Greece

Introduction

Greece has got a magical combination of ancient archaeological sites and a relaxed, cosmopolitan vibe. There are islands with breathtakingly beautiful beaches; the clarity of light in Greece is well-known, as is the country's amazing variety and abundance of flowers and plants.


Immigration has a huge impact on Greece’s social landscape; immigrants make up approximately 10% of the population (the majority of these come from Albania). Traditional customs are always present in every day life. The young Greeks tend to also follow established traditions, but are more outward looking than the older generations.


About 98% of the population belong to the Greek Orthodox Church. Roman Catholics, Protestants, Evangelists, Jews and Muslims form the remainder.

Places to go in Greece

History

After the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, Otto of Bavaria was installed as king (helped by European powers), followed by George I of Denmark in 1862.


During WW1 Greece sided with the Entente powers against Turkey and the other Central Powers which led to the victorious powers awarding parts of Asia Minor to Greece after the war. Several conflicts between Turkey and Greece boiled over in the years after with territorial battles between them spilling over into the Greco-Turkish War of 1919 - 1922 (also known as the War in Asia Minor). The outcome of this was to establish a Turkish state and return Greece to it's pre-WW1 borders.


During WW2, despite heavy resistance the country fell to Germany in 1941 after which many people fled for Australia, Canada and the United States. Even after liberation, Greece and its people suffered further with the outbreak of a bitter civil war between communist insurgents and the right-wing government forces which continued until 1949.


The Greek economy recovered rapidly after the war with the aide of the US's Marshall Plan loans and later through the emergence of the tourist industry.


An army coup d’etat in 1967 was followed by a time of brutality and repression. The occupation of Cyprus by the Turkish became a big issue in Greek politics, and it still is.


In 1981 Greece entered the European Community (EC, now EU); in 2001 the euro became the new currency.

Politics

Parties that entered the Greek parliament in the 2007 elections were the two dominant parties: the conservative right 'New Democracy', the centre-left 'Panhellenic Socialist Movement' as well as the Communist Party of Greece, the Coalition of the Radical Left and for the first time the far-right Popular Orthodox Rally. The New Democracy retained power (although with a reduced percentage of the popular vote) whilst the Panhellenic Socialist Movement suffered its worst defeat in 30 years as the influence of the smaller parties gains pace.


Greece joined the European Union in 1981 and held the Presidency of the EU from January to June 2003. The country is also a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) which it joined in 1952, the United Nations (UN), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Geography

Greece is made up of 1,400 islands at the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula with 169 of these currently being inhabited including the popular tourist destinations of Crete, Rhodes and Kos.


Greece covers an area of 131,900 sq km of land and over 400,000 sq km of water. Of the land belonging to the country, nearly 80% is made up of hills or mountainous terrain. This helps to contribute to the very varied landscape which is present in the country ranging from beautiful long beaches, open countryside, rich forests and mountains. Over 50% of the country is actually covered in forest land making it a very green country. It is also interesting to note that there are almost two different climates operating in Greece; with the western part of the country being dominated by an Alpine climate whilst the remainer is more mediterranean in climate and vegetation. Athens lies on the border of the two systems and so has an interesting mix of weather!


Perhaps a little-known face is that Greece is one of the most seismically active areas of the world!

Economy

Greece’s economy is growing fast and has improved a lot in recent years. Still, Greece is one of the poorest members of the EU and is the country with the second-to-lowest average income.


The country is a net importer of industrial and capital goods, foodstuffs and petroleum. Particularly important are manufactured goods, food and beverages, petroleum products, cement, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.


The tourism industry contributes significantly to Greece and is vital to the country's economy. Every year the country welcomes a number of tourists greater than the country’s total population. Shipping is another important industry within Greece’s economy due to it's geographic position.

Country Information

CurrencyEuro
LanguagesGreek
GovernmentParliamentary democracy
TimezoneGMT + 2
Population11 million
ATM availabilityAvailable
CapitalAthens
Dialing code(00) 30
Emergency servicesAmbulance 166; police 100; fire 199
WeatherGreece’s climate is Mediterranean. There is generally plenty of sunshine, mild temperatures and only a limited amount of rainfall. The dry hot summer days are cooled by seasonal winds (Meltemi); in the mountainous regions the temperatures are generally much cooler and arguably more pleasant in the height of summer. Winters are mild in the lowland areas and it's not uncommon to experience snow and ice; mountains are usually snow-covered. The country's geographical position is the reason for the great variety in it's climate. Different climactic conditions during the same season (for example, mild heat in coastal areas and cool temperatures in mountainous regions) are common.
Tourist boardhttp://www.gnto.gr/
Famous forAncient ruins, ouzo, moussaka
Useful phrasesYasas (hello); andio (goodbye); parakolo (please); efharisto (thank you).
Accommodation forSmall, family-run guesthouses are a nice alternative to hotels, hostels or similar types of accomodation. Staying there, you get the chance to get to know local traditions and the charming, unhurried way life. Owners and staff in these guesthouses are generally friendly and open, and unlike in large hotels it is very easy to get to know people. If you can afford it, there is also the possibility of renting one of the many small houses/cottages, which are often near the beach. These give you a lot more space for your money and usually a wonderful view.
Business hoursFrom Monday to Friday offices are generally open from 9am until 5pm, although some are closed around mid-day. Most stores are open from 9am until 6pm; in bigger towns shops might stay open longer. This applies to most other than shops in train/petrol stations, which are generally open 24hours. Banks are open from 8.30am until 2pm (1.30pm on Fridays).
VisasIf not staying for longer than 90 days, EU citizens and nationals of the following countries do not require a visa (although they do need a passport that is valid for at least 3 months from the date of return from Greece): Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Honduras, Hong Kong (holders of passports Hong Kong Special Administrative Region), Israel, Japan, Macao (holders of passports Regiao Administrativa Especial de Macau), Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Romania, South Korea, San Marino, Singapore, United States, Uruguay, The Vatican and Venezuela.
TippingCheck if service charge was included, if it was, you don’t have to tip, but if you feel like you received an excellent service, leave 10-15% of the price. In traditional Restaurants service charges are often not included, just check to see whether it is or not.If you want to leave a tip, leave between 10 and 20 percent of the total bill on the payment tray or give it to your waiter.

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