Greece Country Facts

Greece – Elláda
Capital city Athene
Surface 131.990 km²
Population 10.768.000
Road network length 117.000 km
Length of highway network 2.194 km
First highway 1962
Motorway name Autokinetodromos
Traffic drives To the right
License plate code GR

Greece (Greek: Ελλάδα – Elláda), formally the Hellenic Republic (Greek: Ελληνική Δημοκρατία, Ellinikí Dimokratía) is a country in southeastern Europe, at the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula. The country has 10.8 million inhabitants and is more than 3.5 times the size of the Netherlands. The capital is Athens (Αθήνα, Athina).

Geography

Greece is located on the southern side of the Balkans and consists of a large peninsula with numerous small peninsulas and hundreds of large and small islands. To the west is the Ionian Sea, to the east the Aegean Sea and to the south the Mediterranean Sea. Greece has the longest coastline of any Mediterranean country. The country measures a maximum of 600 kilometers from west to east and 560 kilometers from north to south, excluding the islands. The largest island of Greece is Crete (Kriti) which measures 260 kilometers from west to east and 50 kilometers from north to south. It is also the southernmost part of Greece and is located 320 kilometers north of Libya. Several Greek islands lie right off the coast of Turkey.

Greece borders Albania, North Macedonia and Bulgaria to the north. In the far northeast it borders Turkey. The country is quite mountainous, with numerous mountain ranges, which fall under the larger Pindus mountain range. Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece at 2,917 meters. The Rodopi mountain range is located on the border with Bulgaria. Greece also has flat valleys and flatter regions. Greece is known for its beaches. Other famous areas are Meteora and the Vikos Gorge.

The country has a Mediterranean climate, with mild warm winters and hot dry summers. In winter there is regular snow in the mountains, sometimes even in the lowlands. There are several ski areas in Greece. The average maximum temperature in Athens is 13°C in winter and 34°C in summer. On average, more than 400 mm of precipitation falls per year, half of the Netherlands.

Economy

Greece is a developed country with high incomes on a global scale. However, compared to Europe, it lags somewhat behind other EU countries. The economy is largely made up of services, including the crucial tourism sector. The country was hit hard by the economic crisis from 2008 onwards. It has the highest public debt in the European Union, which is partly explained by the sharply contracting economy during that period, as the public debt is measured against the size of the economy. In 2014, the Greek economy recovered, with its first growth in 6 years.

In Greece there is also intensive shipping between the islands and to and from Italy. The country also has the largest number of merchant ships in the world, historically a pillar of the Greek economy. The country has relatively few raw materials, oil production is minimal, although there may be large reserves in the Aegean Sea. A lot of coal is mined in the north of Greece, which produces about half of Greece’s electricity.

Demographics

About two-thirds of Greeks live in urban areas. The country has two major cities, the capital Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki. Other cities are relatively small, such as Patras, Larissa and Lamia. More than a third of Greeks live in and around the capital. The countryside is often quite sparsely populated. More than 92% of the inhabitants have Greek nationality. The largest minority group are Albanians. Greece is a destination for illegal immigrants who try to make the crossing to Italy via Greece. Greek is spoken in Greece, which is written in the Greek alphabet.

History

Greece is considered the birthplace of Western society and culture. Democracy started in Greece and is also the birthplace of many important historical, philosophical and scientific persons. Modern Greece came into being in 1832 after a war of independence from the Ottoman Empire. The present Greek borders were established in phases between 1864 and 1947. In 1913 the region of Macedonia came to Greece after the Balkan Wars and in 1919 the Greek part of Thrace, which was ceded by Bulgaria. Greece also had to give up territory in 1923, when it lost Eastern Thrace and the Smyrna (Izmir) region to Turkey. The last territorial expansion was in 1947 when the islands of the Dodecanese were ceded by Italy.

During World War II, Italy invaded Greece in 1940. Greece managed to withstand the onslaught and won the first Allied battles that year. Germany came to the aid of Italy in 1941, after which the country was occupied by Italy, Germany and Bulgaria between 1941 and 1944. The Greek resistance during the occupation was one of the most effective in Europe, but resistance groups started fighting each other later in the war, eventually leading to the Greek Civil War between 1946 and 1949. This was effectively a war between the west and communist insurgents. The Greek government managed to win the war with British and American (financial) support.

The Greek economy grew rapidly in the 1950s and 1960s. A coup d’état ensued in 1967, followed by a military regime until 1974, when Turkey invaded Northern Cyprus, causing the regime to fall. Democracy was reinstated in 1975, although it was decided not to re-install the monarchy. Greece joined NATO in 1980 and the European Union a year later. The Greek economy grew rapidly thereafter. The country joined the Eurozone in 2001 and hosted the Olympic Games in 2004. After the recession from 2008, Greece was hit hard by a financial crisis, with a high government debt and large budget deficit. Drastic austerity measures and reforms should bring the country back on its feet. In 2014, the economy grew again for the first time in 6 years.

 

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