I've been writing on and off about this plan to go travelling in Greece this coming September, taking my lead from Pausanias and visiting places he writes about to draw or paint them as they are today. I just made a list of the places I'd like to visit, that seem moderately reachable (& in some cases, that have been identified with reasonable certainty - not every ancient site is as confidently known as Mycenae, say).
That is to say, a list of sites in Athens, Attica, Boiotia, Phokis, and Corinth and the Argolid. I had already accepted I'd need to forget about the whole of Etolia-Akarnania and the whole of the rest of the Peloponnese - Achaia and Elis, Arkadia, Messinia and Lakonia - until another trip. But I'd an idea I could cover the rest in one month.
It came to 54 sites. Oh bugger.
Allowing one day per site, plus several travelling days to move between regions and between regional bases, that would mean around 60 days' worth of touring. And that's without allowing myself so much as a single day to forget being intelligent and cultured, and just go and lie on a beach or sit under a pine tree by the sea and enjoy the view.
I don't think I'm up for 60 days solid of history without a break. It could start to feel like a chore instead of an adventure. And on top of that, my travel insurance only covers me for a maximum of 31 days.
So I need to rethink my plans. It's back to square one; or at least, back several squares. This is why planning is so important! I need to book my plane tickets fairly soon, and at least some of my accommodation. So I need to have this planning stage sorted out. Which means I do need a clear itinerary.
So, I must narrow my focus. Do I start in Athens and then head for Corinth and the Argolid? Or do I start in Athens and then head west through Boiotia and into Phokis?
I would dearly love to see Delphi again. But the Argolid is so packed with things worth seeing; and I've only ever paid the most sketchy visit to Corinth, and I've never climbed the Acrocorinth, or been to Isthmia or Sikyon... Yes, on balance I'm starting to think the logical way to limit myself is to take just that little corner. A few days in Athens to start with, then cross the Isthmus and base myself in Argos or Nafplio for the remainder of the time. Then back to Athens in early October for a last day or two, and home.
I can have a city break in Athens in November, maybe. Or at my birthday.
I can do another region in the spring.
I don't want to skimp, that's the thing. When I went to Greece for the first time, I skimped. I knew there wasn't time to see everything, and I knew I'd never be happy just doing the main "circuit" and ticking those famous boxes; Mycenae, check, Epidaurus, check, Parthenon, check. I tried to fit in more, in the areas I'd picked out; and I still ended up skimping and leaving out places that sounded interesting.
The problem is, almost anywhere can be intersting, if you look at it the right way. The world is so full of fascination, the moment you start to go beyond the obvious. There's always so much more to see.
For example, I don't want to miss out Boiotia altogether this time. Twenty-six years ago, I went straight through the whole of Boiotia and eastern Phokis on a bus (in the pouring rain!) to Delphi, and ended up staying there for over a week because there was so much to do and see. I spent three days "doing" the site of Delphi itself, then I went to Amphissa, to Arahova, and to Itea twice (admittedly the second of those days was in order to spend a day at the beach) and I had an amazing day hiking up into the foothills of Mount Parnassos. And I wasn't stopping to draw, then; I was just seeing the sights and taking it all in.
I want to do things differently; properly. If a job's worth doing, it'sworth doing well,as my late father liked to say. If that means concentrating more carefully on a smaller area, well, okay, let's re-do the plan and do it that way.
Though maybe I'll tuck in a quick pilgrimage to Delphi, right at the end of the trip. It was a magical place.