The Most Beautiful Greek Churches and Monasteries | Byzantine Churches to Visit in Greece and More

A list of the most beautiful Greek churches and monasteries in Athens, the Greek countryside, and the Greek islands. Ten religious sites and Greek Orthodox shrines you should visit in Greece.

With a history that spans thousands of years, the Hellenic Republic of Greece has countless places of worship from its ancient and medieval past. In a previous video, we saw the most important ancient Greek archaeological places.

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Today, we see the most beautiful Christian Orthodox Churches and Monasteries in Greece. Some of them were built during the years of the Byzantine Empire and are of historical, architectural, and religious significance. They are worth a visit, whether you are religious or not. Here is a list of the ten most beautiful Byzantine churches, Greek Orthodox churches, and historic monasteries in Greece.

Top 10 Churches and Monasteries in Greece:

  1. Athonite Monasteries of Greece’s Hagion Oros (Holy Mountain).
  2. Monasteries of Meteora in Kalabaka.
  3. Our Lady of Tinos Church in Tinos Island.
  4. Church of St. George at the Old Fortress of Corfu.
  5. Panagia Ekatontapiliani in Paros Island.
  6. Panagia Kapnikarea in Athens.
  7. Church of Hagios Ioannis in Skopelos.
  8. Church of the Holy Apostles in Athens.
  9. Monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa in Amorgos.
  10. Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens.

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#10 Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens

In Greek it is called “Καθεδρικός Ναός Ευαγγελισμού της Θεοτόκου”. The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Annunciation of Mary, or simply the “Metropolis” of Athens, is the church of the Archbishopric of all Greece. Designed by three architects and built for over 20 years, the Cathedral opened its doors in 1862 AD. Inside there are the tombs of two Saints killed by the Ottoman Turks (Saint Philothei and Patriarch Gregory V). The Metropolis of Athens is an important Athenian landmark. You can easily visit the impressive domed basilica from Syntagma or Monastiraki squares, since it is located at the heart of Athens.

#9 Panagia Hozoviotissa in Amorgos

There are many serene and beautifully built monasteries across Greece. The Monastery of Hozoviotissa in Amorgos island, however, stands out. The Hozoviotissa Monastery was built in 1017 AD, making it one of the oldest monasteries in Greece. Dedicated to the Grace of Panagia, the Virgin Mary, who is the patron Saint of Amorgos, it houses the icon of Panagia. The latter is carried around the island during the annual religious festivities. The beautiful monastery seems as though it is hanging from a cliff, just 300 meters above the sea.  

#8 Church of the Holy Apostles in Athens

Dated around the 10th Century AD and located close to the Acropolis of Athens, the Byzantine Church of the Holy Apostles is an underrated Athenian landmark. The building marks the beginning of the so-called “Athenian Architectural Style” for Christian Orthodox Churches. The Holy Apostles Church is a beautiful and serene site of religious significance at the heart of the Hellenic capital.

#7 Church of Hagios Ioannis in Skopelos

You may be familiar with this church from the movie “Mama Mia”. The tiny, picturesque Hagios Ioannis Church in Skopelos island is located on top of a rocky hill, which, according to speculations, was used as an observatory for potential attacks from pirates. But there is not enough information regarding its construction date. If you are planning on visiting this church, be prepared. There are 110 steps carved into the stone that leads to the Church of Hagios Ioannis.

#6 Panagia Kapnikarea in Athens

If you have ever visited Athens, then you might have passed by the Panagia Kapnikarea Church without even noticing it. That is because the church is located on Ermou Street, the capital’s main shopping street. The Greek Orthodox Church is one of the oldest in Athens. It is estimated that it was built around 1050 AD over an ancient pagan temple. It is speculated that the Church was originally the “katholikon” (main temple) of a monastery.

#5 Panagia Ekatontapiliani in Paros

If you have watched Helinika’s video dedicated to Medieval legends from Greece, then you might remember the Church of Panagia Ekatontapiliani in Paros island. The historic Byzantine church complex dates back to 326 AD. It is said that it was founded by Saint Helen, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. The beautiful religious site is connected with a miraculous phenomenon that takes place every year on the 15th of August. Several tiny, harmless snakes leave the island’s fields and travel to the Church. You can watch Helinika’s dedicated video to learn more about this phenomenon.

#4 Church of St. George at the Old Fortress of Corfu

The Church of St. George at the Old Fortress of the island of Corfu is perhaps the most unique looking Greek Orthodox Church in Greece and in the world. Built in 1840 AD, it used to be an Anglican Church for the British soldiers residing on the island. As you can see, the Christian Church resembles an ancient Greek temple, featuring a set of Doric columns.

#3 Our Lady of Tinos Church in Tinos

The Major Marian Shrine of Greece is Our Lady of Tinos Church in the port town (Chora) of Tinos island. As the name suggests, it is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and Mother of Christ. In Greek, it is known as “Panagia Evangelistria”. The complex was built in 1826 around a miraculous icon which, according to tradition, its location was revealed to a local nun. It is worth mentioning that the island is a major pilgrimage center for Orthodox Christians around the world.

#2 Monasteries of Meteora in Kalabaka

Meteora are some rock formations in Central Greece, close to the town of Kalabaka. The rocks house some of the most beautiful monasteries in Greece; six of them are literally built on the natural pillars of Meteora. The area is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List and it is visited by many travelers every year. The Greek Orthodox Monasteries of Meteora are the second most important after the Monasteries of Mount Athos.

#1 Monasteries of Mount Athos

The Monasteries of Mount Athos, known as “Athonite Monasteries”. The 20 Monasteries and surrounding settlements are built on the Holy Mountain of Greece, Hagion Oros or Mount Athos, in Chalkidiki Peninsula in Northern Greece. To be more precise, the Byzantine Monasteries belong to the religious enclave of the Monastic Republic of Mount Athos. Women are not allowed to enter the enclave. However, if you can visit the Monasteries, it will be a life-changing experience. Dating back to 800 AD, Mount Athos has been listed as a World Heritage Site since 1988.

If you enjoyed the article and the video, feel free to like, share, and comment. On Helinika’s website and YouTube channel, you will find free content related to the Greek language, history, and culture.

Top 10 Museums in Athens, Greece – Best Museums in Athens (Athenian Museums)

Athens, the capital of the Hellenic Republic of Greece, has countless museums and archaeological sites for locals and visitors. Here is a list of the best museums you can visit during your stay at the Greek capital.

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Top 10 Museums in Athens, Greece

  1. National Archaeological Museum
  2. Benaki Museum (Kolonaki)
  3. Acropolis Museum
  4. Byzantine and Christian Museum
  5. Museum of Cycladic Art
  6. Athens War Museum
  7. Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum
  8. National Museum of Contemporary Art
  9. Hellenic Children’s Museum
  10. Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos

Kerameikos Museum of Athens

The Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos is located at the Kerameikos Archaeological Park, in the heart of Athens.Kerameikos was ancient Athens’ “necropolis”; its graveyard. Built in 1937, it gives us a clear picture of how ancient Athenians viewed death and the afterlife. You will also find some unexpected artifacts, such as various curses people sent to the chthonic gods via the dead. The Museum is within walking distance from “Kerameikos” and “Thisseio” metro stations.

Hellenic Children’s Museum

If you are travelling to Athens with children, you can pay a visit at the Hellenic Children’s Museum in Kolonaki area, close to Evaggelismos metro station. Founded in 1994 in Plaka, before relocating to Kolonaki, the Museum aims at motivating children to learn by exploring its various exhibitions and by interacting with them. Children learn to love visiting Museums by being introduced to a space that is tailored-made for their needs.

National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST)

Located in close proximity to Syggrou Metro Station, not too far from the city center, EMST holds various contemporary art exhibitions and events. Its permanent collection includes 172 artworks created by 78 Greek and foreign artists. The Museum is permanently located at the legendary Fix brewery that gave its name to the neighborhood.

Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum (ILJM)

The first museum devoted to the craft of jewelry in Greece is located at the historical heart of Athens, few minutes away from the Acropolis metro station. The Museum has a permanent jewelry collection and it also holds temporary exhibitions. It hosts many activities, such as live studio workshops.

Athens War Museum

Wishing to honor all those who fought for Greece and its freedom, the Hellenic state founded the War Museum in Athens, Greece. If interesting and unique weapon artifacts and history are two things that interest you, you can visit this military museum in Kolonaki neighborhood, few steps away from Evaggelismos metro station.

Museum of Cycladic Art

In 1986, the Museum of Cycladic Art was founded to house the collection of Cycladic and other ancient Greek art belonging to Goulandris family. This wonderful museum is located in Kolonaki neighborhood as well, between Syntagma and Evaggelismos metro stations.

Byzantine and Christian Museum

Although many people are interested in Greece’s ancient past, many more overlook its medieval past. The Byzantine and Christian Museum houses more than 25.000 rare pictures, scriptures, frescos and other unique exhibits that are related to Greek Orthodox Christianity and the Byzantine Art. The Byntanine and Christian Museum is situated in close proximity to many other previously mentioned museums, few steps away from Evaggelismos metro station.

The Acropolis Museum of Athens

Established in 2009, the Acropolis Museum is dedicated to the archaeological findings of the Acropolis Hill: Greece’s sacred rock, where the Parthenon and other ancient temples are located. The Museum has a modern design which compliments, rather than contrasts, the classical architectural miracles made of marble. Built under the shadow of the Acropolis hill, the Museum can be reached on foot from the Acropolis metro station.

Benaki Museum (Kolonaki, Athens)

If you are interested in seeing the evolution of the Greek culture over the span of thousands of years, you should visit Benaki Museum. Its unique exhibition showcases the Greek culture from prehistory to the 20th century.The Museum of Greek Culture is located in Kolonaki, in close proximity to Evaggelismos metro station.

National Archaeological Museum of Athens

The Greek National Archaeological Museum houses some of the most important archaeological artifacts of Greece from prehistoric times till late antiquity. It is perhaps the biggest Museum of Athens and might require a bit more time than the Acropolis Museum. On the other hand, it has the richest collection of ancient Greek artifacts and it is considered one of the greatest Museums in the world. The National Archaeological Museum of Athens is located close to Victoria and Omonoia metro stations.

Top 10 Foods to Try in Greece | Greek Dishes You MUST Try

Greek food and Greek cuisine are popular around the world. As we have covered in a previous post, sometimes Greek cuisine is considered part of Mediterranean cuisine – based on fish, vegetables, and legumes. Other times, usually outside of Europe, it is considered part of Middle Eastern cuisine – incorporating many spices and red meat into its dishes.

This might be due to Greece’s geographic location – at the borders of Europe with Asia Minor – and its long history. The European country has indeed many dishes that can be described as “Mediterranean”, such as the Greek salad and the so-called fava spread. But there are also some dishes that can be described as “Middle Eastern”, such as moussaka. This also depends on the part of Greece you are visiting.

If you visit a Cycladic island that wasn’t colonized by the Ottomans, you will find more food options that fall under the “Mediterranean Cuisine” category. On the other hand, traditional dishes in Central and Northern Greece might include minced meat and red tomato sauce with lots of spices. Here is a list of 10 Greek dishes and food items you should try at least once when visiting Greece!

Top Ten Greek Dishes | Greek Food You Must Try

  1. Greek Salad (Choriatiki)
  2. Souvlaki or Gyros me Pita
  3. Fresh Grilled Fish (Big) or Fried Fish (Small)
  4. Traditional Filo Pie (Pita)
  5. Zucchini “Fries” or Zucchini “Balls” (Kolokythakia Tiganita, Kolokythokeftedes)
  6. Horta (Boiled Leafy Greens)
  7. Sweet and Savory Pastries (Kalitsounia, Baked honey feta…)
  8. Meze Food (Dolmadakia, Oysters…)
  9. Mageireuta (Moussaka, Gemista…)
  10. Traditional Spread on Bread (Tzatziki, Taramas, Fava…)

Traditional Spread on Bread

Instead of ordering a dish per person, Greek people prefer ordering a bunch of dishes and place them at the center of the table. They then pick small portions from each dish and transfer them on their empty plates. Just like a family does at home. Usually, a table is not complete without some freshly baked bread with a traditional homemade dip or spread.

The most popular Greek spread is tzatziki: a condiment consisting of Greek yoghurt, dried pieces of cucumber, minced garlic, olive oil, and vinegar or lemon juice. Other Greek spreads and dips are fava, which is made of split peas and onions, and taramosalata, which is made of fish eggs (tarama) and can be either pale yellow or pale pink in color (avoid bright pink tarama, since it is probably not homemade). Some of these spreads and dips can be found in neighboring countries as well.

Where you’ll find them: Greek dips and spreads are offered in most Greek tavernas and casual restaurants, along with delicious slices of bread or pita bread. Some restaurants might offer a wider variety of spreads, including melitzanosalata (an eggplant-based dip) and htypiti (a feta and vegetable based dip).

Mageireuta: Moussaka, Papoutsakia, Pastitsio, Gemista and More

Some of the most popular Greek dishes are called “mama’s food” or “mageireuta”. Mageireuta translates to “cooked”. These dishes are usually prepared slow-cooked in a pot on the stove or slow-roasted in the oven. Onions, garlic, and tomato sauce are three essential ingredients. Perhaps, the most popular “mageireuta” are moussaka, an eggplant, potato, and minced meat dish, and “papoutsakia” (translates to “little shoes”), a “lighter” version of moussaka. These dishes can also be found in many Eastern Mediterranean countries. There is also the Greek version of lasagna, which is called “pastitsio”.

Since they are served hot and contain lots of spices, mageireuta are usually consumed during the winter months. You don’t want to eat a big portion of moussaka, papoutsakia, or pastitsio during a heat wave. But there are, however, a few mageireuta that are mostly popular in the summer. These are “gemista” (stuffed vegetables) and “fasolakia kokkinista” (green beans in tomato sauce). These dishes are always served with a generous piece of feta cheese.

Where you’ll find them: Some of the most popular mageireuta, such as moussaka, can be found in generic Greek restaurants that you usually see in close proximity to metro stations, tourist attractions, and ports, or even outside of Greece. But it is recommended to try these dishes in tavernas and restaurants that specialize in these types of dishes. If the restaurant you are dining at doesn’t have a wide selection of mageireuta, you might end up tasting a piece of low-quality moussaka that was stored in the freezer and then reheated.

Meze Food (Greek Version of Tapas)

If you have ever visited an “ouzeri” or “tsipouradiko”, places where they serve ouzo and tsipouro respectively, then you might already know “meze” or “mezedes”: small plates with various delicacies.

To begin with, ouzo and tsipouro are both Greek alcoholic drinks that include various herbs, such as anise. They have been consumed for hundreds of years in Greece and they are now a popular summer drink. Greeks usually drink ouzo or tsipouro at an “ouzeri” or “tsipouradiko” and preferably by the sea.

If you want to drink ouzo or tsipouro like a local, you need a tall glass full of ice cubes. You then add a little bit of the spirit and, depending on your mood, you can also pour cold water. In some parts of Greece, people often add sour cherry juice to their glass of tsipouro.  

Ouzo and tsipouro are usually combined with meze food. Small cold and hot dishes, such as fried calamari, tzatziki, zucchini balls, oysters… anything that is available on that day. Keep in mind that many main and side dishes are served as meze – just in a smaller portion! In some parts of the country, such as Volos and Pelion, meze is often offered for free to anyone ordering tsipouro.

Where you’ll find them: Almost every Greek city, town, island, and village has at least an ouzeri or tsipouradiko. You can find meze food in these places, along with some traditional coffee shops known as “kafeneio”. Some tavernas also serve meze. It is less likely to find small dishes like these in fancy restaurants.

Sweet and Savory Pastries

Since you will be tasting Greek pitas, you should also try the lesser known sweet and savory pastries that are served as desserts. They are usually filled with cheese, such as feta, and then covered in honey and sometimes thyme and sesame.

The most popular sweet and savory pastry is “kalitsounia”. Kalitsounia are small cheese and herb snacks from the island of Crete. They are usually filled in with mizithra, cinnamon, lemon zest, and then covered in honey. In other parts of Greece, it is common to eat baked feta with honey and thyme.

Where you’ll find them: You will find these pastries in most Greek bakeries (fournos) and in some Greek restaurants and tavernas. Kalitsounia are eaten widely in Crete, whereas baked feta with honey and thyme is a popular desert in the Cyclades and other parts of Greece.

Horta (Boiled Leafy Green)

A lesser known but delicious Greek side dish in the summer is “horta”. Horta are wild greens such as wild amaranth, wild radish, prickly goldenfleece, duckweed and more. Greeks wash them carefully, boil them, and add olive oil, lemon, and salt.

Horta is a dish that few people who visit Greece try. However, it is a must! Fresh, healthy, and delicious. An authentic Greek dish that you should try at least once during your stay in Greece.

Where you’ll find them:  Most Greek tavernas offer Horta, depending on the season. Keep in mind that this is a dish that is rarely offered in Greek restaurants abroad.

Zucchini “Fries” and Zucchini “Balls”

Zucchini is a common ingredient in various Greek recipes. In the summer, it is common to deep-fry zucchini slices that may or may not be coated with flour. This crunchy side dish is known as “kolokythakia tiganita” and it is a common alternative to potato fries. Locals usually eat them dipped into a yoghurt-based Greek spread, such as tzatziki.

Another popular zucchini-based dish is “kolokythokeftedes” (zucchini balls or zucchini fritters). Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, kolokythokeftedes is a popular Greek main, side, or meze dish.

Where you’ll find them: Kolokythokeftedes and kolokythakia tiganita are served in most tavernas and Greek restaurants.

Greek Pies (Pitas)

You may have already heard about spanakopita – the traditional Greek spinach and feta cheese pie. But Greece is known for its great variety of pitas: sweet and savory pies with different fillings and types of dough.

Perhaps, the most popular type of dough is “filo” (also seen as phyllo). The word “filo” (φύλλο) means “leaf”. Pastries made with filo consist of multiple layers of dough that are as thin as a leaf. Other types of dough are: kourou and choriatiko.

When it comes to fillings, Greek pitas usually contain vegetables, such as spinach, zucchini, and leek. Adding white cheese, such as feta or manouri, is quite common. There is also “kotopita” and “kreatopita” – chicken and ground beef pies. In Northern Greece, people often eat “bougatsa”: a sweet custard pie with filo. Every place in Greece has its own type of pie with the Epirus region being the “pie capital of Greece”.

Where you ’ll find them: You will find such pies on every “fournos” (bakery) in Greece. A piece of savory pie is a popular breakfast snack in many parts of Greece. Some restaurants and tavernas also serve hand-made pies.

Fresh Fish from the Sea

Seafood is an important part of the Greek and Mediterranean diet. Eating fresh fish from the sea in one of Greece’s many fisherman villages, is a must.

It is common to eat large fish such as “lavraki” (European bass) and “tsipoura” (gilthead seabream), grilled with “avgolemono”: a sauce made with eggs and lemon. Smaller fish, such as “gavros” (anchovy), are usually fried.

Where you’ll find them: It is recommended to eat fish at a “psarotaverna” (fish tavern) or a fish restaurant in one of Greece’s countless fisherman villages and ports.

Souvlaki or Gyros me Pita

The most popular street food in Greece is souvlaki with pita bread. It is a type of sandwich consisting of meat, lettuce, fries, tzatziki, tomato, and onion – all wrapped in pita bread. You should try souvlaki at least once while traveling in Greece!

Keep in mind that this street food item has different names in northern and southern Greece. This might have to do with the type of meat that is added in the sandwich.

In Athens, it is common for the meat of the sandwich (usually pork or chicken) to be grilled horizontally on a skewer. Souvlaki means skewer in Greek – hence the name “souvlaki me pita”. Even if an Athenian asks for a souvlaki with a different type of meat, such as gyros or kebab, he or she will still ask for a… souvlaki. Souvlaki with gyros.

In Thessaloniki and other neighboring areas, people prefer adding gyros meat in their pita bread sandwich. Gyros are thin, flat slices of pork or chicken, stacked on a pit and seasoned. In the United States, lamb is a popular meat of choice, but this doesn’t apply to original Greek gyros. In Northern Greece, people don’t call this sandwich “souvlaki” but rather “gyros” or “pitogyro”.

Where you’ll find them: Souvlaki or gyros can be found in almost every neighborhood in Greece. You can order them from places called “souvlatzidika” or “gyradika”, depending on where you travel in Greece. It is a “casual” street food item and you wont find it in fancy Greek restaurants. Some restaurants do offer a “fancier” version of this dish. They call it “merida”. All the ingredients are served on a plate, rather than in a sandwich form.

Greek Salad (Choriatiki)

Although a salad, Choriatiki, known as “Greek Salad”, is a nutritious and delicious full meal. The salad doesn’t contain leafy greens but rather fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. Some Greeks add peppers and caper. Feta cheese or any other locally produced cheese, oregano, and extra virgin olive oil are a must.

Where you’ll find it: Most Greek tavernas and restaurants serve Choriatiki in its different variations.  

Have you tried any of these dishes before? Comment down below!

The Greek Secret to Happiness | Unravelling the Greek Way of Thinking

In the 1960s’ romantic comedy film “Never on Sunday”, an American classicist visits Greece to find the secret to happiness. Years earlier, the book “Zorba the Greek” follows a young intellectual to the island of Crete, where he tries to liberate himself from his bookish life. Greece and specifically the Greek countryside and the Greek islands, are often portrayed as the lost paradise; the eternal vacation destination where time moves slowly and everyone lives a happy, long life.

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The truth is that it is hard to pinpoint what happiness really is. Is it an abstract philosophical idea or a measurable variable? The Sustainable Development Solutions Network, supported by different foundations, publishes the “World Happiness Report”, which tries to measure happiness based on six key variables, including income and absence of corruption.

Greece is objectively in a negative position in both cases. But, throughout the years, even during the difficult financial period of 2010-2018, Greece – or at least the Greek countryside- has been perceived as a generally happy place. Is this based on a stereotypical portrayal of smiling Greeks breaking plates and dancing syrtaki on a postcard? Or are there more things to consider when talking about happiness?

A Stoic Perspective on Happiness

The Stoic philosophers have long been associated with holding the key to a happier life. They understood that happiness is a mental state and, therefore, external factors, such as money or government corruption, are irrelevant. In other words, it is not the things that happen to you or your circumstances that influence your mental well-being, but the way you perceive these events and circumstances.

As someone who grew up in Greece and was influenced by the Greek culture and the Greek way of thinking, I have noticed that there are indeed many things that Greeks believe or do that help them be more content with their life.  

Happiness and The Greek State of Mind

The first thing that comes to mind is the attitude of Greeks towards indulgence. In the video on modern Greek culture, I mentioned that Greeks have intermediate scores when it comes to indulgence vs. restrain. That means that we learn from a young age how to do everything in moderation and enjoy the pleasures of life without guilt.

There are many cultures that promote a very strict disciplined lifestyle. And that can be translated as having long periods of avoiding sugar, fats, alcohol – you name it – and then a weekend of emotional eating or getting blacked-out drunk, even putting themselves in great danger. The object of indulgence is demonized and people feel guilty for giving in. Now, that doesn’t mean that there are no Greeks who fall into a vicious cycle like this, but this mentality of constantly feeling guilty is far from the Greek way of thinking.

That may surprise some, since the modern Greek culture is heavily influenced by the teachings of Greek Orthodox Christianity. The latter suggest an ascetic, simple life, that focuses on mind and soul over matter. Today, however, this lifestyle is usually followed by people who choose to live in monasteries, rather than the average Greek Orthodox believer or even priest. Greek priests are often the “life of the party” of every village – drinking and dancing in traditional festivals.

But even the ascetic life of the monks is not free from pleasures. Monasteries in Greece are always located in breathtaking locations, usually on a hill to have an inspiring view. Keep this in mind because this will make more sense later.

Now, another thing that may contribute to the happiness of Greeks is the mindset that everyone deserves to have a good, fulfilling life.No matter the size of your house or the amount of money saved in your bank account, you should avoid misery at all costs. We often say «η φτώχεια θέλει καλοπέραση» – “poverty needs fun”. It may sound cheesy but dancing, singing, and telling jokes is for free. And other fun activities, such as eating and drinking with friends, do not always cost a fortune.

What I’ve noticed when I got in touch with people living in other countries in the world is that there are certain cultures that make people feel guilt for having fun and enjoying life, when they are things missing from their lives – including money. The Greek way of thinking dictates that you should not postpone happiness. You should enjoy life, with all the means you have, now.

Then we have the concept of “meraki” – and specifically working with meraki. Meraki is when you put all your effort towards your work. Have you ever watched an old man in an Greek island making a kaiki – a traditional fishing boat? How slowly and carefully he carves the wood and paints the details. Working with meraki, with all your attention and focus, is the opposite of what a modern economy needs to be the world’s leader: mass production and quantity over quality. But it can make you feel more creative and fulfilled with your work. More content with your life.

Another thing that comes to mind is the concept of “comicotragedy” in the Greek culture. Situations that are both comical and tragic, in which laughing and crying are both acceptable reactions. Foreigners are often surprised to find out that their favorite upbeat song that everyone dances to is actually describing a painful breakup. Greeks don’t have less tragic events happening to their lives than others. But they learn that they can make jokes with the things that bring them down, such as losing a job, a relationship or dealing with a health issue. It may be a coping mechanism but… it works!

Last but not least, let’s not forget that Greece has a collectivistic culture, where people keep strong ties with their close family members. You always feel like someone has your back and, by seeing yourself in a group, it is less likely to question your purpose and the reason for your existence.This of course is a double-edged sword, since you may feel too comfortable with what you have – you may be reluctant to take risks, open a business, or take a different route than the one of your family members. But today’s topic is about happiness, not risk-taking.

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Overlooked External Factor for Happiness  

But are Greeks happier only because of their way of thinking? Well, there must be some external factors as well. I am not going to be mentioning the role of sunlight and vitamin D, since studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency is also prevalent in Greece. But here is one external factor that I believe is connected to those living in the Greek countryside being overall content with their life. It may sound strange but bear with me.

Have you ever noticed how most Greek villages are located on a hill, built amphitheatrically, and overlooking the sea? Greeks have been placing a great focus on location since ancient times. They would avoid areas that are flat, dark, and far from a water source. There were practical reasons for this but, at the same time, living somewhere with a great view uplifts your spirit. You may live in a tiny house in a small village, but you feel like the king of the world. You have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, fish from the sea, and a house that you wouldn’t change for anything, no matter how humble it is. The magnificent landscapes are attributed with inspiring ancient Greeks to travel and explore new places, hence starting trading and building a strong civilization.

There are other parts of the world, even in the biggest economies, where living in nice landscapes requires a lot of money. Hills are reserved for the upper class and there are particular areas with affordable housing. People who struggle financially have to live in buildings that resemble boxes. Grey walls, no natural light. In this case, happiness and inspiration require a heavy wallet.       

Is a Happy Life an Exciting Life?

Before we end this video, I need to address that there is no global definition for happiness. In Greek, «ευδαιμονία» or «ευτυχία» is perceived as being overall content and satisfied with your life. Not necessarily smiling excessively, being always in a good mood, or living an extraordinary life. It is about the small things. Enjoying a cup of coffee looking outside your window. Taking care of your plants and making sure that your home feels homy, no matter how small. And most importantly, knowing that you are worthy of happiness – now, not sometime in the future, when everything will be perfect.

Learn Greek at Home During Quarantine

If you are interested in learning Greek but there are no classes taking place in your area, don’t be discouraged. Helinika, a platform dedicated to the Greek language, history, and culture, offers affordable Greek language lessons online. Learn Greek during Quarantine.

This Is Your Sign for Learning Greek

You have been debating whether you should start learning modern Greek and you constantly postpone it. Whatever the reason might be, here is the sign you were looking for. Start learning Greek today.

Greek Drama Ep.6: The Concepts of Hybris, Nemesis, and Catharsis

Hybris, nemesis, and catharsis are three important aspects of every ancient Greek tragedy. Hybris and nemesis were mentioned way before the birth of Greek theatre; we know the terms from ancient Greek mythology. And catharsis is a concept that was introduced in drama. But what is the meaning of these three theatrical terms?

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Hybris and Ancient Greek Drama | Pride and Injustice

The English word “hybris” derives from the Greek «ὕβρις». In modern Greek, the term is used in a way that can be translated as “insult” or “curse word”. But in ancient Greek, the term refers to an insult which was targeted towards gods and goddesses, rather than other humans. But how could a mortal offend a god or a goddess?

The easiest way an ancient Greek could manage to commit hybris, was by being excessively proud and overconfident. This is why the English word “hybris” is often translated as “excess pride”. Odysseus, for example, committed hybris when he started mocking Cyclops Polyphemous, after managing to blind him. Blinding him was an act of self-defense – it was the only way he could escape the island. But repeatedly making fun of him was unnecessary. Odysseus insulted Poseidon in this way, and the god of the sea punished him for his arrogance.

In ancient Greek theatre, the concept of hybris still revolved around excess pride and overconfidence but it also included other negative traits and actions. The gods and goddesses in ancient drama were presented as more sensitive and caring than in ancient Greek mythology. They also cared for the injustices towards humans.

For example, the tragedies of Oedipus and Antigone root back to an hybris that was committed by a human towards another human. Oedipus’ father had attacked a young boy, which enraged the gods. The entire family got stuck into a series of tragedies. In Antigone, the ruler Creon enrages the gods for being both arrogant and being cruel towards Antigone and her deceased brother, Polynices. Therefore, “hybris”, in the context of drama, can also be translated as “injustice”, “outrage”, or “immoral act”.

The necessity of hybris in ancient tragedy is therefore obvious. Tragic events would not be possible without an act of hybris. Hybris – either in the form of arrogance and pride or in the form of injustice- is the usual cause of every single tragedy. And from the stories that ancient tragedians narrated on stage, we can assume that pride and injustice are often connected – with acts of injustice being the result of excess pride. In other words, an arrogant and proud person is more likely to be unjust and, as a result, insult the gods and goddesses.

 

Nemesis and Ancient Greek Drama | Divine Punishment

Nemesis is the result of hybris. It derives from the Greek word «νέμεσις» that can be translated as “delivering justice”. That meant bringing good fortune to the virtuous and bad fortune to immoral people. Similar to the concept of karma. But, because the term “nemesis” was used predominantly in tragedies, the negative aspect persisted. “Nemesis” today is translated as “punishment” or “bad karma”.

It is important to note that the concept of nemesis has been personified. Goddess Nemesis, also called Rhamnousia, has been mentioned in many ancient texts, including Hesiod’s “Theogony”. She is the goddess who punishes the ones who commit hubris.

Just like hybris, nemesis is an important part of every ancient Greek tragedy. Without it, the tragic characters will never face their problems or deal with their inner demons. Nemesis – divine punishment- leads us to the final and most important concept of ancient Greek drama: catharsis.

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Catharsis and Ancient Greek Drama | Emotional Cleansing

Hybris and nemesis were two concepts that were present in ancient Greek myths. A hero or heroine would be blinded by his or her pride and they would be punished for it with a long period of bad luck. But ancient Greek theatre was born at a time when ancient Athenians were rethinking their old values and tried to construct a more sensitive and humanitarian society. Ancient Greek drama does not stop at nemesis. Punishment for the shake of punishment is too cruel. Instead, punishment should be a learning lesson for the person who receives it and anyone who witnesses it.

Catharsis is tragedy’s ultimate goal. The term derives from the Greek «κάθαρσις», which means “cleanse”. But it is mostly known for its metaphorical meaning – the “spiritual or emotional cleanse” that can be achieved through art. Catharsis is the reason why rich Athenians paid for the tickets of the financially struggling citizens. Every Athenian had to participate to “cleanse” their soul and be better citizens.

The term is attributed to Aristotle who used the metaphor of soul cleansing in his work “Poetics”. In tragedy, catharsis is experienced by both the play’s characters and the audience. The tragic characters who commit hybris and then receive nemesis, “cleanse” their mind and heart from all the negative emotions that led them to make unjust decisions or actions.

In Antigone, the tyrannical ruler of Thebes, Creon, sees the body of his diseased son and immediately regrets all his past decisions. The audience leaves knowing that, from now on, he will be an empathetic and caring leader. Having experienced tragedy, he will be able to get in other people’s shoes.

At the same time, the members of the audience of a tragic play can leave the theatre feeling “lighter”. They experienced intense negative emotions while watching the tragic characters’ misfortunes but, in the end, something positive comes out of it. Theatre acts as a form of psychotherapy. The viewers can resurface their suppressed emotions – jealousy, fear, regret, anger- and let them go. They exit the theatre with their emotions purified. And that is what catharsis is.

Greek Drama Ep.5: Antigone by Sophocles

Antigone by Sophocles is one of the most well-known ancient Greek theatrical plays. It belongs to a collection of tragedies – the Theban plays – since it takes place in the Greek city of Thebes. It was written by the great tragedian Sophocles and was presented at the theatrical competition of Dionysia in 441 BC. It is based on the myth of Oedipus but Sophocles manages to make the story even more tragic. It focuses on the subject of written vs. unwritten rules and absolute power.

Greek Drama Ep.4: Helen by Euripides

In 412 BC, the ancient Greek tragedian Euripides presented a trilogy of plays at the annual theatrical competition of Dionysia in Athens. One of those plays was Helen – inspired by the legend of Helen of Troy.

6 Random Things Greek People Do | Greek Culture Facts

Are you looking for some Greek culture facts? Today, we present to you six (6) random things Greek people do. From adding oregano on everything to saying one thing and meaning another, here are the most random facts about Greece and the Greeks.

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Random Things Only Greeks Do:

  1. Employees for Pumping Gas
  2. No Self-Service
  3. Enjoying a Glass of Plain Water
  4. Pedestrian Lanes= Decoration?
  5. Oregano on Everything
  6. Indirect Communication

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Greek Books to Learn Greek | Modern Greek Literature

One of the best ways to learn Greek is to immerse yourself in the language. When it comes to learning the modern Greek language, avoid limiting yourself to classical Greek literature. Here is a list of the best Greek books of modern Greek literature that will inspire you to learn Greek or improve your Greek skills. You can order these books in Greek (reaching B1 level is essential) but you can find some of them translated in your native language.

Greek Literature and Modern Greek Authors

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Best Greek Books:

  • Το οριζόντιο ύψος και άλλες αφύσικες ιστορίες – Αργύρης Χιόνης
  • Το καπλάνι της βιτρίνας – Άλκη Ζέη
  • Η μωβ ομπρέλα – Άλκη Ζέη
  • Ένα παιδί μετράει τ’ άστρα – Μενέλαος Λουντέμης
  • H φόνισσα – Αλέξανδρος Παπαδιαμάντης
  • Το αμάρτημα της μητρός μου – Γιώργος Βιζυηνός
  • Πάπισσα Ιωάννα – Εμμανουήλ Ροΐδης

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Greek Golden Age Cinema: Best Greek Movies & Actors

With Greece being the birthplace of drama and theater, it comes as no surprise that Greek cinema has a long history. Its roots take us back to the early 20th century. But what comes first to mind when thinking of Greek cinema and Greek films, is the “golden age” of the 1950s and 1960s. In Greek, this era is called «ασπρόμαυρος κινηματογράφος» (black-and-white cinema) or «παλιός καλός κινηματογράφος» (good old cinema).

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History of Greek Cinema | Cinematography in Greece

Cinematography in Greece started in 1914 with the film “Golfo” (Γκόλφω). It was written and directed by Konstantinos Bachatoris, who later became the founder of “Athini Films” (Αθήνη Φιλμς), the first Greek film company. “Golfo” was a silent film that could be described as a Cinderella-type story that takes place in the 19th century Greek countryside.

The film was produced again in 1955 by the legendary film company “Finos Film” (Φίνος Φιλμ). This time, it was directed by Orestis Laskos and it gained a lot of popularity. Due to its success, many bucolic-themed movies were filmed at that time.

Between 1914 and Greece’s “golden age cinema”, many more films were produced. Some notable mentions are “Daphnis and Chloe” (Δάφνις και Χλόη) from 1931, which was the first film to ever depict a nude scene in Europe, and “The Shepherdess’s Lover” (Ο Αγαπητικός της Βοσκοπούλας) from 1932.

The best years for Greek cinematography started in 1942, with the formation of the production company “Finos Films”. It was founded by Filopimin Finos and became the biggest film production company in southeast Europe. But which are some of the best Greek films from that era?

Best Vintage Greek Movies | Best Greek Films

A notable film from that era is definitely “The Counterfeit Coin” (Η Κάλπικη Λίρα) from 1955. Directed by George Tzavellas, this Greek comedy-drama was included in the top-10 Greek films by the Pan-Hellenic Union of Cinema Critics in 2006. The movie follows the journey of a counterfeit coin – from the day it got engraved to the last person who found it on his way. It shows the way it influenced each person’s life, revealing the power dynamics of the Greek society at that time. Important Greek actors and actresses such as Dimitris Horn and Ellie Lambeti played in the film. These two had an international career.

The 1962 film Electra, based on the ancient Greek play with the same name, is another important film of that time. It was written, produced, and directed by Michael Cacoyannis and it was nominated for best foreign language film in the 1963 Academy Awards. It has won various awards in numerous film festivals in Mexico, Berlin, France and in other parts of the world.  

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The Greek movie “Amaxaki” (Το Αμαξάκι) from 1957 was not only a big commercial success but it also represented Greece in the Czech Film Festival.An important Greek actor, Orestis Makris, played a coachman in the picturesque Plaka neighborhood of Athens who sees his life turn upside down once people start using cars.

Some of the biggest commercial successes resulted from the collaboration of the Greek director Alekos Sakellarios with Finos Films. “The Auntie from Chicago” (Η Θεία απ’ το Σικάγο), the “Maiden’s Cheek” (Το ξύλο βγήκε απ’ τον παράδεισο), and the “Hurdy-Gurdy” (Λατέρνα, Φτώχεια, και Φιλότιμο) were very successful in the 1950s’ and Greek tv-channels still add them to their regular program.

Other commercially successful films were “Alice in the Navy” (η Αλίκη στο Ναυτικό), “The Teacher with the Golden Hair” (Η Δασκάλα με τα Ξανθά Μαλλιά), and “The Downfall” (Ο Κατήφορος). These movies featured some of the most well-known Greek actors and actresses of that time, including Zoe Laskari, Jenny Karezi, Mimis Photopoulos, Aliki Vougiouklaki, Dimitris Papamichael, and Georgia Vasileiadou.

Finally, there are many 1950s and 1960s Greeks films that won the hearts of the critics and the viewers were not necessarily produced by a Greek company, such as Finos Films, but were either filmed in Greece and/or featured Greek actors, directors, and script writers. Such examples are the critically acclaimed films “Never on Sunday” (Ποτέ την Κυριακή) by Jules Dassin, featuring Melina Merkouri, and “Zorbas the Greek” (Αλέξης Ζορμπάς) that was produced and distributed by 20th Century Fox.

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Greek Actors and Actresses of the Greek Golden Age Cinema

  • Ellie Lambeti
  • Dimitris Horn
  • Katina Paxinou
  • Irene Papas
  • Melina Merkouri
  • Alexis Minotis
  • Anna Synodinou
  • Petros Fyssoun
  • Antigoni Valakou
  • Alekos Alexandrakis
  • Jenny Karezi
  • Aliki Vougiouklaki
  • Dinos Iliopoulos
  • Thanasis Veggos
  • Mimis Fotopoulos
  • Kostas Hatzichristos
  • Rena Vlachopoulou
  • Maro Kontou

Understanding the Greek Culture | The Greek Culture Today

Can you measure the Greek culture? What does it mean to be Greek? What are Greeks like?

Although we live in the era of convergence and globalization, there is a call to protect local cultures and maintain a certain level of cultural diversity. If we want to protect our cultural identities, it is crucial to understand what our cultures actually are. Understanding cultures is also essential for anyone who wants to introduce products and concepts in a foreign market or working in a multicultural environment.

Understanding the Modern Greek/ Hellenic Culture

Today, we will try to understand the Greek culture based on different metrics and examples. Before we get started, it is important to clarify that we perceive the modern Greek culture as a continuation of the ancient Greek culture, with the difference that it has been influenced throughout the years from the cultures of the Frankish states, the Ottoman Empire, the Bavarian and Danish monarchies etc.

The Greek Culture as a High-Context Culture: Communicating Without Words

In a past video it was mentioned that Greeks place non-verbal communication at a higher level than others. We could safely say that Greek people are masters at decoding indirect speech and body language. Anthropological and cross-cultural studies agree with that statement.

In his 1959 book “The Silent Language”, American anthropologist Edward T. Hall introduced some new concepts that define culture. One way of categorizing cultures is by dividing them into high-context and low context cultures.

High-context cultures use a lot of hand gestures. People like maintaining eye contact and pay close attention to other peoples’ posture and facial expressions. It is not about what is being said, it is about what is not said.

On the other hand, people in low-context cultures prefer speaking in a direct and clear way. They are not making a lot of gestures and rarely pay close attention to others’ facial expressions.

It comes as no surprise that Hall places the Greek culture in the first category. If you have ever visited Greece, you should have already noticed that people speak with their hands and always try to maintain eye contact when they speak to you. It is also important to note that, if you annoy a Greek person, they will most likely give you many cues. If you don’t notice them, don’t be surprised if you see them getting mad at you all of a sudden!

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The Greek Culture as a Collectivistic Culture: It Is About “Us”

The American anthropologist also distinguishes cultures based on whether they are individualistic or collectivistic. Most western countries, such as the United States of America, are considered to be highly individualistic. People in these cultures strive to be independent from an early age. At the same time, they might find it hard to take decisions with others, maintain strong relationships over the years, and they are more susceptible to loneliness.

Greece is on the other side of the spectrum, since it is recognized as a collectivistic culture. Greek people love sharing experiences with others and maintain close relationships with their families throughout their lives. They like sharing food and they are less likely to travel alone. There is no shame in asking for help and independence is perceived differently than in the US or other individualistic countries.

If you ever visit Greece and want to immerse yourself in the culture, try ordering food with the group you are dining with. You can order a bunch of different dishes and try a bit of everything. If you are visiting alone, don’t be surprised if the locals approach you and invite you to join them. Philoxenia (φιλοξενία) is the Greek tradition of hospitality. Its roots go back to ancient times and it requires people to be welcoming towards strangers.

The Greek Culture as a Balanced Masculine Society with Feminine Characteristics

The Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede has also contributed immensely to the study of national cultures. He came up with many different cultural dimensions, including masculinity vs. femininity.

Masculine cultures, such as Japan and the United States, value success and do not view competition as something negative. People raised in these cultures learn the importance of standing out of the crowd and becoming winners.

On the other hand, feminine countries, such as most Scandinavian countries, strive at improving the quality of life of every person, instead of being considered “the best country in the world”. Characteristics that are considered feminine, such as being nurturing and caring, are valued more than being competitive and ambitious.

Greek culture ranks somewhere in the middle, maintaining a balance between masculine and feminine characteristics, but it is considered a bit more masculine than feminine. Greeks are very proud of their heritage. Successful people, such as Aristotle Onassis, a Greek shipping magnate who was one of richest men to have ever lived, are admired.

At the same time, there is distinction between “confidence” and “overconfidence”, “ambition” and “overambition”. Since ancient times, Greeks have been referring to «ευγενής άμιλλα», that is often translated as “fair play”. Although Greeks are interested in winning and competing, it is very important to be ethical and not “step on top of others” to get on top. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had a theory that the ancient Greek spirit of fair play led the Greeks in creating “their great civilization”, as he said.

Other Dimensions of the Greek Culture

Hofstede has come up with many more dimensions for defining a culture, such as power distance, uncertainty avoidance, indulgence, and long-term orientation.

Greece has intermediate scores in indulgence, meaning that it has a healthy relationship between restrain and enjoying life, and in long-term orientation, meaning that it maintains some links with its past but looks towards the future.

Indeed, you will see Greeks enjoying nice meals most days of the week. Drinking red wine is often recommended by doctors to protect the heart and, according to statistics, the Greeks are the most sexually active people in the world. At the same time, there are some clear limits between indulgence and over-indulgence.

For example, drinking alcohol in Greece is enjoyed by most adults, however, our drinking culture is very different than of other nations. Drinking a little bit on a regular base and enjoying it with friends is preferred over “boozing” and getting black-out drunk every Saturday night.

This balance can be explained by the ancient Greek quote «(παν) μέτρον άριστον», which is often translated as “all in good measure”. This might be the quote that acts as a compass in each Greek person’s life. Enjoying life but not loosing control is the most common piece of advice we get from our caregivers and teachers in our childhood and teenage years.

The cultural dimension that is the most unbalanced is that of uncertainty avoidance. The Greek culture ranks as the most avoidant in the world when it comes to uncertainty. This dimension explains how different nations manage anxiety and react to threatening or unknown situations.

It is worth mentioning that during the years of the Ottoman Occupation but also after the Greek War of Independence, Greeks had and have faced a great number of wars, political instabilities, violent regime changes, national divisions, civil wars, and financial crises. Greeks have recently faced a great uncertainty: the Greek government-debt crisis in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, which created a social, cultural, and humanitarian crisis.

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