192-Part Guide To The World: Greece - Europe - Travel - The Independent

192-Part Guide To The World: Greece


OFFICIAL NAMEThe Hellenic Republic.

OFFICIAL NAMEThe Hellenic Republic.

LOCATIONFollowing Spain and Italy - moving from west to east - the third main bulge into the northern Mediterranean.

LANGUAGEGreek. Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish, Armenian or Bulgarian might be useful in a crisis.

SIZEJust over 130,000sq km, or four times the size of Belgium.

POPULATIONBetween 10 million and 11 million.

NATIONAL DISHProbably souvlaki (grilled meat in pitta bread) and horiatiki salata (salad of feta cheese, cucumber, tomatoes and olives, with a dish of Greek yoghurt.

BEST MONUMENTThe Parthenon, on the hill of the Acropolis in central Athens, commissioned in the time of Pericles and built and decorated at enormous expense between 447 and 432 BC.

MOST FAMOUS CITIZENWith no disrespect to Nana Mouskouri, it's a toss-up between Homer, Socrates or Alexander the Great.

BEST MOMENT IN HISTORYIn 1200BC, the Greeks under Agamemnon were already doing impressive things such as winning the Trojan War. But the August-September period in the year 480BC was probably the high-water mark of Greek heroism: this was when an alliance of tiny city states, under the plucky leadership of Athens and Sparta, repelled a vast Persian invasion.

WORST MOMENT IN HISTORYAfter the First World War, Greece attempted a re-run of the Trojan War by reasserting its ancient historical claims over the Anatolian peninsula, only to find itself efficiently expelled from all of its Asian footholds for ever by the Turks under Mustafa Kemal (later known as Ataturk).

ESSENTIAL ACCESSORIESSilphium, ox hides, mackerel, all kinds of salted fish, ribs of beef, snails, rope, frankincense, cypress trees, ivory, raisins, figs, pears, sweet apples, tattooed slaves, dates, oily almonds, fine wheat-flour, rugs and many-coloured cushions.

But if travelling in the 21st century, just the sun-tan oil.

WHAT NOT TO DODo not describe Greece as an under-developed Balkan backwater. The mother of Western civilisation has a much nicer ring about it.

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