Cycling Parnitha mountain - Athens, Greece (2016)
Route and altitude map by Ride with GPS (https://ridewithgps.com/)
Parnitha mountain is on the north part of Athens and it is the highest peak in the Attica region with an elevation of 1.413m. I took the metro until Iraklio station and cycled from there to Mpafi shelter. The route was 55.2km (27.6km one way and back) and the altitude gain was +1134m. with the grade incline sometimes around 15% so there were some steep uphills. There is a lot of traffic on the road until you reach the cable car which takes you up to Regency Casino Mont Parnes.
Due to a very late start I spent the night in a hotel at the start of the mountain, near the cable car station leading to the casino. Took the chance to use it (it is free of charge), and had some nice views of Athens during twilight zone while going up and down.
The next morning started cycling up the mountain, there were ten long hairpins to the top. As I got higher slowly slowly the landscape of Athens started to reveal itself.
Everywhere you looked on the trees you would see cute pine cones.
Reaching 1000m of altitude we made a stop to breathe some fresh air.
The sign welcoming you to the mountain read "Welcome to Parnitha. Enjoy the beauty of the forest, give it your love. Coal mining, cutting and uprooting trees are prohibited. The friends of Parnitha".
Unfortunately a bit portion of the forest in Parnitha was burned during a huge fire in 2007 - among with the most of the wild deer population.
The once sanatorium of Athens lays in decay near the top of Parnitha mountain. It was erected in 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 1930s, more than 100.000 people died from tuberculosis in Greece. It shut down around the end of the 1960s and became a hotel. Finally in the 1980s the building got abandoned and since then lays 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. In 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.
Passed by a few wild deer and finally managed to spot Mpafi shelter, our final destination and rest place for some food before heading back.
The food and tea in the shelter was excellent, accompanied with some nice views of the Athenian landscape on the far horizon (and the back of the casino). Plus a few friendly cats begging for food.
After some rest our bicycles ("mamachari" city bicycles with 6 gears from Japan) were ready for the way back.
It was a beautiful, apart of the high traffic on the road until your reach the casinos' cable car and thesad burned part of the forest near the top. But Parnitha has most of its beauty on hiking rather than cycling!
GPS coordinates for places in this post, click on them to be redirected to the exact point in google maps. Click on the names to be redirected to their official websites (if applicable).
Heraklion metro station: 38°02'46.6"N 23°45'58.2"E
Hotel Belle Vue (spent the night there): 38°07'22.1"N 23°44'00.7"E
Cable car for Regency casino Mont Parnes: 38°08'15.9"N 23°44'30.6"E
Abandoned sanatorium of Parnitha: 38°08'55.6"N 23°43'08.9"E
Mpafi Parnitha mountain refuge: 38°10'02.9"N 23°43'37.1"E
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