I’m just home from a two week holiday in Greece. We had 13 days of wall-to-wall sunshine, which is the main reason we went there. But not the only one. Our destination was the small village resort of Olympias on the east coast of the Mount Athos peninsula of Halkidiki. It is one of less than half a dozen coastal settlements on the peninsula most of which is enclosed within the semi-autonomous monastic state of Mount Athos, known to Greeks simply as Holy Mountain. With a resident population of less than 500 Olympias is swelled in summer by families with young children attracted by gently-sloping sandy beaches in the secluded coves and bays which are set into the thickly wooded hilly terrain. The majority of visitors are Greeks; those from abroad include Serbs, Bulgarians and Hungarians who are now supplementing the Germans, traditionally the main group of foreign tourists in the resort.
What you do not find in Olympias are the British – hardly any. The only other visitors from the UK during our stay were a couple from Yorkshire (whom bizarrely we had met last year when we were on holiday there! – another story..). But even the lack of British is not our main reason for choosing this little-known resort. Though that would be reason enough actually – it is really relaxing to be completely away from everything to do with home.
Our connection with Olympias is through Greek friends. We met G., his wife M. and daughter T. when he was studying in England 18 years ago. They introduced us to Olympias. It was where G. grew up he returns every summer. In 1994 we shared a family holiday there; it was our first visit to Greece. Ths year was our first return visit to Olympias. It was a sort of famiy pilgrimage really. G. and M. were there (though not their daughter who by coincidence is completing her Masters at Reading University); other family members we first met in ’94 have become grandparents, and the resort has had some infrastructure improvements. But it was much the same as before and amazingly we both recognised and were recognised by people we hadn’t seen for all those years!