, would be a coup. For one thing, it’s a two-year contract. The salary of €700 a month would be low by the standards of a few years ago but is considered generous in the current economy.

Stratigaki estimates she spends two hours a day looking for jobs, an effort that’s netted her nine interviews in six months. One was for a position as a secretary at an economics newspaper in Athens’s richer southern suburbs. It quickly went off the rails when the interviewer began mocking the working-class neighborhood where Stratigaki grew up.

In addition to three jobs sites, including Kariera.gr, Stratigaki regularly checks the home page of her university’s career office. She set e-mail alerts for positions in her field but has received only two notices. Another alert, for secretarial work, generates mostly spam from companies looking to staff call centers with young people working on commission. Increasingly, many postings are for unpaid internships. Two or three times a week she makes the rounds of the websites of nearby municipalities, checking in the evening, when she’s learned that they usually refresh. Sometimes, to break the monotony, she meets for coffee at the home of close friends to go through the listings together. “It’s expensive for us, as unemployed people, to go to a cafe,” she says.

Siderakis returned from London to be closer to his ailing father. He found work as a chef, but his paychecks have shrunkPhotograph by Finn TaylorSiderakis returned from London to be closer to his ailing father. He found work as a chef, but his paychecks have shrunk

With the rest of her time, she helps take care of her parents’ house and that of her boyfriend, Stelios Siderakis, 32, who moved back from London in 2010 to be closer to Stratigaki and to his father, who died of cancer last year. She recently began studying photography, shooting mostly landscapes but brainstorming with her classmates about earning some money shooting weddings and baptisms. The one thing she and her boyfriend don’t want to do is leave Athens, unless it’s to move to the island of Chios, where Siderakis has family. “I don’t know why,” says Stratigaki. “Maybe I’m afraid. Or maybe it’s the fact that I’ve always found something sooner or later.” Siderakis, a chef, has had relatively little trouble finding work, though his paycheck has shrunk with every new job. “I’d feel like I was betraying my country” by leaving, he says. “I have friends who have left, but they didn’t have any other options. The jobs they were doing were gone. I know that I can make it somehow or another.”

When Stratigaki, George, and two other women emerge from their interviews, all four say they’re happy with how things went. They compare notes on the way down the stairs. Greece shuts down in August, even in this time of crisis, so Stratigaki didn’t expect to hear back about the interview until September, but the interviewers tell her they plan to make their decision by the end of July. “Now it’s time to wait,” she says. “This is the hardest part.”

In the meantime, the job hunt goes on. Two days after the interview, Stratigaki drops by her old travel agency to book a couple of ferry tickets to Chios. She takes the opportunity to ask once more about getting rehired. The answer, again, is no.