When we think of Greece, we quickly picture the Acropolis perched upon its rocky outcropping overlooking the city below. Or the azure domes of the Greek Islands hovering over whitewashed buildings. These sweeping views stir the soul. But when you look behind these magnificent canvases, a more intimate picture emerges, offering rich insight into the day to day details that make Greece so unique. Herein, we offer a collection of interesting facts – just the type that a Discovery Tours small group is likely to reveal.
Greece Through the Ages
- Ancient Greece comprised about 1,500 city-states called poleis, each of which had its own laws and army. Athens was the largest. Poleis sometimes went to war with one another, and some of these conflicts were chronicled in classic works of literature that are still read today.
- The Olympic Games debuted in Greece in 776 BC. Its first champion was a modest cook by the name of Coroebus; he won the sprint. During each Olympics, 100 bulls were sacrificed to Zeus.
- Some of Greece’s olive trees have been producing the coveted fruit here since the 13th century.
- Many doors, church domes and windowsills are painted a turquoise blue shade that is locally called kyanos. It has been believed for centuries that this color keeps evil spirits away, which might explain why the word “cyanide” is named for the color.
Greece’s Splendid Geography
- About 80% of the country is mountainous, and it has no navigable rivers.
- Every geographic spot in Greece is within just 85 miles of water. The country has 9,000 miles of coastline.
- Of the more than 2,000 islands under the Greek flag, 170 of them are populated.
- Greece enjoys 250 days of sunshine a year.
- More travelers visit Greece each year than there are Greek citizens living there.
- If you don’t cast your vote on Election Day in Greece, you’re breaking the law. All citizens 18 years and older are required to go to the ballot box.
- Around 7% of the world’s produced marble comes from Greece.
- Birthdays in Greece are not given much thought; rather, people celebrate the “name day” of the saint for whom they are named.
- It is considered rude to wave in Greece with the fingers extended; rather, Greeks wave with the palm closed.
- The blue color of the Greek flag stands for the sea and the sky; the white represents the purity of the Greek struggle for freedom.
- Despite its poor soils, the island of Santorini produces some of the country’s most popular wines. Vines are grown unstaked and kept low to the ground in a basket shape. Huddled close to the earth, the grapes are thus protected from fierce winds and heat.