Congresses and symposiums were frequently practiced in ancient Greece, organized by wealthy patrons of the arts and sciences. Philosophers, artists and scientists would gather to discuss their theories and viewpoints on many issues. The discussions took a dialectic form and were accompanied by food, wine and music. Some discussions carried out during symposiums were written down and are now considered masterpieces of world literature. A very well known example is Plato’s “Symposium”.
Greece is a peninsular country possessing an archipelago of more than 2.000 islands. It is located in the south-eastern part of Europe, surrounded by the Aegean, Ionian and Mediterranean seas, bordering by land with Albania, Turkey, Bulgaria and FYROM.
The country covers an area of 131.957 km2 and with about 15.021 km length, has the longest coastline in Europe (12th in the world). The average temperature fluctuates between 2o-14oC in the winter and between 18o-28oC in the summer. 29 different types of Mediterranean climate have been recorded, 14 humid and 15 dry.
Greece is noted for its exceptional biodiversity, with plenty of mountains, rivers, lakes, wetlands, islands, even volcanoes, all within its borders. 60% of its territory is mountainous with the highest peak of Mount Olympos at 2.917 m. The longest river is Aliakmonas, with 297 km length, and the largest lake is Trichonida with a surface of 97 km2.
Greece has hundreds of islands, from which about 700 are of a substantial size and are inhabited.
According to latest estimations, Greece has a total of about 11.500.000 residents. Also there is a significant number of Greeks abroad the country (about 5 million), with the largest communities in the USA and Canada countries of the former Soviet Union, Australia, Germany, Great Britain and South Africa.
Today’s visitors to Greece have the opportunity to trace the fingerprints of Greek history from the Palaeolithic Era to the Roman Period in the hundreds of archaeological sites, as well as in the archaeological museums and collections that are scattered throughout the country.
Greece attracts more than 16 million tourists each year, contributing 15,2% (2009 data) to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. Greece has been an attraction for international visitors since antiquity for its rich and long history, Mediterranean coastline and beaches. In 2005, 6.088.287 tourists visited Athens. In 2008, 16.5 million visited Greece. As a developed country highly dependent on tourism, Greece offers a wide variety of tourist facilities that have been greatly improved since 2004 Athens Olympic Games. Greece has 51 marinas, 752 thermosprings and great conference facilities. Conference tourism, targeted at academic, business, or cultural markets is a cornerstone of the Greek national tourism policy. In a recent report in Meeting and Incentive Travel, Greece was ranked eighth in the world in overnight stays for conferences. Figures from the Tourism Satellite Accounting Research, conducted by WTTC (World Travel & Tourism Council) project a worldwide increase in revenues in business travel to Greece from US $1,51 bn. in 2001 to US $2,69 bn. in 2011.
Invest in Tourism
Greece is one of the top tourism destinations in the world. In fact Lonely Planet placed Greece among its top 10 destinations for 2010 and Greece ranks second in England’s 2008 Telegraph Travel Awards in their Best European Country ranking. The number of tourism visits over the last decade has shown a steady increase. From 14,2 million international visitors in 2004, more than 17 million people visited Greece in 2008, and it is expected that in a few years this number will reach 20 million, almost twice the country’s population. The increasing number of tourists and the evolving profile of today’s traveler demand a host of new tourism offerings and infrastructure projects.
In Greece, investors will find a wide spectrum of opportunities, a welcome environment for new investment, and some of the most beautiful locations in the world. According to the 2009 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report published by the World Economic Forum, Greece holds the 24th overall position among 133 countries, 3rd place in the prioritization of travel & tourism sub index, 9th place in the number of World Heritage cultural sites, 5th place in tourism infrastructure and 1st place in the physician density sub index.
New, comprehensive legislation is under consultation governing the construction of holiday homes, a market with significant potential. Experts estimate that more than 1 million Europeans would consider a second/holiday home in Greece. A wide variety of large, attractive, suitable plots of land are available for development throughout most of the country. Furthermore, the Greek State is actively promoting government real estate assets, including Xenia Hotels, holdings managed by the Hellenic Public Real Estate Corporation (HPREC), as well as marinas that need to be upgraded. http://www.investingreece.gov.gr/
The Healthy Greek Diet & Gastronomy
Greece is famous for its tasty and healthy cuisine. Visitors in Greece could join any of the village traditional fiestas with great food, wine and live folk music, all over the country. The delicious local cuisine is based on fresh ingredients produced in the fertile soil such as the top quality virgin olive oil, produced on Peloponnese and Crete, organic vegetables, oranges, honey, cheese and herbs.
A comparative study held among several western countries found that Cretans presented the lowest percentage of deaths by heart attack and cancer, as well as the highest life rate compared to other samples. This was largely attributed to the healthy Mediterranean diet followed by all Cretan families.
Contemporary Greek cookery makes wide use of olive oil, vegetables and herbs, grains and bread, wine, fish, and various meats, including lamb, goat, poultry, rabbit and pork. Also important are olives, cheese, aubergine, courgette and yoghurt. Some dishes use filo pastry.
Olives and Olive Oil
No other single product is more important to Greek cooking than the olive. From this small fruit, olive oil is produced; the Elixir of life, Gold Liquid and Gift from the Gods, are all terms that are used by the Greeks to describe olive oil.
Orektika (Starters or Appetizers)
Rusks with tomato, feta cheese, olives, oregano and olive oil is a typical starter all over the country.
Boiled mountain greens with olive oil and lemon juice is also a typical Greek dish.
Meze is a collective name for a variety of small dishes, typically served with wines or anise-flavored liqueurs as ouzo or homemade tsikoudia and tsipouro. Dips are served with bread loaf or pita bread. In some regions, dried bread (paximadi) is softened in water.
Greece is famous for its variety of delicious local cheeses, i.e.:
Feta: Made from sheep and goat’s milk and since 2005 has been a protected designation of origin product in the EU.
Graviera: The standard hard cheese with many types and tastes produced in many Greek regions.
Myzithra: Fresh cheese made of ewe’s milk and sometimes made of goat’s milk (in which case it is called katsikisia) or mixed milk. Hardens when matures and used as grated cheese.
Anthotyros: From the words anthos (flower) and tyros (cheese), it is a very mild soft spring cheese made when the sheep pastures are still full of flowers.
Kefalograviera: Hard sheep milk cheese with a salty flavor and rich aroma, very similar to Kefalotyri. It is often used to make Saganaki, when it is cut into triangular pieces, rolled in seasoned flour and lightly fried.
Sweets and Desserts
Healthy Mediterranean sweets and desserts use ingredients from the local products. Fruit, nuts, eggs (not many), flour and olive oil are the most common ones. Greek desserts are characterized by the dominant use of nuts and honey.
Spoon sweets (glyka tou koutaliou) are popular, usually served with coffee and a glass of cold water. Most are made of whole fruit, though some kinds are made of pieces or purees. One typically Greek spoon sweet is the snow-white and intensely aromatic vanilla, which is not made of vanilla, but of mastic resin, for which the Aegean island of Chios is famous. This is usually served as a spoonful of sweet on a table spoon dropped into a tall glass of ice-cold water and popularly called a vanilla submarine.