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North Aegean news and views

The North Aegean are a loose assortment of islands off the Greek and Turkish mainland. Long distances and infrequent ferry connections put them off the main tourist trail but those with airports, like Samos and Lesvos, are popular holiday destinations. Thassos has no airport but good ferry and road links to Kavala airport on the mainland. Rugged Ikaria and Chios have good beaches and walking while Lemnos and Samothraki are largely untouched by tourism.

Kkaria Seychelle beach
Ikaria beach one of the best

A beach on the island of Ikaria is included on a list of the top most 'magical' hidden beaches of the world. The south coast beach of Seychelles or Seichelle lies beneath sheer white cliffs in one of the islands most memorable settings. The remote location and relatively difficult access put Seychelles well off the tourist trail, but it's no worse for that. UK's Stylist magazine says this is one of the beaches "where you'll find peace and perhaps just one or two other people". The beach is seventh in the magazine's top ten list of world-beating beaches that have escaped the attention of tour companies. This hidden beach on Ikaria is accessible only on foot or by boat and was created by a landslide triggered when they dug a road tunnel to the nearby village of Manganitis. The beach lies down a very steep path that follows the river bed from the village to a shore of brilliant white stones in a picturesque cove that's embraced by white limestone cliffs. The white stones turn the waters a deep turquoise while offshore rocks offer a place to paddle. "If you want to find paradise without the crowds you're going to need to beach clever -- and that means heading for sands less trodden and you don't have to travel too far to find them," says the magazine. There are no facilities on Seychelles beach so visitors must take their own provisions, but there are tavernas and cafes in Manganitis village. Ikaria island itself is not one of the most visited of Greek islands. It is located in the North Aegean island group just off the Turkish coast about 20 kilometres south-west of Samos. Famous since ancient times for the legend of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun, and melted his wings of feather and wax, the island is also noted for its dark red wine and hot water springs . Although Ikaria has only a few beaches, they number some of the best in all the Greek islands. Ikaria's interior is rocky and rugged, and its small mountain villages are remote; the principal villages are confined to coastal strips to the north and south. Ikaria is an island for those seeking a Greek island holiday off the beaten track and away from the crowds. Stylist magazine's most magical hidden beaches are: Rodas Beach, The Cies Islands, SpainClaigan Coral Bay, Isle of Skye, ScotlandNotre Dame Beach, Porquerolles, FranceComporta Beach, Tróia, PortugalBlaci Beach, Mijet, CroatiaPlaya del Amor, The Marieta Islands, MexicoSeychelles Beach, Ikaria, GreecePoint of Sand, Little Cayman, CaribbeanPfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, USABai Sao Beach, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam Stylist magazine is a weekly publication of news, features, fashion and beauty aimed at women. You can read a full report on all the beaches here.

lesvos refugee camp
Refugee crisis hits Lesvos

Greek islands hit by the refugee crisis are to get some help to tempt tourists back for their annual holidays. The impact of the migrant crisis has had a big impact on tourist numbers for some Greek islands, especially those that lie along the Turkish coastline. Popular Greek holidays islands such as Lesvos and Samos have become a gateway for refugees fleeing conflict zones in the Middle East. And news reports of thousands of migrants arriving on Greek island beaches and the tension growing between refugees and Greeks has had serious consequences for tourism. The impact of the refugee crisis on tourism was the main topic of a meeting at Greece's Ministry of Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism between a number of national and regional tourism leaders. Now the Greek Tourism Ministry and the Greek tourist board GNTO are to launch targeted promotional campaign to try and attract more holidaymakers back to those islands hardest hit by the refugee crisis. Islands such as Lesvos have seen tourist numbers plunge as news reports tell of clashes been local Greeks, refugees and police as tensions build over the handling of migrants and the sheer scale of the problem. Lesvos tourism officials claim six cruise ships with about 5,000 passengers have recently cancelled their calls to the Lesvos holiday resort ports of Mytilini and Molyvos, citing concern at the refugee crisis. Island tourism professionals warn that the crisis has not only been a serious blow to the local economy this summer, but they also fear that the island's tourist reputation could be damaged for years to come. More than 230,000 people have landed on Greek island shores this year and the numbers have soared in recent weeks as refugees take advantage of the calm summer weather, crossing from Turkey on flimsy boats. It is thought that Lesvos is currently home to around 85,000 refugees, mainly Syrian migrants, with the island unable to cope with processing numbers on such a scale. Fresh clashes erupted between police and refugees on Lesvos this week. A dozen riot police armed with batons struggled to control some 2,500 migrants in Mytilini as crowds surged towards a government-chartered ferry bound for Athens. Other islands in the Aegean Sea, such as Kos, Samos and Leros continue to be inundated by arrivals at the rate of more than 2,000 a day. Kos, like Lesvos, has seen growing friction between the migrants and island residents.

ouzo festival poster lesvos
Ouzo festival cheer on Lesvos

Holiday visitors to the Greek Islands of Lesvos have been enjoying the taste of ouzo in what has been dubbed the 'ouzo capital of Greece.' The Lesvos Ouzo Fest 2015 has made its last stop in the south coast resort town of Plomari following a month-long tour of the island. Plomari is famous across the world for its ouzo with four companies based there – Arvaniti, Barbayanni, Giannatsi and Pitsiladi – making Greek ouzo the traditional way. The Barbayanni firm has its own museum of ouzo in Plomari, located near Agios Isidoros in Plomari, which welcomes thousands of visitors each year. Each year at the end of July the ouzo makers link up with the town hall of Plomari, organize the famous Lesvos Ouzo Festival to promote events that attracts Greeks from all over the country as well as tourists worldwide. Not only have visitors been tasting the different varieties of ouzo, but they have also been tucking into local foods, listening to live traditional Greek music and enjoying the dancing throughout the three-day event. The Lesvos Ouzo Fest 2015 started out in early July and has already held events in the resorts of Perama and Molyvos. Plomari, on the south coast, is the second largest town on the island after Mytilini and packed with tavernas, restaurants and cafes where ouzo is served all year round. In 2006, Greece won the right to label ouzo as an exclusively Greek product and the European Union gives ouzo a protected designation of origin status, which prohibits manufacturers outside Greece from using the name. The origin of the name ouzo has been in dispute for years, but most think it comes from the Turkish 'uzum', a word for grapes. Ouzo is made by distilling 96% alcohol in copper stills together with anise and other flavorings, such as star anise, coriander, cloves, and cinnamon. The product is a flavored alcoholic solution known as ouzo yeast although no fermentation occurs. Sugar and water may be added, but Greek law states that at least 20% of the final alcohol must come from ouzo yeast. Ouzo production, unlike that for tsipouro, another similar Greek alcoholic drink, doesn't include any fermentation or multiple distillations. Ouzeries can be found all over modern-day Greece where they serve ouzo with mezes appetisers such as octopus, sardines and kalamari. It is traditionally mixed with water to turn it milky and slowly sipped with food. The Lesvos Ouzo Fest is one of the most anticipated events in the island calendar

ikaria jamie oliver
Ikaria gets taste of Jamie

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver enjoyed a taste of the Greek island of Ikaria recently to learn more about the local cuisine. Ikaria is famous for the longevity of its inhabitants which many put down to a healthy lifestyle and the island diet of fresh vegetables. The small Greek island, which lies in the Dodecanese group off the Turkish coast, has been the subject of extensive research into the role played by diet and food in the longevity and quality of life of its inhabitants. The 40-year-old TV chef visited the coastal resort village of Armenistis where he tasted local dishes of pan-fried mullet, pumpkin rolled in pastry, Ikarian herb pie and the island's own version of 'kopanisti' cheese. Jamie appeared to enjoy his visit to Ikaria and the taste of traditional Ikarian dishes. He posted messages to fans and followers on social media about his love for Greek food. Comments included: "Delicious simple food cooked by a Greek mum...all homemade; the cheese, bread, herb pie and very very tasty peas and broad beans cooked in a fabulous way slowly with fennel and extra virgin olive oil...I'm even loving the table cloth...It's all good learning lots and being well looked after...Big love, Jamie". The Greek mum was Madame Maria, who runs the local taverna, Mary Mary, and Jamie donned an apron to learn how to make 'trahana', which he described on a Facebook post as: 'very historical healthy whole grain cracked wheat cooked with goat's milk soured and dried in the sun'. The celebrity chef and restaurant chain owner didn't forget to mention the world famous Greek salad, which he described as 'beautifully simple ... with juicy tomatoes, olives and crumbly feta! Proper, bold flavours and super fresh ingredients'. And he had words too for the people of Ikaria saying: "A huge thank you to all the amazing people I met and worked in Ikaria. This island touched my heart. A separate place with wonderful nature. Can not wait to go back." The famous chef also published photos of his brush with the food and cooking of Ikaria on the social media site Instagram. According to research, the inhabitants of Ikaria are ten times more likely to reach their 90th birthday than the rest of Europe. Researchers claim the Ikarian road to long life is daily physical exercise and a regular diet of fish, fruit and vegetables. The research by the University of Athens in 2009 showed a healthy diet enjoyed by 68% of the elderly men above 80 years old and 64% of the elderly women. The case of Greek war veteran Stamis Moraitis went around the world after it was discovered the 102-year-old had returned Ikaria from the US after being diagnosed with advanced lung cancer when in his mid-60s. After a few months on Ikaria, his health improved and he turned his garden into a vineyard producing 400 gallons of wine a year without going through chemotherapy or taking drugs of any kind. As well as being a celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver established the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation in 2002 to shape the health and well-being of current and future generations and contribute to a healthier world. His Foundation has launched and managed three core food education programmes in schools, communities and with young people across the UK. The main projects are the Kitchen Garden Project – empowering primary school teachers to integrate growing and cooking into the school day; the Ministry of Food programme – inspiring people to get in the kitchen and try out cooking; and the Fifteen Apprentice Programme to support disadvantaged young people to pursue a career in the food industry.

lesvos petrified forest
Ancient trees found on Lesvos

Visitors to the site of a petrified forest on Lesvos may soon have new exhibits to wonder at after new examples of fossilised tree trunks were unearthed. Workmen on the north Aegean island of Lesvos were constructing a new road between the villages of Kalloni and Sigri when they came across traces of tree trunks that first grew millions of years ago. Scientists at the Natural History Museum for the Lesvos Petrified Forest were alerted to the finds and have carried out an extensive search of the roadworks. They say that the area has a large number of fossilised tree trunks, both of coniferous trees such as cypress and pine and of flowering trees like oak and laurel. The existing petrified forest of Lesvos is a popular tourist attraction that is the largest such site in Europe and of international scientific significance. The forested hillsides of south-west Lesvos were destroyed around 20 million years ago when Mount Ordymnos erupted and buried the trees and plants under several metres of volcanic ash. Petrified trees cover the site, with some specimens in a remarkable state of preservation. Fruits, leaves and branches can be clearly seen. The latest finds include specimens of cinnamon and coconut palms which will help confirm theories that the area was once an extensive sub-tropical forest before being buried in volcanic ash. These and other discoveries have gone on show at the award-winning forest museum in Sigri which also features displays of the most important finds and a history of the site. The Petrified Forest of Lesvos was declared the top European Geopark for 2011-2014 and is in line to be included in UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites. Since 2004, the forest has been part of UNESCO's World Geoparks Network, bringing it worldwide recognition and making it a popular tourist destination for holidaymakers visiting Lesvos. It is one of four official geoparks in Greece along with the Natural Park of Psiloritis in Crete, the Helms Park of Vouraikos in the Peloponnese, and the Hairy-Aoos Park in Epirus. The Petrified Forest of Lesvos is huge and is enclosed by the villages of Eressos, Antissa and Sigri. It is managed by the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest which has a permanent exhibition of the fossil remains of more than 40 different species.

lesvos sikiminias
Lesvos the Magaluf of Greece

The Greek holiday island of Lesvos was once the 'Magaluf' of ancient Greece, famous for sex tourism and the exotic beauty of its women, according to a new BBC TV documentary. Known today for its links with links with lesbian women and the female poet Sappho – there is even an annual women's festival on the island – it was once a sex playground for Greek men who flocked there in their thousands. In a new BBC documentary to be screened on BBC Four on May 6, former 'Apprentice' star Margaret Mountford will discover that the north Aegean island of Lesvos was once the ancient the capital of sex tourism in the Greek world. Professor Edith Hall from King's College London tells the programme that Lesvos once had a widespread reputation for the beauty of its women. She says: "Lesbos had a very particular reputation for producing very beautiful women. They really were supposed to be the sexiest people in the entire Greek world." The Greek island's close links with Turkey and the east is thought to have added to the sexual allure of the women of Lesvos whose local accent would have added to their exotic appeal. The programme goes on to examine the life of Sappho, the ancient Greek female poet who lived on the island around 600 BC. Although the bulk of her poetry – much admired in ancient times – has been lost, the surviving lines, often declarations of love for other women, has meant that her reputation has lived on and the name of the island linked to lesbians. Lesvos is still a favourite holiday spot for modern-day lesbians, with an annual festival to celebrate women held every summer around the south coast beach resort of Skala Eressos. In 2008, local lost a legal battle to ban the festival and to outlaw the use of the word 'lesbian' to describe gay women, arguing that the term violated their human rights and brought 'disgrace' to the island around the world. Lesbos is called Lesvos by the Greeks as the Greek letter for 'b' is pronounced 'v'. The island lies in the north-eastern Aegean islands close to the Turkish mainland. Also often named after its capital town of Mytilini, Lesvos is relatively isolated from other Greek islands with the nearest ibeing Chios to the south and Lemnos to the north. Lesvos is the third largest of the Greek islands and being off the beaten track as far as the main Greek island holiday market is concerned it has managed to maintain a traditional small Greek island atmosphere. With an international airport that takes regular holiday charter flights, tourism has always been an important but not dominant industry on the island. The production of award-winning olive oil and its trademark ouzo are two of the island's most important exports. The island's hot springs have also triggered a growth in health tourism in recent years. Lesvos is also noted for its flora and fauna with birdwatchers flocking to the island every year to photograph the birds that rest on the island lagoons in the migration season. Lesvos is also famed for its petrified forest at near Sigri, now classed as a World Heritage Site. The forest was formed when Mount Ordymnos erupted and submerged the trees in ash around 20million years ago. Sappho: Love And Life On Lesbos, with Margaret Mountford will be shown on BBC Fouron May 6.

lesvos street
Magical streets of Lesvos

One of the greatest pleasures of a Greek Island holiday is wandering around the flower-decked whitewashed streets of islands resorts. Greek villages are typically a maze of backstreets and alleyways overlooked by balconies brimming with bougainvillaea and dotted with potted geraniums and other brightly coloured flowers. In the main holiday resorts, cafe owners put out tables and chairs here space permits to entice roaming visitors to enjoy a coffee and snack in beautiful shaded surroundings. Now a flower covered street on the island of Lesvos has taken the top slot on a leading art and design website after picking up thousands of votes. The website Boredpanda invited visitors to send in photographs of the most picturesque streets they had ever visited and nearly 130 responded with images of the most magical streets from all over the world. But it was this narrow street in the popular tourist resort of Molyvos on the island of Lesvos that captured the imagination and picked up the highest number of votes from site visitors. Thousands of people voted in the competition but this photograph from Greek freelance photographer Konstantinos Stamatelis topped the list. Molyvos, often spelt Molivos, is a popular holiday resort on the Greek island of Lesvos and is famed for its beauty. Steep, cobbled streets wind their way up from the port to the hilltop Genoese fortress which is often lit at night. The narrow streets that lead up from the picturesque fishing harbour are lined with stone houses, topped with distinctive red-tiled roofs. Many of the villages's old timber buildings have been carefully restored and the cobbled streets are often overhung with vines and peppered with cafes, art galleries and craft shops. Preservation orders have helped to protect the charm of Molyvos, from the flower covered village centre to the small harbour where fish tavernas line the long waterfront. Molyvos is a popular visitor attraction not only because of the beauty of its streets but also a major midsummer festival of music and theatre that pulls in thousands of art loving visitors. Other attractions include a small museum, an open air cinema and excursion boats and tour buses to the many Lesvos island attractions. The brief for Boredpanda visitors was to submit photographs of the world's most magical streets shaded by flowers and trees. The street in Molyvos certainly fits the bill with cafe customers sitting in dappled shade on the cobbled paving stones. The island of Lesvos is located north-eastern Aegean islands close to the Turkish mainland. It's a little off the beaten track but has an international airport to bring in the tourists. Lesvos is the third largest of the Greek islands and although i welcomes tourist s it has retained the traditional Greek charm that is typical of many of the smaller, less well travelled islands. The island is known for its trademark ouzo and exceptional olive oil – two of the island's most important industries. Other attractions on Lesvos include the world-renowned petrified forest at Sigri and the famous thermal springs and bath houses. Many Greek Island holidaymakers will know of similar streets that are just as charming and delightful. And anyone who has visited the delightful area of Plaka in Athens will know that beautiful shady streets can exist in even the biggest cities. Sitting beneath the slopes of the famous Acropolis, the Plaka district attracts visitors from all over the world. With its neoclassical mansions houses with roofs of red tiles, the alleyways of the Plaka wind up the hill full of small steps, overhead balconies and hanging jasmine.

little mytilini island for sale lesvos
Greek Island for sale

Fancy buying a private Greek Island for an extra special Christmas present? One of the most beautiful islands in Greece is up for sale off the Greek holiday island of Lesvos in the north Aegean. Only a short boat hop from the Lesvos capital port of Mytelini, the tiny 16-acre islet called Little Mytilene is on the market for a cool €800,000 or around £640,000 at the current exchange rate. The price tag is out of the question for most of us, but £640,000 is less than the price of a two-bedroom flat in somewhere like London. Just north of Mytilene city, the island is just 200 metres offshore from the sleepy village of Pamfila and surrounded by clear, clean and tranquil waters. The island is uninhabited but Greek the estate agents say a building permit should not be a problem and, with an international airport not far away and good ferry links from the nearby port it is likely to attract a lot of interest. German-based selling agents Vladi Private Islands say Mediterranean private islands rarely come on the market and when they do, they can command an astronomical price-tag. Greek island sale may attract international buyers The current owner is Greek and the island has been on sale for some time, but only in Greece where it has not attracted a great deal of interest. The owner is now testing out the international market where a private Greek Island might be just the ticket for rising millionaires. Any buyer will also have to build a house and jetty and there is the problem of fresh water that will have to be obtained either buy storing rainwater or building a desalination plant. There is the further problem of waste and sewage disposal to consider. But the island is very green, with a covering of scrub and it's circled by crystal clear, azure waters and even a sandy beach. The island of Lesvos has been a long-time favourite of holidaymakers with its beautiful hillsides, miles of sandy beaches and international reputation for its hot water springs, sardines and it's fiery ouzo. Lesvos as popular holiday destination for women Lesvos is also the birthplace of Sappho, the famous 6th century BC poet who wrote verses for other women, their beauty, their relationships and their daily lives. The association has led to Lesvos and especially the town of Eresos, the birthplace of Sappho, becoming a popular holiday destination for lesbian tourists and a women's festival is held in the beach resort of Skala Eresos each year. A big and very beautiful, Lesvos is the third largest of the Greek islands after Crete and Rhodes and, although it attracts thousand of tourists each year, the traditional small Greek island atmosphere has not been spoiled. The production of exceptional olive oil and it's trademark ouzo, along with sardine fishing means the island is not totally reliant on the tourist trade. Lesvos islanders also have a proud identity marked by deep cultural traditions. The main attractions for tourists are the traditional way of life, the varied landscape, the island's quaint hill villages and several splendid sandy beaches. Top attractions on Lesvos include its many thermal springs and bath houses, said to have healing properties for skin and muscle conditions and the petrified forest at Sigri, in the west of the island and now a World heritage Site, where fossilised stumps of trees are thought to be 20 million years old.

lesvos sappho festival
Women's festival on Lesvos

Two-week beach festival for women kicks off this month to celebrate gay culture. More than 1,000 women are expected to flock to a two week festival on Lesvos later this month when the International Eressos Women's Festival 2014 gets underway. First created by local travel firm Sappho Travel in 2000, the event has grown each year at the gay-friendly beach resort of Skala Eressos on the south-western coast of the island. The festival celebrates the women's history, culture, achievements and diversity and it runs from September 6 for two weeks. It features live music, dance parties, open-air movies, fashion shows and art exhibitions as well as beach activities and watersports, workshops, excursions, and many other activities. The festival website says: "All women are welcome, included and celebrated here, regardless of their race, age, interests, or sexuality. It is an opportunity for women from all over the world to join in social and creative activities, to make new friends, to network, to learn new skills and share talents, to enjoy a taste of Greek culture, and to simply have a great time." The International Eressos Women's Festival is a non-profit making event and this year's event kicks off on Saturday 6 September at the open-air stage of Skala Eressos' sandy beach. Lesvos has been attracting holidaymakers since the 1970's and the island's association with the seventh century Greek poet Sappho has helped promote it as a gay-friendly holiday destination. The nearby village of Eressos was the birthplace of Sappho who wrote about her love for women in stories and poetry and is generally accepted as the first widely-known lesbian writer. The annual September festival attracts women from all over the world and they make up almost all of the visitors to Eressos in the late season, giving a major boost to the local economy. A festival organiser said: "Whether you are a newcomer to this beautiful island, or have made Lesvos your holiday place many times before, whether you are on a single's holiday, or here with your partner, friends or family, Sappho Women always aims to offer a diverse and inspiring program of events, that appeals to everyone visiting Skala Eressos." Skala Eressos has also become increasingly popular as a family resort and a firm favourite of honeymooning couples thanks to a long, sandy and beautiful beach lined with tamarisk shaded tavernas. The beach resort has car-free streets and an attractive central square. A small harbour is full of fishing boats as the gulf is known throughout Greece for its sardines. Near the resort is a large spring-fed lake teeming with wildlife including storks and turtles. The lake, along with the associated wetlands make Skala Eressos is a major centre for bird watching while the flat plains that lie behind the Lesvos resort are ideal for cycling and horse riding.

lesvos petrified forest
Lesvos forest heritage bid

Award-winning ancient site of petrified trees on Lesvos may gain UNESCO world heritage status. The remarkable petrified forest of Lesvos, a popular tourist destination, the largest such site in Europe and of international scientific significance, could be in for a world ranking heritage award. The unique and ancient forest site has been submitted as a potential UNESCO World Heritage Site alongside other Greek sites such as the Acropolis in Athens and the sacred island of Delos, near Mykonos. The director of the award-winning Lesvos Petrified Forest Museum, Professor Nikos Zouros, has met UNESCO officials to spell out the unique qualities of the site located on the south-west of Lesvos near the resort of Sigri. Also at the meeting was Lesvos island mayor Dimitris Vounatsos, there to underline the major economic and tourism benefits for the island if the Petrified Forest gains status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These hillsides of south-west Lesvos were densely forested when Mount Ordymnos erupted around 20 million years and buried the trees under many feet of volcanic ash. What remains today are petrified trees with some specimens in a remarkable for the state of preservation with fruits, leaves, branches clearly seen, often with a polished agate sheen that shows off their ancient beauty to great effect. A museum was set up in 1994 to study, research and promote the park which became a founding member of the European Geopark Network in 2,000 and the following year the museum was awarded a Eurosite Management Award for its work, helping the site to get included in the Global Geopark Network in 2004. The best specimens of petrified trees are displayed in and around the museum but ancient stumps can be found all over the surrounding hillsides and valleys, especially along the road between the popular Lesvos holiday resort of Eressos and the west coast port of Sigri. Winning status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site would give a major boost to Lesvos as a tourist holiday destination. The island is already well known as the producer of exceptional olive oil and ouzo. The island is also famous for its natural hot springs and bath houses which are currently being promoted in the growing health tourism market.

Stamis Moraitis
Healthy Greek living

A heart warming story extolling the virtues of the Greek lifestyle has been making it's way around the internet. We doubt whether there will ever be a better advert for the health benefits this region can bring. For those wishing to learn more, there's a splendid in-depth article on the New York Times website. The story begins back in the early 1940s. A Greek war veteran by the name of Stamis Moraitis had managed to clamber his way back to the USA for some essential medical treatment for a gunshot found. This battle-hardened soldier had managed to escape into Turkey and finally onto the Queen Elizabeth steaming his way across the atlantic. On his arrival in New York, Stamis found a small community of Greeks living in New York at Port Jefferson. From there he moved to Boynton Beach Florida, and like so many immigrants before him was soon on the road to the American Dream. He'd soon married an American woman, produced three children, and was living in a delightful three bedroom house with this treasured 1951 Chevrolet. Early in 1976, Moraitis started getting short of breath. Climbing the stairs became a struggle and eventually he had to stop work at lunchtime. After several X-rays, and numerous hospital visits, doctors concluded that Stamis had advanced lung cancer. An understandable disbelief, lead Stamatis to request a second opinion. A total of nine doctors eventually confirmed the diagnosis and he was given between six and nine months to live. He was in his mid-60s. Initially the plan was to stay in America, at the time a world leader in cancer care. The aggressive treatments being suggested might increase his life slightly. However, once his fate began to dawn on him, he told his wife that he wanted the pair of them to move back to his native Ikaria. That way he could buried with his ancestors in a tranquil cemetery shaded by oak trees and overlooking the Aegean Sea. A funeral in the US could cost thousands of dollars and a little research set the equivalent bill in Ikaria at a little over $200. This would leave more of his savings for his wife and children. The move took place, and Stamatis and his wife Elpiniki moved into a small whitewashed house with a couple of acres of vineyards near Eydilos. To begin with most of his days were spent in bed, only rising to hobble up the street to the Greek Orthodox chapel where his grandfather had served as a priest. After a few months a strange thing happened, Stamatis started to feel stronger. One day, feeling ambitious he clambered out of bed and planted a few vegetables in the garden. At this point he didn't expect to ever harvest them, but enjoyed being out in the sun breathing in the fresh Aegean air. His 9 month date with the grim reaper came and went, and with each month Stamatis felt better. Spurred on by his improving health, he worked long hours in the garden, turned his vineyard into a 400 gallon a year wine producer, and today three and a half decades later he's 102 and cancer free. He never went through chemotherapy, took and drugs or sought out any therapy of any sort. If anyone ever needed proof of the health benefits living on a Greek island, they need to speak to Stamatis Moraitis. 102 and still going strong.

lesvos beach street festival
Lesvos beach street festival

Top graffiti artists get ready to paint the town. Holiday visitors to the island of Lesvos in the north-east Aegean can enjoy a weekend beach street festival in August that features urban graffiti and music. It follows hot on the heels of last year's hugely successful event on the Lesvos holiday beach of Vatera when graffiti artists and musicians from all over Europe staged a festival at an abandoned beach hotel. This year the Beach Street Festival will be staged in the island's capital town, Mytilene and features more than 80 graffiti artists from across Greece and Europe joined by more than 50 musicians. The focus of this year's music events will be the historic Castle of Mytilene and the surrounding area, including the woods and beach at Tsamakia. Graffiti at this year's festival will be inspired by the murals of the Greek folk painter Theofilos Chatzimichael, who died 80 year ago, while music will feature HipHop, Trap, House, Techno, DNB, DubStep, BUB and Reggae. Known as the Greek Vincent Van Gogh, the folk artist was born in the Mytelini suburb of Varia and painted on wood as well as creating wall frescoes. Known for his eccentric ways he often wore national dress and lived in poverty. Graffiti artists are usually secretive and clandestine but between August 1-3, holiday visitors to Lesvos will be able to see then in action as they create a series of colourful walls in honour of the local folklore painter. Dozens of graffiti artists will paint walls along a route through Mytilene, from the ancient port to the museum of Theofilos Chatzimichael using a variety of styles and techniques. The Theophilos museum was built in 1964 in the suburb of Varia, about six kilometres from the centre of Mytilini, and displays more than 80 works by the Lesvos folk artist. During the Beach Street Festival on Lesvos there will be graffiti workshops for anyone wishing to learn the history of graffiti and who wish try their own skills. Among the graffiti artist at the Lesvos event are the UK's Mr Cenz, along with Alex Martinez and Yaboy from the US, Oval Tdk from Germany, Mosa and Omick from France, Dm from Norway and Czechoslovak artist Pauser. Details on the Beach Street Festival on Lesvos, including details of special ferry tickets, flights, camping sites and how to get there can be found on the festival website here.

Samos taverna
Samos off holiday map

'hoteliers disappointed at the holiday figures'. Samos is the only Greek islands that has failed to record a rise in holiday visitors this year according to latest figures. The arrivals of foreign tourists at the airports from January to September rose sharply this year says the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE). From January to September 2013, all the main Greek island holiday destinations recorded a rise except for the island of Samos, where holiday visitors dropped nearly four per cent on last year. The biggest rise was recorded not on a Greek island but mainland Greece at Kalamata Airport which saw tourist arrivals jump an incredible 50%, although in absolute numbers that only amounted to 53,507 foreign tourists. Santorini was the island with the biggest jump in holiday arrivals up just over 21% on last year with 236,554 visitors to the end of September. Arrivals also jumped sharply at Heraklion Airport on Crete with not only the highest numbers in real terms at 2.3 million but also up 17.7%. Other islands reporting double digit rises this year are Corfu with 11.6% and Rhodes at 10.8%. Hoteliers on Samos will be disappointed at the holiday figures. Samos lies in the north Aegean close to the Turkish coast. It is a large mountainous island and in ancient times was one of the wealthiest as shown by the great number of architectural monuments. Unfortunately not a great deal has been left for visitors to enjoy. Hotel developers have build over what was once an important archaeological site at the main resort of Pythagorion. Nevertheless Samos is a great Greek island for holidays with something for everyone, from big beach hotels to rustic hill villages. Samos is noted for its famous Muscat wines, especially at Vourliotes where springs keep the landscape lush and green. A dramatic and highly indented coastline is dotted with long, sandy beaches, sheltered coves and small shingle beaches.

Samos beach
Holiday bid

Samos in cheap flight holiday bid. While the rest of the Greek islands show a big surge in visitors this year beaches on Samos and Ikaria are comparatively empty. Now hotel owners want to tempt low cost airlines to open up cheap flight routes to Samos in a bid to boost traffic This year tourist numbers are well down on last year while other islands in Greece are reporting a rise in holiday visitors. President of the Hotel Association of Samos and Ikaria, Kostas Kyriazis, is urging all those involved in tourism on both islands to sign up to a scheme to bring more flights to the region. Those joining up will pay a €100 fee and the money will be used to promote both islands as holiday destinations. If enough people join it is estimated they could raise €500,000 by the end of the year. Most of the money could go on subsidising cheap flights into Samos which could bring in thousands more visitors each year. Mr Kyriazis said: "The main purpose of fundraising is to find a low cost airline, which will operate four charter flights a week over the summer season." Tourism experts say that subsidising that number of cheap flight airlines may cost around €150,000 but it could bring in an extra 20,000 tourists next year Samos is one of the north Aegean islands and lies close to the Turkish coastline. It is a large and mountainous island that was in ancient times one of Greece's wealthiest. It not only has many magnificent beaches but its archeological treasures much in evidence. Samos has dozens of sandy beaches, towering mountains, some very beautiful scenery with lush hill forests of pine and oak.

Theofilos ferry NEL Lines
Lesvos ferry routes cut

Greek Island ferry routes suspended. Greek island holiday visitors hoping to catch a ferry to Lesvos will have to think again. Ferry operator NEL Lines has axed services to many north Aegean islands just as the main tourist holiday season gets under way. Lesvos has been cut off from all ferry routes to other Greek islands for the past 20 days and there is little prospect of services being resumed this summer. Other islands hit by the axing of services include Samos and Ikaria while the island of Limnos now has no ferries to the Athen's port of Piraeus. Islanders call this a cruel economic and social blow to the islands just as summer holiday visitors are expected to reach their peak. NEL Lines blame the cuts in service on crucial work needed on the ferry Theofilos which normally operated the north Aegean route. The car passenger ferry was built in 1985 and can carry up to 1,660 passengers and has room for 440 cars. The suspension of services has been condemned by Limnos Mayor Antonis Hatzidiamantis: "It's like they want to condemn Lemnos, a nationally sensitive island. We expected to live off tourism, but unfortunately the success story didn't work for our island." NEL Lines was established in 1972 with many residents of Lesvos signing up for shares in the company. The ferry firm has since expanded and serves most of the Aegean island destinations including passenger-ferry boats between Piraeus, Chios and Mitilini as well as connecting the islands of Northern Aegean with Thessaloniki, Kavala and Lavrion. High-speed and conventional passenger-ferry now also serve several Cycladic islands with ports at Syra and Lavrion. There are also ferry routes to Chios, Heraklion and Rethimno in Crete and to Santorini and Thessaloniki as wells as routes between Volos and the Sporades islands.

Pispilta pie breakfast
A taste of lesvos

Taste of Lesvos at a big Greek Breakfast. Greek island hotels are to promote the 'Greek Breakfast' to help promote local products to tourists. It follows a successful events on the third largest Greek Island of Lesvos in the eastern Aegean and on Corfu in the western Ionian island chain. Hotel chefs have served up local foods to guests in a bid to give them a real taste of Greek life. Promoting the flavours of a Greek breakfast is the idea of the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels that has even created its own website www.greekbreakfast.gr to tempt as many hotel chains as possible to join the venture. The website has details of the program, activities, members which, it says, "is nothing more than the association of hoteliers with gastronomic riches of our country." Topics of the website include the philosophy of the Greek breakfast and the thoughts that led to the development of the idea; application form for hotels to sign up and, most useful to the Greek Island holiday visitors, a list of the local products of the regions of Greece with their respective principal producers Hotels are encouraged to serve up regional dishes in order to introduce holidaymakers to the local specialities. A Greek Corfiot breakfast served up by Corfu hotel owners at the Corfu Palace Hotel, in collaboration with the Chefs Club of Corfu was a notable success and this year, more hotels are expected to join the scheme. Also involved in the Corfu initiative were the Hotel Managers' Association, the Producers Network Corfu Produces, the Biological Products Cooperative and the UNESCO Centre of the Ionian Islands. The Hoteliers Association Lesvos was behind the 'Greek Breakfast' on Lesbos in collaboration with the Region of North Aegean and the Chamber of Lesvos.

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