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About Greece PDF Print E-mail

General Info

Leonidas, Greek flag, EU flag, Olympics flag

The country is a Presidential Parliamentary Democracy

Capital of Greece

Athens

Official language

The official language is Modern Greek. The English and other languages (mostly European) are widely spoken in tourism related enterprises (hotels, restaurants, bars, etc). English speaking staff can be found in shops, banks, public services, and various areas, frequently visited by tourists.

Religion

The official religion of the vast majority of Greek citizens is Greek Orthodox. All other doctrines and religions are highly respected and places of worship are available throughout the country.

Population

11,306,183 (2010 estimate).

Greek economy

The Greek economy is based on the principles of free economy and is bound by the regulations of the world organizations that it is a member of, such as ECOFIN and WTO.

The Official Currency

The official currency of Greece is the Euro (€)

Currency Exchange

Currency exchange rates are clearly displayed in every bank that accepts currency exchange, while credit card holders may acquire money from the ATMs of the collaborating banks. Greek banks are open for the public from 8:00 to 14:30 Mondays to Thursdays and from 8:00 to 13:30 on Fridays. They are closed on Public Holidays.

Euros can also be exchanged for notes of other foreign currencies at exchange offices that are situated at the airport and certain main ports, in the larger cities, as well as at many tourist destinations. A passport is required when exchanging currencies.

Climate

Mediterranean

The climate is characterised by warm to hot, dry summers and mild to cool, wet winters. Mediterranean climate zones are associated with the five large subtropical high pressure cells of the oceans... [source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediterranean_climate]

Calling code

The international calling/access code for Greece is +30

Time

GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) + 2 hours

Greece participates in the Daylight Savings Time scheme.

Electricity

Electricity is supplied at 220V/50Hz. Two–pin plugs (European style) are used. For appliances operating on 110/120V, a voltage converter is required.

Credit Cards

All major credit cards are accepted in most hotels, restaurants and shops. To make sure that your credit card is accepted in Greece, you can call your bank or credit card company before your trip. Visitors are advised to carry small amounts of cash at all times.

Visas/Passports

Depending on your country of origin, you might need a passport and a visa. Should you require a visa for entry to Greece, you are strongly advised to make the application in your home country at least three months before the intended date of travel. You are advised to check with the Greek consulate or embassy within your country for visa/passport requirements, before arranging your travel.

Please visit the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs' page for information about Greek Missions Abroad at: http://www.mfa.gr/www.mfa.gr/en-US/Services/Directory/Greek+Missions+Abroad/

Customs/Border Control

Greece is an EU country. For detailed information on import–export regulations, pets, baggage clearance, airport tax, currency import and export please contact your travel agent or refer to the IATA (International Air Transport Association) travel center: http://www.iata.org

Health Care

In order to have access to necessary health care, tourists from member states of the European Union (EU) wishing to visit Greece must be holders of the European Health Card (EHIC) or any other legal Community document issued by their competent social security agency. Tourists from countries other than the member states of the European Union must consult their social security agency for information before traveling.

Tipping

A service charge is included in all prices at hotels, restaurants and taxis. Tipping is common in Greece, as a way of expressing satisfaction for services received. It is optional and usually varies from 5 to 10%. Practically speaking you can either round up a figure, or calculate a tip of roughly 5-10%.

Mobile/Cellular Phones

Contact your phone company in order to make sure that you can use your mobile phone in Greece.

Geography

Greece is located in south-eastern Europe, on the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula (Haemus peninsula); it lies at the meeting point of three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa. Greece borders to the North on Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (F.Y.R.O.M.), to the Northwest on Albania, to the Northeast on Turkey; to the West it is washed by the Ionian Sea; to the South by the Mediterranean Sea and to the East by the Aegean Sea.

The total area of Greece is 131,957 km2 and consists of three main geographic areas:

  • a peninsular mainland (that extends from the region of Central Greece on the South to the region of Thrace on the North) being the biggest geographic feature of the country;
  • the Peloponnese peninsula that is separated from the mainland by the canal of the Corinth Isthmus;
  • and around 6,000 islands and islets, scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Sea, most of them grouped in clusters. Crete, Rhodes, Corfu, the Dodecanese and the Cyclades are some of the famous and popular islands and island clusters in Greece;
  • Eighty percent of the country consists of mountains or hills, making Greece one of the most mountainous countries of Europe; furthermore, it has 16,000 kilometres of coastline of which 7,500 are found around the islands, a truly unparalleled phenomenon on the European continent.

History and Culture

Greece is a country world known for its history and civilization which flourished over the centuries and affected the culture and arts of all mankind. Greek civilization had already developed in Prehistoric Years.

Greek history is marked by significant eras, such as:

  • The Paleolithic Age (approx. 12.000-10.000 B.C.) : The first traces of human habitation in Greece;
  • The Neolithic Age: (approx.7.000-3.000 B.C.): Neolithic buildings spread throughout the country;
  • Bronze Age: Appearance of urban centers in Aegean Region;
  • 2nd Millennium B.C.: Organized palatial societies appear;
  • The Geometric Period: (9th-8th Century B.C.): The beginning of the Greek Renaissance Years, marked by the formation of the Greek City-States and the creation of the Greek alphabet;
  • The Archaic Years (7th-6th century B.C.): establishment of colonies of the Greek City – States, as far as Spain, Black Sea and N. Africa;
  • The Classical Years (5th-4th Century B.C.): Cultural and political dominance of Athens called The Golden Age;
  • 4th Century B.C.: New forces emerge. King Phillip II of the Macedonians and his son Alexander the Great play a leading role. Alexander's victorious conquests of all regions as far as the Indus River, radically change the world, as it was at the time;
  • 146 B.C.: The conquest of Greece by the Romans, force the country to join the vast Roman Empire;
  • 1262: The reoccupation of Constantinople by the Byzantines mark the last stages of the Roman Empire;
  • 1453: The Ottomans capture Consantinople. The last area of Greece is occupied by the Ottomans in 1669;
  • 1821: The Greek War of Independence against the Ottomans begins;
  • 1830: The creation of the Independent Greek Kingdom as a result ot the Greek War of Independence;
  • After the end of World War I: Greece's sovereign land reaches its maximum in 1920;
  • After the end of World War II: The Greek State takes its current form;
  • 1974: the Government changes from Constitutional Monarchy to a Presidential Parliamentary Democracy;
  • 1981: Greece becomes a member of the European Community/Union;

A visit to the archaeological sites, museums and monuments throughout the country, provides a vivid picture of Greek history as well as the accomplishments of Greek civilization in arts and technology.

The cultural heritage of Greece, rich in music, dance, poetry and theatre is part of the everyday life of the Greek People, who generously share it with the visitors of the country.

Gastronomy

International and Gourmet Cuisine is available in all Greek destinations. Still the traditional Greek Cuisine is one of the main attractions in the country and deserves a special merit.

Greek gastronomy has recorded a history of around 4,000 years, with special characteristics based on pure and unique quality goods produced on Greek land. In fact, it was Archestratos who wrote the first cookbook in history (330 B.C.).

In Greek nutritional tradition the gustatory result blends harmonically with the high nutritional value. Dozens of scientific studies have shown the positive effect of a balanced Greek diet on a person's health, beauty and longevity.

In contrast to what many people believe about Greek cuisine, you will discoverer that moussaka, souvlaki and choriatiki (Greek salad) are not the only worthwhile Greek dishes. Greek cuisine consists of a large variety of dishes that can fully satisfy the gastronomic quests of both vegetarians and meat lovers.

Basic Ingredients

Greek cuisine has four secrets: good quality fresh ingredients, correct use of flavourings (herbs) and spices, the famous Greek olive oil and simplicity.

Greek dishes contain vegetables which are cultivated in natural ways maintaining their aroma and rich flavour: tomato, cabbage, carrot, onion, parsley and garlic are some of the most popular. Greek fruits, such as grapes, apricots, peaches, cherries, melons, watermelons are equally noteworthy. Greek cuisine also uses herbs and spices renowned for their gustativeness, aromas and curative properties such as: oregano, thyme, mint and rosemary. Do not forget to also try the Greek cheese, especially feta cheese. Even though many delicious meat dishes can be found, Greek fish and seafood dishes are particularly mouthwatering. The Aegean and Ionian Seas are crystal clear and rich with fish.

Last but not least, one should make sure to try the high quality Greek wine. Dating back to the ancient time, Greek vine varieties have been creatively combined with foreign ones, resulting in unique wine brands that have been awarded many international distinctions.

The Greek Way to Enjoy a meal…

The time of the day when Greeks gather around the table to enjoy a meal or various hors d'oeuvres (mezedes) with ouzo is a tradition that every Greek maintains with reverence. A deeply entrenched social custom is when Greeks share a meal with friends at home, in a restaurant or a tavern. The Greek word symposium -a word that is as old as Greece itself- literally means drinking with friends. The atmosphere in an ordinary Greek restaurant or tavern is relaxing, simple and informal. The preparation of the food on the other hand has its own sacred rules. Good amateur cooks are highly respected in their social circle, while a good housewife in Greece mainly signifies a good cook. And a good cook can spend days preparing a meal for their friends.

Sources: Greek National Tourism Organization (http://www.gnto.gr); Thessaloniki Convention & Visitors Bureau

 
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