Getting to Greece overland by train from Austria via Slovenia and Italy I caught the ferry across to Athens. I had six weeks to both unwind from an intense post-graduate course in the USA and finally go to my personal Holy Grail, Tempe. Along the way I set myself some other challenges to do.
With a life-long fear of heights and a determination to overcome that fear, I’ve done everything from parachuting to going to the top of the Empire State Building in New York City. In Athens, the challenge was to reach the top of the several hills around which Athens is built. Despite my fears I did get to the top of them via buses and walking and the views were worth it, looking down on that ancient capital.
In the meantime I was doing my research. This was before the internet was everywhere and everyone had a smart phone – the adventure was as much about discovering the pieces as it was to put them all together and get there. Hiring a car and driving north to Volos was a scary – Greek drivers are not known to be safe and there are numerous urns and bunches of flowers along the windy roads. In Volos, a small city on the east coast of Greece, I stayed in a hotel where there was a small cove in front where older women would change behind towels with such dignity and go for their daily swim.
Tempe – Tempi in Greek and pronounced Tembi– is a valley between Mount Olympus and Mt. Ossa through which the River Peneus flows. It’s about 5- 10 kilometres long and has a place in both Greek myths and military history. It was celebrated by ancient Greek poets as being a favourite haunt of Apollo and the Muses and is on the main route between Macedonia and Greece thereby giving it strategic military importance.
It is or was a curious place – a time capsule was how I saw it then with the convergence of ancient and modern all in one place. There was a shepherd with his goats by the river, a motor cyclist having a rest, a ‘Love Boat’ cruising down the river, a major highway (apparently a notoriously dangerous one), serenely beautiful vegetation, steep cliff faces and a footbridge across the river.
So whilst people may have conflicting opinions about their experiences of The Vale of Tempe as being one of the most beautiful places in Greece, it did its’ magic on me and put to rest those nagging questions. It may also have been that sense of accomplishment and sigh of relief of having made it at last!