Thursday, February 25, 2016

Cycling Penteli mountain

I always wanted to be on the top of Penteli mountain when I see it from my balcony during sunset bathed in orange color. So yesterday when I saw the weather cleared I decided to go for it, cycling.

The route from Kifisia center its around 13km to the top, although its not much distance its a quite challenging ride as the uphill is pretty steep, especially once you hit the hairpins halfway to the top, I was checking many times the grade and it was mostly 10%!Due to lack of time to make it up and down before the light goes out I didn't manage to do sightseeing, there are some interesting spots to explore like a cave, a few churches and an abandoned quarry. Penteli is supposed to be the mountain where the marble used to build the Acropolis was extracted.Map by Google maps

Elevation chart, destination at 1.109 meters high
By Bike Route Toaster

 Penteli mountain looks like this from my balcony. It is situated northeast of Athens and its highest point, peak Pyrgari has an elevation of 1.109 meters. That peak was also my target destination.

 From Kifisia, once I left the houses behind I reached here which is the start of the road to take you up to the mountain

 Getting a bit closer to the mountain

 Slowly slowly the Athens landscape started to reveal itself

 Look what I found on the way up! This guy-gal was going downhill but as I approached changed his/her mind and started going uphill again :)

 Near the top, beautiful vista

 The highest peak and top of Penteli mountain with its small little church (which now has radio antennas) and the abandoned military radar base

 Beautiful vista on my way down

 Thats the way you have to go uphill to reach the top, many steep hairpins

 Made a stop to enjoy the view while the sun was going down

 One last stop for the view before going full downhill to manage to be out of the mountain before the twilight

Watched a beautiful sunset on my way down the mountain :)

All in all was a great ride. You need to be VERY careful on the way down as due to the steepness of the road you can go very fast, I reached 50km/h going downhill in no time, the condition of the road is not very good with many potholes which can easily give you an accident considering you are going down fast.

Totally recommended ride, I will be going back as well, no sunset this time but with more time in order to check on the sights :)

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Cycling Parnitha mountain

Map by goggle maps
Decided to go cycling up to Parnitha mountain, on the north of Athens. Its the highest peak in Attica with an elevation of 1.413m. The route cycled is from Iraklio train station to Mpafi shelter, around 30km total, one way. There is A LOT of traffic on most of the way, until the casino cable-car.

Due to very late start we spent a night on the start of the mountain near the cable car station leading to the Regency Casino Mont Parnes. Took the chance to use it, some nice views of Athens during twilight zone through the cable car.
Twilight zone and Athens landscape through the cable car

Started cycling up the mountain, ten long hairpins to the top and as we got higher slowly slowly Athens landscape started revealing it self.
One of the hairpins to the top

Cute pine cones all around

Just a bit above 1.000m we made a stop to breathe some fresh air
The way we came from cycling
Welcome to Parnitha sign

 Unfortunately a big portion of Parnitha forest was burned during the big fire of 2007 (among with much of the wild deer population).

The once sanatorium of Athens lays in decay near the top of the mountain. It was erected on 1914 and functioned for more than 30 years. Many of the patients didn't make it out of it alive. It is estimated that during the 30s, more than 100.000 people died from tuberculosis in Greece. It shut down on the end of the 60s and became a hotel. Finally in the 80s the building got abandoned and lay there all these years in decay... you can actually go inside and linger on places where people suffered and many of them died...

The "Park of Souls" stands in front of the sanatorium. Wooden sculptures made by artist Spyros Dasiotis symbolize the feelings of the patients who suffered and many died inside the sanatorium. Inside the park there is a sign that reads: "We love the earth, the people and the animals. The reptiles, the sky and the insects. We, we are all together as well. Together the sky and the earth". Greek poet John Ritsos spent six months in the sanatorium in 1937-38. He didn't manage to get cured but he kept on writing, this extract is from the "Symphony of Spring" written during that period.
The Park of Souls
Extract from "The Symphony of Spring" by John Ritsos

Passed by a few wild deer and finally managed to spot Mpafi shelter, our final destination for some food and rest before turning back
Wild deer
Mpafi shelter on the down left

 The food and tea in the shelter was excellent, some nice views with the Athens landscape on the far horizon and the back of the casino. A few friendly healthy cats begging for food here and there.

Athens landscape on the horizon, the back of the casino on the right

After some rest we took our bicycles for the way back...

All in all it was a nice ride but maybe my expectations were much higher. There is too much traffic in a big part of the route until the casino cable car. Lots of the forest near the top is -sadly- burned and somehow I was expecting the whole scenery more beautiful. Nevertheless it was worth going, the air was very fresh and clean, was some kind of a shock to cycle back to the city!

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cycling part of east Attica coast to Marathonas

The route is approximately 72km, took the metro to station "Pallini", cycled towards the sea, from Rafina to Nea Makri following the coast, then to Schinias Olympic Rowing center. From there inland through the mountains to Marathonas village and further more inland to Marathonas lake and dam. Finally a few more mountains to go down to Kifisia and take the train back home.

The altitude gain was not bad, mostly downhill for the 1st 20km, then flat for another 20km, uphill for the next 20km with 400m. gain and the last 12km a few ups and downs. It was mostly the heat of 40 degrees Celsius which melted everything :)

 Reaching the sea from the inland road I was situated north of Rafina and  this was the 1st beach I saw, placed between a bar named "Cavos" and a greek eatery taverna named "Argyri Akti"

After having a short rest had to keep on going

A bit further there was a beautiful marina with another small beach

 There were kids fishing and wind surfing going around

One of the kids thought Im a tourist and asked me in broken English to take his photo :D

 The place was really beautiful so decided to have a short break and have lunch on the swings by the sea

 Kept on going through the coast, there were nice patches of sand here and there and a few more marinas with people windsurfing

Reached Nea Makri marina

After Nea Makri there was a beautiful bicycle style lane going through the coast named "Xrisi Akti"

 Nice beach bars here and there providing umbrellas and drinks for a small fee

It was time to divert a bit from the coast inland to go visit an archaeological site, the Tomb of the Athenians from the Battle of Marathon

The Battle of Marathon took place in 490 BC around these plains, during the first Persian invasion of Greece. It was fought between the citizens of Athens, aided by Plataea, and a Persian force commanded by Datis and Artaphernes. The battle was the culmination of the first attempt by Persia, under King Darius I, to subjugate Greece. The Greek army decisively defeated the more numerous Persians, marking a turning point in the Greco-Persian Wars.
Reaching the site you are greeted by Miltiades who was elected to serve as one of the ten generals of that battle and he is the one often credited with devising the tactics that defeated the Persians. (source WikiPedia)

For a €3 fee you can check the most important of the remaining monuments on the plain of Marathon, the Marathon Tomb, traditionally known as “the Pile”, of 9 m height and 50 m diameter, which covers the bones of the 192 Athenians who fell at the battle of Marathon.
Beneath the soil, the excavations have revealed the cremated bones. Inside the tomb, traces of feasting have also been found. According to the traditions, the winners collected the dead from the battlefield, put them on a funeral pyre and they attended “perideipnon” (the funeral banquet) to honor their bravery. Outside the tomb Athenian teenagers offered every year wreaths and sacrifices to the memory of the killed soldiers. (source

After getting my archaeology dose I went back to the coast on my way to Schinias and had a lunch break here to rest from the melting heat.

 Reached Schinias to visit the Olympic Games 2004 Rowing Centre. With a total length of 2250 meters and a capacity of 14,000 seats it was once full of life but now... its completely deserted and falling apart... such a pity for such a beautiful place to have such a fate. I was completely alone to go around, went inside that building to find the half lit toilets on the basement which gave me the creeps as if playing Resident Evil game.

Had to finally say goodbye to the coast, take the inland route uphill for the next 20km heading first to Marathonas village. Small little hidden white churches like this one (Saint John) were scattered beautifully all along the way.

In the village of Marathonas there were a few more monuments referring to the battle of Marathon and some art as this is the starting place for the Athens Marathon. Although thought to be historically inaccurate, the legend of the Greek messenger Pheidippides running to Athens with news of the victory became the inspiration for this athletic event, introduced at the 1896 Athens Olympics, and originally run between Marathon and Athens. The last piece of art from Japanese artist Masaaki Noda, "The Spirit of Hermes". Two metal plates emerge from the base and grow in a helical and spiral arrangement, evoking Hermes' wings and the Athenian attack. Artists impression is of the day of the battle, the Athenians exceeded themselves against a far more numerous enemy and, ignoring the danger, attacking with dazzling speed, not unlike that of Hermes' wings; with equally dazzling speed, the young Athenian runner raced against time and covered the 42-kilometre distance at the speed of lightning in order to bring the message of victory to Athens before he died. The sculpture is erected in the plain of Marathon, near the starting point of modern-day athletic events, initiating a dialogue with the memory of the land.

Had to continue going uphill and cross a few short mountains on the way to Marathonas lake and dam

Finally reached Marathonas lake and dam.
The artificial lake of Marathon - the benchmark of the city for decades - was created in 1931 and served as the primary water supply for Athens. It was formed from the construction of the Marathon Dam at the junction of Charadros and Varnavas Torrents near the town of Marathon. Varnavas was the main water reserve of the Greek capital until 1959.
The rapid growth of the population of Athens, however, forced the Greek government of that time to operate additional supply connection to the lake Yliki, while from 1981 on, most of the water supplied in Attica, is provided by Mornos artificial lake.
The area of the lake is 2450 acres and its maximum depth reaches 54 meters. The lake collects water from an area called the drainage basin area of 118 sq. km., with an average runoff of 14.400.000 m³ per year, with average annual rainfall of about 580 mm. The average inbound volume of the lake is 12.000.000 m³, while the maximum reservoir capacity is 41.000.000 m³ (of which only 34 million can be  drawn).
The crest of the historic dam (whose construction began in 1926 and ended in 1929) has a maximum height of 227 meters above sea level. The Marathon dam was built by U.S. company ULEN (which maintained by contract, the ownership of the water supply company of Athens until 1974).[source]

After having an energizing fresh orange juice on the nicely situated coffee place I crossed the dam and had a shot from the other side as well.
Kept on going uphill with more hidden small little churches here and there

At some point a beautiful panoramic view of the lake and dam was revealed

With mountain Penteli on the background I crossed through and started descending to Agios Stefanos on the way to Kifisia
The road going down are very dangerous as they are very narrow leaving no space for anything (two lanes narrow road), I was sad to see this cat being hit by a car and loosing its life in front of my eyes. I immediately stopped the bike and tried to go to her but the cars were speeding so fast and not caring, I almost got hit by one and had to jump on the narrow sides for safety. The cat had a critical hit on the head with lots of thick dark blood flowing, it was convulsing and then another car went through and completely ended its life... I stood in the middle of the road with the hope that the next car will stop (guess human life values more than cat life because you will go to jail after) and with the help of a wooden stick I managed to get the dead cat out of the street. There was nowhere to bury her around there so I was very sad to leave her on the side of the street, at least her dead body wouldn't become splashed again and again...Kept on going and reached Kifisia where I took the train home with a few signs of heatstroke although I kept myself hydrated with endless fluids and power drinks.

Apart of the sad cat incident it was a great ride through many beautiful places! Recommended :)

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