Ancient Greeks considered themselves to be located at the centre of the world - and it’s not hard to see why. With Europe to the west, Asia to the east and Africa to the south, Greece occupies a position between continents which has made it an historical centre for the exchange of commodities, cultures and thought. Democracy was born on the warm coastlines of the Mediterranean and the many branches of what we now refer to as Western civilization trace their roots to classical Greece.
While the modern nation state of Greece (officially the Hellenic Republic) didn’t come into being until 1830 - the product of violent revolution which liberated the country from Ottoman rule - Greek identity can be traced back at least 2,800 years to the first Olympic Games and the epic poetry of Homer. A modern person moving to Greece then cannot help but be swept away by this grand sweep of history as they walk among ancient ruins, gaze upon magnificently preserved medieval palaces or decipher Roman graffiti (Greece has 18 UNESCO World Heritage sites).
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But enough about Greece’s past. In the 21st Century Greece is as exciting, important, vibrant, contradictory and beautiful as it has ever been. As the country in which the Eurozone crisis became most fully apparent, Greece is once again determining the the future of the entire Western world. Skirting disaster in 2010-11, the collapse of the Greek banks led to bailouts and the imposition of harsh austerity measures under the orders of the EU, ECB and IMF. As unemployment rocketed to nearly 30 per cent the country looked to be falling into social chaos and the arms of racist far right parties. A corner was turned in 2012 though, when a broad coalition of leftist parties was elected to become the main opposition in the Greek parliament, lending the nation a renewed sense of hope and optimism. This new political movement, known as SYRIZA has since come first in the European parliamentary elections of 2014.
All this upheaval means that moving to Greece is a very different prospect depending on your personal circumstances. While those moving in search of a job will probably struggle among so much unemployment, retirees looking for a home in the sun could well be the beneficiaries of bargain basement property prices and a low cost of living.
Politics (a Greek word) may be near the top of the agenda at any Greek dinner table but to characterise the whole nation together would do its great diversity a huge disservice. A land of polar opposites, life in the bustling Greek cities of Athens and Thessaloniki, both large financial centres, is very different to that on the farms of the Peloponnese where cotton, olives, rice and pistachios are grown. Likewise, life in the modern towns of the mainland is very different to that found in the villages of the South Aegean islands where cerulean seas lap the shores of the Cyclades and Dodecanese.
But wherever you decide to settle down in Greece you can be assured of this: the summers will be hot, the winters mild, the food delicious and the welcome warm.