Vampires in Santorini…? Six Mysterious Greek Islands | Mysterious Greece

haunted greek islands

Greek islands are famous for their picturesque villages, aesthetically pleasing architecture, unique landscapes, and crystal-clear waters. But some of these islands are shrouded in mystery. For example, what is the story behind the vampire islands near the island of Skyros? And who were the “sea demons” that scared the locals on the island of Agkistri?

In the last episode of Helinika’s “Mysterious Greece” series, we discovered the most mysterious places in Athens, Greece. Today, we explore a list of six Greek islands that have sparked the interest of archaeologists, historians, and researchers of the unexplained. From Samothraki island in Northern Aegean to the tiny island of Antikythera, Greece is surrounded by legends, myths, and thrills. Stay till the end because no. 1 will surprise you!

Six Mysterious Greek Islands | Greek Mysteries

  1. Delos Island
  2. Vrykolakonisia (Vampire Islands)
  3. Samothraki Island
  4. Antikythera Island
  5. Salamina Island
  6. Agkistri Island (Kekryfalia)

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The Mysteries of Agkistri

Agkistri (also seen as Angistri or Agistri) is a small island situated in the Saronic Gulf, in close proximity to the city of Athens. It is one of the greenest islands in Greece. That is why ancient Greeks called it “Kekryfalia” – which can be translated as “decorated/ covered head”. Today, Agkistri is mostly known as a popular weekend destination for Athenians. But the beautiful island is also associated with several myths and thrills.

Since ancient antiquity, the people of Agkistri feared the “Telhines” – sea demons who visited other islands as well, such as Rhodes and Crete. Although these creatures allegedly taught humans the art of metallurgy, they were also sorcerers that could cause the “evil eye”; they could harm humans with their jealous stares.

The myth of the Telchines survived for many centuries. In Medieval times, Telchines were now believed to be amphibian monsters that terrorized islanders who wondered around the streets late at night. They were short – not bigger than the size of an average dog – but they looked terrifying.

This is reportedly the reason why many traditional houses in Agkistri have enormous staircases leading to their front door. Many of these houses have ceramic faces built on their walls to scare away the Telchines.

According to modern historians and marine biologists, Medieval fishermen were probably terrified at the sight of the so-called “Jenny Hanivers” that were caught in their fishnets. Jenny Haniver is the name given to the carcass of a ray or devil fish that has been dried out or mummified. Their appearance is… terrifying.

Although Jenny Hanivers were often modified by humans and displayed in museums in the past, they can also result naturally under prolonged exposure to the sun. It is therefore believed that the island of Agkistri was not attacked by sea monsters but rather by… dried out rays. Looking at how these rays looked like, no one can blame the islanders for being terrified!

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Salamina and the Unexplained

Salamina (also known as Salamis or Koulouri) is another island in the Saronic Gulf. It is the closest island to the city of Athens and many Athenians choose to build their summer houses there. The island has a long history and it is mostly known for the battle of Salamis, the important naval battle in 480 BC, which resulted in the victory of the Greeks against the Persians.

But for reasons that are not yet clear, the island has a disproportionate amount of urban legends, ghost stories, and mysteries. For example, there is the story of the “haunted battleship” named “Lemnos” (link in Greek) that caused panic in the naval base of Salamis in 1932 and resulted in a police investigation.

Sailors had repeatedly reported seeing terrifying ghostly apparitions in the corridors. They would often exit the ship in the middle of the night, after hearing unexplained banging on the walls, along with whispers and screams coming out of nowhere.

According to newspaper reports of that time, most of the sailors had at least one terrifying experience and the police had been called to investigate the subject. But the sailors of the neighboring battleship “Ierax II” were not convinced. They decided to stay awake the whole night, staring at the nearby battleship for any paranormal activity.

A sailor named Emmanuel Maxouris couldn’t believe his colleagues believed in ghosts. He stood up and started yelling at them when he saw something staring at him from one of the portholes of “Lemnos”. He looked closely and he saw an emaciated hand touching the porthole and, right behind it, there was a skull staring back at him.

Maxouris ended up being hospitalized, since he passed out right after seeing the skeleton on the nearby battleship. It is not clear what were the findings of the police investigation but, after this incidence, everyone on Salamis believed that something out of this world lurked on the battleship “Lemnos”.

Salamina is full of many similar stories. Many believe that the forest area surrounding the monastery of Panagia Faneromeni is haunted. There is an urban legend that there is an old woman walking in the area late at night, asking people to follow her. If the person is not wearing a cross, he or she follows the woman in a trans-like state and disappears forever. Not only that but many of the nearby abandoned houses are thought to be haunted. Why Salamina has so many scary stories remains a mystery.

Mysterious Places in Athens, Greece | Mysterious Greece

The city of Athens has a history spanning over three thousand years. As you can imagine, the capital of the Hellenic Republic of Greece is the birthplace of countless important figures, revolutionary ideas, legendary stories, and mysteries. Here are some of the most mysterious places in Athens, Greece.

The Secret in the Sea of Antikythera

Antikythera (also known as Aigilia) is one of the most mysterious Greek islands, after an archaeological discovery in 1901, which changed the way we viewed ancient civilizations. The tiny island is located between Crete and the Peloponnese and it is one of the least touristic Greek destinations.

In 1901, a mysterious artifact in the sea of Antikythera drew the attention of the international scientific community. That is the Antikythera Mechanism that was discovered in a nearby Roman shipwreck by a group of sponge divers from Symi.

The sponge divers had discovered the shipwreck by accident in 1900, after getting stranded in Antikythera thanks to a storm. A year later, they helped the Greek government explore it. The divers recovered several important artifacts: statues, coins, pieces of glasswork, and several other bronze items – including a weird looking machine. Unfortunately, one diver named Georgios Kritikos died during the expedition and two more were paralyzed after suffering from decompression sickness.

The items were transported to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, where archaeologists started examining them. That’s when they realized that one of the bronze items was actually a 2000-year-old complicated mechanism that displayed the motion of the universe and calculated astronomical events. The Antikythera Mechanism -as it was named- was the first analogue computer. This finding baffled scientists, since it required manufacturing techniques that are considered too sophisticated for that time period. Its exact use still remains a mystery.

What makes the story even more interesting is the fact that the mechanism was lost in a storm, during an attempt to transport it to Rome, and it was recovered 2000 years later… thanks to a storm. Although Antikythera is not full of mysteries like many of the other islands on the list, the Sea of Antikythera is definitely a mystery!

Mysterious Samothraki

You may know Samothraki thanks to the statue of the “Winged Victory of Samothrace”, which is now displayed in the Louvre. Samothraki (also seen as Samothrace) is an island located in the northern Aegean Sea and a popular summer destination for northern Greeks.

In antiquity, Samothraki was not an area of political or economic significance. But it was an island of religious significance, housing the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, a temple complex where several religious ceremonies used to take place. It was also the meeting point for the members of the Cult of the Great Gods who participated in the Cabeirian Mysteries.  Just like with the Eleusinian Mysteries that we have seen in the past, details regarding the Cabeirian rituals remain a… mystery.

Due to its religious significance, Samothraki continues attracting spiritual people from all around the world. Some of the most popular sights are its waterfalls and Oros Feggari (translated as Mount Moon in English). The island has also its own recent urban legends and stories. For example, many new age believers avoid camping in close proximity to the river Fonias. Fonias (Φονιάς) means “killer” in Greek, but this is not the reason they avoid spending the night there. The area supposedly has a strong energy that… can keep you up at night!

But the weirdest stories about Samothraki surround the “Vdelolimni” a small lake that it is rumored to be the home of the Topakes (Τόπακες) – weird creatures that live under the surface of the Earth and visit our world late at night. If you hear the locals’ descriptions of the Topakes, it doesn’t take long to realize that they refer to what we call “fairies” and “elves” in other parts of the world.

Locals and visitors have also reportedly witnessed a weird phenomenon at Vdelolimni (link in Greek). Every ten years, the lake appears to be boiling and a weird mist surrounds the area. That is your warning sign to leave the place as soon as possible, unless you want to come across the “Skylolakas” – a terrifying dog-like monster that jumps straight out of hell!

Although stories about fairies and other creatures existed since ancient times, the story of Skylolakas is a more recent one. According to the legend, during the Ottoman occupation of Greece, an Ottoman ruler summoned a demon to make sure that locals remain obedient. This resulted in the creation of a portal to hell that opens and closes every ten years.

The Greek Vampire Islands

If you have watched Helinika’s video on ancient Greek vampires, then you already know that legends about the undead existed in Greece for thousands of years. It may be easier to imagine a vampire hiding in a misty forest in Transylvania, but, what if I told you that vampires reportedly lurked in sunny Santorini?

Greek vampires do not have the classic Hollywood look – they are more similar to zombies than to Dracula or Edward Cullen. And they would terrorize the living during the night, by destroying their properties, eating their livestock, and, if they managed to get into a house, they would violently attack anyone living there.

The main reason someone would turn into a “vrykolakas” (as Greeks call vampires) is an improper burial. But the character of the person who was buried also played a role; mean-spirited and jealous people were more at risk. The same goes for people who were wronged and needed to bring justice.

Stories like this survived in many Greek islands -Crete, Santorini, Rhodes…- for thousands of years with only minor differences. In Medieval and Ottoman Greece, locals would often bury the dead in small uninhabited islands, since the “vrykolakas” cannot cross a body of water. These islands are known as “Vrykolakonisia” (Vampire Islands).

Opposite the island of Skyros, there is also a group of islands known also as “Vrykolakonisia”. But the name was reportedly given to these islands after they were used to isolate those who had contracted the bubonic plague during the worst years of the “Black Death”.

For reasons that are not fully clear, there has been an connection between the “Black Death” and legends about vampires. During this health crisis, bodies would be casually buried in a ditch before their proper burial, to avoid spreading the disease. Some patients were buried alive by accident and, when their bodies were dug out to be transported in their final burial ground, their arms and legs were placed in peculiar positions. According to historians, that led people to believe that the dead were angry for being thrown into a ditch without a proper burial ceremony and that turned them into vampires.

The Mysteries of Delos

The most mysterious Greek island is located right at the heart of the Cycladic Archipelago in the Aegean Sea. Apart from the center of the Cyclades, it is also the center of the most extensive archaeological excavations in the Mediterranean. A place with a rich mythological and historical background. This is the mysterious island of Delos.

According to ancient Greek mythology, Delos was the birthplace of god Apollo and goddess Artemis. It is estimated that it was inhabited since the 3rd millennium BC and it later became the meeting point of the cult of Dionysus and Leto. But apart from an important religious site, it soon became a trade, political, and cultural center. Many archaeological findings were transported in Museums in Athens. Others, like the famous lion statues, remain on the sacred island.

The history of Delos has inspired many stories. For example, many people believe that Delos has a strong, almost therapeutic energy, thanks to the repeated cleansings that were performed there by the Athenians but also thanks to the island’s location (it is literally at the epicenter of the Cyclades). Moreover, some people believe that the buildings, sculptures and other items on Delos contain symbols and encrypted messages. Others even claim that the island is visited by UFOs.

Delos is now an archaeological site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that you can visit during the day by boat from Mykonos, Naxos, or Paros. The only residents are the people who have dedicated their lives in protecting and preserving the artifacts and monuments of Delos. As you can imagine, an island that is a sacred and fully-protected archaeological site deserves the first place on this list.

Which island is the most mysterious island in your opinion? Have you visited any of these places? Leave a comment down below. If you enjoyed watching this video, feel free to like and share. If you are new here, subscribe and stay connected! In the description you will find a link to Helinika’s Udemy course for learning Greek, among other helpful links!

Reading Your “Summer in Greece” Stories (Travel Stories)

Today we celebrate Helinika’s YouTube milestone by reading subscribers’ stories from Greece. A story of a Polish girl who visited the island of Ikaria for the first time, a story of a German girl who had the most unbelievable experience after she revisited Greece, and the story of an anonymous subscriber who had a close encounter with a… Caretta-Caretta!

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Mysterious Places in Athens, Greece | Mysterious Greece

The city of Athens has a history spanning over three thousand years. As you can imagine, the capital of the Hellenic Republic of Greece is the birthplace of countless important figures, revolutionary ideas, legendary stories, and mysteries. Here are some of the most mysterious places in Athens, Greece.

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Mysterious Places in Athens

  • Ardittos Hill
  • Mount Pentelicus
  • Davelis’ Cave
  • The Dragon Gate
  • The Acropolis Hill

Ardittos Hill | Mysterious Greece

Ardittos Hill is located at the heart of Athens, surrounding the Kallimarmaro; the historical Panathenaic Stadium which was built in 330 BC and reconstructed in 144 AD. Adrittos Hill was the area where ancient Athenian judges would take their oath.

The green hill has attracted many curious researchers of the unexplained over the years. It has been observed that the area is oddly quiet. Visitors often report that birds avoid entering the wooded area, which is unusual. Cats, on the other hand, seem to be attracted to this area.

Others say that they feel a strange energy surrounding the hill. Moreover, there are reports of peculiar findings in the area, such as candles, ropes, and remains of ritualistic activities. But why is that?

Ardittos Hill has been considered a sacred place since ancient antiquity. The area houses the temple of Artemis Agrotera, an important Athenian landmark, and the temple place of Fortune Goddess Tyche. But most importantly, it was the location where the Micra or Lesser Eleusinian Mysteries were taking place. These mysteries were a set of secret rituals organized by a cult dedicated to goddesses Demeter and Persephone. If you are interested in learning more about these mysteries, don’t forget to check Helinika’s dedicated video.

It is worth mentioning that a street named Odos Agras, right next to Ardittos Hill, is also the center of various urban legends. The street is known for the house of the Nobel laureate and poet, Giorgos Seferis. But, according to an urban legend, someone who walks on this street might end up walking back in time. Just like the main character in the Woody Allen movie “Midnight in Paris”. Imagine exploring Athens only to come across one of Greece’s most important poets!

Moreover, although Athens has indeed a large amount of stray cats, the street has a… disproportionate amount of felines roaming around. On the street you can also find the so-called “House with the Cats”, which is reportedly always guarded by two cats that stand next to its front door. Witnesses have said that the cats stay so still that they look like statues. Not only that, but the house, which is not clear whether it is inhabited or not, has a sign with the following verse:

I will not reign, to serve I detest, the cat I remain.”

Mount Pentelicus | Mysterious Greece

Mount Pentelicus or Penteli is one of the mountains of Athens. It is known for its marble, the Pentelicon marble that was used to construct the Acropolis of Athens. The mountain is one of the most mysterious places in Greece since antiquity.

According to some reports, there is a spot on Penteli where drivers experience a weird phenomenon. A street that seems to be going slightly uphill manages to defy gravity. When cars stop there, they start moving on their own. They move upwards – as if gravity is reversed.

Some observers suggest that there is an optical illusion, and that the road actually goes downhill. Others say that there are strong magnetic fields in the area that pull the cars in a seemingly unnatural way.

Mount Pentelicus is also associated with countless urban legends and myths. There are reports of mysterious hitchhikers who disappear in people’s cars. In the past, people have reported UFO sightings while visiting the area.

In the 1990s, Penteli became a feared place after it started attracting groups of devil worshippers. One of this groups, consisting of two young men and a teenage girl, committed a series of sacrificial murders of young women in the area of Pallini, a municipality at the foothills of Mount Pentelicus.

The mountain also has its own “haunted” estate. That is the tower of the Duchess of Plaisance, Sophie de Marbois-Lebrun. The French noblewoman and philhellene, moved to Athens in 1834 and spent the rest of her life in the newly founded Hellenic Republic.

The Duchess reportedly lost her mind after the premature death of her beloved daughter, Eliza. Rumor has it that she turned to spiritualism and later to witchcraft. She wanted to communicate with Eliza and she invited mediums and necromancers to her tower. As a result, the estate is rumored to be “haunted” with countless spirits, including the spirit of Eliza.

But the most mysterious place of Penteli is without the doubt its notorious cave: Davelis’ or Pan’s Cave…

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Daveli’s Cave | Mysterious Greece

Although Daveli’s Cave is located on the southwestern side of Mount Pentelicus, it deserves to be examined separately. That is because it sparked people’s curiosity since antiquity.

To begin with, ancient Athenians believed that the chthonic god Pan who resided under the surface of the Earth, was able to visit Athens by exiting this Cave on Mount Pentelicus. Nymphs were also considered to reside next to the cave. After the battle of Marathon, when Pan allegedly helped the Athenians win by causing panic to the Persians, Athenians would enter the Cave to worship Pan.

Over the years, when Greeks left their pagan past behind, chthonic deities were considered demonic. They resided under the surface of the Earth – where hell is located. Byzantine and Ottoman Greeks feared the cave. Farmers and shepherds that passed by Pan’s cave would often run back to their villages in terror, reporting sightings of terrifying monsters that exited the cave. As a result, a small church was built right at the entrance of the cave dedicated to Saint Spyridon and to Saint Nicholas.

The cave is mostly known today as Davelis’ cave, instead of Pan’s cave. That is because the infamous 19th century brigand Christos Natsios or Davelis, used the cave as a hideout. According to some rumors of that time, Davelis had a secret love affair with the previously mentioned Duchess of Plaissance!

Due to its pagan history, new age occultists started visiting the cave to perform rituals. The devil worshippers of Pallini were allegedly frequent visitors of the cave as well. But today, the majority of its visitors are climbers, hikers, and nature lovers.

In the past, cave explorers and hikers have reportedly managed to fully explore its vast tunnel system, which, according to some, could lead someone to the center of Athens. This is no longer possible; the tunnels have been closed down for unspecified reasons.

What makes the history of the cave even more interesting is the fact that it sparked the interest of the government of the United States. During the Cold War, NATO and the US military reportedly explored the cave with the help of the Greek military.

Rumor had it that they wanted to use it for a secret military base, since its tunnels could lead to the sea and therefore would be the perfect location to keep some of their submarines. Others suggested that they wanted to produce or store secret nuclear weapons for a short time period.

Many explorers confirm this scenario, since electronic devices often stop working when entering the cave. Not only that but concrete was used to seal some of the tunnels, as if the military wanted to protect the public from dangerous substances… if not from the monsters that terrified medieval Greeks.

It is worth mentioning that the secret military works at Penteli were reported at the local press at that time. Today, many people have come up with some additional scenarios – some realistic, some less realistic- about what happened at Daveli’s cave in the ‘70s. For example, they suggest that the cave can serve as a portal to other dimensions, hence the appearance of strange beings over the years. A German tv-series called “Dark” has a storyline that bears many similarities to this scenario.

The Dragon Gate | Mysterious Greece

If you have ever read any of the Harry Potter books, then you might remember of the Diagon Alley but also some magical buildings and train platforms that muggles -non wizards- would simply ignore. A strange building like this exists at the heart of Athens.

This is no other than the narrow and tall building at the street Akadimias 58a. The odd structure has an architecture with many gothic references, which is rare to see in Athens. At the same time, despite its appearance, most people ignore it completely while passing by. It looks odd but stays unnoticed at the same time. A surprising fact is that there used to be an iron dragon on top of the main gate for many years, which was removed mysteriously overnight. Nobody really knows who removed the dragon and why.

There are many official and unofficial reports regarding the so-called “house with the dragon gate”. According to some older rumors, the building was used by secret societies, perhaps by the “Free Masons”, for their mysterious meetings.

People who lived in neighboring buildings often said that they would see people dressed in peculiar clothes enter the building. Thanks to its gothic elements and the scary dragon on top of the gate, many people believed that dark rituals were performed there. It didn’t help when some explorers managed to enter the building in the late 20th century, only to find an altar, a small church and religious icons stuffed in there.

It has been recently revealed  that it served as an additional entrance (in GR)  to the house of the German-born Green-national architect Ernst Ziller. Ziller is the mastermind behind some of the most beautiful and unique houses and mansions of Athens.

His estate located on street Mavromichali 6, is somehow connected to the “house with the dragon gate”. Rumor had it that it was later purchased by the very prominent family of bankers, the Loverdos, to store a secret private collection of ancient and medieval relics.

A few months ago, the Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported that the building has been turned into a Museum with the consent of the Loverdos family. The visitors will be able to see the private collection of relics that is now maintained and stored there, along with the building’s very unique interior.  

It is worth mentioning that the fact that the building belonged indeed to Ziller (a prominent architect) and later to Loverdos (a prominent banker), doesn’t mean that it was never used for secret meetings of mysterious people in the past…

The Acropolis of Athens | Mysterious Greece

The Acropolis of Athens is very different from the rest of the previously mentioned areas, since it evokes positive rather negative feelings and emotions. In many ways, it could be described as the opposite of the Hill of Ardittos. It represents light, wisdom, and excellence. A place that fills you in with positive energy. At the same time, it is one of the most mysterious places of Athens, of Greece, and of the world.

The ancient citadel consists of many ancient Greek temples from the 5th Century BC that were dedicated to the Olympian gods. The most prominent of them all is no other than the Parthenon, the temple dedicated to Athena, protector of the great city.

Over one million people from around the world visit the Acropolis of Athens every year. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the greatest symbol of democracy, since it was the great leader Pericles who was behind the great works on the site. Visiting the Acropolis of Athens is not just a cultural trip but perhaps… a trip in time.

Do you have any other mysterious places to add to this list? Feel free to comment down below!

Share YOUR “Summer in Greece” Story (Deadline: End of May) [Extended]

story

Since we are approaching the 2000 subscribers milestone, it is time to prepare a subscribers’ special video. This time, I would like to share YOUR short stories. The topic is “My Summer in Greece”.

If you would like to participate, you can choose between two options: a) a TRUE funny/romantic/horror vacation story you experienced while visiting Greece (as a foreign visitor) b) a nostalgic childhood memory (or memories) from the “χωριό” (chorio) (for Greeks and the Greek diaspora).  

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Requirements:

-The story should consist of 100-500 words.

-It should be written in English (channel’s main language).

-The plot should have a very clear beginning, middle, and end.

-Authors should avoid using inappropriate language; punctuation is important.

-It should be saved as a pdf/word document and uploaded on the Google forms (see link down below).

-The story must be original and not copy-pasted from an external source.

-The author should sign with his/her real name or a pseudonym and include his/her country of origin.

-All stories must be submitted by the end of May.

Anyone who watches/reads Helinika’s content and has visited Greece at least once, is eligible to submit his/her story. Stories that do not meet the above requirements, will not be included in the video.

I look forward to reading your submissions!

Greek Superstitions, Old Wives’ Tales, and Urban Legends | Greek Beliefs

Superstitions, old wives’ tales, and urban legends exist all around the world. Although the people who admit believing in some of them are often ridiculed, we all subconsciously follow some “unwritten rules” that do not necessarily have a rational background. According to Forbes and Psychology Today, superstitions and magical thinking are hardwired to our brain and are essential for our survival.

Here are some of the most common beliefs from (Modern) Greece that are not directly connected to the official Christian Orthodox traditions. The video includes Greek superstitions, old wives’ tales, and urban legends. You will learn more about the vaskania (evil eye) and stories such as the sacrifice to the bridge of Arta.

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Greek Superstitions

Superstitions are called “δεισιδαιμονίες” in Greek. Here are some of the superstitions many Greek people still believe:

  1. Mati/Vaskania (Evil Eye)
  2. Touch Red
  3. Gifting Perfume
  4. Itchy Palms
  5. Knock on Wood
  6. Sneezing and Hiccups
  7. Owl on the Roof

Greek Old Wives’ Tales

Greek old wives’ tales usually revolve around health issues, pregnancy, and motherhood. Here are a few old wives’ tales from Greece:

  1. Getting a Cold from Being Cold
  2. Sleeping with Wet Hair
  3. Shape of the Baby Bum
  4. Using Garlic and Onions Topically
  5. Dreaming of the Groom

Greek Urban Legends

Greek urban legends differ, depending on whether they originate from villages, small town, or big cities. In general, urban legends in villages revolve around spirits and hauntings. In bigger cities, urban legends differ:

  1. The Dead Hitchhiker
  2. Haunted Locations
  3. The Stone Bridge of Arta
  4. Neraides
  5. White Vans
  6. Yello, Mormo, Lamia, and Other Boogy(wo)men
  7. Vampire Islands

You can watch the video and learn the details regarding these superstitions. If you are new here, feel free to explore the rest of Helinika’s pages.

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haunted greek islands

Vampires in Santorini…? Six Mysterious Greek Islands | Mysterious Greece

A list of the most mysterious Greek islands. Greek islands are famous for their picturesque villages, aesthetically pleasing architecture, unique landscapes, and crystal-clear waters. But some of these islands are shrouded in mystery. For example, what is the story behind the vampire islands near the island of Skyros? And who were the “sea demons” that scared the locals on the island of Agkistri?

animals in greek

Greek Input #5: Greek Animal Vocabulary Input | Comprehensible Input

Welcome to another Greek input language learning video. Today, Helinika will teach you common Greek words that are related to animals. It goes without saying that these include animal names. Comprehensible input is a language learning method that helps you learn a language by listening and observing… just like a baby. For better results, this method should be used along with traditional language learning methods.

The Greek Secret to Happiness | Unravelling the Greek Way of Thinking

In the 1960s’ romantic comedy film “Never on Sunday”, an American classicist visits Greece to find the secret to happiness. Years earlier, the book “Zorba the Greek” follows a young intellectual to the island of Crete, where he tries to liberate himself from his bookish life. Greece and specifically the Greek countryside and the Greek islands, are often portrayed as the lost paradise; the eternal vacation destination where time moves slowly and everyone lives a happy, long life.

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The truth is that it is hard to pinpoint what happiness really is. Is it an abstract philosophical idea or a measurable variable? The Sustainable Development Solutions Network, supported by different foundations, publishes the “World Happiness Report”, which tries to measure happiness based on six key variables, including income and absence of corruption.

Greece is objectively in a negative position in both cases. But, throughout the years, even during the difficult financial period of 2010-2018, Greece – or at least the Greek countryside- has been perceived as a generally happy place. Is this based on a stereotypical portrayal of smiling Greeks breaking plates and dancing syrtaki on a postcard? Or are there more things to consider when talking about happiness?

A Stoic Perspective on Happiness

The Stoic philosophers have long been associated with holding the key to a happier life. They understood that happiness is a mental state and, therefore, external factors, such as money or government corruption, are irrelevant. In other words, it is not the things that happen to you or your circumstances that influence your mental well-being, but the way you perceive these events and circumstances.

As someone who grew up in Greece and was influenced by the Greek culture and the Greek way of thinking, I have noticed that there are indeed many things that Greeks believe or do that help them be more content with their life.  

Happiness and The Greek State of Mind

The first thing that comes to mind is the attitude of Greeks towards indulgence. In the video on modern Greek culture, I mentioned that Greeks have intermediate scores when it comes to indulgence vs. restrain. That means that we learn from a young age how to do everything in moderation and enjoy the pleasures of life without guilt.

There are many cultures that promote a very strict disciplined lifestyle. And that can be translated as having long periods of avoiding sugar, fats, alcohol – you name it – and then a weekend of emotional eating or getting blacked-out drunk, even putting themselves in great danger. The object of indulgence is demonized and people feel guilty for giving in. Now, that doesn’t mean that there are no Greeks who fall into a vicious cycle like this, but this mentality of constantly feeling guilty is far from the Greek way of thinking.

That may surprise some, since the modern Greek culture is heavily influenced by the teachings of Greek Orthodox Christianity. The latter suggest an ascetic, simple life, that focuses on mind and soul over matter. Today, however, this lifestyle is usually followed by people who choose to live in monasteries, rather than the average Greek Orthodox believer or even priest. Greek priests are often the “life of the party” of every village – drinking and dancing in traditional festivals.

But even the ascetic life of the monks is not free from pleasures. Monasteries in Greece are always located in breathtaking locations, usually on a hill to have an inspiring view. Keep this in mind because this will make more sense later.

Now, another thing that may contribute to the happiness of Greeks is the mindset that everyone deserves to have a good, fulfilling life.No matter the size of your house or the amount of money saved in your bank account, you should avoid misery at all costs. We often say «η φτώχεια θέλει καλοπέραση» – “poverty needs fun”. It may sound cheesy but dancing, singing, and telling jokes is for free. And other fun activities, such as eating and drinking with friends, do not always cost a fortune.

What I’ve noticed when I got in touch with people living in other countries in the world is that there are certain cultures that make people feel guilt for having fun and enjoying life, when they are things missing from their lives – including money. The Greek way of thinking dictates that you should not postpone happiness. You should enjoy life, with all the means you have, now.

Then we have the concept of “meraki” – and specifically working with meraki. Meraki is when you put all your effort towards your work. Have you ever watched an old man in an Greek island making a kaiki – a traditional fishing boat? How slowly and carefully he carves the wood and paints the details. Working with meraki, with all your attention and focus, is the opposite of what a modern economy needs to be the world’s leader: mass production and quantity over quality. But it can make you feel more creative and fulfilled with your work. More content with your life.

Another thing that comes to mind is the concept of “comicotragedy” in the Greek culture. Situations that are both comical and tragic, in which laughing and crying are both acceptable reactions. Foreigners are often surprised to find out that their favorite upbeat song that everyone dances to is actually describing a painful breakup. Greeks don’t have less tragic events happening to their lives than others. But they learn that they can make jokes with the things that bring them down, such as losing a job, a relationship or dealing with a health issue. It may be a coping mechanism but… it works!

Last but not least, let’s not forget that Greece has a collectivistic culture, where people keep strong ties with their close family members. You always feel like someone has your back and, by seeing yourself in a group, it is less likely to question your purpose and the reason for your existence.This of course is a double-edged sword, since you may feel too comfortable with what you have – you may be reluctant to take risks, open a business, or take a different route than the one of your family members. But today’s topic is about happiness, not risk-taking.

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Overlooked External Factor for Happiness  

But are Greeks happier only because of their way of thinking? Well, there must be some external factors as well. I am not going to be mentioning the role of sunlight and vitamin D, since studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency is also prevalent in Greece. But here is one external factor that I believe is connected to those living in the Greek countryside being overall content with their life. It may sound strange but bear with me.

Have you ever noticed how most Greek villages are located on a hill, built amphitheatrically, and overlooking the sea? Greeks have been placing a great focus on location since ancient times. They would avoid areas that are flat, dark, and far from a water source. There were practical reasons for this but, at the same time, living somewhere with a great view uplifts your spirit. You may live in a tiny house in a small village, but you feel like the king of the world. You have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, fish from the sea, and a house that you wouldn’t change for anything, no matter how humble it is. The magnificent landscapes are attributed with inspiring ancient Greeks to travel and explore new places, hence starting trading and building a strong civilization.

There are other parts of the world, even in the biggest economies, where living in nice landscapes requires a lot of money. Hills are reserved for the upper class and there are particular areas with affordable housing. People who struggle financially have to live in buildings that resemble boxes. Grey walls, no natural light. In this case, happiness and inspiration require a heavy wallet.       

Is a Happy Life an Exciting Life?

Before we end this video, I need to address that there is no global definition for happiness. In Greek, «ευδαιμονία» or «ευτυχία» is perceived as being overall content and satisfied with your life. Not necessarily smiling excessively, being always in a good mood, or living an extraordinary life. It is about the small things. Enjoying a cup of coffee looking outside your window. Taking care of your plants and making sure that your home feels homy, no matter how small. And most importantly, knowing that you are worthy of happiness – now, not sometime in the future, when everything will be perfect.

Learn Greek at Home During Quarantine

If you are interested in learning Greek but there are no classes taking place in your area, don’t be discouraged. Helinika, a platform dedicated to the Greek language, history, and culture, offers affordable Greek language lessons online. Learn Greek during Quarantine.

This Is Your Sign for Learning Greek

You have been debating whether you should start learning modern Greek and you constantly postpone it. Whatever the reason might be, here is the sign you were looking for. Start learning Greek today.

6 Random Things Greek People Do | Greek Culture Facts

Are you looking for some Greek culture facts? Today, we present to you six (6) random things Greek people do. From adding oregano on everything to saying one thing and meaning another, here are the most random facts about Greece and the Greeks.

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Random Things Only Greeks Do:

  1. Employees for Pumping Gas
  2. No Self-Service
  3. Enjoying a Glass of Plain Water
  4. Pedestrian Lanes= Decoration?
  5. Oregano on Everything
  6. Indirect Communication

Latest posts

Greek YouTube Channels to Immerse Yourself in The Language

There are different YouTube channels dedicated to the Greek language and culture, such as Helinika. Two examples are LinguaTree and EasyGreek. Here are some of the best Greek YouTube channels that are not targeted at Greek language learners. They are commentary, comedy, lifestyle, and other types of channels, which can help you immerse yourself in the language.

 If you are an absolute beginner, you might find it hard following their videos. But if you have a basic understanding of the Greek language, watching the content these channels produce will significantly improve your fluency.  

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Greek Comedy Channels

Most of the Greek comedy YouTube channels belong to actors and real comedians, rather than professional YouTubers. Here are Helinika’s recommendations:

Labros Fisfis

The comedian Labros Fisfis has a nerdy, self-deprecating sense of humor that can be enjoyed by an international audience. At the same time, you will learn about certain aspects of the Greek culture that even we, Greeks, make jokes about. It is recommended to watch his videos on Greek motherhood and Greece in general.

Giorgos Vagiatas

Giorgos Vagiatas is a personal favorite, since he is gifted with making everything sound funny. His sense of humor could also be described as nerdy and foreigners will also find many Greek “inside jokes” that will help them understand more about the Greek culture. Vagiatas is also uploading travel content from time to time and he is known for his “camper” traveling series here on YouTube.

Dionysis Atzarakis

Dionysis Atzarakis is a very talented actor, director and comedian, with a very sophisticated sense of humor. No loud noises, weird face expressions, or try-hard jokes. Just pure sarcasm and irony. His jokes might be harder to understand, since he adds many references to Greece’s pop culture and media.

Greek Scientific & Informative YouTube Channels

The Greek YouTube community includes many scientists and knowledgeable people.

Astronio

Astronio is a YouTube channel dedicated to the science of Astronomy. It explains complicated phenomena of the cosmos in an easy and understandable way. Behind the channel there is a real astronomer named Pavlos Kastanas, who is also a science lecturer at Mediterranean College. You can also find interviews of other scientists on this channel.

Kathimerini Physiki

 Kathimerini Physiki (Καθημερινή Φυσική) translates to “Daily Physics”. It is a Greek YouTube channel that explains scientific phenomena to a broad audience. The face of the presenter is not shown on screen.

The Skeptic Theory

A very interesting Greek YouTube channel is “The Skeptic Theory”, which covers a wide range of topics – from religion and conspiracy theories to human psychology, ethics, and logic. The face of the presenter is again not shown and viewers who are currently in the process of learning Greek will be able to expand their vocabulary.

Yannis Sarakatsanis

Yannis Sarakatsanis is a mathematician and actor here in Greece who uploads high quality content on YouTube. His videos on various philosophical matters are very well researched and he also gives great book recommendations.

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Greek Commentary Channels

Commentary channels can get controversial. Here are two commentary channels that belong to independent thinkers and do not necessarily fall under a specific political ideology.

Konstantina Adamaki

Konstantina Adamaki is a Journalism graduate who creates mostly commentary videos but also some satirical videos. By watching her videos, you will get an understanding of Greece’s current affairs. The YouTuber has been called a “leftist” and a “conservative” by commentators, since her opinions do not follow a specific political agenda.

Nefeli Meg

Nefeli Meg is a young lawyer who posts informative and entertaining content. She usually comments on Greece’s current affairs and, as a lawyer, she is able to present both sides of the story. It is as if she debates with herself, which requires a lot of research. Both native and non-native speakers should watch her videos, since they can improve their Greek vocabulary.

Greek Lifestyle Channels

There are several Greek lifestyle YouTube channels but here are the ones recommended by Helinika.

Evelina Nikoliza

Evelina Nikoliza is a singer and presenter who also shares parts of her life on YouTube. She has a great sense of humor and she has some of the most hilarious storytime videos. Greek language learners will easily follow her stories.

I Mikri Ollandeza

Danae Georganta is a half-Dutch – half-Greek YouTuber who is known as “I Mikri Ollandeza” (the little Dutch girl). She was one of the first people who made YouTube their career in Greece. Danae started with beauty and fashion videos but, at the moment, she mostly uploads vlog and lifestyle content.

By exploring these YouTube channels you will probably come across other Greek creators, whose content will be interesting to you. If you watch any of their videos, feel free to leave a comment, letting them know how you discovered them. Have a nice day and keep learning!

Top 10 Coolest Neighborhoods in Athens (to Explore or Live in)

When non-Athenians visit Athens, they usually explore the three historical neighborhoods surrounding the Acropolis hill. But Athens is more than Plaka, Monastiraki, and Thiseio. Here are some of the lesser-known Athenian neighborhoods you should explore or consider living in.

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Best Athenian Neighborhoods

  1. Koukaki
  2. Neo & Paleo Psychiko
  3. Pangrati
  4. Kolonaki
  5. Neapoli
  6. Exarcheia
  7. Ano Petralona
  8. Palaio Faliro
  9. Nea Smyrni
  10. Mets

Mets, Athens

Mets is a popular and quite central neighborhood of Athens. Built amphitheatrically between the Hill of Ardettos and the Hill of Loginnos, most houses and apartment buildings have a great view of the city of Athens. Mets is also very close to the ancient Temple of Olympian Zeus. The neighborhood got its name from the first Athenian brewery that was founded by the Bavarian Karl Fuchs.

Today, Mets it’s the neighborhood of choice for artists and writers. The local art center frequently organizes cultural events and exhibitions. Although it is situated in the heart of Athens, it is quiet and green. Last but not least, it is one of the few neighborhoods of Athens where you can still find many neoclassical buildings from the 19th century.

Nea Smyrni, Athens

Nea Smyrni is a family-friendly municipality in the southern part of Athens. Its name derives from the Greek refugees who settled there after the catastrophe of Smyrna in 1922. Many Athenians choose Nea Smyrni because it is close to the city center but, at the same time, it has the benefits of a suburban area. It has parks, a small forest called “Alsos Neas Smyrnis”, and many two-story houses with gardens.

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Paleo Faliro, Athens

Paleo Faliro is a coastal district in the southern part of Athens. Just like Nea Smyrni, Paleo Faliro housed many Greeks from Asia Minor in early 20th Century. Today, locals often call it “Falirofornia”. That is because of the countless palm trees planted across its beautiful marina and public park called “Flisvos”. Athenians love it because of its ideal geographical position. You can easily reach the center of Athens and the port of Piraeus. And most importantly, finding an apartment with a seaside view is easier than in other parts of Athens.

Ano Petralona, Athens

When visitors arrive in Athens, they start exploring Syntagma, Plaka, Thiseio, and Monastiraki. But they often overlook a central Athenian neighborhood that is known for its authentic (and non-touristic!) Greek tavernas and restaurants.

Ano Petralona is a neighborhood located next to Thiseio. It has an excellent public transportation system and it is much quieter than most Athenian neighborhoods that are located within walking distance from Syntagma square. It is also an affordable neighborhood to live in, considering its central location.

Exarcheia, Athens

Exarcheia is both one of the coolest and one of the most avoided neighborhoods of Athens. Situated close to Panepistimiou Street and the National Technical University of Athens, it is inhabited mostly by students and young Athenians. The area has also attracted many left-wing intellectuals and artists, since it has been associated with the Polytechnic Uprising of 1973 against the Greek Junta. Over the years, radical activists and anarchists started residing there.

Foreign visitors often avoid Exarcheia because of its reputation as the “Anarchist Neighborhood” of Athens. But the chances of a random person being bothered by the anarchists of Exarcheia are very rare. Visitors usually have nothing to be afraid of in Exarcheia but it is recommended to avoid the neighborhood on November 17th and December 6th, to avoid coming across a protest. You should also avoid parking your vehicles in this neighborhood.

Neapoli, Athens

Next to Exarcheia, there is the historical and picturesque neighborhood of Neapoli. Located on the northern slope of Mount Lycabettus, it offers a panoramic view of the city. It is perfect for those who want to live in the center but despise large crowds and noises. Neapoli is also known for its countless bookstores and publishing houses. Many writers and artists reside there.

Kolonaki, Athens

Close to Neapoli and Exarcheia, there is Kolonaki neighborhood. The name literally translates to “little column”. That is because of an old 2-meter high marble column that was located there.  

Kolonaki is one of the most upscale neighborhoods of central Athens. It is the fashion center of the Greek capital, with many fashion designers and architects choosing one its countless neoclassical buildings for their studios. Benaki Museum, the Byzantine Museum, and the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art are all located there.

Kolonaki square is known for its fashionable cafes, restaurants, bars, and clubs. The neighborhood has two major metro stations (Evangelismos and Megaro Mousikis) and countless luxurious hotels for business travelers. Finally, Kolonaki is the home of many foreign embassies.

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Pangrati, Athens

Few blocks away from Syntagma square, right by Kalimarmaro stadium, you can find one of the coolest neighborhoods of Athens: Pangrati. The neighborhood has recently received great attention from young and creative business owners, which translates to higher rent prices.  

Pangrati is one of the most authentic Athenian neighborhoods, since it rarely receives attention from tourists. Athenians visit Pangrati for its historical cafes and parks, and often choose it for their main residence.

Neo & Paleo Psychiko, Athens

Psychiko – Neo and Paleo – is located just 5 km northeast of the city center. It is a wealthy residential area, chosen by doctors and lawyers. It was historically the home of Greek aristocrats and “old money” families. Psychiko has also countless prestigious private schools, such as Moraitis School, Arsakeio, and Athens College. Finally, just like Kolonaki, the neighborhood hosts many foreign embassies.

Koukaki, Athens

Koukaki was a snubbed neighborhood of Athens that gained great popularity the past ten years. Vogue has announced that Koukaki is now the “new cool neighborhood of Athens”.

Koukaki is a popular brunch destination for Athenians, but it is also known for its hip cocktail bars. Many galleries and museums are located there, including the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum.

 But the main reason locals love Koukaki and are desperately trying to find an apartment there, is its proximity to the Acropolis Hill. Koukaki is not as crowded nor touristic as Plaka, but it is just few steps away from the temple of the Parthenon.

Did you know any of these neighborhoods? If yes, what is your favorite?

Greek Drama Ep.3: Ancient Greek Stage Machinery (Mechane, Periaktos etc.) | Ancient Theatrical Tricks

Theatrical machinery – devices used for theatrical effects – are much older than you might think. They were used on stage since the beginning of the history of theater. Here are some of the tricks ancient Greeks used to help the audience get fully immersed into the play.

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Ancient Greek Stage Machinery:

  1. Mechane
  2. Periaktos
  3. Ekkyklema
  4. Theologeion
  5. Anapiesma (Trap)
  6. Vronteio & Keravnoskopeion
  7. Other Theatrical Tricks

Mechane/ Deus ex Machina

You may know this machine with its latin name “Deus ex Machina”. “Mechane” or “Aiorima” was a crane used in ancient Greek drama. Ancient Greek tragedies would often require the intervention of a god or goddess in times of crisis. The divine character would hang over the stage with the help of the mechane and provide a solution to the tragic character’s problem. Euripides, the most alternative tragedian, used the aiorima for a non-divine character – Medea. Since then, mechane has been used to land any type of character on stage, if the plot requires them to fly around.  

Periaktos

Periaktos -often seen in plural as periaktoi – was a wooden device that rapidly changed the theatrical scenes. It had the shape of a triangle with three different backgrounds painted on each side. The periaktos would rotate, changing the set of each scene. This device gained popularity during the Renaissance period and that is when theatrical designers, such as Nicola Sabbatini, were admired for their work.

Ekkyklema

Ancient tragedies often delt with the darkest side of the human psyche. The plot usually included violent crimes, including murder. But depicting such devious scenes was not allowed. That is why they would use a wheeled platform called ekkyklema to remove and reintroduce characters on stage. For example, a character would be rolled out of the scene before his murder and pushed back in while laying on the ground.  

Theologeion

Theologeion was a stage trick similar to mechane. It was a raised platform which was very well disguised as part of the scene. Actors who played divine characters would climb up these platforms and spoke the word of god from above.

Anapiesma (Trap)

Anapiesma was the ancient Greek version of the stage trap we know today. It was a concealed opening under the stage floor, where actors and props would be hidden before they appeared on stage. Such traps are used even today.

Vronteio & Keravnoskopeion

In ancient Greek drama, weather changes often symbolized the mood of the gods and goddesses. Storms would take place when a character committed hybris. Tragedians would employ two devices to mimic the sounds and lightnings of a stormy weather: vronteio and keravnoskopeion. The first was a metal box full of rocks that was shaken to produce loud noises. The second was a type of periaktos that had a side with a mirroring effect. It was used to reflect the sunlight in a way that resembled a lightning.

Other Theatrical Tricks

Ancient Greeks constructed their theaters amphitheatrically. The goal was that everyone could see and hear whatever happened on stage. The locations were chosen carefully, and Greek theaters still have incredible acoustic. The acoustic did not only occur naturally but also with the construction of obstruction behind the stage. This happened in order to enhance the physical phenomenon of reflection, which causes echoes.

If you enjoyed watching this video, feel free to like, share, and subscribe. Stay tuned because, next week, we will be covering the plot of our first tragedy.

medea (play)

Greek Drama Ep.7: Medea by Euripides (Theatrical Play)

Medea (Μήδεια) is one of the most controversial female heroines to have ever existed. In modern Greek, her name is given to women who end the lives of their children. We know Medea from ancient Greek mythology and specifically the Argonautica. But the character is widely known thanks to the theatrical play with the same name, presented by Euripides in 431 BC.

Greek Drama Ep.6: The Concepts of Hybris, Nemesis, and Catharsis

Hybris, nemesis, and catharsis are three important aspects of every ancient Greek tragedy. Hybris and nemesis were mentioned way before the birth of Greek theatre; we know the terms from ancient Greek mythology. And catharsis is a concept that was introduced in drama. But what is the meaning of these three theatrical terms?

Greek Drama Ep.5: Antigone by Sophocles

Antigone by Sophocles is one of the most well-known ancient Greek theatrical plays. It belongs to a collection of tragedies – the Theban plays – since it takes place in the Greek city of Thebes. It was written by the great tragedian Sophocles and was presented at the theatrical competition of Dionysia in 441 BC. It is based on the myth of Oedipus but Sophocles manages to make the story even more tragic. It focuses on the subject of written vs. unwritten rules and absolute power.