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Greece

Grieķija

CAPITAL Athens

Elládha, officially the Hellenic Republic (Ελληνική Δημοκρατία, Ellinikí Dhimokratía, is a country in south-eastern Europe, situated on the southern end of the Balkan peninsula. It is bordered by Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania to the north and by Turkey to the east. The Aegean Sea lies to the east of mainland Greece while the Ionian Sea lies to the west. Both, parts of the eastern Mediterranean basin, feature a vast number of islands.

Regarded as the cradle of western civilization and being the birthplace of Democracy[1], Western philosophy[2], the Olympic Games, Western Literature, Political Science and drama[3] including both tragedy and comedy, Greece has a very long and remarkably rich history during which its culture has proven to be especially influential in Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East. Today, Greece is a developed nation, member of the European Union since 1981 and a member of the Eurozone since 2001.

GEOGRAPHY

Greece consists of a mountainous and craggy mainland jutting out into the sea at the southern end of the Balkans; though small, it has the 9th longest coastline in the world. The Peloponnesus peninsula (separated from the mainland by the canal of the Isthmus of Corinth); and numerous islands (around 3,000), including Crete, Rhodes, Kos, Euboea, the Dodecanese and the Cycladic groups of the Aegean Sea as well as the Ionian Sea islands. Greece has more than 15,000 kilometres (9,300 mi) of coastline and a land boundary of 1,160 kilometres (721 mi). Approximately 27.9% of the nation's territory is covered by forests and hardly anyone lives further that 60 kms from thea sea.

Four fifths of Greece consist of mountains or hills, making the country one of the most mountainous in Europe. Western Greece contains a number of lakes and wetlands and it is dominated by the Pindus mountain range. Pindus has a maximum elevation of 2,636 metres (8,648 ft) and it is essentially a prolongation of the Dinaric Alps.

The range continues through the western Peloponnese, crosses the islands of Kythera and Antikythera and find its way into southwestern Aegean, in the island of Crete where it eventually ends. (Actually the islands of the Aegean are peaks of underwater mountains that once consisted an extension of the mainland). Pindus is characterized by its high, steep peaks, often dissected by numerous canyons and a variety of other karstic landscapes. Most notably, the impressive Meteora formation consisting of high, steep boulders provides a breathtaking experience for the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit the area each year. Special lifts transfer visitors to the scenic monasteries that lye on top of those rocks. Meteora are situated in the Trikala prefecture. The Vikos-Aoos Gorge is yet another spectacular formation. The Vicos-Aoos Gorge is a popular hotspot for those in fond of extreme sports.

Mount Olympus is the tallest mountain in the country, located in the northern Pieria prefecture, near Thessaloniki. Mytikas in Olympus range has a height of 2,919 metres (9,570 ft) at its tallest peak. Once considered the throne of the Gods, it is today extremely popular among hikers and climbers who deem its height as a challenge. Moreover, northeastern Greece features yet another high altitude mountain range, the Rhodope range, spreading across the periphery of East Macedonia and Thrace; this area is covered with vast, thick, ancient forests including the famous Dadia.

Expansive plains are primarily located in the prefectures of Thessaly, Central Macedonia and Thrace. They constitute key economic regions as they are among the few arable places in the country. Volos and Larissa are the two largest cities of Thessaly.

Greece's climate consists of three types that influence well defined regions of its territory. Those are the Mediterranean, the Alpine and the Temperate types. The first one features mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. The Cyclades, the Dodecanese, Crete, Eastern Peloponessus and parts of the Sterea Ellada region are mostly affected by this particular type. Temperatures rarely reach extreme values although snowfalls do occur occasionally even in the Cyclades or Crete during the winter months. The Alpine type is dominant mainly in Western Greece (Epirus, Central Greece, Thessaly, Western Macedonia as well as in the western and central parts of Peloponessus, including the prefectures of Achaea, Arcadia and parts of Laconia, where the Pindus range passes by). Finally the Temperate type affects Central and Eastern Macedonia as well as Thrace, mainly affecting the cities of Komotini, Xanthi and the towns of northern Evros; it features cold, damp winters and hot, dry summers. Athens is located in a transitional area featuring both the Mediterranean and the Alpine types. The city's northern suburbs are dominated by the Alpine type while the downtown area and the southern suburbs enjoy a typical Mediterranean type.

Rare marine species such as the Pinniped Seals and the Loggerhead Sea Turtle live in the seas surrounding mainland Greece, while its dense forests are home to the endangered brown bear, the lynx, the Roe Deer and the Wild Goat.

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