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Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-10-29

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] PM Papandreou in Brussels for EU summit
  • [02] Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew meets with UN SecGen in NY
  • [03] Maronia Cave, home of the mythological Cyclops Polyphemus

  • [01] PM Papandreou in Brussels for EU summit

    Prime minister George Papandreou will be in Brussels on Thursday and Friday for an EU summit meeting and a meeting of the prime ministers of the European Socialist Part (PES), the Europarliament grouping to which his ruling PASOK party belongs.

    On Thursday afternoon, Papandreou will meet with European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek, while on the sidelines of the summit he will have a brief, informal acquaintance meeting with his FYROM counterpart Nikola Gruevski.

    The meeting was agreed at the initiative of the Greek prime minister during a telephone call by Gruevski to congratulate Papandreou on his election as the new prime minister of Greece.

    Climate change, the global economic and financial crisis, the Lisbon Treaty, illegal immigration and EU institutional issues and relations with other countries will be at the focus of the summit meeting of the heads of state and government of the 27 EU member states.

    [02] Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew meets with UN SecGen in NY

    New York (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou) -- Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, on a visit to the US, was received on Wednesday night (local time) in New York by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon at the UN headquarters, for talks that included environmental issues ahead of December's international UN summit on climate change in Copenhagen.

    Bartholomew, who was accompanied by Archbishop Demetrios of America and Greece's permanent representative to the UN, ambassador Anastasis Mitsialis, told reporters after the 20-minute meeting, said they discussed environmental issues in light of the Copenhagen conference, and that he briefed the UN chief on his own "environmental initiatives" and the Ecumenical Patriarchate's "humble activities" regarding the "interfaith and inter-cultural dialogue".

    The Ecumenical Patriarch said he had also made not to his three visits to Ban's country of descent, Korea, and his previous visit to the UN during the tenure of secretary general Kofi Annan. He further briefed the UN chief on his upcoming visits to London next week for a conference on cooperation among religions and cultures being organised by Prince Charles, and afterwards to Athens, and noted that he will be in Copenhagen for the climate change conference.

    Bartholomew further said that he stressed to Ban that the SecGen was working for the unity of nations and cultures while the Ecumenical Patriarchate was contributing in that direction through the interfaith dialogue and the Patriarchate's initiatives for environmental protection, "and consequently we can be considered collaborators in the same direction, for the good of humanity".

    [03] Maronia Cave, home of the mythological Cyclops Polyphemus

    According to Greek mythology Odysseus, during his 10-year journey home from the 10-year Trojan War, arrived in the Kingdom of the Kikonians, the land of the Thracian people who lived between present-day Lake Vistonida and the estuary of the Evros River, where he tied up his ship. The hero took 12 men and set out to find supplies. Along the way they found a large cave, which turns out to be the home of the fierce Cyclops Polyphemus, the one-eyed (Cyclops) son of Poseidon and Thoosa, who traps them in the cave and devours two of the men for his meal. The next day when Polyphemus returns to the cave with his flock of sheep, Odysseus inebriates him with a strong wine given to him by King Maron. When Polyphemus passes out, Odysseus and his men drive a stake into the Cyclops' eye, blinding him, and escape the cave by tying themselves to the undersides of the sheep.

    Polyphemus' cave, also known as Maronia cave, is situated 25 kilometers east of Komotini, near the historical settlement of Maronia, in a limestone hill with steep, and at times sheer, corridors.

    Although it is unknown when the cave was discovered, systematic exploration since 1969 by members of the Hellenic Speleological Society indicates that it has always been occupied, due to prehistoric finds of human presence, corresponding finds dating back to the Neolithic period and the Byzantine era that have been excavated in the cave.

    The local villagers knew of the cave's existence long before it was first visited by prominent archaeologist George Bakalakis in 1938, following indications in a passage in Apollonius' "Argonautica".

    The Maronia Cave is considered an important monument both with respect to its beauty and its archaeological interest. Its vast chambers are adorned with breathtaking stalactites and stalagmites of varying shapes and colors that resemble cypress trees and leafy branches, leading the first explorers to give such names to the chambers as the Stone Forest, the Red Room, the Chamber of the Bats, the Harp Chamber and the Chamber of the Idols.

    In modern times, the cave's entrance was used as a shelter for animal herds.

    Apart from the colorful stalactites and stalagmites, the cave is also home to and breeding ground of two rare species of bats found nowhere else in the world.

    Maronia Cave is also the only place in the world where one can find the unique populations of the isopod Alpioniscus thracicus, the coleoptera Maroniella beroni and the non-marine mollusk Balcanodiscus cerberus. Also, 30 different species of invertebrae have been found, of which 25 have permanent populations and five are new to science, while of particular importance are 8 exclusive cave-dwelling species (6 species of troglobites and 2 species of stygobites) and at least 10 species native to the cave.

    According to scientists, the cave was formed 8-10 million years ago, when the region emerged from the sea and erosion from rainwater began. the movement of the subterranean waters created caverns that were colonized by non-marine organisms.

    The cave was explored by the Petrocheilos couple in the early 1960s, when the first systematic documentation of its interior commenced. A more coordinated effort began in 2000, when the Eastern Macedonia-Thrace Periphery, in collaboration with the Municipality of Maronia, assigned the task of conducting biological, geological and related research and studies to a team of professors from Thessaloniki's Aristotle University (AUTH). The researchers' results were submitted to the Periphery, which then began drafting a program to commence visits to the cave, in cooperation with experts from the Vienna Museum of Natural History and the Alistratis Cave in Serres and the Mara Cave in Drama.

    The local Rodopi prefectural council recently approved a contract to assign a study for exploitation of the cave, while the plan is, in collaboration with the Speleology and Palaeontology Ephorate, to set out a 300-meter long trail along which visitors can view the exquisite stalactites and stalagmites.

    Further, using state of the art laser technology, a virtual reality application will be developed that will enable visitors to "visit" and view the inaccessible sections of the cave. A similar technology will be used to videotape the rare bats, with the footage then being shown to visitors in a projection room, thus causing almost zero disturbance to the cave's dwellers.

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