Have you ever noticed something special about the light in Athens?
In the “Geography of Genius”, the author, Eric Weiner, travels to the world’s most enlightened places. His first stop is Athens, Greece. Athens, of course, is the location of 5th Century Athens (Golden Age of Athenian Culture), a society that produced more than its fair share of geniuses. Throughout the book, Weiner is trying to decipher why certain places became breeding grounds for genius. What was it particularly about Athens? How and why did Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and others originate here?
One thing that came up again and again when Weiner posed the question was “the light in Athens”. While the angle and hue of light do not birth genius, it certainly can be inspiring. This set me off on a course of examining some old photos. Was there really something to this? Is the light in Greece special?
I first traveled to Greece when I was 17. It was only my second time abroad, so it made a huge impact on the way I viewed the world. I owe it to these early trips, and to my parents who brought me, for expanding my worldview. It took me over 20 years to get back to Greece and in those three trips in my late 30s, I fell in love with the country. The light was only part of this new affection.
After reading this first chapter in the Geography of Genius, my memory immediately filed back through my recent trips to Greece and my time spent in Athens and other locations. Did I remember the light being particularly inspiring? The first thing that came to mind was sitting up on Areopagus Hill (under the Acropolis) for sunset. This light wasn’t just the light of your typical sunset. It was extraordinary! And I wasn’t the only one who noticed.
There was also sunrise at Lycabettus Hill and the way the afternoon sunlight filtered through the Ancient Agora. Beyond Athens, I remember the gentle light on Lesvos, Hydra, Crete, Naxos, and Amorgos.
Did my memory match with the photos I had taken? I had to go back through my albums to check.
These photos from Athens are from two different trips. One is from December 2018 and the other from April 2019. Views of the Acropolis at sunrise are from Lycabettus Hill. I hiked up there one morning to see the early light illuminate the Parthenon and Acropolis and the rest of Athens. That’s also where I photographed the raising of the Greek flag.
I made a quick stop in Crete on the December trip to Greece. I like places in the offseason. There are fewer people and you get more of a sense of everyday life for locals. These photos are from the old Venitian port in Chania, on the north coast of Crete. Although I didn’t get a chance to do any hiking, the hiking in Crete is excellent.
Amorgos is one of those off-the-beaten-track places that you fall in love with. Up on the hillside, overlooking the blue Aegean, is where we hold our Greece Yoga Retreat. The views are amazing and the light on Amorgos is divine. Looking forward to returning in 2022.
Hydra is a car-less island within a short ferry ride from Athens. It’s slightly more expensive than other destinations in Greece but is totally worth it for the simplicity and peace. There are some excellent restaurants overlooking the sea and dirt tracks lead all over the island. If you like hiking, good food, and don’t want to worry about logistics, go to Hydra.
I had an overnight stop in Naxos on my way home from Amorgos. I just stayed in Old Naxos but had about 24 hours to get to know the small port city. That was enough for a sunset stroll out to the Temple of Apollo and a morning walk around town. Naxos has a healthy amount of tourism without being overwhelmed.
I got invited to Lesvos in 2017 as part of a campaign to reignite tourism there after the media’s coverage of the immigrant influx. I was really caught off guard by how much I fell in love with Lesvos. The people were really kind to me, the island was beautiful, and there is such a variety of natural features and things to do there. Read more about Why I went to Lesvos and 11 Reasons to Love Lesvos.