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Few countries get quite as much credit for the development of the western world as Greece. The home of the earliest formalized democracy as well as some of the west's most important thinkers, it's incredibly hard not to argue its importance.
Although the days Alexander the Great, Socrates and Plato are long behind, it's hard to imagine a world in which Greece did not make an impact. In the modern era, Greece traded hands between empires and went through its own internal struggles, emerging as a nation that relied heavily on tourism while playing an important role in the European Union.
Quick Facts about Greece
- About 16.5 million people visit Greece each year, though the country itself has a population of only ten million.
- Greece is home to olive trees planted in the thirteenth century that still produce olives today.
- Seventy percent of the European Union's merchant fleet call Greece home.
- There are more archaeological museums in Greece than in any other country.
- The official name of Greece is actually the Hellenic Republic.
Located on the southern part of the Balkan Penninsula, Greece shares land borders with four countries to the north - Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Turkey. The country also shares sea borders with Italy, Egypt, Libya, and island of Cyprus.
Perhaps its most important borders, however, are those with the surrounding seas. To the east, Greece borders the Aegean sea. To the west, the Ionian Sea and to the southwest, the Mediterranean. Greece's location on the sea led to it becoming both a major naval and trading power during earlier eras and an important strategic location in the modern era.
At about 50,949 square miles, Greece is actually about the same size as the American state of Alabama.
Despite the relatively small size, though, Greece has the eleventh-longest coastline in the world. Much of this is due to the fact that the area of Greece also encompasses over two thousand islands, though less than two hundred of these islands are actually inhabited. The largest of these islands, Crete, has an area of about 3,219 square miles.
The official language of Greece is Standard Modern Greek and it is spoken by about ninety-nine percent of the people who live in the country.
There are, however, several other regional dialects of Greek spoken by a minority of the citizens of Greece, including Cypriot Greek. Macedonian, Albanian, and Turkish are also spoken by a fairly significant number of Greek, and a little more than half of all Greeks have some degree of fluency in English.
Weather & Climate
Greek's climate is mostly Mediterranean - mild winters and dry summers. Northwestern Greece, however, has an Alpine climate with heavy snowfall, while the climate of inland northern Greece tends to be more temperate. Snow does occur all over Greece, though it is much more likely to fall in the northern part of the country or in the mountains.
Greece is a Parliamentary Republic. The President is the head of state and is elected by Parliament. The head of the government is the Prime Minister, who is chosen by the party that controls the majority of the seats in the legislature. Legislative power in Greece lies in the hands of the Hellenic Parliament, which is made up of three hundred deputies.
Most local governance in Greece happens at the regional level, however. Greece is divided into thirteen regional administrative districts headed by governors. The administrative districts are further divided into fifty-one smaller prefectures that are led by directly-elected prefects.