Cycling part of east Attica coast to Marathonas (GREECE)
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 taverna (Greek eatery) named "Argyri Akti".
After having a short rest I had to keep on going.
A bit further was a beautiful marina with another small beach.
There were some kids fishing and people wind surfing.
One of the kids thought I am a tourist and asked me in broken English to take his photo :D Very friendly locals!
Decided to have a short break and have lunch on the swings by the sea.
I continued cycling through the coast, there were some nice patches of sand here and there and a few more marinas with people windsurfing.
Reaching the cute marina of "Nea Makri".
After Nea Makri there was a nice path going through the coast named "Xrisi Akti".
There were many nice beach bars providing umbrellas and drinks for a small fee.
Even though I wanted to continue cycling on that path, it was time to divert a bit from the coast. Going inland, I wanted to 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. It is traditionally known as “the Pile”, with 9m. height and 50m. diameter, it 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 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 visitmarathon.gr)
After receiving my archaeology dose I went back to the coast. On my way to "Schinias", I had a lunch break here to rest from the melting heat.
Reaching Schinias, I went to visit the Olympic Games 2004 Rowing Center. With a total length of 2250 meters and a capacity of 14,000 seats it was once full of life. But now it is completely deserted and falling apart... such a pity for this beautiful place to have this fate. I went around exploring with not one soul in sight. Searching for a toilet I went inside the building at the top photo. There I found the half lit toilets in the basement which gave me the creeps.I felt as if playing Resident Evil in virtual reality.
I finally had to say goodbye to the coast and 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 along the way.
In the village of Marathonas there were a few more monuments about the battle of Marathon. Plus some art, as this is the starting place for the Athens Marathon. The legend speaks of the Greek messenger Pheidippides running to Athens with news of the victory in the battle of Marathon in 490BC. This became the inspiration for this athletic event, introduced at the 1896 Athens Olympics, and originally run between Marathon and Athens. A piece of art that caught my eyes (pictured above), 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.
I had to continue going uphill and cross a few short mountains on the way to Marathonas lake and dam.
I 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 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 visitmarathon.gr]
I had an energizing fresh orange juice at the situated cafe, then crossed the dam and enjoyed the views from the other side.
While I kept on going uphill, there were many hidden little churches here and there.
Reaching a viewpoint, 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 is quite dangerous as it is very narrow and supposed to be two lanes, leaving no space for anything else but the cars. I was sad to witness a 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, I almost got hit by one while trying to reach the cat 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 (and it did) 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 :)