In many ways, Greece is the perfect slow travel destination. An ancient way of life has been preserved in the hamlets perched in the northern mountains, down to the remote islands scattered across the Mediterranean and Aegean; a life both rugged and simple, dictated by the seasons.
Cycling through the villages of Zagori, I’m reminded of Patience Gray’s introductory words in her work Honey from a Weed: ‘Living in the wild, it has often seemed that we were living on the margins of literacy. This led to reading the landscape and learning from people; that is, to first hand experience.’ There really is no better way to travel.
We’ve chosen a handful of literary works to inspire you on these chilly evenings from a comfortable armchair, and which we hope will rouse you to join us in exploring this beautiful corner of the world from a bicycle saddle.
‘LAMENT FROM EPIRUS’ BY CHRISTOPHER KING
King was rifling through 78s in a tiny record shop on a trip to Istanbul looking for anything of interest to add to his vast collection. What he found were the primal and hypnotic sounds of folk music from Epirus, which quickly became an obsession. He sets out to learn all he can about this mysterious music.
‘ROUMELI’ BY PATRICK LEIGH-FERMOR
Leigh Fermor’s account of his wanderings through the region that stretched from the Bosphorus to the Adriatic, from Macedonia to the Gulf of Corinth. Along the way he encounters Sarakatsan shepherds and visits monasteries perched on the hilltops, exploring the history of an unexplored land.
‘THE UNWRITTEN PLACES’ BY TIM SALMON
Over 40 years, Salmon’s travels to the remote mountains of Northern Greece have fostered friendships with the remaining Arumani – Vlach mountain shepherds descended from Romanians. An intimate account of an all but vanished way of life that follows the rhythms of the seasons.
‘THE PAPAS AND THE ENGLISHMAN’ BY ROY HOUNSELL
Having spent several years in Corfu, Hounsell and his wife buy a tumbledown house in Zagori. His account of their work to build their new home is full of affection and love for the region and its people, along with the frustrations and mishaps of their adventure.
‘ELENI’ BY NICHOLAS GAGE
As a child Gage – a New York Times investigative reporter – and his sisters were smuggled from Greece during the civil war in 1948. Their escape was arranged by their mother, Eleni, to prevent them from being sent to the communist camps on the other side of the Iron Curtain, but her defiance meant torture and death.