by DeAnne T. Appleby
Greece is located in southeastern Europe, and is bordered by the Aegean, Ionian and Mediterranean Seas. It consists of a mainland area and an archipelago of about 2,000 islands. Greeks enjoy a temperate climate, with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. The terrain in Greece is mountainous, with ranges extending into the sea as peninsulas or chains of islands.
The population of Greece is about 11 million, and about 4 million people live in the capital city of Athens. A majority of the population is native Greek, who practice the Greek Orthodox religion and speak the Greek language. Greece is a parliamentary republic with a capitalist economy. It became the 12th member of the European Union in 2001. Greek’s main industries are tourism, food and tobacco processing, shipping, mining, and petroleum refining.
Today’s Greece traces its roots to the ground-breaking civilizations of ancient Greece. Many Westerners know it as the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, drama, and the Olympic games. Some of the Great Thinkers of ancient Greece include the epic poet, Homer, the famous historian Herodotus, the brilliant mathematician Archimedes, and the great philosophers, Socrates, Aristotle and Plato.
Of course there is Greek Mythology, stories describing Greek gods and heroes, and the nature of the ancient world. These imaginative stories help to explain the religious and political lives of the ancient Greeks and their civilization. Greek Mythology contains some of the oldest known literary sources, including the epic poems Iliad and Odyssey, describing events relating to the Trojan War.
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Today, Greece offers a scenic, peaceful getaway for locals and travelers alike. The mainland offers many historic wonders. In Athens, the Acropolis contains the ancient temple of Athena, the Parthenon. Below the Acropolis lies the ancient Agora, containing a marketplace, various temples, meeting houses and public spaces. And throughout the city, ancient sites are still being uncovered and excavated. Northwest of Athens is the ancient city of Delphi, with fabulous ruins of the old city, including the Temple of Apollo where the Oracle once recited her predictions for kings.
The many islands of Greece offer a gentle, relaxed beauty. Mykonos’ capital city of Chora has a beautiful harbor surrounded by quaint shops and cafes. Some of the homes are built right up to the water’s edge. There are also quaint churches and windmills, with easy walking paths throughout.
Patmos is a rocky, rugged island. It offers the Monastery of St. John the Theologian, a walled compound perched at the highest point on the island. Just below the Monastery sits the Sacred Grotto, built into the Monastery of the Apocalypse, where St. John wrote the text of Revelation.
Rhodes is the fourth largest Greek island. Old Rhodes Town is a fantastic walled fortress, beautifully preserved. Inside, cobbled streets run by the Palace of the Grand Master, through the Street of the Knights, and down into the heart of the old town, where original architecture has been merged with modern city life. Old Rhodes Town is famous for its many wonderful old buildings, created by the Knights of St. John.
Crete is Greece’s largest island. The ancient city of Knossos houses fabulous ruins from the Minoan civilization. The large excavations offer glimpses of ancient palaces, amphitheatres and living areas, including reconstructed frescos. This ancient civilization was a successful trading power, and had strong ties to Egypt. It was famous for its unique bull-jumping competitions and training facilities.
Santorini offers several small villages, all picturesque and friendly. Oia is located on the northern tip of the island, and is well known for its bright white homes and churches with blue vaulted roofs. This city is perched on the side of a cliff face, and the staggered buildings offer unique views of the Aegean Sea and the surrounding islands.
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