Milano master-class

07. How to Find Lost Trails

#lesson1 #lesson5 #diplomacy

To retrace old trails, I turn to written sources. Old books that describe the city, articles, testimonies. Then there are detailed maps. In Greece, we have military maps that show the old trails, many of which have become roads. Also, Google Earth satellite images. One thing that’s important is talking with locals, especially the elderly. They remember another time and can provide information on trails that may have since vanished.

Often, a good trail, in my opinion, is not the shortest distance between point A and point B. Instead, I try to trace an interesting path between the two, one that is enriching at every step. What’s enriching can depend on the people, same as for nature hikes. Some people are interested in plants, others in views or birds. It’s the same thing in cities. In every section of a Metropolitan Trail, we should try to cover as many interests as possible so the greatest number of people can find something they like on the walk.

After spending my whole life in Kythira, I was no longer interested in returning. I found it had become overbuilt. And then I was invited on a hike in Kythira, and the roads I’m talking about here had disappeared beneath vegetation. There were no signs, no markings. Even so, I wanted to climb, and I even had to grapple over these overgrown roads, and I found treasures I never could have imagined, waterfalls no one knew about, abandoned villages, forests, incredible views, and above all, I rekindled my love for this island. It was now stronger than what I’d felt as a child.

So, at this time, I had a choice: either become a guide and show people around, or work to rehabilitate these trails so people could also go without me, on their own.

That was also when I realized the strong potential throughout Greece.

In my opinion, working on urban trails is exactly the same as in nature. The context is different, but the experience is the same. It gives tourists a more authentic experience than what they would get in cars.
For locals, nature walks are about discovering the paths once walked by their ancestors. In cities, they can get better acquainted with their environment and not just walk to a specific destination but toward a better future.

Eight years ago (when I created Paths of Greece), people never took me seriously when I told them what I did. This year, the Greek and German presidents invited me to come and speak to them about hiking in Greece. It’s a sign of the changing times. This is a country that was urbanized relatively recently; and now it’s the second or third generation of people born in the city who feel a need to discover nature, physical activity, and hiking.