Greece Uncovered: 14 Tidbits You Probably Didn’t Know

Sunset at Oia Greece
Photo by James Ting on Unsplash

About Greece

Greece is a country that’s steeped in history and mythology, but it’s also a place that knows how to have a good time. From the ancient ruins of Athens to the picturesque islands of Santorini and Mykonos, Greece is a place that’s full of beauty and adventure.

One of the best things about Greece is its food. From gyros to moussaka, Greek cuisine is famous for its hearty and flavorful dishes. Don’t forget to try the ouzo, a traditional Greek drink that’s perfect for sipping on a hot summer day.

And let’s not forget about the beaches! Greece has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with crystal clear waters and stunning views. Whether you’re into swimming, sunbathing, or water sports, the beaches in Greece are a must-visit.

But Greece isn’t just about history and beaches. The country is also home to stunning architecture, including the iconic Acropolis, and natural wonders like the Meteora rock formations.

So grab some souvlaki, put on your sunscreen, and get ready to experience the beauty and adventure that is Greece!

Capital City

Athens (Attica Region)

Head of State

Katerina Sakellaropoulou (President 2020 – present)

Government

parliamentary republic

Official Language(s)

Greek (official) 99%, other (includes English and French) 1%

Religion

Greek Orthodox 81-90%, Muslim 2%, other 3%, none 4-15%, unspecified 1% (2015 est.)

Life Expectancy

81.71 years (2023)  Male 79.18, female 84.4

Currency

Euro €

Population

10,497,595 (2023 est.)

National Holiday

25 March (1821) “Greek Independence Day” or “Greek National Day” (in Greek: Εθνική Εορτή της 25ης Μαρτίου or “Evaggelismos”)

Area

total: 131,957 sq km; land: 130,647 sq km; water: 1,310 sq km

Greece has one time zone, Eastern European Time (EET) – Eastern European Time (EET) (UTC+2). During daylight saving time, Greece observes Eastern European Summer Time (EEST) (UTC+3).

Location

Greece is a country located in southeastern Europe, bordered by Albania, North Macedonia, and Bulgaria to the north, Turkey to the east, and the Aegean Sea, the Ionian Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south and west.

13 Regions

Name of Region Capital City  Most visited areas
Attica Athens Athens, Piraeus
Central Greece Lamia Delphi, Arachova, Karpenisi
Central Macedonia Thessaloniki Thessaloniki, Halkidiki, Katerini, Kavala
Crete Heraklion Heraklion, Chania, Rethymno, Agios Nikolaos, Elounda
Eastern Macedonia and Thrace Komotini Kavala, Xanthi, Drama, Alexandroupoli
Epirus Ioannina Ioannina, Metsovo, Zagori, Parga
Ionian Islands Corfu Corfu, Zakynthos, Kefalonia, Lefkada, Paxos
North Aegean Mytilene Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Ikaria
Peloponnese Tripoli Nafplio, Patras, Kalamata, Sparti, Pylos
South Aegean Ermoupoli Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, Kos, Paros, Naxos, Ios
Thessaly Larissa Volos, Pelion, Meteora, Larissa
Western Greece Patras Patras, Olympia, Mesolongi, Nafpaktos
Western Macedonia Kozani Florina, Kastoria, Grevena, Kozani

 

History

So, once upon a time, a long, long time ago, Greece was just a bunch of different city-states, each with their own government, culture, and way of life. They didn’t really get along with each other very well and were constantly fighting over things like land and resources.

But then, in the 4th century BC, a guy named Alexander the Great came along and decided to conquer all of them. He was pretty successful and managed to create one of the largest empires in history, stretching from Greece all the way to India.

Unfortunately, he died at a young age, and his empire was divided up into smaller kingdoms.

Fast forward a few centuries, and Greece was conquered by the Roman Empire. But even though they were under Roman rule, the Greeks continued to contribute to the arts, sciences, and philosophy, producing famous thinkers like Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates.

In the 15th century AD, Greece fell to the Ottoman Empire and was ruled by the Turks for almost 400 years. During this time, the Greeks struggled for independence and eventually succeeded in the 1820s after a long and bloody war.

After gaining independence, Greece struggled to establish a stable government and was ruled by various kings and dictators throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. But in 1974, democracy was restored and Greece has been a republic ever since.

Today, Greece is known for its beautiful beaches, ancient ruins, delicious food, and friendly people. There you have it! A brief and (hopefully) fun history of Greece!

Greek Flag

Greek Flag

The Greek flag is one of the oldest national flags in the world, having been in use since 1822. It features nine blue and white horizontal stripes, with a white cross on a blue square in the top left corner. The nine stripes represent the nine syllables in the Greek phrase “Eleftheria i Thanatos,” which translates to “Freedom or Death.”

The blue color symbolizes the sea and sky, which are so important to Greece’s culture and history, while the white color represents purity and freedom. The cross in the top left corner is known as the Greek cross, and is a symbol of the Greek Orthodox Church, which has played a major role in Greece’s history and culture. Overall, the Greek flag is a powerful symbol of the country’s long and storied history, and remains a source of pride for the Greek people to this day.

Iconic Dishes by Region

Attica
Moussaka: layers of eggplant, minced meat, and béchamel sauce baked in the oven
Souvlaki: skewered grilled meat, often served with pita bread and tzatziki

Central Greece
Feta cheese: a type of Greek cheese made from sheep’s milk
Saganaki: fried cheese often served as an appetizer

Central Macedonia
Bougatsa: a pastry made with phyllo dough, filled with cheese or custard
Tzatziki: a dip made with yogurt, cucumber, and garlic, often served with meat dishes

Crete
Dakos: a salad made with barley rusk, tomatoes, feta cheese, and olives
Gamopilafo: a rice dish cooked with meat broth and served at weddings and other celebrations

Eastern Macedonia and Thrace
Koulouri: a ring-shaped bread covered with sesame seeds, often eaten for breakfast
Soufiko: a vegetable stew made with eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and peppers

Epirus
Fava: a dish made with yellow split peas, often served as a dip or spread
Pita Zakinthou: a pie made with phyllo dough, feta cheese, and spinach

Ionian Islands
Pastitsada: a spicy meat and pasta dish often served with rooster or beef
Sofrito: a dish made with veal, garlic, and white wine, often served with mashed potatoes

North Aegean
Giaprakia: stuffed grape leaves often filled with rice, ground meat, and herbs
Ladotyri Mytilinis: a type of cheese made from sheep’s milk and aged in olive oil

Peloponnese
Kalamata olives: a type of black olives grown in the region of Kalamata
Kokoretsi: skewered and roasted lamb offal wrapped in intestines

South Aegean
Fava Santorinis: a dish made with yellow split peas, often served as a dip or spread
Greek Salad: a salad made with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, feta cheese, and olives

Thessaly
Melitzanes Papoutsakia: baked eggplants stuffed with minced meat and topped with béchamel sauce
Soutzoukakia: meatballs made with ground beef and spices, often served with tomato sauce

Western Greece
Agristada: a soup made with eggs, lemon, and chicken or fish broth
Patsas: a soup made with tripe and garlic, often served as a hangover cure

Western Macedonia
Galaktoboureko: a dessert made with phyllo dough, semolina custard, and syrup
Kleftiko: slow-cooked lamb wrapped in parchment paper and baked in the oven.

https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/greece/

Postcards from the Road