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| image=[[Image:Ac acropolis3.jpg|
| population=10,688,058 (July 2006 est.)
| language=[[Greek]] 99% (official)
'''Greece''' ([[Greek phrasebook|Greek]]: Ελλάς, ''Hellas'') [http://www.
[[Image:Santorini1.JPG|thumb|260px|Backstreets of charming Firá, Santoríni]]
Over 90% of visitors who come to Greece come from '''other European countries,''' although in recent years there have been growing numbers of tourists from other world regions. The vast majority of visitors arrive during
Many first-time visitors arrive in Greece with specific images in mind and are surprised to discover a country with such '''regional and architectural diversity.''' The famous whitewashed homes and charming blue-domed churches only characterize a specific region of the country (the [[Cyclades]] Islands). Architecture varies greatly from one region to the next depending on the local history. Visitors will find Neoclassical architecture in the cities of Ermoupolis and [[Nafplion]], Ottoman-influenced buildings in Grevená and Kozáni, whitewashed Cycladic homes on the island of [[Paros]], and pastel-colored baroque homes and churches on [[Corfu]]. The nation's '''terrain''' is just as varied as its architectural heritage: idyllic beaches, towering mountain ranges, wine-producing valleys, vast stretches of olive orchards in the south, and lush forests in the north. Greece's historical sights are just as varied; the country is littered with just as many medieval churches and castles as classical ruins and temples.
====Enlightenment and revolution====
The '''Italian city-states''' of [[Genoa]] and [[Venice]] competed with the Ottoman Turks for control of various areas of Greece and managed to conquer various islands and coastal areas, bringing '''pan-European movements''' such as the
[[Image:Plaka2.JPG|thumb|400px|Athens' Pláka district, with its 19th century character]]
====19th Century to Mid-20th====
The nation finally achieved its '''independence''' from the Ottoman Empire in 1829. The newly-independent Greek State was briefly a republic, before becoming a monarchy at the will of major European powers. During the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, Greece gradually annexed neighboring islands and territories with Greek-speaking populations. The country sided with the allies during WWI. Despite declaring neutrality during WWII, the country was invaded by Mussolini's military in 1941. Greek forces victoriously pushed the Italians out of Greece, but the Germans then came to their aid, occupying the country until its liberation toward the end of the war. Civil war broke out in 1946 between communist rebels and royalists, the former supported by Yugoslavia (until the Tito-Stalin rift of 1948) and the latter by the West. The communist rebels were defeated by the royalists in 1949.
Greece joined NATO in 1952; rapid economic growth and social change followed. A right-wing military dictatorship staged a coup in 1967, disbanding all political parties, suspending political liberties and forcing many prominent Greeks into exile, including Communists,
Greece joined the '''European Community''' or EC in 1981, which later became the European Union (EU) in 1992. The country's tourism industry which had begun to take off during the 1960s
The '''most pleasant weather''' occurs in May-June and September-October. The warmest time of the year starts in mid-July and generally lasts until mid-August, when the annual ''meltémi'' winds from the north cool the country. Mid-July to mid-August is the height of summer, and the midday sun tends to get very strong; during this time, most Greeks avoid heavy physical activity outdoors between 1PM and 5PM. It is best advised to get in tune with the local way of life by waking up early, doing all sightseeing and errands in the cool morning hours, and then spending the afternoon in the relaxing shade or at the beach. In fact, the bulk of tourists arrive in Greece during the height of summer, to do just that! For visitors from more northerly climates, the off season from November through February can be a rewarding time to see Greece. It will not be beach weather, but temperatures are mild. The much added bonus is that there will be very few other tourists and reduced prices.
'''Summer evenings''' tend to be ''very'' rewarding. As strong as the sun may get on a summer afternoon, the low levels of atmospheric humidity in most areas of the country prevent the air from trapping much heat, and temperatures tend to dip to very pleasant levels in the evenings. But even during midday, high temperatures actually tend to be quite comfortable as long as the time is not spent doing a lot of walking or other physical activity. (Athens, however, can still be uncomfortably warm during summer afternoons due to the predominance of concrete in the city, an effect similar to New York City.) Coastal areas near open waters (away from tightly-closed bays and gulfs) especially on many of the islands, tend to be quite breezy, and can be quite cold at night.
While the Mediterranean climate characterizes most of the country,
===Holidays and festivals===
Contrary to most national holidays in other countries, '''Independence Day''' in Greece is a very sober holiday. There is a school flag parade in every town and village and a big armed forces parade in Athens.
Although not an official holiday, pre-Lenten '''carnival''' -or ''apókries''- is a major celebration in cities throughout the country, with Patras hosting the country's largest and most famous events. Carnival season comes to an
In addition to nation-wide holidays and celebrations, many towns and regions have their own ''regional'' festivals commemorating various historical events, local patron saints, or wine harvests.
Note that the Greek Orthodox Church uses a different method to determine the date of Easter
* [[Corfu]] — large island with many attractions
* [[Delphi]] — site of the famous oracle of Apollo, major archeological site
* [[Meteora]] —
* [[Ithaca_(Greece)|Ithaca]] — famous home of Odysseus
* [[Mount Athos]] — semi-independent ecclesiastical republic
Athens' '''Elefthérios Venizélos International Airport''' [http://www.aia.gr]
Athens and Thessaloníki handle the bulk of scheduled international flights. However, during tourism season, several charter and planned low-budget flights arrive daily from many European cities to many of the islands and smaller cities on the mainland.
'''Due to bad economic situation Greek railways has suspended all international trains since
The state train company is Trainose (Τραινοσέ) [http://www.trainose.gr].
Automobile rental agencies are present throughout the country, especially in major cities and in highly touristed areas. The automobiles offered are overwhelmingly manual transmission; automatics do exist, but it is advised to reserve one in advance. Gasoline/petrol prices are steep, but relatively inexpensive in comparison with many other EU countries. Some automobile rental agencies and insurance policies do not allow taking the car out of the country.
Drivers who do not hold an EU driver's certificate must carry
For those used to driving in North America, driving in Greece can be a challenge. To them Greek (and other European) drivers might appear
The frequency, reliability and availability of Greek ferries [http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,4530565,00.html]are largely dependent upon the time of year. For instance, during the winter off-season (January to March), the weather on the Aegean can be extremely rough and boats are often kept in port for days at a time. This type of delay is extremely unpredictable (it is not a decision of the ferry companies, but rather, that of the port authority) and determining when a harbored boat will actually set sail is near impossible. Therefore, travellers in off-season should build some
As for '''routes,''' during high-season there are extensive connections from Athens and quite a few in-between islands for "hopping." Again, in the winter, some of these ferries run once, maybe twice a week.
[[Greek phrasebook|Greek]] is the national official language and is the native tongue of the vast majority of the population, but the English speaking visitor will encounter no significant language problem. English is the most widely studied and understood
The Latin and Cyrillic alphabets were derived from
There is a variety of activities that someone can follow in Greece. One of the most unique that also started to become more and more well known is, during the trip from Athens to Thessaloniki, a stop for few days at '''Mount Olympus''', the mythic palace of the 12 Gods of the Greek Mythology.
The cuisine in Greece can be radically different from what is offered in Greek restaurants around the world. Greek restaurants abroad tend to cater more to ''customer expectations'' rather than offer a truly authentic Greek dining experience. One example is the famous ''gyros'' (yee-ros), a common item on Greek menus outside Greece. While it ''is'' a popular fast-food item in Greece today, it is actually a relatively recent foreign import (adapted from the Turkish ''döner kebap'') and is considered by Greeks as junk food. It is never served in the home and is generally not found on the menus of non-fast-food restaurants.
Eating out is Greece's national
Restaurants serving international cuisine have also made a presence in the country, offering various options such as Chinese, French, Italian, and international contemporary.
It's common to charge cover fee in cafes officially (i.e. stating it in a receipt), such as €0.30 to €2 per person, but if it's tending towards €2 you should really consider eating somewhere else.
Those wishing to partake of alcoholic beverages in Greece would be well advised to stick to the traditional domestic Greek products discussed below, which are freely available, mostly cheap by European standards, and usually of good quality. Any imported (i.e. non-Greek) alcoholic beverages are likely to be very expensive if genuine, and if cheap may well be "bomba," a locally distilled alcohol with flavorings which sometimes, especially in island bars catering to young people, masquerades as whiskey, gin, etc. If you drink it, you'll be very sorry.
To be able to purchase alcohol in Greece you must be 17, but there is no legal drinking age. IDing is infrequent, especially in venues that sell food. (many
Greece, an ancient wine producing country,
Wine (''Krasi'': κρασι / ''oenos'': οίνος) is most Greeks' drink of choice.
Even if beer (''bira'': μπύρα) is consumed all around the country, don't come to Greece for the beer. The only local varieties widely available are Mythos and Alpha, but Greeks drink mostly Northern European beers produced under license in Greece like Heineken and Amstel. Heineken is
On the quality front, there is also a microbrewery/restaurant called Craft (2 litre jug also available in large supermarkets), and new organic beer producers like Piraiki Zythopoiia.
The most famous indigenous Greek liquor is '''ouzo''' (ούζο), an anise-flavored strong spirit (37.5%), which is transparent by itself but turns milky white when mixed with water. Mainlanders do not drink ouzo with ice, but tourists and Greek islanders generally do. A 200 mL bottle can be under €2 in supermarkets and rarely goes above €8 even in expensive restaurants. [[Mytilene]] (Lesbos) is particularly famous for its ouzo. A few to try are "Mini" and "Number 12," two of the most popular made in a middle-of-the-road style, "Sans Rival," one of the most strongly anise-flavored ones, "Arvanitis," much lighter, and the potent "Barba Yianni" and "Aphrodite," more expensive and much appreciated by connoisseurs.
'''Raki''' or '''tsikoudia''' is the Greek equivalent of the Italian ''grappa'', produced by boiling the
It should be noted that in Greece hotels, especially in the islands but also even in Athens and other big cities, tend to be '''simple establishments.''' Rooms are typically small, and bathrooms smaller, with the shower often a hand-held sprayer; if there is a bath-tub, it's often a sit-bath. Sometimes in the most basic places shower curtains are lacking. Closets are often inadequate, and sometimes there is only a wardrobe. On the plus side, such hotels typically have a balcony (though sometimes tiny) or veranda, either private or a large one shared by all the rooms (but these are usually spacious enough not to feel cramped.) Standards of cleanliness are usually good, even in the simpler places. Those who want more luxurious accommodation can usually find it in cities and on the more popular islands but should check the hotel's quality in reliable sources to be sure of what they're getting.
Most Greek hotels now, even the smaller ones, have '''
On some islands, though this varies from place to place, the owners of accommodations will '''meet arriving ferries''' to offer rooms. Often they'll have a van there to transport you from the port, and will have brochures to show you. These places are perfectly legitimate, they're sometimes among the best value places. You can negotiate prices, especially when there are a lot of them trying to fill their rooms, and prices in the range of 20-25 EUR for a room or even a studio is not uncommon in mid-season. BUT they could be anywhere from a few steps away from the port to a mile out of town, so before accepting such an offer it's best to be sure you get a good idea of its location.
Violent crime and theft rates are very low; public disorder is rare, and public drunkenness is generally frowned upon. Visitors should rest assured that this is an extremely safe and friendly destination, but it is always advisable for foreign tourists to exercise basic precautionary measures just as they would at home. There has recently been a spike in theft (at least a perceived one), which some locals will not hesitate to blame on the influx of immigrants.
The places where the visitor is most likely to encounter crime and theft are probably the handful of overcrowded, and overheated, tourist resorts thronged with younger foreigners attracted by cheap flights, cheap rooms, and cheap booze. The more notorious of such places include [[Faliraki]] in [[Rhodes]] (calmed down since a new tough mayor was elected), [[Kavos]] in [[Corfu]], [[Malia]] (currently the "hottest" such destination) on [[Crete]], and [[Ios]] (though this last is said to have quieted down a bit recently.) Most visitors to these places return home unmolested, but there have been increasing reports from them of theft, public indecency, sexual assault, and alcohol-fueled violence; the perpetrators
Greece also has very strict laws concerning the export of antiquities, which can include not only ancient objects but also coins, icons, folk art, and random pieces of stone from archeological sites. Before buying anything which could conceivably be considered an antiquity, you should become familiar with the current laws regarding what can be taken out of the country.
The greatest danger to travelers in Greece is probably in the simple process of crossing the street: traffic can be bad even in smaller towns and horrendous in Athens and other Greek cities, and accident rates are high. Caution should be exercised by pedestrians, even when crossing with a walk light. Likewise, 1400 people killed on Greek roads each year - a statistic that is one of the highest in
A network of '''helicopter ambulances''' serves the islands, transporting patients who need immediate attention to the nearest island or city with a major hospital.
The country's '''pharmacies''' and '''medications''' are of top quality, and pharmacists are highly trained experts in their field. Many medications that can only be acquired by prescription in the US and UK
Healthcare provision is different to Anglosphere nations in that many specialists are
===Sexually Transmitted Infections===
'''Sexually transmitted infections''' (STIs) exist in Greece as elsewhere, and travelers who may engage in sexual activity while visiting Greece should remember that even if one is on vacation and one's sexual partner is also a traveler, perhaps from one's own country, neither of these facts suspend the laws of biology. According to recent reports in the Greek and British media, unprotected sex among visitors to Greece, with a consequent rise in STIs and unplanned pregnancies, is especially common at the party resorts favored by younger people, such as [[Ios]], [[Malia]], [[Kavos]], and [[Faliraki]]. Condoms are available at any pharmacy and at many kiosks.
In late spring and summer, the government runs public service announcements on television reminding Greeks to wear their '''sunblock''' at the beach. The Mediterranean sun tends to get quite strong, and can burn skin that has not been exposed to the sun for a long time. Any ''excessive'' daily sun exposure can also cause long-term damage to skin. Sunblock and sunscreen are widely available throughout Greece at supermarkets, grocery stores, pharmacies, and special stores selling beach-related items, though they tend to be expensive, and the higher SPF factor blocks can be hard to find.
During the hottest months, while visiting archaeological sites, wear tank tops, carry umbrellas, and carry water. Daily high temperatures stay at about 95-
It's inadvisable to go '''hiking cross country''' in Greece alone: even in popular places, the countryside can be surprisingly deserted, and if you get in trouble while you're out of sight of any houses or roads, it could be a long time before anyone notices you.
'''Lifeguards''' are rare at Greek beaches, though most of them where people congregate to swim are locally considered safe. Some beaches have shallow water a long way from shore
There are no '''required inoculations''' for Greece and the '''water''' is almost everywhere safe (see above under Drink.) Look for 'Blue Flags' at beaches for the highest quality water (which tend to also have good sand and facilities)
As Greece is part of '''Southern Europe''', it is almost exclusively considered and described by Greeks and foreigners alike as a Southern European country anyway.
The '''Macedonian issue''' is considered a very sensitive topic: Greeks consider that the name "Macedonia" is stolen from them and used by Tito's partisans in southern Yugoslavia to address the country created after World War II as new constituent republic within Yugoslavia by Tito. The Greeks refer to it as "FYRoM" or the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" when dealing with foreigners and as Skopia (The Greek version of the Macedonian capital Skopje) among themselves.
Also, be very careful when talking about '''Ancient Greece''' and the '''Byzantine Empire,''' which are the symbols of their national pride and splendor; however,most will say the polar opposite when talking about the military junta of the late 1960s-mid 1970s. Many Greeks-- not just Communists and other left-wing groups-- have suffered severe repression and view its leaders with utter resentment. Many Greeks take pride of their '''ancient history''', since '''Ancient Greece''' is a well known civilization to first develop the concept of democracy and western philosophy, as well as its art, architecture, literature, theater and sciences which is regarded as the cradle of European civilization.
To "swear" at someone using their hands, Greeks put out their entire hand, palm open, five fingers extended out, like signalling someone to stop. This is called "''mountza''". Sometimes they will do this by saying "na" (''here'') as well. It is basically telling someone to screw off or that they did something totally ridiculous. "''Mountza''" is known to come from a gesture used in the Byzantine era, where the guilty person were applied with ash on his/her face by the judge's
There is some regional variation on the use of the 'okay' sign (thumb and index finger in a circle, the 3 other fingers up), as is signalling to a waiter by miming signing a receipt.
The cheapest way to call someone abroad
Internet is widely available.