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General

Greece (officially: Elliniki Dimokratia = Hellenic Republic, or Hellás) is a republic in the extreme southeast of Europe. The total land area including all islands is 131,957 square kilometers.

Greece Satellite ImagePhoto: public domain

The coast of the mainland is almost 4000 kilometers long; Including the coasts of all the islands, the total number of coastal kilometers comes to about 15,000, the longest coastline in Europe after Norway. In many places the sea penetrates deep into the land, so that there are few areas more than about 100 kilometers from the coast. Almost 18% of the land area is occupied by more than 2000 islands and rocky points, often widely separated, of which only about 150 are inhabited, simply because they are too small. The islands are often private property of, for example, wealthy shipowners. The northernmost island is Thassos, the westernmost Corfu (Kerkira), the southernmost Crete (Kriti) and the easternmost Rhodes.

The Greek Islands are spread across the Ionian and Aegean Seas. Well-known Ionian islands are Corfu or Kérkira, Lefkas, Kefalonia and Zakynthios. The Aegean islands are in the majority and some well-known islands are Samothráki, Límnos, Lesbos, the Sporades, the Cyclades, Rhodes and Samos.

Greece is bordered to the north by Albania (282 km), Bulgaria (494 km) and Macedonia (228 km), and to the east by Turkey (206 km). To the west of the mainland is the Ionian Sea and to the south is the Mediterranean Sea. In the east, the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara separate Greece and Turkey. Greece is thus surrounded by seas and it is remarkable that wherever one is, one is never more than 96.5 kilometers from a sea.

Geographically and socio-economically, the mainland can be divided, from north to south, into six regions:

Western Thrace is a mainly agricultural region in the northeast and borders Bulgaria and Turkey. The main city is Alexandroúpolis.

Macedonia is the area around Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece. Thessaloniki is an important industrial center with textiles, chemistry and the processing of agricultural products. The Chaldiki peninsula is important for tourism.

Epirus is located between the Albanian border and Macedonia. It is an economically poorly developed area where forestry and citrus cultivation are important. The mostly traditional industry is based on marble, textiles, wood processing and agricultural products. Furthermore, there is emerging tourism, especially around the national parks of the Pindos Mountains. Ioannina is the most important city in the region.

Thessaly is a predominantly agricultural region located in the eastern part of central Greece. It is the most fertile part of the country. This is due to the large plain on both sides of the Piniós River.
The industry is concentrated around the port city of Vólos and the centrally located Lárissa.

Central Greece is the area between Epirus and Thessaly in the north and the Gulf of Patras and Corinth in the south. In the southeast lies the socio-economic heart of Greece, the mountainous but fertile Attica. The capital Athens is located here and a third of the total population lives. Piraeus is adjacent to Athens with the largest port in Greece. The service sector and industry are strongly represented here. The rest of central Greece is highly agricultural, although the industry around cities such as Lamia, Thiya and Chaldika is increasingly developing.

The Peloponnese is the southern peninsula and separated from the mainland by the Corinth Canal. The mountainous Pelopponesos is characterized by a landscape of olive trees and cypresses. Agriculture dominates here too, but industry is starting to develop near the port city of Patras in the northwest.

The islands are divided into the following regions:

The Ionian islands with Corfu as the center and tourism as the main economic activity.

The northern islands in the Aegean Sea with agriculture and some tourism as main activities.

The southern Aegean islands with small-scale tourism in the Cyclades and mass tourism in Rhodes and Kos. Crete with Heráklion as its capital and agriculture and tourism as its main activities.

Landscape

The mainland of Greece consists of 80% mountains and hills. The highest mountain is the sacred mythological mountain Olympus in central Greece at 2,917 meters.

Other high mountains are the Pindos (2637 meters), the Gramnos (2520 meters), the Parnassos (2457 meters) and the Taigetos (2404 meters). The Dinaric Alps run along the Adriatic coast of the Balkan Peninsula. In northwestern Greece, this mountain range merges into the Pindos Mountains, mainly of limestone, sandstone and clay, which is continued in the Taigetos Mountains of the Peloponnese and the archipelago of Crete, Karpathos and Rhodes. They are all young mountains that are highly fragmented and are therefore characterized by many deep bays and basin landscapes. The most famous bay is the 127 kilometer long Gulf of Corinth. This Gulf separates the peninsula from the mainland.

Harbour at the Gulf of Corinth, GreecePhoto:H.P Burger Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made

Flat areas are mainly in Macadonia and Thessaly, where agriculture and livestock are also possible. The plains are bisected by rivers, of which those in the north have the most water.

Rivers and lakes

The rivers of Greece are of no significance for inland navigation because of the great drought; many large rivers are also dry in the summer. Many small rivers only have water in winter after heavy downpours.

The main river is the Achelóos, which has its source on the Pindos, with its tributary the Inachus. The Peneios has its source on the east side of the Pindos and has many tributaries, including the Enipeus and the Europos. The main river of Boeotia in central Greece is the Kephisos. In the Peloponnese, the Roephias has the largest catchment area and the most important river in Laconia is the Evrotas.

The largest lakes in the country are located in the north, including Ioánnina, Kastoriás and Préspa.

 Origin of Etesian WindsPhoto:MagentaGreen Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The climate of Greece is influenced by the division of the country, the course of the mountains between the east and west sides, the relief and the proximity to the sea.

The coastal regions generally show typical Mediterranean climatic features, namely a hot dry summer and a mild, precipitation-rich winter. Since this precipitation is mainly carried by westerly winds, the west side of Greece gets much more of it than the east side. In the northwest in the Pindos Mountains, an average annual rainfall is 1800 mm. In Athens, on the other hand, about 400 mm falls per year. There are also large differences in precipitation between the Ionian islands to the west of the mainland and the islands in the far east of the Aegean Sea.

In the inland mountain-lined plains of Macedonia and Thessaly, the continental influence is clearly beginning to play a role, which is reflected in the lower winter temperatures and in a wider distribution of rainfall throughout the year. Usually the precipitation falls in heavy showers and is therefore limited to a small number of days. Annual quantities fluctuate widely. Summers are hot and dry. Snow occurs in winter mainly on the mountain peaks of more than 1000 meters and in Thessaly. Athens has snowfall on average six days a year.

Greece has the warmest climate of all southern European countries with at least 300 sunny days per year. In August the temperature can reach 40 ° C and it often feels very unpleasant in combination with the air pollution. In general, January and February are the coldest months, July and August the driest, November and December the wettest.

The Etesian wind develops over the Aegean Sea in summer. It is a strong wind that blows over the Greek islands with a force of 7 or 8 Beaufort. In Turkey this wind is known as Meltemi.

Plants

The Greek flora includes at least 6,000 species, of which about 800 are found only in that country.

Forests pindos mountainsPhoto:George Terezakis Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

Long ago Greece was a very wooded country. As a result of large-scale deforestation and over-exploitation carried out by man and grazing by goats and sheep, only a fraction of this remains. This allowed erosion to strike unimpeded, which led to mountain soils with a thin layer of weathering material where hardly any trees can grow anymore. The existing forests are now protected by the government and reforestation is now taking place on a large scale.

Most forests can still be found in the Pindos Mountains, the slopes of which are mainly covered with Greek fir and Corsican pines. Below 1200 meters we mainly find evergreen holm oaks, chestnut trees, Aleppo pine, pine and hornbeam trees. Along the rivers there are plane trees and poplars and below 500 meters grow vine and olive tree with in between maquis (Greek: lóngos), dense thickets that reach two to six meters high. In hilly areas you often see strawberry trees, box trees, cypresses, carob trees, bay trees, myrtle and black pine. Broom turns many slopes yellow in spring, and cacti, palms and agaves are also striking appearances.

On dry limestone slopes and on many islands, the maquis turns into garrigue (fryganá), a jumble of thorny shrubs and fragrant herbs like thyme and lavender. On the steep slopes in Northern Greece there is sufficient rainfall for the kermesik, the beech and the juniper.

Olive tress GreecePhoto:Dennis Kouto Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The olive tree is the most striking tree in the Greek landscape. This tree has provided wood and food for humans and animals for millennia. Corfu is covered for 30% with about 4 million olive trees.

About one in eight plant species in Greece is native and sometimes only occurs on one island, one region or even one mountain. Only in spring can anemones, chrysanthemums, irises, daffodils, crocuses and hyacinths be seen. Daisies and poppies can also be found a little later in the year. Common herbs include thyme, basil, rosemary, lavender, sage, mint, and oregano.

Animals

Due to the lack of forests, there are few large mammals. The red deer is almost uncommon; still the deer and the chamois, and some wild goats on some islands and the wild boar. Wolves still occur in the northwest, the jackal is more common. Wildcat, stone marten, otter, badger and weasel are also still found, as well as, along the coast, the monk seal is in danger of extinction in this region. Rabbits are almost non-existent in Greece, but hares are quite common. In the north, the fairly rare siesel, a kind of squirrel, occurs.

Pelicabs greecePhoto:RoubiinakiM Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

The number of bird species in Greece is about 400, partly because Greece is on a migration route. In the mountains you can see stone, snake and dwarf eagles, vultures and smaller birds of prey. Of the 39 bird of prey species found in Europe, as many as 36 have been seen in Dadia forest north of the Evros Delta near the Turkish border; including the griffon vulture, the Egyptian vulture, the Balkan sparrow and the very rare black vulture in Europe. The rare Eleonora's falcon lives on an island like Lesbos. Common birds are owls, including the eagle owl, kingfisher, hoopoe, oriole, woodpecker, bee-eater and roller. River deltas or "wetlands" are home to many wading and water birds such as cormorants, ibises, spoonbills, redshanks, rare frizzy pelicans near the Prespa lakes near the Albanian border, storks and flamingos. Greece is also a frequently used stopover for migratory birds on their way to North Africa in particular. Crete in particular is ideally located between Africa and the European mainland.

Tortoiese GreecePhoto:kernpanik Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Special animals are the Greek tortoise, the Spurr-tighed tortoise and the only Greek tortoise Testudo marginata; unfortunately there are fewer and fewer of these species. Frogs, toads and non-poisonous snakes are everywhere, as are geckos, chameleons and other lizards. On insects and beetles we find many types of grasshoppers, dung beetles, noisy cicadas, scorpions, centipedes. Greece also has one poisonous spider species.

Sea dwellers include swordfish, mackerel, tuna and sardine, sharks, lobsters, squid, shellfish and sponges. Lakes and mountain streams are home to carp, eels and freshwater crayfish. Large numbers of sea urchins are found on the rocky coasts. Dolphins are becoming increasingly rare in the waters around Greece.

In addition to pets such as cats and dogs, almost every family in the countryside has one or more goats and / or sheep, which provide the rural population with milk, cheese (féta) and wool. The number of sheep and goats is more than 10 million. Donkeys, mules and horses are still often used in difficult terrain.

There are three national parks with a total area of approximately 52,000 hectares and some nature reserves on some islands. The state of maintenance of these areas leaves a lot to be desired.

Prehistory and Bronze Age

The Grave Circle A, and the main entrance of the citadel (left), at Mycenae.Photo:Andreas Trepte Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic no changes made

As far back as the Paleolithic, the Old Stone Age, Greece was populated by people who made a living from hunting and gathering fruits. From around 8000-7000 BC. agriculture and animal domestication was transferred from the Middle East to Greece.

The most important finds from the Neolithic era (ca. 6000-3000 BC) come from the region of Thessaly, especially from the settlement of Sésklo. What is special is that they have found an octagonal house here. Until then, mainly round houses were built. The hand-formed ceramics found here can also be found in other Greek regions.

With the Bronze Age (ca. 3000 BC) the Helladic culture begins on the Greek mainland. The bronze was imported from Asia Minor and is now found in various places. Around 1900 BC. The formation of the Greek people gets off to a good start when various Indo-European speaking tribes spread all over the Greek territory. Well-known names such as Olympia, Mycenae and Tiryns are among the sites. These immigrants brought with them the oldest phase of the Greek language and other cultural elements that would later become so well known, such as the sky god Zeus.

These peoples were also strongly influenced by the Minoan culture which was causing a furore in Crete at that time. The combination of these two cultures led to a high point in Mycenaean culture in the late Helladic era. The dominance of Mycenaean culture on the mainland was far from constituting political unity; probably at the head of each district was a priest-king who was at the top of a palace bureaucracy.

During this period, the Cyclades archipelago developed between Crete and the Greek mainland as a starting point for the trade connections that were established in both the east and the west.

The dark ages (c. 1200–800 BC)

Ancient Greek pair of terracotta bootsPhoto:Sharon Mollerus Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Among other things due to the large population movements around 1200 BC. Mycenaean culture had collapsed and the Iron Age began in Greece and the formation of the ancient Greek people was completed. There was a cultural decline and not much is known about the historical developments during this time, hence the term "dark ages". At the end of this era, the world famous epic of Homer, Iliad & Odyssey, was created.

During this period the Dorians invaded Greece and the Ionians migrated to the islands of the Aegean Sea and the coast of Asia Minor. Just like on Crete, the typical Greek form of government, the polis, arose there. This form of government would also be introduced fairly quickly on the Greek mainland. The polis was an aristocratic form of government that relied on large land ownership or what had to pass for it. The nobility did face competition from a class that had made a fortune in trade.

It was also during this time that the alphabetic script was created, more or less taken over from the navigators of the Phoenicians. The social environment was still dominated by the "phyle", the old tribal connections, which date back to the Helladic period.

The colonization era (ca.800 / 750–600 BC)

Ruins of SpartaPhoto:David Holt Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

During this period a lot changed, including the monarchy, except in Sparta. Trade (the rise of coins) became increasingly important and a form of industry also emerged. The middle class became a new class and would become the core of the army. As a result, people also started to make political demands.

Nevertheless, industry and trade did not develop fast enough and food shortages arose due to the poor soil and this led to overpopulation and great tensions in political and social areas. This created an enormous colonization movement in which the Greeks settled on almost all coasts of the Mediterranean. The rise of Persia, Carthage and Etruria put an end to these movements. Politically and militarily, Sparta developed into the most powerful state and in the cultural field, Ionia predominated.

The sixth century BC.

Stadium OlympiaPhoto:Drno Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Due to social and political tensions, most states were led by a "tyrannos", powerful men of the aristocracy who, with popular support, took over supremacy. Only Sparta, which had united almost all of the Peloponnese in a military league, managed to escape this.

In this century, Athens also became increasingly popular. In the colonization era, the whole of Attica had already united into one big polis and there was therefore no need to participate in the colonization. Solon, who also drafted a large number of laws, tried to solve the economic problems by stimulating trade and industry, but hardly succeeded. As a result, social tensions also arose in Athens and the arrival of a tyrant was inevitable (Pisistratus). In the cultural field, Athens also took the lead and Ionia and the Greek areas in the west, Sicily and southern Italy, remained important.

This was also the heyday of the Olympic and Pythian games in connection with the worship of communal gods. Clisthenes founded at the end of the 5th century BC. democracy in Athens.

The fifth century BC.

Battle of SalamisPhoto:Public domain

In 500 BC. In Asia Minor a revolt broke out by the Ionians aided by Athens against King Darius' Persian Empire. Darius then sent a punitive expedition to Athens which, however, failed completely at Marathon in 490 BC. This is where the Greco-Persian Wars started, the great battle between East and West. In 480-479 BC. Xerxes, the son of Darius, lost the important battles at Salamis and Plataeae and freedom was saved, among other things, by the exemplary cooperation between Athens and Sparta.

Both Athens and Sparta claimed victory, causing the rivalry between the two cities to return to dangerous proportions. In 431 BC. that tension eventually culminated in a war that divided the entire Greek world. In the second half of the war from 413 to 404 BC. Sparta won the battle with the help of the Persians. However, Athens and Sparta had been so weakened by the war that Thebes plunged into a power vacuum and in 371 BC. even defeated Sparta, considered invincible, on its own soil. The rule was short-lived because the Macedonian Empire was expanding during this time.

The fourth century BC.

Statue of Alexander the Great, ThessalonikiPhoto:Nikolai Karaneschev Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made

Athens quickly recovered from defeat, but the great empire developed from the Deli-Attic League was lost. However, Sparta dominated at the time with the help of the crafty Persians. However, the population was not satisfied with this and a series of conflicts arose between the states of which the Corinthian War became well known. The Second Attische Zeebond was also established.

Trade and industrial development increased prosperity, but much of the wealth was wasted on warfare and invested in slave-keeping. Furthermore, a group of displaced persons arose, e.g. exiles who sold themselves to the highest paying as mercenaries. The policy could not solve all these problems, so cooperation was required and a Pan-Hellenic idea gradually emerged with the aim of unity among the Greeks and revenge on the great enemy Persia.

However, the Greeks were trumped by Philip II of Macedon. Under his hegemony, a coalition of Greek city-states, including Athens, was defeated at the Battle of Chaerona in 338 BC. After Philip's murder, his son Alexander the Great followed in his father's footsteps and conquered the Persian Empire. Culturally, it was a period of rhetoric and philosophy and the visual arts were not about the gods but about the human ideal of beauty.

Hellenism and the Roman Period

Winged Nike of Samothrace highlight of the Helenistic periodPhoto:Marie-Lan Nguyen in the public domain

The actions of Alexander the Great pushed the city-states out of their self-imposed seclusion and Greek culture began a triumphal procession. Political power was divided after the so-called "Diadochi Wars" by Alexander the Great's successors.

That battle culminated in the 3rd century BC. into three kingdoms, Ptolemaic Egypt, Seleukian Syria, of which Persia was a part, and Macedonia among the descendants of Antigonus the One-Eyed. The eastern elite in the cities were rapidly Hellenized by the emigration of Greek merchants, settlers and Mecedonisceh garrisons, so that "koiné", a corruption of classical Attic Greek, became the "lingua franca" of the Middle East. This spread of Greek culture is called Hellenism.

The Greeks, meanwhile, had not noticed that a great dangerous power had arisen from the west; the Romans. They soon became involved in the political and military struggles in Macedonia and Greece. From 215 BC. the Romans started military actions which in 196 BC. were completed with the termination of Macedonian rule over Greece.

The Romans soon came into conflict with the Achaean League upon which Corinth in 146 BC. was destroyed, the Achai League dissolved and Greece annexed to the "provincia" Macedonia. Most notably, the upper class of Roman society became Hellenized quite quickly and adopted many Greek ideas and philosophies.

Under Octavian Greece became the independent province of Achaia, but political freedom was lost and the economic situation deteriorated. In the intellectual field, however, great achievements were still being made by philosophers and writers, to which even young Roman intellectuals drew.

The Byzantine Period (330–1204)

Monasteries of Meteors from the Byzantine periodPhoto:Takeaway at english wikipedia Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no change made

As in Roman times, the Greek language and culture remained the basis for Byzantine civilization, but as a political and military power it played a subordinate role in the Byzantine Empire. Shortly before 400, Greece was occupied by the Visigoths and in the 6th and 7th centuries, Slavic hordes in Macedonia, Thessaly and Epirus wreaked havoc. They settled in the country and colonized the Peloponnese in the eighth century.

As a result of these invasions, a large Slavic-speaking population settled on Greek soil. At the end of the 7th century, Central Greece was incorporated into a separate administrative unit, a so-called "theme", which was headed by a military governor. Because Byzantium started to lose its grip, themes were created everywhere and from 800 onwards there was again effective rule from Byzantium. In the 9th and 10th centuries, Greece was a country without prominent cities.

The Christianization of Slavs was successful, also because they became part of the entire Greek culture. In 1054, the Eastern or Greek Orthodox Church, led by the Patriarch of Byzantium, seceded from the Church of Rome.

In the 10th to the 12th century, the Walachians settled in, among others, Thessaly and Aetolia. Despite all these strange elements and the Saracen piracy from Crete, the Greek coastal cities remained economically healthy due to the silk industry and the freight transport in the eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Heavy taxes and feudal abuses brought Greece to the brink of collapse. In addition, Venice had enforced the trade monopoly in the Aegean and Black Sea through the help of Constantinople in the fight against the Normans in southern Italy.

The Latin period and the Turkish advance (1204 – c. 1460)

Ottoman Janissaries And Defending Knights Of St John, Siege Of Rhodes, 1522 Photo:Public domain

After the Fourth Crusade, the Byzantine Empire was defeated in 1204 and Greece fell apart. The Latin Empire of Constantinople ruled until 1261 but was recaptured in 1261 by the Greek Empire of Nica-Byzantium, which had also reclaimed the kingdom of Saloníki. In 1262 the Peloponnese was occupied again by the Palaeologists of Constantinople.

Thessaly followed in 1318 and Epirus in the west in 1336. In 1349 Epirus was lost to the Serbs again. In 1354 the Turks invaded Europe and occupied Thessaly in 1393. Around 1400 the Byzantine Empire only had the capital Constantinople, Saloníki and the Peloponnese. The Duchy of Athens of the Burgundian Othon de la Roche also had many occupiers. In 1311 it was conquered by Catalan mercenaries; In 1388, the Florentine banking family Acciaiuoli came to power until it was conquered by the Turks in 1456. The principality of Achaia-Moreia also fell to the Turks in 1461, who from that time ruled almost all of Greece.

The Greek islands were also occupied by many different powers, including the Turks, the Venetians, the Genoese and the Knights of John. In contrast to the Turkish occupation, the Franco-Italian rule in Greece hardly ever had a strong grip on people, culture or religion.

After the fall of the Byzantine capital Constantinople in 1453, Greece had a new centralistic state system. In this case the Turks ruled from Sofia, but it would take until 1566 before all the islands in the Aegean were conquered. Crete was not even conquered until 1669 and regularly belonged to Venice.

Revolts quickly took place, particularly against the Turkish governors who oppressed and extorted the population. The Sultan of the Turks, on the other hand, left the Greeks a great deal of independence, especially the position of the Greek Church was not affected. With the weakening of the Ottoman Empire, a national movement could emerge, aided moreover by the great powers who opposed the Turks as a constant threat. The French Revolution also stimulated the emergence of a national awareness. The Greeks' aspiration to break free from the disintegrating Turkish Empire was discussed by the great powers at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, but England was reluctant, as it wanted to keep the conquered Ionian Islands for itself.

The War of Freedom

Battle of NavarinoPhoto:Public domain

In 1821, a revolt against the Turks broke out in the Peloponnese, which was to be the start of the war of independence. In this battle, the various parties were regularly winning. The Turks were backed by the Egyptians, and the Greeks were backed by the English and later received military aid from the Russians and the French. In 1827 the Battle of Navarino Bay was lost to the Turks and at the Peace of Adrianople in 1829, Turkey recognized Greece's independence. Nafplion became the capital, but in 1834 Athens was chosen for it.

It was not until 1833 that the Turks left the Acropolis in Athens. The north and most of the islands, including Crete, remained under Turkish or English domination.

Independent Greece

King George (1845-1913) I of Greece Photo:George E. Koronaios Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes

The brand new state was economically weak and politically very divided and was strongly influenced by the English, French and Russians. In fact, they wanted the restoration of Byzantine Greece with Constantinople and Asia Minor. The first "president", Capodistrias, was appointed president for seven years, but was assassinated as early as 1831. The English then wanted a European prince on the throne, and in 1832, King Louis I of Bavaria accepted the Greek crown for his son Otto, who first entered Greek soil in 1833.

Otto I was a strong supporter of a central authority and thus came into conflict with the aristocracy and the clergy who held much power under the Turks in the region and who were now in danger of losing it.

A rebellion in 1843 - carried out by the "Russian Party" - forced him to promise a constitution to Greece. The king was also forced to replace his Bavarian minister with Greeks. This constitution was passed by the parliament in 1844 and accepted by the king.

Greece suffered a failure during the Crimean War; when it wanted to support revolts in the still Turkish Epirus and Thessaly, an Anglo-French naval squadron occupied Athenes port, Piraeus (1854–1857). In October 1862, King Otto was forced to resign by a revolt. Under the influence of the English, the parliament offered the throne to the Danish Prince William of Denmark, who became king under the name of George I. He accepted his government on October 31, 1863 and would rule until 1913. As a reward and received a kind of wedding gift the Greeks of England in 1864 the Ionian Islands. In 1866 there was a revolt of the Cretans, supported by the Greeks, against the Turks.

At the same time, the Greeks tried to acquire Epirus and Thessaly but were opposed by the great powers. In 1881, provisions from the Congress of Berlin were cashed in, and most of Thessaly and a small portion of southern Epirus were assigned to Greece. In 1896 another revolt on Crete and now Greece sent troops to Macedonia, where the Greeks suffered a great defeat. Even now, the great powers imposed a settlement on the Greeks: Turkey received some border corrections in the north but had to allow Crete to become autonomous with a son of the Greek king as governor.

After a number of revolts, it resigned in 1906 and the great powers once again decided on the fate of Crete. The Greeks considered this interference as a great humiliation and this triggered a wave of nationalism, which in 1910 Venizelos became Prime Minister. It was only after the Balkan Wars that Greece was able to expand its territory with Macedonia, part of Southern Epirus and a number of Aegean islands, including Crete.

After the violent death of George I in 1913, his son and successor Constantine I faced the First World War. Immediately problems arose between the king and Venizelos. The king was a brother-in-law of the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, and he wanted to remain neutral. Venizelos chose the Allies, after which Venizelos was fired by the king in 1915. In 1916 he founded a counter-government in Saloníki. At the same time, the Allies blocked the coast of the central and south of the mainland that remained loyal to Constantine.

In June 1917, Constantine was forced to abdicate in favor of his son Alexander and Athens was occupied by the French. Venizelos now established his authority across the country and declared war on Germany in June 1917. Greece took part in the offensive in the fall of 1918 that led to the capitulation of Bulgaria in 1918.

At the Treaty of Neuilly in November 1919, Greece acquired the Bulgarian western Thrace. The Peace Treaty of Sèvres in 1920 stipulated that the Greeks would receive European Turkey and Smyrna (now: Izmir). The Turks, led by Kemal Atatürk, refused to cooperate. After the death of King Alexander in October 1920 and the return of Constantine, Venizelos was put aside. Only England supported the Greeks in their pursuit of expansion in Asia Minor, which led to a crushing defeat against the Turks in 1922.

George II of Greece, King of the HellenesPhoto:Public domain

The king resigned in favor of his son George II, who was in turn deposed in 1923. At the Peace of Lausanne in 1923, a large-scale Greek-Turkish population swap was decided and Greece had to acquiesce in the annexation of the Dodekánesos by Italy. This part of present-day Greece had already been conquered by Italy from the Turks in 1912. Furthermore, the Greeks had to return Adrianople and Smyrna to Turkey.

In the 1920s Greece remained a country of great political contradictions and in 1924 it officially became a republic with the military Koundouriótis as president. From January to August 1926, there was a brief military dictatorship under General Pángoulos. After the 1928 elections, Venizelos returned to power and reconciled with Turkey. In the period up to World War II, most cabinets were overthrown by the military. In 1935, King George II was recalled from exile after a popular vote, but was soon succeeded by the dictator Metaxas, an admirer of Hitler and Mussolini.

World War II and Civil War

Anti-Communist posterPhoto:Public domain

Before World War II, Metaxas tried to keep friends with both Germany and England for economic reasons. In October 1940 the Italians invaded Greece but met very fierce resistance and could only conquer Greece in April 1941 with the help of the Germans. In May of the same year, Crete was also conquered by the Germans. Most of the country was occupied by Italy, Germany occupied Piraeus and Saloníki, among others. A small part of Greece was annexed by Bulgaria. The king and the government fled abroad. The board was in the hands of a number of German front men, including Tsolakoglou, Logothetopoulos and Rallis. Soon all kinds of resistance movements arose that even competed with each other, but which did cooperate closely with the British.

Meanwhile, the emigrated king and the government had little more to say and, with the approval of the British, in September 1944 this led to a government of "National Unity" with Prime Minister Papandreou, which settled in Athens on October 18, 1944. The British had already landed in Greece in September and demanded the disbandment of all guerilla groups. One of these groups, the EAM, refused and the ELAS took over most of Greece but was subdued by the British that same year. Papandreou then resigned and the king only wanted to return if the people explicitly asked for it. As a result of this situation, the Archbishop of Athens was proclaimed regent.

The struggle with the ELAS was halted after negotiations in early 1945, but the communists remained militarily active from the north. Elections were held in March 1946 and a popular vote led to the return of the Greek King George II in September.

The Dodekánesos and the territories annexed by Bulgaria got Greece back at the Peace of Paris in 946. Financial compensation by Italy was also arranged here. And on top of that came the help of the United States under President Truman. King George II died in 1946 and was succeeded by his brother Paul I. Under his rule, the communist uprising that had lasted for years came to an end in 1949. In 1947 the civil war was raging at its worst; the loyalist troops were led by Papagos; the well-armed communists, led by the Stalinist "general" Markos, carried out raids through the country and deported 26,000 Greek children to neighboring communist countries. In 1948 the battle ended due to the invasion of an English army, disagreement among the communists, supplies of American weapons to the government forces and due to lack of weapons among the communists.

Also important in these years was the break between Stalin of Russia and Tito of Yugoslavia in 1948, which closed the Yugoslav-Greek border in 1949.

The fifties and sixties

Papagos GHreecePhoto:van Duinen/Anefo in the public domain

In 1952 Greece joined NATO and under Papagos of the new party "Greek Concentration" a more stable time followed and relations with neighboring countries improved. In 1954, an alliance was even concluded between Greece, Yugoslavia and Turkey. However, this alliance had little chance of success, partly due to the Cyprus question, which caused relations between Greece and Turkey to explode.

The Cypriot movement seeking affiliation with Greece (enosis) sparked riots in Greece itself in 1954 and the matter was referred by Papagos to the United Nations. In 1955, the conflict on the island under the leadership of Grivas began to escalate, bringing relations between Greece and Turkey to an all-time low. Papagos died in 1955 and was succeeded by Karamanlis, the leader of the new National Radical Zunie (ERE) party. Karamanlis sought to resolve the Cypriot conflict through negotiations and remained loyal to NATO. The Republic of Cyprus was founded in 1960.

In 1963, Karamanlis resigned when the king did not follow government advice to postpone a state visit to England. The constant involvement of the crown in politics had also been a thorn in his side for some time.

In two consecutive general elections, the party of the reformist Papandreou won many seats in parliament.

In May 1965, a secret organization of left-wing army officers was discovered, to which Papandreou's son is said to have supported. Papandreou himself wanted to purge the army of "anti-democratic and fascist figures", in fact his opponents. King Constantine II, the successor of Paul I, who died in 1964, refused to resign the minister of defense, who was an opponent of Papandreou in the cabinet. In July 1965 the Papandreou government resigned and violent pro-Papandreou demonstrations took place all over Greece. After the election, the king tried to form cabinets of anti-Papandreou people. The parliamentary-constitutional crisis continued and on April 21, 1967, a group of ultra-right officers staged a coup d'état, the so-called "colonels".

Military regimes (1967-1974)

Flag of Greece adopted by the JuntaPhoto:Public domain

Constantine accepted the situation and appointed the politician Kollias as prime minister of a government controlled by soldiers such as Papadopoulos and Patakos. In December, Constantine made a feeble attempt to overthrow the regime. After this he fled to Italy to go into exile and the military Papadopoulos was appointed president and Zoitakis as regent for the fled king. In his first reign, Papadopoulos took more and more power until he eventually became regent in 1972. Finally, on June 1, 1973, he proclaimed the republic and the monarchy came to an end.

Already on November 25, 1973, the Papadopoulos government was overthrown by a number of generals led by Brigadier General Joannidis, one of his former allies. Due to the bad economic situation and the decline in the Cyprus question (the Turks landed on the north coast of Cyprus in 1974 while the Greek regime was forced to watch impotently), a large number of officers demanded that the military make way for a civilian government.

Restoration of the civilian government

Konstantin Karamanlis GreecePhoto:Institution:Greek State General Archives Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made

In July 1974 it was decided to recall former Prime Minister Karamanlis from Paris, and he appointed a "cabinet of national unity". The 1952 constitution was also reinstated and the form of government was to be chosen by referendum.

Negotiations with the Turks over Cyprus failed and in August 1974 the Turks conquered nearly 40% of the island, after which the situation was presented to the United Nations.

On November 17, 1974, the elections were won by a large majority (56%) by Karamanlis' party, the New Democracy (ND). The third Kainet-Karamanlis held a referendum on the form of government and nearly 70% of the voters were against a return of the monarchy. In June 1975 a new constitution was passed and K. Tsatsos became the new president.

In the course of 1976, tensions between Greece and Turkey increased again and the status of the Aegean Sea also became a disagreement. Greece's return to NATO's command structure was also fraught with problems because Turkey was also a member of the alliance. It was not until March 1978 that there was any improvement in relations with Turkey.

Period from 1980

Andreas Papandreou GreecePhoto:Eric Koch/Anefo in the publc domain

The elections of November 20, 1977 were again won by Karamanlis and in his fourth term, Greece joined the European Community and was elected president in 1980. In 1981, the Panhellenic Socialist Party (PASOK) became the country's largest party and Andreas Papandreou became Prime Minister. His proposed reforms, including in the social field, could only partially be realized. In 1985, the non-party Christos Sartzetakis was elected president and PASOK lost the absolute majority in the elections. As the largest party, however, the PASOK was allowed to continue to rule.

The 1989 elections again failed to produce a winner and until April 1990 Greece was ruled by a number of interim cabinets. Konstantinos Mitsotakis managed to form an ND government and Karamanlis was again elected head of state. From 1990 onwards, the many refugees from Albania caused major problems in Greece. Relations with the other EC countries came under pressure due to the Macedonia issue. The Greeks withheld the EC's recognition of the independent republic of Macedonia because of fear that the Macedonians would make claims to the Greek province of the same name.

In 1993 ex-king Constantine was allowed to visit Greece again as a "citizen". That same year, Papandreou's PASOK won the elections and became the new Prime Minister. In March 1995, President Karamanlis resigned and was succeeded by Kostas Stefanopoulos, a non-party politician.

Relations with Turkey reached a low point in January 1996 over a tiny uninhabited Greek island. It even went so far as to nearly start a war between the two countries. Prime Minister Papandreou died in June, who had already been succeeded by Konstantinos Simitis in January. Early elections were held in September and were won by PASOK, which retained its majority in parliament.

The ongoing conflict with Albania over the position of the Greek minority in that country and the Albanians working in Greece appeared to be improving with the signing in March 1996 of a friendship treaty. Papandreou died on June 23, 1996.

Relations with Turkey remained tense. In February 1997, Athens threatened to block the expansion of the European Union to include Eastern European countries, if the Turkish Cypriots were allowed to participate in the negotiations for the accession of Cyprus. The fact that in 1998 Greece defended the controversial Greek-Cypriot decision to purchase Russian anti-aircraft missiles led to very serious tensions.

Greece changed this position when Turkey announced that it regarded the placement as an act of war. In June 1998, the Greek government thwarted an EU proposal for economic aid to Turkey, through which the EU sought to improve relations with Turkey.

In February 1999, Turkish commandos arrested Kurdish PKK leader Öcalan after leaving the Greek embassy in Kenya, where he had taken refuge. Serious mistakes on the part of the Greek side had made the arrest possible and put the Greek government in a difficult position, especially as the Greek population - sympathetic to the Kurdish struggle for independence - interpreted the incident as a humiliation by arch-enemy Turkey. Prime Minister Simitis fired three ministers he held partly responsible for the mistakes, including Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos. This was succeeded by Georgios Papandreou, the son of statesman Andreas Papandreou.

Greece, as a member of NATO, took an ambiguous stance in the Kosovo war in 1999. The Greek people traditionally feel connected to the Serbian, which also adheres to the Orthodox Christian faith. A large majority of Greeks strongly opposed the NATO attacks on Serbia from the end of March. The Greek government initially appealed to NATO to cease the bombing, but had to reconsider its position under pressure from the United States. This put Prime Minister Simitis in a dire situation, as he had to keep the nationalists in his party happy and anti-NATO actions in Greece continued. Cooperation with NATO was therefore not easy.

In early 1999, the Greek-Cypriot decision to abandon the placement of Russian S300 anti-aircraft missiles. This initially eased Greco-Turkish tensions. However, the Greeks did not get out of their contract with Russia. On February 9, Cyprus and Greece signed a treaty on the placement of the missiles in Crete. Turkey reacted as if stung by a wasp. However, relations with Turkey improved significantly after a major earthquake hit this country on August 17. Greece immediately came to the aid of Turkey directly and supported an EU proposal for a large-scale aid program.

21st century

Sinitis GreecePhoto:Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes

On February 8, 2000, the Greek Parliament elected Kostas Stefanopoulos as president for a second five-year term by a large majority.

In the parliamentary elections on April 9, 2000, New Democracy was defeated by PASOK in a tense race. PASOK received 43.8% of the vote, against 42.7% for New Democracy. The election results did not lead to drastic cabinet changes. Immediately after his victory, Prime Minister Simitis stated that he wanted political continuity in connection with the desired Greek accession to the EMU and the rapprochement with Turkey. On April 25, 2000, Parliament approved the new government program, including the key issue of strengthening Greece's position within the European Union.

PASOK's election victory enabled Prime Minister Simitis to continue his successful economic austerity policy. In the spring of 2000 inflation was only 2.9% for the first time in 30 years. Greece thus qualified for participation in the European Monetary Union. The European Parliament adopted a resolution by a large majority on May 18, 2000, calling for Greek accession to the Eurozone as of January 1, 2001. On June 19, the Council of Ministers was officially approved.

Since major earthquakes hit Greece and Turkey in 1999, there has been a cautious rapprochement between the two countries. In 2000, five cooperation treaties were signed in the fields of economy, science, culture, maritime trade and customs. In October, both countries took part in a joint NATO exercise in the Aegean Sea, initially seeing the planned presence of Greek military and equipment on Turkish territory as a breakthrough.

However, the relationship came under pressure again when an old military disagreement over the airspace of two Greek islands surfaced again. Ultimately, Greece withdrew from the exercise. Since March 2004, ND has formed a government headed by Prime Minister Karamanlis. Giorgos Papandreou is now leader of the opposition party PASOK.

In February 2006, Prime Minister Karamanlis reshuffled his government to revitalize his policies. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Petros Molyviatis, has been replaced by Mrs. Dora Bakoyannis.

Greece unfortunately still faces violence perpetrated by extreme left-wing (anarchist) groups. At the end of 2005, attacks were committed on the Ministries of Development and Finance. Anarchists often cause unrest in Athens by setting fire to banks and other buildings with gas bottles.

In September 2007 Karamanlis will receive a mandate for a new period. In March 2008, Greece blocked Macedonia's access to NATO in connection with a dispute over the naming of this former Yugoslav republic. In December 2008, serious disturbances broke out after police shoots dead a 15-year-old boy in Athens. In October 2009, Pasok won the elections and George Papandreou became the new prime minister.

At the end of 2009, the full extent of the Greek debt crisis begins to penetrate. Greece is no longer considered creditworthy because of the excessively high national debt. Papandreou announces substantial cutbacks, which will lead to riots with the population. There is severe action in the public sector and the retirement age is rising sharply. In February 2010, European government leaders pledged to help Greece solve the debt crisis, but on hard terms. A huge amount will be made available in April and May. Greece will have to cut even harder in return for this. The unions are calling for a general strike. At the end of 2011, Papandreo gets into trouble and the technocrat Lucas Papademos becomes interim prime minister. There are elections in May 2012, but there is no clear winner. President Papoulias calls new elections that are won by new democracy, without getting a majority. Antonis Samaras forms a coalition with, among others, the PASOK. In 2013 the employment figures hit new negative records. More than 60% of Greek youth are unemployed. Cuts remain necessary, as a result of this the plug will be pulled from Greek state television in June 2013.

Alexis Tsipras GreecePhoto:Karpidis Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

At the end of 2013, there were problems with the support of the extremely rightwing party Gouden Dageraad. In December 2013, the budget for 2014 will be approved and six years of recession may come to an end. In May 2014, Syriza, the radical left anti-austerity party, wins the European elections with 26.6% of the vote. In January 2015, Syriza's Alexis Tsipras becomes the new prime minister in a coalition government of nationalists. The years 2015 and 2016 are dominated by the debt crisis and the refugee crisis. The European central bank comes to the aid of the Greeks in exchange for austerity. The Greek islands are flooded by refugees, the flow to the rest of Europe is difficult. In the summer of 2016, there is still much talk about debt relief for the Greek economy. In April 2017, an agreement was reached on the continuation of the support program for Greece. In return, Greece must take new measures in the field of taxes and pensions in 2018. In june 2018 Greece sign an historic agreement resolving a 27-year-long dispute over the official name of Macedonia. Centre-right New Democracy party wins landslide at early elections in July 2019, and leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis becomes prime minister. Katerina Sakellaropoulou was elected president by parliament in January 2020, and took office in March, becoming Greece's first female head of state. The refugee crisis is still a major problem, camp Moira in Lesbos is set fire in September 2020.

Cappadocian Greek children wearing traditional costumes in Thessaloniki, GreecePhoto:Zorlusert Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Greece had 10,768,477 inhabitants in 2017. Approx. 1.5 million Greeks live on the islands where the islands in the Ionian Sea are more densely populated than those in the Aegean Sea. The population density is approximately 82 people per km2.

Approximately 93% of all inhabitants of Greece are actually of Greek nationality. Important minorities are Slavo-Macedonians, Turks in mainly Thrace, and (illegal) Albanians. Small minorities such as Aromoons or Vlachs in Epirus, Armenians, Pomaks and Roma or gypsies can no longer be recognized as such because they are almost completely absorbed into society. About 130,000 Muslims live in Thrace, the majority of whom consider themselves Turkish and they make up about 30% of the total population. They are very unevenly distributed over the area; For example, the district of Evros is closest to Turkey and the population consists of only 7% Turks. In the district of Xanthi this percentage is 30% and in Rodopi it is 55%. The rest of the population are Greek Pomaks, who also live across the border from Bulgaria.

The Aromons or Vlachs live in the central part of Pindos. Their dialect is closely related to Romanian. Before the Second World War, there were about 80,000 Jews in Greece; At present, the Sephardic community in Thessaloniki has about 1,000 members and about 3,000 Romaniot Jews still live in Athens.

The Cyclades Islands of Syros and Tinos are home to descendants of Venetian settlers who still form a Catholic community of about 10,000 people. In Thrace, some of the Roma still live isolated from the Greek population. Many other Gypsies have been completely assimilated into the population and it is estimated that a total of 150,000 Gypsies still live in Greece. The so-called Slavo Macedonians live in the northwest of the province of Macedonia and their number is around 40,000.

The migration to the big cities of Thessaloniki and especially the capital Athens is still great and that is why approx. 78% of the total population lives in the cities. Greece is also a real emigration country. Over the years, about 3.5 million Greeks have moved abroad. Most Greeks emigrated to Western Europe, the United States, South Africa and Australia. This emigration wave mainly took place in the 1960s and early 1970s. Emigration decreased sharply in the late 1970s.

The number of illegal immigrants residing in Greece has grown dramatically in recent years.

Main cities and population:

Greater Athens 3.5 million
Thessaloniki 834,900
Patras e.o. 300,100
Lárissa and others 270,600
Iráklion e.o. 264,900

The annual population growth in the period between 1990 and 1995 was 0.4% (2001: 0.21%). The number of older Greeks is increasing; in 1971 more than 25% was younger than 15 years, in 1990 21%, in 2001 only 15%; the share of the over-65s rose in the same period from 11% to 17.%.

The current situation (2017) is:
0-14 years 14%
15-64 years 65%
65+ 21%

The birth rate in 2017 was 8.4 births per 1000 inhabitants; the death rate in the same year was 11.3 deaths per 1,000 inhabitants. In Greece men live on average 78 years, women on average 83.4 years.

AlphabetsPhoto:LewWhite Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Modern Greek or New Greek, like Dutch, belongs to the Indo-European language family and is one of the oldest living languages. Although belonging to the same language family, Greek hardly resembles any other Indo-European language. This is because Greek has been able to develop relatively isolated from foreign influences.

In ancient times different Greek dialects were used side by side, but the Attic of the city of Athens was understood throughout Greece. From the fourth century BC, Attic faced competition from Koine Greek, a type of common civilized Greek used from Macedonia to the Near East. From that time on, Attic was used in education and was the official language of government and church in the Byzantine Empire and in the Church. The common man spoke a kind of vernacular that descended from Koine Greek. In the Middle Ages all kinds of other peoples settled in Greece and the spoken language changed drastically while the written language remained the same and thus the two languages grew further and further apart.

After the War of Freedom in the early 19th century, the government tried to introduce a new language, Katharevousa or "purified language". The government and schools did indeed use this language, but the people continued to use the Dimotiki, the spoken language of the Greek people. The intention was that the Dimotiki would disappear, but that turned out to be more difficult than expected and therefore failed. From 1920 the Dimotiki was allowed to be used in schools and in 1974 the Katharevousa disappeared from those same schools.

The Greek alphabet consists of 24 letters that look complicated at first sight, but on closer inspection are simpler than the Dutch alphabet. The pronunciation rules are regular // and therefore easier to understand. In Greek it is important to use the correct emphasis. A word with the stress on the first syllable can have completely different meanings from the same word but with the stress on, for example, the third syllable.

The alphabets of all major European languages are based more or less on the ancient Greek alphabet. Our Roman alphabet is sometimes referred to as the western form of the Greek alphabet.

Some words and phrases:

One - éna
Two - dhio
Three - tría
Ten - dhéka
One hundred - ekató
Monday- símera
Wednesday - tetárti
Sunday - kiriakí
How much does that cost? - póso káni?
Please - parakaló
Bread - psomi
Eggs - avga
Meat - kreas
Salt - alat
Beer - bira
Water - nero

General

St. Nicholas Church in the Pigadia cemetery. Karpathos, GreecePhoto:unknown Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Approx. 98% of the Greek population is members of the Greek Orthodox Church, which arose after the great split in 1054 when the patriarchs from the East no longer recognized the magisterium of the Pope. The Greek Orthodox State Church has been independent from the primacy of the Patriarch of Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) since 1833. The Greek Orthodox Church has a number of differences from the Western Christian Churches. Thus, only the Bible, the Church Fathers and the rulings of the Ecumenical Councils serve as the basis of the teaching. Furthermore, the Greek clergy mainly focus on the liturgy and on prayer and meditation. Socially, the Eastern Church is not nearly as active as in the West. However, the government and the church are much more closely linked. The government subsidizes the Church and the Church in turn follows politics closely.

The largest religious minority are the Muslims, the Turkish Greeks. Most Muslims live in Thrace, where many mosques can be found.

The number of Jews has decreased drastically after the Second World War. In 1941, for example, more than 60,000 Jews lived in northern Thessaloniki; nowadays only approx. 1100. The approx. 40,000 Catholics mainly live on the Greek islands.

Greek mythology

Mythological image on a vasePhoto:Public domain

The word myth is derived from the word "muthos", which first meant utterance and was later often interpreted as "a spoken or written story".

Mythology (muthologia) is thus "telling stories", or a collection of myths, or the study of myths.

When writing originated in Greece, myths and legends were already anchored in oral traditions, and later poets in particular gave the stories a different course. Greek mythology is very similar to other mythologies. For example, the Norse god Odin corresponds to the Greek Zeus and the Norse heroes often performed the same heroic deeds as their Greek colleagues.

Some Greek Gods:

Aeolus (Aiolos)
A son of Hippotes, who was appointed by Zeus as guardian of the winds. He was in charge of the (wind) gods: Boreas, Zephyros, Notos and Euros.

Aphrodite
Aphrodite is the goddess of love and beauty. She was born from the foam of the sea, where the main shrine dedicated to Aphrodite is located. She was married to Hephaestus, but preferred Ares for a lover.

Her son was Eros, the god of love. Aphrodite is depicted with the winged Eros and with doves. She was one of the Olympian gods. The Romans called her Venus.

Aphrodite, goddess of love and beautyPhoto: Tilemahos Efthimiadis, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Apollo
Apollo was the son of Zeus and Leto, and the twin brother of Artemis. He is god of light, of medicine, music and science. Apollo is often depicted with a lyre in his hand. The main shrine dedicated to Apollo is located in Delphi, the most important oracle site of ancient Greece. Apollo was an Olympic god.

Ares
Ares was a son of Zeus and Hera and is the god of war. He is often depicted in full armor and was an Olympian god. The Romans take him Mars.

Artemis
Artemis was Apollo's twin sister and daughter of Zeus and Leto. She was the goddess of nature and the hunt. She was also the tutelary goddess of pregnant women and is often depicted with a bow in her hand. She was an Olympian god and her Roman name is Diana.

Dionysos
Dionysos was a son of Zeus and god of grapes and wine. He is often depicted with a staff that is wrapped at the top with ivy leaves. He was an Olympian god and his Roman name is Bacchus or Liber.

Dionysos, GreecePhoto:Zde Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Eros
Eros is the god of needs and is also called Himeros. Eros is often seen as a winged boy god who shoots men in the heart with love arrows. Roman names for him are Amor and Cupid.

Hermes
Hermes was the messenger of the gods and a son of Zeus. He is also god of travelers, thieves, and merchants. He is always depicted wearing a traveler cap and staff or a helmet with wings. His sandals also have wings. He escorted the ghosts of the dead into the underworld, Hades.

Pallas Athena
She is the daughter of Zeus only, because born from his forehead. She is the patron goddess of the artists and craftsmen, but also the goddess of wisdom and knowledge. In wartime Athena was also worshiped as a war goddess. She was the special guardian goddess of the city of Athens and a guardian angel of Greek heroes such as Heracles and Odysseus.

She is often depicted wearing a helmet and full armor. The owl, which symbolizes wisdom, was devoted to her. Pallas Athena has a sanctuary located in Athens: the Parthenon. She was an Olympian god and her Roman name is Minerva.

Palla Athena Greece
Photo:Diana Ringo Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Austria no changes made

Poseidon
Poseidon is a helm of Zeus and is the god of the sea and guardian god of the sailors. His palace is deep under water and he is often depicted with a trident, with which he can stir the sea. The horse was dedicated to him.

Because the Greeks believed that the land floated on the sea, they also considered him the god who caused the earthquakes. The Roman name is Jupiter.

Zeus
Zeus was the supreme god of the Greeks and the king of gods and men. He was also the god of the sky and the weather. He is often depicted with a lightning in his hand and is seated on a throne. Many demigods and heroes, such as Hercules and Perseus, arose from his love affairs with beautiful women.

Zeus and ThetisPhoto:Public domain

Administration

State structure

Greece VouliPhoto:Jebulon in the public domain

The constitution dates from 1975, after which important amendments were made in 1986. Legislative power rests with the unicameral parliament (the "Vouli"), whose 300 members are elected once every four years under an "enhanced right of proportional election". The system favors the strongest party in order to achieve a majority sufficient for government, which, however, encourages a two-party system.

The head of state is the president, who is elected by parliament (a two-thirds majority is required) for a term of five years and is eligible for re-election once. The president appoints and dismisses the prime minister. He may also dissolve parliament and in a state of emergency he can issue laws by decree. His function is largely ceremonial, as head of state he has no executive power. This power rests with the Council of Ministers, which is accountable to parliament for this. There is universal suffrage for all Greeks from the age of 18.

After the military dictatorship, a popular vote on the return of the monarchy to the disadvantage of ex-king Constantine was unfavorable. For the current political situation see chapter history.

Administrative division

Greece administrative divisionPhoto:TUBS Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Greece is divided into 13 administrative divisions, the so-called "Peripheries" (districts). These "Peripheries" are subdivided into prefectures. A prefecture is called a "Nomos", with a "nomoi" at its head. In total there are 51 prefectures. In addition, Greece has one autonomous area under its own administration, namely Agion Oros (Mount Athos) in Chalkidiki (Northern Greece). Greater Athens has a separate status. The other provinces are: Central Greece, Peloponnese, Ionian Islands, Epiros, Thessaly, Macedonia, Thrace, Aegean Islands and Crete.

A place of residence is then called either "Dimos" (municipality, city) or "Kinotita" (community, village). In total there are 900 municipalities and 133 communities.

Education

Universaty of Athens GreecePhoto:Thomas WolfCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany no changes made

Pre-primary education (Nypiagogeia) takes two years and is currently optional, but is gradually becoming compulsory.

Compulsory education in Greece lasts nine years, from 6 to 15 years. The first six years the pupils follow education at the "Dimotiko Scholio" (primary education) and the last three years at the Gymnasio, the first phase of secondary education. General education is provided in all classes and there is day and evening classes.

Children who leave primary education are automatically admitted to the first class of the Gymnasio without exams. A final certificate (apolytirio) must be submitted from primary school. English is a compulsory subject and is taught from the fourth grade of primary education.

At the end of the Gymnasio, the students receive a diploma (Apolytirio Gymnasiou). In order to receive this diploma, the students must generally have an average of 10 points with a maximum of 20 for all subjects and the school absenteeism may not exceed the maximum permitted limit.

Upper secondary education is not compulsory. The second phase of secondary education is provided at the Lykia and the Technikés Epangelmatikés Scholés (technical schools).

The existing types of Lykia are: the general Lykio, the technical-professional lykio, the extended (Polikladiko) Lykio, the classical Lykio, the ecclesiastical Lykio, and the music lykio.

The study at a Lykio takes three years, and there is both a day and an evening course. The evening course lasts four years. Pupils who have completed the Gymnasio can enroll in any secondary school of the second stage on the basis of the diploma of the Gymnasio. There are no entrance exams. The student must be at least 14 years old. Foreign language teaching (English or French or German) is provided to all types of Lykia; Classical Lykio is always taught German.

At the end of each school year, pupils are required to take an official written exam in each subject to determine whether they move on to the following year. At the end of the third year of Lykio, the pupils have to take a final exam; if they pass this they receive the final diploma, the "Apolytirio Lykiou".

Higher education can be university or non-university and is provided at universities and technical educational institutions. Universities are made up of faculties that are divided into departments or "tmimata". A department's program leads to a standard diploma or "ptychio".

The Technical Educational Institutions consist of departments that together form faculties; these include general training (visual arts and arts training, business administration and economics, health and welfare professions, agricultural science and technology, applied technology, food technology and nutrition).

University courses last at least four years, courses at technical universities of applied sciences at least three years.

Graduates can pursue a PhD if they wish; they have to write a dissertation in Greek and present it in public.

General

Development of the Greek government debt versus the European averagePhoto:Spitzl Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Greece has been an agricultural country since ancient times, but in the mid-1960s industry and the service sector (tourism!) Became increasingly important. In 1965 even 47% of the working population was employed in agriculture; in 2002 this had dropped to 17%. Nevertheless, this percentage is still very high compared to the other EU countries, where on average only 7% of the population is employed in agriculture. The industry is dominated by small companies, while the large companies are mostly in the hands of the government.

Inflation in the period from 1985 to 1994 was 15.5% on average per year. In 2000 this was 3.1%.

The 1998 budget was dominated by reducing the budget deficit to 3% of gross domestic product. This was one of the conditions to participate in the European Monetary Union. In 1998 it was decided to include the drachma in the European Monetary System and in 2000 Greece formally applied for membership of EMU.

However, the Greek economy remains one of the least developed in the EC and sectors such as computer technology and electronics are still very insignificant. Greece therefore receives large sums from the regional development funds to promote the development and diversification of agriculture in particular. In the interior, the emphasis is on the development of the medium-sized cities (including Patras, Volos and in the north Xanthi, Kavalla and Alexandroupolis). Among other things, this attempts to limit the further growth of Athens.

The ban on establishing more industries in the Attica basin also fits in this context. In industrial development, emphasis is placed on the production of semi-finished products.

In 2004, the Karamanlis government, after taking stock of the Greek economy, adjusted all budgets downwards after 2000. The government has pledged to bring the budget deficit back below the 3% limit in 2006 and to implement structural adjustments. However, the opposite turned out to be true, as at the end of 2009 the full extent of the Greek debt crisis is starting to penetrate. Greece is no longer considered creditworthy because of the excessively high national debt. Papandreou announces substantial cutbacks, which will lead to riots with the population. There is severe action in the public sector and the retirement age is rising sharply. In February 2010, European government leaders pledged to help Greece solve the debt crisis, but on hard terms. A huge amount will be made available in April and May. Greece will have to cut even harder in return for this. The unions are calling for a general strike.

The last few years have been dramatic for the economy growth has been continuously negative. In 2011, 2012 and 2013 it was successively -7.1%, -6.4% and -4.2%. The only positive thing is that the contraction seems to be slowing down a bit. In 2017 the economy will grow again by 1.7% for the first time. Per capita GDP has dropped to $27,800 per year.

Agriculture, livestock, forestry and fishing

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No more than 26.5% of the total soil surface of Greece has been cultivated, of which only about 40% is irrigated. Furthermore, 40% of the land is used as pasture land. The major agricultural areas are located in Central and Northern Greece. The farms generally do not exceed 10 hectares and are also spread over fragmented plots. Greece has about 860,000 agricultural holdings with an average farm size of about 3.5 ha. Half of these companies are located in the mountain regions and on the islands. Large land ownership does not occur at all. 60% of the agricultural area is used for arable farming.

Greek agriculture produces mainly for export and the main products are citrus fruits, raisins, currants, cotton, tobacco and olives, which are mainly processed into olive oil. Although the turnover of traditional products is barely growing, Greece is still the largest currant producer in the world. The production of rice (west coast Peloponnese), wheat, sugar beets, tomatoes, cotton and cotton seed is becoming increasingly important. The cereals are mainly grown on the plains of Thessaly, Thrace and Macedonia. The main products of fruit cultivation are: peach, citrus, cherry, apple, pear and grapes. Grapes are grown all over Greece to make wine. Greece is currently the world's largest exporter of canned peaches.

The Greek market for organic food is still in its infancy, but it is expected that this sector will grow in the coming years. Import products currently make up 25% of the market because Greek ecological agriculture and livestock farming receives little support from its own government. The most popular organic agricultural products include olive oil, wine and citrus fruits.

Animal husbandry has only a modest place in the Greek economy. The dry and hot climate and lack of fertile pastures make intensive livestock farming very difficult.

Most of the Greek livestock consists of sheep and goats. There are also many pigs and chickens. It will be clear that beef and milk are completely dependent on imports, and the Netherlands is by far the most important supplier. The Netherlands is facing increasing competition from France, Denmark, Italy and Germany.

Due to the poor quality of the forests, the Greeks are forced to import about 90% of the required wood.

Employment in fishing is gradually declining. The most widespread is inshore fishing and total catches have steadily increased in recent years. Domestic demand for fish is on the rise due to higher incomes and healthy food trends. This has led to an increase in the import of frozen fish in particular.

Sponge fisheries are of decreasing importance due to, among other things, water pollution, overfishing and synthetic products that have largely replaced natural products.

Mining and energy supply

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Petroleum and natural gas are exploited in the northern part of the Aegean Sea and in South Kavala. Half of the production is exported. More petroleum discoveries are expected in the near future. Lignite is found in Macedonia for use in power plants.

Greek mining is becoming increasingly important in the EU because of the bauxite, nickel, magnesium and uranium, which are not found in other EU countries. Sea salt is extracted along the coasts and on some islands.

The Greek aluminum sector is growing steadily. The products exported mainly concern bauxite and aluminum oxide. Greece ranks eighth in the world for bauxite mining.

Greece is a net importer of energy. Two thirds of the primary energy requirement is covered by imports, mainly of oil. In previous years, Greek energy policy has focused on replacing oil with lignite because this raw material is abundantly present in Greece. However, for environmental reasons, it is not given so much importance anymore. Scenarios indicate that the share of lignite must be significantly reduced in favor of natural gas. In connection with this, it was decided to import natural gas from Russia. A 550-kilometer pipeline has been built for this from the Greek-Bulgarian border.

Algeria is also becoming an important gas supplier and for this purpose a terminal was built on the uninhabited island of Revithoússa in the Saronic Gulf, where the supplied liquid gas is converted into gas again.

Own oil production is low. The oil used to come from the Prinos oil field, which covered about 10 percent of the country's oil needs. In 1999, the consortium stopped operating the oil field because oil supplies were starting to run out. A Greek company took over the operation, but at the end of 2001 production was limited to 4,500 barrels per day. A second, more promising oil field is not being developed due to ongoing conflicts with Turkey over territorial waters and continental shelf rights. Oil supplies also appeared to be present on and off the Ionian coast, but the results of an international survey were not encouraging.

The country has four oil refineries: two private and two state-owned, with a capacity of about 22 million tons per year. More than 60 percent of processed products are sold domestically.

The Greek Ministry of Development attaches great importance to the development of renewable energy sources. In recent years, the number of private investments in the renewable energy sector has risen sharply. Although the production of energy from these sources is increasing, its contribution to the total supply is expected to decrease in the future. For economic and technical reasons, the number of geothermal energy generation plants has so far been limited. The best results are achieved with wind and solar energy.

The Greek windmill network will be expanded significantly in the coming years. The interest of the private sector in wind energy projects is high due to, among other things, attractive government subsidies. Most wind farms are located on the island of Evia and on the Peloponnese.

Greece has the largest area of installed solar panels in Europe. Until now, solar energy has mainly been used in the household area for heating water.

Industry

Shipyard GreecePhoto: Nikos Roussos Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

Most of the industry is concentrated around Greece's two largest cities, Athens (36% of all businesses) and Thessaloníki (12.2%). Other industrial centers are Patras and Volos. Approx. 42% of all workers in the industrial sector work in Athens. Small businesses dominate: 85% of all approximately 150,000 companies have fewer than ten employees and the industry is therefore characterized by low productivity. As a result, the investment level is of course also very low.

The main branches of industry are textiles, foodstuffs, tobacco and chemical industries and shipbuilding. The main industrial products are: preserved food, textiles, metal products, household appliances and ships. In addition, there are several large factories for the production of fertilizers, cement, steel and aluminum and of the four petroleum refineries, two are government-owned. There is hardly any heavy industry.

Tourists purchase many items of ancient folk art, such as coarse carpets, decorated with geometric motifs woven or woven into them, headscarves, embroidered linens, pottery, carvings, leather articles and goldsmiths.

Trade

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Many small and large companies and half of all employees involved in trade can be found in Athens again.

The trade balance is in a chronic deficit and was in 2017 (imports $ 52.3 billion, exports $ 31.5 billion). The large trade deficit has exploded since Greece joined the European Union in 1981. Trade borders were then opened and the Greek products had to compete with the high-quality Western European products and the much cheaper products from Eastern Europe and the Far East. Greek imports are still increasing significantly every year. On the other hand, exports, which mainly consist of traditional low-value products, are growing little or not at all.

Foreign debt was $ 506 billion in 2017. In addition to the EU (particularly Germany, Italy, France and the Netherlands), Turkey and Russia occupy a prominent place. Trade with the neighboring Balkan countries and the countries around the Black Sea is increasing every year. It is estimated that more than 15% of Greek exports go to these countries.

The Arab countries remain important because of the petroleum imports. Important import goods are energy, dairy products, beef, machines, cars and trucks, petroleum and luxury goods. Exports are mainly agricultural products, raw materials, clothing, tobacco, cement, semi-processed minerals, footwear and petroleum products.

The main distribution channel in Greece is retail. The retail sector employs approximately 430,000 people and the sector is still largely made up of small family businesses. In the 1990s, this picture began to change under the influence of a number of government measures. Price controls and controls on profit margins were lifted, store opening hours were released and the deployment of part-time staff was made possible by the flexibilisation of the labor market. The result was an increase in scale and the arrival of the first European retail chains. This development has been particularly noticeable within the food sector, as the French New Carrefour (Carrefour / Promodès) and the Belgian Delhaize have now conquered a very large market share. The German Metro with Makro "cash and carry" and the German Lidl are also represented on the Greek food market. German Aldi is also expected to enter the Greek market soon.

Information technology

The Greek IT industry is a relatively young but dynamic economic sector. After the buying wave that accompanied the 'millennium bug', growth has clearly stabilized. Despite these positive developments, expenditure on IT products has been relatively low so far.

This market is dominated for approximately 50 percent by imports from abroad. More than 40 percent of imports come from the EU countries. The main European suppliers of IT products to Greece are Germany, the Netherlands, England, France and Italy. About 55 percent come from the US. Besides the United States, the main other suppliers are Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, China and Singapore.

Aquaculture

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Aquaculture in Greece is a growth sector. Ten years ago, the production of Greek fish farms was virtually nil, but today Greece is leading in this sector in Europe with 50 percent of total European production in 2000.

The sector grows by 10 percent annually. The main exporters from China and Norway who dominate this sector worldwide now recognize the Greek fish farms as the leader in the Mediterranean area.

Greece invests and focuses almost exclusively on the production of sea bass and sea bream. Sub-sectors are trout, carp, eel, mussels, salmon and shrimp.

Traffic

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Greece has few good and fast motorway connections that meet international standards. In 1999, the length of the road network was 39,500 kilometers, of which only 500 kilometers consisted of motorways. In recent years, serious work has been done on improving the motorway infrastructure. However, the mountainous landscape makes it difficult to significantly improve the existing infrastructure.

A new major north-east-northwest connection, the Egnatía Highway, is being constructed. This highway runs from the northwestern port city of Igoumenitsa via Thessaloniki to Alexandroúpolis on the Turkish border. The Egnatía axis is to connect the Adriatic Sea with the Black Sea. Progress is also being made with the construction of the south-north axis, the so-called PATHE highway, which connects the major cities of Patras, Athens, Thessaloniki and Evzoni on the border with Bulgaria. The Greek government is thus responding to the initiatives of the European Union to develop major European transport links. There are also plans to build a north-south motorway link that will link the west of the country from Igoumenitsa (beginning of Egnatía highway) to Patras (beginning of Pathe highway) in the Peloponesos via a large suspension bridge over the Gulf of Corinth at the towns of Rion and Antirion.

In Attica, many projects are also being initiated under the "Attica SOS" program, some of which also relate to the improvement of the motorway infrastructure. A new 50 km motorway (Spáta-Stavrós-Elefsína) will be built that will link the new Athens airport at Spata with the industrial area of Elefsína. Part of this was put into use in March 2001. A start has also been made in Attica on the construction of the Hymettus ring road. This ring road is of great importance for tackling the traffic problem and air pollution in Greater Athens.

The Greek railway network has a length of 2,503 kilometers (1999).

The inhospitable landscape makes connections more difficult, requiring major investments. The lack of financial resources has led to inadequate rail infrastructure with different rail widths and, for the most part, single-track lines hindering efficient transport. The rail connections between the Greek ports and the Southeastern European hinterland also leave something to be desired.

Great priority is now being given to improving the infrastructure of the main railway lines in order to allow speeds of 200 kilometers per hour. The existing train equipment will also be replaced and work is underway on electrification and double track construction of the Athens-Thessaloniki, Athens-Corinth and Corinth-Patras lines.

Work is also underway on the extension of the network that will connect different suburbs of Attica. First, a 35-kilometer line will be built from the new Athens International Airport near Sparta to the Athenian Railway Center (SKA).

In addition, the Athens metro is being expanded. Inaugurated in 2000, the metro consists of two underground lines of 18 stops in total.

Investments are also being made in improving the transport options for freight by rail. In the medium term, the aim is to connect a number of major ports (Piraeus, Alexandroúpolis, Vólos) and various industrial areas and freight centers (Thessaloniki, Komotiní, Alexandroúpolis, Vólos) to the rail network. The aim of this is to double freight traffic by rail.

The modernization of the entire Greek rail network is estimated to require more than € 4.5 billion. Almost EUR 3 billion of this is funded with EU funds from the third Community Support Program.

Greece's merchant fleet is the largest in the world. In 2000, 3,584 merchant ships were Greek owned, but only 909 of them sailed the Greek flag. The reason for this is a regulation that makes it mandatory that a large percentage of the crew must be Greeks. Greek sailors are considered a relatively expensive labor force. In addition, tax rates were significantly higher until 2001 than in countries with so-called offshore registers. To make the Greek registry more attractive, the government reduced the tax by 50 percent in 2001.

The Greek merchant fleet has traditionally been a very important source of income in the balance of payments.

Greece has 123 ports, but only 27 of them are significant. The major ports of Piraeus near Athens and Thessaloniki in the north are adequately equipped with container facilities. Piraeus is an important cargo transhipment center but lacks a good train connection with the South East European (Balkan) hinterland. The Hellenic Railways Organization OSE is now working to connect this port to the country's rail network. The ports of Vólos and Alexandroupolis are also connected to this. The port of Thessaloniki is outside the route for most ships sailing between Europe and the Far East.

The Greek government plans to privatize the port authorities of Piraeus and Thessaloniki. Another priority is the extension and modernization of the ports of Patras and Igoumenitsa in the west of the country, which serve as important connecting points with Western Europe.

As far as passenger transport is concerned, all domestic ferry services will not be opened to foreign competition until 2004. This late date has to do with the exceptional position that Greece has stipulated from the EU. Until 2004, all routes to the Greek islands will be operated exclusively by Greek ferries. The government recently announced that it would release these routes earlier.

Due to the large number of islands, Greece has many airports: 64 with paved and 16 with unpaved runways. Most of these airports have insufficient facilities and do not meet modern international standards. However, since March 2001, Greece has a new, very modern, international airport at Spáta, southeast of Athens. The new airport, officially called "Elefthérios Venizélos", was to replace the fifty-year-old "Athens Hellenikón".

Other regional airports will also be modernized in the short term. The Greek Ministry of Transport has already planned a series of airport projects. This involves not only the construction of terminals and runways, but also the installation of technical equipment such as the layout of terminals, baggage handling systems, electronic signage and the like.

A concentration process has been observable within the aviation sector since 1999. Greek companies are increasingly merging with each other in order to compete against larger international companies. A recent example is the merger between Aegean and Cronus Airlines.

According to data from Greek research firms, the Greek aviation sector is showing a positive development. The growth is particularly noticeable in the passenger market, while the air freight market shows no growth potential. The best results are achieved in the private sector. As a result, Olympic Airways (OA), the national airline, is losing market share. Olympic Airways has run into serious difficulties since its nationalization in 1975. Despite various restructuring measures, the company is still in financial distress.

Greece holiday destinationPhoto:Wolfgand Staudt Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Greece has always been an important holiday destination. Greece occupies a high place in the world ranking of the most popular holiday destinations. The income from tourism is very important to Greece. Most tourists come from England, Germany and the United States. Tourism mainly focuses on the capital Athens, the Peloponnese and the islands.

However, it is not all rose scent and moonlight when it comes to tourism. Quite a few accommodations are outdated and there is not much money to make new investments.

Greece has about 10,000 hotels with a capacity of almost 800,000 beds. Greece also has 500 campsites.

The number of marinas organized is disappointing, but more than 35 new ones are under construction. Greece is also lagging behind in the supply of golf infrastructure. Golf courses can only be found in Athens, on the islands of Corfu, Rhodes and Crete and the Chalkidiki peninsula.

Acropolis AthensPhoto:Christophe Meneboeuf Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes

Athens is the impressive capital of Greece. It is the oldest European world city and is therefore brimming with history. The Acropolis is a Table Mountain in the middle of Athens. The mountain is no less than 165 meters high and is full of ancient ruins. Acropolis means "highest point of the city", because when you see Athens from a distance, you always see the Acropolis rising like a king. The settlement of Athens was founded on the Acropolis about 5,000 years ago. The soil on and around the mountain was fertile, it was close to the sea and the high elevation provided safety. The Parthenon is Athens' most famous landmark on the Acropolis. The colonnaded temple was built to honor the goddess Pallas Athena. The structure was made entirely of marble and it was the first temple on the Acropolis of Athens.

The Parthenon measured 31 meters in width and it was 20 meters high. The Parthenon is without doubt the most impressive sight on the Acropolis. At the foot of the Acropolis is Plaka, one of the nicest areas in Athens. Plaka is one of the most touristic areas in Athens and yet it has managed to keep its authentic charm. During a city trip you can stroll around through the narrow, steep streets. Visit nice souvenir shops or sit on a taverna (terrace) in the sun to soak up the atmosphere. Read more on the Athens page of Landenweb.

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Sources

DuBois, J. / Greece
Times Books International

Europese Unie : vijftien landendocumentaties
Europees Platform voor het Nederlandse Onderwijs

Gerrard, M. / Griekenland
Kosmos-Z&K

Koster, D. / Griekenland
ANWB

CIA - World Factbook
BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2021
Copyright: Team Landenweb