Cretan youth from Australia and NZ make the most of Greece tour


Cretan youth from across Australia and New Zealand have completed their 14-day tour of Greece from July 13 – 22, making many long-lasting memories and new friends.

The 14-day tour was organised by the General Secretariat of Hellenism Abroad and Public Diplomacy, in collaboration with the World Council of Cretans and the Cretan Federation of Australia & NZ (CFANZ).

From the Hellenic Presidential Palace to the Parthenon:

During the Athens part of the tour, the youth travelled to Salamina – one of Greece’s largest naval bases – and enjoyed a concert by Greek singer, Konstantinos Argiros.

They also had a private tour of the Hellenic Presidential Palace, where they met with Greece’s President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, exchanged greetings and presented her with a gift.

Later, the group visited the Hellenic Presidential Guard (Evzones) headquarters, followed by a visit to the Acropolis Museum, the Parthenon and Panathinaiko Stadium.

On day four of the trip, Cretan youth visited the Tanagra Airfield Base where they enjoyed watching several flight simulations and had the chance to sit in Greece’s new war planes, the Rafale 3FR.

The next day, following a visit to the Special Forces Training Camp, the youth headed to the Greek Ministry of Defence where they were greeted by the Greek Deputy Minister of Defence, Nikos Hardalias, and the Chief of Hellenic National Defence General Staff (GEETHA), General Constantinos Floros, in Greece’s Pentagon.

During the visit, the President of the CFANZ Tony Tsourdalakis and General Floros, in the presence of Minister Hardalias, agreed to continue the Cretan Youth Program for the next five years every September.

Later, the youth visited the Greek Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Athens, where they met with the General Secretary for Greeks Abroad and Public Diplomacy, Ioannis Chrysoulakis.

Travelling around Crete:

Halfway through the tour, the group of youth arrived at Chania on the Greek island of Crete. Their first stop was to the tomb of the Ethnarch Eleftherios Venizelos, where they laid a wreath, held a minute’s silence and performed an impromptu pentozali. They also visited the statue of the Great Ethnomartyr Spiros Kagiales.

That night, the first-ever National Cretan Dance Group from Oceania, under instruction from Paul Spanoudakis, performed a music and dance concert in Chania. The concert was hosted by the Holy Metropolis of Kydonias & Apokoronou and Metropolitan Damaskinos, with support from the Cultural Association of Chania Viglatores. Lyrist Nikos Karkanis and his band performed on the night.

CFANZ President Mr Tsourdalakis was also awarded on the night for his voluntary work in the Greek community of Australia.

Throughout the youth tour, the group also visited sites with ANZAC history on Crete. This included the 42nd Street Memorial in Tsikalaria, which was financially supported by the Cretans of Australia; the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Souda Bay; the Mournies Memorial, which was funded by the Battle of Crete & Greece Commemorative Council of Victoria; the Skines Memorial funded by the Pancretan Association; the Tavronitis Bridge; the Maleme Airfield, the Battle of Crete Evacuation memorial; the Preveli Monastery; and The Hellenic Australian Memorial.

The Cultural Association of Chania Viglatores and the National Centre for Research Eleftherios Venizelos in Chania hosted the group for lunch and dinner.

Religious and cultural experiences:

The only religious component of the tour included a church service at the Holy Monastery of Arkadi in the presence of Metropolitan of Rethymno & Avlopotamou. The youth dressed proudly in traditional Cretan costume as they remembered the victims of the Holocaust of Arkadi. A trisagion service was conducted inside the gunpowder room in honour of the fallen.

Later that night, the Cretan youth took part in their first ever Rethemniotiki Kantada (Serenade) from the Saint Tesseris Martyrs Cathedral of Rethymno, through the streets of Rethymno and ending at the Square of the Unknown Soldier.

The event was hosted by the Cultural Association of Rethymno Tzanidakis and included Cretan musicians Sifis Tsourdalakis, Babis Voulgarakis and Manolis Kydonakis.

Over the next few days, everyone enjoyed a number of cultural experiences including a visit to the village of Spili, as well as dancing performances by Omilos Vrakoforon Kritis and the National Cretan Dance Group from Oceania, and a visit to the Manolis Stagakis Lyra Shop.

6th International Cretan Congress:

As the tour slowly came to an end, the Cretan youth attended the opening of the 6th International Cretan Congress in Agios Nikolaos in the prefect of Lasithi.

An official Cretan Youth Meeting was also held at the Congress, with youth from Australia, Europe and Greece presenting the activities of their respective associations. During the meeting, the youth decided to request permission from the World Council of Cretans to formalise their existence by August 2024.

During the Congress, youth also made the most of trips to visit Spinalonga island and Lasithi, and enjoyed a number of Cretan glendia.

One night, the National Dance Group performed in Agios Nikolaos in front of all the Congress delegates, the Governor of Crete Stavros Arnaoutakis and His Eminence Metropolitan of New Zealand Myron and other dignitaries. Musicians Giorgos Nikiforos Zervakis and his band entertained everyone.

Greece tour comes to an end:

The 14-day tour came to an end with a trip to Sitia. Departing Agios Nikolaos heading for Sitia, the youth had the opportunity to view all the sights at the geological park guided by local historian Eleftheria Koumendaki. The youth also stopped at the Holy Monastery of Toplou and were given a tour by the Abbott Archimandrite Amvrosios.

The youth then relaxed at the famous Vai Beach, before enjoying a music and theatrical performance at the fortress of Kazarma, followed by a farewell dinner at the Itanos restaurant in Sitia hosted by the Mayor Giorgos Zervakis.




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