A Walking Guide to 42 Greek islands (1987) by Gerald Thompson - page 10

are exposed to the full fury of the Meltemi, a powerful wind sucked down from the central
Balkans into the Aegean Sea. The force of this gale – for it is far from the gentle Zephyr of
classical mythology - has to be experienced to be believed. I have literally been swept off my
feet in exposed mountain areas like Dirphys in central Euboea; and any who have been
caught sailing into its dynamic force will need no argument of mine to persuade then of its
hazardous power. There have been times when even in mid-summer I have asked for
blankets, even when sleeping indoors at a height of only 1000', but exposed to the brunt of
these freezing N.E. blasts. Fourthly, that more leisurely, liberal race who, as yet uncorrupted
by the specious advantages of speed, pioneered the paths from village to village, had more
regard for the frailty of man than to forge their routes through desert wastes devoid of both
shade and water. Even a small shrub can afford protection from the merciless shafts of
Apollo, provided that the track be sufficiently narrow: only on the wide carriageway is one
roasted alive. Finally and this is not as foolish a claim as the uninitiated might imagine - the
very motion of walking produces a draught which can at least palliate even the fiercest heat,
and enable one sensibly equipped with broad-brimmed hat to reach his destination unscathed.
'Very well' says my antagonist. 'I concede that my fears of the consequences of walking in the
noonday heat have been proved groundless, or at least vastly exaggerated. But I have come
here for a holiday, for a rest: to enjoy the sun and the sea; to relax rather than to exhaust
myself traversing those arid, scrub-ridden hills.' By what argument can I counter such an
eminently reasonable position? It would be foolish to deny that Greece has an abundance of
sun and a superfluity of clear, crystal sea; and it would be more foolish still to deny anyone
the right to enjoy them, in short to enjoy his leisure time in the way he chooses, in the
activities and pursuits which he feels will yield the maximum satisfaction and pleasure. May I
however with great deference urge my adversary to direct his thoughts to the following two
considerations. 'First, if it's only the sun and the sea that you require, why come to Greece?
Spain has just as much sun, possibly better beaches cheaper hotels and food: and so do
Majorca, Corsica and scores of other popular Mediterranean resorts. Surely you come to
Greece to get to know Greece, the land and its people, its history and its culture, its unique
flavour and contribution to Western Europe. And you certainly won't discover all these by
lying on a beach or peering into the sea. Secondly, if you will only make the attempt, and
refuse to be deterred either by the superficially intransigent nature of the terrain or by the
apparent but deceptive difficulty of the task, you will find the experience certainly
memorable, and hopefully far from unpleasant; and you may well discover that those wild,
initially forbidding mountains conceal hidden treasures beyond your wildest imaginings.'
Assuming that I have convinced you that walking will damage neither your health nor your
sanity, and may in fact yield unexpected pleasure, may I now attempt to outline some of the
positive advantages to which my own and others' walking experience in Greece have led.
Admittedly the rigid and once revered Platonic dichotomy of body and soul has long since
and with good reason been exploded by contemporary philosophy and psychology alike.
Nevertheless, for the sake of my argument I should like to analyse the accruing advantages
under the convenient headings of physical and spiritual, while freely admitting that these
categories are by no means mutually exclusive.
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