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Greece - Overview

Capital: Athens

Population: 10,668,354 (July 2005 est.)

Languages: Greek 99% (official), English, French

Religions: Greek Orthodox 98%, Muslim 1.3%, other 0.7%

Currency: euro (EUR)

Timezone: GMT+2

Greece has around 10,000 miles of coast and over 1,400 islands of which 169 are inhabited.

Greece has a rich cultural history. From the Ancient Gods, to the Minoans who settled in Crete, to the seat of democracy established in Athens, through Roman and Turkish occupation to the present day democracy, traces of Greece's history remain throughout the country: the Archaeological sites at the Acropolis, Delphi, Olympus and Knossos in Crete, Byzantine churches and monasteries, Venetian and Neoclassical architecture, even minarets and mosques.

The Greek Orthodox Church is instrumental in the daily life and cultural traditions of the Greeks and 97% of the population are Greek Orthodox. Religious holidays are rigidly observed and some are designated as National Holidays.

Greek music and dance have always played an important part in Greek life; the flute, the lyra, and the bouzouki all make an appearance and each island has it's own style of music and local traditional dances which are still popular today.

Writers and artists figure large in Greece's culture. Homer and the great philosophers, temples, theatres, frescoes, icons, and Greece's famous artist El Greco who made Spain his home; all contribute to the rich heritage.

The Cuisine of Greece, and particularly the Cretan diet, is recognised as being one of the healthiest in the world, with copious amounts of olive oil, fresh vegetables, salads and fruit.

Delicious mezes of various cheese or mushroom filled vegetables, garlic tzatziki and Greek salad are followed by fresh sea food, fish, herb flavoured lamb, rabbit or charcoal-grilled meat. The Greeks make eating out a pastime and they will often dine out in a large family group and order much more than they can eat.

Many of the best tavernas are located away from the tourist areas.

Read more about this country

Information courtesy of Carol Palioudaki, author of The Cool Guide to Living in Crete, available at www.livingincrete.net

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