Greece

 

History of Greece

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Greece is one of the oldest civilizations in the world and the cradle of Western culture as we know it. The first signs of inhabitance were the Cycladic, Minoan and Mycenaean maritime civilizations that lived and ruled during the Bronze Age (3000-1200 BC). However, these collapsed by the 11th century BC and a 'dark age' followed. By 800 BC, there was a cultural and military revival and city-states like Athens and Sparta sprang onto the world map. The classical (or golden) age of Greece started soon after and gave rise to many of the world's cultural emblems before ending with the Peloponnesian Wars (431-404 AD) in which the Athenians were vanquished by the Spartans.

Alexander the Great, who marched into Asia Minor, Egypt, Persia and parts of what are now Afghanistan and India, ushered in the Macedonian empire. It ruled for three dynasties and is known as the Hellenistic period. During this time, Greek ideas and culture was amalgamated with other proud ancient cultures and a new tradition was created.

The powerful Roman Empire turned its sights on Greece around 205 BC and over the next few centuries, the country came under the Romans, the illustrious Byzantine Empire, and the Ottoman Turks. All these influences combined to create a unique culture. A cultural revival in the late 18th century precipitated the War of Independence in 1821-29 but it was only in 1827, when Russia, France and Britain intervened that Greece became independent.

During WWI, Greek troops fought on the Allied side. Refugees from the Turkish territory of Smyrna weakened Greece's economy. In 1936 General Metaxas was appointed as prime minister by the king and quickly established a fascist dictatorship. Although Metaxas had created a Greek version of the Third Reich, he was opposed to German or Italian domination and refused to allow Italian troops to traverse Greece in 1940. Despite Allied help, Greece fell to Germany in 1941. The destruction and economic problems led to a civil war that lasted until 1949.

With economic help from America, Greece recovered after this and the royalists established an anticommunist government and implemented the Certificate of Political Reliability, which remained valid until 1962. Fearing a resurgence of the left, a group of army colonels (military junta) staged a coup d'etat in 1967. The junta distinguished itself by inflicting appalling brutality, repression and political incompetence upon the people.

In 1981 Greece entered the European Community (now the EU), and Andreas Papandreou's socialist party (PASOK) won elections. PASOK promised removal of US air bases and withdrawal from NATO, but these promises were never fulfilled. Women's issues fared better, with the abolition of the dowry system and legalization of abortion. Kostas Simitis was appointed prime minister in early 1996 when it became clear that Papandreou's time was almost over. Greece adopted the Euro currency in 2002. In 2004 the country hosted the Olympic Games and in 2005.

Cities

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  • Athens - the capital city known for the Parthenon
  • Chania - second largest city on Crete surrounded with beaches and the Samaria National Park
  • Chersonissos - party capital of Crete in the summer
  • Heraklion - Crete's largest city and main hub with the archaeological site of Knossos
  • Patra - known for the wines it produces
  • Larissa - the country's fourth largest city
  • Rhodes - magnificent city with impressive medieval structures, nightlife and beaches
  • Thessaloniki - the country's prime city in the Macedonia region
  • Volos - coastal port city with nice museums and architecture

Culture

Traces of a centuries-old and important history is etched in every corner of Greek land: findings from the Prehistoric and Archaic Periods, unique works from Classical, Hellenistic, Medieval and Byzantine monuments, creations from folk art cultures, traces from the passing eons of other civilizations and different religions, that coexist with current creations, constructions and modern works of art.

Greece is a true paradise for cultural tourism, a large journey into history and art. Educational excursions, theatrical productions, festivals, pilgrimages, visits to archaeological sites, monuments and museums, excursions to study the natural environment, folk art and culture – these are just a few of the many things that Greece has to offer in the cultural tourism sector.

Weather and Climate

Greece Climate
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Greece has a Mediterranean climate with plenty of sunshine, mild temperatures and a limited amount of rainfall.

Due to the country's geographical position, its rugged relief and its distribution between the mainland and the sea, there is great variation in Greece's climate.

In summer, the dry hot days are cooled by seasonal winds called the meltemi, while mountainous regions have generally lower temperatures.

The winters are mild in lowland areas, with a minimum amount of snow and ice, yet, mountains are usually snow-covered. Moreover, a common phenomenon is the occurrence of different climactic conditions during the same season (for instance, mild heat in coastal areas and cool temperatures in mountainous regions).

Public Holidays

Greece Public Holidays Year 2015
New Year's Day 1 January, 2015 Thursday
Epiphany 6 January, 2015 Tuesday
Orthodox Ash Monday 23 February, 2015 Monday
Independence Day 25 March, 2015 Wednesday
Orthodox Good Friday 10 April, 2015 Friday
Orthodox Easter Sunday 12 April, 2015 Sunday
Orthodox Easter Monday 13 April, 2015 Monday
Labour Day 1 May, 2015 Friday
Orthodox Pentecost 31 May, 2015 Sunday
Orthodox Whit Monday 1 June, 2015 Monday
Assumption Day 15 August, 2015 Saturday
National Holiday 28 October, 2015 Wednesday
Christmas Day 25 December, 2015 Friday
2nd Day of Christmas 26 December, 2015 Saturday

Travel Advisory

There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Greece. Exercise normal security precautions.