Journey to the Gods by John Hillaby
For years John Hillaby thought about a journey on foot to the home of the gods - from Athens in Attica to Mount Olympus on the fringe of Macedonia. The way lay through rough territory whose names reverberated with echoes of Homer and Hesiod - Thebes and Boeotia, Mount Helicon and Mount Parnassus, Thessaly and Delphi. Recently he and his wife set out on that journey, backpacking across the roof of the bare and almost deserted Pindos range to which Greek maps give only rudimentary guidance. In this book he comments on the history and mythology of the country he walks through, on the owls - those familiars of the Goddess Athene - and orchids and butterflies, on temple architecture, on Byron's exploits and the cultivation of the olive. Croaking frogs in a streamlet put him in mind of Aristophanes and the Persian wars; beehives of Virgil's treatise on beekeeping in the "Georgics"; weather conditions recall the legends of Zeus, Gatherer of Clouds. In the hot and dusty squares and small tavernas of remote villages, he and Katie meet with traditional Greek kindness to strangers and in a mixture of pidgin Greek and other languages become embroiled in conversations. On their journey they also manage to enter a little into the mysterious world of the Vlacks and Wallachians, Europe's least-known ethnic minority. In black woollen capes, standing guard silently over flocks of goats on rocky hilltops, these nomads, the "Black Departers", are the self-appointed Ishmaels of the Balkans. Storming the heights of the Pindos and scrambling through the gorges of the Sperkios, John Hillaby arrives at last on the slopes of Mount Olympus. The author also wrote "Journey Through Britain" and "Journey to the Jade Sea".