The harsh and sunny land of the gods
Heir to an extraordinary territory and past, but not very suited to the needs of modernity, Greece is managing to bridge the gap that had separated it from Europe. The long interlude of centuries of foreign domination and social immobility did not deprive the Greeks of resourcefulness and versatility: the ancient culture still bears fruit
Mountains intertwined with the sea
The Greek territory occupies the extremity – mountainous and articulated – of the Balkan Peninsula and almost 500 islands: the largest are Crete, Euboea, Lesbos, Rhodes, Kefalonia, Chios; these islands form archipelagos (Ionian Islands, Sporades, Cyclades, Dodecanese), dense mainly in the southern Aegean.
The mainland is a set of peninsulas. From the main one, which has often compact, low and sandy coasts, Chalkidiki branches off to the northeast, resembling a fork, with three narrow and long minor peninsulas. Behind it, a strip of territory along the Rhodope Mountains (Thrace) reaches the border with Turkey. To the south, the long and narrow Gulf of Corinth almost completely separates, except for a very short isthmus (cut by a canal), the Peloponnese, shaped like a hand with four fingers.
The main mountain range is that of the Pindus, imposing, which goes as far as the Peloponnese and with minor ranges towards the Aegean and Attica. The highest Greek peak is Olympus, the mountain of the gods (2,917 m), but also in the islands there are high mountains, especially in Crete (2,454 m).
Along the coasts are the plains: the plain of Thessaly, that of the Vardar river – in Greece called Axios – and that of Acarnania, once marshy, on the Ionian side.
Geologically young, affected by earthquakes and volcanoes, Greece is largely made up of limestone: extensive are the karst phenomena, scarce surface waters and short rivers. The climate, Mediterranean except in the North (continental), and deforestation have produced a strong erosion, so much so that for the most part Greece appears rocky and almost bare of vegetation, especially in the islands.
An ancient and modern country
Perhaps in ancient times the territory of Greece was more generous: but certainly its population remained scarce for centuries. From independence (1830) to today, on the other hand, despite intense emigration, the population has multiplied tenfold, thanks to the sharp increase in maritime traffic and modernization, concentrating in the capital region – today Greater Athens it hosts more than a third of all Greeks – and maintaining a strong cultural compactness. With little productive agriculture (oil, grapes, tobacco) and insufficient, scarce useful minerals, small and not very advanced industries, the Greek economy has its strength in the great commercial tradition, in the third merchant fleet in the world, in remittances. of emigrants and the 14 million tourists who visit the archaeological areas every year and invade beaches and islands.
After the entry into the European Union and the adoption of the euro, a new push towards modernization has hit the country, also thanks to the many works carried out for the 2004 Olympics. Thus, alongside rural and maritime Greece – extraordinarily beautiful – and to that of the great monuments (Athens, Olympia, Mycenae, Knossos…), a more modern Greece is catching up with Europe: living conditions have improved, wealth has increased. And most important of all, Greece and its people remained peaceful and hospitable.