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Smugglers Cove, Zante

Europe

 
Greece
Greece, officially the Hellenic Republic is a country in southern Europe on the tip of the Balkan peninsula. It has land boundaries with Bulgaria, The Republic of Macedonia, and Albania to the north and with Turkey to the east. The waters of the Aegean Sea border Greece to the east, and those of the Ionian and Mediterranean Sea to the west and south. Regarded by many as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy, Greece has a long and rich history during which its culture has proven especially influential in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.
Background Information
The Ottomans ruled Greece until the early 19th century. In 1821, the Greeks rebelled and declared their independence, but did not succeed in winning it until 1829. The elites of powerful European nations saw the war of Greek independence, with its accounts of Turkish atrocities, in a romantic light (see, for example, the 1824 painting the Massacre of Chios by Eugène Delacroix). Scores of non-Greeks volunteered to fight for the cause - including people like Lord Byron. At times the Ottomans seemed on the verge of entirely suppressing the Greek revolution but were eventually forced to give in by the direct military intervention of France, Great Britain and Russia. This was the prelude of the so called "Eastern Question", the gradual dismemberment of the decaying empire by the western powers. The Russian ex-minister of foreign affairs, Ioannis Kapodistrias, himself a Greek, actually a noble from the Ionian Islands, a British protectorate in the Ionian Sea, was chosen as President of the new Republic following Greek independence. That republic disappeared when a few years later Western powers helped turn Greece into a monarchy, the first king coming from Bavaria and the second from Denmark. During the 19th and especially the early 20th centuries, in a series of wars with the Ottomans, Greece sought to enlarge its boundaries to include the ethnic Greek population of the Ottoman Empire (the Ionian State however was donated by Britain upon the arrival of the new king from Denmark in 1863, and Thessaly was ceded by the Ottomans without a fight). Greece would slowly grow in territory and population until reaching its present configuration in 1947.

In World War I, Greece sided with the entente powers against Turkey and the other Central Powers. In the war's aftermath, the Great Powers awarded parts of Asia Minor to Greece, including the city of Smyrna (known as Izmir today) which had a large Greek population. At that time, however, the Turkish nationalists, led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, denounced the Sultan's government in Istanbul and organised a new one in Ankara. During the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922) the Turks eventually defeated the Greek armies and regained control of Asia Minor. Soon afterwards, the Treaty of Lausanne was signed, fixing the borders to this date. A population exchange was included in the agreement and immediately afterwards, hundreds of thousands of Turks then living in mainland Greek territory left for Turkey in exchange for about a million Greeks living in Turkey. The refugees from Asia Minor revived the population, provided cheap labour and hellenized the now depopulated regions, especially in Macedonia.

In 1936, General Ioannis Metaxas established an authoritarian conservative dictatorship in Greece, seen as similar to Antonio Salazar's "New State". Greece under Metaxas is also compared to Spain at the time, although it lacked the political violence associated with Francisco Franco's regime.

Despite the country's numerically small and ill-equipped armed forces, Greece made an important contribution to the Allied efforts in World War II. At the start of the war Greece sided with the Allies and refused to give in to Italian demands (see Oxi Day). Italy invaded Greece on 28 October 1940, but Greek troops repelled the invaders after a bitter struggle (see Greco-Italian War). This marked the first Allied victory in the war. Hitler then reluctantly stepped in, primarily to secure his strategic southern flank. Troops from Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Italy successfully invaded Greece, overcoming Greek, British, Australian, and New Zealand units within weeks.

To reduce the threat of a counter-offensive by Allied forces in Egypt, the Germans attempted to seize Crete in a massive attack by paratroops. Allied forces, along with Cretan civilians, however, offered fierce resistance. Although Crete eventually fell, it is pointed out by historians that this, and the whole Greek campaign, delayed German plans significantly, with the result that the German invasion of the Soviet Union started fatally close to winter. During the years of Nazi occupation, hundreds of thousands of Greeks died in direct combat, in concentration camps, or of starvation. The occupiers murdered the greater part of the Jewish community despite efforts by the Greek Orthodox Church and many Christian Greeks to shelter Jews. The Greek economy languished. After liberation, Greece experienced an equally bitter Greek Civil War between the communist-led Democratic Army and the Hellenic Army that lasted until 1949, when the communists were defeated in the battle of Grammos-Vitsi.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Greece continued to develop slowly with grants and loans through the Marshall Plan, and later through growth, notably in the tourism sector. In 1967, the Greek military seized power in a coup d'état and overthrew the conservative government of Panayiotis Kanellopoulos which had been preparing a general election set for May 28. The military established what became known as the Régime of the Colonels. In 1973, the régime abolished the Greek monarchy. In October 1973, George Papadopoulos appointed politician Spiros Markezinis as Prime Minister, with a mission undertake a transition to parliamentary democracy. Following the events of the Athens Polytechnic uprising, Papadopoulos and Markezinis were overthrown by a countercoup headed by junta hardliner Brigadier Ioannides on November 25, 1973. A new president, Phaedon Ghizikis, and a new Prime Minister, Adamantios Androutsopoulos, were appointed.

Ioannides organised a military coup against President Makarios of Cyprus, which was considered a pretext for the first Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 and the resulting crisis between Greece and Turkey. Escalation in Cyprus led to the implosion of the military régime. Ex-premier Konstantinos Karamanlis was invited from Paris as interim prime minister under President Ghizikis. He later gained re-election for two further terms at the head of the conservative Nea Dimokratia party, which he founded. In 1975, following a referendum to confirm the deposition of King Constantine II, a democratic republican constitution came into force. Another previously exiled politician, Andreas Papandreou also returned and founded the socialist PASOK party, which won the elections in 1981 and dominated the country's political course for almost two decades.

Since the restoration of democracy, the stability and economic prosperity of Greece have grown. Greece joined the European Union in 1981 and adopted the Euro as its currency in 2001. New infrastructure, funds from the EU and growing revenues from tourism, shipping, services, light industry, and the telecommunications industry have greatly raised the standard of living in Greece. Tensions continue to exist between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus and the delimitation of borders in the Aegean Sea, but relations have thawed considerably following successive earthquakes - first in Turkey and then in Greece - and an outpouring of sympathy and generous assistance by ordinary Greeks and Turks. This is in stark contrast to decades of hostility between these two countries, which saw repeated threats of war. Even though both were members of NATO, at times more than half of the entire Greek military was positioned against Turkey. In recent years, Greece has become one of the chief advocates of Turkey's application to join the European Union.

The 2004 Summer Olympic Games were held in Athens, returning to Greece for the first time since their modern inception in 1896. Despite widespread initial concerns over the city's ability to meet construction deadlines as well as over its ability to handle a potential terrorist threat, the Athens Games were widely praised as a success
Climate
All of Greece has pretty much the same weather, it hardly changes. Snow can fall anywhere in Greece, but it is very rare, especially for the islands. Greece's climate is called Mediterranean or subtropical. The summers are long, hot, and dry and it usually stays that way with no rain fall for three to four months. Winters are short, and mildly wet, it is also the wettest during this season. Spring and autumn are the shortest seasons because it either rains or it's hot. If it does happen to rain in the summer, it rains in the morning and is hot and dry in the afternoon, just enough time to go to the beach.
Parthenon, Athens
Acropolis, Athens
Map of Greece