A Walking Guide to 42 Greek islands (1987) by Gerald Thompson - page 9

8
INTRODUCTION
Why walk in Greece?
Before stating the positive case for walking in Greece, may I attempt first to remove the fears
and demolish the sophistries of those who regard walking in any high temperature as both
physically harmful and as certain evidence of mental instability. For be assured, when the late
Noel Coward in his affectionate, inimitable satire categorized those who go out in the midday
sun as 'either mad dogs' or 'Englishmen', he reflected a very popular misconception regarding
the risks and wisdom of perambulating in the heat of the day. But before I begin to expose the
fallacies inherent in this widely held prejudice, let me confess quite frankly that I am by no
means averse to the siesta, an institution which I regard as eminently civilized, and of great
practical value, enabling one as it does to enjoy without fatigue far longer waking hours.
Moreover if the siesta be taken, as is generally the case, immediately after the consumption of
a substantial midday meal, it can be further justified on the grounds of sound medical
practice. In point of fact, however, it is my unvaried conclusion that the hottest hours fall not
at 12 p.m., as Coward's verse would imply, but rather between 4 and 6 in the evening.
Furthermore the midday meal once so much esteemed by all nations, and medically the
principal cause and justification for the siesta, can be dispensed with entirely, or at least
reduced to a modest slice of bread and cheese followed by fresh fruit, without any apparent
adverse effects upon the body, and with considerable benefit to the purse!
But to proceed to the argument. It is often helpful when seeking to dislodge a firmly
entrenched prejudice to examine the motives and define the characters of those who adhere to
it with such vehemence and conviction. Who, then, are these people who aver that they
'couldn't possibly walk in all that heat'? In my experience they fall into one or other of two
distinct categories. Either they are the people who lie motionless as mummies on sultry
beaches, hour by hour exposing their limp flesh to the searing rays of the sun, in the
misguided belief that they thereby improve their outward appearance and their inward health.
Or else they belong to that ever-increasing band of morons who imagine that by filling the
atmosphere with diesel fumes and dust, and shattering the serenity of nature with the
cacophonous roar of the internal combustion engine, they somehow exhibit a virility and skill
and intelligence vastly superior to that of the humble pedestrian. If in fact the members of
these two classes could just for once raise the courage and the common sense to subject their
unexamined prejudices to the sure test of personal experience, they would soon discover that
their fears were almost entirely unfounded and illusory. For in the first place, even in areas
like Attica which have a high mean summer temperature in the region of 88ºF, the coastal
districts excepted, the humidity is relatively low, and consequently the heat is far more
tolerable than the more humid variety with which we are familiar in the British Isles.
Secondly, in a country as mountainous as Greece one rarely walks long at an altitude of lower
than 1000'; and for every 1000' climbed the temperature falls by 4.8 degrees F. Indeed on
several occasions even in mid August I have been reduced to wearing two shirts and a
sweater, when climbing in the early morning or late evening at over 3000'. Thirdly,
throughout the whole of August and July most parts of Greece, and especially the Cyclades,
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