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Presenter : Christina Chang

Mainland Greece

Christina Chang journeys through Greece, the cradle of the ancient world which has an archaeological legacy bearing testament to its varied past.
Christina Chang enjoying a dip in the Ionian Sea
She begins her travels in the Athens, one of the most ancient cities in the world and the modern capital of Greece. The city is overlooked by the awe-inspiring Acropolis, a religious site since neolithic times, although the Parthenon temple which stands there today was built in the time of Pericles around 480 BC. After exploring the picturesque streets in the shadow of the Acropolis, Christina spends her evening in Exaria, the centre of student life in Athens, and goes to a bar to check out ‘rembetik’, the equivalent to the Greek blues.

No visit to Greece would be complete a trip to one of the country’s fourteen hundred islands, so Christina detours off her route to see the island of Chios in the Aegean Sea. It’s a long voyage but once she’s arrived Christina visits the Nea Momi monastery. Now home to one solitary nun, the monastery was the site of the slaughter of five thousand men, women and children by the Ottomans in 1822. Chios was one if the most wealthy islands in the Aegean and its prosperity was founded on just one much coveted commodity: mastic, the essential ingredient in chewing gum.

Christina returns to the mainland and travels by bus to the romantic town of Nafplio, dominated by the fortress of Palamide. From here she journeys on towards Areopoli, via the stunningLangada pass between Sparta and Kalamata. The Spartans were ancient warrior people and Areopoli is named after Aries, the god of war. Christina spends a few days exploring the Mani region by mountain bike.. The further south she rides the more arid and sparse the vegetation becomes, until at last she reaches the point which is as far south as you can go in mainland Greece, thought by the ancient Greeks to be the entrance to Hades.

From the Mani region Christina heads back north to Zagorohoria, a group of villages in a mountainous region near the Albanian border. From the village of Mikro Papingo she plans to trek through the mountains, but first her guide suggests a visit to the local evil eye woman to experience an intense ritual to restore her energy. The destination of her trek through the stunning mountain scenery is the Dragon Lake. It takes seven hours to reach the top but Christina and her guide plan to spend the night at a refuge hut. When they reach Dragon Lake at six o’clock the next morning there’s no sign of the dragon that reputedly lurks in the depths but breathtaking views are well worth the exertion and early rise!

Nearing the end of her journey Christina travels across northern Greece to Seres near the Bulgarian border, where she witnesses an ancient fire-walking festival called Anastenaria,Pilot crew filming on the beachperformed every year in May. The festival commemorates a church fire in 1250 when the holy icons were heard groaning in the flames. Local legend claims they were rescued by devoted villagers who emerged unscathed from the burning building. The participants work themselves into a frenzy to the music of lyres and drums. When the fires are lit the red-hot coals are raked out and the villagers run back and forth over the coals without burning their feet.

To conclude her trip Christina visits the incredible monasteries of Meteora, perched high on inaccessible pinnacles of rock and deriving their names from the Greek meteora, ‘rocks in the air’. No-one knows for sure how the monasteries were built, but as Christina attempts to climb one of the rock formations she realises it must have been quite a feat.

Places Mentioned - Greece and the Greek Islands

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