Greece is one of the most historically fascinating countries in the world and one of the most photogenic.
This is a land of breathtaking, dazzling beaches, monasteries on dizzying rock pillars and incredibly picturesque fishing villages.
Many know it to some extent from the Mamma Mia films or a blurry vacation with ouzo lacing.
For a deeper (and lock-friendly) understanding, we can recommend immersing yourself in the new book Greece: The Cradle of Western Civilization by Claudia Martin, published by Amber Books Ltd.
The volume, says Amber, is a photographic exploration of the country that gave birth to Western democracy and literature and takes the reader on a journey through time from antiquity to modernity and across landscapes from the highest mountains to the smallest islands.
The publisher adds that it’s an impressive collection of over 200 images celebrating one of the world’s most popular travel destinations. And of course is an excellent inspiration for future trips. Scroll down for a tantalizing taste …
ACROPOLIS, ATHENS: The word Acropolis comes from the Greek and means “high city”. The author explains: “This 150 m high ledge in the heart of modern Athens was first discovered in the fourth millennium BC. Inhabited. In the foreground are the pillars of Hadrian’s Library, which were built in 132 AD by the Roman Emperor Hadrian.
VARLAAM MONASTERY, METEORA: In the northwestern plain of Thessaly, huge sandstone and conglomerate columns were eroded by weathering along vertical faults, explains Claudia. She continues: “From the 14th century devoted monks built monasteries on these rocks to avoid Ottoman attacks. Access was only via a ladder or a winch. Six of the original 24 monasteries have survived. The Varlaam Monastery was founded in the mid-14th century by the practitioner Hosios Varlaam. Alone he built three churches, a cell for himself and a water tank. The Katholikon (right) was built in the middle of the 16th century and lavishly decorated with frescoes and icons.
CASTLE OF METHONI: “In 1206 or 1207 Methoni was captured by the Venetians, who long had their eyes on the port as a stopover between Venice and their eastern markets,” writes Claudia. They built a castle large enough to be called a citadel on a rocky promontory separated from the land by an artificial moat. Methoni fell to the Ottomans in 1500.
MONEMVASIA: Claudia explains that this fortified city on a flat rocky island is connected to the mainland by a 200m modern dam. She writes: “Monemvasia was founded in the sixth century by refugees from the mainland during the Avaro-Slavic invasions. From the 10th century it became an important trading center. ‘
CAPE DRASTIS, CORFU: “At the north-western point of Corfu is this wind- and wave-shaped cape,” writes Claudia, “which resembles a mother turtle with its babies swimming next to. It is not possible to descend the steep cliffs from the narrow road, but the small clay and sand beaches can be reached by boat in good weather. ‘
KRYA SPRINGS, LIVADEIA: “This pretty oasis is in the heart of Livadeia, now a modest city, but a famous place in ancient times due to the presence of the oracle of Trophonius,” writes Claudia. Trophonius was a god or a mythological hero or something in between. Those who wanted to consult the oracle lived for a few days in a house in Livadeia, bathed in the water of this river and made sacrifices to the gods. Finally, they descended into a nearby cave to hear the oracle’s words, an experience that apparently was most frightening.
OURANOUPOLI: The modern village of Ouranoupoli is located on the site of ancient Uranopolis, a city supposedly built in the third century BC. Founded by Alexarchus of Macedonia, explains Claudia. She adds, “The tower overlooking the beach was built in the early 14th century by monks from a nearby monastery to watch over the sea after impending attacks. The top two floors were rebuilt by the Ottomans
BLUE CAVES, ZAKYNTHOS: “At the northernmost point of Zakynthos, below the lighthouse at Cape Skinari, the waves have formed arches and caves in the cliffs,” notes Claudia, adding: “Glittering reflections between turquoise water and pale limestone walls seem to change everything and everyone who comes into the water has an otherworldly blue.
MATALA BEACH: According to the book, the many caves were dug in the cliffs of Matala from the Neolithic period. The author writes: “Judging by their size, they were probably used as apartments. In the 1960s, the caves were occupied by hippies from all over the world. The Canadian folk singer Joni Mitchell wrote her song Carey in 1971 about her time with the Matala hippies, with “dirty fingernails” and “beach tar” on her feet.
PRODROMOU MONASTERY, LOUSIOS GORGE: This 16th century monastery is dedicated to John the Baptist. Claudia writes: “It clings to the cliff of the deep, 15 km long Lousios Gorge near Stemnitsa. The Lousios Gorge is known as “Athos of the Peloponnese” because of the many monasteries that are under its protection.
STEMNITSA, LOUSIOS GORGE: “The village of Stemnitsa is located at an altitude of 1,050 m, surrounded by the Mainalo Mountains”, says the author and adds: “The name of the village comes from the Slavic for” forest “”, which is the Slavic roots of many villagers whose families arrived in the 7th and 8th centuries. “
MILOS: “The most south-westerly island of the Cyclades is of volcanic origin and has a soft, slightly eroded tuff between the rocks. Caves, stacks, arches, and blowholes are common on the rugged Milos coast, the author says. ‘The island was an important trading center in ancient times. Here the so-called Venus de Milo statue was found, which represents Aphrodite, the goddess of love. The work was probably built between 130 and 100 BC. Carved by Alexandros of Antioch. ‘
LAKE PLASTIRAS: “This reservoir is named after the Greek Prime Minister Nikolaos Plastiras (1883–1953), who first proposed the project. A concrete arch dam from 1960 prevents the river Tavropos from being flooded and supplies the nearby town of Karditsa with hydropower and water, ”Claudia writes
ROADSIDE SHRINES: According to Claudia, roadside shrines known as Proskinitari are sometimes built by family members who have lost their loved ones in a traffic accident. She explains: “They often resemble miniature churches. Unfortunately they can be seen at the roadsides on all islands, from Kos (above) and Leros in the south to Thassos in the north.
LEROS, DODECANESE: “Cylindrical stone windmills, which were once used to grind wheat, barley and corn into flour, are a common sight on the windswept Aegean islands,” writes Claudia
WINDMILLS, CHORA, MYKONOS: Claudia explains: “As a symbol of the city of Chora and a symbol of the Cyclades, five windmills stand on a windy hill with a view of the restaurants and cafés of” Little Venice “. Many windmills were built by the Venetians in Mykonos in the 16th century, but their construction lasted until the beginning of the 20th century. They were mainly used to grind wheat.
CORINTH CANAL: According to Claudia, the 6.4 km long Corinth Canal has effectively turned the Peloponnesian Peninsula into an island. She explains: “The canal connects the Saronic Gulf of the Aegean Sea with the Gulf of Corinth of the Ionian Sea. The idea of a canal was first suggested by Periander, the ruler of Corinth, in the 7th century BC. Proposed, but not implemented. Construction began in 1881 and, thanks to numerous technical difficulties, lasted until 1893. Due to the width of the canal of 21.4 m, traffic is limited. Larger ships have to be towed through and a one-way system is in operation. ‘
RIO-ANTIRRIO BRIDGE: This multi-span cable-stayed bridge, completed in 2004, crosses the Gulf of Corinth and connects the Peloponnese near Patras with Antirrio on the western mainland, according to the author. She explains: “Among the problems that had to be overcome by the bridge’s engineer and architect, Berdj Mikaelian, were deep water over an unstable sea floor, the expansion of the Corinthian Gulf due to tectonic activity and the high likelihood of tsunamis. Next to the bridge is the castle of Rio, which was built in 1499 by the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II to protect the Gulf of Corinth. With a length of 2,880 m and a suspended deck of 2,258 m, the bridge has the longest fully suspended cable-stayed deck in the world. A cable-stayed bridge has towers from which cables support the bridge deck and form a fan-like pattern.
PLAKA, ATHENS: “Although most of Plaka is a pedestrian zone, strollers have to watch out for occasional speeding. The cobblestone side streets become quieter as hikers climb the slopes and enter the enclave of Anafiotika, ”notes Claudia
THESSALONIKI AND THE THERMAL GULF: “The Thermaic Gulf in the northwest corner of the Aegean Sea is named after the ancient city of Therma, which stood near modern Thessaloniki,” explains Claudia. “Therma was founded at the end of the 7th century BC and was named after the word for fever because of its location in a mosquito-infested swamp.”
All images are taken from Claudia Martin’s book Greece (ISBN 978-1-78274-975-2), published by Amber Books Ltd and available in bookstores and online booksellers (RRP £ 19.99).