Greece: Athens and the Mainland

Greece: Athens & The Mainland
Eyewitness Travel – £15.99

Right here, right now, it’s all a case of Greece this and Greece that. And me is not talking John Travolta. Nigh everywhere you look at the moment, Greece (‘’where the art of story telling is still as prized […] as in Homer’s time, with conversation pursued for it’s own sake in kafeneia and at dinner parties’’) is constantly in the news – albeit for the wrong reasons. The right reasons are the sea, sand and sun, feta, frolics and fun, along with a disproportionately ambivalent number of sex gods; all of whom are of a quintessentially Greek induced persuasion.

Indeed as I write, the Greek Prime Minister Giorgios Papandreous, is still coming to terms with the inevitable trajectory of having scuppered plans for a bailout referendum, and is looking to engage in talks with that of a national unity government (as if such an ideal would ever, could ever, actually exist in Greece). That he adamantly, confusingly refuses to step down out right, sort of suggests that the new coalition may well once again glisten upon an unstable horizon; much to the collective chagrin(s) of Angela Merkel, Nikolas Sarkozy and the average Joe Blow amid the streets of Western Europe.

So perhaps now is the right time to be thinking of a relatively cheap package deal to mainland Greece or a weekend break in Athens. If so, where and how better to embark and disembark than with this altogether thumper, bumper of a knock-out travel guide, Greece: Athens & the Mainland.

Having always enjoyed the rather easy to come to terms with layout of Eyewitness Travel guides, it ought come as no surprise that this edition is absolutely no exception. Clocking in at 352 pages, the front pull-out consists of a colour coded map of Mainland Greece (area by area), while the back pull-out consists a road map of the same area along with what must be a new addition to their books – a city map of central Athens (which on the reverse side, includes thorough travel information within the city itself replete with a street index).

Broken into five prime (colour coded) sections: Athens, Around Athens, The Peloponnese, Central & Western Greece and Northern Greece, Eyewitness bequeaths the traveller with nigh everything one could possibly need.

‘A Brief Portrait of Mainland Greece’ at the outset includes: ‘Landscape,’ ‘Architecture,’ ‘Religion, Language and Culture,’ ‘Home Life’ and finally ‘Development and Diplomacy.’ The latter of which, underlines an economic ideology, that for better or for worse, we’ve come to know rather well of late: ‘’The fact that the Greek state is less that 200 years old, and that it has had much political instability, means that there is little faith in government institutions. Life operates on networks of personal friendships and official contacts.’’ So, nothing new there then, other than the fact that many western European Governments are perhaps a little more adroit at covering up their tracks of blatant nepotism.

With regards the section on Athens, there’s a really helpful musical Directory, a wide menagerie of explanatory, architectural diagrams and what appears to be a relatively in-depth Street Index. The countless colour photos are inviting to say the least, as are the many maps and details of ‘Travellers Needs’ (such as where to stay, where to eat, where to shop etc).

But no authentic travel guide on Greece would be complete without a lucid investigation and understanding of the country’s exceptional ancient history. The folks at Eyewitness are clearly no exception to this ever so important rule, which is more than apparent throughout Greece: Athens & the Mainland – an outstanding and utterly reliable travel guide.

David Marx

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