The Rambling Writer: Mementos of Travels in Greece

Hello, fellow travelers, virtual or global! I’ll resume my blog series of my recent return to Greece on Saturday, April 7, with the promised exploration of Dionysos rituals around Delphi. Meanwhile, this week and next, I’ll revisit my earlier trip to Greece, with a few updates.

As I write my novels set in colorful locations around the world, I often surround myself with mementos of those places. I did just that when working on The Ariadne Connection, a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands and mainland, where I spent four months backpacking and inhaling the magical atmosphere some years ago. The resonance of place has always been essential to my writing, and Greece is one of those special places that soaks into a writer’s soul and is never forgotten. (The photo above is of an abandoned old chapel on the south coast of Crete, near a spot where I pitched my tent. The luminous quiet of dusk in that place returns whenever I look at this image.) Now, after my return trip, I have a few new pieces to enjoy as I work on the sequel, The Ariadne Disconnect.

As novelist John Sandford said in a Writer’s Digest  interview, “What you want is a specific location, because all places have idiosyncrasies, and putting the idiosyncrasies in the book makes the scene more tactile and real.” When we’re reading, we want to be immersed in the experience with all our senses, and I love being transported to new and exotic locales through sensory involvement.

I’ve saved a few special objects from my far-flung travels, and when I look at them and touch them, I swear I can feel the essence of place still inhabiting them. Or maybe they simply trigger visceral memories and inspire my writing.

AmberNecklaceOne of my favorite treasures is this antique amber necklace I found in a little hole-in-the-wall jewelry shop on the north coast of Crete. When I wear it I remember my younger self hiking the rocky shorelines and diving into the bracing, clear purple-blue sea, or scrambling like one of the ubiquitous rascally goats along steep mountain trails to stumble onto abandoned ancient ruins where I could pitch my tent and settle in to listen for whispers from long ago. The necklace helps ground me to that essence of place and stay true to its spirit when I set a scene there.


As anyone who’s travelled in Greece can attest, you can hardly escape the presence of the old gods and myths. I did my best to invoke that presence in my novel, treading the lonely labyrinths of some of the fabled 99 cities of Crete satyrStatueas well as visiting the more well-known ruins and museums. One of my favorite small statues in the National Archeological Museum of Athens is this one of a jaunty satyr, and I have a replica that reminds me of the irrepressible Greek spirit. He seems to cheer me on in my creative efforts.




Now, from my recent trip through the islands and around Delphi on the mainland, I have a few more treasures that resonate:


This lovely, hand-painted and glazed plate features a swallow, which has been an important element of art on the island of Santorini/Thira for thousands of years. It was Thor who fell in love with it and had to return to the gallery to buy it:

Greek homes typically display decorative plates on the walls.  We found these bowls at Delphi, featuring raised “bumps” of design under the glazing, as well as the distinctive curly elements that may represent lotus blossoms:

I can now light candles under this image of a Cretan priestess or goddess, a tribute to a famous ancient figurine holding sacred serpents. Of course I have named her Ariadne:

And, finally, as a gift to a dear friend known as “The Garden Goddess,” I brought home a marble replica of a classic Cycladic figurine:

So I’ll don my amber necklace and raise a glass of retsina to the old gods and goddesses, after spilling a libation on the ground for luck as they did on Crete. “Chairete!” (Rejoice!)


You will now find The Rambling Writer’s blog posts here every Saturday. Sara’s latest novel from Book View Cafe is available in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection.  It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?”  The novel has received the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction. Sara has recently returned from a research trip in Greece and is back at work on the sequel, The Ariadne Disconnect. Sign up for her quarterly email newsletter at






The Rambling Writer: Mementos of Travels in Greece — 5 Comments

  1. I really love the swallow plate!

    And agree about specific sensory details.

    • Yes, it surprised me that Thor picked out that swallow plate. Somehow it reminds us of our grandmothers’ kitchens.