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      August 2010 > All Greek to me

All Greek to me

The Greek island of Serifos in the CycladesWhile I love the great outdoors – whether it be striding through Yorkshire Dales close to home, or experiencing some of Inntravel’s walking holidays overseas – I must admit that I’d never really contemplated walking in Greece. I don’t really know why; perhaps it has to do with my perceptions – or my prejudices – concerning this famously relaxed and sun-soaked nation with its myriad Mediterranean islands, seemingly made for more sybaritic and lazy pursuits.

My earliest memories of Greece, moreover, have no connection with walking at all. They are of a package holiday to Kos with my first serious girlfriend, when - at the tender age of eighteen - I thought it the height of sophistication to order a bottle of retsina with my moussaka in the evening; and when the tour operator’s ‘Champagne Cruise’ seemed like the very vision of paradise! Although I have a more – shall we say, evolved – view of Greece these days, and am aware of the wonderfully laid-back lifestyle (not to mention the astonishing natural and archaeological riches) to be enjoyed there, I had never quite pictured it as a walking destination. Maybe I subconsciously saw it as too hot and sun-seared for tackling the trails? Perhaps it felt too much like hard work in a land that seems more suited to pottering, swimming and sunseeking?

Anyway, I have just had to revise my view – suddenly and rather radically. Last week, we were paid a visit by one of Inntravel’s great friends, Els Hom, from the Dutch holiday company Stapreizen. Els is a huge enthusiast for all things Greek, and for the gloriously unspoiled walking and touring possibilities that are available on the mainland and throughout the Aegean. Now, as her name might suggest, Els is not Greek herself but she speaks the language fluently and is a professional archaeologist. In fact, she hails from Amsterdam, where Stapreizen is based, and she has made a huge contribution towards creating the routes and itineraries for our walking holidays in Greece.

Els and Maria at InntravelEls (pictured here - on the left - alongside our bubbly Italian staff member, Maria) simply brims with passion for the type of holidays we love most – quiet, secluded and very much off the beaten track. She also overflows with enthusiasm for all things Hellenic – the history; the art, architecture and archaeological splendours; Greek mythology and legend; and, of course, the astonishing natural beauty which captivates discerning visitors throughout the long tourist season from April through to October.

So, through Els, we learned about the spectacular terrain and magnificent views of Crete’s Coast and Mountains (bottom image). We were enchanted by the surprisingly lush landscapes of verdant Samos, with its forested slopes and wild, beautiful bays. We were also ushered on a classical and cultural odyssey through the Peloponnese, where I now feel compelled to visit – one glorious day – the fortified town of Monemvasia, a sacred rock of the Byzantine Empire that remains tethered to the mainland by nothing more than a narrow thread of land. We also enjoyed a whistle-stop tour of the Cyclades’ charms, among them the amazingly white pumice landscapes of Sarakiniko on Milos, the churches and castles of Serifos (top image), and Sifnos, studded with a multitude of bays and fine beaches.

However, we were captivated by one more Greek destination last week during Els’ visit to Yorkshire. But I won’t tell you about it just yet… for I will be discovering the Dodecanese for myself next month, when I head out there to update our walking notes. I will be delighted to give you a first-hand account on my return!

Posted: 27/08/2010 10:42:18 by | with 0 comments
Filed under: Greece, islands, nature, walking

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