Top 10 AMAZING Facts About GREECE
We dine on its food and enjoy their festivals, but what do we really know about the beautiful, European country of Greece? For this Installment, journey with us as we traverse the lands of the Greek, and dig into 10 Amazing Facts About Greece!
The Olympic Games
The Olympic Games as we know them today aren’t just some marvel of modern sports. They’re a call-back to an ancient tradition started in 776 BC. Held in the honor of Zeus, to whom 100 oxen were sacrificed during each festival, the Greeks rooted the games in their own mythology, attributing their creation to beings of their own lore. One account, recounted by historian Pausanias, tells of a race held in Olympia between Herakles, Paeonaeus, Epimedes, Iasius and Idas to entertain a newborn Zeus. Whether in mythology or real-world roots, the games were a massive celebration warranting an “Olympic Truce” among the city-states and other countries so that athletes could travel to the games safely. Despite the religious overtones, the Olympics were also manipulated by politics, with city-states using them to show dominance over rivals.
Records Held by the Greek
Greece is the proud holder of the world’s largest olive oil production… Okay, maybe not quite the kind of “World Record” you expected to hear, but Greece has laid claim to a fair share of records over time. Greek ultramarathon runner Yiannis Kouros, or the “Running God,” has held 11 different records for distance and timed races, including running 1,000 miles or 1,609 kilometers in under 11 days. In 2011, Kostas Karipidis and his team broke three records, including most cuts with a “katana” sword against stable objects within one minute. And finally, the world's largest lollipop, which weighed in at 3,600 kilograms, beating out the previous record of 3,200 kilograms by the United States.
Despite the abundance of mythology that’s out there, there’s one that always seems to pop up and remains one of the more popular sources of fantastical stories. With no singular text to refer back to like an Ancient Greek bible, much of the broad mythology is believed to stem from oral traditions – like wondrous bedtime stories of gods, goddesses, the Underworld, heroes, monsters, and battles of will and strength. Names like Gaia, Homer, Zeus, Hercules, Aphrodite, Poseidon, Hades, Ares, Chaos and Mount Olympus speckle Greek Mythology, framing the creation of man, epic journeys and incredible stories that make Hollywood writers blush. For monster lovers, Greek mythology is filled with abominations like the Centaur, Polyphemus, Sirens, Cerberus, Medusa, Cyclops, harpies, hydras and nemean lions.
Beautiful expanses of land and crisp coastal waters make a great home for plenty of wildlife, from about 90 different species of mammals to over 240 different types of birds and 107 kinds of fish. You’ll get to observe 235 species of butterfly, reptiles like the Milos Viper, the Peloponnese Wall Lizard, Greek tortoise, and fire salamander. Making up the large number of land mammals include the particoloured bat, gray wolf, fallow deer and golden jackal. While the Striped dolphin, false killer whale, beluga, North Atlantic right whale and the humpback whale will appease any seafaring tourists. Greece’s mass of mammals is slowly dwindling, though, with 15 species ranging from near-threatened to critically endangered.
We have a lot to thank Greece for besides laying the building blocks for modern philosophies. When you have no excuse for being late to work, you can thank Plato for inventing the first clock attached to an alarm device. Greek’s have also been attributed to the very first construction crane, the steam engine, levers, catapults, central heating, and the water mill. You can also thank Greece for early geometry, advancement in disease studies, and, as we’ll discuss soon, the Olympic Games!
Great Greek Philosophers
We just mentioned names like Homer, Aristotle, Socrates and Plato, some of Ancient Greece’s most well know philosophers, but the early years of this European country had more than just a handful of philosophers spewing wise anecdotes about life and the world. From as early as the 6th century BC, Greek philosophy - including Pre-Socratic, Classical, Hellenistic, and Imperial - dealt with topics that few considered touching on, including metaphysics, biology, rhetoric, aesthetics, and political philosophy. If you’re looking to catch up on your ancient Greek philosophy, you’ll want to pay attention to Democritus, Heraclitus, Epicurus, Zeno of Elea, Solon, Hypatia, and Glaucon. Some philosophies you may recognize include the Atomism, or the development of the atomic theory; Pythagoreanism; and the concepts of logic, materialism, and skepticism.
The Greeks line-up of notable folk begins long before any of us were around. We’re talking about when wise words were scribbled on tablets and not on Facebook walls; the age of Homer, Aristotle, Plato, Pericles, Plutarch, Euripides and Socrates. Creeping through history, other Greek natives include singer Nana Mouskouri; Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip; musician Tommy Lee; composer and pianist Giannis Chrysomallis, better known as Yanni; football players Georgios Samaras, Giorgos Karagounis, and Konstantinos Mitroglou; Queen Sofia of Spain; and Arianna Huffington, the author behind one of the internet’s largest news platforms, The Huffington Post. If you're looking to check out big YouTubers from Greece, be sure to check out the likes of ComedyLab GR, firekreve2J, and BrutalBass!
Tourist Spots in Greece
A place known to be beautiful is bound to have plenty for tourists to enjoy, right? Greece has so many places you’ll want to see that listing all would take some time, but to list the most notable; Parthenon, Acropolis of Athens, Colossus of Rhodes, Heraklion Archaeological Museum, National Garden of Athens, Myrtos Beach, Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Byzantine & Christian Museum, Arch of Hadrian, Mount Pantokrator, Zappeion, and Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes are all great places to start. That may have been a mouthful… but we barely scratched the surface.
Do you enjoy the look of that sleek white marble that adorns most high-end hotel room bathrooms? Yeah… we’re sure we would too… but more important than our lack of luxury accommodations is where this marble comes from. Annually, Greek exports approximately 830,000 tons of marble, falling behind only Turkey, Italy, and Spain. Additional to marble, Greece is known for its olive and natural sea sponge exports. According to the OEC, in 2014, Greece exported an estimated $33.2 Billion, with refined petroleum making up 32% of that. Among other notable exports include non-fillet fresh fish, cheese, aluminium, pure olive oil and Grapes, which combined, makeup about 7% of their exports.
There’s nothing like a freshly put together gyro complete with seasoned sliced lamb topped with a delectable tzatziki sauce to make us feel like we’ve made the journey overseas to Greece… the softness of the pita, the crunch of the greens... <fantasizing pause> (JIM!) Oh, sorry... Greek cuisine is more than just gyros, of course! There’s the sweet treat of baklava, creamy and crumbly feta cheese, flaky filo dough, and an abundance of grape leaves. Common dishes hailing from Greece also include ba kali aros, Faso Lada, spanakopita, karydopita and strapatsada. Looking for something to wash your meal down? Try alcoholic beverages like tsipouro, Tentura, and Mastika. Although originally Turkish in origin, the Greek Coffee - Elliniko Cafe, is the most treasured brew among the Greek people.