Greece has the longest coastline in Europe and is the southernmost country in Europe.
The mainland has rugged mountains, forests, and lakes, but the country is well known for the thousands of islands dotting the blue Aegean Sea to the east, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, and the Ionian Sea to the west.
The country is divided into three geographical regions: the mainland, the islands, and Peloponnese, the peninsula south of the mainland.
Greece is a member of the European Union since 1981 and of NATO since 1952.
The country shares land borders with four countries: Albania, North Macedonia, Bulgaria and Turkey.
Is located in the Mediterranean Sea. The Greek coastline borders the Ionian Sea and the Aegean Sea as well as the Libyan and Crete Seas in the south.
The country consists of the mainland with two peninsulas called Peloponnese (in southwestern Greece) and Chalkidiki (in northeastern Greece).
Athens is known as the oldest capital city in Europe. Athens is the southernmost capital city on Mainland Europe. The city is named after Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom.
The first great civilization in Greece was the Minoan culture on the island of Crete around 2000 B.C. Wall paintings found at the ruins of the palace Knossos show people doing backflips over a charging bull. The Minoans were conquered by the Myceneans from the mainland in 1450 B.C.
During ancient times the country was divided into city-states, which were ruled by noblemen. The largest were Athens, Sparta, Thebes, and Corinth. Each state controlled the territory around a single city. They were often at war with each other.
Athens became the most powerful, and in 508 B.C., the people instituted a new system of rule by the people called democracy. But during that time, only men could vote!
The first Olympic Games were held in the southern city of Olympia in 700 B.C. to honor Zeus, the king of the gods. Only men could compete in the events such as sprinting, long jump, discus, javelin, wrestling, and chariot racing. The games were banned by the Romans in A.D. 393, but began again in Athens in 1896.
Greece was ruled by foreigners for over 2,000 years beginning with the Romans conquering the Greeks in the 2nd century. Then, after almost 400 years under Turkish rule, Greece won independence in 1832.
Greece abolished their monarchy in 1975 and became a parliamentary republic. Under the new constitution, there is a president and a prime minister. The prime minister has the most power, and is the leader of the party that has the most seats in the parliament. The president selects cabinet ministers who run government departments.
The parliament, called the Vouli, has only one house with 300 members who are elected every four years. Greece became part of the European Union in 1981.
Most of the country was forested at one time. Over the centuries, the forests were cut down for firewood, lumber, and to make room for farms. Today, forests can be found mainly in the Pindus and Rhodope ranges.
Greece has ten national parks and there is an effort to protect natural and historic landmarks. Marine parks help protect the habitats of two of Europe's most endangered sea creatures, the loggerhead turtle and monk seal. The long coastline and clear water make Greece an ideal location to spot sea stars, sea anemones, sponges, and seahorses hiding in the seaweed.
The Greek landscape is covered by maquis, a tangle of thorny shrubs that don't need a lot of water. These plants include fragrant herbs such as thyme, rosemary, oregano, and bay and myrtle trees. Bird watching is popular in Greece where geese, ducks, and swallows stop over during their migration from Africa to Europe.
PEOPLE & CULTURE
Family life is a very important part of life in Greece. Children often live with their parents even after they get married. Greeks live long lives and it is thought that their varied diet of olives, olive oil, lamb, fish, squid, chickpeas, and lots of fruits and vegetables keep them healthy.
Nearly two-thirds of the people live in large cities. Athens is the largest city, with over 3.7 million people crowding the metropolis. The Parthenon, the temple to goddess Athena atop the Acropolis, is deteriorating due to pollution and acid rain.
Olive trees have been cultivated in Greece for over 6,000 years. Every village has its own olive groves.
FOOD IN GREECE
The Greek cuisine is full of aroma! Fresh fruit and vegetables and seafood dominate most dishes. Spices such as oregano, thyme, mint or rosemary are added to most Greek dishes. Olive oil is used in most dishes or for dipping bread.
Mezedes are snacks that can be eaten before meals or enjoyed with drinks at the local restaurants or tavernas.
Popular food in Greece:
• Choriatiki salata: This 'village' salad is what we know all over the world as 'Greek salad', made with plenty of tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and feta cheese. Usually eaten with bread not with pita ;-)
• Feta cheese: white soft cheese made from goats milk
• Tsatsiki: dip or thick sauce made with Greek yoghurt and cucumbers, garlic, olive oil and spices
• Moussaka: layered dish with aubergines (also called eggplants or brinjals) and potatoes and creamy sauce
• Spanakopita: filo pastry dish with a spinach and feta filling
• Souvlaki: skewers of marinated meat, usually eaten as fast food
• Pastitsio: pasta dish with minced meats and white sauce, similar to the Italian lasagna
• Dolmades: little parcels of rice that has been mixed with vegetables and spices and that are wrapped in vine leaves
Καλημέρα! pronounced as Kaliméra! means 'Good Day!' in Greek. The Greek language has the longest history of any of the Indo-European languages and written records date back about 3,500 years. See how the letters are written in printed writing and cursive writing.
The Greek alphabet has 24 letters.
Many Greek words have been introduced in other languages. Some of the Greek words that we use in the English language are: mathematics, physics, athletics, telephone, politics, academy, democracy and geography.
The Greek enjoy following traditions and customs such as folk music and dances. The Sirtaki is one of the most famous dances around the world and also often performed for tourists.
In Greece, children go to primary or elementary school for six years, similar to the UK. Public school education is free of charge and includes the supply of free textbooks. Schooling is compulsory until Grade 9 or the age of 15. Greek pupils learn at least one foreign language, usually English is the first foreign language for the pupils while French or German can be studied as the second foreign language.
Soccer is the most popular sport in Greece but many people also enjoy watersports or athletics.