Climbing, hiking and skiing are popular pastimes in magnificently mountainous Greece. Yet despite the existence of various knowledgeable, experienced and helpful societies and individuals, a detailed and practical guidebook to accompany the hobby was hard to come by, until now.
It therefore comes as a welcome surprise that a German technocrat’s stint in Athens resulted in ‘Ski Touring with Sea View‘, a useful and unique mountaineering manual he wrote and recently published in German, English and Greek.
“The summer of 2012 Athens was especially hot,” says Christian Mayer, a key official of Germany’s Federal Ministry of Finance who spent over three years based in the Greek capital.
“Day after day the temperature was hitting 40 Celsius and I couldn’t take off for a holiday as the political situation in Athens was tense. So I asked a friend what I could do over the weekend to get away. “You have two choices,” he said. “Either the mountains or the sea.”
Mayer opted for the mountains in the hope that he could gain some respite from the pervasive heat, choosing to climb Ziria (also known as Kyllini) in the Peloponnese.
“I arrived early in the morning, carrying three liters of water with me, eager to take in some fresh air. But the heat was so intense that it took me three times longer than I’d planned, and my water supply did not suffice.”
However, the experience didn’t put Mayer off his quest to discover and enjoy Greece’s peaks. Raised in the Bavarian mountains and being a skilled skier, he simply realized that all he had to do to get the most out of the experience was head out during cooler months.
Mayer soon became well-acquainted with Greece’s mountaineering community, making friends with people who harbored the same interests (mountains, not the Greek financial crisis) and discovering new places, consistently expanding his know-how and experience during his escapades on the Greek mountains.
The idea of writing the guide came to him during his first winter in Athens, “while I was standing on a mountain peak and looking out at a glorious sea vista”.
With a little help from local mountaineering pals such as Vassilis Triantafyllou and Iannis Dimitrakis, he recorded 23 routes. These were then mapped out by Penelope Matsouka from Anavasi Publications, which published his book. Also useful during warmer months as a hiking guide, the book offers concise and practical information for each location, such as starting points, mountain refuges or other places to stay, altitudes, potential dangers and necessary attire.
Visiting the places (stores, refuges, tavernas etc) written about in the book also comes with a 10 percent discount.
Mayer thought it imperative to have ‘Ski Touring with Sea View‘ translated into Greek as well as English and German, not only because of his own love for Greece’s mountains, but also because his father ended up becoming enamored with the country when he served here during WWII.
Mayer grew up hearing his father regale tales about the beauty of Greece.
“That’s why I elicit all of you to consider this book as a tribute to your country and its people, penned by a German hand,” he says, adding: “on the mountain peaks, one gets to discover life way beyond any economic crises”.
*Originally published in Kathimerini newpaper