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The German technocrat who penned a guide for ski mountaineers in Greece

GIORGOS LIALIOS

Christian Mayer got a first taste of Greece’s mountains during a weekend away from Athens seeking some respite from the pervasive heat.

TAGS: Books, Travel, Environment

With its many magnificent mountain ranges, Greece is ideal for ski mountaineering enthusiasts. Yet despite the existence of various knowledgeable, experienced and helpful societies and individuals, a detailed and practical guidebook to accompany the hobby was hard to come by, until now.

It therefore comes as a welcome surprise that a German technocrat’s stint in Athens resulted in “Ski Touring with Sea View,” a useful and unique manual recently published in German, English and Greek.

“The summer of 2012 Athens was especially hot,” says Christian Mayer, an official at Germany’s Federal Ministry of Finance who spent more than three years based in the Greek capital.

“Day after day the temperature was hitting 40 Celsius and I couldn’t take off for a holiday as the political situation in Athens was tense. So I asked a friend where I could go for a weekend away. “You have two choices,” he said. “The mountains or the sea.”

Mayer opted for the mountains in the hope of finding some respite from the pervasive heat, choosing to climb Ziria (also known as Kyllini) in the Peloponnese.

“I arrived early in the morning, carrying three liters of water with me, eager to take in some fresh air. But the heat was so intense that it took me three times longer than I’d planned, and my water supply did not suffice.”

However, the experience didn’t put Mayer off his quest to discover and enjoy Greece’s peaks. Raised in the Bavarian mountains and a skilled skier, he realized that all he had to do to get the most out of the experience was head out during the cooler months.

Mayer soon got acquainted with Greece’s mountaineering community, making friends with people who shared the same interests (mountains – not the financial crisis), discovering new places and expanding his know-how and experience during his adventures in the Greek mountains.

The idea of writing the guide came to him during his first winter in Athens, “while I was standing on a mountain peak and looking out at a glorious sea vista.”

With a little help from local mountaineering pals including Vassilis Triantafyllou and Yiannis Dimitrakis, he recorded 23 routes. These were then mapped out by Penelope Matsouka from Anavasi Publications, which published his book. Also useful during warmer months as a hiking guide, the book offers concise and practical information for each location, such as starting points, mountain refuges or other places to stay, altitudes, potential dangers and necessary attire. Flash the book when visiting stores, refuges and tavernas mentioned therein and you’ll get a 10 percent discount too.

Mayer grew up hearing his father regale tales about the beauty of Greece as he had become enamored with the country when he served here during WWII. 

“I elicit all of you to consider this book as a tribute to your country and its people, penned by a German hand,” he says, adding, “On the mountain peaks, one gets to discover life way beyond any economic crises.”

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