Located near the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Greece forms the southern extremity of the Balkan peninsula in south-east Europe. Its territory includes more than 2 000 islands in the Aegean and Ionian seas, of which only around 165 are inhabited. Mount Olympus is the highest point in the country.
Greece is one of the cradles of European civilisation, whose ancient scholars made great advances in philosophy, medicine, mathematics and astronomy. Their city-states were pioneers in developing democratic forms of government. The historical and cultural heritage of Greece continues to resonate throughout the modern world – in literature, art, philosophy and politics.
Modern Greece has a republican structure based on the constitution of 1975. The 300 members of the single-chamber parliament are elected for a period of four years. The country is divided into 13 administrative regions.
More than 50% of Greek industry is located in the Greater Athens area, the main economic sectors being agriculture, tourism, construction and shipping.
The best-known contemporary Greeks include the film-maker Kostas Gavras, the Nobel Prize winner Odysseus Elitis and composer Mikis Theodorakis.
Greek cuisine is based on goat meat and mutton. Fish dishes are also popular. Olive oil, which is produced in large quantities, adds to the distinctive taste of Greek food.
Athens is the capital and largest city in Greece, and has a population over 700,000. It is one of the world’s oldest cities, with a recorded history of over 3,400 years. Its larger metropolitanarea stretches to incorporate over 4 million people, making Athens one of the biggestmetropolitan areas of Europe. It is an alpha world city that is the cultural, economic and administrative center of the coutry of Greece. Athens is turning into a major business center, and it’s a very rich, expensive city for the most part. Despite its modern importance, Athens is of course more famous for its influence from Ancient Greece, being the home of many Greek philosophers and to a proto-democracy. If you’re in the right part of town, you can view not only many famous remanents of Ancient Greek Architecture, but also Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman monuments. Today, the city suffers from high air pollution similar to that of Los Angeles or Mexico City. Athens has a developed public transportation network, including buses, trolleys and trams in the city center.
Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece, with a population of 348,000. This it said to be the hippest Greek city. It is also famous for having beautiful beaches. It hosts cultural eventslike the Thessaloniki Film Festival and the International Trade Fair. It used to be the royal co-capital of the Byzantine Empire. After Athens, this city is the second biggest economic, cultural, industral and administrative center of Greece. The city has historical monuments fromJewish, Ottoman and Byzantine settlement. Thessaloniki lies on the northern part of the Thermaic Gulf, in northern Greece. It is a huge port city, so there is a lot of economic activity.
This is the third largest Greek city, with about 170,000 inhabitants. Piraeus is situated on theSaronic Gulf, and is part of the greater Athens area. It is the largest passenger port in Europe, and the third largest in the whole world. It is also the center of Greek commercial shipping. The city has a large spectacle of different neighborhoods. One of the most expensive neighborhoods is located on the hill of Kastella, in which you get a great view of Athens and the Saronic Gulf. Then there is Kaminia, which is a more working-class neighborhood. There are several archeological sites around the city, such as the ancient gate to the harbor, Eetioneia. It is also a huge sports center of Greece.
The islands are the main characteristic of Greece’s morphology and an integral part of the country’s culture and tradition. Greek sovereign land includes 6,000 islands and islets scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Seas, of which only 227 islands are inhabited. This is a truly unique phenomenon for the European continent.
The Greek Archipelago takes up 7,500 km of the country’s total 16,000 km coastline, offering a highly diversified landscape: beaches stretching over many kilometers, sheltered bays and coves, sandy beaches with sand-dunes, pebble beaches, coastal caves with steep rocks and dark colored sand typical of volcanic soil and coastal wetlands. Many of these Greek beaches have been awarded the blue flag under the Blue Flags of Europe Program, providing not only swimming, but also scuba diving, snorkeling, water skiing, sailing and windsurfing.
Some of the oldest European civilizations developed on the Greek islands (Cycladic, Minoan civilizations, etc.), so therefore the islands have unique archeological sites, a distinctive architectural heritage and the fascinating local traditions of a centuries-old and multifaceted civilization.
The ideal climate, safe waters and small distances between ports and coasts, have made the Greek islands extremely popular among Greek and foreign visitors.