While based in Spain this year, I’ve squeezed in a lot of travel between research and writing the next Mitch Rapp saga. I’ve been sharing stories and photos from the road lately, and this will be the last entry. We’re wrapping up our time in Europe and soon I’ll be back at my desk in Wyoming. As fun as it’s been, it’s hard not to eventually start missing the rugged landscapes and open spaces of home.
This time, it’s Greece. The cradle of democracy that became the pattern for the free world many of us are lucky enough to live in today. Lots of people go to Greece for the beaches, but to be honest, I’m not much of a beach guy. I’ll take an old ruin or battlefield over surf and sand every time.
Most people tolerate Athens’ crowds and the heat for a day until they can get on a ferry to the nearest island paradise. In reality, though, it’s a terrific city with a great vibe, delicious food, and amazing archaeological sites and museums. Our few days there turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip.
Our only regret is that we didn’t stay long enough to see live music at one of several amphitheaters around the city. Amazing that after thousands of years, they’re still in operation.
Greece encompasses 6,000 islands, only 227 of which are inhabited. But 200+ islands makes it difficult to decide where to go. Brad Thor recommended Hydra, so that’s where we started our journey. Compared to some of the more high-profile destinations in Greece, it’s relatively unknown to foreigners.
Motorized vehicles are prohibited, creating interesting challenges and a quiet, sleepy atmosphere that we loved. That, and a few excellent hikes to lonely monasteries, made this our favorite stop on the trip.
Our next ferry took us to Paros, which is much deeper into the Aegean and has the white buildings, blue domed churches, and windmills that many of us associate with Greece.
Paros’ fame comes, in part, from its culinary scene and world-class kite and wind surfing. More touristy than Hydra and with streets packed with people, it was still a relaxing spot to write for a few days. Here, bougainvillea hangs over walls and accordion music drifts in from the street.
I will admit that, initially, a stop in Santorini wasn’t appealing in the height of tourist season. Now that I’ve been, though, I’m glad we made the trip. The bright white villages are situated along the top of a volcano crater and steep hillsides plunge into a dark blue sea. The food is terrific and the atmosphere lively. Sometimes a little too lively…
For those who like to recreate on vacation, the caldera hike shouldn’t be missed. It’s nearly 6.5 miles of rolling trail that winds along the edge of the crater, through towns and unpopulated terrain. Even in one of the busiest times of the year, there are very few people on the hike if you start early in the morning.
Crete, our last stop before heading home, is the largest of the Greek islands and known around the world for its cuisine. We stayed in the old Venetian port town of Chania where there are narrow alleys and tiny restaurants with outdoor seating tucked into ruins. Here, crumbling walls and a missing roof aren’t a bug, they’re a feature. Combined with the beautiful sunsets and popular beaches, I can see why this destination is high on a lot of people’s lists.