Thursday, April 26, 2012

No Money, No Fun? Neah!

Even if people don't have money anymore to go to restaurants, taverns or coffee shops that doesn't mean that they don't know how to have fun. The port of Thessaloniki is an explosion of color, life and joy despite the political and economical news that get from bad to worse every day.

What I found particularly interesting was some guys practicing Parkour. It took me a while to remember the name but I remembered a CSI episode and I Goggled it. So, for those who don't know, Parkour is a sport that teaches you how to efficiently move around obstacles by vaulting, rolling, running, climbing, and jumping. It sounds so vague, doesn't it. But that's more or less "the definition" of it.
The guy who gave the name to this activity and put it in a box so it will have a definition is called David Belle. But the activity itself it existed since forever.The moves from Parkour can be found in ninjutsu or qing gong but let's not go that far. Who of us haven't climbed a wall (after forgetting the keys in the house), jumped a fence or two when we were little after the neighbor figured out where his cherries mysteriously disappeared or skip some stairs being late for class. That would be called free running or Parkour. Of course, the people who do this for a living, do it more artistically but in the end it serves the same purpose. 
So, here is how the "pro's" do it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Greek Alphabet

"Don't let anyone tell you differently, the word alphabet comes from the Greek language". Which is indeed true. The word "alphabet" along with thousands of other words from a lot of languages have a Greek root, then again there are probably just as many words of Latin descent in the world but you don't hear the people from Latin countries claiming words origins from other languages. I wonder why that is... Oh yeah, I remembered, because Greeks are special :)
Every time someone brings up the Greek origin of a word, which you will witness very often if you live in Greece, I remember the "kimono" scene from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding".

Now, before starting to learn Greek there are two very important things you need to remember:
1. Frustration is your friend and
2. Don't try to find a logic. The more you struggle to find a logic the more frustrated you'll get - case in which you need to apply Rule No. 1. I'm not saying that there is no logic, I'm just giving you a friendly advice to not look for it since even if it exists you will not get to it.

The alphabet consists of 24 characters and you think to yourself "How bad can it be". Well, that's your first mistake. 
If you crossed paths with math and/or physics at any time in your life, some of the characters will already be known to you. For example "μ" you might remember as being the "coefficient of friction", "η" the energy conversion efficiency in physics or "Δ" the discriminant of the quadratic equation in math.

Out of the 24 characters, 3 are "i"s  - there are 5 types of "i"s in Greek but the other two are diphthongs - and two kinds of "o"s. There are no B, D, U, G or J in the alphabet. They exist as sounds but they are compound. For example D as a sound is written "NT" and B is "MP".

A letter that really drove me nuts is "Y". It doesn't make sense right? How can a letter drive you nuts? Well let me tell you. This nice letter may be read: "i", "f", "v" or "u" according to the letters around it.

Dizzy yet?I haven't even got to the good part, the 5 "i"s.

So, the 5 "i"s are: "Ι,ι"; "Η,η"; "Υ,υ"; "οι"; "ει". For the first three I put the smaller and upper cases while the last two are diphthongs. I must admit I have no idea when I should use one kind of "i" and when use another and I don't think I ever will. The rules of use are buried deep in the ancient Greek language which I will never adventure to start learning. That is actually what happens with most of the rules from the modern Greek language. The language is used today but it's grammar rules are stuck way back in the ancient language.
Even though I may never write correctly in Greek that's not that bad after all since not even all Greeks know. While they are very proud of their language, its deep historical roots and its complexity, if you are going to ask five Greeks how to write a word that contains 2-3 "i"s you are most defensively going to have five different opinions and keep in mind that the study of Greek language in schools (ancient and modern) lasts for 6 years.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Macedonia vs FYROM - a subject you might want to avoid while in Greece

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."(Romeo and Juliet - Shakespeare)

My dearest Shakespeare, you couldn't be more wrong... There is a lot in a name.. like territorial aspirations for example.

The official name of  FYROM is "Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia" but some countries refer to it as Macedonia or Republic of Macedonia  thing that gets the Greeks very angry since they feel they have a right over their own name. The now days Macedonia is the name of the northern Greek territories.
A general advice would be that if you find yourself in northern Greece looking for the way to FYROM, you should never ask a Greek how to get to Macedonia. He's going to change color instantaneously and you'll have a very pissed Greek on your hands since you most likely ARE already in Macedonia.
From a historical point of view, the term "Macedonia" is of Greek origin. The Macedonians, meaning "the tall ones", were one of the many Greek tribes. 
The rise of the Macedonian empire started with Filip II ( 359-336 BC) and it was brought to greatness by Alexander the Great (356-323 BC), his son.  
The Slavs on the other hand, came to Europe in the VI-th century AD, so give or take a millennium after Macedonia knew it's peak of evolution. 

Everything went smooth, for another 1300 years but then, the Balkan wars (1912-1913) came and put an end to the Ottoman Empire in Europe. After the Treaty of Bucharest in 1913, Greece got 51,1% of geographical Macedonia, Bulgaria 10, 1% while the rest of 38,4% became part of the Kingdom of Serbia. 

In 1944 when Tito decided to create a federal state consisting of 6 republics, Yugoslavia, and named the southern province, previously known as Vardarska Banovina ("The district of the river")  "People's Republic of Macedonia". Their language, a Slavic one, started being known as the Macedonian language while the people living there started being known as Macedonians.

Tito's plan was to make his claims over the Greek and Bulgarian parts of Macedonia to appear just. That is why over the years that followed he infused  the new generations with the idea of a Great and Free Macedonia. In 1948 though, the clash with Moscow accrued and Tito's plans were never fulfilled.

A civil war and a dictatorship later, in the 80', the problem of the name starts getting very pressing for the Greeks who see their historical values and identity used outside of their borders. 
The situation gets even more tensed after the Yugoslavian states declare their independence and when the Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia adopts as flag, in 1993, the star of Vergina (the birth place of Alexander the Great and the capital of ancient Macedonian Empire). From here the situation got more and more tight, from trade sanctions to a lawsuit at the European Court of Justice.
In September 1995, a diplomatic solution was found to some of the most pressing problems on both sides. FYROM agreed to change its flag and refrain from using symbols "linked to Greece's national and historical heritage" while Greece agreed to give up its trade sanctions. This was indeed a pressure release for the whole situation but it did not manage to settle the one and most important problem that started it all, the name.

Greece's diplomatic strife continues to this day. In an article dated 12th of April 2012, the president Papoulias, said that "Greece remains fully committed to finding a just and viable solution to the name dispute.”

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Walking the Tank

If you ever find yourself driving a tank on the Greek streets you should remember that the speed limit is 60km/h and not more:)
I found this road signal very funny and somehow unbelievable since it is posted on a public road. Don't think that I trespassed to an army base territory to take this picture.

If we are to consider though where I was when I took the picture, it's not that unbelievable anymore. The picture is taken in Eastern Makedonia, very close to the Turkish border where you have a lot of army bases so, that comes somehow natural.Some people drive their Porche's other their BMWs and others..their own tank:D

Friday, April 13, 2012

Greece vs. Hellada

Have you ever wondered why Greeks speak of themselves as "ellines" while the whole world refers to them as "Greeks' ?I have so here is what I managed to find out. 

As everything else in Greece the things are complicated so try to focused :P. The name "Hellenes" comes from a small tribe in Thessalia. Homer describes it as having beautiful women and brave warriors". Another thing we know about them is that during the Trojan war, they fought along side the Myrmidons under Achile's command.
Now, about the name itself, "Hellines", nobody actually knows how it came to being and where from but there are a lot of suppositions. Some say it comes from the name of Zeus's priest called Selloi that in time became "Sellanes" and than "Hellenes" others argue that the name means "the land of sun and stone" from the "Hellios" which means sun. 

About the origins of the term "greek", Aristotle is one of the first ones to use the term "graikos" while referring to Hellines. He says that's the name with which the Illyrians refered to the Dorian people. As a meaning, the historians believe that it's related to the term "geron" which means "to grow old" or  "old age".

A third name that the Greeks are called, outside their country that is, is Yaunas (Yunas). When the Persians came to Asia Minor they found there the Ionians and they called them Yaunas. Today, in the Arabic countries Greeks are referred to as Yaunas (Yunas). 

Basically, whomever came into contact with the Greeks took the name of the tribes they've encountered, not the name of the nation.The Romans came from the west and they encountered the Dorians which were called "graikos". That's how the Latin word "graeci" came to being. Than the Persians came from the east and encountered Ionians. In the north of the country there are also the Macedonians who are Hellines non the less but also Makedonians.

Now the easiest of the questions remains: How come all western countries we know call Hellines Greeks? That is very easy. The Roman Empire stretched far and wide and made commerce with whole known worlds at that time. Every nation who got to know the Greeks at that time, got to do that through the Romans thus adopting their way of calling them.

I hope this sheds a bit of light on the subject.i don't know about you but the question bugged me for a while now:)