Novelist Victoria Hislop has found ‘the storytelling spark’ in Crete, Thessaloniki and the streets of Athens. Who better to ask for an inspirational guide to their highlights?
Greece has become more than a second home – it has also given me a second citizenship. In September, I swore my oath of allegiance to the Hellenic Republic and the day of the ceremony included meetings with the president, the prime minister and the general secretary of internal affairs. I am now the proud possessor of Greek identity.
Many of my Greek friends, smiling sardonically, tell me that I will now stop loving this country. A standard position in Greece is to be immensely patriotic but also deeply jaded and critical of everything about it. So far, I have felt no such transformation. The landscapes, the history and the people still provide constant inspiration.
With six novels behind me and 10 stops on each book tour, I have travelled the length and breadth of the country promoting the Greek editions. I have been to the north, to the Albanian border where bears sometimes appear, to the east (where Turkey is in view) and down to the southernmost town in Crete on the Libyan sea.
The contrasts in landscape and culture are fairly extreme – mountains, plateaux, rivers, lakes, hot springs, volcanoes; Greece has it all. It’s problematic to talk about my favourite places because I have thousands and I have not found anywhere lacking its own idiosyncratic charm.
As I write, I am sitting in the terrace café of the Acropolis Museum. It’s early October and I keep glancing up at the Parthenon’s golden stones under a blue sky, grateful for the light breeze. The temple is iconic and for many it represents some of the best things about this country, not least beauty and the aesthetic principles that the West have followed for millennia.