46th Anniversary of the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus

In commemoration of the 46th anniversary of the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus, we reached out to Andrea Nichas (president of NNCYA) and Christos Tuton (president of NEPOMAK Global) to give us some insight into the ongoing Cyprus dispute. 

 

A PERSPECTIVE BY ANDREA NICHAS

There is no doubt that you’ll have heard of the controversy, devastation and disappointment that’s resonating universally over the fact that Agia Sophia has been converted into a mosque. As a museum and UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was a great symbol of peace and solidarity between religions. This decision made by Turkish president Erdogan has caused immense heartbreak for Orthodox Christians. Furthermore, just a few weeks ago, Turkey unilaterally declared its intention to attempt drilling in Cypriot, Greek and Egyptian waters.

The timing of these recent actions has intensified the incessant pain that Cypriots feel, particularly on the 20th of July when we unfortunately commemorate Turkey’s 1974 invasion onto the soil of our ancestors.  We, the children of Cyprus, have been acknowledging the immense tragedy of the forceful occupation of our homeland for 46 years. I may not have been born on the island, but my roots are inseparable from my soul & I inherently know of the despair and trauma that was felt and is still acknowledged by my people. When the Turkish army occupied our beloved country and caused destruction by all definitions, they shattered families and stole over 36% of our island. It’s even more devastating to think that this tragedy remains ongoing today as well over a third of Cyprus is still occupied by Turkish troops.

Hundreds of thousands of Cypriots were forced to flee their villages and homes, many with just the clothes on their back, as the Turkish Army advanced through the island. Those refugees have never been able to return home. During the invasion, thousands were killed and more than 2 000 Cypriots went missing, with over 1 000 of those cases still not resolved to this day. Their families are eternally incomplete, with the fate of their relatives whereabouts unanswered.

Turkish Cypriots were forced to move to the occupied area in 1975 changing the demographics of the island, and the knowledge that historic churches were desecrated and looted is a most gut-wrenching sensation. A small island separated by cataclysm and anguish with no end in sight as Turkey continues to obstruct a solution to the Cyprus issue and withholds the freedom of the people of Cyprus.  Additionally with over 70% of the island’s productive potential being lost there have been major economic consequences.

We will always remember the events that changed the course of our history and forced our island into an unfathomable divide. We will forever defend our country and fight for the end of the occupation. As young, diaspora Cypriots, it seems the written word, campaigning, and raising awareness will be our tools in the efforts of a revolution. I speak on behalf of the Cypriots who endured the invasion then, as well as those of us who continue to experience the repercussions, when I say:  δεν θα ξεχάσουμε ποτέ. We will never forget.

 

AFTERWORD BY CHRISTOS TUTON

Since 1974, successive Presidents of Cyprus have worked hard to end Turkey’s occupation and reach a negotiated solution to the Cyprus issue. For decades, United Nations sponsored talks between the President of Cyprus, the Turkish Cypriot leader, the UK, Greece and Turkey – all to no avail as they have yet to yield any successful results of reunification.

A solution was nearly reached during negotiations in Crans Montana in the summer of 2017. The talks unfortunately broke down when the United Nations Secretary General asked Turkey to confirm whether they were prepared to withdraw their troops completely and give up their status as a guarantor power. Turkey refused both and the talks ended as no further progress could be made.

The Cypriot diaspora has supported the Cypriot Government and the people of Cyprus in their struggle for a free, united Cyprus since 1974. Immediately after the invasion, diaspora Cypriots formed organisations to campaign for justice and make their voices heard. Cypriot diaspora have worked tirelessly over the years to ensure that the Cyprus issue remains on the political agenda around the world and is never forgotten.

As young, diaspora Cypriots we will continue to fight for a just solution to the Cyprus issue, like the generations before us. We want to see a free, united Cyprus, where Cypriots live and prosper together – free from foreign occupation, free from foreign interference, free from division and united for the benefit of all Cypriots.

Life of a DJ: Behind The Scenes

The feeling never gets old, the beats are synced, the sound is booming and everyone is moving to one, unanimous rhythm.. The treble, the bass, the crowd and most importantly, the bouzoukia- four very important necessities a DJ needs to completely take hold of a Hellenic event.

The DJ gets to understand the crowd and use music to show them how they are feeling. To be able to steer the night into whatever direction I choose is one of the most incredible feelings I have ever felt. The DJ has to be able to move through time. To be able to understand the past, and how the crowd has reacted to previously played songs, in order to know what to play in the present and predict the songs to play in the future. No doubt a demanding task to undertake- but one I accept with great pride.

The opportunity to create these experiences makes the job completely worthwhile and the excitement before every event has never and will never fade. Ενώσεις is everything and as a dj that’s something I know how to do well- bring a crowd of people together as one. I give them something to remember, not just a moment but a feeling of how they felt when certain songs were played. It’s indescribable knowing that I have that ability, I hope you’ve experienced it. Now if you haven’t, well then I best be seeing you at the PHYC Youth Ball this Saturday the 25th of August- I’ll have the dance floor ready for you. 😉

George Nichas

It’s all Greek to me!

I don’t think I can count the amount of times I’ve heard that saying, but I’ve recently realized just how often I’m at a loss for words when asked “so what does this symbolize?” or “how come that’s something you guys do?”…

Perhaps that’s the irony of our culture, we are taught things as we’re growing up and because we were young we never asked questions. For example, what is the purpose of cracking the red eggs on Easter? I’m sure you know that the eggs are dyed red to symbolize the blood of Christ, but the cracking of one egg by another is meant to represent the cracking open of the tomb when Christ was resurrected. I kid you not I only discovered that about 3 years ago, all this time I’d just assumed it was another custom with some long lost symbolism. Maybe it’s just me, but it got me thinking of all these other ‘things’ we do without a second thought.

My favorite of all would definitely be how we, as Hellenic South Africans (Hellenic meaning someone of either, or both, Cypriot and Greek descent), have our own variation of the Zembekiko- otherwise known as the ‘drunken man dance’. We’re ones of few who dance with true passion and flare for the zem, I mean who else would light the floor ablaze as we spin around and show off an array of passionate moves that none can mimic? Let’s not forget the smashing of plates! Yet another uncustomary display of emotion but it is one that we take great pride in portraying- a celebration of life.

Our big fat Greek loud families can be heard from miles away, and it astounds me how much that is something that can be envied by others- the way in which we gather with those we love on such a constant level. Personally, my day is not complete without a phone call from my Yiayia (grandmother for those who don’t know) just checking up on how I’m doing or my mom asking what we want for dinner before we’ve even had lunch. We are known feeders and we just can’t help but be those people who have a whole array of snacks out whenever guests come over- before you’ve even walked through our door I promise you’ll have a beverage in hand and a plate full of food.

To say I am proud is an understatement. There’s something so very unique in how we uphold our traditional values and the manner in which our community exists so strongly. There’s nothing like a homemade meal in a Greek household we promise you that. We’ve got treats that will delight anyone’s sweet tooth, and if you fancy a cup of Greek coffee perhaps you’ll have the opportunity for your future to be read in the remnants of your cup- there are few trained in this art but it’s always fascinating to hear someone’s translation of fate. Honestly there are so many little quirks that I can’t even fathom as I’m writing this, that I don’t register as “ours”… I’d love to hear of your perspectives, leave a comment telling me of your favorite highlight of being Greek, or favorite experience with a bunch of Greeks. Tell me how Greek things are to you! x

Study Medicine in Cyprus at the University of Nicosia Medical School

The University of Nicosia Medical School is the first & largest Medical School in Cyprus with more than 600 students coming from all around the world.

Located in the heart of Nicosia, our state-of-the-art facilities make the University of Nicosia Medical School a fantastic place to learn.  From head-turning Anatomy to Clinical skills and Biology laboratories, we provide a learning environment which enables you to embrace your interests and career aspirations.   Our faculty includes academics and clinicians trained in medical education, who have teaching experience in Cyprus and abroad. Our excellent student support services will make you feel at home from day one.

Degrees offered:

  • Doctor of Medicine (MD): 6-year degree for High School Graduates
  • Bachelor in Medicine, Bachelor in Surgery (MBBS): 4-year degree for candidates holding a Bachelor’s Degree from any discipline – awarded by St George’s, University of London
  • Post Graduate Diploma (PgDip) and Master of Science (MSc) in Family Medicine: For Doctors  in practice, delivered online

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE

Cyprus, an ideal place to study

Cyprus was ranked the safest country in the world for people aged 15 to 29 by the World Health Organization.  That makes our medical school an excellent choice if you are concerned about safety when picking a location to study.

See below on what our current students have to say about their experiences:

Athena Michaelides (MD), Class of 2020, South Africa

 

“Having the opportunity to study medicine abroad, specifically in Cyprus, was an opportunity that I could not turn down.

The small scale classes ensure maximum individual attention allowing each one of us to flourish and reach our full potential. This is done under the wings of highly educated, easily approachable faculty, who are always willing to go the extra mile. In addition to this, we get to use state of the art facilities in a friendly and safe environment. This international program broadens horizons as one gets the opportunity to experience a variety of cultures in one classroom. The beautiful surroundings of Cyprus as well as the buzzing student life are bonuses that add to the overall student experience.”

 

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE

Jacomien Nel (MD) Class of 2021, South Africa

“Warm weather, buzzing cafes and beautiful sunsets, Nicosia welcomed me home on the first day of my arrival in Cyprus.

The international atmosphere that both the city and the University of Nicosia provided me with was one of excitement to learn about new cultures, an integral part of becoming a doctor. With a small cohort of students, within a week everyone had become friends, and the experienced faculty quickly got us settled into our semester subjects. With innovative labs and lively campuses, I can’t wait to see what new experiences the University of Nicosia will bring into my life as a medical student!”

 

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE

Ioannis Balanos (MBBS),Class of 2019, USA

 

“I am enjoying the integration of core class teaching and clinical training. While clinical exposure begins from our first year, in the second we are immersed in it – learning alongside skilled doctors in hospitals and interacting with patients. Much is demanded from the medical student and the doctors are there to help us meet a high standard as future doctors.

Making the most of medical school for me also means getting involved in the community outside classes. I have gone to many Mobile Clinic expeditions around Cyprus, offering check-ups and performing medical tests. I have had the privilege to deliver health-related presentations to various local schools, and being a Greek speaker, giving back to the community has been even more efficacious. As president of the Wellness Club, my team and I are planning on different activities and excursions throughout the year for the medical school. These extra-curricular aspects greatly enrich student life, and the staff have been extremely helpful in planning and making events possible.”

 

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE

Dr Maria Avraamidou (MSc in FM) Class of 2016, Cyprus

 

 

“The MSc in FM programme has provided me with knowledge and skills to practice medicine using an evidenced based patient centred approach.

Professional development is an important part of being a doctor. This programme has given me inspiration to reach higher goals as a Family Physician and instilled in me the desire to be a life-long learner.”

 

 

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE

 

URL: www.med.unic.ac.cy

Email: admissions@med.unic.ac.cy

Tel: + 357 22 471 999

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discovering Cyprus. Discovering Me.

Article written by Annie Kolatsis who attended the NCCT program in August 2017. NCCT stands for NEPOMAK Cyprus Culture Tour and is run by NEPOMAK. 

When I sat down and thought about what to write about NCCT, nothing seemed good enough. How could I properly put into words what this tour had done for me? How it had changed me? While those 10 days were spent discovering Cyprus, a huge part of the trip was also about discovering myself.

Here is what I managed to figure out along the way.

Being Cypriot goes beyond knowing how to speak the language.
It also goes beyond knowing how to order a frappe, doing a zembekiko or being able to do the head tilt “tsou” as a way of saying “no”. That being said, I’ve always felt inadequate around my Cypriot family, and Cypriots in general, not being able to speak the language. This trip was the first time I didn’t feel that way. The reason? With everything I was learning and experiencing, I didn’t feel like a tourist anymore. The activities, the guided tours; they gave me what I had been missing all these years. The story. And not just from 1964 onwards. The WHOLE story – or as much as you can hear in 10 days. Knowing more about the island other than which beach to visit, or where to get the best sheftalies, made such a
difference.

There is more to Cyprus than just beautiful beaches and souvlaki.
While I knew that Cyprus was full of olive trees, I had no idea that some were as old as 700 years. Seven. Hundred. Years. It really put into perspective how little I knew about Cyprus and how much history was waiting to be discovered.

Photo: Jovanna Faria

If you’ve never been to Akamas National Park, then you’re in for a treat. There’s a beautiful walk to a gorge that took thousands of years to form. Lara Bay is also nearby and guess what? It’s a sea turtle conservation station. Next thing I knew, I was watching sea turtle eggs hatch! What an incredible experience and an unexpected one at that.

Photo: Annie Kolatsis (Author)

Once you start discovering the history, you can’t stop.
The fact that Cyprus is known as the birthplace of Aphrodite creates an almost mystical air. Visiting places like Petra tou Romiou, the Baths of Aphrodite and the Paphos mosaics made me realize just how impressive the island’s history is. Seeing ancient mosaics that date back to second century A.D. fueled my imagination and awakened a thirst in me to know more. Thankfully, there is plenty more history for me to sink my teeth into.

Photo: Marina Kotonous

 

Photo: Andreas Georghiou

We are all Cypriots.
I think the most important thing I figured out is that, whether we come from South Africa, America or the U.K., whether we are half Cypriot or full, there is more that makes us similar than what makes us different. Sure, we have nuances that are influenced by where we grew up (like calling sheftalies ‘shefties’), but one thing remains the same:

We are passionate.
We are proud.
We are Cypriot.

Photo: Panayiota Zambas

If you’d like to find out more about NEPOMAK or NCCT head to: http://nepomak.com/ncct/

Cyprus: An Insider’s Perspective

Blog post written by Andrea Nichas. Images sourced from Google. 

They say a single picture can speak a thousand words, but what if not even a thousand pictures contained the truths of what was beyond the lens? What if what you see through your very own eyes is so incomparable to what your camera could capture? What if you’ll find yourself so overwhelmed in the moment that you forget for what feels like an eternity that you aren’t dreaming?

I’ve tried countless times to express myself, to explain why I become so speechless when it comes to speaking of Cyprus. Perhaps it’s the fact that I feel so very connected to the roots of my homeland, or it could even be because I feel so completely at ease from the moment I step off that plane- it’s as if I never even left. It’s truly an atmosphere like no other, but don’t take my word for it, I recommend that you feel the sensations for yourself.

See, it’s not simply the sunshine that gets to you. It’s not even the smoothness of that clear-blue ocean that seeps into your heart. It’s so much more than that. You’ll find yourself falling for the culture, for the unreal aura of history, and the excitement of discovering the stories of past and new. The curiosity of wanting to know what it’s like for the locals, of trying to understand what they’re saying when they go off on some incomprehensible tangent that includes the most expressive of gestures. To actually witness the divide of the land from a war long lost to the Turks. Let alone hear the tales from when the invasion itself began. I digress though, there’s so much more to this wondrous land! Allow me to take you through some of my favorite Cypriot experiences.

I almost don’t know where to begin, but there’s one thing that resonates through my mind- the crisp perfection of that surreal ocean. Not only can you lose yourself in the endless wonder of a sea that greets the horizon, have I mentioned just how refreshing the water feels while it cools your body from the blazing heat? Trust me, it’s marvelous.

Love Bridge, Ayia Napa. Google Images. Cyprus Index.

Protaras Beach. Google Images.

There are many ways for one to explore an unfamiliar land; one route is through the paths of the ancestors. The cobbled stones of the amphitheater that tells infinite stories of performances once put on for the enjoyment of spectators. The remains of elaborate tombs that show a life once lived by those considered more fortunate than most.

Cyprus Tombs of the King. Google Images.

Amphitheatre. Google Images.

Let’s not forget that one must encounter the culture too! There’s so much to be seen, from the coffee shops that have the elder generation playing Tavli outside (a game otherwise known as backgammon), to the streets of Agia Napa littered with the more liberal youngsters wondering from club to club on a mission to find the perfect settling spot.

The Castle Club, Ayia Napa. Google Images.

 

More classically however, I can assure you that listening to an orchestra playing in an open theatre has a most soothing effect if you’re looking for a moment to collect your mind- it can be rather overwhelming indulging in an environment that’s not your own.

Speaking of indulging, I absolutely cannot choose just one dish to recommend to you, there are simply far too many that will entice your taste buds- be adventurous! Try as many of the traditional dishes that you possibly can, there’s plenty to choose from. However, there is a delight I have to mention- you can’t leave Cyprus without having tried triantaffilo (rose) ice cream! I’ll admit it’s a personal favorite and I possibly have my own attachments to the delectable indulgence, but perhaps you’ll develop a taste for it yourself.

There’s just something about Cypriots that I can’t compare to anyone else, the pride in their religion is so profound, the desire to continue fighting for their country is extraordinary. Once again, perhaps its because I am one of them in a sense, I might not live in the country, but I understand their morals as I live them too. The people will leave an impression on you though, that much is certain.

I’d love to say I’ve seen it all, that there’s not a single stone I’ve left unturned on that soil- but how wrong that would be. I simply can’t get enough, and there will always be something new to discover. I’m all yours Cyprus; I’ll keep coming back for more.

Top 15 Churches in Greece

Article written and compiled by Eugenia Papathanassiu. All images have been sourced from a variety of websites. 

Around 98% of Greece follows the religion of Greek Orthodoxy (shocking, right!?) which means that Greece and its churches are like that chocolate doughnut covered in Byzantine, Cycladic, Venetian and medieval multicoloured sprinkles. Maybe you believe in Orthodoxy, maybe you believe in some other higher power or maybe you don’t believe at all – this plays no role. Greece’s ecclesiastical architecture and natural beauty is sure to excite travelers from far and wide. 

The Seven Martyrs, SIFNOS 

Picture a rock that is emerging into the Aegean and upon it sits an isolated chapel adorned in traditional Cycladic architecture – this is the uncharted Church of the Seven Martyrs. It is situated in Kastro Village in Sifnos and is accessible by a lengthy stone-clad pathway or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you could even swim there from the opposite side. This succinctly represents the style of Greece and how most of the time, only very minimalistic structures are required to compliment the fatherland’s natural splendour. 

Agia Fotini Mantineias, TRIPOLI 

One initially thinks that this ‘’temple-like’’ church is centuries old however its construction actually took place in the 1970s, assimilating design elements from Orthodoxy, Ancient Greece and the era of Byzantium. Actual pieces of ancient remains nearby were used as building material for this monument. Exploration takes place on pebble-mosaicked floors portraying religious, folklore and mythological stories. The slightly misplaced portraiture of figures such as Ariadne, Theseus and Medusa make Agia Fotini particularly unique as the church’s architectural paradox has ignited extensive controversy. Despite this, Agia Fotini shows clearly the beauty of whimsy and diversity.

 

 

Saint Andrew’s Cathedral, PATRA

Also known as the titan of Greek Orthodox churches being the largest in Greece and the third largest Byzantine-style church of the Balkans, Saint Andrew’s is certainly a significant destination for christians or ecclesiastical-enthusiasts worldwide. This dazzling basilica is home to a shrine of relics of the apostle Saint Andrew himself, namely his small finger, a portion of the top of the apostle’s cranium as well as pieces of the cross upon which his martyr took place. This is a must-see for spiritually-inclined historians. 

 

 

Agia Sofia, KYTHIRA

Kythira’s Agia Sofia differs slightly from the other churches on this list in the sense that it offers a wide variety of stalagmites and stalactites in addition to the occasional religious worship here and there. Yes, Agia Sofia is situated inside a cave and was allegedly named either after the fact that the body of the saint was found there or possibly after the church’s dedication to the ‘’wisdom of God’’. The sometimes-spooky cave overlooks wild landscapes and the Aegean and is decorated with fresco icons from the 13th century. 

 

 

Agios Ioannis Kastri, SKOPELOS

Fans of ABBA, Meryl Streep or musical theatre in general may recognize this idyllic white-washed chapel edged on a cliff over the ‘’ατελείωτο μπλε’’ i.e. the endless blue. This chapel is indeed the very one pictured in the wedding scene of Mamma Mia! and has gained immense popularity since the film’s release in 2008. Reaching the chapel, however, is no easy feat due to the 110 rocky steps in the way but the athletic exertion from a round trip can be adequately eased with a refreshing trip to the small beach that has formed beneath the rock.  

 

Our Lady of Tinos (Panagia Evangelistria), TINOS

Our Lady of Tinos is a shrine to the Virgin Mary and was established around the discovery of a miraculous icon of her which was found due to a vision experienced by the nun Pelagia. In this vision, the Virgin appeared, revealing this icon’s location. Many pilgrims travel from the port all the way up to the monastery complex on their hands and knees – there is even a red carpet covering this distance to prevent injury. The icon is almost entirely covered in jewelry and other offerings representing prayers from various pilgrims. The periods of the discovery of the icon and the political establishment of modern Greece coincided, thereby advocating Our Lady of Tinos as the patron saint of Hellenes and the state of Greece.

Panagia Makrini, SAMOS

Yet another cave-encased church makes this list. It is believed that Panagia Makrini was built during the 10th century as part of a larger monastery and bones from previous ascetic monks were also found here. Visiting this incandescent site involves an easy hike through a lush forest and cool caves surrounded by turquoise in typical grecian fashion because, after all, life is more about the journey than the destination.

Hozoviotissa Monastery (Panagia Hozoviotissa), AMORGOS 

This monastery is nestled in a rock 300 meters above sea-level on the charming island of Amorgos with roughly 300 steps to cover en route. The monks that live there offer fresh water, raki, loukoumia and friendly conversation to visitors upon their arrival. There are also many welcoming cats that keep the visitors company as they enjoy breathtaking views and gentle winds. Appropriate attire is required, so if you plan to visit the monks of Hozoviotissa during the summer months, be sure to cover up. Men are required to wear trousers and women must wear skirts. 

 

Panagia Kapnikarea, ATHENS

If you’ve been shopping on Ermou or exploring the old Plaka district, it is very likely that you have bumped into one of the oldest churches in Athens. The external elegance of this small piece of Byzantine architecture contrasts the informal hustle bustle that surrounds it. Panagia Kapnikarea differs vastly to most of the churches on this list as it is not in some remote location enveloped in Mediterranean aqua. It is very easy to access, yet it still maintains the same kind of mystery, if not more, than the grand monasteries we have been discussing on this ecclesiastical journey through Greece. 

Panagia tou Bourgou, RHODES

The terms ‘’gothic architecture’’ and ‘’Greece’’ rarely coalesce, but when they do they fuel a talking point – especially in the Dodecanesian island of Rhodes where styles of Italy, medieval Europe as well as traditional and Hellenistic Greece have mingled. The island on which Panagia tou Bourgou sits is already so culturally rich, but the dramatic impression made by this church simply introduces its observers to the alluring architectural legacy of the island. Although the church does not operate, there are many cultural events that take place there. 

Agios Spyridonas, SANTORINI

How many times have you marveled at that classic image of the epitome of Cycladic architecture? You know, the one offering panoramic views of Santorini’s caldera and scatterings of white-washed villages on the hills? Yes, that famous blue dome that you often see on post cards belongs to the church of Agios Spyridonas and just behind it is another blue domed church, Anastaseos (Resurrection). Just imagine making a pitstop at this sanctuary as the sun drowns itself, dramatically in the blue horizon. It would be a very utopian moment.

 

Mount Athos, KOLPOS AGIOU OROUS

Mount Athos is a remote peninsula up in Northern Greece, housing around 2000 monks and 20 Eastern Orthodox Monasteries. One can see bearded monks and priests performing daily activities along bright hued streets. Entering this monastic state is rather difficult, however, and not because there are hundreds of steps in the way. All visitors are to submit a copy of their passports to the Pilgrims’ Bureau of Mount Athos and must wait to be admitted. Women and children are also not permitted – even female animals haven’t cracked the nod. That’s right… Mount Athos does not have cows or chickens. 

One reason for this is that it was believed that the Virgin Mary converted the region’s inhabitants after having been wafted toward them on a ship during a storm. Over centuries, the monks have dedicated the land and their lives solely to her. Another reason for no women is simply to make the celibate lifestyle of the monks a little easier. 

There was time in the 1821 revolution against the Turks, however, when women and children were taken care of by the monks in the Holy Mountain as this area was protected due to an agreement between the monks and the Turkish authorities. The women and children were then transferred to the Aegean islands during a period of safety. Thank goodness for photography though!

Agia Sofia, MONEMVASIA

Wars and ages have periled this ‘’living museum of Byzantine, Ottoman and Venetian history’’ situated at the highest point of Monemvasia (a tiny island connected to the Peloponnese via causeway) which overlooks the Aegean and the village below. One can notice multiple architectural amendments due to the turbulent past that surrounded this significant church. It was once a Catholic Convent during Venetian times, and was reverted after the Greek War of Independence by being dedicated to ‘’the Wisdom of God’’ i.e. Agia Sofia. Don’t forget to take some sunscreen and water on your way up!

 

Agia Paraportiani, MYKONOS 

An all white Byzantine church on a Cycladic island begs many questions: Why is it so simple yet so fascinating? Why does it look like a stack of illuminated marshmallows that have melted on a blue tablecloth? Do people come here to repent for their sins after a night at Tropicana? Not all of these questions can be answered, but the allure of Paraportiani lies behind the moment in which you randomly bump into it on your way back from Little Venice or the famous windmills. You are taken by surprise and you feel intrigued by the pink bougainvillea, the frosty finish of the walls and the rippling water. Excellent Instagram material, if you ask me.

 

 

Meteora, KALAMPAKA

Last, but certainly not least with its gargantuan appeal, is the Meteora and its six monasteries constructed upon composite pillars formed naturally by the surrounding rock. Monks and nuns would climb up to various caves on ropes and they would become hermits and pray. Every few days, they would lower the rope to collect food from their monasteries. The hermits would eventually die very young  in their pursuit of sainthood due to hunger and exposure to the elements.

Visit the Meteora if you enjoy hiking to the less accessible monasteries (the easiest one to access is the nunnery, Roussanou), if you are seeking peace and mysticism or if you feel like walking through something out of Game of Thrones. The cliffs of the Meteora – reaching heights of up to 400 meters – are the perfect place to seek isolation and spiritual elevation. Upon entry of the monastery, proper attire is necessary but visitors who are not dressed accordingly will not be rejected as skirts and shawls (for the women) and long pants (for the men) can be loaned. 

 

 

Our Ex President: Where is she now?

We interviewed our ex NAHYSOSA President, Andrea Spyron (2015 & 2016) to find out more about her exciting adventure and what she has been up to since handing over to current President, Andreas Coulbanis.

1. It has been approximately 5 months since you did the official handover. How did you feel in that moment and how do you feel now?

Wow! It was a bit hectic then I won’t lie to you. I was a bit worried I would have left something out or that there would be a misalignment of perceptions. It’s quite tricky to talk through everything you know and what you may think the other person may know. It was also crazy trying to pull all the admin after Congress in time. So it was a bit stressful, and I was sad to be saying goodbye to about 6 years of my life, but once I handed over I was quite relieved – just emotional haha.

2. Since handing over, you have probably had a lot more free time on your hands, what have you done with this free time?

Well I didn’t leave much time to waft to be honest. December/January was a very busy “holiday” or “life catch-up” period for me. We also tried to do the handover when both of us had time. I was also busy making plans for the year which actually saw me jump onto an airplane at the end of February for a few months with no definite direction. However, I am a bit of a control freak, so I did need to know that I’d be adding value during this time in some way. I previously came across information about Greek language courses through the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and I like the idea of having a “routine” but being able to use Thessaloniki as a base should I want to venture into Europe. It also worked out nicely because I have family here.

3. What made you decide to leave South Africa and travel?

I’m not going to lie to you there were quite a few factors. But I can tell you that I wasn’t too fulfilled or challenged in my job (which I wasn’t sure about in general) for a while. I then also realised I’m not paying anything off or attached to anyone, I’m free from committee responsibilities and obligations, and I generally enjoy travelling. So if there was ever a time to “take a gap year” – it would be now.

4. What made you choose the Greek course?

As I mentioned above I couldn’t deal with not knowing a basic plan. I guess now is also a good time to mention that my Greek isn’t very good, at all, which is a regret of mine. So sticking with the NAHYSOSA ethos of UNITY, KNOWLEDGE, CULTURE I decided to continue the experience in my own way and improve on something so valuable to being a Hellene…while I try find myself haha!

5. What made you choose Thessaloniki?

A bit of what I mentioned before but I have also never been to Greece. I suppose I could have gone to Cyprus or tried to do something online, but this travel thing was also about getting out of my comfort zone, learning about myself and how I manage when experiencing new things. And Greece is beautiful so why not 🙂

6. Have you stayed in Thessaloniki the whole time or have you travelled? If so, where and what was your experience of these places and travelling?

I have been a bit restless. Before I came to Thessaloniki I stopped off in Cyprus for a brief family visit. After two months here I managed to go to London because I absolutely love the city and I have family and friends there. It’s such a great city! Easy to get around, and so interesting. I don’t think you could ever get bored there. Every time I go back I have such a blast. I also manged to briefly visit Zurich. I’ve always wanted to travel to Switzerland. And so before it got too expensive over the summer I thought it would be a good time to get my first taste of it. I can save you all a lot of money and tell you that Lindt is indeed the best chocolate to come out of Switzerland. Sorry to break it to you…

7. What has your experience of being away from home and family and friends been like?

Since Congress 2014 I have been using the phrase: “It’s not where you go. It’s who you’re with!” and this cannot be more present in my life right now. I am grateful to have taken this opportunity and I’m not ready to come back home juuuuussssttt yet. I also did want a bit of alone time to pull myself towards myself (also a trademark of mine). But there have been many times when I’ve been through something or seen something or tasted something or whatever it may have been that made me think of someone back home. Or how I had a good time experiencing something and would have loved to have shared it with those close to me. This isn’t my first time away from home home (yes x2) but it is my first time out of South Africa for so long, away from everyone I know for so long. And it’s truly made me appreciate what I am blessed with each and every day as well as what we have in South Africa. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken about our “Rainbow Nation” more than I have since I left and I’m so proud to be able to show anyone and everyone who will listen what we as South African Hellenes are up to. And let me tell you, it blows their minds.

8. Where do you see yourself after this experience?

Even me I’d like to know! No but I guess just more settled in life. Hopefully more mature to make the most of what I have in front of me and to stop wishing about the future and staring so long at it that I do not live in the present…I’m sure this answer will change as each week passes though.

9. Do you miss being involved in NAHYSOSA and do you see yourself being involved again? If so, in what way?

I do miss NAHYSOSA. I am fortunate enough to have mostly had a good experience. It gave me so much I cannot even begin to explain. But I guess if it wasn’t worth it, we wouldn’t work as hard as we do for it. However after six years you get a bit tired. In your thinking and your effort. I also feel NAHYSOSA cannot grow if the new, fresh and bright ideas and limited due to “traditional” thinking (I’m also a control freak rememeber 😉 ). So I don’t think I will get involved again. I will however always be there to support NAHYSOSA and the affiliates as best I can. But I’ve also learnt to never say never…so you never know 🙂

10. Any advice for someone deciding to leave South Africa and travel abroad for a long period of time?

It depends on why you’re going to be honest. If it’s just because you want to party my advice will be a little different to if it’s for career or personal purposes for example. But I guess the general is as follows: 1) Budget. Budget for the known and for the unknown. This will also determine your path, whether you’re free-wheeling or have a plan. You’ll know how hard you need to work before or if you’ll also need to work while you’re abroad… or how soon you need to start working after you’re arrival 2) Packing isn’t easy. Especially if you’re crossing seasons. A lot of winter jackets are becoming warmer and lighter. So invest in the right gear. But also understand you can’t take everything with you. So prepeare to mix and match and wear things again. Also consider that you can buy things as you go if you really need. Toiletries are also an issue. They take up a lot of room and weight. So consider taking what you need for maybe the first month and then be prepared to buy as you go (see … budgeting!) 3) It takes quite long to get ready for a trip! Don’t think you can pack on Monday if you’re leaving on Friday for five months abroad. If you need Visa’s and documents make sure you start well in advance trying to acquire them because, let’s be honest, admin very rarely runs smoothly. 4) Embrace it! Whatever you go through – make the most of it! Live for then. Don’t think you can come back later to enjoy a place. Enjoy it now because you are there NOW. 5) If you’re going alone – a great and cheap way to meet people is through pub-crawls. They’re usually there for the same reasons so it’s a good start if you’ll be spending some time in a city you’re not too familiar with.

Interview conducted by Angeliki Vayanos. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15 Greek Restaurants for Mother’s Day

Has your mama opted to take a personal day this Mother’s Day by not whipping up her typically sumptuous Sunday spread? If so, why not recreate a similar ambience by spoiling her and taking her to one of these Greek restaurants near you?

Have a look below at some our restaurant picks across South Africa! Click on the name of the restaurant to be directed to their website to see more.

Cape Town

Spiro’s Restaurant – Hout Bay, Cape Town

An afternoon drive to Spiro’s in Hout Bay guarantees customers an open-armed welcome by Spiro himself to his laid back establishment. A family-orientated appeal and a play area for the little ones top off a dining experience comprised of sizeable portions and well-priced wine. The Cycladic decor and stone-clad deck have often prompted customers to confuse the Atlantic for the Aegean.

   

Maria’s Greek Café – Gardens, Cape Town

Dining amidst the fairy-light adorned trees of Maria’s Greek Cafe resembles a romantic sunset picnic on a Mediterranean olive farm. If the family chooses to forgo this restaurant option on Sunday, why not bring a date to this rustic retreat? The anti-haute cuisine and acclaimed starters serve as the ultimate complement to some great conversation and could secure a ‘’nice Greek boy/girl’’ for mama.

   

Greek Fisherman Restaurant – V&A Waterfront, Cape Town

Many tourists flock toward this hotspot to dine amidst breathtaking views of the waterfront’s harbor and Table Mountain. With uplifting blue and white decor and an excellent location, the Greek Fisherman also serves as a suitable setting for sundowners. Check out their Mother’s Day special on their website!

   

Johannesburg

Parea Taverna – Illovo, Johannesburg

Parea possibly adheres most to the traditional, village-style theme of Greece and Cyprus on this list. Bright and bold colours with rural decor mimic Mediterranean seaside landscapes and the welcoming nature of the owner and the staff mimics the warmth of Mediterranean homes. Indulge in Parea’s festivities to experience a taste of its extensive vegetarian menu as well as some plate-breaking and belly dancing on selected days.

Mezepoli – Melrose Arch, Johannesburg

A chic and trendy take on Mediterranean cuisine characterises Mezepoli, also known as the ‘sister eatery’ of the previously mentioned Plaka. Daytime corporates and after-sunset fun seekers frequent Mezepoli to feed off of the signature fusion cuisine. As the name suggests, meze-style dining is prevalent, ensuring a small taste of everything complemented by the restaurant’s budding social scene.

The Greek Sizzler – Northwold, Johannesburg

Yet another ‘no fuss’, ‘no frills’ dining experience with a small town sentiment i.e. the Greek Sizzler. This restaurant resembles a large-scale version of having dinner at your yiayia’s house with its extensive fireplace and folk tunes lulling in the background. Their melt-in-your-mouth kleftiko and cosy atmosphere are perfect for a winter’s evening, but don’t be fooled – a courtyard closed by a wall of bougainvillea transports one to suppertime on an island with those cousins from Athens that you haven’t seen in years.

BBQ Workshop – Sandton, Johannesburg

This twisted version of Greek street food complements the South African palette so, so well. The establishment boasts an urban appeal with reasonable prices and plentiful portions, but don’t let that fool you. It is often very occupied and sometimes requires a booking during peak hours. Do not leave without trying their less than traditional yet very decadent ‘Vaflaki’ – a concept pertaining to ‘’mini waffles’’ which was first introduced in Greece.

   

Soul Souvlaki – Maboneng, Johannesburg

Soul Souvlaki defines the urban interpretation of Yiayia’s cooking and is nestled in the heart of the trendy Maboneng Precinct a.k.a. hipster central. It is fitting, of course, that this eatery is situated in an old shipping container with a charming antique kitchen that produces mouthwatering tzatziki. Grabbing a bite here is a bargain but doing it while experiencing post-modern graffiti, chatty markets and artists painting or taking photographs is priceless.

   

Mythos – Bedfordview, Johannesburg

When planning a Sunday lunch, one place comes to mind: Mythos. This multi-award winning franchise features 10 restaurants in the Gauteng region. The items on the menu are inspired by the head chef’s family recipes, and she insists that all key ingredients are imported from Greece. Each restaurant is exclusively designed in clear-cut Grecian contemporary style, which is perfect for authentic al fresco dining.

      

Platia – Emperor’s Palace, Kempton Park

Situated in Emperor’s Palace, Platia affords its customers the opportunity to take a trip from Rome to Mykonos in an instant. Enjoy a classic Greek meal and Mediterranean hospitality in a modern setting with the occasional entertainment such as belly dancing, traditional Greek dancing and plate breaking. This restaurant’s location also makes it convenient for yiayia and pappou to indulge in a little gambling sesh after their meal.

  

Plaka – Eastgate & Cresta Shopping Centers, Johannesburg

Replicating the minimal architectural styles of Santorini, this franchise incorporates all the elements necessary for unpretentious Grecian dining. Picturesque tones of white and dashes of blue exude a sense of belonging and calmness. These guys take their heritage very seriously, and it shows in the quality of food and undying filoksenia towards their customers.

   

Pretoria

Prosopa – Waterkloof, Pretoria

Prosopa, meaning ‘’faces’’, may be witnessed in excess at this intimate restaurant. With its upmarket appeal illuminated by candles and elegant decor, it is no wonder that customers keep returning. Look out for the manager whose succinct food and wine pairing skills mobilise the overall dining experience.

Toula’s Taverna – Silverlakes, Pretoria

Visit Toula if half of the family is feeling traditional and the other half is looking to expand their palettes in a more eastward direction. This one of those places that is considered a jack of all trades with a Greek restaurant, a deli selling mediterranean products, a children’s play area and a sushi bar called Chop Chop Sushi. Imagine the convenience of having a hearty meal and then not having to go out of your way to pick up some imported olives and kefalotyri for yiayia.

    

Durban

NIKOS Coalgrill Greek – Durban North

This little slice of Hellenic authenticity recently hit the shores of Durban in March this year. The upbeat energy and cool interiors splash onto the pavement, mirroring a sought-after European feeling and the attentive staff will certainly ensure a first-class feast. Drop by NIKOS if you’re in the mood for a quick gyro or if you want to spend quality time with friends and family. Check out their Instagram account, if the pictures don’t have you drooling – then we don’t know what does.

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Bloemfontein

Flames Restaurant & Bar – Preller Square, Bloemfontein

For 3 years, this establishment has been at the forefront of Greek/Mediterranean fine dining in the city of Bloemfontein. Designed with the looks and feels of ‘art deco meets modern illumination,’ Flames gives its patrons an irreplaceable impression of sophistication and class. Customer satisfaction is the name of their game, which means that: Mama will be taken of, and she will be super impressed that you took her to an ‘ωραιό μερος’ with ‘ευγενικους ανθρωπους.’

Let us know your thoughts on these restaurants in the comments below! Or let us know if we left any of your favourite restaurants off!

Article written by Eugenia Papathanassiu – NAHYSOSA Editor. All images belong to Google/Instagram.