The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - Travel
‘The skies were endlessly deep blue and the centre of Athens was devoid of tourists’
Your stories about memorable holidays in Greece were a reminder of why this sun-drenched country is so popular
I see the hairs on my arms rising, like a field of corn in a breeze. Not that I am cold. I am standing in a dilapidated courtyard, surrounded by the ruins of houses that were home to the last colony of lepers in Europe until 1957. They have been left just as they were when the last patient left 66 years ago.
With a false show of bravado, I join the others in the sunshine for a walk around the 16th-century Venetian fortress that commands the small island of Spinalonga, near Plaka on the island of Crete. Our short trip on the Spinalonga Tours boat is a world away from the opulent luxury of my room at the Elounda Bay Palace Hotel but the sunshine feels suddenly warm again.
Having lost my wife in 2006, I was by 2013 dating again and keen to impress my partner Jane. Our trip to Santorini meant things were getting serious.
The island looked beautiful as we approached by air but, on the first day, the electricity substation blew up and the island had no power – for a week! Most restaurants could serve only cold food, but everything was bathed in candlelight and there was silence apart from subdued chatter and the sounds of the ocean and nature.
A generator was found and power restored. To sit in Oia and watch the villages light up in turn below was magical. Our relationship grew – and we have been married for seven years. David Herbert, West Yorkshire
On the short drive from Kos airport to the ferry port for Kalymnos, the taxi driver was puzzled: “Why Kalymnos?” The passengers humping ropes and backpacks offered a clue. Once famous for its natural sponges, the island has reinvented itself as a world-renowned rock climbing destination. This is a place for the young but they are mostly in bed early to go climbing at dawn.
Massouri, a village at the base of the crags, has more climbing shops than restaurants. The land smells of thyme and sage, white rock and goats. Climbs are beautiful, the rock sharp and clean; it is a gymnasium with a view. The food in restaurants is fresh, the beer cold. “Why Kalymnos?” Why indeed. Norman Waterhouse, London
In July 1974 I was the driver of an old Ford Transit minibus taking a party of Sunderland sixth-formers overland to
Greece. Having been incommunicado for a few days (no mobile phones then), we arrived at the
Greek border and wondered why there were long queues of vehicles trying to leave Greece but none entering. We soon discovered that war had broken out between Greece and Turkey while we were travelling through
Our 1970s version of a risk assessment was to contact the British Embassy in Athens, which left us to make our own decision about what to do next. The
students voted unanimously to put cultural enrichment before safety. We camped in the centre of Athens and took photographs of the ancient remains, devoid of tourists. The skies were endlessly deep blue, but by far the most memorable sight was of young men sitting on their suitcases by the roadside waiting for
Alton Pickersgill, from Tyne and Wear, wins a £300 overnight stay with
BAPTISM OF FIRE
Our first Greek holiday was to Agia Galini in Crete. We made friends with a taverna owner, Costa, and visited his restaurant often. One evening, his wife Angelika asked us how to spell “christening”, adding that their daughter was to be baptised at the weekend so they had to close the restaurant and were putting up a sign. We helped and were rewarded with several glasses of locally made raki. To our surprise, we also received an invitation to the event.
The ceremony at Moni Kaliviani was fantastic. We didn’t understand a word. The highlight was the total immersion of the baby in a large gold urn. Another highlight was the party: roast lamb, local wine, raki and Cretan dancing – men only. Hardly surprisingly, we have been back to Crete several times since. Colin Penney, Derbyshire
The sun was painting the first streaks of dawn as we trudged from Athens railway station. Our journey had been long and fraught and our tired bodies ached for rest. Yet as we looked towards the Acropolis and saw the first sunrays illuminate the Parthenon, our tiredness melted away into the early day heat.
In the following weeks, we admired ancient temples, gazed awestruck at treasures in museums and imagined Poseidon’s fury as he emerged from the clear Aegean to see the graffiti scratched on his temple at Sounio. We swam in azure seas, sampled an eclectic range of food, rode the rickety bus to the site of Delphi and toasted the sunset over the lemon groves at Igoumenitsa.
On many visits since, we have recalled the magical chaos of our first adventure half a century ago which sparked this Hellenic love affair.
In April 2019 we visited Corfu, unaware of Greek Orthodox Easter. We watched our quiet hotel in Dassia Bay morph into a children’s paradise, with huge Easter bunnies and baskets full of pastel-coloured eggs. By Friday every room was taken, as families flocked from the mainland to celebrate.
On Saturday, we took a bus to Corfu Town, reminiscent of rush hour in London. From there we escaped the crowds, travelling to Kanoni. With coffee on the balcony overlooking Mouse Island, we watched the owner hurl clay pots filled with water onto the pathway, to the delight of children. These pots are thrown from high balconies to signify new beginnings, with scant regard for anyone below!
On Sunday, the poolside terrace was transformed with six lambs roasting on spits. Their herbal taste was heavenly.