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The period from 700BC saw the rise of the great city states of Athens, Corinth and Sparta, frequently engaged in long struggles for supremacy, and uniting only when faced with the common threat of invasion by the Persian Empire. The zenith was reached in the fifth century BC when Athens became the cultural and artistic centre of the Mediterranean, producing magnificent works of architecture, sculpture, drama and literature. Greece today offers the traveller the comforts of modern Europe in close proximity to the stark beauty of the ancient world. There is no denying that the historical and cultural heritage of Greece continues to resonate throughout the modern Western world - in its literature, art, philosophy and politics.

Practical Information

Area: 131 957 km² (50 949 miles²)

Capital: Athens Population: 750 000

Population: 11.1 million

Currency: Euro (EUR symbol Eur) = 100 cents

Government: Republic.

Tipping: 12 to 15% is usual.

Legal drinking age: 16

Time zone: GMT + 2 (GMT + 3 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October)

Languages: Greek (Ellenika)

Additional descriptions

Greece: Social customs

Visitors to Greece will find the Greeks to be well aware of a strong historical and cultural heritage. Traditions and customs differ throughout Greece, but overall a strong sense of unity prevails. TheRead more Greek Orthodox Church has a strong traditional influence on the Greek way of life, especially in more rural areas. The throwing back of the head is a negative gesture. Dress is generally casual. Smoking is prohibited on public transport and in public buildings.

Greece: Food and local specialties

Restaurant and taverna food tends to be very simple, rarely involving sauces but with full use of local olive oil and charcoal grills. However, Athens and some of the more fashionable islands such as SantoriniRead more and Mykonos have seen the arrival of fusion cuisine and so-called modern taverna fare. All restaurants have a standard menu which includes the availability and price of each dish. A good proportion of the restaurants will serve international dishes. Hours are normally 1200-1500 for lunch and 2000-2400 for dinner. Opening hours vary according to the region and local laws. Waiter service is usual. The national specialties are: Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves). Moussaka (aubergine casserole with minced lamb, cinnamon, red wine and olive oil). Squid (kalamari) or octopus (htapodia). Souvlaki (spit-roasted meat, generally pork or chicken). Horiatiki (Greek salad: feta cheese, tomato, cucumber and fresh olive oil). Retsina (wine made with pine-needle resin). Ouzo (an aniseed-based clear spirit to which water is added). Raki (a sharp and fiery spirit made from distilled grapes). Greek coffee (thick and strong, and sugared according to taste). Greek beer is a light Pilsner type.

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