After quitting his job and moving to Greece 20 years ago, Ortwin Widmann turned the tiny Aegean island of Skiathos into a walker’s paradise – all at his own expense.
Armed with a scythe and shears, Widmann has spent the last two decades working on the island, clearing and signposting hundreds of miles of ancient trading routes and donkey trails.
Assisted by a small team of aid workers, but with no government aid, Widmann has mapped 25 routes across Skiathos taking in waterfalls, watchtowers, monasteries and tavernas.
‘I decided I had to show everyone this wonderland,’ says Widmann, who has also written the definitive guide to hiking in Skiathos and now leads his own trails in search of healing roots and herbs.
‘Medicinal herbs are my hobby,’ he explains, ‘and here there were more than I’d ever seen. Thyme, camomile, samphire, oregano, rockrose, sage, fennel, comfrey…’
Some pathways lead to sandy, secluded beaches, others to crumbling monasteries or a enchanted woodlands which Widmann has christened ‘The Magic Forest’.
Today Widmann isn’t the only one enjoying the island’s many hidden treasures. With the help of his friends he has founded Hiking Skiathos, an organisation that makes sure the island’s paths remain clean and open.
If you thought the 70 year old showed any signs of slowing down then think again. Next, Widmann wants to create a new 30-mile hiking route across the island. ‘I will build it this year. I just hope I’ll be fit and healthy.’