hawaii to heaven

And now, the time has come for Athens to taste succlent and mouthwatering Hawaiian poke, cubed raw or marinated fish with soy sauce, sesame oil and usually rice and other condiments of choice. On tiny yet increasingly lively Petraki St near Syntagma Sq, chef Yiannis Kandylidis and his partners Yiannis Biniaris and Konstandinos Yiannoutsas have put on their best poke faces and are drawing the crowds with their creative – and healthy – delights. The set menu flavours I tried are succulent, clean, fresh, colourful and delicate, and the ingredients are fresh, seasonal, local and high quality, which adds to the health factor. Raw fish (except the shrimp, which was boiled), fresh herbs like coriander and mint, fresh fruit, caramelised, raw or crunchy onions, edamame beans, chillies and other punchy flavours make the experience pretty exciting.

I interviewed Kandylidis before diving into a variety of dishes created by him (click link below to hear our chat) and went again a week later on my birthday along with hubby and my preschooler for dishes we added our own touches – either is fully encouraged. The prices are between 5.5-8.5 euros for the small or larger portions and beers, lemonade and cocktails are also for sale. As the chef revealed in our interview (below), the autumn / winter season wll also see the addition of heart-warming soups and other dishes.

waking up the god within

I had interviewed hypnotherapist Dr. Dwaine Hartman a week before going to his evening workshop at the urban chic Inner Flow Athens City Centre space in Monastiraki, and I’d watched several of his video talks and interviews. Yet I didn’t expect what I experienced within those four hours at his Feel The Magic event, and how I have been experiencing the world in a different way since. As soon as I saw him in person I felt a certain familiarity that neither shook or confounded me but that felt reassuringly pleasant. As I took my place at the front of the class on one of the few remaining empty cushions, I turned to look at him and our eyes connected for what felt like a long time but was probably just a few brief minutes; there were no powerful messages or feelings, just a comforting connection, like saying hello again in a gentle way to someone you have not seen in a long while. “Separation is the core of all problems in our society,” Hartman says. “Nobody looks into each other’s eyes and says “I see you”.


His workshop centred on issues that have been central in my life during the last few years – the importance of being able to connect with myself as well as other beings on a real, deep, heartfelt level, without the mind infringing upon this process; my hungry desire to reaffirm the importance and power in my daily existence of my imagination, (which I rode on throughout my childhood and adolescent years, sometimes with incredible results as I manifested things big and small that I’d relished in dreaming up, but had lost touch with this way of being when I became a busy, stressed and somewhat jaded “adult”). Albert Einstein said it brilliantly when he wrote: Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Another major focus during the workshop was developing the awareness and ability to locate, face, observe and let go of the dastardly internal critic, of which he says:The base to all human suffering is the lack of connection to our supportive unconditional source. So what do you think gets in the way of that connection …. that is right … the internal critic. Now what if I was to share with you that this part doesn’t even belong to you?” Resulting from years, maybe aeons of social conditioning, the inner critic resides in each of us, and manipulatively finds ways to sabotage our best efforts, especially as soon as we start to feel we are finally getting where we wished to be.

Hartman teaches above all the essentiality of connecting to our inner child, who came into this world sill completely in tune with its source. He reminds his students that in our heart we hold an inherent knowledge of truth. He teaches his students to acknowledge, befriend and utilise their own god / goddess nature, that part of them that is the creator of their reality at large.

I watched him work with personally with attendees  to help them let go of thoughts, ideas and physical feelings some had been carrying and felt confined by for many years, and I recalled the concept that miracles don’t have to be huge and dramatic, with thunder, blazing lights and holy visions of biblical proportions – even a small but significant shift in one’s consciousness, a reawakening to our sense of who we really are beyond the ego and a mind inundated with messages of who to be by the media / education systems / certain family practices and society can change one’s life forever. It can bring on spontaneous healing, which will sometimes last for minutes or hours before one stubbornly returns to a prior state – but will have shown them who they can be nonetheless – or can create a forever shift. Either scenario, presenting the actuality of healing whether short-lived or eternal, is a miracle, when the alternative is continuing to live in a stagnant state of hypnotic misery.

This, above all, is what I enjoyed of observing Hartman’s teaching – his combination of creative yet practical, good-humoured techniques with a renewed sense of remembering that it is up to us how we choose to perceive and live our life. He is neither the first nor the last teacher to convey this awareness in others, but he is definitely one of too few inspiring therapists who this world needs in order to shift its consciousness for the better on a mass level.

Amusingly, most of Hartman’s one-to-one interactions with participants ended with shared laughter; the type that comes from relief, when seeing that the horrifying monster in the mind was in fact just a little mouse ingeniously practising trickery with shadows; the laughter that comes from the gratitude of acknowledging that with patience and observation, answers can be found; and of course the giggles that bubble up from finally being able to laugh at one’s self for its long-held, life-defying and ludicrous need for intricately structured drama. That very drama can cripple us in so many ways, which can be very severe, but once we can see beyond it, and detach our self from the clutches we have so kindly paid to sponsor the services of, then we can hopefully laugh.

Hartman calls himself a Trance Alchemist, and works with people on a one-to-one basis through Skype and in person, as well as travelling around the world to teach workshops. His two-day workshop is a more dynamic extension of what we got a taste of on September 11th, and following that, he runs a five-day course for those who want to learn how to be Trance Alchemists who can then use his techniques professionally or personally on clients and friends.

Dr Dwaine Hartman is the author of ‘Value Your Vibration’. CLICK HERE TO VISIT HIS WEBSITE NOW.

 

queen of herbal teas

PRODUCT REVIEW: ANASSA TEA

I’ve always been a major fan of fresh herbs – used to season foods, give salads the perfect flavour and steeped in hot water to make a heartwarming tea. Whenever I can, I pick my own, or just buy bunches at the local markets and traditional or bio Greek stores. The soothing quality of a cup of hot herbal tea in winter or iced tea in summer is delightful, and knowing that herbs have so many health benefits just adds to the pleasure.

 

Right now I’m crazy about ANASSA tea. To be honest it was their beautiful packaging that first drew me to their fragrant and tasteful blends. Starting with the outside, I liked see modern, sleek and minimal light grey metal boxes with illustrations of Gods; my favourite blend, Happiness, is represented by Pegasus, the divine winged horse, and contains a lovely and uplifting mix of savoury Mountain Tea (shown to have as many antioxidants as green tea), fine Mint, intense Sage and Lemon balm. Then upon opening the box, you’ll get an elevating whiff of aromatic herbs, and inside see something completely unique – a packet of biodegradable tea bags and a bunch of thin wooden sticks you can thread through them to rest on the top of your cup. And talking of cups they have even designed a glass mug with the word “δες” inside, meaning “see”, which reflects beautifully on the sides as you drink.

Anassa’s creators, Aphrodite Florou and Yanna Mattheou

Anassa (pronounced with an accent on the first ‘A’, and meaning queen in ancient Greek, but, cleverly, also meaning ‘breath’ when pronounced with the accent on the second ‘a’) was the brainchild of duo Aphrodite Florou and Yanna Mattheou, whose motto is: “Live Organic, Pick Greek, Enjoy thoroughly!”. Both with a solid background in managerial positions, they have successfully combined their love of nature, passion for medicinal and aromatic local herbs, and an inherent desire to work with 100% organic small producers around the country on fair trade terms with their marketing savvy and top of the range designers.

The herbs are handpicked and the clearing is done manually so as to preserve all valuable ingredients. They are then dehydrated in the most modern conditions in order to retain the aroma and vivid colours as well as precious essential oils. Apart from the multitude of information gathered about Greek herbs since ancient times in herbal bibles such as the Materia Medica, Mattheou  and Florou also worked closely with a scientific team in selecting the herbs they would be using and the blends they were creating. So here’s to a regular cup of their excellent tea!

DID YOU KNOW… Greece is endowed with 6,500 different species and subspecies of plants, 1,600 of them endemic, found now here else the world.

 

 

 


 

taking the andros route

Just two breezy hours by ferry boat from Athens’ Rafina port, Andros, the “island of the sea captains” is the greenest and northernmost of the Cycladic group and has only recently begun to gain recognition from the wider world. Vogue nominated it as one of the three “under-the-radar Greek islands” (the other two were Syros and Tinos) in 2016 and The Guardian published a feature singing the island’s praises as one of Greece’s best walking destinations. They were both definitely onto something, as this non-touristic island, once known as Ydroussa for its rich water sources, has much to offer that few know about – and I’m not just talking only about beaches.

The lush and varied landscape – flower-strewn valleys, impressive waterfalls such as those at Pithara, quaint old stone bridges at Aladinou and Stichiomeni, rugged mountains, an abundance of gushing fresh water springs to stop and sip from and crystalline streams – make for a perfect backdrop for mountain biking, yoga and nature walks too. If you are a water baby at heart, you can rent a boat and discover the island’s pristine beaches, or just sail into the sunset.

Andros has become a hiking haven for visitors from around the world. Credit: Trekking Andros

The credit for this goes chiefly to Andros Routes, a non-profit organization who with the help of local as well as foreign volunteers have labored to make the trails accessible again.

Arianna Masselou, who runs Trekking Andros, another

Walk on the wild side

Two local hiking organisations have put Andros on the world map – Andros Routes and Trekking Andros, the latter also organising a host of other activities besides trekking, such as yoga, Tai Chi, Brazilian dance and even food-themed movie events. 

There are a choice of 15 newly signposted trails to hike along the kalderimia, old tracks that connected the villages before concrete roads were laid out, flanked by dry stone walls. Over 150km of pathways have been made accessible to trekkers and the choices are gratifyingly broad – from short, easy walks ideal for children or the elderly such as one from Chora to Apikia (where the Sariza springs & water factory are located) to much more demanding hikes into the mountains, such as one from Arni to that of Vourkoti.

Apart from exploring vibrant nature and other features, from verdant valleys to parched hills and spanning sea views in between, the hikes are also an ideal way to discover the island’s history and culture, as you traipse through villages such as medieval Sineti or Aidonia that are perched onto rugged slopes, or Chora with its elegant neoclassical homes belonging to wealthy shipowners are stacked up overlooking the Tourlitis lighthouse.

Chora is a great stop for a cosmopolitan evening in the main Iroon square where the island’s chi chi crowd gathers in high season. Visit the current exhibition presenting the works of Greek painter and poet Nikos Engonopoulos at the Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art before dining at Endochora restaurant in the main agora strip and sipping a cocktail at Neo, a former slaughterhouse turned trendy bar. The clothes shopping here is luxurious and gratifying too, especially at Waikiki boutique while melt-in-your-mouth amygdalota almond sweets can be found at Galanos or Lygizos.

Andros Routes: androsroutes.gr/
Trekking Andros: trekkingandros.gr/

Although there are many wonderful trails to choose from, we have selected three exemplary hikes that present very rewarding aspects of walking in Andros:

Apikia – Chora (6km, easy to moderate): The verdant route passes through the most important seafaring and rural settlements, walking along the Pytharia ravine. Remarkable scenery and a wealth of monuments, picturesque villages with natural springs and noteworthy churches, the arched bridges of Apikia and Leondas, the Agadakis and Bisti towers, the Empeirikos watermill (Fabrika), Yialia beach and wetland, are just some of the points of interest.

A sunset view of the Tourliotis lighthouse and the mediaeval castle in Chora. Credit: AA Photos

Chora – Korthi (11km, moderate): One of the island’s most important routes, this path is most suitable for experienced hikers because of its length. It goes past the famous valley of Dipotamata with its numerous watermills -an open-air eco-museum of water power, the arched bridge, Faneromeni Castle and scenic Kochylou village to name but a few spots. The well-preserved cobbled path commences from coastal Paraporti in Chora.

Upper Aprovato- Pitrofos (9km, moderate): One of the most important and oldest trails, a medieval track that is impressively almost intact in many parts. Connecting eastern and western Andros, it starts from the village of Ano Aprovato, with panoramic views of the west coast and the sunken ancient harbour, and heads toward the Paleopolis waterfalls. The magical landscape is studded with impressive stone walls, massive boulders and rich vegetation. The paved trail leads past springs, stone cisterns and old farmhouses, heading northeast toward the watermills of Melida. The route goes toward Ano Pitrofo with a stop at the renovated olive press at the Olive Museum.

Niborio Chora Andros sailing
Swans, yachts and sailboats at Niborio beach near the Andros Nautical Club of Chora. Photo by Alexia Amvrazi.

Sail away
Andros is known for its hefty meltemi winds, which make it an ideal destination for sailing and surfing (indeed, Olympic champions Nikos Kaklamanis and Giorgos Fragos are locals). In the southeast, seaside Korthi (where the windsurfing World Championships took place in 2007), draws windsurfers from around the world. Kypri beach, where you can also learn to scuba dive at an accredited school, is also popular for those who are still learning to surf as the winds there are less overwhelming. You can also rent a boat and head to the north side of the island, where you’ll find pristine beaches to enjoy alone, while also doing some bird watching.

Boat (and room) rental: androslocation.com/boats-scoters/
Andros Yachting: androsyachting.com/

Biking on Andros Constantine Malpas
Mountainous, hilly Andros is not the easiest island to navigate by bike, but can offer a rewarding chalenge. Photo by Costantine Malpas

Biking It
Although challenging and only suitable for fit bikers, Andros’ hilly and mountainous landscape can be very rewarding to explore by bike, especially if you combine your off-road escapades with a refreshing dip in the sea or a stop for some coffee and glyko koutaliou (spoon sweet) in one of the villages. You can choose from a variety of routes of varying levels of difficulty – one hour routes (such as from Chora, through Messaria and then to Menites) or more challenging rides such as the three hour cycle from Chora to Stavropeda and then Batsi. Whatever you do, make sure you are heading out very early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the heat.
Andros By Bike: androsbybike.gr/Kalos_erthate.html

Piso Yialia beach from above. Photo by Alexia Amvrazi.


Life’s a Beach
Unless you are visiting on August 15th, where anywhere in Greece is packed – Andros’ beaches are lapped by clear, cool, reviving waters. Achla beach, considered the fairest of them all, was unreachable by car until less than a decade ago and thus formerly a hangout for the yachtilicious crowd only. It still has an enchanted air because of a) it’s rugged natural gorgeousness and b) the popular Onar Hotel (where various holistic workshops run) along the river behind it.

On the western side, Chryssi Ammos and Aghios Petros close to Batsi are also great for kids, as is Niborio in Chora, where you can swim with the swans, and there are places to eat and drink near each of these. Chalkolimionas and Apothikes in Stavropeda is great for very windy days as it’s sheltered.

On the eastern side Sineti and Tis Grias To Pidima (famous for its rock stack emerging from the sea) are both beautiful, especially off season when you can have practically them to yourself. Korthi is great for kids as there is a shaded bay with shallow waters and there are plenty of fish restaurants to enjoy lunch at. Pebbly Gialia, near Chora, is family-friendly because it has a wetland connected it where kids love to spot dragonflies, frogs, ducks and some days swans and there is a bridge that offers the perfect shade, while over it is a taverna serving great food. Trendy Piso Gialia just a little further on can be accessed by a 15 minute, uphill trek along stairs and has a beach bar with an all-day power-beat.

By Alexia Amvrazi. As also published in Greek City Times.

lathering up with vilia soap

PRODUCT REVIEW: VILIA SOAPS

The all-natural soaps Vilia Soap Company are made using olive oil from northern Greece and almond oil from the region of Volos, as well as organic coconut oil from abroad. The company combines these skin-friendly oils with essential oils made from Greek herbs and flowers such as lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus and peppermint. Non-Greek organic ingredients sourced from small producers are also used, such as lemongrass, activated charcoal, Early Grey tea, sandalwood and patchouli.


PRODUCT REVIEW I:
Activated charcoal and tea tree oil

Description:
Created this for those who suffer with acne prone skin.  Activated charcoal is thought to draw out impurities and reduce puffiness, while tea tree fights bacteria. The soap also contains sweet orange oil, which is rich in antioxidants to help heal the skin. The soap is made using Greek olive oil, coconut oil, RSPO palm oil, activated charcoal; tea tree and sweet orange essential oils, and is 100 % Natural and Vegan, Cruelty free.

Tried & tested:

Unfortunately, I’m one of those adult acne sufferers, but fortunately, although the issue is ongoing, I can keep it under control. I’ve tested various commercial and artisan, usually naturally-based products that are low or completely clear of chemicals, and am always keen to experiment (see the post on the amazing cocoa mud mask I created!) with new products.

I used the Activated Charcoal and Tea Tree Oil soap consistently, day and night for a month, and noticed its effects after only the first few days. My combination skin (and, importantly, the acne-prone areas) was drier but still supple, my pores felt and looked tighter. The soap has a graininess that I enjoyed when I created a foam in my hands as it has a sort of massage effect. It smells fresh and clean.


PRODUCT REVIEW II:
Peppermint tea and green clay mini bar soap

Description:
Infused with peppermint tea and green clay to provide a light exfoliation and to help fight acne. The soap was created especially for oily skin types and acne prone skins, but is beneficial for all skin types. Peppermint essential oil helps reduce irritation to the skin while leaving it cool and refreshed, while green clay has a detoxifying effect. Handmade with Greek olive oil, coconut oil, RSPO palm oil, peppermint essential oil, green clay, peppermint tea. 100 % natural and vegan, cruelty free.

Tried & tested:
Summer in Greece means sweltering, sweaty heat from early in the morning to late in the evening. When you have a tendency for oily skin, that can make you feel like a real greaseball. So the minty zing of this soap was especially refreshing, while the clay made my skin feel and look more smooth and taut. I really enjoyed the after-feeling – the combination of using this peppermint-oil based soap and rinsing the foam with ice cold water made my skin look radiant and revived.

THE PERSON & STORY BEHIND VILIA SOAP COMPANY

After getting engaged to her Greek partner, Staci Wagner Hamalis left a jet-setting corporate career and moved to Greece, but instead of wiling away her days lying in the sun, she immediately set up a dynamic business making artisanal soaps.

Discovering more and more about the Greek landscape and artisanal traditions during each visit to the home of her parents-in-law in Kavala, eastern Macedonia, Hamalis eventually tried her hand at making soaps and fell in love with it.

“My father in law made the traditional, old fashioned, wooden soap-making molds for me and taught me age-old techniques,” she says. Her husband too, a website design company owner,

“I love the Greek culture and richness of nature here and wanted to share this with others, which why in my brand you will find inspiration from Greece in the products and in the packaging,” Hamalis says.

needling age out with acupuncture

“Cosmetic acupuncture actually renews the skin’s cellular structure from the inside, as well as reactivating and toning facial muscles. Meanwhile, it’s benefitting the whole body.”

Is it really better than Botox? 

It’s true what they say, that you wake up one fine morning and, standing before the bathroom mirror brushing your teeth and thinking about the day ahead, you freeze at the dreadful sight of a new wrinkle on your face. Where the heck did it come from? Why did it have to set up its permanent residence on your goddamned face? Clearly it loves company, because over the last year or so the wrinkle society have been showing a great love for your facial landscape.

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“The way you sleep definitely affects how your face looks,” acupuncturist and Shiatsu therapist Ilaira Bouratinos, who owns and teaches at the Oriental Medicine Centre in Athens tells me. If you sleep on your side, your face will actually become lop-sided. If you squash your face onto the pillow, there’s more chance of developing wrinkles. The ideal is to sleep on your back.” But, she adds, there’s so much more to it than that. “You seem to frown a lot while you talk – there! You’re doing it again!” That’s true, I even frown if I’m talking about ice cream, great sex or summer holidays. I smooth out the frown with my fingers and send relaxation vibes to my forehead, where the unfathomably deep Gorge of Obscure Perplexity has developed between above my left eye over the years. “That’s better,” she smiles – momentarily. “Hey! You’re frowning again! Stop it!”

On a far deeper level, Bouratinos informs me, according to Eastern medicine, which addresses the body from a holistic approach and sustains that the body is made up of meridians, or energy lines, the diet you eat, the lifestyle you live, the way you process your thoughts and feelings, how much sleep and rest you get, your habits, the amount of activity you engage in every day, the amount of sun and water and fresh air you get, all add up how your face will turn out. “The face has numerous acupoints, just as the body does, which via the meridians connect to all of the body’s organs and internal functions,” she tells me, “and similarly, according to an Eastern medical theory, the appearance of your face reveals a lot about your inner health. A Chinese medical practitioner will understand that dark circles under the eyes, pale or sagging skin, wrinkles in particular places, dull eyes, redness and other features relate to specific health conditions.”

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Bouratinos is telling me all these interesting things whilst inserting extremely fine, small needles into my face, as part of our Cosmetic Acupuncture session. I am lying in her tranquil treatment room, which today is infused with the aroma of lavender and rose oils, as she inserts needle after needle into my forehead, cheeks, chin, temples… Some of them hurt, (she tells me pain is a good sign of reactivating energy in an area that had gathered hard layers of dead skin, such as scar tissue, which can cause blocks in the flow of energy). Mostly it’s like a tiny prick. Sometimes I don’t feel it at all. “Ouch!” I exclaim, reminding myself that it’s all in the name of beauty and that I have put myself through much worse over the years. Dancing in spiky high heels? Check. Waxing? Check. Wearing a corset that should never have left the 17th Century? Check. Let’s just stop right there before it gets too embarrassing.

I wouldn’t consider myself vain (ok, maybe a little), but I have passed the four-O (aka furrow) line and I do still have decent enough eyesight to see the ongoing, obvious changes in my appearance (oh how we take ourself for granted!). Several of my also seeing girlfriends have felt so unhappy with the lines and turkey neck et al they have ventured towards the needle (Botox not heroine) and become devout to fillers and freezers and whatever else they are called. I have thought about it a lot, and felt very tempted. But I have refrained because aren’t we all bombarded by images of very wealthy, successful women who have turned to plastic surgery and, despite how good a doctor they can afford, end up looking like alien plastic ducks?

two_3272Above all, my entire life philosophy veers me towards holistic choices, as I tell Bouratinos. “Apart from the fact that it’s a natural treatment that doesn’t involve injecting chemicals and toxins into your organism, and that it doesn’t cause long-term damage like repeated use of Botox does, aesthetic acupuncture stimulates collagen production and actually renews the skin’s cellular structure from the inside, as well as reactivating and toning facial muscles. Meanwhile, it’s benefitting the whole body,” she says. Unlike the mask-like effects of cosmetic surgery, aesthetic acupuncture brightens the eyes, clears the mind, improves sleep quality, lifts your body’s energy levels and helps rebalance your metabolism!

After Bouratinos had placed all the needles (around 40 of them!) into my skin, I rested for around half an hour. She removed them quickly and painlessly and then massaged my skin with tiny soft suction cups and manual massage with lavender and chamomile essences. The immediate result was that I looked like I’d had a deep sleep (something I don’t get much of as the mother of a toddler) from which I’ woken up a few years younger – my skin was glowy, rosy and relaxed. I had to wait a few days before being able to see the deeper results – nothing that my mean-spirited eye could see much of but that friends, colleagues and even my partner pointed out to me without knowing I had done anything. “What have you done?” one colleague asked, “did you change your hair?”

I just enjoyed smiling to myself (I might as well hold on to a fun secret on the rare occasion that I have one).

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I had two more sessions with Bouratinos, spaced over the next two months, mainly due to my own time constraints. Apparently the ideal is to go for a weekly session at least for three to five weeks to see bigger, faster and more long-lasting results. But seeing my skin tone improve dramatically (I happily re-encountered my skin from a decade before), my eyes brighten, my cheeks lift significantly, and my jawline tighten was an amazing experience, and a very interesting one too.

Apart from the thrill of seeing my more youthful self emerge (I, young you, was always here, grasshopper, just hidden away under layers of your outward ageing!), I did actually feel more energised, had better sleep and felt more balanced overall.

The effects are expected to last for around six months to a year, especially if you have a session every month or every few months and look after yourself better in terms of how you eat, exercise and sleep, and care for the skin  – all things I was definitely inspired to do more of from now on.

Bouratinos also runs workshops every few months in which she teaches, within the space of an afternoon, how you can massage and exercise your own face for 5 minutes a day to drastically improve, reduce or prevent facial sagging and wrinkles.
Check out www.omcentre.gr and www.ilaira.com to book your cosmetic acuptuncture session and find out about facial toning workshops.

ilaira
Bouratinos is an awarded Shiatsu and Acupuncture practitioner and teacher.

 

 

 

top greek spas right now

More and more spa fans are travelling to Greece every year to relish a plenitude of excellent spa facilities and treatments on offer across the land, as wellness is now officially a leading travel trend.  Here we direct you to some of the most alluring wintertime options for you to try (or simply fantasize about) on your next trip.

In Athens:

Electra Metropolis Hotel
At the spanking new spa, which even has a glass floor revealing the ruins of the Themistoclean wall, you can let go with aromatherapy, deep tissue and lymphatic massages as well as beautifying flash treatments. Try the signature Cretan massage, in which warm raki (60% alcohol) is vigorously rubbed on the body to relax the muscles and clear the respiratory system. Next, gently heated olive oil is used for a (very) deep tissue massage to loosen every knot of tension throughout the entire body.
INFO
15
Mitropoleos, Syntagma.
Tel: 214 1006200


GB Spa

By far the city’s most luxurious spa, and right on Syntagma Square. Spend at least 5-15 minutes in the steam rooms such as the Amethystos Grotto, followed by a dip in the ozone-rich pool. To re-balance after the holidays, try a two hour Ayurvedic therapy, which encourages a profound rebalancing and regeneration of the mind and emotions using sensual, floral and exotic oils massaged on the marma points (mini chakras as defined in ancient Indian medicine).
INFO
Grande Bretagne Hotel, Syntagma Square.
Tel: 210 3330799 / 772.

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GB Spa at Hotel Grande Bretagne

Hiltonia
The Hiltonia Spa (http://www.hiltonia.gr/spa.html) has a progressive treatment menu, with treatments such as the Cleopatra Sperience Jacuzzi Therapy, which includes milk proteins and seaweed collagen, a Vit C+ facial that is based on pure vitamin C combined with extract of Ume, an anti-ageing Japanese plum, Diamond Noir facial exfoliation, and Golden Sensation body sea weed wrap. Try the Exceptional Anti-Wrinkle Therapy and Lift Facial Therapy to start the year as a fresh-faced, bedazzling you.
INFO:
Athens Hilton, 46 Vas. Sofias Ave.
Tel: 210 7281812 / 210 7281801.

Hammam Baths
Hammam is inspired by the baths of ancient Greece and Rome and more recently Constantinople. Start with a steam session in the circular, marble-benched bathing room, letting your skin, muscles and lungs ‘open up’, as you occasionally pour cool water on yourself from brass bowls and lather yourself with soap. Follow this with a deep tissue, exfoliating or beautifying massage in which therapists use Savon noir  black soap made with olive oil paste, Dead Sea black mud, and loofahs and silk Ketsea ‘brushes’ for scrubbing the body and face.
INFO:
17 Agion Asomaton Str. & 1 Melidoni Str. Thissio.
Tel. 210 3231073.

ath_therapies_gonglove_ancient_massage_02
Hammam Baths in Thisseio

Le Hammam, Kifissia
A pampering escape in the verdant northern suburb of Kifissia, Le Hammam (http://www.lehammam.gr/) is inspired by therapies and products from the world’s most exotic destinations, such as Bali, Polynesia, Morocco, Hawaii, the Himalayas and Thailand. Try the Queen Nefertiti, in which Balinese jasmine, lotus flowers and 18 karat gold powder are used to activate the feminine energy, or Shirodhara, an Ayrvedic therapy in which a mixture of essential oils is poured slowly on the forehead to clear the third eye and induce deep tranquility.
INFO:
8 Aghiou Trifonos, Kifisia.
Tel: 210 623 3143.

Beehive Spa
Obeying the Hippocratic philosophy of holistic wellness and making the best of Greece’s purest bee products (honey, pollen, royal jelly), Apivita’s Beehive Spa offers a sumptuous series of face and body treatments and two types of massage. Try the Queen Bee Firming Treatment, a luxurious anti-ageing therapy inspired by the bee dance that helps firm and lift the skin while increasing elasticity and glow.
INFO:
Apivita Experience Store, 6 Solonos & Kanari, Kolonaki.
Tel: 210 3640560.

Cocoon Urban Spa
A unique mix of therapies here, such as Chavutti, an ancient southern Indian massage performed in a rhythmical motion by the therapist’s…feet! Try also the Spice Market Hammam, which starts with a deep scrub in the marble steam room, after which you will be lathered up with savon noir and then slathered in rassoul clay while your face drinks up a royal jelly mask. That’s only the begining, as after that comes a full body massage using rose, pomegranate and sandalwood oils.
INFO:
9 Souliou & Eryfilis, Ag. Paraskevi.
Tel. 210 6561975.

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Greece-wide:

Thermea Sylla, Evia
A luxurious accommodation complex offering a highly sophisticated, in some cases high-tech range of curative, aesthetic and soul-blissing treatments. Most of the therapies revolve around and make the very most out of the famous benefits of Edipsos’ thermal waters. Try the Oriental Rasul experience with a partner: in a herbal steam sauna, you can slather each other using different kinds of Rugen island mud, and then have it all washed away by warm rain that falls from a ceiling vaulted with LED stars.
INFO
2 Posidonos Str., Edipsos, Evia.
Tel: 22260 60 100.

Anazoe Spa, Costa Navarino
Discover the wisdom of ancient Greek healing philosophies and techniques that soothingly enfold guests in a curative, restorative and relaxing experience enhanced by calming music, a form of sound healing that’s based on ancient Greek modes and scales at Anazoe. Try any of the Oleotherapy® Signature Treatments, which, intriguingly, are based on local practices inscribed on clay tablets that were discovered at the nearby Palace of Nestor. As their name suggests, they are based on the use of pure, virgin olive oil, but also include ingredients and application techniques inspired by modern science.
INFO:
Navarino Dunes, Messinia, Costa Navarino.
Tel: +272 309 6000.

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Anazoe Spa at Costa Navarino

Imaret
At Imaret, housed in a Koranic school founded in 1813 by Mohamed Ali Pasha, escape to the “hidden” Hammam that offers therapies derived from traditional eastern rituals, using ingredients like curative muds, exotic oils, herbs, flowers, honey and milk. Try the Harem Massage, a deeply pacifying  therapy in which aromatic poultices filled with fresh chamomile and mint that are dipped into warm essential oils of myrrh and applied to relieve tired muscles, nourishing the skin and boosting circulation.
INFO
30-32 Th. Poulidou, Kavala.
Tel: 2510 620151.

Mikro Papingo 1700 Hotel & Spa
This eco-friendly gem of a boutique hotel, restored from 1700, is actually within the lush Vikos gorge. It’s Spa menu is not long and fancy, but its treatments are top quality and it uses fresh mineral water sourced from the nearby mountains. After a long day exploring the 20km gorge, try the energizing and muscle-relaxing Deep Trail Hiker’s Stretch Massage, while if you need to clear out from your urban lifestyle try the aromatic Mountain Massage.
INFO
Zagori, Epirus.
Tel: 2653 041179.

Asian Spa Ayurvedic & City Retreat
Eastern sensuality reigns supreme at the Asian Spa with treatments that celebrate the touch, smell and sight involved in relishing inventive treatments like Apricots and Cream or Chocolatier, the latter being a romantic ‘flowers & chocolate’ couple’s massage involving an antioxidant cacao scrub and choco-massage, followed by a blissful soak in an aromatic floral bath. Then there’s Glittering Prize, in which the therapist applies a gold scrub and mask, followed by gold dust powders. Several sophisticated Ayurvedic treatments are also available.
INFO
Hyatt Regency Thessaloniki, 13 kilometres Thessaloniki-Perea.
Tel: +211 40 40 115.

Polis Hammam
Modelled on the traditional Turkish Hamam, this boutiquey haven of peace, cleansing and restorative therapies bang in the heart of Thessaloniki encourages you to lie back in the marble sauna, where you can bathe and then enjoy a re-energising and purifying signature massage such as the Aritma Polis massage, which thoroughly works on the entire body and includes the application of brushes and essential oils with stimulating fragrances.
INFO
40 Karamanli St., Kalamaria
Tel: 2310488216.

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 As also published in Greece Is

why ikaria feels so good

Ikariotes – the locals of Ikaria – have always captured the imagination of the rest of the Greek population because of their ‘eccentricity’. They are famous for having their very own sense of time and space, and for their freedom-loving, convivial spirit.

An independent state for several months after releasing itself from the Ottoman grip in 1912 (with its own cobalt blue flag stamped with a thick white cross – still seen in numerous homes around the island today), Ikaria was baptized ‘the red rock’ when it became home to some 13,000 communist exiles during the Greek Civil War of 1946-49. These and other factors have led the idiosyncratic Cycladic island to develop a character that differentiates it from its neighbours on either side, Samos and Mykonos – and indeed every other Greek island.

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Sunset at Armenistis beach

Anarchically lush, hearteningly unpretentious, and only demanding that you let go of your set expectations in order to enter its mesmeric and intrinsic flow, the island started attracting ‘alternative’ travelers in the 80s, such as bohemians and artists, who rejected the touristic paradigm emerging in Greece at the time, and who preferred to pitch tents on the beach and integrate with local life. In 2012, however, came a great shift.

Dan Buettner wrote The Island Where People Forget to Die’ in the New York Times, sharing his groundbreaking Blue Zones research with the world. Since then, people have been flocking to Ikaria from every corner of the earth, thirsty to drink from the island’s legendary fountain of youth.

The locals – among whom you will find an impressive number of rosy-cheeked centenarians – haven’t got a clue what all the fuss is about, and frankly have grown a little weary of all the media and tourist attention. They are known for what visitors describe as a ‘Zen-like spirit’; they aspire to measured, Christian Orthodox ideals that keep them living in the present, and maintain an effusive attitude (that also prizes equality between the sexes). Ikariotes are also praised for their highly self-sufficient lifestyle, vibrant social life, healthy diet, and demanding physical routine of tending to land and livestock; and they are happy to stay exactly as they are.

1. THE CELEBRATION

Panygiri of Aghios Giannis in Christos, Raches. Photo by Constantine Malpas.

If you’ve ever heard of Ikaria, then you must know the two things it’s most famous for: the longevity of its inhabitants, as announced to the world in 2012 by Blue Zones research, and its Panigyria, the all-day/all-night festivals celebrating local patron saints which attract hundreds to thousands of revelers from near and far. Wine flows free, boiled or baked goat is chomped on by the kilo, and dancers from all around the island – and even the world – link arms to dance the trance-like Ikariotikos for hours on end. Locals do love to party, but the chief objective of these events is to use the proceeds to build, renovate and mend roads, buildings, churches and schools. They take place throughout the year, but almost daily from May to October.

2. THE SPIRIT OF THE PEOPLE

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French tourists possessed by the local love of music. Photo by A. Amvrazi

One of the most appealing and special aspects of the Ikaria experience is getting to know its unique people. The islanders are often described as highly self-sufficient and physically disciplined, as they dedicate most of their day to tending their land and animals. Yet, at the same time they are bon viveurs who know how to live life to the full and completely in the present.

Although philosophically minded, creatively inclined (there is an especially resilient passion for music across the island) and definitely able to take a joke, they’re essentially simple people who are satisfied with the little they’ve got – a fruit and vegetable garden round the back of the house, a community bound by loyalty, individual independence, the ability to follow a daily rhythm that suits their reality, and long-honored equality between the sexes (a rare find in provincial Greece). They are not thirsty for money or fame, and despite being warm and welcoming to visitors, they feel no need to turn their island into a polished tourist destination that changes to accommodate other’s needs. And ironically, this characteristic only serves to make them more alluring.

3. THE FOOD AND WINE

Photo by Constantine Malpas

Authentic, pure, organic, seasonal and straight from the garden is how Ikarian cuisine can best be defined, as throughout the island locals grow fresh produce in great abundance, while the wild “rasko” goats roam free, feeding on wild greens. Goat meat, milk and cheese are all staple foods, while in the coastal areas such as Armenistis, Nas and Evdilos you can stop for a bite of seafood with a view. The capital, Aghios Kirykos, and the Fournoi islands across from it are best for lobster. There are three wineries producing quality, award-winning wines on the island.

All located in very scenic spots, they offer a great excuse for a relaxed wine-tasting tour, although at most places you stop to eat, and particularly at local festivals, you will most probably be sampling the potent (15 percent alcohol content) red hima (non-bottled, locally produced) wine. In recent years a handful of restaurants on Ikaria have started serving more modern and creative dishes, often with exciting results, but overall the food is traditional and simple.

Local specialties include soufiko, the pan-fried Ikarian rendition of briam (Greek ratatouille); spongy, white kathoura goat cheese and giant zucchini. Wild herbs are added to all dishes and brewed as tea (water mint or fliskouni being a popular choice), lashings of olive oil on everything and common use of excellent, medicinal honey (white heather, pine tree, thyme, strawberry tree).

4. THE NATURAL VARIETY AND ABUNDANCE
Mostly blanketed in thick, verdant foliage throughout the year, predominately mountainous Ikaria is a delight to explore on foot or by car. Mapped walks in Natura 2000 areas such as the 25km Ikaria on Foot circuit trail immerse you in the beauty of gorges such as Halaris, with emerald-green lakes, cool steams, lush forests, waterfalls and paved donkey paths.

There are also several organized botanical tours (Ikaria has 1,100 endemic plant species) and food-foraging walks along the island’s paths, led by experienced local guides. Ikaria has also been named an important bird area: keen birdwatchers can enjoy spotting the peregrine falcon, Bonelli’s eagle and, closer to the coast, the sea raven, among other species. The rare lizard species Lacerta oertzeni and Stellagama stellio (or korkofylas to the locals) can also be found here. For aquatic pleasures, beaches like Nas, Faros, Seychelles and Armenistis are the most popular due to their invigorating crystal waters and aesthetic allure.

5. THE CURATIVE SPRINGS

Ikaria’s eight hot springs, which are said to be among the most radioactive in the world (but all very safe), have since ancient times been lauded for their curative properties that help treat rheumatic, skin, gynecological, respiratory and neurological ailments. The springs at Therma, Aghios Kirykos, Lefkada and Aghia Kyriaki have attracted visitors for millennia. In ancient times the people of Therma were called Asclepians after the god of healing Asclepios, while near Therma some ruins of the ancient city can be explored underwater.

Modern health tourism based around the island’s radium-rich springs started blossoming in the 1920s and remains popular, with organized spas, hotels and hydrotherapy pools offering sessions in the water combined with massage and more. Talking of springs, Ikaria is also known for its “immortal water,” a cold spring near the village of Xylosyrtis that is thought to be beneficial for treating kidney ailments.

Article By Alexia Amvrazi, as first published in Kathimerini’s Taxidia magazine.

Goat herd gathering milk to make kathoura cheese, Ikaria’s mozarella-like staple.

 

 

 

 

 

sound healing session

IMAGINE yourself receiving a deeply comforting, relaxing treatment on the massage table, and then, while you’re still floating in that dreamy rainbow-coloured bubble of pampering bliss, add the magical sound of crystal singing bowls, an angelic female voice and the sound of an ancient string instrument designed by Pythagoras, as waves and vibrations of sound flow up and down your body like the waves of the sea do when you bask on the shore.

Welcome to the millennia-old practice of vibrational sound healing.

As someone who is a great fan both of alternative therapies and the world of sound  – from natural to hyper-produced – I was most excited to try out a session, and was fortunate to find Sound and Energy healing therapist Kristina Alicia, whose clients (especially the creative types who experience ‘blocks’ and need to reawaken their awareness and sharpen their focus), rave about her work.

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5,4,3,2,1 – may the sound healing journey begin!
I had no idea what to expect, but being a new mother with an aching body and a sometimes alarmingly sleep-deprived brain, I was more than open and willing to encounter the benefits I had heard and read so much about. The science of sound has been explored since ancient times, and although in the present day plenty of knowledge has been gathered as to its therapeutic properties, we ironically continue to live in cities imbued by noise pollution, are glued to gadgets, TV sets and computers that produce constant chatter,  and on an average day, rarely make special time to tune out, let alone actually using sound for its healing properties.

Fortunately, there are therapists like Kristina Alicia in Athens, whose entire practice centres on the many benefits of sound, and who can help clients get the most out of its powerful healing properties.

didgeridoo_imagicity_1070There’s nothing new age or gimmicky about sound healing – in fact it stretches back into antiquity, even though the historical record captures only a fraction of its origin. It can be traced back to many ancient civilizations including Greece, India, Africa, and the Orient (learn more about the origins of sound healing below).

Before our session, Kristina Alicia explained to me that when an organ or body part is healthy, it resonates in harmony with the rest of the body. With dis-ease, a different sound pattern is established in the affected part of the body. When sound is projected into the dis-eased area, correct harmonic patterns are restored. During a session, Kristina Alicia follows a sequence of several relaxing and therapeutic techniques aimed at restoring a healthy flow and order in the mind, body and spirit, and leaving the receiver feeling re-balanced, blissfully peaceful and mentally open.

In the next stage, her therapy moves from the realm of ‘regular’ manual therapy and lifts one to the universe of sound healing. “In the second phase I work on the aura using the crystal singing bowls,” says Kristina, “and the tuning forks, to tune (exactly like adjusting a piano) our organs and nervous system so optimal balance is achieved.”  The experience of having crystal singing bowls placed and rung on my back and around my head immediately transported me to a different state. At first, my often over-active thinking mind was trying to trace the sounds, the feelings, even the direction from where the sound was coming, but then, just like that, I let go and allowed myself to be immersed in the experience, suddenly feeling myself distanced from mundanity, from thoughts, and even from the room we were in.
10997784_1061748203842696_1106981414360834350_nResearching the effects of crystal singing bowls a few days after the treatment I was not surprised to read that the notes of the crystal bowls are tuned to specific vibrational frequencies (notes) found within the human body. Thus when the sound moves through the atmosphere and touches us, it causes our cells to move in different directions at a different speed, in rhythm with the sound wave, which puts us in harmony with the sound wave. The sound penetrates into our very cells and rebalances them through oscillation and resonance; vibrational sound touches the body on a molecular and crystalline level. One reason sound heals on a physical level is because it so deeply touches and transforms us on the emotional and spiritual planes. Sound can redress imbalances on every level of physiologic functioning and can play a positive role in the treatment of virtually any medical disorder.”

Next, Kristina Alicia placed the monochord, (an ancient scientific and musical instrument, invented in Greece in 500 B.C) on my back. She explained that “in the spiritual healing part of the session, the strings of the monochord bring healing harmonics in each cell of our body. From head to toe you feel this healing resonance, as our body is 75% water.” I actually felt the vibrations of the monochord flow and down my spine, very pleasantly intense at times, and then going from my head to my toes, even making me feel like I was the instrument itself, with its music pouring out of me. Kristina Alicia accompanies the instrument by singing sacred Aramaic, Hebrew and Sanskrit mantras.

“The voice,” she tells me, is the most precious instrument, as it can be filled with your intent”. That definitely made me think of how irresponsible most people, me included, are when using their voice to address each other, and how we hold such a powerful tool that we do so little with.

Sound healing therapist Kristina Alicia
Sound healing therapist Kristina Alicia

At this stage of the therapy I started to see vivid colours and patterns, as well as a few scenes that were reminiscent of a powerful dream that’s trying to tell you something. Later on, when I mentioned this to Kristina Alicia, she told me that through such a session one’s subconscious does usually unfurl to reveal our deepest messages to our self. In fact, she says, one of the key purposes of what she does is to help one “reconnect and listen to the sound of your soul.” She tells me that “some people have found their life course after receiving sound healing therapy.”

In the final part of the vibrational sound healing session, Kristina Alicia uses Tibetan singing bowls, which she says help the client “ground again” after having been on a different plain altogether. Sound Healing expert, Diáne Mandle states that Tibetan Singing Bowls don’t only affect a great deal of physical healing but also have far-reaching implications that occur on emotional and spiritual levels. It is a regenerative process married to a spiritual awakening that can have profound consequences on illness, disease, and all aspects of our lives.

Sound healing in mainstream medicine
In fact, mainstream medical teaching facilities like Duke University and the University of North Carolina have added programs that link body, mind and spirit to the treatment of cancer. Cancer prevention centers are utilizing sound as a vital part of the healing process for patients with astounding results.

Dr. Mitchell Gaynor,  director of Medical Oncology and Integrative Medicine at the Cornell Cancer Prevention Center in NY, has been using sound, including Tibetan Singing Bowls and chanting in work with cancer patients for many years. He says: “If we accept that sound is vibration and we know that vibration touches every part of our physical being, then we understand that sound is heard not only through our ears but through every cell in our bodies.”

The medical director of the Deepak Chopra Center in California, Dr. David Simon, found that the sound from Tibetan Singing Bowls as well as chanting are chemically metabolised into ’endogenous opiates’, that act on the body as internal painkillers and healing agents.

INFO:
Kristina Alicia
on Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/soundishealing soundishealing@gmail.com