Crossing the grand 3 Km Rio-Antirio Bridge from the northern mainland over the western side of the Corinth Gulf to the Peloponnese peninsula end, was a too short-lived thrill...
The SF Bay Bridge is triple the length than this one, though both are equal in beauty.
The fast smooth Hwy, curved long tunnels, and frequent tolls’ booths on the Peloponnese side, were as many as on the mainland, continuing "sucking money" off the drivers, all along this southern side of the gulf, going toward Athens - which was our last destination for the night, before fying back to Israel.
Peloponnesos - "Island of Pelops".
Literally, celestial and mythological charm tells the legend of the hero Pelops - king of Pisa who allegedly have conquered the entire region, and of Hercules who fought here the Nemean lion, Paris of Troy, who from here eloped with Helen, or the Argonauts, who set sail in search of the Golden Fleece, and other gods who walked the earth, meddling in mortal affairs, and may have been doing so, so invisibly and without the told charm, till our times..
Mycenaean palaces, Byzantine cities, Ottoman, Frankish and Venetian fortresses, are all to be found here.
Technically it may be considered an island since the construction of the Corinth Canal in 1893, and has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The Mycenaean civilization, was first major civilization, dominated the Peloponnese in the Bronze Age, then
collapsed suddenly at the end of the 2nd millennium BC
In 776 BC, the first Olympic Games were held at Olympia, in the western Peloponnese in the beginning of the classical period of Greek antiquity when it was at the heart of the affairs of ancient Greece,
The major cities of Sparta, Corinth, Argos and Megalopolis were all located here. Along with the rest of Greece, the Peloponnese fell to the expanding Roman Republic in 146 BC, when the Romans razed the city of Corinth, and massacred its inhabitants, and later it became part of the
Estern Empire. During the late Middle Ages and the Ottoman era, the peninsula was known as the Morea. .
Deeply indented coast line, imposing fractured rocky walls looming above the water, revealed lofty snow capped summit tips, and consisted of very steep green slops, deep gorges, and river tracks winding down toward the gulf's beaches.
In between the dense forested land and straight rows of Olive groves growing on the hilly elevated sides, hidden red roofs on top of white walled constructed houses, forming communities, were overlooking the panoramic Corinth.
We stopped only once on the way to admire the Corinth Canal which the main Hwy briefly crosses, but due to the driving speed, does not really allow a good visibility of it.
One needs to veer off the fast highway at the "Old Corinth" exist and drive along the older road parallel, following "Corinthus Ithmus" signs, as to properly view this old historical canal.
Corinth Canal- A historical Engineering Marvel, though a flop.
The Corinth Canal which connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea, is at sea level and has no locks.
It cuts through the narrow Isthmus of Corinth and separates the Peloponnese from the Greek mainland,
Constructed in the late 19th century, (1880 to 1893) after few failed attempts to built it, were made in antiquity.
Tyrant Periander (7th century BC,) The Diadoch Demetrius Poliorcetes (336–283 BC) planned to construct a canal, as well as 3 Roman rulers :
dictator Julius Caesar, Caligula and emperor Nero (67th AD) all considered the idea of constructing the canal, ignoring philosopher Apollonius of Tyana prophesy, that anyone who proposed to dig a Corinthian canal would be met with illness, yet they all tried and indeed all suffered violent deaths.
The Roman workforce, consisting of 6,000 Jewish prisoners of war, started digging trenches from both sides, while a third group at the ridge drilled deep shafts which were reused in 1881 for the same purpose.
6.4 kilometres (4 mi) in length and only 21.4 metres (70 ft) wide at its base, has made the canal impassable for most modern ships.
However in the past, ships wanting to cross the Adriatic or go to Corinth had to circle the Peloponnese, which added an additional 185 miles to the journey. From start, the canal's narrowness, navigational problems and periodic closures to repair landslides from its steep walls, failed to attract the level of traffic expected by its operators. Nowadays it has little economic importance and is mainly a tourist attraction admired for its historical aspect and not its functionality..
Retrieving a forgotten behind Kindle
When we reached the Pierus Port part of the city, we retrieved the kindle, forgotten in Meteora, that a kind Greek Tourist Guide -Martha (who resides in Piereus) offered to take along with her back from Meteora to Athens. Luckily for David, Martha overheard the phone conversation we placed with the Meteora's hotel reception's clerk , when we called from Metsovo, where we realized the kindle was left behind. This kind deed saved David 3 hours of driving from Metsovo to Meteora and back, as to retrieve the forgotten Kindle.
Who knows... maybe this act of kindness was an exchange for the kind lift back to their hotel, we extended to a car-less young Russian couple carrying a 6 months old baby, who were stranded under heavy rain shower, at a bus-less bus-stop, on Meteora’s upland, on the same afternoon as when we visited the site.
Yet... that generosity experience was short-lived, and completely tarnished when David realized his wallet was missing (either it fell off his pocket or was pick-pocketed) right after we exited from Temple of Olympian Zeus. https://www.athensguide.com/temple-of-olympian-zeus/
Had I been a religiously observant Jew, I would suspect the Jewish God to be a zealously vindictive one, angered at us for paying a visit to other admired God's abodes from antiquity...But since neither of us is..
I am left with attributing this bad circumstances to sheer human mindlessness..
In the time left before the local contemporary Greeks ventured again, on the First of May vacation day, we managed also to pilgrimage to the glorious Acropolis Hill (which we visited once before 40 years ago)
That afternoon's fatigue behooved me to ride, for the first time ever, the city scooter, up the hill to the site's entrance cashier, as to save my energy for climbing the steep steps all the way to the top, were the glorious structures from antiquity prevailed ...
Once I got my bearings , David and I also used this new popular and light mean of transportation , to explore other parts of town near by to the hotel we stayed in.
Driving passed the city's center Municipal Central Market by the end of the day when it was already closed, transgressed us to a "third world" scary environment. It was swarmed with only men, the kind you don't want to encounter, shadily willing and dealing, thus we stayed inside the locked car, and drove away fast.
Municipal Central Market (Varvakeios Agora)
Since1886 this traditional colorful city market consists of a fish market, vegetable market and a meat market extending along both sides of Athinas Street. You ca stock up on the best cuts, cured meat products, herbs and spices and also grab a bite in one of the historic taverns.
It is open every day, except Sunday, from early in the morning till late afternoon.
The excellent hotel we stayed in was situated, right on the city center's Sygmata Square, which from its 8th floor's breakfast room, the heavenly silent-still Acropolis could be seen, in full view on top of the hill, while the noisily human demonstrators and their blasting workers music, could be observed and heard through the loudspeakers, down at the square below.
A known city center square, located in front of the 19th century Old Royal Palace, which has been housing the Greek Parliament since 1934. Every hour, the changing of the guard ceremony, is performed by the Presidential Guard,
It is named after the Constitution that Otto, the first King of Greece, was obliged to grant after a popular and military uprising on 3 September 1843. and the neighbourhood surrounding the square is also named Syntagma.
May Day - The Workers Holiday
The Greeks had celebrated their Good Friday, Easter, and First of May from Thursday afternoon to the following end of Monday, closing off, besides all businesses, also all archaeological sites, museums and markets, as well as many stores and eating establishments..
"Screw the Tourists..." is the general attitude .. but their overextended vacations has been pissing off the Germans, who cough the funds to sustaining them...
Gray color Union Workers converging with Red Communists, Black Anarchists and Multi color Student demonstrating groups, were all peacefully marching in solidarity the streets around Sytgma Square, celebrating the Chicago May 1 1886 act of capping worker rights to only 8 hours working day. The civilized protesters were quite leisurely strolling all together, under the one unifying Blue and White Stripes and Cross Greek Flag, while behind the fully equipped special anti - demonstration Police Squads were idly tagging along. These agenda-less civilized crowd couldn't be compared with the violent French yellow vest's hoodlums.
As soon as the demonstrations were over after 2:00pm, and the road opened to traffic, driving to the more distanced city's neighbourhoods, was the the thing to do in the city at which all its sites, museums and most shops, were closed due to this Workers Rights Holiday.
Lycabettus Hill (ligambos)
A pine covered hill oferring 360 degrees of the city's spectacular vistas as it is the highest point of the city, rising at 270 metres above it. Dominating the landscape, it is visible from every part of the city, and at it's top the 19th century picturesque chapel of St.George, which is built on the same location of the Byzantine church of Prophet Ilias, can be seen.
We stayed at the fabulous
Hotel Grand Bretagne - The luxury Collection on Syntagma Square
1 Vasileos Georgiou A, Syntagma Square Str,
A historical building with 320 rooms and suites, including a 400-square-metre (4,305 sqf.) suite on the fifth floor, out door and in door salt pool, spa and a roof garden restaurant.
Built in 1842 this neoclassical grand building at the heart of town on constitution Syntagma square, was originally built as a house for Antonis Dimitriou, a wealthy Greek businessman from the island of Limnos, only twelve years after independence of Greece from the Ottoman Empire. In 1874 it was bought by Efstathios Lampsas, who restored the mansion and named it "Grande Bretagne." Already in 1888 the hotel had electricity installed and 2 additional hotel's wings were added. In 1957 Dimitriou's mansion was demolished and a new wing was built on its place. The architect Kostas Voutsinas and the owners tried to keep much of the style of the original building. During the Greco-Italian War and the Battle of Greece in 1940–41, the hotel housed the Greek General Headquarters. Following the Axis occupation of Greece, the hotel served as the Nazi headquarters. British forces made the hotel their headquarters at the end of the war in 1944.[During the early stages of the Greek Civil War, the hotel housed Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou, the Council of Ministers and the British military assistance force under General Ronald Scobie.
In 2003, Hotel GB underwent a €112-million renovation to restore it to its former glory.
Between the Syntagma Square and the Placa touristic center there are few more budget cost Hotels one may want to consider:
New Hotel- Design Hotel"
Athens Was ( Brand new Boutiqe Hotel in the Placa)
Herodion Hotel ( Rovertou Calli Str close to the Acropolis)
Acropolian Spirit Boutique Hotel (Brand new in Acropolis Syngrou ave)
Eating in Athens
Though the hotel recommended another place, we stumbled into a very very good restaurant - a Crete style cooking - in the same residential neighborhood of Pagrati- off Proskopon square
Tomaroprovato (Black Sheep)
210 72 23 466 210 72 23 469 31-33 Arrianou , Pagrati
The flight back to Israel was thanks God uneventful, and we made it safely back, arriving at one of the saddest days of the year -
Yom Hashoa- Holocaust Day. It is even sadder, this year, with the unfathomed realization of the rise in antisemitic acts and current tolerance of antisemitism not only by the fringe groups, but also its heinous acceptance within mainstream outlets of the civilized world.
Israel is the only place where the national sirens which wailed throughout the country in memory of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis during World War II. put to complete standstill halt, all moving pedestrians, driving buses, and any other means of transportation, for one minute of solidarity and commemoration. May their memory be blessed for ever and ever.
THE END ...