Friends of gardening enthusiasts, birdwatchers and explorers of the Greek outdoors will find a variety of ideas for Christmas gifts at Athens’s central book shops. Terra Cognita went to three major stores; the Folia tou Vivliou (Booknest) and Eleftheroudakis in central Athens, and Bibliotopia in Piraeus. Botanical beauty spots Folia tou Vivliou has copies of Botaniki Paradisi tis Elladas by George Sfikas, just published by Toumbis Publications. A 254-page tour (in Greek) of the country’s most beautiful nature spots, areas where human intervention has been at a minimum; mountain peaks, distant and uninhabited islands, and capes where nature has really remained unspoiled. As they are places the average person is not likely to get a chance to visit, the retail price of 15,000 drachmas is worth laying out to share the impressions of an expert who knows these places like the back of his hand. His detailed descriptions of the landscapes, flora and fauna are illustrated in 780 color photographs. For the more adventurous, Sfikas also explains how to reach these far-flung corners of the country. Further information on other retailers is available from the publishers at 602.9974 or 992.3874. Flowers of Greece and the Balkans, a Field Guide, by Oleg Polunin, published by Oxford University Press, was described as a masterpiece by Anthony Huxley in Country Life magazine. It is certainly one of the more accessible books on botany, taking readers on excursions into the countryside with the help of maps by John Callow showing rainfall, geographical and climatic regions, and the distribution of important plants. It describes around 3,000 species, illustrated with over 60 pages of line drawings and 80 color photographs of landscapes and plants (11,900 drachmas). Folia tou Vivliou also stocks a number of excellent books on the birds of Greece. Where to Watch Birds in Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, by Hilary Welch, Laurence Rose, Derek Moore, Bill Oddie and Harry Sigg, has information on more than 180 readily accessible bird-watching areas, with sketch maps of the major sites. There are 80 full color illustrations of birds as well as a number of line drawings. A Hamlyn Birdwatching Guide published with BirdLife International, it is priced at 6,000 drachmas. The Birds of Greece, by George Handrinos and Trintafyllos Akriotis, gives a clear presentation of the 422 species recorded on the mainland and islands of Greece, illustrated with 70 line drawings by Stephen Message, and includes previously unpublished data from ornithologists in Greece and abroad. It also gives details of geography, climate, habitats and conservation efforts in progress. At the end is a checklist of Greek birds, although it does not include the Greek names of birds which would help identification. It’s priced at 17,500 drachmas. For readers of Greek, Ta Poulia tis Elladas kai tis Evropis, the translation of a book by Roger Peterson, Guy Mountfort and P.A.D. Hollom and published by Chrysos Typos (8,350 drachmas), has the English, Greek and Latin names of all birds. New gardening books Eleftheroudakis’s excellent gardening section has several interesting additions. Climbing Gardens, Adding Height and Structure to Your Garden, by Joan Clifton from Frances Lincoln press, is full of step-by-step projects for transforming a flat space with everything from simple plant supports and lattice work to pergolas, gazebos and arbors for all styles of garden from the formal to the romantic or urban. It has a dictionary of climbing plants, illustrated with beautiful photographs by Steven Wooster (13,000 drachmas). The Ultimate Container Garden by David Joyce, also from Frances Lincoln, helps balcony and courtyard gardeners choose from around 1,000 plant groups according to color and flowering season. It is especially imaginative, with ideas on how to group pots and to use a mixture of plants in the same container (9,700 drachmas). The Plant Selector – Choosing the Best Plants for Your Garden, by Susan Berry and Steve Bradley, from Southwater Press, is more than a plant finder, grouping plants according to their habitats. It suggests plants for acidic, chalky or clay soils, moisture-loving plants and those tolerant of shade or dry sun, climbers or shrubs, ground cover, those interesting for their autumn and winter foliage, and scented plants (5,700 drachmas). Where the gods once walked Bibliotopia has opened a spacious, comprehensive book shop in Piraeus, in addition to its Patission Avenue store, right behind the port area. It has a wide range of books in Greek, including a good selection of large-format books on different parts of the country. One that would please any mountaineer or armchair traveler is Olympus, Myth and Light, by Aimilios and Andreas Maroussoulis (Doudoumis Publications), a marvelous collection of photographs of the most majestic of all Greek mountains, with texts in Greek and English. There are good descriptions of the geography, geology and climate of the mountain, a list of all peaks and sites over 2,000 meters, and notes on flora and fauna. The text is particularly strong on the mythology and archaeology of Mt Olympus and the history of exploration and climbing on the mountain. Practical information includes details of the mountain’s refuges and climbing routes and concludes with an extensive bibliography. Its photographs of plants are identified by the Greek, English and botanical names (15,600 drachmas). Then there’s the popular series by Nikos Desyllas, from Synolo Publications, on different parts of Greece. Bibliotopia has the volumes on Epirus, Thrace and the Ionian Islands. These books have great color photos, and give brief histories of, as well as selections of poetry from, these areas (14,560 drachmas each). Folia tou Vivliou (Booknest), 25-29 Panepistimiou, tel 323.1703 (www.booknest.gr). Eleftheroudakis, 17 Panepistimiou, tel 325.8440, gardening section on 2nd floor at 325.8467, and branches in other parts of Athens and in Thessaloniki (www.books.gr). Bibliotopia, 23 Ethnikis Antistasseos, Piraeus, tel 419.0519, and 126 Patission, Athens, tel 821.5664.