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4 MIN
TRAVEL TIPS

BEAUTY by VICTORIA HISLOP

My love affair with Greece began many decades ago – and the passion has never diminished. In fact, it becomes more intense as the years go by. I came for the first time when I was a teenager and for the following years visited each year on holiday enjoying all the things that every tourist finds pleasure in: the ancient culture, the landscapes, the sea, the food, the hospitable people.

Every time I stepped off a plane either on the mainland or an island, I experienced the same reaction: “I am home.” There is no rational explanation for this. It was simply a feeling. The pleasure of the heat and the dazzling sunshine was an intense one – and an emotional one too.

When we had our two children, they were both introduced to Greece before they were even a year old and they have never known a summer without the warm summer breeze on their skin and a dip in the Aegean. On one of those family holidays when the children were small, I had inspiration for my first novel, The Island, set in Crete. I was not looking for such an idea. I don’t think it’s ever possible to seek inspiration – it either happens or it doesn’t. Like love, it is always a surprise, something that comes when you are least expecting it.

Why did the tiny island of Spinalonga, site of a former leper colony off the coast of Crete, inspire me? As with so much in Greece, it was initially the beauty that struck me. An unexpected beauty. Who would imagine that a place where people died with an incurable disease could be so beguiling? It seems an anomaly, doesn’t it? But Spinalonga is beautiful. As well as the elegance and strength of the Venetian fortress walls, there were little houses built of golden stones, big pots of bright tumbling geraniums, a tiny church from which emanated a strong scent of incense, a range of magnificent mountains opposite and turquoise sea all around.

Of course, it was more than the physical charm of the place that grabbed my attention. It was something intangible too. It was the atmosphere. I felt very strongly that people there had not only suffered – but had lived and loved too. It’s the same feeling that I have when I find myself in one of the many villages I have visited both in Crete, on other islands and on the mainland. Life has not always been easy for people, but the way of life is beautiful. Communities are strong, the landscapes are always spectacular and the sense of continuity with the past is appealing. There is a richness in all of these aspects of Greece that is unique and I always take my visitors up into the mountains as well as to the sea. There is beauty in both.

Since that first novel, all of my books (except for one) have been inspired by Greece. I am currently working on the adaptation of one of these for Greek television. “Cartes Postales from Greece” is being filmed in Crete for ERT (the state broadcaster) and during the twelve episodes we use dozens of different settings – from mountain, to plateaux, to sea, to lakes, to villages, to towns and archaeological sites – we have even done some scenes inside a cave. The variety of locations is astonishing and varied.

The original book was, as some critics said, a love letter to Greece. The television series will be even more so and will display the magnificent variety that this country has to offer. I am really happy to say that the GNTO is generously supporting the production.

The protagonist of the series finds himself exploring Crete and being surprised and charmed by much that he sees. I suppose, in some ways, he is an extension of myself (as characters in novels often are). “Joseph” often finds himself spellbound by the simple beauty of a landscape and the kindness and hospitality of the people. He takes time to contemplate, to marvel and simply to enjoy these very elemental aspects of this country. All of these things change his life, and definitely changed mine too.

Ends….

VICTORIA HISLOP