Greek legend tells that Titans battling Olympian gods once hurled
giant rocks at Zeus in an attempt to knock him out of the sky. Their
missiles piled up to become the mountains which blanket Greece, and
stray boulders splashed into the sea to form the islands that serve
as steppingstones across the Aegean.
In the past 25 years, Greece has witnessed significant economic
development, but on the few fertile plains and many rocky slopes of
this tip of the Balkan Peninsula, farmers herd sheep or tend olive
groves, wheat fields, and vineyards, as did their ancestors for
thousands of years. Each province preserves its traditional costume,
brightening the festivals held in the small, square-dominated
villages. Throughout the storied isles of Greece — some 400 lie in
the Aegean and Ionian Seas and account for a fifth of the nation’s
area — the white of house and church glints against the blue of sky,
and men go down to the sea for sponges and fish. This seafaring
tradition gives Greece the world’s largest merchant tonnage — more
than half of it registered under foreign flags for tax reasons.
During the Bronze Age (3000–1200 BC) a maritime civilization
flourished. By 800 BC Greece was undergoing a cultural and military
revival, with the evolution of city-states, the most powerful of
which were Athens and Sparta. This period was followed by an era of
great prosperity known as the classical or Golden Age. During this
time, a tradition of democracy was ushered in. The classical age
came to an end with the Peloponnesian Wars (431–404 AD) in which the
militaristic Spartans defeated the Athenians.
Greece became a part of the Byzantine Empire in 395 AD. By the
12th century, the Crusades were underway and Byzantine power was
much reduced by invasions.
For 25 centuries a crossroads between Europe and Asia to both
merchant and conqueror, Greece did not achieve political unity until
rebellion brought independence after 400 years of Turkish rule in
1830. The Acropolis in Athens stands as an enduring monument to the
“glory that was Greece,” fountainhead of Western culture and
democracy. Below its marble ruins, glass-faced offices serve
shipping, tourism, and flourishing light industries in a country
that still must import much of its food, machinery, and raw
The arts have been integral to Greek life since ancient times. In
summer, Greek dramas are staged in the ancient theaters where they
were originally performed. Greek literature’s ancient heritage spans
poetry, drama, philosophical and historical treatises, and
travelogues. Western civilization’s mania for logic and “ideas” can
be traced directly back to ancient Greek philosophers such as
Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and the West’s sciences, arts, and
politics are also deeply indebted to classical Greece.
The Host Country
Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 4/29/2004 11:27 AM
Greece, a rugged country of mountains and islands, is bordered on
the north by Bulgaria, the former Yugoslav Federal Republic of
Macedonia, and Albania; on the east by Turkey and the Aegean Sea;
and on the south and west by the Mediterranean and Ionian Seas. The
land area, including the islands, is 50,270 square miles (about the
size of Alabama). Only 25% of the land is arable, and much of that
is dry and rocky. Greece is 2 hours east (ahead) of Greenwich mean
time and at about the same latitude as New Jersey, Maryland, and
Greece has mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers.
Athens daytime summer temperature averages 90°F and often exceeds
100°F for periods in July–August. Humidity is low and the heat is
tempered by sea breezes. Summer evenings are comfortable outdoors.
Spring and fall temperatures are pleasant, and winter temperatures
are 30°F–55°F. Snow flurries occur, particularly in the northern
suburbs, but seldom accumulate. Air pollution is a major problem in
Athens throughout the year, but the climate is otherwise healthy.
Thessaloniki, in northern Greece, experiences high temperatures
and humidity from the end of May until the end of September. Summer
heat is sometimes tempered by late morning and early evening
breezes. July and August nights can be uncomfortably warm. In
winter, periods of mild, sunny, and spring-like weather are
interspersed with uncomfortable cold periods. Thessaloniki has
periods of chilly and damp weather, with considerable rainfall and
occasional snow. Temperatures often fall below freezing in winter.
Although snow does not linger, the city has been struck by
blizzards. One feature of Thessaloniki’s climate is the vardari, a
strong northwesterly wind that appears suddenly and irregularly from
the area of the Axios (Vardar) River Valley.
Population Last Updated: 4/29/2004 1:13 PM
Greece’s population is about 10.9 million. Metropolitan Athens,
including Piraeus, has about 4,500,000 people, and greater
Thessaloniki 1 million. Other population centers are the cities of
Patras, Volos, Iraklion, Kavala (see Special Information), Larisa,
Kalamata, and Tripolis. Most of the remainder of Greece is sparsely
populated. About 28% of the population is agricultural, a percentage
that is declining with greater economic development and increasing
Greeks claim continuity with ancient Greeks, whose language
achieved its first written form in Mycenaean times 14 centuries
before Christ. The modern Greek language, “Dimotiki,” maintains most
of the vocabulary and some of the grammar of ancient Greek. “Katharevousa,”
a 19th century attempt to eliminate foreign influences and return
the language to its classical roots, has been almost completely
phased out since 1974 as a language of culture and administration.
During Byzantine and Ottoman times, Greece received Slavic,
Albanian, Turkish, Gypsy, and other population inflows. From the
1821 War of Independence up until the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne with
Turkey, Greece was in the process of expansion and tried to
incorporate the Greeks of the region, particularly of Asia Minor,
into one state. Once regarded as one of the most ethnically
homogeneous societies in Europe, Greece has seen a massive influx of
immigrants, mostly from neighboring Albania and mostly illegal,
since the end of the Cold War. Statistics indicate that immigrants
now account for at least 10 percent of the population, a figure
likely to increase in the future. Other immigrant groups include
Poles, Romanians, Bulgarians and Filipinos.
The only officially recognized minority is a Muslim population
(130,000 persons) concentrated in Western Thrace, though most
Gypsies and many Vlach, Slav, and Albanian speakers continue to use
their traditional languages at home. Urban Greeks strongly encourage
their children to learn foreign languages. Most leading shops,
hotels, and restaurants in Athens and Thessaloniki employ clerks who
speak English. This is not the case outside major tourist centers,
however, where some knowledge of Greek makes life easier and more
rewarding. The Greek Orthodox Church is the predominant religion in
Greece, professed by 97% of the population. The Church is
self-governing under the Archbishop of Athens and all Greece and has
historic ties to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul. There are
approximately 65,000 U.S. citizens registered in the Athens consular
district. Of those, 41,000 are registered in the greater Athens
area, including 3,246 in Pireaus. Many Greek Americans are retired
in Greece, and several multinational corporations who have local or
Middle Eastern operations based in Athens employ U.S. citizens.
Athens and the rest of Greece have a steady flow of U.S. tourists
Public Institutions Last Updated: 4/29/2004 1:23 PM
Greece’s current constitution dates to the restoration of
democracy following the 1967–74 military dictatorship (junta). The
1975 constitution establishes Greece as a parliamentary democracy,
the Hellenic Republic, with the President as its largely ceremonial
head of state. The Prime Minister, as head of government, is
responsible to a 300-seat Parliament of the Hellenes elected every 4
years by a system of reinforced proportional representation. Greece
has an independent judiciary along European models. The constitution
guarantees a wide range of civil liberties.
The largest political party in Greece’s parliament is the
Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), which won 43.79% of the
popular vote in the April 2000 general election and has 157 seats in
Parliament. PASOK leader Constantine Simitis is Prime Minister.
Since winning its first election in 1981, PASOK has governed the
country continuously except for a brief period between 1990–1993.
The largest opposition party, the center-right New Democracy Party
(ND), holds 122 parliamentary seats after winning 42.74% of the vote
in April 2000. Three smaller parties, each of which received at
least 3 percent of the popular vote in the last election, together
hold the remaining 21 seats. The current President of the Republic,
Constantine Stephanopoulos, an independent conservative politician
widely respected across the political spectrum, was elected by
Parliament to a second 5-year term in May 2000.
Entering the European Union’s Economic and Monetary Union was a
key priority for the current PASOK government. Greece entered the
EMU on January 1, 2001, after satisfying the economic criteria in
the Maastricht Treaty for acceptable performance on inflation,
budget deficit, and government debt. Greece has been a member of the
European Union since 1981, and Greek policy on most international
issues follows the EU consensus. Greece is also a member of NATO,
the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the Western European Union, and the
Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 4/29/2004 1:25 PM
Greece has rich cultural roots, and a continuing literary,
artistic, and musical life. Modern writers carry on the heritage and
tradition of the giants of ancient and recent Greek letters. The
writings of Nikos Kazantzakis and other Nobel Prize laureates,
George Seferis and Odysseus Elytis, are available in English.
Although Greek art suffered neglect during the centuries when
Greece was under foreign domination, art is again flourishing with
works from the primitive through realism to extreme avant-garde.
Athens has scores of active and interesting commercial galleries, as
well as other urban art centers.
Greek museums are also numerous, from the world class Cycladic
Art Museum to the assortment of masterpieces in the National
Archaeological Museum (due to re-open in time for the 2004
Olympics). Other important museums in Athens include the Benaki
Museum, the Folk Art Museum, the Byzantine Museum, and the
Goulandris Natural History Museum.
Folk art and handicrafts survive in Greece, but, as a result of
commercialization and tourism, it is difficult to distinguish
between fakes and the genuine article. Greek popular music can be
heard on numerous radio stations around the clock, as well as at
frequent public concerts and in nightclubs. Many Americans fall
under the spell of more exotic music featuring the “bouzouki,” a
stringed instrument, heard not only on the radio, but also in
“bouzouki clubs,” where performances usually start at midnight.
Rebetika (1920s slum music) has experienced a revival throughout the
country. Folk dancing can sometimes be seen in the Greek
countryside, especially on holidays, and city dwellers may
spontaneously break into traditional dances at parties and other
social functions. In the Plaka district of Athens, several tavernas
have live dance shows, as well as some other more authentic folk
Athens has many theaters. Most performances are in modern Greek.
Occasionally, foreign touring companies perform in English. The
Karagiozi shadow puppet theater, with oriental and Turkish
antecedents, is also worth seeing.
The Hellenic Festival, held every year in June and July, features
performing arts ranging from Greek tragedy to modern dance and rock
groups, often with internationally famous groups or stars from the
U.S .and Europe. Cultural centers of interest to the
English-speaking community are the Hellenic American Union (HAU),
the British Council, and the Athens Center. Their programs, which
normally extend from October through May, include concerts, films,
exhibits, lectures, and panel discussions.
Athens has several libraries, most of which are noncirculating,
e.g., the National Library of Greece, the Parliament Library, and
the Athens Municipal Library. The Embassy hosts an Information
Resource Center, which is a non-circulating facility designed for
explaining US politics, culture and society to Greeks.
Some of the lending libraries open to the public are the
22 Massalias Street, Athens
British Council Library
Kolonaki Square, Athens, 363–3215
French Institute Library
31 Sina Street, Athens, 362–4301
Goethe Institute Library
14-16 Omirou Street, Athens 522–9294.
National Research Foundation Library (periodicals only)
48 Vas. Konstantinou Ave., Athens, 722–9811
Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 4/29/2004 1:29 PM
Since Greece’s entry into the European Union (EU) in 1981, the
Greek economy has been transformed, from agriculture to services and
from emigration to immigration. Greece joined the EU Economic and
Monetary Union (EMU) on January 1, 2001. The Euro was introduced on
January 1, 2002, replacing the drachma, the world’s oldest
continuously circulating currency.
In 2002, the Greek population was approximately 11 million, and
the Greek GDP was $132 billion. Services (including tourism)
accounted for 69 percent of GDP with industry, construction,
electricity and mining totaling 23 percent of GDP. Agricultural
output accounted for 8 percent of the total GDP.
Shipping is a major economic activity. Nine percent of the
world’s commercial shipping is Greek-owned, making the Greek
commercial fleet the largest in the world. As of May 2003, the Greek
flag flies on 929 ships with a total gross registered tonnage of
34.7 million tons. Another 2,426 ships of a total gross registered
tonnage of 69.1 million tons are controlled by Greek shipping
Greece’s most important industries in terms of production and
employment are: food processing, tobacco, textiles, chemicals
(including refineries), nonmetallic minerals (cement),
telecommunication equipment, metallurgy, aerospace and military
equipment, pharmaceuticals and shipbuilding.
Greece is a leading world producer of bentonite, magnesite, amd
perlite, as well as an important European producer of bauxite,
cement, ferrochromium, emery and marble. A plant processing bauxite
into alumina, then into aluminum, is operated by the French firm
Pechiney on the Gulf of Corinth.
U.S. investment in Greece is estimated at $2 billion,
representing almost a third of all foreign investment. Major U.S.
investments include: Hyatt Hotels ($155.6 million), Crown Cork and
Seal ($110 million), Searle ($94.6 million), Abbott Laboratories
($83 million), Philip Morris Group ($73.1 million), Pepsico foods
and beverages ($71.1 million) and IBM ($70.9 million).
Greece is undertaking a vast number of major construction and
infrastructure projects in order to host the 2004 Olympic Games in
Athens. The projects directly related to the Games include the
construction of eleven new sports facilities, a five-stadium
complex, and an Olympic Village. In addition, Greece is implementing
an ambitious tourism infrastructure program focused on hotel
development and operation, marina and port development, museum
development and management and development of archeological sites in
Athens and Olympia. The Greek State is also pursuing a number of
ongoing projects including: construction of peripheral roads in
Athens; development of metro systems in Athens and Thessaloniki and
of a tram system in Athens; upgrading of the highway network;
modernization of the main north-south railway; a 1.5 mile bridge
linking Rion and Antirrion at the western end of the Gulf of
Corinth; and wastewater treatment plants for the cities of Athens,
Iraklion, Volos, and Larissa.
Greece’s low level of investment over more than a decade has kept
its industrial base relatively small to meet domestic demand. As a
result, imports are three times bigger than exports. The merchandise
trade deficit has, however, been offset by income from tourism and
shipping and net inflows from the European Union.
In 2002, imports totaled $31 billion and exports $10.3 billion.
The 14 other countries currently in the EU account for 52.2 percent
of the Greek import market. US exports to Greece in 2002 totaled
1.15 billion dollars, while imports from Greece were 546 million
dollars. Major Greek exports to the U.S. are: cement, vegetables,
bauxite and aluminum, tobacco, fruits and petroleum products. The EU
remains Greece’s major market, absorbing 43.2 percent of Greek
exports. The other European countries and Asia are the second and
third largest markets. In 2002, the U.S. absorbed 5.3 percent of
Greece’s labor force is estimated at 4.4 million people. Greek
labor unions play an important role in determining wages, fringe
benefits and working conditions. Unemployment is officially
projected to drop to 9.6 percent of the labor force in 2003, from
the 10 percent recorded in 2002. However, unemployment of women and
young people ages 15–24 is among the highest in the European Union.
Although emigration has dramatically decreased over the last three
decades, more than 5 million Greeks are estimated to live abroad,
mainly in the U.S., Australia, Germany and Belgium. Conversely, the
numbers of immigrants seeking work in Greece has been increasing,
exceeding 700,000 by 2002. Per capita income in Greece is projected
at $ 12,555 in 2003.
Greece has been an EU member since January 1, 1981, and has
received substantial aid from the EU. Net inflows from the EU
reached 5.5 billion Euros in 2002. The Third Community Support
Framework Program (2002–2006) from the EU provides for some $24
billion to fund projects such as building highway and rail networks,
airports, and bridges, and to the development of the Athens and
Thessaloniki Metro systems and wastewater treatment plants in major
Automobiles Last Updated: 4/29/2004 1:31 PM
Automobiles are necessary for trips outside the cities and for
commuting from the suburbs. Small cars are most suitable for driving
on the narrow Greek roads and city streets. Air-conditioning is
desirable, especially during hot, dusty, summer months. American
cars may be ordered duty-free directly from the manufacturer or
through U.S. dealers. Purchasing a new car through a local dealer is
usually more expensive than purchasing and shipping a new car from
outside Greece, since the cost of shipping is included in the local
base price. Due to the high import taxes imposed on non-diplomats,
the market for used vehicles is limited to the diplomatic community.
Though the sale of second- and third-hand cars is fairly typical
within the diplomatic community, limited demand keeps prices low.
For this reason, newcomers should not expect to recuperate blue book
value for expensive vehicles or should be prepared to export
vehicles upon departure. While the U.S. Government will only ship
one vehicle per employee at government expense, the Greek government
authorizes duty-free ownership of two vehicles for families with two
drivers. All imported vehicles must be fitted with a catalytic
converter and pass an emissions test before a vehicle license is
Car repair and spare parts are available in Athens for most non-U.S.
made cars. It is hard to find mechanics trained to work on models
with U.S. specifications. There is an experienced contractor on the
Embassy premises who performs maintenance and repair of official
American-made and imported vehicles and who also provides similar
services after-hours for individuals at reasonable prices.
The Embassy operates a duty-free gasoline pump in the upper
parking lot. While both leaded and unleaded gasoline is currently
available, availability of leaded gas is expected to decrease as
Greece comes into compliance with EU environmental standards.
Gasoline costs about 0.75 Euro per liter (unleaded) on the local
economy and about $0.60 at the duty free pumps. The Embassy Customs
and Shipping Section assists personnel in obtaining license plates
for their personally owned vehicles. To obtain license plates,
personnel must present a valid international driver’s license or a
valid Greek license. (Personnel without a valid U.S. license may
apply for a driving test but be warned — the test is in Greek.) A
license plate will not be issued to persons presenting only a U.S.
drivers license. It is therefore imperative for employees and adult
family members to obtain valid international drivers licenses prior
to arrival. AAA offices in the U.S. are a good source for
information/ application. The Community Liaison Office maintains
applications for international driver’s licenses to assist personnel
in applying for their international driver’s license renewals. The
Greek Government requires third-party liability insurance for all
motor vehicles. The Embassy has names of local companies who issue
insurance. Some U.S. firms offer comprehensive policies with Greek
liability coverage. Vehicles cannot be driven prior to purchase of
Local Transportation Last Updated: 4/29/2004 1:32 PM
Main streets and highways are paved; secondary roads are rough
and ungraded. Most roads are two-lane, except for parts of the
National Road and several new highways in the Athens area. The road
network is good and constantly being expanded. In response to
tourism, road surfaces are improving; however, in some remote areas,
be prepared to find unimproved conditions. The roads to Belgrade and
Sofia are good. The borders between Greece and Turkey, FYROM,
Bulgaria, and Albania are open to private automobiles. Before
driving to Greece through FYROM, Bulgaria, or Albania, however,
check with the Embassy to find out which border crossings you may
The Athens area now is home for more than 40% of Greece’s 11
million people. The number of vehicles in the greater Athens area
has increased dramatically over the past 20 years and now totals
over 1 million. Roads are narrow and often lined with parked cars.
Heavy traffic flows in and out of the city from early morning until
after midnight are typical and, indeed, have gotten worse with
numerous Olympics-related construction projects. This causes noisy
and irritating driving. In an effort to control the pollution
problems in Athens, driving is restricted in the central area every
day, except Sundays, holidays, and the month of August. Only public
transportation, motorcycles, and vehicles with diplomatic license
plates are exempt from these restrictions. For security reasons, no
Mission employees use diplomatic plates on their cars, but those
having diplomatic status are issued a special card, which can be
presented to the authorities if stopped when driving in the
restricted area. The Chancery is within the restriction limits.
Because of congestion in the city, shopping trips and commuting can
be extremely time-consuming. Commutes of about an hour each way are
not uncommon. For this reason, over the last few years the Embassy
housing office has made a concerted effort to move people closer in.
Athens has a good and inexpensive public transportation system
consisting of buses, trolleys, and a metro. Taxis are inexpensive,
but getting one can be frustrating. Cab drivers take more than one
passenger or group of passengers and sometimes decline to pick up
passengers at all. Radio taxis can be obtained by telephone and can
require waits of 30–45 minutes to arrive. Parking is a perennial
problem throughout most of the city and environs, even at
supermarkets. Limited parking is available at the Embassy on a
first-come, first-served basis.
Regional Transportation Last Updated: 4/29/2004 1:33 PM
Athens enjoys a new modern airport which compares favorably with
U.S. and other European airports. Numerous airlines connect Athens
with the Near and Far East, North Africa, and Europe, often with
daily flights. Daily service within Greece is available from Athens
to Thessaloniki, Alexandroupolis, Kalamata, Kavala, Corfu, Crete,
Rhodes, and the other larger islands. Railroad service within Greece
is good but not extensive. As a maritime nation, Greece has
extensive inter-island ferry and hydrofoil service. The main ports
serving Athens are Piraeus and Rafina. While many cargo ships (some
with passenger accommodations) go to the U.S. no direct cruise ship
service is available between Greece and the U.S. U.S.-flag cargo
ships, which operate between Piraeus and the U.S., do not carry
Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 4/29/2004 1:34 PM
Greek OTE telephone billing is different from that in the U.S.
OTE bills cover 2- month periods, arrive at least 4 weeks after the
end of the billing period, and must be paid within 5 days after the
payment expiration date to avoid disconnection. Calls are metered
and charged per unit. Long-distance calls are metered and charges
vary according to distance. A call to the U.S. costs about 25¢ plus
18% tax per minute. Residential phones listed in the Embassy’s name
are VAT exempt. Residents of most Athens’ suburbs can request
itemized billing. Direct-dial calls to the U.S. can be placed by
dialing the prefix 001 followed by the area code and the local U.S.
number. Long-distance, collect, person-to-person, or credit card
calls may be placed through the OTE operator by dialing 139. Many
personnel find it more convenient and substantially less expensive
to use a telephone credit card or alternative telephone service for
calls. Card phones are available throughout Greece.
Wireless Service Last Updated: 4/29/2004 1:34 PM
Cellular phone use has proliferated throughout Greece. While
somewhat expensive, there are a number of reliable networks to
choose from. U.S. cellular phones are not compatible with the Greek
telephone system but Greek cellular phones can work in the U.S.
Internet Last Updated: 11/3/2003 8:16 AM
Internet providers are plentiful in Greece. Typical (PSTN 56kbps
modem) subscription fees average $15 per month plus separate
telephone charges from OTE for the local connection and time spent
on-line. For example, the estimated monthly charge for a PSTN
connection with 100 hours of Internet access would be about $70.
ISDN (64k & 128k) and ADSL (384k, 512k & 1024k) connections are also
available at additional cost. Most Internet Service Providers insist
that customers authorize direct billing of monthly subscription fees
to a credit card.
Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 4/29/2004 1:37 PM
APO mail service is available to all American personnel assigned
to U.S. Government agencies in Athens, Thessaloniki, and Kavala. The
Mission APO operates a small post office and offers the following
First-class mail, priority mail, space available mail (SAM),
registered mail, certified mail, return receipt, and insured mail.
Registered mail items can be insured up to $25,000. Regular
insurance provides coverage for up to $5,000.
A variety of postage stamps can be purchased, including the
standard booklets of 20 first class stamps.
The APO is open on Mondays and Thursdays from 0930 to 1230 hours.
All outgoing items received at the APO are flown to JFK, N.Y.,
and Frankfurt, Germany to onward destinations within 48 hours. First
class and priority mail items travel by air to their destinations
and usually arrive within 5 to 10 days. SAM parcels travel by
surface upon arrival at JFK and normally take 10 to 20 days to
arrive. However, delays can occur during busy periods. Letter class
mail delivered to the Embassy Mail Room is sent out daily.
The transit timeframe is the same for incoming mail. However, it
is usually received on a daily basis.
Maximum weight for parcels is 70 pounds. Maximum size (length and
girth combined) is 108 inches.
Please use the following address to receive mail at the Athens
PSC 108 Box (check with your office for correct number)
APO AE 09842
Please use the following address to receive mail at the American
Consulate General in Thessaloniki:
PSC 108 Box 37
APO AE 09842
Please use the following address to receive mail at the IBB
Greece Transmitting Station:
PSC 108 Box 39
APO AE 09842
Military Postal Service (MPS) is also provided at the Athens APO.
Parcels and letters with the “APO AE” theater and most “APO AP” mail
can be sent free of charge. However, MPS mailed with special
services (certified, insured, etc.) are charged for postage
according to weight and destination. Additionally, excess household
and/or personal effects will be charged for according to the weight
High-theft items such as electronic equipment (computers,
stereos, etc.) should be sent “registered with insurance.” Do not
confuse regular insurance with registered mail.
Registered mail is separated from the regular mail, signed for at
each stop by an American citizen, and locked in a secure area at all
times. It is extremely rare for registered mail to be lost or stolen
because of these safeguards. Regular insured mail is combined with
other uninsured parcels and receives no special handling.
The Athens APO no longer provides outgoing express mail service.
DHL service is available through the Embassy Mail Room. The Embassy
APO facility operates on a “cash only” (U.S. currency) basis.
Personal checks and credit cards are no longer accepted for postal
transactions. While stamps can be purchased at the APO, stamp
shortages do occur at times. Patrons may find it convenient, and are
encouraged, to purchase stamps directly from the USPS at their
on-line WEB page, URL: www.usps.com.
Radio and TV Last Updated: 4/29/2004 1:38 PM
TV reception in Athens is good, with most programs broadcast in
Greek. CNN International is available without special fees, cable or
Major Greek networks run recent U.S. movies and sitcoms in
English with Greek subtitles. AFN television service is available in
private residences for a minimal fee. EWSA manages the distribution
of the AFN decoders.
Television reception can be augmented by erecting a satellite
dish and subscribing to various pay for view satellite services,
including NOVA, a popular cable distributor, which allows viewers to
watch MSNBC and BBC World.
VOA broadcasts by shortwave in Greek and in English, and London
BBC can be received on short-wave radios. Daily news is broadcast in
English on several Greek radio stations.
All channels broadcast in color using the European PAL/SECAM
system. US-standard televisions will not receive this signal.
Purchase of a multi-format, adjustable voltage television set and
VCR, available from AAFES or locally, which includes NTSC, PAL, and
SECAM, is highly recommended. U.S. standard TVs brought to Greece
can be used with VCRs and computer games only from the U.S., without
DVDs and VHS tapes are widely available in Greece. Embassy
employees can pick them up at the EWSA store, at a local DVD shop,
or over the web via www.amazon.com or www.netflix.com.
Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated:
4/29/2004 1:39 PM
There is an edition of the International Herald Tribune printed
every day but Sunday in Athens. Inside is the English language
version of Greek paper of record Kathimerini, which contains news,
features, and entertainment listings. The paper’s weekend edition
comes out on Saturday. The supplement’s website is
The local English-language paper Athens News is published every
Friday, and contains an overview of the week’s news and feature
stories on life in Greece. The paper’s website is http://www.athensnews.gr/
The Financial Times and The Wall St. Journal Europe are available
at newsstands, though often a day after publication. The big
European newsmagazines and papers are also available at selected
kiosks throughout the city.
The Stars and Stripes, and a wide selection of American
magazines, are available at the EWSA convenience store at the
Subscribers to Time and Newsweek International will get their
magazines promptly, while there will be a one to two week delay for
magazines published in the U.S. Even with this delay, Embassy
personnel are advised to use the post APO address for magazines.
APO is also a godsend for ordering books, CDs and DVDs. Prices on
sites such as amazon.com and powells.com are usually lower than at
the English language bookstores in Athens, which are clustered near
Syntagma Square. The best one is Eleftherodakis on Panepistimiou St.
Athens has a number of first-rate movie theaters which show
“recent” (2–3 months after the U.S. release) U.S. and foreign films.
Open-air theaters are a popular summer venue for movie lovers, but
sometimes hard to understand given the outside noise (Greeks read
Health and Medicine
Medical Facilities Last Updated: 4/29/2004 2:13 PM
Medical Facilities are good. A Regional Medical Office (RMO) is
currently made up of a regional medical officer, a physician’s
assistant (PA), two part-time registered nurses, and a receptionist.
The staff of the RMO provides preventive health care services,
including evaluation and treatment for common medical problems,
advice, and outside referral. The medical unit maintains close
contact with a cadre of well-trained Greek physicians, of which many
are English-speaking doctors trained in the U.S. or in western
Europe. During an average month, the medical unit sees over 250
patients. The Regional Medical Officer and the Physician’s Assistant
also have responsibility for more than 20 posts, many of which have
poor health infrastructure. The Regional Medical Officer travels
outside Greece over 50% of the time.
The heart of the medical unit is our American nurses who speak
fluent Greek and know the local medical community. They administer
immunizations, assist in patient education, screen and evaluate
medical problems, direct Embassy personnel to the care of local
physicians, as appropriate, and follow up on staff who are
The Regional Medical Office maintains a small pharmacy and can
provide some medications for acute, short-term treatment.
Medications like Advil, Tylenol, etc., are also available in the
EWSA convenience store. Employees should fill prescriptions before
arrival and make arrangements for refills to be sent to post. If
necessary, the Regional Medical Officer can fill out a prescription
Persons stationed in other parts of Greece may have to travel to
Athens for treatment.
For specialized care, Athens has several general hospitals and
clinics, including separate pediatric and maternity hospitals. The
level of care at these facilities is good, with the only weakness
being the level of nursing/support-type care. Most hospitals are
equipped with modern diagnostic equipment and trained technicians.
Therefore, emergency and most routine surgery, as well as general
hospitalizations, can be handled at local facilities. If an
individual requires medical evacuation for further treatment, the
evacuation points for all posts within Greece are London and
Germany. Routine dental care is available throughout Greece. In
Athens, pediodontic and orthodontic care is available from American
or Greek dentists or orthodontists, with a few who have received
their training in the U.S. Athens has oral surgeons, if needed. If
possible, individuals with corrective lenses should have /extras
made in the U.S. before arrival in Greece. Local opticians can fill
optical prescriptions, however, and some local ophthalmologists have
extensive experience with contact lenses. Additionally, bring
sunglasses for sun-drenched Greece. In Greece, few facilities are
available for handicapped individuals although an effort is being
made to renovate some facilities to serve people with disabilities
ahead of the 2004 Olympics and Paralympics, but those that do exist
are not up to Western standards. Some hospitals and other medical
institutions are equipped for wheelchairs. There is now ramp access
from the back parking lot to the Chancery but wheelchair ramps are
limited in other Mission buildings. However, special arrangements
can be made to facilitate visits by persons who use wheelchairs.
Elevators that can accommodate wheelchairs are available in the
Community Health Last Updated: 4/29/2004 2:18 PM
The level of community health is considered high in Athens.
Although the enforcement of regulations concerning the storage and
sale of foods and drugs is less strict than that in the U.S., most
local restaurants and taverns are safe and good places to eat. The
local fruits and vegetables are excellent and do not require any
special preparation beyond cooking and cleaning. Most meats can be
procured locally and are safe. Pasteurized milk in Athens is safe
The sanitation practices in the cities are good, unless a public
works strike occurs; trash can sometimes accumulate up to a week at
a time. In Athens and its suburbs, the garbage is collected 3-7 days
a week, depending on the area. Local sewage drainage and treatment
are adequate. The water in most cities throughout Greece is potable,
but use a fluoride supplement for children up to age 13. When
visiting small villages and the islands, however, consume bottled
water, as the water source may be limited and not well treated.
Insects and vermin pose no particular problems, but mosquitoes,
garden pests, and ants can be annoying.
The major endemic, communicable diseases of concern to Americans
are respiratory infections, which are caused by high levels of
pollution present in Athens at periods of time throughout the year.
Therefore, individuals with chronic respiratory disorders such as
severe allergies, asthma, and emphysema may experience difficulty
breathing during heavy pollution periods. Otherwise, no unusual
health risks are involved in living in Greece. Traffic accidents can
be a cause of injury, both in Athens and outside of major cities.
Defensive driving and wearing seatbelts are crucial. Roads and
sidewalks are uneven, contain potholes, and are especially slippery
in the rain. This can pose hazards for drivers and pedestrians
Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 4/29/2004 2:20
Employment opportunities for non-Greek citizens are limited. All
Greek firms, and most U.S. offices, hire employees who are fluent in
Greek. Qualified Greek citizens, many of whom speak several
languages, are available in Athens. The Government of Greece makes
every attempt to protect employment opportunities for its own
citizens. Only 10% of the employees of foreign firms may be
non-Greek. Aliens must have a work or residence permit before
accepting employment in Greece. Under the terms of a 1995 bilateral
work agreement spouses and dependents of American personnel assigned
to the U.S. Mission may work on the local economy. The Human
Resources Office coordinates the permit procedure with the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs.
The Embassy is occasionally able to offer employment of a mostly
clerical nature to American family members and members of household.
Employment within the Mission may be under a number of different
appointing authorities and work schedules. Jobs within the Mission
include Community Liaison Officers, HR Assistant, EWSA manager,
roving secretary, security escort, APO manager and assistants,
security training coordinator, GSO assistant, etc. The Embassy also
offers a full summer-hire program for dependents between the ages of
16–22. Family members may also conduct home-based businesses for
Mission-only clientele. Private English teaching and occasional
positions with language centers and private schools are also
possible sources of employment. Holders of valid U.S. teaching
certificates may write directly to the schools located in the Athens
area for additional information on employment. (See also Education.)
Professionals requiring licenses in the U.S. usually require
licenses in Greece to practice. Fluency in written and spoken Greek
is normally a basic requirement. A number of Mission spouses with
“portable” skills have found both local and multinational positions.
Currently, Mission spouses are employed in a number of diverse
positions outside the embassy such as physical therapy, graphic art,
psychiatry, professor of education, EU project auditor, etc.
American Embassy - Athens
Post City Last Updated: 4/29/2004 2:20 PM
Athens, the capital of Greece, is situated 300 feet above sea
level on the Attica Plain, bordered by the Aegean Sea and Mounts
Parnis, Penteli, and Hymettus. Athens is built around the Acropolis
and picturesque Lycabettus Hill. The Attica Plain is agriculturally
rich, but surrounded by semiarid hills and mountains. Athens is the
commercial, cultural, and political center of Greece. Athens is a
“mother city,” the central point of a group of suburban townships
with separate entities. Some northern suburbs are Psychico, Filothei,
Kifissia, and Ekali. Old Phaleron, Kalamaki, Glyfada, and Voula
border the sea.
Security Last Updated: 4/29/2004 2:34 PM
Embassy Athens is designated “critical”for indigenous terrorism.
Local Greek terrorist groups consider official Americans, U.S.
Embassy and U.S. Military personnel, preferred targets. We believe
that the threat to official U.S. Government personnel on short-term
assignments to Greece or visiting for tourism is relatively low. The
indigenous groups historically have engaged in extensive operational
surveillance over long periods of time. There were several
well-publicized arrests in July 2002 of members of the most
notorious Greek terrorist groups, November 17 and ELA. The full
impact of those arrests and the subsequent trials on future
terrorism has yet to be determined. We nonetheless urge vigilance
and caution, as the worldwide threat from other terrorist groups
against Americans in general remains high. Official Americans should
assume they are potential targets.
Over the past year the U.S. Embassy has experienced numerous bomb
threats, protest marches, and anti-U.S. demonstrations. These
protests are generally peaceful though a few provoked random acts of
violence. Travelers to Greece are advised that protests or
demonstrations could occur at any time; unwitting observers or
bystanders might be identified, to their disadvantage, as Americans.
RSO recommends that official U.S. travelers in Greece remain alert
when moving about in public places and avoid certain places where
demonstrators frequently congregate. These places include the
Polytechnical University area, located on 28 October (Patission)
Street between the National Archeological Museum and Omonia Square;
Exarchion Square, located near Kolonaki; Omonia and Syntagma
Squares, which are often used as launch sites for large
demonstrations; and Mavili Square, located near the U.S. Embassy.
Visitors should keep abreast of news about large demonstrations and
avoid these areas and metro stops.
Crime is rated “medium” in Greece. For TDY visitors,
pick-pocketing and purse-snatching are the most common crimes. Taxis
are generally safe though metered cabs are recommended. Taxis too
will often pick up more than one passenger unless prior arrangements
are made. Crimes of opportunity — thefts, break-ins, and occasional
scams — are on the rise. Travelers should be especially cautious
with wallets, purses, and parcels when traveling on crowded streets,
public buses, trolleys, and/or subways. There have been several
instances of motorcyclists approaching cars stuck in traffic,
reaching through open windows or smashing closed ones, and stealing
whatever is within reach. The Embassy recommends keeping purses,
parcels, handbags, etc. out of sight under the seat or on the floor
of the car. Windows should be kept closed and doors locked. Beggars
and other street people may also confront pedestrians who may
attempt to divert attention, and then steal unprotected valuables -
either by pick-pocketing or snatch-and-grab techniques. Women are
generally safe from violent crime in Greece. Men are aggressive by
American standards, however, when pursuing women.
Traffic in Greek urban areas, especially Athens and Thessaloniki,
is chaotic. Greece leads the European Union in per capita traffic
fatalities. Road rage is common. Accidents sometimes lead to fist
fights. Drivers in Greece should exercise caution and common sense.
Foreigners driving in Greece are required to carry an international
driver's license that must be obtained prior to arrival, along with
their regular (U.S.) driver's license (a U.S. license itself won't
do). Drivers and pedestrians alike should exercise extreme caution
when operating motor vehicles or when walking along roadways.
Moreover, tourists who rent motorbikes either on the Greek mainland
or its islands must wear helmets and must take special precautions
on the local roads that are typically poorly maintained and
frequently pothole-ridden. Greece also leads the European Union in
per capita motorcycle deaths.
The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 11/3/2003 9:44 AM
The U.S. Mission has over 500 American personnel, including
dependents, in the Athens area and about 10 in other locations. The
Mission employs 400 Foreign Service nationals countrywide. Under the
supervision of the Ambassador and the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM),
Mission functions are discharged by counselors for political,
economic, management, consular, commercial, and public affairs.
Attachés represent the Justice Department, the Immigration and
Naturalization Service and Transportation Security Administration of
the Department of Homeland Security, Defense Communications Support
Group, the Social Security Administration, and the Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA); the U.S. military is represented by the Office
of the Defense Attache (DAO) and the Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC)
as well as Foreign Area Officers in Athens and Thessaloniki, the APO
at the airport and the 953rd US Army Transportation Unit in Pireaus.
The Marine Security Guards are under the supervision of the Regional
Security Officer. Other U.S. Government offices in Greece include
the American Consulate General in Thessaloniki and IBB Relay Station
at Kavala and transmitting station at Rhodes.
The Chancery is at 91 Sophias Avenue, tel. 210 721-2951/9 and
tel. 210 721-8401/8. The Consular Section (in the Chancery) can be
reached on 210 721-8561/9. ODC offices are located at the Greek
Zorba Base, at 4 Megalou Alexandrou, Goudi, 157 73, Greece, tel. 210
720-2600. The Embassy web page (www.usembassy.gr) contains frequent
updates on a variety of issues of topical interest.
Newcomers traveling by air are met on arrival by a designated
sponsor and/or a representative of the office and assisted through
customs. They should inform the appropriate agency personnel office
in advance of accompanying dependents and baggage, arrival date and
time, flight number, and airline. New arrivals may call the Embassy
Human Resorces Office (210 720-2260 or 210 720-2254) or after office
hours call the Security receptionist (210 720-2483) for assistance.
Agencies at post are responsible for sending welcome information
to new employees upon receiving notification of their assignment.
Post check-in begins on the first workday following arrival. The
Administrative Section assists new arrivals in matters concerning
the acquisition of essential identity cards and visas, housing,
leave, pay and allowances, and customs clearances. The CLO serves as
referrals for domestic help, schools, and baby-sitters.
Post Orientation Program
The HR Office provides the new arrival with a full Welcome
package, which includes a Welcome Book produced by the CLO, maps,
informational materials and a check-in schedule. The Welcome Book
gives a brief outline of Greek history, government, economic
development, culture, and religion, and recommendations on hotels,
dining, shopping, and entertainment as well as useful information on
getting around in Athens. HR also schedules each new employee for a
full day of administrative briefings with appropriate management
offices (General Services, Housing, Financial Management,
Information Management, Medical Unit, Security, etc.)
A one-day orientation program run by CLO is held periodically for
new arrivals and their dependents over age 14. The session, usually
held at the Ambassador's residence, includes briefings on U.S.
objectives in Greece by different Mission agencies, general
background on the work of the Embassy, a short presentation on Greek
culture by our FSN staff, and lunch.
We are proud of our quite extensive and innovative language
program which includes specific programs for specialists and family
members. There are also field trips and weekend immersion programs
available for employees and dependents. With the help of FSI, we
just published a CD-Rom titled Out and About in Athens. Post
management supports language training for all employees and their
families to ease the adjustment to, and enhance the enjoyment and
understanding of Greece.
Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM
New arrivals usually move directly into permanent quarters;
however, temporary quarters are sometimes necessary, especially
during the summer transfer season. If temporary quarters are
necessary, most arrivals are accommodated in government-leased
apartments. Occasionally, when no temporary apartments are
available, arrivals must use hotel accommodations until permanent
quarters are available.
Permanent Housing Last Updated: 11/5/2003 4:06 AM
The Embassy provides housing for all State Department personnel
and employees of other agencies through the Embassy's Interagency
Housing pool. The housing pool primarily consists of
government-leased apartments and maisonettes (townhomes). The pool
has some single family homes (both government-owned and -leased),
but these are rare and normally reserved for higher ranking Embassy
officials with representational duties. The only designated houses
in the pool are the Ambassador and DCM's residences and the Marine
Most Embassy housing is located in the suburbs of Athens, and
commuting is a necessity. In the closer suburbs, apartments prevail.
There are a number of units in the Kolonaki area and other areas
adjacent to the Embassy. The apartments closer to the Embassy are
generally older and smaller than residences in the more distant
suburbs but offer the convenience of a shorter commute to the
Embassy and closer proximity to the American Community School (ACS).
Some of the larger, newer apartments and most of the housing pool's
maisonettes are located in the more distant suburbs, but the
associated commute times may be considerably longer. Because our
experience over the years is that the long commutes and extensive
traffic delays have caused serious complaints, over the past two
years the Mission has made a conscious effort to find housing closer
to the Embassy. Dwellings are similar in layout to American homes,
although most residences have balconies and/or terraces; bedrooms
and kitchens are generally smaller and garages are rare.
New arrivals will normally be assigned housing by the Interagency
Housing Board before arrival. Assignments are based upon interagency
housing standards for rank and family size. It is essential for
incoming personnel to notify their sponsoring organization and the
GSO Housing Office as early as practical as to their preferences and
concerns for housing (e.g., location, number of officially sponsored
dependents, allergies, pets, and other concerns which the Housing
Board should take into account). Due to landlord restrictions, the
Housing Office cannot guarantee that incoming employees will be
provided housing that can accommodate pets. The few landlords that
do allow pets generally limit them to one only. If you wish to
import a pet, it is imperative that GSO be notified well in advance.
Those assigned to single family residences are responsible for
cleaning and maintenance of their yards. You may do the gardening
and yard cleaning on your own, or you may hire gardeners or others.
Gardening expenses are similar to those in the U.S. and can easily
be around 100 Euro per month.
A few agencies do not participate in the Interagency Housing
Pool. The Embassy Housing Office provides a briefing to employees of
these agencies and assists them in making contact with local real
estate agents. The Housing Office also assists in negotiating
contract/lease terms with the prospective landlord.
Furnishings Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM
Furnishings are provided for all U.S.-owned and short-term leased
housing in Athens by the occupying agency. Basic furniture, a stove,
refrigerator/freezer, washer and dryer, microwave, and dishwasher
are included. Depending on space and building maintenance
considerations, appliances may be of European size. The Ambassador's
and DCM's residences also have cooking utensils, china, crystal,
silverware, and guest linens. Bring personal items such as pictures,
art objects, special purpose lamps, books, stereo equipment, radios,
and small appliances. Before shipping effects, it is recommended
that an agency representative in Greece be contacted to learn about
the availability of specific appliances and furniture.
The post administers a uniform drapery allowance. Carpets will be
supplied for living and dining rooms only. Kitchen utensils, sheets,
pillow cases, towels, blankets, and electrical appliances are
available locally but may be more expensive than similar items in
Houses and apartments have hot and cold running water; hot water
is supplied from electrically operated heaters installed in kitchens
and/or bathrooms or by solar heaters on building roofs. Most
plumbing facilities and equipment give adequate service but vary in
degree of modernity. Central heating is considered expensive by most
Greeks, and people living in apartments where heating is controlled
by the lessor may receive heat for only a limited number of hours a
day. Supplemental heat, as from electric heaters, is often
desirable. They may be bought locally. Many houses and apartments
have fireplaces. Firewood is available but expensive. Most homes
have marble or tile floors and concrete walls that are cold in
winter. Older buildings are drafty, and heat generated by radiators
is inadequate. Expect to wear medium-to-heavy sweaters and socks or
slippers indoors during cold months. Supplemental carpeting or area
rugs may be included in your shipment. Current is 220v, 50-cycle,
AC, single or three phase. Adapter plugs, required for most American
equipment, automatic fuses, and screw- and bayonet-type 220v light
bulbs are available in supermarkets and electrical supply stores.
Transformers in various wattages are available locally. The Embassy
provides three transformers as part of the furnishings package.
Food Last Updated: 11/5/2003 4:13 AM
The EWSA Convenience Store. All American Mission employees, their
dependents, and those assigned to Greece on temporary duty may join
the EWSA located on the Embassy compound. Membership prices are $36
for a single person and $72 for a family, per year, nonrefundable. A
deposit of $200 for singles and $300 for families is also required,
refundable prior to departure. Temporary memberships for personnel
on temporary duty are also available based on length of stay. The
EWSA store stocks over 5,000 food items including various wines and
alcoholic beverages. An excellent variety of popular American
products is available at the store, including dairy products, canned
and packaged products, frozen food and meats, soft drinks, household
products, toiletries and a large supply of Hallmark items. Other
services include an after-hours bar and grill open 3 days/week,
video and DVD rental, gasoline station, fitness center, payment of
telephone bills, hairdresser, dry cleaning, and photo developing.
The Embassy cafeteria in the Chancery is open from 7:30 a.m. until
3:30 p.m. every day.
U.S. Military Base at Souda Bay, Crete. All American employees
assigned to the Mission, as well as eligible dependents, are
authorized to use the U.S. Military base facilities and services on
Crete. A uniformed services ID card is required for admission to the
military base. The yellow card must be presented when purchasing
controlled items. All cards are provided to non-military personnel
by the HR Office.
The Local Market. On the local market, fresh meat, both local and
imported, is cut in the European manner and is relatively expensive
although good pork and lamb are available at lower prices. Local
beef is not aged and lacks the tenderness of American beef. Fresh
chicken, eggs, and local cheese are always available. Many Greeks
shop daily, so a shopping district is an important part of every
suburb. Each has its own grocer, butcher, florist, greengrocer,
pharmacy, and a fish merchant. Fresh produce, fruits, plants, eggs,
and sometimes fish can also be purchased at the colorful weekly
neighborhood farmers' markets (laiki). Fish is available but
expensive. The huge central market daily sells fresh meats, game,
chicken, seafood, spices, and a surprising variety of other
commodities. Some neighborhoods have the Greek equivalent to the
U.S. supermarket and even have megastores that sell clothing,
appliances, electronics and food. Many of the larger grocery stores
cater to the demands of clientele with international tastes, so they
stock delicacies from around the world in addition to national
products. Although some specialty items are expensive, there are
also bargains. In any case, there is almost nothing that cannot be
found in the Greek food market. Greek bakeries offer a tasty variety
of home-style bread from wheat to French and Arabic - all made
without preservatives. Sweet shops specialize in a variety of Greek
pastries and European-style cakes and chocolates. Health food stores
are a new fad and located in many areas. Greek wines are plentiful,
varied and inexpensive, and some of the finer ones compete well
Clothing Last Updated: 11/5/2003 4:21 AM
Wardrobes for Greece should include hot and cold weather clothing
similar to that worn in Washington, D.C., although outer wear for
snowy conditions is normally not necessary, except in northern
Greece and in mountainous areas. Skiing is available, so if you plan
to do some, bring appropriate clothing. Warm winter clothes and
sweaters are necessary because apartments, houses, and some offices
are not adequately heated. Summer clothing should be lightweight and
include many washable items. EWSA provides a contract dry-cleaning
service, which is excellent. Shoes wear out quickly because of dust,
dirt, and uneven pavements. Fashionable shoes in average sizes and
widths are available and of good quality but are expensive. People
with large, narrow, or wide feet or who are more comfortable in
shoes of a special American brand should bring a good supply with
them or order through mail-order companies. Athletic wear and shoes
are available at many stores. Employees sometimes use the services
of a seamstress who can make clothing repairs and do tailoring work.
Men Last Updated: 11/5/2003 4:18 AM
Medium-to-heavyweight wool suits are most comfortable during late
fall and winter. For outdoors, supplement these with a sweater or a
medium weight coat. A lightweight raincoat is also useful. One or
two dark conservative suits are a must. Dark suits are worn year
round for official functions, receptions, and informal dinners.
Black tie is only rarely required for senior officers. In spring,
summer, and early fall, lightweight suits are ideal. Complete
clothing requirements for a full 2- or 3-year tour of duty are
recommended. English and good Greek woolens are available locally
but are expensive. Since the weather is pleasant most of the year,
bring informal sportswear (sport shirts, slacks, shorts, or jeans,
loafers, etc.) for picnics, beaches, and at home. Order shirts,
ties, underwear, pajamas, socks, etc., from the U.S. or purchase
locally at higher prices.
Women Last Updated: 11/5/2003 8:01 AM
Lightweight cotton, cotton-linen blends, silk, or other natural
fibers in simple styles are preferred during the summer season.
Slacks are popular casual attire. Shorts are not popular outside of
the Embassy community unless on an island/ beach. Dark cottons,
silks, and polyesters are worn during spring and fall. Suits and
jacket dresses give versatility to clothes, particularly for changes
of temperature and occasion. Wool dresses, suits, and sweaters are
worn from October through April. At least one black dress or suit
with long or elbow-length sleeves is useful. Leather skirts,
jackets, and coats are popular. Any cloth coat is appropriate in
winter, as are fur coats. One or two raincoats are desirable. The
amount of clothes and variety of dresses required for cocktail
parties, receptions, formal dinners, and dances varies according to
rank and representational activities. European women dress
fashionably, particularly for social occasions. Black is always in
style for dressy occasions. Simple dresses are suitable for cocktail
parties. Short as well as long dresses are worn for formal
Female officers and spouses of diplomatic personnel with
representational responsibilities should have at least two evening
dresses appropriate for formal occasions (one for summer, one for
winter) and appropriate wrap and accessories. Stoles or evening
sweaters are recommended for evening garden parties in summer.
Summer wear is often more casual than dresses for fall and winter
receptions and dinner parties. Ready-to-wear clothes of all kinds
are a standard item in Greece. The British department store, Marks &
Spencer's, offers a good variety of clothing, selling clothes
according to both size and height (i.e. short, medium and tall).
Prices and quality vary. Sales held twice yearly (August and
February) offer good buys. Local shops carry good purses, belts,
buttons, and jewelry. Imported or handmade items are expensive.
Greek markets offer a variety of yard goods. Imported silks,
woolens, and cottons are available, but the best quality fabrics are
expensive. Some local silks are attractive; Greek cottons, though
less expensive, are seldom colorfast or preshrunk and never drip
dry. Notions of European origin are plentiful. Dressmaking services
range from local seamstresses to expensive couturiers. Local
seamstresses are expensive. Local silver jewelry is attractive and
reasonable. Yarns for knitting are available. Fur jackets, stoles,
and coats are available locally. Prices vary according to styles,
kind of fur, and whether the skins are pieced or whole.
Sports clothes are practical. Many summer receptions are in the
garden, so spike heels are not practical. For walking around in
Athens, wear low-heeled shoes with non-skid soles, as the sidewalks
can be slippery and uneven. Purchase sports and walking shoes in the
U.S. (now they are available in Greece, although the everyday shoes
seem to be less comfortable than ones purchased in the U.S.). Greek
and American women wear blouses or sweaters and skirts year round.
These are available locally or ordered through mail-order companies
using APO. Bring several swimsuits, since saltwater and bright sun
wear them out rapidly. Attractive European-style swimsuits are
available locally but are expensive and are made for smaller sizes.
Beach shoes that can be worn in the water are useful for the often
stony or sizzling sand beaches.
Children Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM
Ready-made clothing for children is available locally, but good
quality apparel is expensive. Most families obtain children's
clothing through catalog companies. As in the U.S., boys wear jeans
or slacks to school, and girls wear dresses or skirts or jeans or
slacks with blouses or sweaters. Sweaters are necessary, especially
during colder months when building heat is inadequate.
Supplies and Services
Supplies Last Updated: 11/5/2003 8:08 AM
Athens has several main shopping areas in the city and the
suburbs, where you can find a good variety of locally made and
imported goods. Stores of one specialty cluster together - furniture
stores in one section and light fixtures in another. Megastores
(e.g. Carrefour), large supermarkets and economy merchandise chains
throughout the city carry a wide variety of cleaning and cosmetic
products, as well as everyday household items. Hondos Center is a
store that carries a great variety of makeup lines (Lancome,
Christian Dior, Maybelline, Clinique, etc.), but are more expensive
than in the U.S. Each neighborhood has its own dry cleaner, shoe
repair shop, hairdresser, and men's hair stylist. A contractor
dry-cleaning service is available through the employee's
association. There is a good hair salon, open two days a week,
located on the embassy compound, which provides hair cutting and
styling services for men, women and children at reasonable prices.
Local hair stylists and beauty shops are expensive compared to U.S.
prices for the same service. Housing repairs and problems are
coordinated through GSO. Friends, neighbors, and associates are
helpful on where to find auto mechanics. Mechanics are good, but
parts for American cars may be unavailable. Ordering is possible,
but can be very slow. There is also a contractor auto repair garage
on the embassy compound that can work on your vehicle after-hours.
Domestic Help Last Updated: 11/5/2003 8:11 AM
Domestic help is available in Athens. Embassy families sometimes
employ a fulltime servant or a part-time cleaning person, depending
on representational duties and family size. Many house dwellers also
employ a part-time gardener. Non-Greek national domestics are often
passed from departing to arriving American personnel. Most domestics
hired locally by Embassy employees are Filipinos. These workers
usually speak English and their native language, in addition to
Greek. By government decree and custom, in addition to regular
compensation, full-time servants receive bonuses at Christmas (a
month's salary); Easter (half a month's salary), and vacation time
(8-15 days' wages). Live-in servants also receive food, clothing,
and medical care. The servant's medical care is provided under IKA
(Greek social security - old-age pension and medical care) or proof
of insurance from their own country. A legislative decree provides
for obligatory insurance enrollment with IKA for all full-time,
live-in domestic employees as follows: gardeners, butlers, and cooks
pay 35%-45% of monthly wage (13.25% by employees and 22.20% by
General house workers are normally paid by the hour or by the day
and are considered to be self-employed. Those workers are
responsible for signing up for IKA and making the payments
themselves. Those who employ day workers are not obliged to pay this
insurance fee. The CLO office maintains a list of domestic employees
and references and the HR Office assists employees on the legalities
of residence permits, IKA, etc.
Religious Activities Last Updated: 11/5/2003 8:16 AM
In addition to the Greek Orthodox Church, several other faiths
are represented in Athens. Sunday school and CCD classes are
available through several churches.
St. Andrew's International Church (an interdenominational
fellowship) has services in central Athens and Kifissia.
Others centrally located are St. Denis Cathedral (Catholic), St.
Paul's Anglican, Church of the Latter-day Saints, Grace Baptist
Church, Trinity Baptist Church, Crossroads International Christian
Center, Living Christ Family (Sofokleous St. Omonia), Church of
Christ (Pireaus St. Omonia) and First Church of Christ, Scientist.
Located in the northern suburbs are St. Peter
(Anglican/Episcopal), St. John the Baptist (Catholic), and Hellenic
International Christian Church in Kifissia offers an
interdenominational Pentecostal service.
Located in the southern Suburbs are Glyfada Christian Center and
Church of the Holy Apostles.
The central Cathedral has services in Greek, with readings and
announcements occasionally in English. Beth Shalom Synagogue is
located in Athens, and a mosque occupies the top floor of the
At Post Last Updated: 11/13/2003 12:27 AM
There are a number of schools that serve the international
community. Currently, most Embassy dependent students attend the
American Community Schools, TASIS, and St. Catherine's British
School. The first two schools are fully accredited by the Middle
States Association of Colleges and Schools. St. Catherine's is
accredited in England.
The American Community Schools (ACS) is a private, nonprofit
school incorporated in Delaware. The governing body is an
eight-member Board of Education elected by the Parents Association.
There is always an Embassy representative serving on the Board.
ACS provides an American educational program and offers the
International Baccalaureate program to interested students. ACS has
limited special education resources centers for learning
disabilities at elementary and secondary levels. Admission to these
programs is limited and is based on evaluation of records. ACS has a
current enrollment of 745. Pupils with American citizenship comprise
45% of the student body; English-speaking citizens of more than 40
other countries make up the remainder. About 95 students graduate
from high school each year, and, of these, 95% continue their
education at colleges and universities. The school complex is
located in Halandri, 7 miles from downtown Athens. It consists of
three schools: an elementary school (junior kindergarten through
grade 5), a middle school (grades 6-8), and a high school (grades
9-12), as well as administrative offices. Bus service is available.
Curriculum includes the International Baccalaureate program,
business education, fine arts, physical education and an extensive
foreign language program. ACS Athens offers a large array of
after-school athletic and cultural activities in grades 4-12, as
well as opportunities for in and out-of-country trips
(cultural/athletic middle and high school). ACS participates in
forensic tournaments, as well as the Model United Nations Conference
in The Hague. All faculty members are certified and more than 54%
hold master's degrees. By spring 2004 ACS hopes to have finished
construction on a brand new performing arts center, sports complex
and Olympic size indoor swimming pool. The international address is:
129 Aghias Paraskevis Street and Kazantzakis
152 34 Ano Halandri, Athens, Greece
Tasis Hellenic International School is a branch of the American
School in Switzerland. It was founded in 1979 in a merger between
TASIS Greece and the Hellenic International School, which was
established in 1971. It prides itself on having a caring,
student-centered community. TASIS Hellenic enrolls 284 students at
the Middle and Upper School on the Kifissia campus. TASIS Hellenic
offers American college preparatory, Cambridge University I.G.C.S.E.
and "A" level preparation, American advanced placement courses and
International Baccalaureate programs, and English as a second
language. Classes are small; the average class has 15 students. All
faculty are certified, and 92% of the graduating seniors continue
their education at colleges and universities in the U.S. and the
U.K. The academic year extends from September to mid-June. The
school year is divided into 2 semesters, with a 3-week Christmas
vacation and a 2-week spring break. Grades and teacher comments are
sent to parents four times yearly. Bus transportation is provided
from all major residential areas in and around Athens.
Tasis also has an elementary school (pre-K to grade 5) with an
enrollment of 100 and a curriculum that is designed to meet the
special needs of the young child. The elementary school is located
12 minutes from the middle and high school campus. The mailing
TASIS Hellenic International School
P.O. Box 51051
Artemidos and Xenias Street
145 10 Athens, Greece
E-mail: www.tasis.edu.gr or email@example.com
St. Catherine's British Embassy School is coeducational and
caters for children aged Pre-kindergarten - High school. Some
families are permanent residents of Athens while others are more
internationally mobile. The curriculum is closely modeled on the
British National Curriculum but has certain adaptations and
additions that take into account the school's unique circumstances.
All children follow programs of study in English, mathematics,
science, art and design, geography, history, music, physical
education, religious/moral education, and technology. Every effort
is made to keep class size small. The school occupies a site in
Lykovrissi, bordering the residential suburb of Kifissia, and is
within easy access of other northern suburbs of Athens. All children
are required to wear a school uniform, which is designed so that
most items are relatively easy to obtain. The school's facilities in
terms of playground space, campus environment, and outdoor swimming
pool are excellent. Mailing address for overseas mail is:
P.O. Box 51019
145 10 Kifissia, Greece
Local address is:
Sophocles Venizelou 73
Lycovrissi, Greece 141 23
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.stcatherines.gr
Campion School is an all-age, coeducational international school
run on British lines, admitting pupils of any race or nationality.
Senior pupils are prepared for the "A," "O," and AP level exams and
the SAT. Campion is registered in Massachusetts and has been a
member of the Governing Bodies Association in the U.K. since 1970.
Bus service is available. One-third of the student body is British;
the remainder represents 50 other countries. Computer and technical
studies are available, and a particularly wide range of foreign
languages is taught. Campion has one campus with grades PreK-12 in
Pallini, 16 km from the American Embassy. The mailing address is:
St. Lawrence College is an independent coeducational school
registered in England. A British public/prep school prepares
students for "A" and "O" level exams, as well as SAT's. Current
enrollment is 800 pupils from 18 countries between the ages of 3 and
18 years. The school is located in the Hellenikon area of Athens.
Bus transportation is available. Mailing address is:
Lycee Franco-Hellenique - U.S. Dependents also attend a French
school, which offers a program from PreK though high school. This
school has over 140 students in both the Greek and French sections
of the school. Each section is set by the respective education
ministries. The contact information is:
Special Needs Education Last Updated: 11/5/2003 8:27 AM
Special teachers and speech therapists are available for private
hire through the Center for Psychic Health, 58 Notara Street, 106 83
Athens, telephone 210 881-2944 and 210 823-2833. A private,
independent organization called CARE/HELLAS also has a listing of
specialists. Check with RMO for the listing. ACS and TASIS can
accommodate children with mild special needs or learning
disabilities. Families having children with more severe problems
should verify with the RMO and CLO whether or not facilities are
available for their specific needs at post.
Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 11/13/2003 12:46 AM
The American College of Greece or Deree College serves nearly
7,000 students at its two campuses. The college is an independent,
nonprofit institution accredited by the New England Association for
Schools and Colleges and under American direction. Primarily a
coeducational liberal arts college in the English and American
tradition, the main campus offers a 3-4 year program leading to a
bachelor's degree in business administration, economics, psychology,
sociology, English, history, and dance. The downtown center offers
business and economics courses in the afternoon and evening and
offers a 2-year associate degree in secretarial studies. The first
graduate MBA program will begin in 2004. Most Deree students are
Greek; 20 other nationalities are also represented. Instruction is
in English. Pierce College (tel. 210 639-3250) is an affiliated
secondary school on the main campus. The mailing address is:
6 Gravias Street
153 42 Aghia Paraskevi
E-mail: www.acg.edu or email@example.com
The University of LaVerne is fully accredited with academic
requirements identical to the main school in California. Evening
classes are held at TASIS School in Kifissia, though most classes
are now moving to a new campus near ACS in Halandri as of fall 2003.
BA and BS degrees can be pursued in business administration and
economics, business management, behavioral science, sociology,
history, political science, psychology, social science, and
mathematics. Courses leading to a master's degree are available in
business administration, and management. For counseling and more
information visit their website or write to:
The University of Indianapolis is a private, coeducational
university affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Established
in 1902, and now an integral part of the educational and cultural
life of Indianapolis and environs, the university maintains a
moderate size and a diverse student body to whom it offers a
comprehensive set of general, pre-professional, and professional
programs grounded in the liberal arts.
University of Indianapolis is an accredited institution similar
to LaVerne. They offer BA, BS, MA, MS and MBA degrees. They are
located only a few blocks from the Metro near Syntagma Square. All
professors are U.S.-educated. Address is:
College Year in Athens is a program intended as a year abroad to
enrich education at the sophomore, junior, and senior levels.
Instruction is given in English by visiting U.S. and Greek
professors. Courses are Greek civilization, archaeology, culture,
art, literature, and politics. A limited number of qualified adults
may be accepted as part-time special students for credit. They also
offer short (three week) college-credit courses in Athens or on the
islands. The mailing address is:
Founded in 1881, The American School of Classical Studies at
Athens provides graduate students and scholars from some 168
affiliated North American colleges and universities a base for
research and study in the history and monuments of Hellenic
First and foremost, the school is a teaching institution,
introducing North American graduate students to the sites and
monuments of Greek civilization from antiquity to the recent past.
American School of Classical Studies is primarily a research
institute for a limited number of students sent from the U.S. by
their graduate schools. The mailing address is:
Opportunities for sports participation abound in Greece. Many
tennis clubs exist, from elite to affordable. A superb and rigorous
test of golf is available at the 18-hole Glyfada Golf Course.
Reasonable annual fees of around $1,000, plus slightly more
tourist-oriented daily greens fee are available. Only four other
courses exist in Greece: in Rhodes, Porto Carras (Halkidiki) serving
Thessaloniki and Northern Greece, Corfu, and a small 9-hole course
at the VOA Station in Kavala. American-style 10-pin bowling lanes
are available in a few locations, and are becoming more popular.
The annual Athens marathon group each November and weekly runs of
the international Hash House Harriers welcome joggers wishing
company. There are also a number of weekend walking groups that
welcome both adults and children and their dogs. Roller-skating and
ice-skating rinks are accessible, and health clubs have become
popular. Yachtsmen moor their craft in numerous marinas along the
Saronic Gulf, and organized racing is available. The less affluent
can charter various size yachts with or without a skipper to cruise
the islands. Sailing classes are also available for adults and
Windsurfers love the balmy breeze of the Aegean Sea, and water
skiing, although not as popular, is available as are jet skis. Scuba
divers and sailors must understand Greek regulations and have
knowledge of local waters. Scuba classes are offered as well. For
those who enjoy a sandy beach and cool swim, many beaches are
available in close proximity to Athens. Some private beaches offer
lockers, sports equipment, parking, umbrellas, chairs, and
restaurants in various locations, but for a price. Most public
beaches have tavernas that let you use their chairs and umbrellas if
you buy drinks or a meal there.
There are a number of riding clubs located in Athens, some with
indoor and outdoor rings; lessons given in English can be arranged.
All riding is English style. Horse racing takes place three
afternoons weekly at the Faliron Race course and will soon be
offered at the new Equestrian Center in Markoupoulou.
When the waters cool, the mountains beckon. Greece has several
ski areas with lifts, good rental equipment, and instructors. The
closest to Athens is near Delphi on Mount Parnassus; Kalavryta in
the Peloponnese can be a day trip but is better for a weekend. Mount
Helmos in the Peloponnese is 317 miles from Athens; to the north are
Mount Pelion and Metsovo. There are inexpensive and very popular ski
buses that pick up and drop off at central points during the ski
season for those who don't want to drive. From mid-September to
June, Athenians spend much time rooting for their favorite soccer
team in one of two major stadiums in Athens or in Piraeus. The new
Olympic Stadium is used for a variety of national and international
There are mountaineering, hiking, parachuting, track, table
tennis, badminton, basketball, boxing, cycling, fencing, field
hockey (not ice), riding, rowing, and volleyball associations. The
American Women of Greece (AWOG) and NEWCOMERS Club gives bridge
lessons, and there are several Greek bridge clubs.
Fishing enthusiasts will find excellent trout streams 3-5 hours
from Athens. Sole, bass, pike, mullet, tuna, red snapper, and perch
can be caught in the Aegean Sea. Greece is not a hunter's paradise,
and access to overcrowded areas is difficult. The country-wide
hunting license does not indicate the holder has any gun safety
knowledge. Dove season lasts from mid-August to mid-March; partridge
season from mid-September to mid-November; and other birds and game
from mid-September to mid-March. Decoys and calls are prohibited.
European and American hunting equipment, such as boots, guns,
jackets, etc., are locally available, although American-made
ammunition is difficult to obtain.
Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 11/5/2003 9:10 AM
The heart of an assignment to Greece is definitely its
availability of touring and outdoor activities. Outside the greater
Athens area, one finds Greece. Even with a 2- or 3-year posting,
careful planning is necessary to see what Greece offers, whether
with numerous organized tours and cruises or using good guidebooks
and literature published by the National Tourist Organization.
Representing every era are historical sites and museums
throughout Greece. Within a few hours' drive are Delphi (according
to legend, the ancient navel of the world), Corinth, Mycenae,
Epidaurus, Tiryns, and other renowned sites. By ferry, hydrofoil,
cruise liner, or on local airlines, the numerous islands are
accessible-each with its distinctive character: Crete, Santorini,
Rhodes, Hydra, Corfu, and the innumerable picturesque smaller spots.
Back in Athens are the Acropolis, Agora, Byzantine churches, Roman
ruins, and numerous wonderful museums, ranging from jewelry to
natural history to a children's museum. Accommodations are available
year round in Greece; however, during peak tourist season, advance
reservations are wise, and in mid-winter, many small hotels on the
islands are closed. Hotels vary from deluxe class to back-packer
quality, and recently the National Tourist Organization renovated
several typical old Greek villas in several areas for tourist use.
Camping is also popular in Greece, and campgrounds have been
established throughout the country. There are quite a few ski areas
within a day's drive and a number of employees take full advantage
of skiing facilities on long weekends or day trips. Charter flights
fly in and out of Greece regularly. The Embassy receives deep
discounts during the off-season from local cruise lines and
Entertainment Last Updated: 11/5/2003 9:21 AM
Greece is characterized by the informality, spontaneity,
simplicity, and individuality of its entertainment. Nightlife in
Athens is diversified and interesting. Taverna-style restaurants
throughout the city and suburbs offer music for dining and dancing.
More sophisticated establishments offer floorshows. Clubs are
extremely popular with the younger generation and stay open until
the wee hours. In fact, it's not unusual to see people leaving them
at 6 and 7 a.m.! In summer, outdoor restaurants in the city, the
suburbs, and on the sea front are popular. Athens' better
restaurants and hotels serve Greek and continental food; several
restaurants specialize in Asian and other ethnic food. In
restaurants, cafes, bars, and nightclubs, a per person cover charge
is included in the bill; however, it is customary to round the bill
up to the nearest Euro to tip the waiter.
Athens and the suburbs have many movie theaters. Recent (2-3
months old) American films are popular and widely shown, as are
Greek, French, Italian, Spanish, and German films. Most films are
shown in their original language, with Greek subtitles.
In summer, outdoor theaters are everywhere. Acoustics at the
outdoor cinemas are sometimes poor, but the ambiance makes up for
it. There are some downtown where you can watch a movie and see the
Acropolis light show at the same time. The theater, a tradition
firmly rooted from classical days, operates in modern Greece year
round but suffers the same economic restrictions faced in the U.S.
and Europe. Even so, most of the private long-established Athenian
theaters have full seasons. Greek translations of classical and
contemporary plays by foreign playwrights are included in the
repertory. A revival of the ancient outdoor theater, with the plays
of Sophocles, Euripides, Aeschylus, and Aristophanes, is the basis
of the annual Athens Festival held from June through August.
Performances are given in four locations: in Athens at the imposing
Roman-era Herodus Atticus theater; at the modern Lycabettus Hill
theater, dramatically situated overlooking the city; at the fourth
century B.C. amphitheater, noted for its superb acoustics and
setting, in the Peloponnese at Epidaurus; and "Little" Epidaurus,
2-l/2 hours from Athens.
There is a folk dance company that performs at the theater on
Philopappou Street (opposite the Acropolis) during summer. Karagiozi
shadow theater performances are held in public squares in summer.
Greek commercial firms regularly organize recitals and theater and
ballet performances with foreign artists and troupes during winter.
The National Opera Company and the Athens Ballet Company perform in
winter; the Athens State Orchestra and the Athens State Opera offer
regular year-round programs. The Athens concert hall, the Megaron
Musikis, next to the Embassy, has many classical music and ballet
performances and hosts performers and exhibitions from around the
world. National and religious festivals are colorful, impressive,
and worth seeing. It is also possible to be an armchair viewer, as
most significant festivals are shown on TV. Typical of such
festivities are Epiphany (January) and the pre-Lenten carnival
Art exhibits are held at many galleries and cultural centers in
Athens. The National Gallery of Art, opposite the Hilton Hotel, on
Vasileos Constantinou Avenue, contains a collection of works by
Greek painters. There are many museums devoted to folk art and
handicrafts, where articles of high quality may be found in Athens,
as well as in shops, villages, and islands. The National Museum,
Benaki, and Cycladic Museums and many others have been renovated
recently and offer first-rate exhibits of Greece's history as well
as international rotating exhibits.
Greece has a reciprocal agreement with the U.S. concerning
amateur radio operation. Currently, licenses are available.
Applicants must have a valid U.S. amateur license issued by the
Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The Greek Government does
not allow third-party traffic.
Among Americans Last Updated: 11/5/2003 9:36 AM
Activities include American clubs, fraternal organizations, and
church groups that invite membership. For adults: AWOG (American
Women's Organization of Greece), Newcomers, Greek Red Cross,
American Legion, Masonic Order, Parent-Teacher Association,
Propeller Club, YWCA, and Women's International Club. AWOG (the
American Women's Organization of Greece) was founded by the spouse
of the American Ambassador in 1948 and is open to all American
women, spouses of U.S. citizens, and to a smaller number of Greek
and international members. The honorary president is always the
spouse of the current American Ambassador. Originally founded as a
study group, it has expanded to raise funds for welfare work in
Greece, including bazaars, dances, musical programs, etc. AWOG also
offers opportunities for volunteer work with children, elderly, etc.
It grants scholarships, aid to schools, orphanages, and hospitals.
AWOG has an extensive fine arts program, with weekly and monthly
tours and lectures.
NEWCOMERS is an informal and popular women's group with a wide
international membership. The Newcomers club has no dues, and the
only membership requirement is the ability to speak English. Monthly
meetings are held. Other group activities include Greek cooking,
international cooking, potluck dinners and cocktail parties, tennis,
golf, playgroups, tours, bridge, and walking groups.
Religious groups include Catholic Women's Guild, Catholic Youth
Organization, Protestant Women of the Chapel, Saint Andrew's Women's
Guild, Saint Ann's Sodality, and American Jewish Community Group.
For young people there are Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Girl
International Contacts Last Updated: 11/5/2003 9:40 AM
Due to the many Americans and other English-speaking foreigners who
live in Athens, international contacts are diverse and abundant.
Thus it is easy to make social contacts among those with common
interests. Americans are invited by Greek friends to weddings,
christenings, and other ceremonies in churches and homes. Dress and
etiquette vary according to occasion; the Embassy's Protocol Office
or others who have attended similar functions can help. Dozens of
clubs and organizations in Greece are dedicated to public service,
charity, philanthropy, and the exchange of ideas and cultural
aspects of Greece and other countries. It is important to note that
Greeks tend to dress more formally for events, and the Greek notion
of "informal" is usually business attire.
Nature of Functions Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM
Social functions include coffees, teas, luncheons, cocktail
parties, receptions, dinners, and balls. The Ambassador and senior
Mission officers often include junior and mid-grade officers at
events which they host. Senior diplomatic officers and their spouses
are included on the guest lists of their equivalents in the Greek
Government and other embassies. With the large diplomatic corps in
Athens, representational obligations can be demanding for senior and
some mid-grade officers. Business attire is appropriate dress for
most social functions.
Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM
Your section chief arranges calls on the Ambassador and the DCM.
Calls by spouses of U.S. officials are not required.
Business cards are widely used. Bilingual cards are not
necessary; cards in English are acceptable. Officers should bring an
initial supply of at least 50 cards. Printed or engraved cards can
be obtained locally, but are more expensive than in the United
States. Locally printed informals and invitations are available.
Social function hours vary but tend to start and finish later
than in the United States. Events hosted by Americans begin earlier
than those hosted by Greeks. Luncheons usually begin between 1 and
2:30 p.m. Cocktail parties usually begin between 7 to 9 p.m., and
sit-down dinners can start as late as 9 to 10 p.m. Siesta time is
widely observed between 2:30 and 5 p.m. in summer and 2:30 and 4:30
in winter, but some Greeks choose to rest between 5:30 and 7 p.m.
You should avoid telephoning people's homes during these hours.
Special Information Last Updated: 6/14/2004 5:08 AM
Consulate General - Thessaloniki
Post City Last Updated: 11/26/2003 7:12 AM
With well over 1 million inhabitants, Thessaloniki is Greece's
second largest city, located 300 miles north of Athens in the
ancient province of Macedonia. Built around the shores of the
Thermaikos Gulf and framed by its acropolis and Mount Hortiatis,
Thessaloniki enjoys a splendid natural setting.
Thessaloniki was founded in 315 BC by Kassandros, brother-in-law
of Alexander the Great, probably on the site of classical Therme.
Kassandros named the city after his wife, the daughter of Philip of
Macedon and half-sister of Alexander the Great. Just two decades
earlier King Philip had won a decisive victory for his Thessalian
allies at Chaeronia. He named the daughter born to him that year
Thessaloniki ("Thessalian Victory") to commemorate his triumph. When
Alexander's half-sister was wed to General Kassandros, the city was
given to them as a home and renamed after her.
In 146 AD Thessaloniki, by then under the domination of Rome,
became an imperial provincial capital governing the area from the
Adriatic to the Black Sea. During this era the famous Via Egnatia
was constructed as a through-road between Rome in the west and
Constantinople in the east. The Via Egnatia is one of the great
commercial roads of history and remains one of Thessaloniki's major
Thessaloniki achieved its greatest prominence during the late
Roman and Byzantine periods when it became the first city of the
"province" of Greece, far surpassing Athens in commercial and
administrative importance. Its large natural port and location at a
crossroads in southeastern Europe made it a tempting target for
successive conquerors. As the Byzantine Empire declined, Saracens,
Normans, and Venetians at various times gained control of the city.
Venice bought Thessaloniki in 1423 AD, but the city was seized by
the Ottoman Empire in 1430 and suffered a decline in importance
under the 482-year Turkish occupation. Many Jews expelled from Spain
in 1492 settled in Thessaloniki, giving it, by the 19th century, one
of the largest Jewish communities in Europe. Turkish rule ended on
October 26, 1912, with the recapture of the city by Greek troops.
October 26 is also the name-day of the city's patron saint,
Demetrios, and the liberation is celebrated every year on that day.
The central part of Thessaloniki was rebuilt after a disastrous
fire in 1917 using a design drawn by the French architect Hebrard.
During World War II the Germans occupied the city for nearly 4
years, until their withdrawal in October 1944. More than 50,000
members of the city's vibrant Jewish community perished during the
Holocaust. Since the war, and particularly in the last 30 years, the
city has expanded rapidly, its population rising from 380,000 in
1961 to 871,500 in 1981. Thessaloniki's character changed during
this time from that of a prosperous provincial city to a booming,
modern metropolis with all the urban problems that plague the
world's large cities.
Thessaloniki is second in Greece only to the Athens/Piraeus area
as an industrial and commercial center. Industries in the area
produce petrochemical products, textiles, wood and paper products,
steel, and assorted manufactured goods including defense
commodities. As throughout the city's history, transportation
services and shipping remain significant sources of revenue for
Thessaloniki. The city dreams of regaining its Byzantine role as a
pan-Balkan commercial center and has built a network of regional
institutions; offices focusing on regional issues are proliferating.
Although the overwhelming majority of its inhabitants are now of
Greek ethnic origin, Thessaloniki has small numbers of various other
Balkan nationalities, as well as a few thousand members of the
once-thriving Jewish community. Thessaloniki also houses two of
Greece's largest universities and two U.S.-affiliated private
colleges that attract students from throughout Greece and the
The post's consular district encompasses the two northernmost
Greek provinces-Macedonia and Thrace as well as most of Thessaly in
central Greece, extending from Albania in the west to the Turkish
border in the east and from the Aegean Sea and the Gulf of Magnesia
in the south to The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and
Bulgaria in the north.
Some 4,400 U.S. citizens live in the greater Thessaloniki area
and 8,850 in the consular district overall. Most are of Greek origin
and reside permanently in Greece. Several Americans are employed by
local English-speaking private schools; others teach and study at
the Aristotle University in Thessaloniki under Fulbright and other
programs. Twelve countries maintain consulates or commercial offices
in Thessaloniki, and honorary consuls or consular agents of Greek
nationality represent 36 other countries.
The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 11/26/2003 7:15 AM
In April 1999 the Consulate General moved to a purpose-built,
8,500 sq. foot office suite on the 7th floor of 43 Tsimiski Street,
a new mixed-use office building on the city's major commercial
artery. Office hours are 8:30 am to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
The Consular Section is open to the public from 9 am-12 pm, Monday,
Wednesday, and Friday. The Consulate General's phone number is
The new office space is modern, well lit, disabled-accessible,
and fully climate-controlled. In addition to the usual offices,
meeting rooms, and consular waiting area, the location has a
multipurpose space used to host cultural events. There is a small
staff kitchen with microwave and refrigerator. The new office also
includes a small gym and showers for staff use. The building has an
(expensive) underground commercial garage for employee parking;
however, the city provides limited reserved on-street parking for
Two FSOs staff the Consulate General, along with an almost
full-time American administrative assistant. The Consulate General
employs 15 FSNs who have consular and transportation duties and has
a guard staff of 26 on contract from Wackenhut. The U.S. military
normally posts a Foreign Area Officer (an Army captain who maintains
an office at the Consulate General and participates in the post duty
officer rotation) who attends the Greek War College in Thessaloniki.
Given the security posture of the U.S. in Greece, the Consul
General travels in an armored vehicle and is accompanied by two
Greek police bodyguards. The Consul General's residence is under
armed police guard and contract guard surveillance; all other
official residences have security alarms; the other FSO has a
security detail as well. Aside from concerns about terrorism,
however, the city has relatively little violent crime or theft.
Arrival at Post
Official U.S. Government travel to/from the U.S. can route via
Zurich or Vienna. Thessaloniki is readily accessible by air directly
from many major European cities. Travelers transiting through Athens
should allow at least 1 hour to catch their connecting flight to
Thessaloniki. Flight time is approximately 45 minutes. The Embassy
Administrative Section will make hotel reservations for overnight
stays in Athens if notified in advance. The Consulate General will
normally meet at the airport or rail station all personnel assigned
Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 11/26/2003 7:16 AM
Whenever possible new employees move directly into their
permanent housing. If employee overlap at arrival does not allow new
personnel to occupy their permanent housing, the Consulate General
will arrange temporary hotel accommodations.
Permanent Housing Last Updated: 4/29/2004 2:48 PM
The Consul General’s residence is located in Neo Risio, a village
with a marginally suburban character, 12 miles south of the
Consulate General (30–40 minutes by car). The private living
quarters on the upper floor of the two-story residence comprise a
master bedroom/bath with private balcony and separate sitting area
and two smaller bedrooms that share a balcony. Also on the upper
floor are the living room with fireplace, dining room with room for
12, powder room, and a kitchen. The living room-dining room area is
bordered by a large balcony overlooking the residence compound. The
lower level includes a large recreation room with bar and a separate
sitting area with fireplace, a sauna, and fitness room with attached
bath, a wood-paneled office/study, a second kitchen with a large
dining area, a utility and storage room, and a powder room. Both
kitchens in the main building have dishwashers, stoves, and
full-sized refrigerators and are fully outfitted with pots, pans,
silverware, and dishes. The house also includes a full set of
representational china, crystal, and silver. In addition to standard
appliances, the house is equipped with a multi-system TV and VCR,
satellite dish, 7 air-conditioners, coffeemakers, toaster,
microwave, ironing board, iron, 24 folding chairs, 4 round folding
tables, extensive patio furniture, and stereo system. All furniture
was replaced in 1998 as part of the 13-year representational housing
The compound of the Consul General’s residence is located above a
small ravine and is enclosed by a stone wall on three sides and
security fencing on the fourth. It includes a large swimming pool
and a tennis court with an artificial surface. A two-level building
between the swimming pool and tennis court houses changing rooms,
two powder rooms, and a summer kitchen with a large, covered patio.
Another two-story building on the compound contains staff quarters
(large sitting/bedroom, kitchen, and a bath) on the ground floor,
and a guestroom with bath upstairs, each equipped with an
air-conditioner. A chapel, a fully equipped wet bar, and two
barbecues are also located near the pool. The remainder of the yard
consists of irrigated garden areas planted with shrubs and small
trees. A stone-paved parking area immediately inside the compound
gate can accomodate up to six cars.
The second Consulate General officer lives in a three-bedroom,
one-and-a-half bath apartment, three blocks from the waterfront, in
the Thessaloniki suburb of Kalamaria, about 4 miles from the
Consulate General. It takes 15 to 45 minutes to get from home to
office, depending on traffic. This apartment is a modern duplex
occupying the entire fourth and fifth floors of a five-story
building, with balconies on both floors. The living/dining area,
seating eight, and an eat-in kitchen are located on the upper floor.
The living room features a working fireplace and there is a built-in
barbeque on the upper balcony. A marble staircase descends to the
bedrooms. The floors are marble with the exception of the hardwood
floors in the bedrooms. Off-street parking is located by the front
entrance of the building. The apartment is close to the waterfront
walkway that extends to the center of Thessaloniki, offering easy
access to walking, jogging, and bicycling.
Furnishings Last Updated: 4/29/2004 2:57 PM
All housing is well furnished and equipped with lamps, a
refrigerator, electric stove, microwave, vacuum, and washer and
dryer. Transformers are provided; some electric fans may be
available. Beds are either standard U.S. queen-size or twin.
Household effects usually take 2 to 3 months to arrive from
Washington, D.C. but “Welcome Kits" are available in the interim.
Food Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:03 PM
Most urban Thessalonicans still shop at their small neighborhood
stores. These stores come in a variety of distinct flavors:
bakeries, pastry shops, butchers, cheese merchants, produce sellers,
grocers, and fishmongers. All provide a wide selection of quality
products. Additionally, there is a large, covered central market
area near the Consulate General that sells regional produce and
other foodstuffs, and many neighborhoods have weekly farmers’
markets. The fresh fruits and vegetables are usually of excellent
quality and relatively inexpensive, although more seasonal than in
the U.S. Seafood is readily available, but often rather pricey.
Cheeses and dairy products are excellent, as is the large variety of
bread available locally.
In addition to these traditional sources, there are two
European-standard supermarket chains with outlets in the city. These
supermarkets stock a European-style inventory, which is normally
fully adequate. Diet drinks and low calorie foods are difficult to
find. Prices are generally somewhat higher than in the U.S.
Consulate General employees can obtain access to the commissary in
Athens by joining the Employee Association.
The city’s unfluoridated water is potable but not particularly
tasty. Most people drink bottled water, which is readily available
at all locations. Local wines are inexpensive and of excellent
quality. European and some American brands are also obtainable. Beer
and liquor are not duty-free outside the commissary. Most Greeks
prefer beer or scotch whiskey to wine, so there is no
representational need to purchase other alcoholic beverages.
Supplies and Services
Basic Services Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:15 PM
Shopping, Services, and Transportation
Barbers, hairdressers, and dry cleaners are available at U.S.
prices and quality, and traditional tailors and cobblers have shops
throughout the city. Electronic, appliance, and automotive repair is
also readily available in Thessaloniki, although spare parts for
American and some other non-European models are hard to obtain.
Ford, Honda, Chrysler (Jeep only), Toyota, Hyundai, and all European
manufacturers have service and parts facilities in the city but may
be unfamiliar with models not sold in Europe.
Taxis in the city are numerous if a bit feisty. Drivers routinely
pick up other passengers en route and often refuse to take customers
to destinations deemed inconvenient. Radio taxis can be ordered at a
slight additional cost but are sometimes unavailable at peak hours.
Buses are frequent and inexpensive but often crowded. Traffic is
heavy in the city center — often at unusual hours by U.S. standards
— but generally acceptable in most other neighborhoods. Many city
streets are one-way, causing additional confusion. Street parking is
difficult everywhere in town. Minor streets are very narrow and
crowded with parked cars. Inter-city roads are well-marked but of
wildly varying quality. Road surfaces are more slippery than in the
U.S. and stopping distances longer.
Telephone service is generally reliable and most of the network
has been upgraded to all-digital lines. Local providers sell
Internet access at approximately U.S. prices, ISDN lines with a
speed of up to 128.0 KB is available. Older modems may require user
software reconfiguration to detect local dial tone. Cell phones are
ubiquitous and reasonably priced. Officers are provided with mobile
phones for official use. Other utilities are normally reliable, but
water pressure and supply can be problematic in some areas during
A local bank account is not needed in Thessaloniki. Checks are
rarely accepted, and when they are, fees to cash them are high. The
Consulate General provides accommodation exchange daily each weekday
morning. ATMs connected to U.S. bank networks (Cirrus, Plus)
dispense local currency around the clock. Utility payments can be
made through the Consulate General cashier in cash.
Most shops are small family operations. As described above, the
city also has several large supermarkets (which also sell clothing,
appliances, electronics, office supplies, and other items), as well
as a bulk-purchase discount warehouse, Footlocker shoe stores, some
large toy stores modeled on Toys “R” Us, and two large hardware
stores similar to Home Depot. Marks & Spencer has a store in the
complex where the Consulate General is located, as does Virgin
Records. Numerous shops sell antiques, and there is a weekly
open-air flea market near the Rotunda. Sporting goods are more
expensive than in U.S. stores.
Most larger stores will have at least one employee who speaks
some English. At smaller establishments, communication can require a
bit more creativity on the part of the non-Greek speaker. Due to
higher consumption taxes, prices for clothing, appliances,
electronics, toys, cosmetics, toiletries, and most other items are
generally higher than in the U.S. The selection of over-the-counter
medications is limited and available only at pharmacies. Shops are
open three evenings a week but otherwise closed in mid-afternoon.
Virtually all are closed Sunday and holidays. Refund/
return/exchange policies are rare. Many shops refuse to process
value-added tax (VAT) refund (18%) requests, but major chains can be
APO mail service to post is reliable but slow (usually 2 to 3
weeks from the U.S.). The Consulate General does not have its own
APO post office, so all out-going packages must be sent via Athens
for weighing and stamping. Local mail service is slow and sporadic.
Local dental and optical services are good. As in the rest of
Greece, Thessaloniki’s public hospitals provide nearly free
healthcare; however, most foreigners choose to use private
hospitals. In Thessaloniki post staff usually go to Saint Lucas
Clinic, a private hospital in Panorama near Pinewood School. Saint
Lucas provides quality healthcare for slightly below U.S. prices.
The InterBalkan Medical Center, a state-of-the-art private hospital
affiliated with the Medical Center Hospital in Athens, opened in
2000. Many physicians speak English and are U.S.-trained.
Nearly two dozen television stations broadcast locally around the
clock. Most programs are in Greek, but normally there are one or two
English-language movies on each evening as well as National
Geographic and other documentaries. Many more American movies are
broadcast late in the evening, usually after midnight. U.S. network
evening news broadcasts are shown live early each morning. Satellite
service is available free with a dish but offers only a few channels
in English, with the remainder broadcasting in French, Italian,
German, and Polish. New local subscription satellite services have
significantly more English content. Pay cable TV includes movie and
cartoon channels. Many shops rent SECAM videos and European-coded
DVDs inexpensively. There are many radio stations, some featuring a
mix of Greek and American music.
Duty-free unleaded gasoline is available from only two stations
in the city. Coupons accepted at one station must be purchased at
the commissary in Athens; the other station accepts a special
payment book provided by the Consulate General. Duty-free gas costs
approximately 55 cents per liter, while full price unleaded can hit
85 cents per liter.
Domestic Help Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:15 PM
Post provides the Consul General with a maid and a cook.
Additional full-time domestic help is difficult to obtain, and wages
are high. Part-time help is reasonably available for about $40–$50
for a 6–8 hour day. English-speaking childcare for evenings can be
located with a little persistence but is difficult to find it for
Religious Activities Last Updated: 11/26/2003 7:23 AM
The Greek Evangelical Church, located downtown, serves the small
Greek Protestant community. The Church of the Immaculate Conception
downtown holds Catholic Mass; services and sermons are in Greek and
are in French on Sunday evenings. Confessions are heard in Greek,
French, and Italian. An Anglican-Episcopal vicar conducts services
in English on Sunday in the Armenian Church on Dialetti Street. A
Synagogue with two downtown chapels serves the long-established
At Post Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:18 PM
The Pinewood Schools Association, Inc. is a private, nonprofit
corporation providing pre-kindergarten (ages 3 and 4) through grade
12 education for English-speaking, mostly non-Greek children. The
school year consists of two semesters running from early September
to early January and from mid-January to mid-June. Curricula,
teaching plans, and materials conform to U.S. standards, and the
school has been accredited in the U.S. An elected 11-member board,
including the Consul General as an ex officio member, governs the
Pinewood has 19 full-time and 16 part-time teachers, about half
of whom are American. Total enrollment averages 207 children.
Roughly a quarter of the students are American and the rest are a
diverse group from 32 different countries. With a student-to-teacher
ratio of around 10:1, classes are normally small with frequent
individual attention. Pinewood has decently equipped and maintained
facilities, including a chemistry/biology laboratory, small gym/
auditorium, library/audio-visual center, music and art rooms, and
computer room. The school offers instruction in music and Greek and
provides a limited after-school activities program. There is an
on-campus snack bar, and school bus service is available to most
areas. Pinewood can be contacted at: Director Pinewood Schools
Association, P.O. Box 21001, 555 10 Pilea, Thessaloniki, Greece.
Tel.:30–2310–301–221 Fax: 30–2310–323–196 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The American College of Thessaloniki provides a U.S.-accredited,
liberal arts undergraduate education in English. Additional
information is available at the: American College of Thessaloniki,
c/o Anatolia College, P.O. Box 21021, 555 10 Pilea, Thessaloniki,
Greece. Tel.: 30–2310–316–740 Fax: 30–2310–301–076 The Aristotle
University in Thessaloniki offers (in Greek) a foreign-students
program, including an excellent intensive Greek course that does not
require applicants to take an entrance examination. City University
offers part-time (day and evening) undergraduate and graduate
classes in English through the University of Sheffield (England).
Away From Post Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:18 PM
Other than the American Community Schools in Athens, the nearest
suitable boarding schools are in Austria, Italy, Switzerland, or
Recreation and Social Life Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:19 PM
Northern Greeks adhere to a daily schedule that does not always
fit well with an American workday. Offices open between 8 and 9
a.m., but many close for the day in mid-afternoon. Lunch rarely
occurs before 1:30 in the afternoon – later on the weekends – and
tends to last several hours. Dinner in private homes and at
restaurants seldom begins before 9 p.m. and can start as late as
10:30 or 11 p.m. on weekend evenings. Nightclubs and similar centers
generally do not begin to fill with people before midnight and often
remain active until dawn, even during the week. The city’s large
university population (about 60,000) ensures that such
establishments are always busy.
Sports Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:20 PM
Several small but good tennis clubs are available through club
membership. In addition to public and YMCA courts, Anatolia College
rents two tennis courts during summer. The American Farm School also
has a court available. The YMCA in the center of the city has a
swimming pool, handball, and basketball courts, and offers aerobics,
yoga, art classes, and other activities (in Greek). Several private
gyms offer members access to facilities of varying quality around
the city although prices are not low. There is also a small
assortment of professional-grade gym equipment in the Consulate
Northern Greece’s one golf course, on the Halkidiki peninsula, is
an 18-hole course and is open 7 days a week. For horse lovers,
several excellent riding schools (English saddle only) with
inexpensive instruction in English operate in Thermi and Panorama,
30 minutes by car from the Consulate General. The building housing
the Consulate General includes a bowling alley and a large gym.
Private tennis, swimming, pottery, and other lessons are available
at a reasonable price. Cycling can be difficult due to traffic and
dogs, but short, pleasant and safe rides are possible along the
waterfront. Mountain biking possibilities exist in the forests and
hills near the city. Athletic equipment is, however, both difficult
to find and expensive. Soccer is the most popular spectator sport in
Thessaloniki, though basketball is also well attended. The city has
three athletic associations that field both soccer and basketball
teams in Greece’s premier leagues.
Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:22 PM
The nearest beaches, including one with bathhouses, snack bars,
chairs, and umbrellas, are 15–20 miles from the city. Some 45–75
miles from the city, crystal-clear water and isolated beaches
provide excellent bathing and snorkeling. The more isolated beaches
have no cabins or bathhouses to provide protection from the hot sun.
Beach and snorkel equipment is available locally in season. Modest
apartments near the beach are available for summer or year-round
rental at reasonable prices. VOA/Kavala (3 hours by car) boasts a
modest 9-hole golf course, club house, and private beach. Ferry
service from Thessaloniki to many Greek islands is available
throughout the summer. Several hotels have fee-for-access pools for
families during the summer.
Three yacht clubs provide anchorage but only limited service for
small craft. Small motorboats are available but expensive. Most
weekday mornings see a few sculls rowing across the main harbor.
Good hiking is possible in nearby mountains, and ambitious hikers
can climb 10,000-foot Mt. Olympus (40 miles distant), overnighting
at one of the two hikers lodges near the summit. There are ski
resorts within 2 hours at Selli in the Vermion Range, Tria-Pente
Pigadia in Naoussa, Lialias in Serres, and 3–4 hours distant in
Bulgaria and FYROM. Locally purchased equipment is expensive.
Partridge, quail, dove, hare, and wild boar can be hunted in
fall, but hunting is poor in the immediate vicinity of Thessaloniki.
Waterfowl hunting can be arranged but is expensive. Salt water
fishing and spear fishing is good in nearby Halkidiki, but nearby
lakes are too polluted for fresh water fish to thrive. More isolated
rivers and lakes are better choices.
Like all of Greece, the area around Thessaloniki boasts numerous
archaeological sites and museums. Pella, ancient capital of
Macedonia and birthplace of Alexander the Great, is 45 minutes from
Thessaloniki. Several beautifully preserved mosaics and numerous
artifacts are on display. At nearby Vergina, several royal tombs
were discovered in 1977. One is believed to be that of Philip II,
father of Alexander. The principal finds are on exhibit in new
underground museum onsite. Naoussa, noted for its fruit trees, wine,
and fresh trout; Edessa, with its dam and picturesque waterfalls;
Kastoria, a picturesque, provincial town, noted for its Byzantine
churches, scenic beauty, and fur industry; and the islands of Thasos
and Samothrace are all within easy driving or ferry distance of the
Consulate General. The unique Mount Athos peninsula is also nearby.
The monasteries of the Mount Athos (known as the “Holy Mountain” in
Greek) form an independent ecclesiastical government dating from
medieval times. Visitors travel to Ouranoupolis by road (2 hours)
and then by small boat out onto the peninsula. Entry to the
peninsula requires a visa (issued locally), and no women or minors
are allowed. Trips to tourist sites in Bulgaria, FYROM, Serbia and
Kosovo are also possible from Thessaloniki, but travelers should
double check auto insurance coverage.
Entertainment Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:24 PM
Local and international artists present a variety of
Greek-language plays, concerts, lectures, and exhibits throughout
the year. The Opera Company, the National Theater, and other Athens
companies come to Thessaloniki annually for l- to 2-week runs. The
National Symphony Orchestra of Northern Greece performs weekly fall
through spring, and in the summer an outdoor theater brings
high-quality cultural events to a hillside venue above the city. The
Thessaloniki Concert Hall, a new facility for classical music, and
the fully remodeled Royal Theater opened their doors in 2000. Both
host performances by international and Greek groups, including
well-known ensembles such as Britain’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
The International Trade Fair of Thessaloniki is held annually during
September with industrial exhibits, consumer goods, and
entertainment activities. The city holds a wine festival during the
fair, as well as a Greek song festival and a weeklong cinema
festival. An outdoor flower exhibit and international jazz festival
open each May, and the city hosts a major cultural festival each
October and an international film festival each November. Various
colorful and interesting religious festivities occur throughout the
The city has a good-size waterslide park with tube rides and wave
pool, and a year-round, carnival-style amusement park. There are a
number of both indoor and outdoor movie theaters, including three
state-of-the-art multiplexes (one in the Consulate General office
complex). Theaters show mostly big-budget American films (which tend
to appear 2 to 3 months after they debut in the States); movies are
always shown in their original language with Greek subtitles, except
for cartoons, which are usually dubbed.
Thessaloniki has an active nightlife centering on the three
expanding club districts and a strip of cafes along the waterfront.
Clubs are loud, smoky, trendy, and packed. The more popular places
often charge significant covers even for nights with recorded music.
Hyatt Regency operates an upscale casino just outside the city that
features slots and gaming tables. Two large nightclub and open-air
theater complexes just beyond the western edge of the city offer a
variety of jazz, rock, and (Greek) comedy performances. Thessaloniki
is reputed to have over 3,000 restaurants, including hundreds of
charming Greek restaurants and tavernas, many of them featuring al
fresco dining. Non-Greek cuisine is confined to a few Italian,
French, European, American, Mexican, Japanese and Chinese
restaurants of varying quality. McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Applebee’s,
Ruby Tuesday’s and Haagen Dazs have outlets in the city, but not all
foreign chains operating in Athens have opened in Thessaloniki.
Anatolia College (a local U.S.-affiliated high school) and the
British Council Library have English-language books and periodicals
for loan. Local bookstores have a fair selection of English-language
books at high prices. Pinewood School keeps its library open 1 day a
week during the summer for children who wish to borrow books when
classes are out.
Social Activities Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:26 PM
Social obligations at post can be quite demanding. Since
breakfasts, and thus breakfast meetings, are not a part of the Greek
day, the full weight of daily social and business contact falls upon
lunch. These contact lunches are late and long, usually lasting from
1:30 to 4 p.m. or later. Evening events are also late. Receptions
seldom begin before 9:30 p.m., and official dinners usually start
between 10 and 11 and never before 9. These events can easily last
until 1 or 2 in the morning. Thessaloniki has an unexpectedly large
number of weekend events (except in summer), including seminars,
receptions, conferences, and conventions. Fall and spring are
particularly busy, while little happens during July and August.
The Consulate General puts on two major functions each year: a
reception in connection with the International Trade Fair and a
Fourth of July celebration. U.S. naval vessels call at the port
several times each year. A significant amount of support traffic for
U.S. forces on Kosovo also transits Thessaloniki. Post rarely sees
Congressional visits, but a steady stream of lower ranking
government officials does come through Thessaloniki, many from
nearby Balkan posts and U.S. military missions. Additionally, the
Ambassador makes a half-dozen or more official visits from Athens
Official Functions Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:26 PM
Social obligations at post can be quite demanding. Since
breakfasts, and thus breakfast meetings, are not a part of the Greek
day, the full weight of daily social and business contact falls upon
lunch. These contact lunches are late and long, usually lasting from
1:30 to 4 p.m. or later. Evening events are also notoriously late.
Receptions seldom begin before 9:30 p.m., and official dinners
usually start between 10 and 11 and never before 9. These events can
easily last until 1 or 2 in the morning. Thessaloniki has a
significant number of weekend events, including seminars,
receptions, conferences, and conventions. Fall and spring are
particularly busy, while little happens during July and August, when
the city empties for the summer holidays.
The Consulate General puts on two major functions each year: a
reception in connection with the International Trade Fair and a
Fourth of July celebration. U.S. naval vessels call at the port
several times each year. Post rarely sees Congressional visits, but
a steady stream of lower ranking government officials does come
through Thessaloniki. Additionally, the Ambassador makes a
half-dozen or more official visits from Athens each year.
Special Information Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:27 PM
Post Orientation Program
Post will provide new arrivals with a “Welcome to Thessaloniki”
kit, including a summary of the Mission’s history and local
organizations. The material also includes maps, walking tours, and a
brief outline of the region’s history and attractions. The small
post community will do everything possible to welcome new arrivals
to Greece and introduce them to the city and its people.
VOA Relay Station - Kavala
Post City Last Updated: 6/14/2004 5:07 AM
IBB GREECE TRANSMITTING STATION
The IBB Greece Transmitting Station is located in an agricultural
area of the northeastern part of Greece, 500 miles by road from
Athens and 150 miles east of Thessaloniki. The nearest large
population center is Xanthi, located 20 miles north, with about
Kavala, with about 100,000 people, is a mixture of old and new.
It is located 45 miles from the station’s headquarters via a road
that passes through scenic farmland, with a backdrop of rugged
mountains, and crosses the Nestos River. Its seaport accommodates
light shipping, and fishing boats operate from there. It is a
popular tourist city, with a picturesque old quarter, Turkish
fortress, and Roman aqueduct.
Kavala has an international airport near Chryssoupolis, 20 miles
east of Kavala, from which Olympic and Aegean Airways operate daily
flights to and from Athens. The airport is 45 minutes from post.
A few miles from Kavala are the ruins of the ancient city of
Philippi, named by Alexander the Great in honor of his father, and
the site of St. Paul’s first sermon in Europe. There, the theater of
Philippi is still in use during summer, and portions of St. Paul’s
first churches in Europe still remain.
The climate is comparable to that of the U.S. southern states. In
winter, temperatures are in the 30’s and low 40’s, with a few days
of below-freezing weather. Northern Greece gets its rain in winter
and early spring. In the summer months of July and August,
temperatures range around 90°F.
The Post and Its Administration
The Kavala Transmitting Station is one of IBB’s largest overseas
radio stations. The Transmitting Station site occupies a 2,000-acre
plot of flat land bordered on one side by the Aegean Sea. Near the
western border of the plot is the mouth of the Nestos River. The
site contains the transmitter plant building (housing the station’s
administrative offices and the transmitting plant operation), the
power plant building (with nearby storage tanks that have a capacity
of 1 million gallons of diesel fuel), the warehouse/garage
facilities building, an antenna field, 15 houses for American
families, and private beach facilities.
The transmitter plant receives RFE/RL, VOA and IBB radio programs
from the U.S. via satellite. Programs are rebroadcast to target
areas, including east and central Europe, central and south Asia,
the Middle East, and Africa by medium- and shortwave radio broadcast
transmitters using directional antennas. The telephone number for
the IBB Greece Transmitting Station is (2541) 61120 and 61130.
Residences (usually three- or four-bedroom houses) are furnished
with basic items such as living/dining/bedroom/patio furniture,
carpeting, draperies, essential lamps, an electric range with oven,
microwave oven, refrigerator, freezer, washer, dryer, and
dishwasher. Cooking utensils, cutlery, china, linen, silverware,
glassware, and vacuum cleaners are not provided.
For newly arrived personnel, a Hospitality Kit, including linens,
cutlery, dishes, cooking utensils, vacuum cleaner, iron and ironing
board, toaster, and other minor items, is provided for use until
your HHE arrives, usually in 1-3 months. The station has a
closed-circuit TV system with Armed Forces Network satellite TV
channels (NTSC). AC power at the station is 120v, 50 Hz, so most
American appliances can be used. Houses use standard US 3-prong wall
outlets. Include small items of furnishings to make your house more
homelike; bring pictures, wall clocks, etc.
Mass is celebrated at the small Catholic church in Kavala on
Sundays. No nearby religious services in English are available.
Operation of a “school at post” at the Kavala Transmitting
Station is contingent upon the number and grade level of students
available and the desires of the parents. The 2002-03 school year
had a 1st grade class in operation with a certified teacher/tutor
who was contracted through the station’s B&G contractor. The State
Department does not consider this method to be adequate, compared to
stateside public schools. Employees also have the option to send
their children to boarding schools located in Thessaloniki, Athens,
and Europe. For current details on the extent and availability of
schools at post, as well as suggestions on boarding schools, contact
the post administrative officer.
Recreation and Social Life
Since most entertainment is self-provided, include in your
effects any stereo equipment, CDs, DVDs and tapes. TV programming
and video tapes are NTSC or PAL. If you own a multi-standard TV
receiver and multi-system VCR, bring them. They may also be
purchased through the AAFES mail-order catalog. DVD and videotape
rentals are available locally. Satellite TV reception equipment also
is available for purchase locally.
An extensive sandy beach winds along the southern boundary of the
station and can be enjoyed during summer. Two tennis courts are
available near the housing compound. Additionally, some employees
enjoy gardening. The station offers a clubhouse with a weight room,
pool table, ping-pong, and a paperback and video library.
The main highways and city streets in northern Greece are paved,
although streets in the towns and villages are narrow. Local garages
carry limited supplies of spare car parts. The parts are mostly for
foreign-made cars and are expensive. Cars of employees assigned to
the station should be in good condition before they are shipped.
Include in your HHE shipment a 2-3 year supply of oil filters and
tune-up parts. Auto insurance can be arranged at post.
Mail and Pouch
Letters sent via APO take an average of 14 to 21 days; packages
take an average of 30 days. International mail service in Greece is
adequate. (See also Communications – Athens.)
Notes For Travelers
Getting to the Post Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:29 PM
Most personnel come to post from the U.S. traveling by air from
Washington, D.C. via New York. For change of planes in New York,
allow 2 hours between flights for luggage transfer. Visas are
required for employees traveling on diplomatic passports. Friends or
relatives using tourist passports do not need a visa but any tourist
stay in Greece is limited to three months. Currency exchange is
available at the airport. ATM machines are everywhere — even in
grocery stores and hospitals. IBB employees travel via Athens or
Thessaloniki and may stop over to do inprocessing and obtain or
apply for various identity documents. Hotel reservations can be made
upon request to the Travel Section.
Bring clothes to post similar to those worn in Washington, D.C.
Since surface shipments may take almost 2 months from the U.S., plan
wardrobes for a change of season, where applicable, at time of
arrival. (Note: It is hot in Athens and Thessaloniki in September,
but by November, woolens and rain gear are needed.) Fully stocked
welcome kits are provided for all new arrivals. Welcome kits include
ironing board and iron, sheets, towels, plates and silverware,
cooking utensils and glassware. The embassy provides a vacuum
cleaner and microwave to each employee and most housing has
Customs, Duties, and Passage
Customs and Duties Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:30 PM
No special rules, limits, restrictions, or requirements are
imposed on official U.S. employees or their dependents when entering
the country. Holders of diplomatic and official passports assigned
to Greece must have a valid Greek entry visa. Tourists with regular
passports may enter without a visa. Military personnel should
contact their agencies for instructions regarding documentation,
since some military personnel fall under separate Status of Forces
Agreement procedures with the host government.
Vehicles and effects shipments cannot be cleared through customs
based on a tourist passport. Personal effects and supplies,
including food and liquor, of U.S. personnel are authorized free
entry into Greece. Unaccompanied baggage (UAB) from the U.S. to
Athens takes approximately 2–3 weeks. Household goods (HHE) from
Baltimore to Athens take approximately 4–6 weeks. All items accorded
duty-free entry are for personal use and not for sale. Alcoholic
beverages, cancelable firearms, and cigarettes and tobacco products
may not be sent via APO.
Travelers and new personnel may be required to declare U.S.
dollars and travelers checks to customs officials on arrival.
Importing dollars and dollar instruments is not restricted. Sporting
and camping equipment and furs are registered in the owner’s
passport and must be reexported. Illegal drugs and narcotics may not
be imported under any circumstances. Personnel are encouraged to
ship high-value electronic equipment such as stereos and computers
with their household effects and not in air freight or APO
Passage Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:31 PM
U.S. personnel may move enter Greece with accompanying luggage
with U.S. diplomatic passports and visa issued by a Greek Embassy.
Employees may travel in and out of Greece using their passport in
conjunction with ID cards issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Traveling on a tourist passport requires no visa but a traveller may
not stay more than 90 days. Greek regulations on importing
automobiles are strict; records are kept by Greek customs on each
vehicle imported. Before acquiring a new vehicle or leaving the
country without your vehicle, employees must satisfy Greek customs
that they have either disposed of their car according to customs and
tax rules, exported it, or left it in Greece to be reclaimed on
Mission regulations require all personally owned vehicles of all
American employees to affix regular Greek license tags. Diplomatic
plates may be issued for travel outside Greece. Public liability
insurance for all vehicles is mandatory under Greek law. All
personnel who operate private motor vehicles in Greece must,
therefore, have appropriate third-party insurance coverage.
Insurance can be procured locally or with a U.S. insurance carrier.
No one may operate or permit other persons to operate a vehicle,
unless arrangements have been made to cover that person under the
vehicle’s liability insurance. An international drivers license,
obtainable from AAA in the U.S., is required for driving in Greece.
The addresses for surface shipments are:
Athens, Greece via Pireaus for (Owner’s Name)
American Embassy via Pireaus
Athens, Greece via Pireaus for (Owner’s Name)/KRS
Those assigned to Thessaloniki or Kavala should add Thess or /KRS
after owner’s name, as indicated for surface shipments.
Pets Last Updated: 11/6/2003 8:55 AM
In compliance with World Health Organization (WHO) requirements,
pets (dogs and cats) entering or departing Greece must have a health
certificate stating that the pet is in good health, free from
infectious disease, and has had a rabies inoculation not more than
12 months (for cats 6 months) and not less than 6 days before
arrival or departure. The certificate must be validated by the
appropriate medical authority in the country, where travel begins.
In the U.S., validation is performed by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (DOA). In Washington, D.C., take the papers to the Greek
Consulate for validation. Health clearance will be given at the port
of entry. Parrots may not be imported, unless they are coming from a
country free from psittacosis, in which case no more than two may be
imported and must have the same health certification as for dogs and
cats. Greece has few boarding kennels available. Those available are
not of Western standards, and bookings must be made in advance.
There are a few English speaking pet sitters.
Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:33 PM
Greek law prohibits importation of rifles and handguns of any
kind. Shotguns of any gauge and air rifles may be imported. Under no
circumstances should rifles or handguns be brought to post.
Ammunition cannot be shipped to post. Shotguns may be imported by
the owner only. The shotgun is written on his/her passport and only
after securing from the Chief of Mission written permission to do
so. For information regarding firearms required in carrying out
one’s duties or for further information in general, please contact
the Regional Security Office. Once arrived, the owner must go to the
Greek Forestry Department to submit the proper papers for the
issuance of the gun’s ID.
Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated:
4/29/2004 3:33 PM
The official unit of currency is the Euro. The Euro is used in
the majority of European Union countries. Official transient or
visiting U.S. Government personnel may cash up to $1,000 a day at
the Embassy if valid identification consisting of a U.S. diplomatic
or official passport is presented. Checks may be cashed for Euro or
dollars. Greece uses the metric system of weights and measures.
Gasoline is sold by the liter. Produce and meat are sold by the
kilo, dairy products are sold by the liter or diminuitives.
Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 4/29/2004
The value-added tax (VAT) was first implemented in Greece on
January 1, 1987, in accordance with the European Economic Community
requirements, and replaced previous indirect taxes. VAT ranges from
8% percent on mass consumption goods, e.g., food, to 18% percent
imposed on most goods and services, and 36% for all luxury goods,
such as tobacco products, alcohol, cosmetics (some foodstuffs fall
under this percentage). Employees holding diplomatic titles may
request VAT exemptions when purchasing certain expensive items, such
as furniture, appliances, and electronic equipment.
The Embassy specifically forbids the sale of duty-free personal
property to buyers without duty-free privileges, unless arrangements
are made for the payment of duty through the proper Greek Government
customs office. All sales of personal property must have prior
written approval of the management counselor. If employees wish to
convert Euros acquired in the sale of personal property to dollars
upon departure from post, employees must present a written record of
articles sold. The cashier’s office will arrange for the Financial
Services Center in Charleston to convert Euro to dollars for
departing personnel, if the transaction is requested in writing and
approved in advance by the management counselor. U.S. dollars or
checks are used for all purchases at U.S. military installations on
Crete and at the EWSA commissary in Athens.
Under Greek law, employees who are married may import a second
duty-free vehicle if their spouse resides at post. The U.S.
Government authorizes shipment of only one vehicle in travel orders.
Sales of vehicles must be approved in advance by the management
The Greek Government requires that all departing personnel
wishing to sell their personally owned vehicles to do so before
their departure. If the employee cannot sell the vehicle before
departure, he or she may donate it to the Greek Customs authorities,
or arrange for the vehicle’s export.
The Embassy requires all personnel to comply with Greek traffic
regulations and, for security reasons, to make every effort to
ensure that American cars and drivers are not conspicuous. Mission
dependents must be 18 years of age to drive. The Embassy assists
personnel in procuring hunting licenses and permits to enter certain
Recommended Reading Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:38 PM
These titles are provided as a general indication of the material
published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse
Adkins, Lesley and Adkins, Roy, Handbook to Life in Ancient
Greece, Oxford Press, 1998.
Allen E. Reginald, Greek Philosophy: Thales to Aristotle
(Readings in the History of Philosophy), 3rd ed., Free Press, 1991.
Beard, Mary, The Parthenon, Harvard University Press, 2003.
Camp, John McK, The Archaeology of Athens, Yale University Press,
Camp, John McK and Fisher, Elizabeth, The World of the Ancient
Greeks, Thames & Hudson, 2002.
Freeman, Charles, The Greek Achievement: The Foundation of the
Western World, Viking Press, 1999.
Kitto, H.D.F. The Greeks, Penguin USA, Reissue edition, 1991.
Neils, Jenifer; Oakley, John H.; Morewitz, Stephen John, and
Foley, Helene Coming of Age in Ancient Greece: Images of Childhood
from the Classical Past, Yale University Press, 2003.
Newman, Harold and Newman, Jon A., A Genealogical Chart of Greek
Mythology, University of North Carolina Press, 2003.
Whitney, James, The Archaeology of Ancient Greeks, Cambridge
University Press, 2001.
Behor, G., Ancient Greece: Famous Monuments Past and Present,
Getty Trust Publication, 2000.
Greece, Athens and the Mainland, Eyewitness Travel Guide, 2003.
Lonely Planet Greek Islands, Lonely Planet, 2002.
Hamilton, Edith, The Greek Way, W.W. Norton, Reissue edition,
Keeley, Edmund, Inventing Paradise: The Greek Journey 1937–47,
Northwestern University Press, 2002.
Kizilos, Kathreen, The Olive Grove: Travels in Greece, Lonely
Miller, Henry, The Colossus of Maroussi, New Directions
Papandreou, Nicholas, A Crowded Heart, Picador USA, 1999.
Rossides, Eugene, The Truman Doctrine of Aid to Greece: A
Fifty-Year Retrospective, American Helicopter Society, 1998.
Storace, Patricia, Dinner with Persephone, Vintage Books, 1997.
Stouros, Basil S., Carved in Stone: The Greek Heritage, Five and
Dot Corporation, 1999.
Thornton, Bruce, The Greek Ways: How the Greeks Created Western
Civilization, Encounter Books, 2002.
Woodhouse, C.C., Modern Greece: A Short History, 5th ed., Faber &
Faber, 1992 .
Literature and Poetry
Carson, Jeffrey, The Collected Poems of Odysseus Elytis, Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1997.
Friar, Kimon, Modern Greek Poetry, Efstathiades, 1997.
Keeley, Edmund, C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems, Princeton
University Press, 1992.
Keeley, Edmund, George Seferis, Princeton University Press, 1995.
Leontis, Artemis, Greece: A Traveler’s Literary Companion,
Consortium Book, 1997.
MacDonald, Marianne, The Living Art of Greek Tragedy, Indiana
University Press, 2003.
MacGregor, Bernard and Knox, Walker, The Norton Book of Classical
Literature,W.W. Norton & Company, 1993.
Trypanis, Constantine, The Penguin Book of Greek Verse, Penguin
Reissue edition, 1988.
American Women’s Organization’s of Greece, Living in Greece,
Bender, Margaret, Foreign At Home and Away, 2002.
Brayer Hess, Melissa and Linderman, Patricia, The Expert
Broome, Benjamin, Exploring the Greek Mosaic, 1996.
Buckert, Walter, Greek Religion, Reprint edition, Harvard
University Press, 1987.
Kochilas, Diane, The Glorious Foods of Greece : Traditional
Recipes from the Islands, Cities, and Villages, Morrow Cookbooks,
Swaddling, Judith, Ancient Olympic Games, 2nd ed., University of
Texas Press, 2000.
Ware, Timothy and Ware, Kallistos, The Orthodox Church, 2nd ed.,
Penguin (USA), 1993.
Local Holidays Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:47 PM
The following is a list of the local holidays. Avoid arriving on
New Year’s Day January 1
Epiphany January 6
Kathara Deftera Variable
Greek Independence Day March 25
Good Friday Variable
Holy Saturday Variable
Easter Sunday Variable
Easter Monday Variable
May Day May 1
Assumption Day August 15
Liberation of Xanthi October 4
(observed in Xanthi only)
St. Dimitrios Day October 26
observed in Thessaloniki only)
Oxi Day October 28
Christmas Day December 25
Boxing Day December 26
The mission observes U.S. holidays as well, so please try not to
arrive on those days either.
Adapted from material published by the
U.S. Department of State.
While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the
post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the
host country for diplomats from all nations.