Posts Tagged ‘Greece’

Vale Patrick Leigh Fermor

June 13, 2011

I was saddened last night when I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and saw the following post:

As a child of Greek migrants, I always looked for references to Greece in the books that I read. Both my parents were from the central and northern mountains of Greece, yet all the books I read were set on the islands or the Peloponnese. Then, aged 20, I discovered Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Roumeli: travels in Northern Greece. Imagine my delight to read tribal names that I had grown up hearing such as the Sarakatzan, and the Karagounides of Thessalia, the boyars of Moldowallacia (peculiarly enough my father was fluent in their language), the wandering quacks of Eurytania, and so many more.

Fermor opened my eyes to the rich variety of the peoples of Greece and, like Lord Byron before him, that the English seemed to be imbued with being philhellenes.

Along with many readers across the world, I fell in love with the rest of Fermor’s travel writing.His prose, his observations. Along with his writing, I love the vision of an early 20th century Englishman, carrying a volume of Horace, Oxford Book of English Verse and a sleeping bag walking across a mid-war Europe. A young adventurer discovering lands unknown, a war hero and ultimately, in his older age, a writer retelling his experiences.

“They’re written by a man of 50, looking back at a boy of 18, evoking the joy of travelling while young – that amazing, honeyed time.”  Travel writing great Patrick Leigh Fermor dies aged 96, Guardian 12 June, 2011

His blog has listed many obituaries from around the world. Fermor has inspired travel writers for many decades and I believe he will continue to inspire many more.

Vale Patrick Leigh Fermor.



The Book That Launched a Thousand Trips

June 2, 2011

When it comes to armchair travel I like to think that I started right at the beginning of Western Literature. I was weened on Homeric tales. And happily, my first physical journey was not only to Greece but to Homeric beginnings.

I have stood in the same place that Helen of Troy stood when she was still Menelaus’ Queen. I have walked around the stones and terraces in Mycenae. The same ones that Helen spent her days in. I have taken photos of myself under the Lion Gate, knowing that, momentary tourist that I may be, I am touching the same ground, the same soil that Paris stood on moments before capturing and escaping with beautiful Helen triggering a long war, that even thousands of years later, people are still discussing, minds are still speculating, archaeologists are still exploring and kids are still discovering.

I grew up listening to Greek myths being told across the dinner table. These were not official storytelling sessions, these were discussions and stories passed down through generations. We were all captured by the intrigue, the romance, the battles and the gods.

And in my family, it was all about beautiful Helen. Did Helen elope with Paris? Did he kidnap her? Was she unwilling? Why would so many soldiers cross the sea in order to bring her back to Menelaus? She was a traitor. Was this her father Zeus’s doing or was it Hera in her usual spitefulness that caused all these misdeeds.

As a child, I didn’t understand that these people were myths. They were real. If my parents talked about them in such a familial way, then they must be my relatives over in a country I have only heard about. It dawned on me when I was about 9 during a lesson in class that they were not relatives – they were heroes and heroines! And at 16, I felt such an overwhelming moment of awe sweep over me as I slowly walked up the hill, at Mycenae, towards the Lion’s Gate.

I have since visited Mycenae 3 more times. The last time was to take my children. They too, have grown up listening to Greek myths at the dinner table from when they were young. And they too stood on the sparse rocky soil looking across terraced olive groves across the Peloponnese. And they too marveled that all those stories of Homeric feats originated at the place we all stood.