Greece is the most mountainous country in Europe, with the highest average altitude, full of mountains, where one can combine mountain hiking with a dive into the Mediterranean Sea, something that is hardly possible in any other European country!
Text & Photos: Fotis Nikolakopoulos
The physicist Fotis Nikolakopoulos, as an amateur hiker-climber and member of the mountaineering club "Vrilissos" as well as a volunteer in Penteli`s fire brigade, shares with us his experience of his favorite activity in order to motivate everyone to activate their spirit and to experience the beauty of the most mountainous country of Europe...
Why are you climbing the mountains?
They once asked a great climber. "Because they are here," was his answer. Not exactly, I would say. There are many more reasons: physical exercise, contact with nature, get away from the monotonous and often inhuman, sedentary life in the city and many more. The Greek word "pezoporia (πεζοπορία)" literally means "pedestrian walking" that includes a light or a heavy physical effort. In other words, a conscious choice to do something opposed to our modern life in “cage-apartments”, to which many of us are limited.
This logic of escape, gives trekking its truly special characteristics. It is a process of mind and body. The mind receives unexpected stimulations, because we are used to live in a concrete jungle and the body is subject to persistent exercise, something which is unfortunately unknown to the majority of modern «couch people».
At a fist glance, it is the combination of two opposite things:
On the one hand, it is a collective exercise. Climbing the mountains with a group or with friends is always safer and gives you a first-rate opportunity to exchange experiences and knowledge about nature, but also the ability to subdue the ego within us and to act as a team. We all know this takes us further than our own forces.
On the other hand, it also provokes vigilance of our individuality as it challenges us to overcome our own -small or large- physical or mental limits and to reach even further, something which might come as a surprise to many of us. In addition, hiking and "losing our time" in such an activity, will award us with images of unprecedented experiences that we will carry with us, descending to the grey everyday-life of the city (I am exaggerating? Who doesn't feel this way?). These images will make us forget the sweat from climbing steep uphill and the annoying sudden rain that kept for hours...
Parnonas mountain, Laconia
Never without equipment
The mountains, however, remain wild and set their own rules, winter or summer. These rules should be respected and followed, otherwise even a walk in nature may turn out badly. For example, as we should not walk in the midday heat in summer, we must not go anywhere in the mountains, or in nature in general, without the basic equipment: a backpack with plenty of water, a raincoat, a hat, sun protection cream, suitable shoes, boots and gaiters in the winter. From then on, depending on our budget and mood, we can buy even more, as long as our contact with nature does not make us even bigger consumers. If we could leave our cell phone behind, it would be even better...
Taygetus mountain, Peloponnese
In Greece there are mountains for everyone
Someone, of course, could say: "Nice said, but in Greece? The country of the sun, the sea and the islands?" The answer will surely surprise the uninitiated. However, Greece is the most mountainous country in Europe, with the highest average altitude (over 800 meters above sea level), full of mountains, where one can combine mountain hiking and a dive into the sea as in no other European country!
Vasilitsa mountain, Grevena
In only one hour's distance from Athens, the mountain Parnitha, is waiting for us with its large intact nature, full of beautiful landscapes and green forests and one of the few big deer populations in Europe. Ymittos is the mountain that will give you the best view over Athens, ideal, just like Parnitha, to start hiking. Leaving Attica and traveling to the islands, you can go to Tinos where you will discover a lush island full of well-preserved paths that connect small villages with the beaches. Some hours away with the ferry boat, Amorgos is an ideal place for alternative and popular holiday hikes, with paths so obvious that even if you try, you cannot get lost... Also in the mountainous mainland of Greece there are areas like Zagori, full of trails, offering an incredible combination of inhabited traditional villages and the natural environment.
Some hiking friends say they do not go to nature in order to have some fun...
Slightly changing the meaning of this headline, I would say that when walking, I want to tire – no matter if much or little - my body, in order to rest my soul. Greece, with its incredible natural variations, provides the ideal basis for anyone who wants to find something different. Everything is out there in the nature. Still sitting? Experience the brilliant sun through a sudden opening of the clouds, the cool spring water and the shade of a fir tree during a short rest after hours of walking, the snowy peaks of the high Greek mountains when you get closer to them step by step, the sudden surprise and emotion from the presence of a "wild" animal very close to you (have you seen a deer in Parnitha? How close were you to a bear in Pindos?), and to realize that this animal doesn’t want to harm you, but deserves your respect. The stunning shapes of the Robbola trees, that you find only at high altitudes, the small often rare and endemic flowers with the incredible colors springing up every spring... You remain speechless when you taste such experiences, but you just see, feel and live it...