Stop! Turn here. . . . I think

Island views, olive trees, and signs pointing toward ruins are endemic in Greece and never more than ten minutes away on Evia. We know this because we just returned from three days of driving, and if you need lessons in patience or perseverance try navigating the back roads of Greece.

If you’re lucky you’ll find road signs in Greek and a few in the Roman alphabet. More likely you won’t find any, or they’ll be at the crossroads instead of ahead of it and you’ll miss the turn and have to find a place to turn around and then miss it on the way back because there won’t be a sign. Or it’s there hiding behind graffiti, or maybe an olive tree. The signs like to direct you into a town and leave you there to wander a labyrinth of busy streets or back lanes until, with luck and the help of passing strangers, you discover a way out and make it back to the highway.

Ah, but it's all part of the fun.

Our destination was the Pilion peninsula, a place highly recommended by our friends and our guidebook. Pilion was home to the centaurs, and Jason and his Argonauts sailed from there in search of the Golden Fleece. (One of the nice things about traveling in Greece is, there’s always a story.) The peninsula is famous for its unspoiled—and thus unique—mountain villages and charming fishing villages and spectacular seaside scenery. But unfortunately we saw almost none of it.

Several weeks of extremely hot temperatures and a dry winter have created ideal fire conditions and sadly, two were burning on the peninsula. Smoke was already on the horizon when we headed for the mountain village of Milies to have lunch and find a place to stay, but before we could decide on a restaurant it was pouring up the valley and into our eyes and throats. A retreat downhill to a seaside taverna seemed a good idea, but with lunch came more smoke, this time from the south.

The smoke brought out the townspeople, who gathered in knots to study it; they talked on cell phones, talked to passing drivers, talked to themselves—as only Greeks can. No one knew anything. Jason, brave soul, might have stuck it out, but we weren’t keen on continually breathing smoke or being trapped on Pilani, so back we drove to Glifa—the ferry point on the Gulf of Evia—where we got a nice room, went for a swim, and watched the ferry come and go from our balcony.

The next morning we could see and smell a smoky haze across the sky, so we ferried back to Evia and drove the long way back to Karystos. John and Carolyn had heard about the fires—there were others as well—and greeted us without surprise.