6-Year-Old Stelios Kerasidis Becomes the Youngest Greek Musician to Play at Carnegie Hall (Video)

Photos from Instagram

On Wednesday, October 31, 2018, at 8 p.m. Carnegie Hall hosted the 2018 Golden Classical Music Awards Invited Winners List. It was there, at the Weill Recital Hall that 6-year-old Stelios Kerasidis played Chopin valse la minor and became the youngest Greek musician of all time to play at Carnegie Hall. He was also awarded first prize in at the Awards.

The 2018 Golden Classical Music Awards collaborated with the renowned International Music Competition “Grand Prize Virtuoso” based in Europe, and the competition was open to all nationalities and ages in strings, piano, wind and vocal. The categories were divided into different age groups: Young Musician (8 years old and under), Junior (9 to 12 years old), Intermediate (13 to 15 years old), Advanced (16 to 18 years old) and Senior (no age limit).

After traveling from Athens, Greece to New York City, New York, Stelios Kerasidis managed to accomplish one of many landmarks in his young career and life with his performance at Carnegie Hall. Stelios has also won the prestigious first prize in the international piano competition “Citta di Spoleto” in Itlay.

Music is in Stelios’ blood, as his father is a piano soloist and teacher, and his father has said that Stelios started playing the piano when he was a baby and had his first official lesson at age three.

Now, just 3 years later, Stelios’ favorite composers are Chopin, Beethoven, and Bach. He has performed in front of audiences that most professional musicians (who are adults) can only dream of, such as London’s Royal Albert Hall, Vienna’s Musikverein, as well as playing alongside the Athenian Sinfonietta orchestra.

He became known in his native Greece when he took part in the TV show “Greece’s Got Talent”, where he demonstrated his talent and passion for the piano to an impressed audience.

Now, Stelios has an entire nation following him and cheering him on, anxious to see all that he will accomplish with his passion for music.

Check out Stelios playing Chopin valse la minor at Carnegie Hall:

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Kerry Kolasa-Sikiaridi

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Hellenic Tourism Organization Awarded for World’s Best Travel Film (video)

The award-winning Hellenic Tourism Organization (EOT) video “Greece: 365 – Day Destination,” won Best Tourism Film in the World for 2018, beating 28 other nominated travel films.

Greece’s video ranked first in public preference in 136 countries, with almost twice as many votes as the second best nomination, and was awarded the “People’s Choice Award, World’s Best Tourism Film 2018”, sponsored by CIFFT, the International Committee of Tourism Film Festivals.

The video creators, Antonis Theocharis Kioukas, head of EOT in Austria, and Eleni Melita, received the award on behalf of the Greek Ministry of Tourism and the Hellenic Tourism Organization at a special awards ceremony in Vienna.

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Philip Chrysopoulos

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Why Santorini Urgently Needs a Sustainable Tourism Plan

By Michael Ermogenis*

Europe is the undisputed travel ‘destination of choice’ in the world. Almost half of all global travel is destined for Europe and a number of its countries have the highest number of annual visitors in the world.

All indicators show that this trend is only going to increase and in some cases at alarming rates. Europe is like a living museum and its many historic and culturally significant destinations are magnets for global travellers. Travel and tourism (TT) is also a very significant element of the European economy, contributing €669.5 billion ($762.4 billion) (3.6 percent of total GDP) in 2017, and is forecast to rise by 2.8 percent in 2018, and to rise by 2.4 percent per annum from 2018-2028, to €873.3 billion (3.9 percent of total GDP) in 2028 (source: World Travel & Tourism Council).

These are significant numbers and it is no wonder the EU is so focused on TT through numerous programs and initiatives.

Greece, as a member of the EU and one of the cultural icons of the continent, benefits greatly from Europe’s pre-eminence in the global TT industry. While the figures for Greece do not quite match those of France, Spain or Italy, they are still significant given the total size of the local economy.

In fact, TT is a whopping 19.9 percent of the Greek GDP, compared to single digits for other leading European countries in TT. This means that tourism is not only important to the country, it is absolutely vital.

In Santorini, tourism’s economic contribution to GDP is likely in excess of 90 percent. So in following from the previous statement about the importance of tourism to the Greek economy being ‘vital’, logic tells us that the tourism sector is the very oxygen, the lifeline on which Santorini almost totally relies on for its existence.

Logic then, would also tell us that governments (local and national) should have it working like a high-precision Swiss watch.

Alas, in reality it is more like a plastic Mickey Mouse watch.

So this brings us to the inevitable question: “How is it possible, in a country where tourism is the biggest sector, on an island that is almost totally reliant on tourism for its existence there is no formal, sophisticated, technology savvy, environmentally sensitive, community sensitive, culturally protective, forward looking, sustainable destination management plan?”

Perhaps we can ask the same question in another way: “In an era where global communication is at the speed of thought, an era where social media is the engine behind travel and tourism growth and Santorini’s enormous social media footprint through shared photos is the biggest daily global advertisement for Greece…. how is it possible in such an era where Oia is the second most photographed place in Greece (behind the Acropolis)… there is no strategic plan in place to protect it?”

Most would argue its totally illogical, in fact it is downright irresponsible (bordering on criminal) to have such travel destination treasures and simply leave them to their fate. Yet, this is essentially what is currently taking place.

Local, regional & national authorities have systematically failed to produce comprehensive, sustainable tourism plans for Santorini and by association Oia. Its like saying ‘we have one of the Top 3 island destinations in the world… and probably the world’s most picturesque village, but we can’t think of anything we can do to protect them… so we are just going to sit back and watch them being slowly destroyed year by year’.

It is the kind of the strategy you have when you have no strategy at all.

To make things even worse, its not just the potential decline of the Santorini global brand that’s at stake here. There is also an enormous opportunity cost. You see, Santorini is not just a travel destination, it is a ‘dream destination’. There is a big difference between the two. One is a stop-over on a travel list… a tick in a box if you like.

The other is the fuel that makes you want to travel in the first place. Its the dream destination you think about constantly, it fuels your imagination and your mind travels to it at night or in conversations. You scour social media for photos and you can never get enough of it. Its the stuff of dreams, where imagination feeds motivation. Its the dream destinations that people plan their holidays around. Its the starting point, the ‘must do’ destination and then they look at what else they can do while they are in the region.

From a strategy perspective this makes a dream destination a potential feeder source. It’s a gateway that has superior gravitational pull to any other place near it. While that sounds ominous, that superior gravity can also, with the right strategy, be used to increase the profile of lesser known destinations around it.

Many of the surrounding islands, as well as other regions of Greece that have only two-three month seasons (at best), could potentially greatly benefit from Santorini but only if planned properly.

There is no doubt that Greece already greatly benefits by having Santorini inside its borders. The spin-off effect would be hard to quantify accurately, but it would be enormous. Yet, it could be far greater with some proper planning and strategies.

At the moment there are unscrupulous players who are taking advantage of Santorini’s global gravitas, by selling excursions from other islands and flooding Santorini on a daily basis making it unbearable for those paying to stay and spend a few days on the island.

Practices such as hijacking the Santorini name to sell ‘dodgy’ excursions, as well the total lack of development plans for villages other than Oia, uncontrolled daily cruise passenger invasions, lack of adequate infrastructure, almost non-existent town planning enforcement and many other issues, which can leave you perplexed as to “what are they doing?”

As if all this wasn’t enough, we are expecting continued EU tourism growth of minimum 4 percent per annum through to 2025 (a figure which will be doubled on Santorini) and there is a Chinese visitors’ wave underway that is unprecedented. If we think we have problems now, we ain’t seen nothing yet.

So we return to the original question… does one of the top travel destinations in the world, a place considered by many to be one of the most iconic natural wonders of the world, deserve protection? Does it not deserve to be managed in a sustainable way? Does this natural wonder not deserve to be preserved for future generations of locals as well global travellers? Do we not have an obligation as the island’s citizens, as Greeks and as Europeans, to ensure that Santorini not only survives but thrives in the decades ahead?

These are of course rhetorical questions. The answer is obvious.

* Michael Ermogenis: Principle Management Consultant – over 25 years for Fortune 500 companies, Creator of ‘Customer Delight’ standard for enterprise customer service, Strategic advisor to Santorini Chamber of Commerce, Lived in Oia (full time) for 12 years,
Founding member of the Mediterranean Alliance (Venice, Oia, Corfu, Dubrovnik, Rhodes & Crete), Founding member of “Save Oia” Campaign

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36-Foot Waves Expected as Greece Braces for Cyclone Hit on Saturday

Greek meteorologists said on Friday that the eye of the Mediterranean cyclone is expected to reach the south shores of the Peloponnese between 15:00 and 18:00 local time on Saturday.

The National Observatory of Athens’ weather service meteo.gr, released models of the cyclones’s expected course and rainfall intensity over the next 48 hours.

The series of four photos show its projected position at 15:00 on Friday (top left), at 21:00 on Friday (top right), at 9:00 on Saturday (bottom left) and at 15:00 on Saturday (bottom right).

The meteo.gr models have also predicted waves exceeding 11 meters (36 feet) in height between the Peloponnese and Crete.

You can watch here live the path of the cyclone

Schools in the Peloponnese, Attica and other areas of Greece will be shut on Friday as a precaution though ferries in the Saronic Gulf were running normally on Friday morning.

Passengers are advised to contact port authorities or their travel agents before departure to ensure that scheduled journeys will be taking place.

In a presser on Thursday night, along with the director of Greece’s National Meteorological Service Thodoris Kolydas, General Secretary for Civil Protection Yiannis Tafyllis said that state mechanisms were on full alert ahead of the arrival of the cyclone expected in the next few hours.

Kolydas said that reasonably accurate predictions could only be made for the next 48 hours and warned that the public should expect winds of 9-10 Beaufort and strong rain and storms, especially in the southern Peloponnese, Crete and western Cyclades islands. The phenomena will also affect south and eastern Attica on Saturday, he said.

The civil protection agency has issued a list of instructions to the general public on how to protect themselves from the storm, calling on them to:
– Secure any objects that might be blown away and cause damage or injury
– Ensure that building drainpipes are not blocked and in working order
– Avoid crossing streams or torrents, either in vehicles or on foot, during storms, rain and for some time after rainfall has stopped
– To avoid working outdoors and activities at sea or in coastal areas during the storm.

(With information from AMNA)

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Tasos Kokkinidis

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Tourists Using Greece’s E-ticket for Museums, Sites

Convenience is important when traveling, and tourists visiting Greece have welcomed the introduction of an e-ticket for Greece’s museums and archaeological sites.

The e-ticket was just launched on July 5 in a pilot phase and is currently only available for 11 archaeological sites and museums in Crete, Athens and the Peloponnese.

According to figures from Archaeological Resources Fund (TAP) presented by the Culture Ministry on Thursday, the e-ticket, which can be purchased online at etickets.tap.gr, is gaining popularity among tourists.

Tourism at Greece’s archaeological sites and museum reached 5.5 million visitors and generated 9.3 million euros from July 5 to August 5. Also, in the two-week period from July 19 to August 5, e-tickets accounted for 145,000 euros, the Culture Ministry reports.

There are plans on the part of the Culture Ministry to expand the e-ticket program by the end of 2018 to cover additional sites around Greece’s mainland and islands. The Ministry are expected to make the announcement of all of the locations included on the final list at the Thessaloniki International Fair next month.

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Kerry Kolasa-Sikiaridi

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Remains of Greek Soldier Killed in Action 44 Years Ago Identified in Cyprus

The remains belonging to First Lieutenant Giorgos Papalambridis from Ioannina have been found and identified by the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus 44 years after his death.

According to sources, his bones were found in the location of Aspri Mouti on the Pentadaktylos mountain — the highest point of the Alonagra peak — where the National Guard fought Turkish troops. The reason why only three bones were found, according to the CMP, was because he had been buried in a shallow, makeshift grave.

The location tallies with witness accounts, which stated that Papalambridis had led a company of soldiers in the area. Another 13 fallen soldiers were also found at the same location, some through only a handful of bones, belonging to Greek-Cypriot soldiers that had been declared missing.

His file includes shocking witness accounts of his last moments in battle, when he was shot by a sniper on the forehead and died instantly.

His brother Yiannis Papalambridis is expected to travel to Cyprus in October to receive his remains, which he will bury at the Papagos Cemetery with his parents Stefanos and Penelope.

Source: AMNA

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Tasos Kokkinidis

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Tourist Arrivals in Greece Up in June

Tourist arrivals travelling from air and road grew in June 2018 compared with the same month last year, Greek Tourism Confederation SETE said in a report released on Tuesday.

The report said that international airport arrivals grew 14.6 percent in June (up 18 percent so far this year), led by Athens (+27 percent), while regional airports recorded an 11.7 percent increase.

The report said that according to Bank of Greece’s statistics, average consumption spending by foreign visitors grew both in May (travel receipts were up 34.7 percent compared with May 2017) and in the year (21.7 percent).

SETE said that according to trivago data, hotel room prices moved up but remained at competitive levels compared with hotel room prices in rival destinations abroad.

Greece (with the exception of Mykonos and Santorini) is cheaper in all hotel categories -with the exception of Turkey.

Source: AMNA

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Tasos Kokkinidis

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Travel Greece: Where to go in Argolis, Peloponnese

Located at just under a 2-hour drive from Athens, the Argolis peninsula in the Peloponnese region offers many different historical sites, culture and beauty to tourists looking for a spectacular vacation in Greece.

Argos is considered to be the longest continually inhabited town and the first municipality on Greece. It is dotted with ancient ruins of citadels and theaters denoting one of the town’s greatest legends as being the home base of the Mycenaean empire which ruled over Greece from 1600 to 1100 BC.

The nearby seaport town of Nafplio is also located in the Argolis region and is a must-see on your vacation in Greece. The first capital city of Modern Greece was Nafplio and until this day you will see ruins of the fortress walls up high overlooking the town from the mountain side.

Castle of Nafplio
Photo Courtesy of Trip in View

This charming and romantic town has small streets that wrap around neoclassic buildings and squares and is the perfect place to visit anytime of the year.

Wondering where to eat? Here’s a travel tip: While visiting this historical town, be sure to check out Fish Tavern Savouras; established in 1841, it is one of the oldest restaurants in Nafplio.Next on the list of places you must visit while you travel Greece’s Argolis peninsula, is Epidavros. Here you will find everything from ancient ruins and an impressive ancient Greek theater to a quaint town with tavernas serving up local treats.

Epidavros is a must see on any trip through the Peloponnese and during the summer months there are weekend shows at the ancient theater of Epidavros, that draws in crowds of 1,000s of spectators from all around the world.

Just when you thought you have seen all that the region has to offer, you realize there is so much more history and beauty to explore when you visit . This small village was first written about by Homer, who referred to it as Asini in the Iliad which was one of the cities whose fleet took part in the Trojan War – now that’s history.

Be sure to visit the ruins of are located just outside of Tolo on top of a hilly cape. This small fishing village has become a top destination for tourists.

The place to stay while visting the region is Drepano, a village close to Tolo and next to Ancient Asini. Here you will find the located on the beach of Plaka. It’s perfect for families, friends and couples to relax and unwind. Learn more about where to stay here.

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Kerry Kolasa-Sikiaridi

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Top 5 Greek Investment Ideas for Santorini Holiday Businesses

The economic crisis that hit Greece in 2008 destroyed many businesses, big and small, leading hundreds of thousands of Greeks to bankruptcy and unemployment. The austerity that followed the bailout programs led to tight household budgets, making most sectors of the economy shrink to horrendous levels.

Yet, the sector that kept the Greek economy on its feet, as it has always done, is tourism. The political turmoil in Turkey that culminated in the 2016 coup attempt has deterred millions of tourists who chose the safety of Greece as a destination in the Eastern Mediterranean.

This year Greece is expected to attract a record 32 million visitors, following a record-breaking 2017, when the number exceeded 30 million. Popular destinations such as Santorini, Mykonos or Corfu received unprecedented number of tourists to the point that they could not properly host all of them.

Increased tourist arrivals mean there is a great potential for investment on particular islands. Santorini, for instance, with its incredible natural beauty tends to become a year-round destination, offering more than swimming and tanning in the summer sun.

It is a great time to start a small, profitable business in Santorini, based on the state of tourism on the island:

Limousine services

Many affluent travelers visit Santorini every year and, naturally, they demand luxury services outside the ones offered by hotels. A limo service that would pick up travelers from the airport and back, or offer luxurious rides on the mountainous island would be a great idea. Other than the archaeological sites and the beautiful beaches, limo services can offer tours to the island’s fantastic vineyards.

Wedding planning

Being one of the most romantic locations in the world, many couples choose Santorini as the place to hold their wedding ceremony and combine it with a honeymoon. Santorini is a favorite place for mass weddings, especially by Chinese and Indian couples. A wedding-planning business would be a good investment on the Cycladic island.

Yacht leasing

Other than the typical boat tours and mini cruises offered around the island, a yacht-leasing agency would be a lucrative business. Many Santorini visitors would like to tour the island’s beaches, surrounding areas and nearby islands such as Ios on their own.

Laundry and dry-cleaning services

Many visitors to Santorini stay in rented rooms and they don’t have the services a hotel offers. As extended stays on the island are frequent, a laundry service would be very convenient and affordable to tourists on a tight budget.

Private tour guides

Santorini has several places to explore, off of the beaten tourist path. The island has many vineyards that produce exceptional wines due to the volcanic mountainous terrain. Many visitors are unaware of that and this is a service that a private tour guide can offer. An agency with multilingual personnel can offer custom-made tour guide services that cater to the particular needs of visitors.

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Philip Chrysopoulos

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Greece’s ‘Little Paris’ Takes on France’s Eiffel Tower (photos)

Travelling along the west coast of Peloponnese one will come across a Greek replica of the Eiffel Tower, the iconic Paris monument.

Built in the 1960s, it is situated at the entrance of the small town of Filiatra in the Messinia prefecture.

The 26-meter replica is much smaller than the original and was built with funding and backing from Greek-American doctor Haralampos Fournarakis.

The Filiatra tower isn’t a true replica, however, since its design differs in a few major details.

As an article on the Wonders of the World points out, Fournarakis used light grey metal to construct the tower, which he shaped “a little too long.” He also placed the second floor of his tower too low, compared to the original, and changed the shape of the third floor.

But to a tourist driving by, Fournarakis’ version looks like a convincing, shorter copy of the real thing.

Filiatra locals are proud of their tower, but visitors take a different view.

One was totally unimpressed with the tower: “Helps me cut my highway speed before entering town,” he commented on the TripAdvisor web site.

Another said: “It could be clever if there was something else to do here, but that’s it guys.”

In 2012, Greek media reported that the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, incensed by the Greek tower, sent a letter of complaint to UNESCO requesting the immediate removal of the replica.

“It is an obscure caricature and represents an aesthetic attack on French civilization and global architectural heritage,” he was quoted as saying.

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Tasos Kokkinidis

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