Although Greece is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, there are still some unknown facts about the country that can blow your mind. Here are a few of them:
1. The official name of Greece is the Hellenic Republic. It has been the official name of the country since the abolition of the monarchy in 1973. Greeks refer to themselves as Hellenes and to their country as Hellas. The name Greece is of Roman origin because, according to the theory, when the Romans conquered Greece the first people they met were the western Greek tribe of Graeci.
2. The contemporary idea of Santa Claus developed from the 4th-century Greek Saint Nicholas who was a bishop of Myra (nowadays Demre, Turkey) famous for his secret gift-giving.
3. Retirement homes are not common in Greece since grandparents normally live with their children.
4. Only about 170 out of the more than 2,000 Greek islands are inhabited.
Donousa Island in the Cyclades, Greece, has a population of only 167 people (2011)
5. Name days are big celebrations in Greece, sometimes even bigger than birthdays. A name day is the day dedicated to the saint one is named after. Since the Greek Orthodox Church has dedicated every day of the year to the memory of one (or sometimes more) saint, almost every day in Greece is cause for celebration.
6. Greek is the oldest written language that is still in existence.
7. The first nude scene in European cinema history was in the Greek movie Daphnis and Chloe in 1931. The movie is based on the work of the Greek novelist Longus, who lived in the 2nd century AD.
8. There are olive trees in Greece that date back to the 13th century and are still producing olives. Greece is the third most prolific olive exporter in the world, and olive trees are an inseparable part of its culture – from the symbolism they had in ancient Greece (winners at the Olympic games were crowned with olive branches) to their big role in Greek cuisine.
9. Tourists in Greece (more than 20 million yearly) outnumber the country’s population (approximately 11 million) by almost double. Tourism plays a big part in the Greek economy and contributes about 20% of its GDP.
10. There are more than 10,000 traditional Greek dances coming from the different regions of Greece.
11. Greece is one of the sunniest countries in the world. There are normally more than 250 sunny days in the year.
12. Greece is the country with the most archaeological museums in the world – over 100. Some of the ‘must-visits’ are the Acropolis Museum, the National Archaeological Museum and the Archaeological Museum of Delphi.
National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece
13. The Greeks revolutionized the art of sculpture. Greek artists were the first to begin creating statues that showed movement and emotions.
14. The turquoise blue of many Greek roofs, doors, and church domes – especially on the Cyclades Islands – is believed to keep evil spirits away.
15. According to Greeks, if you sneeze it means that someone is talking about you. You can actually work out who it is by asking someone to tell you a three-digit number. Add each one together and count down the alphabet. The letter on which that number falls is the initial of that person’s first name. By whispering skordo (which means ‘garlic’) you can ensure that they only say good things.
16. The saying “taking the bull by its horns” comes from the Greek mythical figure of Hercules, who saved Crete from a raging bull by seizing its horns.
17. In Greece, it is considered an offense to wave your hand with the palm facing out.
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