Blue Guide: Greece
Robin Barber, maps and plans by John Flowe
WW Norton, New York,
6th ed., 1995, 7th ed., 2006, $32, 760 pages
ISBN 0-393-31273-9
www.blueguides.com (up 2/21/10)

This book says nothing about hotels or restaurants, and is proud of it. What this is, is a sort of one volume archeological guide to the entire country. For almost every location, not just the tourist biggies, this guide gives info on ancient ruins, cemeteries, notable historical sites, etc., etc.

While you will find more on a given site in a book specializing in that area, I don't know of a book with as comprehensive a coverage for the entire country.

Note that there is a separate Blue Guide for Crete and for Athens. Crete is not covered in the Greek book, but Athens is, but not at the level of detail of the Blue Guide Athens. Even more confusingly, there is now a Blue Guide Mainland Greece as well that is 150 pages shorter. Highly recommended.

lit companion A Literary Companion to Travel in Greece
Richard Stoneman, ed.
The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1994
348 pages.

This book arranges quotes from sources by the geographic area they reference. The range of sources extends from all of the various Greek historical periods, with an emphasis on the classical. But you also get 19th century travel accounts, ancient poems, and more. Fair bit of poetry.

There are brief introductions and leadins to the quotes that help place them.

Quite a bit of material in a densely packed book.

 

 

lit companion Greece Chic
Joe Yogerst
Editions Didier Millet, 2009
160 pages, slick paper, many illustrations
www.thechiccollection.com (Up 2/22/10)

"Hotels, resorts, restaurants, vineyards, galleries" is the accurate subtitle. Normally I don't go for celebrations of upscale Greece, the raw countryside and humble villages are upscale enough in terms of the density of beauty and real human life, but this book is a fun exception.

A very visual take on things, it does tend to focus on high-end consumer spending, but it does also have some nice references to events, sites and galleries (interpreted widely). The photography is particularly good with a few of the images being very striking indeed. In the end it is a little too much focused on hotels and restaurants to be really useful - a little broader range of cultural institutions would be nice. Some of the maps are not that helpful for locating the places discussed.

I don't think you'd really used this to plan a trip, but it is a great browse.

Covers all the country, arranged into geographical sections.

traveltail Travelers' Tales Greece
Larry Habegger, Sean O'Reilly, and Brian Alexander, ed.
Travelers' Tales, 2003

In contrast to the "Literary Companion" book above, this guide features mostly modern writers, some well known ( Durrell, Theroux), and many less well known.

The entries are longer, more of a series of essays on various subjects, typically ranging from 3 to 10 pages. As in all such collections, some are a hit, and some are not.

316p.

 

Odyssey: The World of Greece
Odyssey Publications

I've reviewed this magazine elsewhere, but I want to call your attention to their annual guides.

They publish an annual "best hotels in Greece" list. As you can expect this is not "the best cheap hotels" and is very upscale. But it is fun to look at the photos.

They also publish an annual "Summer in Greece" with a list of activities, art events, local festivals and the like.

Greece
Merrics Media

This is a British magazine aimed at those who want to buy property in Greece and settle there.

Thus, it is concerned with real estate values, livability, taxes, property law, etc. There are listings and a lot of advertisements for developers, agents, lawyers with a few articles on various areas.

It is quite positive about everything, and I suspect that, in fact, buying property in Greece is not a lot of fun.

 

Thomas Cook Guide to Greek Island Hopping
Thomas Cook, $20, various annual editions
www.greekislandhopping.com (Up 2/22/10; posted 8/31/04)

Everybody is always asking "is there a ferry to...?" And the answer is usually the same: if you can't stand on the dock itself and inquire, do the next best thing and read this unique, comprehensive book.

The book gives the schedule for every island and for the various mainland locations. You also get an overview of the various route patterns. This is especially valuable given the somewhat random nature of the schedule of Greek ferries. The route patterns and timings are key for planning a general strategy to serious island hopping. They also cover air travel. Check their web site for breaking news.

Beyond this basic information, the annual guide offers wonderful gossipy reviews of individual boats, companies, and the changing picture of ferry travel from year to year. There are also little intros to the various islands. These island reviews are notable for detailed maps of the port cities showing where the boats land and the location of selected hotels. Note that: many islands have more than one location for the boats to dock. You could wind up a hundred yards or more away from where you need to be. With this guide you'll not be surprised.

Utterly essential for travelers who want to wander the country. Highly recommended.

lit companion Greece: Instructions for use
Kat Christofer
Illustrata Press, 2009
livingingreece.gr/ (Up 2/25/10)

Wow! Talk about a lot in a small package. You'll get this - 108 very small pages - and you may think you've been had, but that's not the case. The density of info in here must be close to a travel guide record. Compact, 'get to the point' style and an absence of big glossy pictures means there is a lot of data here.

As others have said, this is about 'practicalities' - making phone calls, hours of business, traffic, car rental, booking trains, taxies, road signs, strikes, food, shopping, medical care, etc., etc. If you'd like to live in Athens for a month or travel independently, this is the book you need, not yet another list of hotels and restaurants that will be gone by the time you get there.

The author lives in Greece, writes about it on her blog, and is just the epitome of common sense.

foodgreece World Food Greece
Richard Sterling, Georgia Dacakis, Kate Reeves.
Lonely Planet Publications, 2002

This is a handy pocket-sized guide to food in Greece. It's not a set of reviews of restaurants nor a cook book. It has major sections on the culture of Greek food, various particular foods, food and celebrations, regional variations, shopping and markets, some advise on where to eat and a Greek-English dictionary of food terms. The dictionary entries are not as would be found in a formal dictionary but are written for a food-loving audience.

I'm not that into food as a topic of conversation, but I really enjoyed this book.

288 pages, many pictures.
Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable
Thomas Cook Group Limited, Peterborough, U.K.
Summer 07 edition: $27, 540 pages

Published several times a year , this is a one volume railroad timetable for all of Europe. Greece, occupies just a few pages, so unless you were traveling all of Europe, you might want to evaluate the usefulness of this to you.

But, like the ferry guide above, this is the place to get the actual rail timetables, down to the smallest line and local train. Of course, you want to check on the schedules when you get to Greece, but this will help with travel planning. I found that in 1998, the timings on the Athens - Patras line had shifted from the 1995 schedules, but the transit times were the same, and the frequency of service was about the same.

The guide contains brief country info (less than a page each), city plans (to show the stations), country maps (showing rail lines) and the timetables themselves. Included are some international ferry service. There are a scatterings of extras, such a list of scenic rail lines. Useful for planning.

Greece by Rail: with major ferry routes
Zane Katsikis
Brandt Publications, UK, 1997
$18, 260 pages, some line-drawing maps, some photos
ISBN 1-898323-44-5

This is a real specialty guide, and you won't find it in the average Barns & Nobel. It is also published in the US by The Globe Pequot Press.

This guide covers the rail lines with information on schedules, maps of the routes, etc. It also is a guide to things in and around the towns with train stations.

The missing guides

This list here is pretty heavy on rail travel, I admit. There is much more that one could look into: books about art, drama, etc. These would quickly pass out of the range of "tourist guide" and be into general books about Greece.

Last modified 3/1/10; posted 3/13/2000; original content © 2010, 2000 John P. Nordin