Mainland Geographical Features: Greece forms the southernmost part of the Balkan peninsula with two additional smaller peninsulas projecting from it: the Chalcidice and the Peloponnese. Mainland Greece covers about 80% of the country's total territory and is largely mountainous. The largest mountain range of Greece is the Pindus range, the southern extension of the Dinaric Alps, which forms the spine of the Greek mainland. The country's tallest mountain is Mount Olympus, which also separates Thessaly from Macedonia. Its highest peak rises to 2,919 m above sea level, making it the second highest of the Balkan peninsula after Musala in the Rila Mountains.
Island Geographical Features: The number of islands vary between 1,200 and 6,000. A figure frequently cited in travel guides is 1,425 islands, of which 166 are said to be inhabited. The Greek islands amount for about 20% of the country's total territory, and vary greatly in size as well as in climate. The country's largest island is Crete, with Euboea being second largest. Many of the smaller Greek islands form groups or chains, often called archipelagos, with notable examples being the Cyclades and the Sporades in the south and central Aegean sea respectively.
Religion: Religion in Greece is dominated by the Greek Orthodox Church, which is within the larger communion of the Eastern Orthodox Church. It represents the majority of the population and is constitutionally recognized as the "prevailing religion" of Greece. Religions with smaller numbers of followers include Islam, Catholicism, Evangelicalism, Hellenic Paganism and Hinduism.
- Eastern Orthodoxy and other Christian (88.1%)
- Islam (5.3%)
- no religion (6.1%)
- others (0.5%)
Food History (Ancient Greek Proteins): Ancient Greeks didn’t eat much meat. But since Greece is surrounded by water, fish were easy to get. Many varieties were available in the markets. Many Greeks thought of eating meat as something that barbarians did. The Greeks believed they were more civilized than that. As a result, they hardly ate meat at all.
Food History (Ancient Greek Beverages): The most widespread drink was water. Fetching water was a daily task for women. Though wells were common, spring water was preferred: it was recognized as nutritious because it caused plants and trees to grow, and also as a desirable beverage. Wine was the main drink in ancient Greece. It was watered down; to drink it straight was considered barbaric. Milk was rarely drunk, because again, it was considered barbaric.
Food History (Ancient Greek Utensils): The Greeks did not have any eating utensils, so they ate with their hands. Bread was often used to scoop out thick soups. Bread was also used as a napkin to clean hands. After being used as a napkin, the bread was then thrown on the floor for the dogs or slaves to clean up at a later time.
Food History (Ancient Greek Symposiums): The symposium, traditionally translated as "banquet", but more literally "gathering of drinkers", was one of the preferred pastimes for the Greeks. It consisted of two parts: the first dedicated to food, generally rather simple, and a second part dedicated to drinking. However, wine was consumed with the food, and the beverages were accompanied by snacks such as chestnuts, beans, toasted wheat, or honey cakes, all intended to absorb alcohol and extend the drinking spree. Women of the house were not permitted to attend. After giving a wine offering to the gods, the men drank and talked about politics or morals. Often young girls and boys would be employed to entertain guests with music and dance.
Current Greece (Importance of Olive Oil): Greece typically produces the third largest amount of olive oil in the world, after Spain and Italy—around 300,000 metric tons per year. Greeks consume more olive oil per capita than anyone else in the world—almost 13 kilograms annually in 2013-14 according to the International Olive Council (IOC), and even more in certain regions. only 27% of Greek olive oil is bottled and branded in Greece, rather than sold in bulk or informally passed on to friends, while 50 percent of Spanish olive oil and 80% of Italian oil are standardized in their country of origin—although 80% of Greek olive oil is extra virgin, the highest quality, far more than anywhere else in the world.
Main Dishes in Current Greek Culture