Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, scientist, political theorist and critic, and universal guru, was - according to legend - a great walker. One story has it that his own brand of philosophy became known as the peripatetic (wandering) school because he walked around as he lectured. Appropriately enough, visitors to northern
The trail is in the Halkidiki region, which has three distinctive "fingers" sticking out into the Aegean. Stagira is in a sheltered spot not far from where the eastern finger, Athos, meets the mainland. Athos - or the
Ancient Stagira was a one-horse town, notable for little more than its celebrity philosophical son. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, after his death in 322BC, local people made attempts to capitalise on his fame and attract tourists. They brought his body back from the island of Euboea (modern Evia), where he had died, and launched an annual festival in his honour.
Over the past few years, the modern inhabitants of Stagira have been even more energetic, and Aristotle is fast becoming a big attraction in Halkidiki. In addition to the
In some ways, it's all a rather misleading branding exercise. We have no idea how Aristotle felt about his home town, because he never mentions it in the vast quantities of his writings that survive (the silence may well be indicative). In any case, he spent most of his life in far less sleepy areas of the Greek world, partly in Macedon, where he had the rather trying job of tutor to the young Alexander the Great. But as branding exercises go, it's a fairly harmless one (a philosopher makes a more congenial mascot than the all-conquering, drunken Alexander, whose face adorns cafes and gift shops in Macedon, to the west). And the branding is a small price to pay for attracting visitors to one of the loveliest parts of
The centrepiece of the new initiative is that
Energetic types could do the whole walk in a day. But it can be tackled in easy sections, and a range of shorter walks or mountain bike tracks link to it or run close by. They are all clearly signed, but don't have the domestication that makes some US national park trails feel a bit Disneyfied.
The most memorable was a short hike off the main trail up to a stunning waterfall. But it did require some clambering and jumping back and forth across a stream (I was near the upper limit of age, and lower limit of fitness, to manage it with pleasure). Not all require such exertion, but - in addition to the short, helpful guide produced by the tourist office - it would be stupid not to take your hotel's advice about the levels of difficulty, and perhaps take a local guide for the day.
For those who prefer to give hiking a miss, this part of
There are a few interesting historic sites too, though Halkidiki probably isn't the ideal holiday spot for keen archaeologists. The ruins of old Stagira stand at one end of the main trail, with enough recognisably ancient buildings amid the trees to make for a happy couple of hours' exploration, even if you don't walk the trail. But for me the ancient highlight was on another of the subsidiary walks: the canal of Xerxes.
When the Persians invaded
* The trip was provided by Marketing Greece (DiscoverGreece.com), with accommodation at the
Philosopher's stones . . .
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