Making Haste Slowly
Give yourself time to sit in a seaside taverna and watch the fishing boats come and go. If you visit Greece in the spring, take the time to smell the flowers; the fields are covered with poppies, daisies, and other blooms. Even in Athens, you'll see hardy species growing through the cracks in concrete sidewalks -- or better yet, visit Athens's Ancient Agora, which will be carpeted with a dazzling variety of wildflowers.
Island-Hopping in the Cyclades
Though the Cyclades are bound by unmistakable family resemblance, each island has a unique personality. Distances between islands are small, making travel by ferry pleasant and logistically straightforward (at least in principle). If you are traveling in the off season, when you do not need hotel reservations, don't plan too much in advance and allow yourself to go with the flow -- a tactful way of preparing you for the unexpected in island boat schedules!
Leaving the Beaten Path
Persist against your body's and mind's signals that "this may be pushing too far," leave the main routes and major attractions behind, and make your own discoveries of landscape, villages, or activities. For instance, seek out a church or monastery such as Moni Ayios Nikolaos outside Metsovo -- you may be rewarded by a moving encounter with the church and its caretaker. When you visit the Cycladic Islands, consider a base on Tinos or Siros. Both are very popular with Greeks but attract hardly any foreigners.
Exploring the Naturalists' Greece
There is a Greece beyond the columns and cafes -- a land of rugged terrain and wildflowers and birds and other natural phenomena. Sign up for a special tour (see chapter 3, "Planning Your Trip to Greece"), or go it alone with one of the several beautifully illustrated handbooks available, such as Oleg Polunin's Flowers of Greece and the Balkans (Oxford University Press) or Birds of Europe (McGraw-Hill) by Bertel Bruun and Arthur Singer. And don't forget your binoculars!
Get up a little earlier than usual to see the sun rise (preferably from the Aegean, illuminating the islands). Then watch it sink over the mountains (anywhere in Greece, but try not to miss the sunsets that change the Ionian Sea from the deepest blue to a fiery red).
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