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GREECE

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Fishing boats in Mykonos, Greece
Fishing boats in Mykonos, © Can Stock Photo / ElinaManninen

Greece is officially the Hellenic Republic and has a population of about 10 million.  It shares borders with Albania, the Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria and Turkey.  Its origins in Ancient Greece, prior to the Roman Empire, give it the reputation of being the cradle of Western Civilization and the originator of the concept of democracy.  Today Greece is part of the European Ecomonic Union, but is struggling financially.  Strikes and work stoppages have been common.    The capital and largest city is Athens, which is best known for the ruins of the Parthenon.  Over 90% of the population is from Greek ethnic origins.  The official language is Greek and the alphabet is not Roman based, leading to an inability of Europeans and Americans to read it - thus the origins of the phrase, "It's all Greek to me."

Aegean Islands:

The Aegean Sea and its islands give a special ambience to this country.  Nowhere is this better exemplified than in Santorini.  The Mediterranean climate in Greece provides mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers, which makes Greece a popular tourist destination in the summer months.  There are no visa requirements and no immigration papers are required for travelers.

Visas:

Greece participates in the Schengen Zone and Schengen Visa requirements.  That means there are no border controls between members, but none of its neighboring countries are members, so border crossing by train is not simple.  Some countries that are not members of the Schengen Zone require a Schengen Visa to enter Europe.  More than 40 countries outside the Schengen Zone do not require a visa.  Exemptions include citizens of Australia, Canada, Mexico, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.  Check with the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs web site or check your specific country at at VisaHQ.  For a list of exempt countries, visit Project Visa.

Currency:

As a member of the European Union, Greece has used the Euro since 1981.  In 2009 the country experienced financial problems that led to economic pressure on the other members of the Euro community.

Best Time to Visit Greece:

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 Athens

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 Heraklion

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 Mykonos

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 Patmos

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 Santorini

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