CULTURE

New book documents the history of the Hotel Grande Bretagne

Thursday, July 3, 2003 was a great day at the Grande Bretagne, as its history, that began 126 years ago when it was founded by Efstathios Lampsas, was published in a 245-page book by historian Angelos Vlachos (no relation to the late ambassador and member of the Athens Academy). Richly illustrated with photographs from the personal archives of the founder’s great-grandson and current vice president of Lampsas SA, Apostolos Thomas Doxiadis, as well as from the Vovolinis archive and the «Economic Review,» the book, whose Greek title is «The Hotel-Symbol,» was published by Alexandra Vovolini-Laskaridi, of Kerkyra Publications. An English edition is soon to be released. The hotel has survived two Balkan wars, the Asia Minor catastrophe and subsequently the influx of refugees and World War II. It has also seen other major events in Greek history, such as the April 1967 military coup, and the restoration of democracy in 1974 when Constantine Karamanlis returned to Greece and moved into a fifth-floor suite where he set up a government of national unity. The hotel has seen some of the greatest names in politics and the arts pass through its doors. It was at the Grande Bretagne that Odysseas Elytis gave a press conference after being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1979. Katina Paxinou, Dimitris Mitropoulos, Elizabeth Taylor, Aristotle Onassis, and Maria Callas have all stayed in the GB’s suites. During the turbulent times after the liberation of Athens in World War II, even Winston Churchill visited the hotel, although he never slept there as he was continually on the move. As the book launch was in progress, a group of school councilors demonstrating outside closed off Vassilissis Sofias and Vassilissis Amalias avenues, but did nothing to stem the tide of people heading for the ballroom-conference hall, where they were welcomed by Lampsas SA President Maurice Modiano and Doxiadis, Public Relations Director Christina Papathanasiou, as well as major shareholders in Hyatt Hellas, Panos and Thanasis Laskaridis, the publisher, and shareholder Vassilis Theoharakis. Master of ceremonies was Pavlos Tsimas. Well-known commentator on Athenian life Zachos Hatzifotiou was applauded for his humorous tales, as he claimed to be not a customer but a «permanent resident» of the GB bar. As the hotel prepares to host all foreign heads of state at next year’s Olympic Games, foreign visitors to Athens will find that they are starring, as customers, on the stage of one of the most luxurious and cosmopolitan hotels in Europe. «We have grown older, but the GB has been rejuvenated,» said Hatzifotiou.