12 Exciting Facts About Greece

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Beautiful island of Santorini in Greece during the summer

If you’re interested in undertaking an Erasmus+ or Turing Scheme internship in Greece, don’t miss out reading up on our most interesting Greek facts!

The Olympic Games Come from Greece 

The Olympic Games is the most important sporting event in the world, but a lot of people don’t know is that the Olympic Games were invented by the ancient Greeks. In the 2nd millennium BC, more than 4,000 years ago, the ancient Greeks organised the first Olympic Games in Olympia, the place where, according to Greek mythology, the 12 Greek Gods resided. The games were held primarily in honour of Zeus, the father of the gods, but also in honour of King Pelops, the namesake of the Peloponnese peninsula. The Olympic Games was banned as a pagan ceremony in the 4th century AD, during the Roman Empire. The first Olympic Games of modern times did not take place again until 1896 in Greece (Athens).


Greece has Thousands of Islands 

With an area of 131,957 km², Greece is a relatively small country, but with approximately 6,000 islands, it is one of the countries with the most islands in the world! The number of Greek islands is overwhelming, but only about 220 of these islands are actually habitable. A large part of the Greek island world consists of small islets, islands and above all of rocky islands, which are rugged and barren and therefore not suitable to live on. Nevertheless, many of the islands of Greece, such as Santorini or Mykonos, are among the most beautiful islands in the world. Here’s an interesting fact, the Greek Island of Crete is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean.


One of the Sunniest Countries in Europe

Greece is often referred to as a sunny country, but the term seems almost an understatement when the fact is, Greece is indeed one of the sunniest countries in Europe. Compared to countries such as Germany or England, Greece has far more sunny days a year! Take Athens for example, the capital of Greece (and where the world-famous Acropolis of Athens is also located). There are around 348 sunny days a year – that’s 2,800 hours of sunshine!


Name Days are Often Celebrated More Than Birthdays 

When telephones in Greece run hot or visitors come unannounced to the house to convey their congratulations, then the occasion is often not a birthday, but a name day. The reason why Greece has name days is that it’s a Christian country and, around 97% of the population follow the Greek Orthodox religion. As most of the names of the Greek population can be traced back to Christian saints and martyrs it’s the dates of these saints and martyrs’ deaths that are celebrated as commemorative days. So, everyone who bears the name of a corresponding saint is celebrated at the same time.


Athens is the Oldest City in Europe

Athens is the capital of Greece and the cultural centre of the country. The city contains cultural and historically significant legacies of Greek antiquities. For example, the world-famous Acropolis of Athens or the Olympian, the temple of Zeus. The history of Athens goes far back into the past and is why it has the title of the oldest city in Europe that’s still home to people. For over 7,000 years, the city has been populated, with the first human traces reaching back to the Neolithic age (11th to 7th millennium BC). To be fair, there are different opinions, because the Greek city of Argos could also be the oldest city in Europe that’s still home to many people. Just as with Athens, the city of Argos, on the Greek peninsula Peloponnese, has been home to people for more than 7,000 years.


Expulsion of Evil Spirits by the Colour Blue

Who isn’t familiar with the incomparably beautiful blue domes of Greek churches on the world-famous island of Santorini? They are depicted on countless postcards and immediately connected with the sweet life and the Mediterranean lightness of Greece. The turquoise blue colour is famous in so many parts of Greece, especially on the island of the Cyclades. You’ll find doors, shutters, domes or pieces of furniture, such as chairs, all in turquoise but there’s a reason for this. What might seem to many tourists as a beautiful decoration, plays a completely different role for many Greeks. The colour turquoise-blue (Greek: κυανό kyano comes the colour cyan) according to old legends, drives out evil spirits. Thus, the colour blue fulfils several purposes. On the one hand, it keeps the houses free of evil spirits and on the other hand, it provides this unmistakable colour that is associated with a holiday in Greece.


Only Men are Allowed to Enter the Holy Mount Athos

Mount Athos is located on the easternmost (the third finger) of the Halkidiki peninsula and is an independent monastic republic under Greek sovereignty. 20 of the large monasteries of the Monastic Republic of Athos have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. A special feature of Athos is the fact that access is granted only to men. Women are not allowed to enter the monastic republic.


There are More Than 4,000 Traditional Dances in Greece

The Greeks have rhythm in their blood and love to dance at every opportunity that presents itself. Dancing is an integral part of Greek culture and there are hardly any occasions when the Greeks do not dance. The number of traditional dances seems to know no bounds, because there are about 4,000 different dances in Greece, and these are only the officially known dances. Every region of Greece has a very peculiar dance culture, in which regional traditions are reflected. Whether at weddings, baptisms, birthdays, name days or other occasions, the Greeks always find a reason to swing their dancing legs!


When a Greek Spits at You, It's a Well-Intentioned Gesture

Many Greeks, young as well as old, sometimes "spit" at other people. This isn’t really spitting in the literal sense, but a kind of blowing, but what is the point and background to spitting? Well, many Greeks believe that "spitting" drives out the devil and evil spirits.   When a Greek person has terrifying news – they’ll spit to keep the evil away from themselves! Take it as a compliment, for example, Greeks often spit when they see a beautiful adult or baby – it keeps them safe from having their beauty stolen away! So, don’t worry if a Greek person spits at your child – take it as a compliment!


The Egyptian Queen Cleopatra was Greek

Hand on heart, who knew Queen Cleopatra was Greek? Cleopatra belonged to the Greek ruling dynasty of the Ptolemaic dynasty and ruled from 51 to 30 BC as the last queen of the Egyptian Ptolemaic Empire and at the same time as the last female pharaoh. Cleopatra VII Philopator (Greek: Κλεοπάτρα Θεά Φιλοπάτωρ, which translates as "Loving her fatherland"), united with two of the most powerful men of that time, the Roman rulers Gaius Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. She fathered children with them and helped her own empire to great influence, until the empire and her reign came to an end with the later emperor Augustus and Egypt became a Roman province.


You Can Ski in Greece

Without a doubt, Greece is a true holiday paradise, the Greek Gods gave it plenty of sun! Who doesn’t think of sun, sea and sand when talking about Greece? Or goes crazy for the mountain ranges and landscapes – perfect for hikers? Greece is also paradise for winter sports enthusiasts. There are about 21 winter sports areas in Greece, the largest of which, with a slope length of about 36 km, is located on the legendary Parnassian Mountain. The Parnassian Mountain massif is located in central Greece and has a height of 2,455 meters. At the foot of the mountain is the ancient Delphi, one of the most important places of Greek antiquity and at the same time one of the most famous sights of Greece.


Greece is Not the Official Name of The Country 

The official name of Greece is Hellenic Republic or Hellas or Ellada for short (Greek: Ελλάς, Ellas). The name "Griechenland" prevailed in German or e.g. "Greece" in the English language is down to the ancient Romans.

Perhaps you cannot wait to read more about your upcoming Erasmus+ or Turing Scheme internship in Greece? Then do see these blog articles:


Are you inspired to apply for an internship in Greece? Don’t hesitate to contact us, to get help with funding for your Erasmus+ or Turing Scheme internship in Greece.

Do you need more information on Erasmus+ application? Then we have lots of information for you in our guide: Guide for Erasmus+ Funding Applicants or our Handbook for Erasmus+ Project Management & Execution.