Likes & Dislikes

Opinions

“People go to Greece once and fall in love with it, then go back… once, five times, ten times, more… They take their kids, and when they grow up, they take their kids in turn. What endures in the memory is the warmth, the smiles, the love, the good food. Then you go home because your home is elsewhere, but your heart… it pines for Greece… The sea cools you, but the humidity warms your skin, and it’s easy to simply fall in love with a place where life is simplicity itself, and people aren’t ashamed to work with their hands. Where children still have a childhood. Where nobody loses their cool because they can’t connect to the Wi-Fi, where you can wear the same pair of pants five days in a row, and not worry about sitting down in wet sand in them. Where you don’t have to be rich… It’s best to arrive ‘empty’, so you have plenty of space to fill your soul with wonders.”  (E. S. 2015)

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,, Whatever you do, don’t go to Greece. It’s cold and rainy with no culture, rotten food, and unfriendly natives. Let me go and suffer for you. On no account try and follow me, you will hate it.

OK so I know that I’m not going to able to keep Greece to myself. I suppose that I’ll have to give you some information about it. There is a good argument for doing lots of little write ups about individual areas, towns, and villages and Athens definitely needs a section to itself, but for starters, we will paint an overall picture. Having said this I’m definitely not telling you where I go, I’m keeping that secret, Greece already has more than enough tourists but with a bit of effort, it's possible to avoid them.

You should know that for a small place Greece is really big. The coastline is 9000 miles long with more islands than you can conceive of. Of course, there is not all that much of the land that you can conveniently stand on, a lot of it being at an angle of 45 degrees or more. Eighty percent of Greece is mountainous which perhaps accounts for a large number of goats. The mountainous terrain can be a good thing for excellent views and strenuous hikes as long as you don’t fall off.

There has been a big growth in activity tourism in Greece so there is the ever-present danger of having a rock climber or hang glider land on your head in some areas. However, there is little chance of being killed by a tortoise being dropped on your head by an eagle as befell the playwright Aeschylus, fittingly named “the father of tragedy”.  Apparently the eagle thought Aeschylus’s bald head was a rock and dropped the tortoise to crack it open for its dinner.

There are of course lots and lots of fantastic beaches and little towns with harbors and fishing boats and waterside tavernas. Also, visitors should be aware of the weather with approximately 250 sunny days per year and temperatures in the high 20 to 30 degrees centigrade, in other words, it gets hot. There are nice breezes blowing from the land to the sea to cool you while you sip wine in a taverna and breezes blowing onto the land in the morning to help you with your hangover. This is due to the differential between the heating and cooling of land and water. Probably not a good idea to go out on your inflatable mattress in the evening unless you want to end up on another island if you’re lucky.

Greece has far too much history and most Greeks will tell you that they virtually invented and did everything first, which is often true. They have had a long time to practice doing stuff, Athens, for instance, has been continuously inhabited for more than 7,000 years. This makes it one of the oldest European cities. Wander round pretty much anywhere in Greece and you’ll trip over something interesting and probably ancient.

When in Athens, in particular, you have to get used to the taxi drivers jangling their worry beads in one hand, a mobile phone in the other and driving with their knees. In my opinion urban driving in Greece should definitely be avoided. As every Greek knows, the more alcohol you have the better you drive, and the faster you go the less likely you are to hit something.

It’s nice to see Fix beer is available again. It’s just fun being able to say “I’m off for a fix”. Personally, my favourite is Alpha though the wine is considerably cheaper. I’m not so keen on the red, though it grows on you after the first half litre, but the white is good.

When not drinking, actually whilst drinking, Greek food is excellent although there is probably not as much variety as with, say, French food. Again, the Greeks have had plenty of time to practice. During the first Olympic Games in 776 BCE, Coroebus, a cook, won the very first sprint race. Maybe he’d left something on the fire and he was afraid it would boil over, or perhaps he thought he’d left his Greek salad too long in the sun. As everyone knows you shouldn’t let your Greek salad get too warm.

Greek salad is one of the major indications of civilisation with its Feta Cheese and olives etc.

Olives are one of the things you first notice when you go to Greece, there are olive trees almost everywhere. Olives are fantastic, not just the olives themselves and the oil but also the excellently cool trees themselves which can be thousands of years old. Almost everybody seems to own a tree or two at least and the oil is wonderfully good for you. Most of the large olive groves use visiting Albanians for the harvesting and one of my favourite restaurants, I’m not telling where it is, is run by Albanians though it’s as Greek as any of the Greek restaurants. Lots of lovely kebabs and grilled meat. Greece is maybe not the best place for vegetarians unless you want to count shrimp as a vegetable.

Greeks are genuinely very friendly although the expression used by English speakers, “it’s all Greek to me,” is there for a reason, the language being difficult and the written language making your eyes water.

As with many places there are idiosyncrasies that it helps if you are aware of.

You should try not to be a Barbarian, originally a Greek work for all non-Greeks who in their opinion babbled in an unintelligible way.

One of the Barbaric things you might do is wave at a Greek. This might seem a friendly gesture but presenting your open palm to a Greek is seen as offensive. Don’t worry too much though as there are so many tourists who don’t know about this that the Greeks are probably used to it.

Neither be unduly surprised if a Greek spits at, well not directly at you, but within spitting distance; they are only warding off the evil eye, which has to be a good thing. Just hope their aim is good.

Greeks really did start off almost everything. We might draw a vail for our purposes over all the maths and philosophy but they just came up with so much stuff. There is even a place called Drama with a rather cool little open-air amphitheatre where I guess drama was invented. The Greeks also invented Tragedy which is taken from the Greek for goat song. If you have ever listened to a goat singing, you’ll know why. Of course, originally Greek tragedies weren’t about goats, well mostly not, but were linked with the god Dyonisos whose rites were celebrated by people wearing goat skins. Goats of course are celebrated drunks.

No matter how tragic you might be feeling, don't get your kit off, its frowned on. The Greeks are probably just sick of seeing huge Germans wrapped in tiny towels while trying to change at the waterfront. It frightens the dolphins and if it’s the Brits, the reflected sunlight can blind passers-by.

We all know what Greek music sounds like, right? Wrong. There is nothing wrong with a bit of Bouzouki music or what you might call a touch of the Zorbas, but there are lots of different styles including Greek blues which is a bit like Portuguese Fado, so sad it makes you order another plate of shrimp and litre of white wine.

You’ll find a lot of blues in the buildings as well, the colour not the music, this is for luck and to ward off the evil eye but don’t spit on the walls! The thing is it just looks and feels like it’s supposed to, Greece just has that sun and sea feel about it. It has got the blues but in a good way.

Dancing.  Everyone has seen the film “Zorba the Greek” and you will have noticed there seems to be dancing at every opportunity. In real life, there is even more dancing than that. At the slightest excuse, Greeks will dance, often in the tavernas, on the beach, on the street, on the tables, and if you’re not careful, on you. It’s easy to find a place to learn and nobody is going to laugh at you, (probably).

In conclusion, don’t go to Greece. let people like me take on the burden for you. You will hate it!  If you decide to disregard my advice  I’ll be at the third table on the left as you enter from the harbourside door, wearing a dark blue Fedora in the winter and a white Panama in the summer. (Alan Durant, 2020)

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Great things about Greece:
history is everywhere, and so deep and with so many layers that it is a landscape in itself
the sea, the isles, the names of places
frank and friendly people, once you understand that some roughness in their behavior is just superficial
the richest of languages, full of surprises and so pretty in its lettering
having dinner with friends in a taverna by the sea, the vivid conversation that may make the dinner last for hours
the smell of Athens in spring (if garbage collectors are even then not on strike)
dance and music

(c.e., 2020)

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Greece - locals&tourists - m.l. photo

Practicals

Transport

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Food

“One thing that strikes you about Greece is the sheer number of cafés. Anywhere in the country, at any hour of the day, you’re sure to find a crowded café, with patrons either sitting inside or at a sunny outdoor terrace. It may not be the first thing you think of, but a visit to the café is a very important part of daily life in Greece. If, during our travels, we find we need a pick-me-up, it will almost always be possible, with less than five minutes’ walk, to find a café (kafenio), a pastry shop (zaharoplastio), a bakery (artopolio), a tiropitatiko (a sort of snack-shop selling cheese pies), a buffet, a gas station shop or a corner store, where we can buy a cup of good coffee either to drink there or to take away.

If we sit down at a café table, the first thing the waiter will do is bring us as many glasses of water as there are people in our party. Or, if there are more than three or four of us, they will instead bring a pitcher of water and empty glasses. You can also request bottled water, of course, but you have to pay for it (€.50 for half a liter). If you finish your water or empty the pitcher, you can request more water, though in my experience the waiters attentively refill glasses whenever the water seems to be running low. Coffees arrive within a few minutes of placing an order – Greek waiters don’t like to keep patrons waiting – and it is generally accompanied by a few biscuits or slices of sponge cake.”

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“Greeks go to restaurants more to have fun and relax than to sate their hunger. In tavernas, you can choose from a selection of roast meats, single dishes, fish, and salads. Generally, various dishes and salads are ordered at once, then placed in the middle of the table, and everyone shares.

Most meals are accompanied by wine or retsina, which is a local wine flavored with pine resin. At the end of the meal, the taverna usually offers its guests some free cake or ice cream.

A psarotaverna is a sub-category of taverna, specializing in fish and seafood. These are most common on the coast, and in places popular with tourists.

A souvlatzidikio, meanwhile, specializes in that well-known dish souvlaki (Greek kebabs cooked over an open grill), along with other meat dishes, such as fried ribs, fried chicken breast, meatballs, as well as French fries and various salads. Feta cheese can also be ordered as an accompaniment to meat dishes, and every meal comes with pita and/or bread. These are generally smaller than regular tavernas, but very popular, and like kebab shops elsewhere, people often buy their food to take out or else order home delivery. Cheaper, friendlier, faster, and in a way more traditional than standard tavernas.

The Greek pizzeria is something totally unique. Popular among Greeks, since it differs from their traditional cuisine, this is in effect a very relaxed restaurant, where you can order a range of popular pasta dishes in addition to pizza. In most places, the more popular gouda cheese is used to top the pizza, in place of the more traditional mozzarella. Salads are often ordered alongside pizzas. You might occasionally find individual pizza slices on sale in a bakery, but for the most part, when it comes to pizza or pasta, Greeks prefer to go to restaurant pizzerias.” (2016)

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“We knew, of course, that Greek cuisine does not begin and end with the kebab, but we became so enamored with this local staple that we didn’t really feel like trying anything else. Once we ate at the Calypso Bar, which has a really authentic seaside atmosphere. Two young girls were working there, both of whom were very professional and spoke excellent English. The kebabs only cost a few euros, and in both large and small servings you can choose between a range of meat fillings. The taste is unbeatable. Nestled within a lightly toasted pita, the mouth-watering chunks of lean meat are properly seasoned and grilled to perfection.

Tommy is hard to please when it comes to meat, but even he was blown away by the experience, and so we ordered the same thing almost everywhere. Once or twice, just for a change, I ordered souvlaki in the Souvlaki Bar (original, I know) but I quickly decided that while it was certainly excellent, the Greek kebab or gyros was still my favorite. We’re Hungarian, and I saw that the waitress was a bit alarmed when she couldn’t place our nationality – apparently, she couldn’t speak English. With a bit of effort, we managed to translate the German menu, but in the end, we didn’t really need it.

The food was delicious, in any case, just as it had been the day before in the Beach Bar. If memory serves, we ate gyros in five different restaurants and tavernas, and all were top-notch. It’s impossible to compare the prices with a similar meal back home since in Greece the price always includes fries. More importantly, the meat is moist and tender and seasoned not with tzatziki but with the juice from its own cooking. There’s also the version, which I like less, in which the meat comes already packed inside the pita, for take-away. Meanwhile, our takeaway from the trip was that if you want real gyros, it’s got to be Greece!” (2019)




Greece - Myths, which are believed in, tend to become true (George Orwell) - n.s. photo

Greece - Samos - moussaka (eggplant casserole) - Ata photo

Fun

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Greece - Glyfada - funny boat - Krista photo

Public safety

“There is a gang of criminals in Greece which specifically targets the cars of holidaymakers. Their modus operandi is to break into cars without physical violence. One Serbian family, after stopping at a shopping mall in Nikiti, returned to find that their car had been broken into. The family had just arrived for their vacation and decided to buy a few things before they checked into their accommodation. When they returned to their car, however – which they had, of course, locked when they left it – they discovered that several electronic devices and a quantity of cash had disappeared. There were no signs on the car of the break-in.

The thieves use electronic technology to commit their crimes. From around 300m they can interfere with the car’s remote locking system so that while the driver may think he has locked his car doors, they are actually still unlocked. When the owner has departed, the thieves simply walk over and open the door, then take the most valuable items. This method has been reported on the peninsula of Sithonia as well. They chiefly look for tourists who have just arrived in Greece overland, and have not yet unpacked their belongings at their accommodation.” (2019)


Health


In Greece, tap water is drinkable, but in smaller settlements, you better consume bottled drinking water. On most islands, especially the smaller ones, water supply is often disrupted during summer, and water shortages can occur for a short or long time.

Due to their narrow size, Greek sewers can quickly become clogged with toilet paper. Toilet paper should be disposed of in a separate bin.

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“Bathers in Greece are increasingly worried about an invasion of stinging jellyfish. These creatures, which often mass in large numbers just offshore, are a particular danger to young children. This natural phenomenon is an increasingly common occurrence in many areas. While beaches at places such as Sarti and Toroni have had to contend with such invasions for some time, they are now common in many areas – particularly in the Gulf of Corinth.

Of these species of jellyfish, only the Pelagia noctiluca is truly dangerous to humans, but it lives out on the open sea, and the most effective method for treating its sting is widely known: the affected area of skin should not be rubbed, rather it should be washed in a mixture of freshwater and ammonia. It is also worthwhile to apply some Fenistil gel – especially if someone is exhibiting signs of an allergic reaction! (2017)

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Do not underestimate the force of the sun, especially if you are prone to sunburn. Always put something on your skin before hitting the beach.  Some people think, “ah, the sun is not that bad,” only to find out how strong it is painfully.

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In Greece, everyone has compulsory health insurance. However, it is not easy to get to a doctor because there are many people, and there are long waiting lists. The minimum waiting time is two weeks. For residents, on the other hand, it is possible to go to private hospitals, and even free dentists and ophthalmologists are provided.

As a foreigner, you can call a doctor who diagnoses and writes prescriptions online.



Background

Greece - Athens - national flag at the Chapel of St. George on the top of the Mount Lycabettus- Krista photo

Destination in brief

Greece in brief

Greece is a southeast European country (a republic) on the southernmost tip of the Balkans. Neighbors: Albania, North Macedonia, and Bulgaria (north), Turkey (east). Its western coast is on the Ionian Sea and its eastern coast is on the Aegean Sea. Greece is a peninsular country reaching out southward into the Mediterranean Sea. 

Size: 132,000 km² (50,948 mi²)

Population (in 2020): 10.4 million – 98% ethnic Greek

Official language: Greek – it is a common misbelief that ancient Greek is a dead language and that what is now spoken in Greece is a different language. The truth is that ancient Greek survives and has been continuously spoken here in the past 3000 years. The differences between ancient and modern Greek is actually the result of several millennia of use. During that time, the language has been simplified and adapted to serve new and different needs. It has also absorbed many elements from contact with others peoples, such as Romans or Turks.

Religion: 92% of Greeks are Eastern Orthodox (also known as Greek Orthodoxy) – Religion is vital for the mostly very traditionalist Greeks. The percentage of self-identified religious people is among the highest in Europe. Their Orthodox Christian religion is a state religion! 

Official currency: Euro

Average net monthly salary: 1,060 Euro (2019) 

The standard of living is lower than in Western European countries. Greece is beset with economic (budgetary) problems, high unemployment rates and low salaries. 

Most frequent surname: Papadopoulos 

Greece is a top-rated beach holiday destination. The most popular places are: Crete, Rhodes, Corfu, Zakynthos, Chalkidiki, Cephalonia, Kos, Thassos

Most visited cultural tourism destinations: Athens, Olympia, Delphi

Optimal timing for a beach holiday: Late April to early November

Public safety is excellent in Greece. Hygienic conditions are excellent. 

Greek food is mostly very healthy (they use a lot of vegetables, olive oil, grains, fish, seafood, and wine) and always delicious.

Surprisingly, you can’t flush toilet paper down the toilets in Greece (the thin sewage pipes would get clogged), even in Athens! There are small bins next to the toilets where you put your used toilet paper.

Some stereotypes about the Greeks:  

They seldom lose their calm, but when they do, the Mediterranean temper prevails: they shout and make wild gestures. The Greek speak loudly. The loudness of some elderly women may cause hearing loss. They prefer to live slow, ignore rules, are often negligent, even in the service sector, most men smoke.

Many Greeks express the view that they created European civilization. While their ancestors in ancient Greece were philosophers, people elsewhere in Europe were monkeys, or primitive satyrs.     

On the positive side: 

Friendly, smiling, warm-hearted, hospitable, helpful, natural, calm, unhurried, respect loyalty.” (Gerda)

I like their love of life, which is not an acted performance. I like their diffused positive energies. All of these should be taught elsewhere.” (b.r.) 



Geography

Greece is the most seismic area in Europe. There are relatively many earthquakes in Greece. The last time in 1999 was a severe quake. Due to earthquakes, few buildings in large cities have more than six floors.

Greece - Meteora

Greece - Central Greece - Meteora, a rock formation with an Eastern Ortodox monastery - k.l. photo

Greece - Halkidiki - Sarti - high wawes in the Aegean Sea - m.g. photo

Nowadays

“Even today, a section of Greek society is still rich and powerful. It’s common to see women in the center of Athens wearing luxury accessories worth several thousand euros, and young men in their twenties driving cars worth tens of thousands of euros. Meanwhile, the city buses run only once every twenty minutes, even during rush hour, and everywhere you hear about the economic crisis which has been going on without interruption for the last ten years. Social disparities, the collapse of the real estate market, high taxes, the complete shutdown of the construction and manufacturing industries, and, in general, a widespread sense of hopelessness have all left their mark on everyday life.

The only groups left relatively unscathed, apart from the very rich, are those with government jobs and retirees: these are the groups that keep what is left of the country’s retail sector afloat. Visitors often encounter shopkeepers with fake smiles, who self-interestedly affect a friendly manner, but in fact, they’d rather see the back of you, after taking as much of your money as they can.” (2019)

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In Greece, the baby and his mother traditionally cannot be visited for forty days after giving birth. Until then, only gifts can be sent to the newborn. And under the law, women are entitled to ten months of paid maternity leave. They will not be paid for four months after that, or if you do not return to work fourteen months after giving birth, you will lose your job.

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The Greeks also have their own siesta time. They get up early, which is 6-7 in the morning, but they find a way to relax at lunchtime. Mesimeri is one of the main reasons why Greeks' average life expectancy is high, about 80 years. During the time of Mesimeri, the streets and cities are almost empty; only tourists are visible. The locals are at home.
All noise is prohibited during the siesta. In summer (April 1 to September 30), people are not allowed to make noise from 3 pm to 5:30 pm and from 11 pm to 7 am. In winter (October 1 to March 31), from 15:30 to 17:30 and from 10 pm to 7:30 am.

These rules are pretty strict, so if someone breaks, then he/she has to pay a heavy fine.

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In Greece, apartment rentals are pretty cheap, very affordable. Long-term rental apartments are usually unfurnished. Only cabinets and kitchen furniture can be in it; the tenant must furnish the rest.




People

“The rules of social etiquette are unknown here. Nobody holds the door open for you or understands that if the person behind you needs to get off the bus at the rear exit, it’s polite to get off, let them past, then get on again.

On several occasions, I extended my hand on making a new acquaintance, but frequently the person in question did not reciprocate or indeed even seem to understand the gesture. Even the most elemental aspects of polite society are alien to the Greeks, and the common courtesy of allowing women to pass through a door first is by no means universal.

Restaurant diners frequently smoke at the next table to you, practically under your nose, paying no attention to the ‘smoking prohibited’ signs or to the possibility that this might be bothering other patrons. Often they’ll sit on their chair in a posture which at home would only be permitted on the couch at home while watching a football match.

As for pedestrian crossings, Greek drivers may stop to let a pretty woman, a child, or an elderly person cross, but others are not afforded such a privilege.” (2019)

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In Greece, divorce is entirely unusual. The Greeks defend the institution of marriage a lot. Greece has the lowest divorce rate in Europe. A divorce costs a lot of money.

Greeks give each other two kisses at each encounter. This tradition is as prevalent among men as it is among women. That works perfectly among friends and acquaintances.

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The Greeks follow the principle of “just lightly”. That means that everyone has a sacred right to rest. Everything can be done a little later. The term “siga-siga” explains the slow pace of the Greek way of life. Hence the stories that hold the Greeks lazy. They can postpone anything they can.

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The Greeks are very sentimental and emotional.
Greeks like to argue and express their emotions loud, both the negatives and positives.

It is perfectly normal for them to walk with their partner while looking at an attractive guy or a pretty girl.

They don't hide their sentiments, genuine emotions: if they want to shout or o sing, they will. The Greeks continue to pay close attention to each other and are pleasing audiences.

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Foreigners say Greek men are more attractive than Greek women. The majority of Greek women are short and slightly overweight. Many also have skin problems. Beauticians say it’s due to the climate and their lifestyle. To hide these flaws on their skin, local women like to use a lot of makeup.

Greek women also love jewelry. They wear all kinds of rhinestones, pearls, and other things, and many of them even wear piercings. They love long hair and take great care of it.







Greece - local men having a chat - k.s. photo

Greece - little girls - Ata photo

Greece - Glyfada - fishermen fixing their fishnets - Krista photo

Tourist etiquette

1.    For a Greek person, a pat on the cheek counts as one of the rudest, most insulting gestures possible. Never do it, even as a joke.
2.    Be aware that Greeks (like their neighbors the Bulgarians) use slightly different body language to the rest of Europe, and a shake of the head can mean yes, while a nod can mean no. It’s not quite that straightforward, though: generally, a no is signified by a downward, forward motion of the head, while a no is signified by tipping the head backward. If you’re unsure what a gesture means, it’s by no means impolite to ask for verbal clarification. In any case, you’ll rarely be in any doubt: the Greeks are, by and large, very expressive people, and you should be able to read their response on their faces.
3.    If it’s called for, the correct way to greet both a man and a woman in Greece is with a firm handshake.
4.    Visitors to churches and monasteries in Greece should be appropriately dressed.
5.    It would look ridiculous to attempt the kind of haggling that is normal in countries like Egypt and Tunisia. When renting a car, for instance, it might be possible to negotiate a small discount, but it’s important to understand that haggling isn’t widely practiced here.
6.    Taxi drivers definitely expect a tip, but you should only give one if they have been honest with the meter price.
7.    It’s an unfortunate fact that formal smoking prohibitions mean little to Greeks in places like restaurants and cafés. There’s no use arguing with them about it – smoking indoors is almost universally tolerated here.
8.    Don’t be surprised if, as an unaccompanied woman, you get some dirty looks if you walk into a café where the clientele is exclusively male.
9.    Don’t expect staff in restaurants to bring you the bill of their own accord. It’s considered polite to let patrons decide when they are ready to pay and leave, so a discreet gesture to the waiter that you are ready to pay is generally appropriate.
10.    Greek coffee may be essentially identical to Turkish coffee, but whatever you don’t order it under the latter appellation: the Greeks and the Turks don’t exactly get along.

“Showing your naked butt in a public place is a serious misdemeanor in Greece, and can be punished by a hefty fine and even a stint in the lockup. This law was introduced not to combat any local tendency towards nudism, but rather the many young Brits and Germans, whose loud, drunken antics every night in the popular island holiday destinations, in various states of undress, have thoroughly exhausted the patience of the locals. The legislation was eventually passed to more effectively police the behavior of these unrestrained young tearaways.” (2018)

Gastronomy

1. The world-famous Greek salad is called village salad in Greece. Ingredients are cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, olives, olive oil, feta, and oregano. They don’t cut the feta into cubes, put whole pieces in it, and even cut the other ingredients into small pieces. Peppers or capers are added occasionally, but there is no lettuce in a classic Greek salad.

Attractions

Why do people on the island of Tilos live so long?

A few places in the world are called “Blue Zones.” The term refers to geographic areas in which people have low rates of chronic disease and live longer than anywhere else. Tilos is among these. There are a great many theories as to why the people of Tilos and some of the surrounding islands have […]...

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