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Holidays in Greece

Understanding Greece

Greece is one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, ranking in the world's top 20 countries According to the Greek Ministry of Tourism, the nation received about 17 million visitors from January to mid August 2007, a large number for a small country of 11 million Visitors are drawn to the country's beaches and reliable sunny summer weather, its nightlife, historical sites and natural beauty

Over 90% of visitors who come to Greece come from other European countries, although in recent years there have been growing numbers of tourists from other world regions The vast majority of visitors arrive during tourism season, which is April through October Peak season is July through August, and most of the tourists and tourism industry are concentrated in Crete, the Dodecanese, Cyclades, and Western Greek Islands, and to a lesser extent: the Peloponnese, and the Halkidiki peninsula in Macedonia There are still many rewarding areas in the country free of large-scale tourism

Many first-time visitors arrive in Greece with specific images in mind and are surprised to discover a country with such regional and architectural diversity The famous whitewashed homes and charming blue-domed churches only characterize a specific region of the country the Cyclades Islands Architecture varies greatly from one region to the next depending on the local history Visitors will find Neoclassical architecture in the cities of Ermoupolis and Nafplion, Ottoman-influenced buildings in Grevená and Kozáni, whitewashed Cycladic homes on the island of Paros, and pastel-colored baroque homes and churches on Corfu The nation's terrain is just as varied as its architectural heritage: idyllic beaches, towering mountain ranges, wine-producing valleys, vast stretches of olive orchards in the south, and lush forests in the north Greece's historical sights are just as varied; the country is littered with just as many medieval churches and castles as classical ruins and temples

History

Greece boasts a very long history, with the Greek language being present in the country for nearly 4000 years

First civilizations

The country's first inhabitants are now referred to as the Pelasgians Little is known about them, but it is believed that they were a primitive people The first advanced civilizations in Greece are known as the Cycladic in the Cyclades Islands, and the Minoan in Crete and Santorini The Minoans had a written language which remains undecipherable to modern-day archaeologists This is one of the most interesting and profound historical mysteries It is a link to our modern civilization

Dark Age

Greek-speaking Indo-European peoples arrived in the country from somewhere to the north, around 1700 BC, and slowly invaded the entire country from the north all the way to Crete, as well as the west coast of Asia Minor now Turkey, absorbing the native peoples Their arrival may have been responsible for ending the Cycladic and Minoan civilizations and brought the country into what is now referred to as the Dark Age of ancient Greece; although it is now understood among historians that civilization in Greece remained sophisticated and advanced during this time The first Greek-speaking civilization, the Mycenean Civilization, centered in the Peloponnese region, was prominent during this time period

Classical Greece

The rise of the Greek city-states occurred in the period 1200 to 800 BC and heralded the Golden Age of Greece, which lasted many centuries and spurred several scientific, architectural, political, economic, artistic, and literary achievements Athens, Sparta, Corinth, and Thebes were the most prominent of the city-states with Athens being the most prestigious, but there were several other advanced city-states and colonies that had developed across the Aegean basin Greek settlements were also established in southern Italy and other coastal areas of the Mediterranean colonized by Greeks The legacy of Greek Civilization from this time period made a major impact on the world and continues to influence us to this day

Hellenistic and Roman eras

The epicenter of Greek Civilization shifted, during the 4th century BC, from southern Greece to northern Greece The northern Macedonian kingdom, under Alexander the Great, conquered all of Greece, and proceeded eastward, creating an empire all the way to South Asia with the stated intent of spreading Greek Civilization The empire broke up after Alexander's death, and Greece was eventually annexed by the growing Roman Empire Although weakened politically, Greek Civilization continued to flourish under Roman rule and heavily influenced Roman culture

Arrival of Christianity and rise of Byzantine Empire

Christianity arrived in Greece with the preachings of St Paul during the 1st century AD, and eventually spread throughout Greece and the Roman Empire In the 4th century, Roman Emperor Constantine the Great legalized Christian worship and declared it the state religion of the empire He moved the capital of the empire from Rome to Byzantium present-day Istanbul, which he renamed Constantinople Internal divisions eventually divided the Roman Empire into a western half the West Roman Empire and an eastern half East Roman Empire The West was eventually invaded and sacked by invaders from northern Europe, while the East survived for another millennium as the Byzantine Empire with Constantinople as its capital

Medieval Greece

Greece's medieval history is dominated by the Byzantine Empire which revolved around Christianity, Greek Language and Civilization, and Roman law It was a powerful force in the Mediterranean basin for centuries, engaging in trade, politics, and the spread of Christianity The empire collaborated with Rome during the Crusades against the Muslims However, during the 13th century, the Crusaders turned on the Byzantine Empire itself and sacked Constantinople With a weakened Byzantine Empire, Frankish and Latin invaders arrived and occupied various parts of Greece Over the following centuries, the Byzantine Empire began to regain strength and reconquer lost territory, but received a final blow in the 15th century when a growing Ottoman Turkish Empire to the east conquered Constantinople

Ottoman rule

With the capture of Constantinople, Greece fell under Ottoman Turkish rule, but vigorously retained its Greek-speaking Christian culture However, many Greeks fled the country, establishing Greek communities elsewhere in Europe; these communities would later influence the Greek Revolution

Enlightenment and revolution

The Italian city-states of Genoa and Venice competed with the Ottoman Turks for control of various areas of Greece and managed to conquer various islands and coastal areas, bringing pan-European movements such as the Rennaissance and later the Enlightenment to places in Greece such as Crete, Corfu, and parts of the Peloponnese region In the 18th century, the Enlightenment, both in Venetian/Genoese-occupied areas of Greece and from Greek communities abroad, led to an awakening among prominent Greeks and gave birth to the goal of an independent, unified, and sovereign Greek state The Greek Revolution finally broke out on the 25th of March, 1821, and led to a long war against the Ottomans for independence The Greek Revolution gained attention across Europe, with Russia, Britain, and France sending military aid to assist Greece

19th Century to Mid-20th

The nation finally achieved its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1829 The newly-independent Greek State was briefly a republic, before becoming a monarchy at the will of major European powers During the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, Greece gradually annexed neighboring islands and territories with Greek-speaking populations The country sided with the allies during WWI Despite declaring neutrality during WWII, the country was invaded by Mussolini's military in 1941 Greek forces victoriously pushed the Italians out of Greece, but the Germans then came to their aid, occupying the country until its liberation toward the end of the war Civil war broke out in 1946 between communist rebels and royalists, the former supported by Yugoslavia until the Tito-Stalin rift of 1948 and the latter by the West The communist rebels were defeated by the royalists in 1949 WWII and the civil war that followed had left the country war-torn, forcing many people to flee the country in search of a better life abroad

Greece joined NATO in 1952; rapid economic growth and social change followed A right-wing military dictatorship staged a coup in 1967, disbanding all political parties, suspending political liberties and forcing many prominent Greeks into exile, including Communists, which played an active part in the Greek Parliament before and after the junta King Constantine II and his family also fled the country Democracy returned in 1974, and a national referendum abolished the monarchy, creating a parliamentary republic

Modern Greece

Greece joined the European Community or EC in 1981, which later became the European Union EU in 1992 The country's tourism industry which had begun to take off during the 1960s, began to flourish, bringing 5 million annual visitors to the country in 1980 a figure that will eventually grow to over 17 million by 2007 The country suffered serious economic stagnation in the 1980s, but began to experience remarkable economic growth in the 1990s, fueled by heavy investment, entrepreneurship, trade, and EU aid By the early 21st century, the Greeks have achieved a stable and prosperous nation, with a high standard of living An influx of immigrants began in the late 1980s, transforming Greece, once an immigrant-sender, into an immigrant-receiving country Foreign-born residents, most of them undocumented and coming from various parts of the world Eastern and Central Europe, Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, and Africa are estimated to number at least 1 million, or equivalent to 10% of the population In 2004, the nation stepped into global spotlight as it successfully hosted the Summer Olympic Games in Athens, to the defiance of critics

Climate

Despite its small size, Greece has a varied climate

Most of the country, including all coastal areas, enjoys a so-called Mediterranean climate, almost identical to much of California Summers are hot and dry with a 7-month period of near-constant sunshine generally from April until November The remainder of the year is characterized by a relatively cold, rainy period which generally starts sometime in November and lasts until late March or early April Sporadic rains do occur during the dry season, but they tend to be rare, quick showers The country’s Ionian Coast and Ionian Islands tend to receive more annual precipitation than the rest of the country The islands in the southern Aegean and parts of the southeastern mainland are the driest areas of the country

The most pleasant weather occurs in May-June and September-October The warmest time of the year starts in mid-July and generally lasts until mid-August, when the annual meltémi winds from the north cool the country Mid-July to mid-August is the height of summer, and the midday sun tends to get very strong; during this time, most Greeks avoid heavy physical activity outdoors between 1PM and 5PM It is best advised to get in tune with the local way of life by waking up early, doing all sightseeing and errands in the cool morning hours, and then spending the afternoon in the relaxing shade or at the beach In fact, the bulk of tourists arrive in Greece during the height of summer, to do just that! For visitors from more northerly climates, the off season from November through February can be a rewarding time to see Greece It will not be beach weather, but temperatures are mild The much added bonus is that there will be very few other tourists and reduced prices

Summer evenings tend to be very rewarding As strong as the sun may get on a summer afternoon, the low levels of atmospheric humidity in most areas of the country prevent the air from trapping much heat, and temperatures tend to dip to very pleasant levels in the evenings But even during midday, high temperatures actually tend to be quite comfortable as long as the time is not spent doing a lot of walking or other physical activity Athens, however, can still be uncomfortably warm during summer afternoons due to the predominance of concrete in the city, an effect similar to New York City Coastal areas near open waters away from tightly-closed bays and gulfs especially on many of the islands, tend to be quite breezy, and can be quite cold at night

While the Mediterranean climate characterizes most of the country, there are two other climate systems that are present One is the cool Alpine climate which is found on mountainous areas of the country's interior, including many high-altitude valleys Another system is the Continental climate found on the interiors of north-central and northeastern Greece, and gives those areas very cold winters and warm, relatively humid summers

Holidays and festivals

The following are national public holidays:

  • New Year's Day - 1 Jan
  • Epiphany - 6 Jan
  • Shrove Monday First day of Lent - movable next: 15 Feb 2010
  • Independence Day and The Annunciation - 25 Mar
  • Good Friday - movable next 2 Apr 2010
  • Easter Sunday - movable next: 4 Apr 2010
  • Easter Monday - movable next: 5 Apr 2010
  • May Day / Labor Day - 1 May
  • Pentecost Whit Sunday - movable next: 23 May 2010
  • Pentecost Whit Monday - movable next: 24 May 2010
  • Assumption of Our Lady - 15 Aug
  • WWII Day / "OXI Day" - 28 Oct
  • Christmas - 25 Dec
  • Saint Stephen's - 26 Dec

The nation's three most important holidays are Christmas, Easter, and the Assumption Christmas tends to be a private, family holiday, but lights and decorations adorn city squares across the country Assumption Day is a major summer festival for many towns and islands Easter weekend is perhaps the most flamboyant of all holidays; religious processions on Good Friday and the following Saturday evening culminate in exuberant fireworks at midnight, Easter morning

Contrary to most national holidays in other countries, Independence Day in Greece is a very sober holiday There is a school flag parade in every town and village and a big armed forces parade in Athens

Although not an official holiday, pre-Lenten carnival -or apókries- is a major celebration in cities throughout the country, with Patras hosting the country's largest and most famous events Carnival season comes to an extravagent ending the weekend before Lent begins, with costumes, float parades, and various regional traditions

In addition to nation-wide holidays and celebrations, many towns and regions have their own regional festivals commemorating various historical events, local patron saints, or wine harvests

Note that the Greek Orthodox Church uses a different method to determine the date of Easter than the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant churches Therefore, Greek Orthodox Easter and - derived from that - Holy Week and Pentecost usually fall one or two weeks later than their Roman Catholic and Protestant counterparts, but they do sometimes coincide as will be the case for 2010, 2011, 2014, 2017 and 2025

Talking in Greece

Greek is the national official language and is the native tongue of the vast majority of the population, but the English speaking visitor will encounter no significant language problem English is the most widely studied and understood of foreign languages in Greece, followed by French, Italian, and German Basic knowledge of English can be expected from almost all personnel in the tourism industry and public transport services, as well as most Greeks under the age of 40 However, learning a few Greek terms, such as "hello" and "thank you" will be warmly received

The Latin and Cyrillic alphabets were derived from the the Greek alphabet and about half of Greek letters look like their Latin counterparts, and most Greek letters resembles their Cyrillic counterparts With a bit of study it's not too hard to decipher written names, and common terms such as "hotel", "cafeteria", etc And you'll find that place names on road signs throughout the country are often transliterated into Latin letters some signs, especially on the newer roads, are even outright translated into English

What to do in Greece

There is a variety of activities that someone can follow in Greece One of the most unique that also started to become more and more well known is, during the trip from Athens to Thessaloniki, a stop for few days at Mount Olympus, the mythic palace of the 12 Gods of the Greek Mythology

Buying stuff in Greece

Money

Greece's official currency is the Euro €, which replaced the drachma in January 2002

Currency exchanges are common particularly in larger cities and in any touristed area In addition to hard currency, they also accept traveler's checks There are also automated currency exchange machines in some areas of the country, particularly at Athens airport Most banks will also exchange euros for some currencies -such as the US Dollar and British Pound- often times at better rates than currency exchanges Banks' commission fees for these exchanges are usually structured so that it's more economical to change larger sums than smaller Usually, only the larger, international-standard hotels will exchange money for their guests

As of this writing, branches of the Greek bank Alphabank will exchange US$ American Express Travelers Checks into Euros at their usual bank rates without fee or commission, which can result in a significant savings They also cash Euro American Express Travelers Checks without charge

When changing money in large amounts at a bank or currency exchange, it's a good idea to ask for mostly smaller notes, and nothing larger than a € 50 Many businesses are reluctant to accept notes of larger than € 50, partly because of a scarcity of change, partly because larger notes have a history of being counterfeited

You may get better exchange rates by using credit and ATM cards Mastercard, Visa, and Eurocard are widely accepted across the country in retail stores, hotels, and travel/transportation agencies including ferry, airline, and car rental agencies, but are not accepted at some restaurants Local souvenir shops usually require a minimum purchase before allowing you to use your card and may not accept it for special sales or deeply discounted items ATM machines are present almost everywhere, with Mastercard/Cirrus and Visa/Plus being the most widely accepted cards Many ATM machines may not accept 5-digit pin numbers; ATM card-users with 5-digit pins are advised to change their pin to 4 digits before leaving home

Value Added Tax VAT is charged on most items, usually included in the item's price tag but some shops offer "Tax Free" shopping to non-EU residents This means that non-EU residents can ask for a VAT refund at their port of exit in the EU Be sure to ask for your voucher before leaving the store and show that along with your items to the customs officer upon departure from the EU

Bargaining

But for minor exceptions like the Athens Monastiraki district, bargaining is considered impolite and it is quite ineffective

Food and eating in Greece

Greek cuisine is a blend of indigenous traditions and foreign influences Neighboring Italy and Turkey have left a major impact on Greek cuisine, and there are shared dishes with both of these nations The traditional Greek diet is very Mediterranean, espousing vegetables, herbs, and grains native to the Mediterranean biome Being a highly maritime nation, the Greeks incorporate plenty of seafood into their diet The country is also a major producer and consumer of lamb; beef, pork, and especially chicken are also popular Olive oil is a staple in Greek cooking, and lemon and tomatoes are common ingredients Bread and wine are always served at the dinner table

The cuisine in Greece can be radically different from what is offered in Greek restaurants around the world Greek restaurants abroad tend to cater more to customer expectations rather than offer a truly authentic Greek dining experience One example is the famous gyros yee-ros, a common item on Greek menus outside Greece While it is a popular fast-food item in Greece today, it is actually a relatively recent foreign import adapted from the Turkish döner kebap and is considered by Greeks as junk food It is never served in the home and is generally not found on the menus of non-fast-food restaurants

Eating out is Greece's national passtime and a rewarding experience for visitors; however, not knowing where to go or what to do can dampen the experience In the past, restaurants that catered mostly to tourists were generally disappointing Thankfully, the nation's restaurant industry has grown in sophistication over the past decade, and it is now possible to find excellent restaurants in highly-touristed areas, particularly areas that are popular with Greek tourists as well Thus, it remains a good idea to dine where Greeks dine Go search them at the times greeks dine: 21:00-23:00 The best restaurants will offer not only authentic traditional Greek cuisine along with regional specialities but Greece's latest culinary trends as well A good sign for authenticity is when you get a small free desert when you ask for the bill Bad signs are when deserts are listed on the menue, and also when the waiter is taking your plates away while you are still sitting at the table traditionally everything is left on the table until the customer is gone, even if there is hardly any space left

Restaurants serving international cuisine have also made a presence in the country, offering various options such as Chinese, French, Italian, and international contemporary

Vegetarian

In Greece, vegetarianism never took off as a trend, and restaurants catering strictly to vegetarians are practically non-existent However, Greeks traditionally eat less meat per capita than northern Europeans and North Americans, and there are countless vegetarian dishes in Greek cuisine Greeks are meat and dairy eaters, but because such a large percentage of their diet consists of pulses, vegetables, greens and fruits, a vegan or vegetarian visitor will not have any difficulty in finding a huge variety of vegetarian food all over Greece The Porto Club 24 travel agency offers a number of tours designed for vegetarians and vegans

Popular local dishes

The traditional fast foods are gyros γύρος, "GHEER-ohs", not "JIE-rohs" as in "gyroscope", roast pork or chicken and rarely beef and fixings wrapped in a fried pita; souvlaki σουβλάκι, "soov-LAH-kee", grilled meat on a skewer; Greek dips such as tzatziki τζατζίκι, made of strained yoghurt, olive oil, garlic and finely chopped cucumbers and dill or mint; and skordhalia σκορδαλιά, a garlic mashed potato dip which is usually served with deep fried salted cod

With its extensive coastline and islands, Greece has excellent seafood Try the grilled octopus and the achinosalata sea-urchin eggs in lemon and olive oil By law, frozen seafood must be marked as such on the menu Fresh fish, sold by the kilo, can be very expensive; if you're watching your budget, be sure to ask how much your particular portion will cost before ordering it

Greek salad called "country salad" locally, "HorIAtiki", a mix of tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese and onion – all sliced – plus some olives, and occasionally green bell pepper or other vegetables, usually garnished with oregano Traditionally it is dressed only with olive oil; vinegrette or lettuce are added only in the most tourist-oriented restaurants

Also consider:

  • moussaka, a rich oven-baked dish of eggplant, minced meat, tomato and white sauce
  • pastitsio, a variety of lasagna
  • stifado, pieces of meat and onion in a wine and cinnamon stew
  • spetzofai, braised sausage with pepper and tomatoes, a hearty dish originally from the Mt Pelion region
  • saganaki, fried semi-hard cheese
  • paidakia, grilled lamb chops, are also popular They tend to have a gamier taste and chewier texture than North American lamb chops, which you may or may not like

Fried potatoes often listed on menus as chips are a naturalized Greek dish, found almost everywhere They can be very good when freshly made and served still hot Tzatziki is usually a good dip for them, though they are still good on their own

For dessert, ask for baklava, tissue-thin layers of pastry with honey and chopped nuts; or galaktoboureko, a custard pie similar to mille feuille Other pastries are also worth tasting Another must-try is yogort with honey: yoghurts in Greece are really different from what you used to see at Danone stores: to start with, genuine yoghurt in Greece is has 10% of fat Fruit such as watermelon is also a common summertime treat

For breakfast, head to local bakeries fourno and try fresh tiropita, cheese pie; spanakopita, spinach pie; or bougatsa, custard filled pie, or even a ""horiatiko psomi", a traditional, crusty village type bread that is a household staple, and very tasty on its own too All are delicious and popular among Greeks for quick breakfast eats Each bakery does own rendition and you are never disappointed Go to the next Kafeneion with them and have it there with a Greek coffee to be local

A popular drink is a frappe made with instant Nescafe, water, sugar , and sometimes milk It is frothed and served over ice

Cover fee

It's common to charge cover fee in cafes officially ie stating it in a receipt, such as €03 to €20 per person, but if it's tending towards €20 you should really consider eating somewhere else

Just-in-time

For things such as bread and fresh orange juice, the just-in-time principle is often used: bread or oranges are purchased by the cafe right after the first order is taken So don't be surprised if your waiter returns to the cafe with a bag of oranges after accepting your order And this is how fresh bread is guaranteed in most places

Fast food

McDonald's and Pizza Hut have made a significant presence in Greece over the past 15 years However, they face strong competition from the popular local chains

Goody's 25 is the most popular fast-food chain in the country, offering a large variety of fast food meals, with numerous outlets throughout the country A more recent chain is Everest 26 which specializes in hand-held snacks Flocafé 27 is gaining popularity through its coffee and dessert items There are also many independently-owned fast food businesses that offer typical fast food items, such as gyros Many of these small businesses tend to be open late at night, and are popular with younger crowds on their way home from a night out

Drinking in Greece

Those wishing to partake of alcoholic beverages in Greece would be well advised to stick to the traditional domestic Greek products discussed below, which are freely available, mostly cheap by European standards, and usually of good quality Any imported ie non-Greek alcoholic beverages are likely to be very expensive if genuine, and if cheap may well be "bomba," a locally distilled alcohol with flavorings which sometimes, especially in island bars catering to young people, masquerades as whiskey, gin, etc If you drink it, you'll be very sorry

Bomba does exist but in 30 years of drinking in Greece I have never been served any Drink in respectable places where you can see the bartender mix your drink

Water

A glass of water is normally served with any drink you order; one glass for each drink Sometimes you even get a glass of water first an then you are asked what you want to drink! If you don't get any or if they charge you for it, or if it's served in a bottle when you didn't ask for it, you just stepped into a tourist-trap !

Tap water in most places a traveler would go today is drinkable; if in doubt, ask your hotel But often though technically drinkable it doesn't taste very good, especially on some small islands as it is imported in and heavily chlorinated, and many travelers, like many Greeks, prefer to stick to bottled water By law, water prices in shops must remain within acceptable limits, making it much cheaper than in Anglosphere nations

Wines

To be able to purchase alcohol in Greece you must be 17, but there is no legal drinking age IDing is infrequent, especially in venues that sell food many independant fast food outlets will serve alcohol

Greece, an ancient wine producing country, offer a wide variety of local wines, from indigenous and imported grape varieties, including fortified and even sparkling wines Greek wines are generally not available on the international market, as production is relatively small, costs are quite high and little remains for export However, in the past decade Greek wines have won many international prizes, with the rise of a new generation of wineries Exports are rising as well

Wine Krasi: κρασι / oenos: οίνος is most Greeks' drink of choice

Almost every taverna has "barrel wine," usually local, which is usually of good quality and a bargain 6-8 EUR per kilo, but check this before ordering when you are in a touristy area!

If they have it, try also the Imiglyko Half-Sweet red, even if sweet wine is usually not your preferred thing, it is diffrent from anything you know

Retsina is a "resinated wine" with a strong, distinctive taste that can take some getting used to; the flavor comes from pine resin, which was once employed as a sealant for wine flasks and bottles The most well-known and cheap-n-dirty is "Kourtaki Retsina"

Bottled wines have gotten increasingly more expensive; some that the beginner may find worth trying are whites from Santorini and reds from Naoussa and Drama

Local producers include:

  • Boutari 28 regions: Peloponnese, Crete, Goumenissa, Santorini, Naoussa
  • Skouras 29 region of Peloponnese Good selection found in several tourist shops in Nafplion
  • Mercouri Estate 30 region of Peloponnese
  • Gentilini 31 region of Cephalonia Recommended by Dorling Kindesley's Eyewitness Travel Guides: Greek Islands, 2001;
  • region of Santorini:
    • Canava Argyros
    • Volcan Wines 32 Also, a Volcan Wine Museum
    • Santo Wines 33
  • region of Crete:
    • Peza Union 34
    • Sitia Agricultural Cooperatives Union 35
    • Creta Olympias Winery 36
    • Minos Wines 37
    • Lyrarakis Wines 38
    • Douloufakis Wines 39
    • Michalakis Winery 40
  • Tsantali 41

Beer

Even if beer bira: μπύρα is consumed all around the country, don't come to greece for the beer The only local varieties widely available are Mythos and Alpha, but greeks drink mostly Northern European beers produced under license in Greece like Heineken and Amstel Heineken is affectionally known as "green"; order it by saying "Mia Prasini"

On the quality front, there is also a microbrewery/restaurant called Craft 2 litre jug also available in large supermarkets, and new organic beer producers like Piraiki Zythopoiia

Liquor

The most famous indigenous Greek liquor is ouzo ούζο, an anise-flavored strong spirit 375%, which is transparent by itself but turns milky white when mixed with water Mainlanders do not drink ouzo with ice, but tourists and Greek islanders generally do A 200 mL bottle can be under €2 in supermarkets and rarely goes above €8 even in expensive restaurants Mytilene Lesbos is particularly famous for its ouzo A few to try are "Mini" and "Number 12," two of the most popular made in a middle-of-the-road style, "Sans Rival," one of the most strongly anise-flavored ones, "Arvanitis," much lighter, and the potent "Barba Yianni" and "Aphrodite," more expensive and much appreciated by connoisseurs

Raki or tsikoudia is the Greek equivalent of the Italian grappa, produced by boiling the remainings of the grapes after the wine has been squeezed off It is quite strong 35-40% of alcohol and in the summer months it is served cold It costs very little when one buys it in supermarkets or village stores The raki producing process has become a male event, as usually men are gathering to produce the raki and get drunk by constantly trying the raki as it comes out warm from the distillery One raki distillery in working order is exhibited in Ippikos Omilos Irakleiou in Heraklion, but they can be found in most large villages In northern Greece it is also called tsipouro τσίπουρο In Crete, raki is traditionally considered an after-dinner drink and is often served with fruit as dessert

Coffee

Coffee kafes: καφές is an important part of Greek culture

The country is littered with kafetéries kafetéria singular which are cafes that serve as popular hangouts for Greeks, especially among the under-35s They tend to be pretty trendy -yet relaxed- and serve a variety of beverages from coffee, to wine, beer, spirits, as well as snacks, desserts, and ice cream In the pleasant months of spring, summer, and fall, all kafetéries provide outdoor tables/seating and they are busiest with customers in the late afternoon and evening hours Several kafetéries also double as bars

Kafeneia coffee houses are ubiquitous, found even in the smallest village, where they traditionally served a function similar to that of the village pub in Ireland Their clientele tends to be overwhelmingly men over 50, however everyone is welcome, male or female, young or old, Greek or foreigner; and you will be treated extremely courteously However, if you're not interested in cultural immersion to this extent, you may find the kafeneia pretty boring

Traditionally, coffee is prepared with the grounds left in It is actually a somewhat lighter version of Turkish coffee but in Greece it's only known as Greek coffee - "ellinikós kafés" or simply "ellinikós" Despite being slightly lighter than the original Turkish coffe, it remains a thick, strong black coffee, served in a small cup either sweetened or unsweetened If you don't specfy, the coffee is usually served moderately sweet Greek coffee traditionally was made by boiling the grounds and water on a stove in a special small pot called a "briki" More and more now days it's made by simply shooting steam from an espresso machine into the water/coffee mixture in the briki, resulting in an inferior drink If you find a place that still actually uses a stove burner to make their coffee, you can be sure it's a traditional cafe

During the hot summer months, the most popular coffee at the kafetéries is frappé φραπέ: shaken iced instant coffee This is actually an original Greek coffee and can be really refreshing, ordered with or without milk, sweetened or unsweetened

Coffee can also be made espresso-style, French press mainly at hotels, and with modern filter technology The latter is sometimes known as Γαλλικός: gallikos "French" which can lead to some confusion with the press method It is best to ask for φίλτρου: filtrou, which refers unambiguously to filter coffee It is best not to ask for black coffee, as it is unlikely that anyone will understand what you are asking for

Espresso or cappuccino fredo are also gaining popularity Espresso fredo is simply espresso + ice no milk or foam; cappuccino fredo may be served from mousse containers, not prepared just-in-time; be careful to check

Iced tea

In mass-sector taverns and cafe, iced tea typically means instant; ask twice if you prefer real brewed ice tea

Accommodation in Greece

If you enjoy the local traditions and charm, unhurried rhythm of living, small, family-run pensions are the best way to enrich your experience Owners and personnel there are friendly and open-minded, compared to the impersonal service you normally encounter in large hotels

If you have a bigger budget, renting a villa is a luxurious and splendid idea They are normally near or on the beach and provide more space and a great view

It should be noted that in Greece hotels, especially in the islands but also even in Athens and other big cities, tend to be simple establishments Rooms are typically small, and bathrooms smaller, with the shower often a hand-held sprayer; if there is a bath-tub, it's often a sit-bath Sometimes in the most basic places shower curtains are lacking Closets are often inadequate, and sometimes there is only a wardrobe On the plus side, such hotels typically have a balcony though sometimes tiny or veranda, either private or a large one shared by all the rooms but these are usually spacious enough not to feel cramped Standards of cleanliness are usually good, even in the simpler places Those who want more luxurious accommodation can usually find it in cities and on the more popular islands but should check the hotel's quality in reliable sources to be sure of what they're getting

Most Greek hotels now, even the smaller ones, have web sites and will take bookings by email, though sometimes fax is a more reliable way to communicate There are also numerous Greek and international hotel booking services which will make bookings, and sometimes these are cheaper, or have rooms available when the hotel itself says it's sold out If you're not really particular about choosing a hotel, you can usually find a place on a walk-in basis without too much trouble on all but the most crowded islands, where rooms can be difficult to find at the peak of the season, and even in the shoulder season on weekends and major holidays If you do get stuck for a room, try a local travel agency preferably one endorsed by a reputable guidebook or alternatively, ask at a cafe whether the owner knows of any rooms for rent; often they do

On some islands, though this varies from place to place, the owners of accommodations will meet arriving ferries to offer rooms Often they'll have a van there to transport you from the port, and will have brochures to show you These places are perfectly legitimate, they're sometimes among the best value places You can negotiate prices, especially when there are a lot of them trying to fill their rooms, and prices in the range of 20-25 EUR for a room or even a studio is not uncommon in mid-season BUT they could be anywhere from a few steps away from the port to a mile out of town, so before accepting such an offer it's best to be sure you get a good idea of its location

Places listed in the guide books tend to be booked up in advance and usually get more expensive as soon as they know they are in there!

Greek rooms typically have air conditioning nowadays If this is important to you, ask before booking Some rooms in old traditional buildings with thick stone walls may not need it Televisions are also common, though the picture may be too fuzzy to be much use, and if you get the set to work you may find it receives programs only in Greek Room phones are rare in the less expensive places

The main problem you're likely to encounter with a Greek hotel room is noise Soundproofing is rare except in the most expensive hotels Anything on a road is likely to suffer from traffic noise, and even at hotels not on a major road you may find that that "footpath" outside is used as a superhighway by Greece's notoriously loud motorbikes And tavernas and clubs nearby can generate decibels If you're concerned about noise, it makes sense to choose your hotel's location carefully The quietest ones are likely to be in an old part of the town or village accessible only by stairs which counter the prevailing "if I can drive it there I will drive it there" car and motorbike philosophy

In addition to hotels, almost every popular Greek destination offers self-catering accommodations called studios or sometimes apartments -- the terms are pretty much interchangeable Often these are run by hotels: a hotel may include some self-catering units, or the managers of a hotel may also run a separate building of self-catering apartments Though not listed very often in travel guides, these studios are most certainly a viable option for many travelers Typically, a studio consists of one large room, usually larger than a hotel room though sometimes there are multiple rooms, with a sink, small refrigerator, and two-burner hot-plate They usually have a private balcony or veranda, a television, and air conditioning, though rarely a room phone and almost never internet access In contrast to a hotel, they lack a front desk, there is no breakfast or other food service, and there may be maid service only once every two or three days Studios are often in quieter and more scenic locations than hotels For those who don't require the full services of a hotel, studios can be an attractive alternative offering better accommodations for the money, and the chance to economize on food by preparing some meals yourself

Cities in Greece

adamas  adendron  afantou  afitos  afra  afration  agnanteron  agra  agrafa  agras  agria  agrinion  aiani  aiantion  aigaleo  aitolikon  aiyina  aiyinion  aiyion  aiyira  akharnai  akhinos  akraifnion  akrata  akrini  akrolimni  alepou  alexandria  alexandroupoli  alfiousa  aliartos  alistrati  aliverion  alli meria  almiros  alonia  amalias  amarinthos  amarousion  ambelakia  ambeliai  ambeloi  ambelokipoi  ambelon  amfiklia  amfilokhia  amfissa  amisiana  ammokhorion  analipsis  anarrakhi  anatoli  anatolikon  anatolikon  anavissos  anavra  anayennisis  andravida  andros  aneza  angelokastron  angelokhorion  angelokhorion  anifion  anoixis  ano kastritsion  ano komi  ano korakiana  ano lekhonia  ano liosia  ano mera  ano poroia  ano siros  anoyia  anthia  anthili  antimakhia  antissa  apollona  apollonia  apsalos  arakhnaion  arakhova  aratos  aravissos  ardassa  arethousa  arfara  argalasti  argos  argos orestikon  argostolion  aria  aridaia  aris  arisvi  arkalokhorion  arkhaia korinthos  arkhaia olimbia  arkhangelos  arma  armenion  armenokhorion  arnaia  arnissa  arriana  arsenion  arta  artesianon  aryiropoulion  asimion  asini  askos  asopia  asopos  aspropirgos  aspros  asprovalta  assiros  assos  astakos  astipalaia  astros  asvestokhorion  atalanti  athens  athikia  athira  atsiki  atsipopoulon  avaton  axioupoli  axos  ayia anna  ayia  ayia galini  ayia marina  ayia marina  ayia marina  ayia marina  ayia paraskevi  ayia paraskevi  ayia paraskevi  ayia paraskevi  ayia paraskevi  ayiasma  ayiasos  ayia trias  ayia trias  ayia trias  ayia varvara  ayia varvara  ayioi apostoloi  ayios andreas  ayios athanasios  ayios athanasios  ayios ioannis  ayios kirikos  ayios loukas  ayios loukas  ayios mamas  ayios matthaios  ayios nikolaos  ayios nikolaos  ayios nikolaos  ayios nikolaos  ayios nikolaos  ayios petros  ayios petros  ayios serafim  ayios stefanos  ayios thomas  ayios vasilios  ayios vasilios  ayios vasilios  ayios yeoryios  ayios yeoryios  daratsos  derveni  deskati  diavata  diavatos  dikaia  dion  doliana  domokos  domvraina  drama  drosaton  edessa  ekali  ekhinos  elasson  elatia  elati  eleon  eleousa  eleousa  eleusis  ellinikon  elos  embonas  emborion  emborion  emmanouil pappas  epano arkhanai  epanomi  epiniana  episkopi  epitalion  eratinon  eratira  eresos  eretria  erikoussa  erithrai  ermioni  ermoupolis  esovalta  examilia  exaplatanos  exarkhos  exokhi  falanna  fanai  faros  farsala  ferai  fiki  filiates  filiatra  fili  filippias  filiron  filla  fillira  filotas  filotion  fitiai  flambouron  florina  floyita  fotolivos  fournoi  ftelia  gaitanion  galatades  galatas  galatas  galatas  galatini  galatista  galatsion  galia  gallikos  gargalianoi  gastouni  gastouri  gavalou  gazion  gazoros  glossa  gomfoi  gonnoi  gorgopi  goumenissa  goumeron  gouria  gournai  gouvia  graikokhorion  gra liyia  grammatikon  grammatikou  grammenitsa  grevena  grizanon  ialisos  iasmos  ierapetra  ierissos  igoumenitsa  ioannina  ios  ipsos  iraklia  iraklion  iraklion  iraklion  isthmia  istiaia  itea  itea  ithaki  kainouryion  kainouryion  kaisariani  kalamakion  kalamakion  kalamaria  kalamata  kalambaka  kalambakion  kalamia  kalamos  kalamoton  kala nera  kalavrita  kali  kalimnos  kalivai  kalivai poliyirou  kalivia  kalivia  kalivia thorikou  kali vrisi  kallifitos  kallifonion  kallimasia  kallithea  kallithea  kallithea  kallithea  kallithea  kallithiron  kalloni  kalokhorion  kalos agros  kamarai  kamarion  kamarion  kamariotissa  kamateron  kambanis  kambi  kamena vourla  kaminia  kanalia  kanalion  kanalion  kanallakion  kandila  kapandrition  kaparellion  karatoulas  kardamaina  kardamas  kardia  karditsa  karditsomagoula  kariai  kariai  karia  kariotissa  karistos  karitsa  karoti  karousades  karpathos  karpenision  karperi  karpokhorion  kassiopi  kastaneai  kastella  kastellion  kastoria  kastrakion  kastrakion  kastron  katastarion  katerini  kato akhaia  kato asitai  kato assos  kato glikovrisi  kato kamila  katokhi  kato khorion  kato korakiana  kato lekhonia  kato mazarakion  kato milea  kato mitrousion  kato skholarion  kato soulion  kato tithorea  katouna  katsikas  kavala  kavallarion  kavasilas  kavili  kavos  kefalos  kefalovrison  kefalovrison  kella  keramoti  keratea  keratsinion  kerkini  kerkira  khalandrion  khalandritsa  khalastra  khalki  khalkis  khalkoutsion  khania  khanion tou kokkini  khaniotis  khariessa  kharopon  khavarion  khersonisos  khiliomodion  khimarros  khios  kholargos  khora  khora  khorion  khoristi  khoriyion  khortiatis  khrisokastron  khrisokhorafa  khrisokhorion  khrison  kiato  kifisia  kilkis  killini  kimi  kimina  kimmeria  kineta  kinopiastai  kiparissia  kipia  kiprinos  kipseli  kiras vrisi  kiriakion  kiria  kirra  kissamos  kitros  kiverion  klitos  koila  koilas  koimisis  kokkarion  kokkinion  kokkinokhoma  kokkinon  kokkonion  kolimvari  kolindros  kolkhikon  kombotion  komnina  komotini  konitsa  kontariotissa  kontokalion  kopanos  korifi  korinos  korinthos  korisos  kormista  koromilea  koroni  koropion  kos  kostakioi  kostalexis  kostarazion  koufalia  koufovounon  kouloura  koutouloufarion  koutselion  koutsouras  kouvaras  kozani  kranea elassonos  kranidion  kremasti  krestena  kria vrisi  krikellos  krini  krionerion  krionerion  krionerion  kristallopiyi  kristoni  krithia  kritsa  krokeai  krokos  krouson  lagos  lakkion  lakkoma  lalas  lamia  lapas  lardos  larimna  larisa  lavara  layina  lekhaina  lekhaion  lekhovon  leonidion  lepenou  lianoveryion  liapades  lidorikion  ligourion  likion  likoporia  likovrisi  limenaria  limin khersonisou  limnai  limni  lithakia  liti  litokhoron  livaderon  livadi  livanatai  lixourion  lofos  longa  loudias  loukisia  louros  loutra ipatis  loutrakion  loutra  loutros  loutros  magoula  magoula  magoula  magoula  makrakomi  makrikapa  makrikhorion  makrikhorion  makrinitsa  makrisia  makriyialos  makrokhorion  malesina  malia  mandalon  mandra  maniakoi  manolas  mantamados  mantoudion  marathokambos  marathon  marathopolis  marina  markopoulon  marmarion  marmaron  martinon  megala kalivia  megali khora  megali panayia  megali vrisi  megalokhorion  megalokhorion  megalopoli  mega piston  megara  meligalas  meliki  melissia  melission  melission  melissokhorion  melissourgoi  meliti  melivoia  menemeni  menidion  mesaria  mesimerion  mesimerion  mesolongion  mesopotamia  messini  metamorfosis  metaxades  methana  methoni  methoni  metsovon  miki  mikonos  mikrokambos  mikromani  mikron monastirion  mikropolis  mileai  milea  milesion  miloi  milos  mirina  mirsini  mithimna  mitikas  mitikas  mitilini  mitilinioi  mitropoli  moirai  mokhos  molaoi  molos  monastirakion  monospita  morfovounion  moria  moskhaton  moskhokhorion  moulkion  mouriai  mournies  moustheni  mouzakion  mouzakion  mouzouras  naousa  naousa  nauplion  naxos  nea alikarnassos  nea ankhialos  nea apollonia  nea artaki  nea efesos  nea erithraia  nea fokaia  nea ionia  nea iraklitsa  nea kallikratia  nea karia  nea karvali  nea kerasia  nea kios  nea magnisia  nea makri  nea malgara  nea manolas  nea mesimvria  nea mikhaniona  nea palatia  nea pella  nea peramos  nea peramos  nea playia  neapolis  nea santa  nea smirni  nea stira  nea tirins  nea triglia  nea vissa  nea zikhni  nemea  nenita  neoi epivatai  neokaisaria  neokhorion  neokhorion  neokhorion  neokhorion  neokhorion  neokhorion  neokhoropoulon  neon ayionerion  neon karlovasion  neon monastirion  neon petritsion  neon rision  neon soulion  neos marmaras  neos milotopos  neos oropos  neos pirgos  neos pirgos  neos skopos  nerokouros  nestorion  nigrita  nikaia  nikaia  nikisiani  nikoklia  nision  oia  oinofita  oinoi  oinoussai  olinthos  omvriaki  oraiokastron  oreoi  orestias  orkhomenos  ormenion  ormilia  ormos korthiou  othonoi  ouranopolis  ovria  oxilithos  pagondas  pagouria  paiania  pakhni  palaia fokaia  palaifiton  palaikastron  palaiokhora  palaiokhora  palaiokhorion  palaiokhorion  palaiokipos  palaiokomi  palaiomanina  palaiomonastiron  palaion ayionerion  palaion faliron  palaiopirgos  palairos  palamas  paliambela  pallini  pamfila  panaitolion  panorama  panormos  papagos  pappadatai  pappados  pappayiannis  parakoila  paralia  paralia  paralia  paralion astros  paramithia  parapotamos  paravola  parga  paros  pasion  patitirion  patrai  patris  pedini  pedinon  pelasyia  pella  pelopion  pentalofos  pentaplatanon  pentapolis  peplos  peraia  perakhora  perama  perama  perama  perdika  peristasis  peristera  peristerion  perivolia  perivolion  periyialion  perni  peta  petinos  petraia  petra  petrokhorion  petroton  petroussa  pigai  pikermion  pilaia  pilion  pili  pilos  pirgos  pirgos  piryetos  piryion  pitharion  piyi  planos  plataiai  platanos  platanos  platanos  plataria  platikambos  plati  playia  playiarion  plomarion  polikarpion  polikastron  polikhni  polikhnitos  polikhronon  poliplatanos  politika  poliyiros  pombia  poros  poros  portaria  portaria  portokhelion  potamia  potamos  pramanta  preveza  prinos  proastion  prodromos  profitis ilias  profitis ilias  profitis  prokhoma  prokopion  promakhoi  prosotsani  proti  provatas  provaton  psakhna  psikhikon  psikhikon  pteleos  ptolemais  rafina  rapsani  rentina  rethimnon  rion  ritini  rizarion  rizarion  rizia  rizoma  rizomata  rizomilos  rizon  rodopolis  rodos  rodotopion  roviai  royitika  salamis  samarina  sami  samos  sapai  sardinia  sarti  savalia  seleron  selianitika  selinia  serrai  servia  sevastiana  sevasti  siatista  sidirokastron  sikeai  sikea  sikea  sikion  sikourion  silivainiotika  simi  sinarades  sindos  sisamia  sision  sitagroi  sitia  sivota  skala fourkas  skalanion  skala oropou  skala  skala  skhimatarion  skhisma  skiathos  skiros  skopelos  skopelos  skotina  skotoussa  skourta  skoutari  skoutaros  sofikon  sokhos  sosandra  souda  souflion  souroti  sourpi  sozopolis  sparta  sparti  spata  sperkhias  sperkhoyia  spetsai  spolaita  stalis  stamata  stamna  stanos  stefanovikion  sternai  sterna  stilis  stipsi  stirion  stournaraiika  stratonion  stratos  strimonikon  svoronos  taxiarkhis  temeni  terpni  terpsithea  thasos  theodoriana  theologos  thermi  thermon  thespiai  thesprotikon  thessaloniki  thimiana  thira  thirion  thivai  tholos  thouria  thrapsanon  tikheron  tilisos  timbakion  tinos  tirnavos  tithorea  tolon  toumba  toumba  tragana  traganon  triandria  trifos  trikala  trikala  trikerion  trilofon  tripoli  tsakoi  tsaritsani  tsikalaria  tsotilion  tzermiadon  valira  valsamata  valteron  valtotopion  vamvakofiton  vamvakou  vanaton  varda  varia  vari  vari  varnavas  vartholomio  varvasaina  vasiliai  vasilika  vasiliki  vasilikon  vathilakkos  vathi  vathi  vathi  vayia  velestinon  velon  velventos  veneraton  verdikoussa  veroia  veryina  veryi  vilia  vironia  viron  viros  vitina  vlakhiotis  vlakhokerasea  vlakhopoulon  vlakhoyiannion  vokhaikon  volax  volos  vonitsa  voula  vouliagmeni  vrakhation  vrakhnaiika  vrina  vrises  vrontados  vrontou  xanthi  xilagani  xilokastron  xilopolis  xinon neron  xirokambion  xirokambos  xiropotamos  yefira  yefira  yenisea  yeoryiani  yerakarou  yerakion  yerani  yeryeri  yialos  yiannitsa  yiannouli  yimnon  yithion  zagora  zakharo  zakinthos  zarakes  zarkos  zaros  zelion  zigos  ziparion  zitsa  zoniana  

What do you think about Greece?

How expensive is Greece?
(1 EUR = 1.12 USD)
Meal in inexpensive restaurant11.02 EUR
3-course meal in restaurant (for 2)33.15 EUR
McDonalds meal6.61 EUR
Local beer (0.5 draft)2.85 EUR
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 4.42 EUR
Cappuccino2.72 EUR
Pepsi/Coke (0.33 bottle)1.54 EUR
Water (0.33 bottle)0.55 EUR
Milk (1l)1.18 EUR
Fresh bread (500g)0.78 EUR
White Rice (1kg)1.61 EUR
Eggs (12) 2.87 EUR
Local Cheese (1kg) 7.08 EUR
Chicken Breast (1kg) 6.81 EUR
Apples (1kg) 1.4 EUR
Oranges (1kg) 1.05 EUR
Tomato (1kg) 1.43 EUR
Potato (1kg) 0.81 EUR
Lettuce (1 head) 0.63 EUR
Water (1.5l)0.76 EUR
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) 5.53 EUR
Domestic Beer (0.5 bottle)1.2 EUR
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 1.72 EUR
Cigarettes4.44 EUR
One way local bus ticket1.33 EUR
Monthly pass for bus33.18 EUR
Taxi start2.76 EUR
Taxi 1km0.98 EUR
Taxi 1hour waiting10.5 EUR
Gasoline (1 liter) 1.54 EUR
Utilities for a "normal" apartment137.97 EUR
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend) 11.43 EUR
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre 236.7 EUR
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre 195.25 EUR
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre 465.25 EUR
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre 366.8 EUR
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