One of the few countries in Europe I have not visited is Greece. I have not really avoided it per se, as it was on my radar back on my first trip to Europe. But fate intervened, and I was called home due to the untimely death of my Father. In fact, I was going to meet a friend there, and travel around the country and a few of the islands.
So, fast forward to today, Greece is a much different place. Economic problems, mostly the result of outsized inflation, pensions, and debt have made it the weak link of the European Union, and maybe the entire world! What better time than July, when the country is slowly and carefully reopening?
Greece is the southernmost country in the Balkan Peninsula. The country is defined by its geography, with land area comparable to England, and the state of Alabama. I did not realize Greece has over 2000 islands, with 170 inhabited by people. The islands on the Aegean Sea lie not far from Turkey. Athens, the capital, is home to roughly a third of the country’s population.
Because of its geographic location, Greece can be considered European, Balkan, Mediterranean, and Near Eastern. And much like Turkey, it was ruled by the Ottomans for nearly four centuries. To the east, the Aegean Sea borders Greece. To the south, the Mediterranean, and to the west, the Ionian Sea. Land neighbors to the north are Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Turkey. The southernmost part of the mainland, the Peloponnesus connects to the mainland by a narrow isthmus at Corinth.
A central mountain range, the Pindos Mountains, forms the backbone of central Greece. Mount Olympus, the mythical home of the gods, is the highest point in Greece, at 9,570 feet. To the south, the Peloponnesus is now an island, 3.9 miles from the mainland.
But it seems the islands of Greece get traveler’s attention, and for good reason. The Ionian Islands are off to the west: Corfu, Paxos, Leucas, Ithaca, Kefalonia, and Zakynthos (the six main islands). The Aegean Islands are east of Greece, and include Thrace, Lemnos, Lesbos, Chios, and Samos. Farther south in the heart of the Aegean, lies the Cyclades (Santorini and Mykonos), and the Dodekanisa. Crete, the largest island, sits to the south entrance of the Aegean Sea.
Over the years, I have many Greek friends and colleagues. Each one really wanted me to visit their homeland. I guess I am on my way, finally.
Now that you have your bearings, let’s see and enjoy this great and ancient country.