February 1st 2010

Walking in the Peloponnese by Ben Giles In southern Greece you are surrounded by the recorded history of the western world. To tread underfoot the stones of the citadel of Mycenae, the fortified town of Mistra, Epidavros' stunning open air theatre and the rock fortress of Monemvasia, is to take a journey with the blueprints of European society and history as a guide. Here still standing amidst the modern state of Greece are the origins of literature, even writing itself, architecture, law, the systems of government, religion, art and philosophy. Indeed, not just the ancient Greek prototypes, but Greece's geographical positioning in the Mediterranean has made it a magnet for civilizations of the past 2,500 years. The world described by Homer, the Phoenicians, the Minoans, and the Myceneans, all flourished for a thousand years before those we know as the Classical Greeks of Athens and Sparta. The Romans added Greece to their empire, adopting much of its culture and, as the poet Horace commented, 'Rome itself was made captive by the capture of Greece'. But Greece is so much more than the Greeks and Romans – here too over the centuries there have settled and fought and traded the Persians, Egyptians, Byzantines, Franks, Venetians, and Turks, the British, Russians, Germans, and French. Not least there is modern Greece, with a rich story of struggle for independence from the days of Theodore Kolokotronis and Ioannis Capodistria, through the creation of a fledging modern state, to its transformation as a member of the European Union. On foot, wandering through this landscape of mountains, river valleys and coastal plains, along ancient tracks, past ruined tombs or walls and across streams and fields, whether to see a famous site or one tucked away and now largely forgotten, is perhaps the best way to glimpse Greece's diverse culture and history, and, as the saying goes, allow the mute stones to speak. Note about the Author: Ben Giles leads The Wayfarers Walking Vacations in Greece. Ben grew up in England but now lives with his young family in Wales. Having studied Classical Languages at Cambridge University he taught for a number of years in secondary schools before moving into guiding and writing. A keen outdoor enthusiast, he has walked and hiked in many parts of the UK and Europe, and he has a particular interest in the culture and history of Greece.

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