Wild Abandon

A Journey to the Deserted Places of the Dodecanese

By Jennifer Barclay

Bradt Guides publishes excellent guidebooks but they also publish travel narrative books, and Wild Abandon by Jennifer Barclay is one of those. 

Wild Abandon book cover

Jennifer Barclay

Jennifer Barclay is the perfect author for a book like this, as she has made her home on Tilos in the Dodecanese, has lived in Athens, and has travelled widely throughout the Greek islands. She’s also an adventurous traveller and a lover of deserted places, and has written two other books about Greece: Falling in Honey and An Octopus in my Ouzo.

Wild Abandon

In Wild Abandon she decides to focus not on the main sites in the Dodecanese, like the Old Town of Rhodes, but visits places few visitors are likely to discover for themselves. Some require some energetic trekking and camping out, and for most of the trips she’s accompanied only by her faithful dog, Lisa. 

Detail from the Book CoverDetail from the Book Cover

The Dodecanese

In Wild Abandon she visits eleven of the islands in the group, and as I’ve visited seven of them myself it was a fascinating read… making me now want to visit the four I’ve not been to so far. She includes the main islands, known for their busy tourist areas, like Rhodes and Kos, but you’ll see sides of these islands you probably didn’t know existed. Each island gets a chapter to itself, and the others are Tilos, Nisyros, Kalymnos, Astypalea, Kastellorizo, Karpathos, Kasos, Halki, and Arki.

Arki in the Dodecanese photo by Jennifer BarclayArki
All Photos (c) Jennifer Barclay

Tilos

The book starts and ends on Tilos, where the author lives and which naturally she knows intimately. Here, among many places, she talks about the Harkadio Cave, which she can see across the valley from her office desk and is ‘where the last elephants in Europe died four thousand years ago.’ Elephants in Europe only four thousand years ago? This is the kind of entertaining and unexpected fact the author loves to dig out and entertain the reader with.

Abandoned village on TilosAbandoned Village on Tilos

Nisyros

On Nisyros she uncovers the Pantelidis Baths, a grand therapeutic spa built in 1910, once visited by thousands coming in shiploads from all over the Mediterranean, but now lying in ruins. Who knew this was on Nisyros? Certainly not me. The Nisyros chapter is typical of the author’s detailed and descriptive writing.

‘As I stand outside the taverna to get a signal on my phone, I watch a little black cat sitting in a hole in the wall. Lisa sees it and growls, and it jumps away. Yiannis, appearing from the kitchen, points to the hole. “Put your hand inside.” I feel warm steam. It’s a geothermal apiria, or blowhole of the volcano.’

Nisyros in the Dodecanese photo by Jennifer BarclayNisyros

Kos

I realise as I read through Wild Abandon that I could quote from every chapter to give a feel for the book, for the contents and the author’s style. Here, from the chapter on Kos, called ‘Faith in Water’, she discovers the village of Pyli, where not all the houses are inhabited:

‘Others are obviously long abandoned, broken glass in the windows and rubbish in the garden. I tread carefully through tall grass to peek through an open window. There are black-and-white photographs on the mildewed wall. An old black travelling trunk sits open with a New York address painted by hand on the side.’

Don’t you immediately want to know about the trunk, the photographs and the New York address?

Kos in the Dodecanese photo by Jennifer BarclayKos

Kalymnos

‘Even in August, it felt excitingly wild and empty. The land was dramatic, fearsome even, with craggy grey cliffs, rust-streaked, dropping down steep inclines almost five hundred metres to the sea. Waves surged relentlessly from the northwest into the narrow inlet where aquamarine water almost glowed. I saw a diver in a wetsuit swimming close to the black rocks, then I watched it moving and realised it was a seal.’

Every chapter has gems of lovely, lyrical writing in it, along with detailed descriptions that make you feel you’re standing there alongside the author seeing what she’s seeing. 

Kalymnos in the DodecaneseKalymnos

Advice

One piece of advice – if you’re reading the book then have this website open alongside you:
https://wild-abandon-dodecanese.blogspot.com/

Astypalea in the DodecaneseAstypalea

The author has put it together to enhance the book, and it’s full of her colour photographs of the islands covered. You can see some of them on this page. Unfortunately I only looked it up after finishing the book and it’s clear that lots of the photos are of places referred to in the text. It will bring the book even more to life if you can see the photos at the same time.

Beach on Halki in the DodecaneseHalki

If you’re planning a trip to any of the islands covered in the book, buy a copy of Wild Abandon to sit alongside a conventional guidebook. If you like reading good travel books about Greece, or about anywhere for that matter, then put Wild Abandon on the shopping list or in your Amazon basket. It’s excellent. Or, as Victoria Hislop said: "A vivid and intoxicating account of these beautiful islands".

Buying Wild Abandon

You can buy Wild Abandon in print or as an ebook on the
Bradt Guides website.

Jennifer Barclay author of Wild Abandon with her dog LisaThe Author with Lisa

You might like these

  • Kos in the Dodecanese Islands of Greece

    Kos in the Dodecanese islands of Greece has good beaches and night-life, and archaeological remains.

  • Halki

    Travel information on Halki in the Dodecanese group of Greek islands, including flight and ferry information from Greece Travel Secrets.

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    Mike Gerrard wasn’t sure what to expect from a holiday on Symi, in the Greek islands, but what he found was lots of local feasting, dancing, and music.

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    Symi (or Simi) is a small island in the Dodecanese near Rhodes with regular ferry connections, hotels, rooms to rent, beaches, tavernas.

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  • Rhodes

    Travel advice, information on Rhodes in the Dodecanese, with ferries from Piraeus for Athens, Symi, Crete, Kos, Patmos, Santorini, and flights from Europe

  • A Walk in the Old Town of Rhodes

    This walk through the Old Town of Rhodes takes you through this World Heritage Site and along the main streets and past the city walls, palaces and mosques.

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  • Patmos in the Dodecanese Islands of Greece

    Patmos in the Dodecanese islands is famous for the monasteries of St John and the Apocalypse and on this page you can also read about flights and ferries

  • Kastellorizo

    Travel information on Kastellorizo in the Dodecanese group of Greek islands, including flight and ferry information from Greece Travel Secrets.

  • Arki

    Arki is a small island in the Dodecanese close to Lipsi, with beaches and tavernas with rooms to rent and ferry connections with Patmos, Samos and Marathi.

  • Agathonisi in the Dodecanese islands of Greece

    Agathonisi is a small island in the Dodecanese with quiet beaches, a few hotels, pensions and rooms to rent.

  • Tilos in the Dodecanese Islands of Greece

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  • Nisyros

    Nisyros is a unique volcanic island in the Dodecanese and easily reached on day trips from Kos Town and Kardamena.

  • Lipsi

    Travel information on Lipsi in the Dodecanese group of Greek islands, including flight and ferry information from Greece Travel Secrets.

  • Leros in the Dodecanese Islands of Greece

    Leros is a sizeable island in the Dodecanese with flights from Athens, ferries from Rhodes and Piraeus, good beaches, restaurants and hotels.

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  • Karpathos in the Dodecanese Islands of Greece

    Karpathos in the Dodecanese islands of Greece is noted for its traditions, its music, and mountain villages like Olympos.

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