Category: Quirks & curiosities in Greece (page 1 of 2)

A Paris icon in the Peloponnese

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Eiffel Tower in Filiatra

The 26-meter Eiffel Tower replica at Filiatra  was a surprising sight we encountered during our road trip in the Peloponnese

 

~ updated on August 4 2018 ~

 

Oh Mon Dieu!:The most memorable “Stop the Car!” moment of our road trip through Messenia happened while we were driving through the small town of Filiatra, en route from Marathopoli to Kyparissia.

As the car moved along the clean, tidy streets, passing attractive stone houses and some cute small homes, we were chatting about where we might want to stay if we ever had an opportunity to spend all or part of a year in Greece. I remember commenting that Filiatra looked like a nice, comfortable and quiet place that might be suitable — based on what we were seeing through the car windows, at least.

Then we turned a corner and saw an Eiffel Tower looming up ahead.

 “What the … Is that what I think it is?” I blurted. “Pull over! We’ve got to check this out!”

 

Eiffel Tower in Filiatra

This Google Streetview image shows the Eiffel Tower replica in a wedge-shaped parkette at the northern entrance to Filiatra.

 

Whenever we’re on the road in Greece, we see a lot of surprising, interesting and exciting sights. However, most of the time it’s jaw-dropping scenery that suddenly pops into view, a picturesque church in the middle of nowhere, a crumbling castle or a beautiful old building, or a herd of sheep or goats gathered on the highway. We’ve seen plenty of unusual sights, too, but never anything like an Eiffel Tower — and we certainly weren’t expecting to see one on this particular morning. (It had not been mentioned in any of the travel materials I had read before our holiday.)

But there it was, rising from a landscaped parkette near the northern entrance to Filiatra on Highway 9.

 

 

We parked the car and got out for a few minutes to take photos, but it wasn’t until we were back home that I was able to do some online searching to find out why the town has a replica of the iconic Eiffel Tower.

Information was rather sparse or roughly translated in the sources I discovered, but most said the replica was the creation of Harry Fournier, (originally named Haris Fournarakis), who had grown up in the area but later moved to the USA to practise medicine as a surgeon. After a successful career in the States, Fournier returned to Filiatra and put his artistic talents to work, sculpting his mini Eiffel Tower in the 1960s. (He also built a fairytale castle in the nearby village of Agrili.)

Fournier’s creation isn’t a true replica, however, since its design differs in a few major details. As an article on the Wonders of the World points out, Fournier used light grey metal to construct the tower, which he shaped “a little too long.” Fournier also placed the second floor of his tower too low, compared to the original, and changed the shape of the third floor. But to a tourist driving by, Fournier’s version looks like a convincing, shorter copy of the real thing (his stands 26 meters, while the Paris landmark soars over 300 meters high).

 

This slideshow was posted to the Greek Reporter news and events page on Facebook on August 4 

 

 Here are some of the photos we took of the Filiatra Eiffel Tower:

 

Eiffel Tower replica in Filiatra

 

Eiffel Tower replica in Filiatra

 

Eiffel Tower replica in Filiatra

 

Eiffel Tower replica in Filiatra

 

Filiatra Greece

The small town of Filiatra is located roughly midway between Marathopoli (middle left) and Kyparissia (top left). If you’re driving through the area and want to take a look at the Eiffel Tower replica, you’ll find it at the northwest edge of the town along Highway 9.  You can’t miss it if you’re driving toward Filiatra from Kyparissia — the tower is visible from a distance outside the town.

Greek Island icons & landmarks: Shark Rock on Naxos

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Shark Rock

Shark Rock is an amusing attraction on the western coast of Naxos, between Agia Anna and Maraga. We shot this photo of the grinning Great White during our first trip to Naxos in 2005.

 

This is the first instalment of Greek Islands Icons & Landmarks, a planned series of occasional posts about curious, unusual and extraordinary sights and places we have seen on our travels in the Greek Islands

 

Rock star: My first close encounter with the most famous fish on Naxos occurred in June 2005, during our first visit to the island. It happened while we were walking along the wide smooth rocks and giant boulders that line the seashore on the southern side of Agia Anna Bay.  From this point there is a sweeping, unobstructed view of the Agia Anna and Agios Prokopios beach resort areas, as well as pyramid-shaped Stelida mountain to the north, so I paused to take some photos. When I turned to continue on my way, I nearly stumbled against the snout of the island’s fabled landshark.

I didn’t know what it was initially. I thought it was just a big, long, slender rock rising more than a meter above the ground at a 45-degree angle — nothing unusual for a rocky seashore. Then I noticeda row of small stones had been arranged inside the long, narrow crack that curved around the raised end of the rock. It struck me as odd until I took a few steps back and realized someone had cleverly given the fish-shaped rock a toothy grin so it would resemble a Great White shark.  Another stone had been carefully placed higher up the rock to resemble a right eye.  It looked hilarious, and I couldn’t stop laughing.

 

 

I paid Shark Rock a visit on all of our subsequent trips to Naxos, and it still made me smile and chuckle each time. But last year I was disappointed to see a photo of the landshark that had just been shared on a Naxos fan club page on Facebook. It showed that someone had given Shark Rock a makeover by painting its belly and nose white, and its eye and gills blue. Like other members of the Facebook group, I didn’t think it was an improvement — the shark had looked much better au naturel, and didn’t need a sloppy paintjob to catch attention. The colours detracted from the subtle, creative humour of the simple stone teeth and eye.  Less is more, right?

I’m hoping that rain, wind and waves wear off the paint by the next time I return to Naxos,  so the landshark looks the way I remember. 

There are additional photos of Shark Rock, and a satellite image showing where it’s situated, on page two of this post.

 

Shark Rock on Naxos

Shark Rock strikes a menacing pose with Stelida mountain and the Agios Prokopios beach resort area in the background

 

Shark Rock

This telephoto picture shot from across the bay shows how Shark Rock blends into the rocky shoreline near Agios Nikolaos church, perfectly poised to surprise passersby. (He’s just below the trees on the right side of the hill.)

 

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

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Only on Mykonos! A bizarre ‘table dancing’ performance from a 1960s travel film

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 This excerpt from a travel promotion shows scenes from Mykonos Town from sometime in the early 1960s

 

I love seeing old photos and films from Athens and the various Greek Islands we have visited so far — especially if they show places like Mykonos before traditional island life gave way to the glitz and glamour of high-end hotels, shops and restaurants aimed at affluent international tourists.

So it was fun to find this black and white tourism promotion film with scenes of Mykonos Town in the early 1960s before it was drastically transformed by extensive tourism-related development.

But besides views of the town’s iconic cube-shaped white buildings, its maze of cobblestone streets, and the island’s famous pelican mascot, Petros, the film includes an odd table dancing demonstration performed for the entertainment of tourists at a taverna.

Footage of what the film narrator describes as “a very strange performance” starts around the 2:10 mark of the video.

It shows “a very special talent by an enterprising young man,” the narrator says.

You’ll have to see it for yourself to believe it. It’s nothing like the Zorba the Greek dance that tourists might get to see while visiting Greece nowadays!

 

Quirks & Curiosities: On Samos, you don’t even have to pull off the street to gas up your car!

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a gas station in Vathi on Samos

This Eko gas station occupies the ground level of a building on a commercial and residential street in the town of Vathi, on Samos. The fuel pumps sit on the edge of the road, smack up against the front of the building. 

 

Sidewalk station: While we were walking around the main town of Vathi shortly after arriving on Samos in May 2010, we were surprised to see a pair of fuel pumps standing beside a building midway up a residential and commercial street, just a short stroll from the waterfront. Only a few feet away sat a sign advertising prices for unleaded (€1.596) and “super” (€1.603), while a “no smoking” decal was pasted to the windows between the two pumps. At first we thought the pumps might be just an attention-getting part of a modern art installation outside a contemporary gallery, but then we noticed the Eko sign sticking out from a corner on the building’s second floor. It really was a gas station.

I can’t recall ever seeing a service station with fuel pumps positioned literally on the edge of a road, let alone mere inches from the side of a building. And I had never seen one operating from the ground level of a building in the middle of a street full of shops and apartments, either. I’m fairly certain that, in North America, putting gas pumps so close to a building or a roadway would probably contravene fire codes, safety laws and myriad other regulations.

The station was closed, so we didn’t get to watch anybody stop for a fill-up. But imagine the convenience of not having to pull your car off the road and into a service station to get gas!

 

a street in Vathi on Samos

The red, white and blue sign for the Eko gas station is visible above the cars parked halfway up the block on the left side of the street

 

a gas station in Vathi on Samos

Another view of the Eko station, from a different angle

 

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