Category Archives: Greece

Winter Reads Set in Greece

Short days and cold nights make it an ideal time to snuggle up with a book, and a mug of hot chocolate. My crystal ball tells me there are some great new books heading for publication in 2019. How do I know? Well, I was proud to act as a beta reader for some authors I admire and I’ll give details in due course. Meanwhile, I thought I’d share information about the books I’m most looking forward to reading in January.

Before I do this, I’ll mention  my first novel, Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa has a revised cover. Thanks to advice from Nikos, my favourite bookseller at Nikitakis Gift Shop in the centre of Kritsa, the fonts are now easier to read. I hope some customers in Aristidis Cafe across the road spot it while enjoying their refreshments. 

Kritsotopoula screen versionRodanthe, the feisty daughter of Kritsa’s pappas (priest), spent her childhood longing for her father’s approval without appreciating his efforts to keep her safe under Ottoman oppression.

Years later, the ruling Pasha orders Rodanthe’s kidnap intent on making her his wife. Determined not to yield, Rodanthe tricks the Pasha and then flees to the mountains dressed as a young man.

After joining rebels as Spanomanolis (Beardless Manolis), she draws on her unusual experiences and rare education to maintain her disguise throughout daring raids.

The crisper Greek meander design matches the one on  Rodanthe’s Gift to make the link between them more obvious.

Screen version Rodanthe's GiftFour mourners stand over the shrouded body of the exceptional female rebel, Rodanthe. Each suffers the loss of a daughter, friend, lost love or valued ally. Her injured papa, Mathaios, kneels at her graveside, begging forgiveness for his sinful decision to keep her baptismal gold a secret. He later bequests the remaining coins to her young friend Petros. A gift with consequences beyond imagination. Kostas loved Rodanthe, but only realised this truth moments before her death. Now dependent on others for his mobility, he resolves to play a significant role in the continuing conflict.When rebel leader Captain Kazanis leaves the graveyard, his focus is on leading the local fight for freedom. However, betrayal and grief take him far beyond his beloved Crete.

Right, that’s my update and here are the books I’m looking forward to reading:

carpetI loved Kathryn’s The Embroiderer and I’ve high expectations of The Carpet Weaver of Usak.

Set amidst the timeless landscape and remote villages of Anatolia, The Carpet Weaver of Uşak is the haunting and unforgettable story of a deep friendship between two women, one Greek Orthodox, the other a Muslim Turk: a friendship that transcends an atmosphere of mistrust, fear and ultimate collapse, long after the wars end. 


saintMarjory McGinn’s travel memoirs are first class and this one, A Saint for the Summer is her first novel. 

Journalist Bronte McKnight visits a hillside village in the beautiful Mani region of Greece to help her estranged expat father Angus with a medical problem. She soon discovers that Angus, has lured her to solve a mystery from the Second World War, when a family member disappeared. 


phaedraI’ve admired Beryl Darby since I first read Yannis, her epic novel set on Spinalonga, Crete’s leper island. (Yes, other novel’s set here are available, but Yannis IMHO is best.) Beryl keeps her readers hooked and book 23 is Phaedra

Phaedra is born a healthy girl and followed eighteen months later by an equally healthy boy. Although there is bad feeling between Eleni and Maria, their enmity comes to a head when Maria’s daughter is found to have leprosy and transported to Spinalonga, giving rise to tragic occurrences.

storm

Effrosyni Moschoudi has created her own genre of spooky Greek reads. I have read the first two books in The Lady Of The Pier Trilogy and I’m looking forward to book three, The Storm.

When Sofia falls in love, a mourning spirit haunts her. The Storm is the concluding part of the trilogy that merges the stories of Sofia and Laura into one. 


These will keep me busy for a while, and if I enjoy a book I will of course add a review on Amazon. It only takes a few minutes and I know only too well how important it is for an author to have feedback.

Help me decide what to read next, what can you recommend?

Delphi Delight

Our final day on mainland Greece was on the south-western slopes of Mount Parnassus, Greece, for a tour of Delphi, the centre of the earth. What? You didn’t know?

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Well, here’s the proof. The God, Zeus released two eagles. one each side of the world. They met at the centre of the earth in Delphi where there just happened to be an odd metallic rock; the navel of the world. This rock denotes the place of the original that was revered and wrapped in ornate bindings. An ancient copy is in Delphi’s museum. My uneducated guess is the rock was a meteorite.

A benefit from staying overnight in the ‘new’ village of Delphi was the opportunity to make an early start before temperatures and visitor numbers soared. Unlike most people we decided to tour the site before the museum.

The paths around the archaeological site are well-defined, with information boards to explain what you’re seeing.  The stadium, second in importance to Olympia looked great with lush grass.  In fact our early May visit provided a bonus, as the site was still very green with vibrant wild flowers. Soon it would become tinder dry and we appreciated the huge investment in fire defences with sprinkler systems and hydrants among the trees and on the mountainside above the site. Fingers crossed they don’t get tested!

There is far more to say about Delphi than I can put in a single blog, hence this link to a good overview at Wikipedia .

MuseumApart from the fact there was a huge queue to enter the museum we were pleased to leave it until last, the air conditioning was a treat.

No wonder Delphi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is a ‘must see’ place if you love Greece.

 

 

 

We started our tour being wowed by the amazing weather carved rocks at Meteora and ended in awe of the skills of ancient architects.

The road towards Athens and our car ferry back to Crete had some farewell gifts for us. The snow topped mountains looked fabulous under a clear blue sky and our late lunch stop at Arahova, a ski resort was a delight.

 

I’d love to know what unexpected gems you’ve found while holidaying in Greece….

 

 

New Missolonghi Hero

Many museums and monuments in Greece close on a Monday, a fact I’d totally overlooked when planning my Missolonghi research day. Not only that, it was May Day, a public holiday. My husband, Alan tried to cheer me up suggesting we go to the museum anyway, perhaps there’d be useful information outside.

To my amazement the door was open and my hopes rose when a man stepped forward proffering a guidebook for €8. With my camera around my neck he had me sussed. ‘Sorry, no photographs!’

I couldn’t help telling him I was excited to visit the museum as I’m writing a book.

‘About Lord Byron?’

‘Yes, but especially the final siege.’

He stared for a moment, digesting my answer. Then his demeanour changed. ‘Really? You know about the siege? Come, bring your camera. I’ll show you.’

We enjoyed a private tour resulting in loads of photos to digest at leisure. My new hero, Dimitris has worked at the museum for thirty years, his passion tangible.

I’d previously seen some of the key exhibits and paintings via the internet, you’ll not find me complaining about Wikipedia! However, most value came from paintings, and memorabilia not seen unless you visit the museum. A glass cabinet containing the silver chalice used for the last communion had me entranced, shame the rebounding camera flash rendered the photo useless…but I saw it and it’s lodged for later use.

A renowned dandy, Byron (below left) loved to dress up in different uniforms and his portrait painter was a permanent member of his entourage.  My favourite portrait (below right) was of leader of the Souliot force, General Nótis Bótsaris.

The most valuable insights came from paintings showing the city’s topography. Over 9,000 people were besieged in Missolonghi. My original thoughts that they’d all be crammed together changed once I saw these paintings. The area behind the walls was free of houses, a big clue to how the residents managed to survive nightly bombardment.

I’d previously read about an attack by 2, 000 Ottoman troops against the off shore island of Klisova, on 6 April 1826. Now I’ve seen the museum’s painting of the attack and read the information provided I’ll certainly include the grisly episode in my novel.

Just a few days later, on the eve of Palm Sunday, the Christians realised they had to break out, come what may.

On a more lighthearted note, here are some photos taken at our guide’s insistence:

When Dimitris unfurled these flags with a flourish he announced, ‘The flag of Spetses.’ I earned another brownie point when I replied, ‘Ah, home of Bouboulina.’ As a remarkable shipping captain Bouboulina ferried goods and arms across the Mediterranean to support rebels. She has a cameo appearance in Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa and she’ll pop up in book two.

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Finally, Dimitris ushered us inside this formal office, previously used by Missolonghi mayors. It was an effective breeding ground for higher office as six former mayors became Greek President. Perhaps Dimitris saw presidential potential when he insisted Alan take a seat.

Thank you for your hospitality Dimitris, I’m indebted to you.

Come back next week for the scenic journey to Delphi, with hidden gems on the way.

Missolonghi Heroes

Missolonghi is a walled city, towards the Corinth Gulf, where British poet and philhellene, Lord Byron died in April 1824. A year later the city was besieged a third time by combined Turk and Arab forces. After holding out for twelve months, starved and desperate citizens followed their beleaguered fighting force in the now famous exit  on the eve of Palm Sunday, April 1826. Although circa 7,000 people attempted escape less than 1,000 made it to safety. Hundreds of women and girls became slaves, and a macabre display of severed heads adorned the city walls.

Many of those who could not flee, including children and elderly, gathered in the home of Christos Kapsalis, who ignited powder kegs to prevent them being captured alive.

RICOH IMAGINGThe ‘Sacred City of Missolonghi‘ has a wonderful Garden of Heroes. Once a battle site it now forms a tranquil space to stroll and contemplate. Among the plaques and marble memorials I found this simple stack of kegs a very moving tribute. These heroic acts are commemorated annually with a parade through the town culminating in a re-enactment in the Garden of Heroes.

These dreadful events inspired poet, Dionysios Solomos  to write his poem Free Besieged, the foundation of the Greek national anthem.

Research for a sequel to Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa, sparked my interest in Missolonghi when I discovered that one of my characters, Cretan rebel leader, Captain Kazanis played a part in the siege. I soon realised fact was better than any plot I could dream up, now all I need to do is find a way to get him there…

Missolonghi sits on the edge of a huge lagoon – an amazing geographical feature.

Walking within Missolonghi’s walls gave shape and scale to a city far larger than I’d imagined from academic research. I even looked down cannon barrels to see where Ottomans camped . When Ibrahim Pasha demanded the city surrender their famous response was, ‘The keys to the gates dangle from the tips of our canons’.

In a garden full of memorials I was delighted to find the pillar dedicated to Notis Botsaris; in my version of events he and Kazanis become brothers in arms.

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Next stop, the Museum of the History and the Art of the Sacred City of Missolonghi. Lord Byron had a club foot, and thanks to the museum I’ve seen his shoes – I’ll certainly use this fabulous detail.

It’s no good, I can’t do Missolonghi justice in a single blog post. Come back next week when I’ll take you inside the museum to meet my new hero…

Bear Trail in Pindus Mountains

After two magical days in Meteora, we set off westward for Lake Ioannina to explore its fortified city. En route we drove through Epirus, a region in northern Greece that bore the brunt of severe wartime fighting. As we passed through amazing snow topped mountains on the edge of the Pindus range it was evident winters must be bitterly cold. A misty haze spoilt my photos, but at least we saw its splendour.

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On reaching  Metsovo we soon realised the town geared up for winter visitors. Shops sold sledges and fur-lined boots while hotels bragged of open fires in bedrooms. On the day of our visit the town basked in sunshine, while wood smoke hung in the air. After two summer like days in Meteora it was a surprise to see spring so delayed; the trees were still bare.

Tantalising signs for The Ursa (Bear) Trail gave helpful hints on what to do in the unlikely event of meeting a bear! What a dilemma, should we stay to explore and give up on the idea of spending the night in Ioannina? The Ursa Trail is too long to do in a day, and we were not equipped, so after a stroll and a delicious hot chocolate we moved on. The westward drive through mountains used excellent, virtually traffic free roads… just as well on some hairpin bends.

The outskirts of Ioannina were not inspiring until we glimpsed the lake. We quickly parked and set off to find the historic town centre. Mist shrouded mountains rose beyond the miserable, brown lake, home to a various waterfowl including a family of crested grebes.

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Mum was a floating nest, and dad darted to and fro delivering food. He saw a chick fall and whizzed forward to lift it aboard. Busy snapping away I captured dad rescuing the chick; unfortunately looked like he was eating it! I liked the photo above, but due to low light it was drab. Thanks go to my photo editing pal, John for finding their true colours.

Further along a gateway in the old city wall invited exploration. After wandering through twisty turny streets we emerged on a busy waterfront, with small boats plying the lake. As the holiday atmosphere in lakeside cafes bode well for the evening we set off for the car, aiming to find a hotel and return to the busy throng.

Where was the car??? It sounds unbelievable but we had no idea. We must have turned a huge bend as there were no mountains in view across the lake.  Our relief at finding the car was soon overwhelmed by disappointment at not finding a hotel with vacancies. Grrrrr. It was the only night I hadn’t pre booked. Not a good idea on a bank holiday weekend when the town was hosting a festival. Ah well, onwards and southwards for the next adventure.

We ended up in an enormous, grim hotel on the edge of a main road near Arta. The hotel was busy with coach loads of people being transferred from one day of sightseeing to the next. From the bun fight at the all-inclusive buffet we assumed they hadn’t eaten for three days! We took a plate of cheese and a bottle of wine to our room to enjoy the film, Mrs Doubtfire on the TV – not what we’d expected from our evening.

The next morning a lovely walk by the river in Arta got us back in the holiday mood.

RICOH IMAGINGAfter this we set off towards Missolonghi with a lovely morning coffee stop on the way.

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I don’t know how I’ll manage to fit everything about my amazing Missolonghi ‘pilgrimage’ in one blog post, but I’ll try next week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meteora Greece

In early May we set off on a road trip around central Greece…what an adventure.

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We drove aboard the overnight Minoan car ferry from Heraklion, Crete to Pireaus, the main port near Athens. Bright and early next morning  found us zooming up the excellent motorway on a four hour trip to odd peaks named Meteora. Our aim was to see the monasteries that ‘balance’ between heaven and earth.  For the Greek Orthodox faith, this Holy area is second only to Mount Athos.

After checking in to the Kastraki Hotel for two nights ‘Wow’ was a common term.

I’d pre booked a sunset tour and it proved to be an excellent way to see many of the monasteries perched atop the peaks.  Hard to believe the top of the rocky towers were once the bottom of a lake. Close up you can see they’re an aggregate of mud and rocks.

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Day Two – Meteora Hike

After a breakfast we set off on a guided hike, organised by Visit Meteora and we’re still congratulating ourselves for doing so…it was excellent. Prior to our visit email communication with this company was easy and on the tours the guides were informative, and enthusiastic. Most importantly for our hike, the guides knew hidden trails to take us weaving through woods allowing us to ascend the peaks without a strenuous vertical climb. In three different places we saw a tortoise ambling along the path – I had a pet tortoise for 55 years so I loved seeing them in the wild.

Like the previous evening, our schedule included one visit to a monastery, and for me this was enough, I preferred the natural overawing beauty.

The final stage was a walk down through woods to our waiting mini bus. Instead of heading back to Kastraki we stopped off in the nearby village of Kalambaka for lunch and then took a €5 taxi back to our hotel.

RICOH IMAGINGAfter a siesta I woke to see my husband on the balcony peering through his binoculars. He called out ‘There’s people up there, climbing Spindle Rock.’

 

 

He was right!!

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If you are planning a trip to Meteora and think I’ll be able to help you can use the contact form below.

After Meteora we set off for the Pindus Mountain… more of that in my next post.