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Tuesday 23rd May
Greece Information - Page 1
Geography
Greece, officially called the Hellenic Republic is located in the south of Europe on the Mediterranean and bordered by Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria and Turkey. Greece's territory includes over one hundred inhabited islands; the main groups of islands are the Ionian, the Northeast Aegean, the Cyclades, and the Dodecanese. Crete is the largest island. There are numerous smaller islands of which few are inhabited.

Athens is the capital and the largest city with the highest number of residents; Thessaloniki is the next most populated city.

Greece is mountainous and hilly with a rocky terrain and a long coastline. The climate is Mediterranean: hot summers with mild winters.

Environment
Greece has over six thousand species of flowering plants: herbs such as thyme, rosemary and lavender; orchids, violets, dianthus, narcissus, and tulips. A variety of trees include beech, cypresses, oaks, pines, poplars, and tamarisk.

Most numerous among the country's wildlife there are the smaller creatures such as lizards, snakes, tortoises, tree frogs, crickets and butterflies. Larger animals like the boar, lynx, mountain goat and the brown bear find survival increasingly difficult. Many species of birds are to be found including falcons, kingfishers, storks, swallows, quail and warblers. The surrounding seas are home to a wide variety of life, including jelly fish, octopus, sea horses, dolphins and sea turtles.

Architecture
Greek architecture, with the Roman architecture which drew heavily on its principles, has been a major influence on western building.

The Minoan palaces, with columns that tapered from top to the bottom were large buildings - the palace at Knossos included over one thousand rooms. At Mycenae and Tiryns, on the mainland, fortress walls built of giant blocks of stone and huge 'beehive' tombs remain, but little else is left of the palace and the houses.

Classical Greek architecture is seen mainly in the temples. The basic form is a rectangular hall surrounded by columns and fronted by a columned porch. There were three base styles of column: Doric, with plain capitals (tops) and no bases, Ionic, with capitals decorated with carvings similar to a pair of ram's horns and bases and, finally Corinthian whose capitals are decorated with elaborately carved acanthus leaves.

The Acropolis of Athens is graced by the most famous building of ancient Greece - The Parthenon, or Temple of Athena. The temple was built between 447 and 438 BC, under the direction of Pheidias the sculptor.

Another great contribution to world architecture was the Greek invention of the theatre: a D shaped construction with tiers of seating round the curved sides and the stage at the straight edge.

The later Greek architectural style best known is the Byzantine, largely a style of church architecture.

Population
The population of Greece was estimated at 10,722,816 in 2008. Many Greeks have migrated to countries around the world. The United States and Australia have large Greek communities. Sydney is said to be the world's largest Greek city apart from Athens.

Languages
Greek is the official language but many Greeks also speak English and French. Greek uses its own alphabet which is very different from the Roman alphabet used in English and the western European languages.

Religion
Christianity was established as the official religion in the fourth century. The Greek Orthodox Church is the official religious body. There are very small Muslim and Jewish communities.

Food
Greek food is traditionally Mediterranean, with tomatoes, olives, olive oil and grilled meat. Middle eastern influences can be seen in foods such as kebabs, pitta bread and houmous and in pastries such as baklava and kataifi.

The long coastline and many islands mean that fish are important in Greek cuisine. Squid and octopus are popular, as is taramasalata, a dish of salted roe. Moussaka, a dish of minced meat and aubergines, covered with bechamel sauce and feta, a salty sheep's milk, are Greek specialities. Fruits such as figs and watermelon are popular.

Special foods are prepared for many of the feast days of the Greek Orthodox religious celebrations.

Greek wines are best known for the sweet dessert wines of Samos and Mavrodaphne and for retsina (wine with added pine resin). Ouzo, an aniseed-flavoured spirit, is usually drunk with water.

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