“I was just 18 years old when I went trekking with friends in the Peloponnese in 1960. I remember setting up my tent one afternoon in an olive grove near Mystras when an old lady came over from a house nearby. ‘What are you doing? You want to sleep here, in the cold? You’ll die! Where is your mother?’ she scolded me. She took me practically by force into her home, to her family. They fed me the best food they had and laid their finest bedclothes onto my bed. This is one of my earliest memories of Greece.”
In the 58 years since then, Tim Salmon, now aged 76, has seen every part of Greece on foot. He worked as a teacher on Crete and in Athens, and maintained a very close relationship with the country even when he went back home to the UK.
“I got a job at Athens College after the dictatorship. The wave of tourism had started to prevail in many parts of the country and this bothered me because I wanted good, pure Greece back. That is when I heard about Agrafa. There wasn’t even a road there at the time. The area and the people enchanted me,” he says of the cluster of villages in the Pindos range, which stretches from northwestern Greece down to the Peloponnese.
Salmon decided to write a trekker’s guide for Pindos a few years later, at a time when the area was largely unknown to foreigners. “The book began as a description of my own journey from Amfissa to Grammos. The old trails were still visible and you constantly came across people going, for example, to wash their shag rugs in the river. There were no maps, however, so I went to the Army Geographical Service, which, after a lot of dull conversations with officers, basically gave me two routes,” says Salmon.
Salmon then went to the locals, experts on all of the old trails. “Their first reaction was: ‘Take the public road; you’ll get lost; you won’t find it; the trail is closed.’ When I told them that I’d come from Amfissa [beneath Mount Parnassos] on foot, they immediately told me what I needed to know,” he adds.
The first edition of his guide was published in 1986 and was later enriched with a trek in the Peloponnese, from Diakofto to Mani in Messinia, and the Pindos trails were united in one long route, stretching from Amfissa to Konitsa on the Greek-Albanian border.
The writing team also grew with the participation of fellow Briton Michael Cullen, who grew up in Greece and has been involved in walking tourism for years.
The team has now produced the third edition of “Trekking in Greece: The Peloponnese and Pindos Way,” published by Cicerone.
“Tens of hundreds of trekkers walk the trails of the French Pyrenees or Corsica every year. These routes are known all over the world. So why not create our own Pindos Way or Peloponnese Way and actually help the handful of mountain villages that are still alive, survive in the most sustainable way?” Salmon asks.
The guide is separated into the two areas described in the title and provides a lot of useful details and descriptions.
“With five to eight hours of walking every day, I estimate the Peloponnese route to take 15 days and the Pindos route roughly a month,” says the writer. “Obviously you don’t need to do the entire thing in one go; you can just choose one or more parts, depending on how much time you have.”
Which is his favorite area? “Agrafa,” Salmon says without hesitation. “If you haven’t seen it, I can’t describe it.”