Sightseeing… off the beaten path
By Georgia Skamagka
The National Observatory Visitors’ Center at Thission It is situated on the Hill of the Nymphs right across the Parthenon and to the north of the Hill of Pnyx where Meton was performing the first astronomical observations of the classical Greek period using his heliotrope. Explore the Geoastrophysics Museum and the library of the Observatory, which contains historic books and documents of significant importance as well as a variety of scientific instruments of the 20th and 19th century.
Open-air cinemas A movie night out! Cine Pari and Cine Thission are two of the most celebrated open-air cinemas in the city. Actually these two are the only open-air cinemas in central Athens with a stunning view to the Acropolis. Watching a great film under a starry summer sky, however, comes with a serious price. You might as well be distracted from the movie and miss the whole story.
Piraiki An eastside story unfolds by the “rocks of Piraiki”, the quaint old-fashioned settlement to the east of the main port site of Piraeus. A widely paved “vein” of almost 5 kilometers runs along the picturesque seaside, from the Naval Academy to Alexandras Square, making the route ideal for walks especially late in the afternoon when the entire Attica across the horizon (from Faliro to Glyfada) is bathed in sunset colors. Vintage street lambs illuminate your footsteps in shades of light yellow and the remnants of the ancient Themistoclean Wall blend harmonically in a lengthy frame of local-favorite fish tavernas, coffee joints and cocktails hangouts.
The flea-markets at Elaionas and Tavros A colorful patchwork of people, loud voices, music, the smell of souvlaki and barbequed meat and cars parked on the background in total “anarchy”, is quilted every weekend at Elaionas and Tavros districts in southwest Athens. Antiques, crockery, furniture, decorative items of all shorts, vinyls, typewriters and turntables, books and comics, clothing, shoes, jewelry, artworks and paintings and various tools, practically anything you can imagine, make up the scene of a unique treasure-hunt for the explorers of the “irreplaceable”.
Cape Sounio A 70-kilometers drive away from the city center and along a seaside road that reveals the bluest waters, you’ll find yourself gazing at the sunset in absolute wonder surrounded by the ancient ruins of the majestic Temple of Poseidon on the southernmost tip of the Attic peninsula. Take a dip in the crystal clear waters of the neighboring beaches at Legrena or Lavrio, just perfect, and enjoy fresh fish and side-dishes at the traditional tavernas lining along the coast.
The beach at Varnavas White sand, deep blue and sapphire waters, miraculously unspoiled. One of the most beautiful and cleanest beaches in Attica lies some 12 kilometers distance from the scenic settlement of Varnavas. Refreshing dips in the waters and fresh fish at the local tavernas. A great opportunity also to visit the historical monuments in the area, such as the 5th century BC Archaic tower and the church of St Peter and Paul.
Parnitha Cable car Hiking the abundant pine forest along the mountain trails of Parnitha’s National Park sounds re-energizing and most intriguing if you have some extra time while in Athens, not only for the unique landscape with its significantly rich flora and fauna, but rather for the ecstatic view of Attica, far and beyond. To get to this magnificent top you can either use your car or better yet, use the cable car and brace yourself for the most exciting ride ever! First and only stop: the “Mont Parnes” Casino. Either you choose to challenge your luck or walk the mountain paths to the two beautiful refuges of Bafi and Flabouri, it is an “adventure” worth living.
An archaeological site of particular importance rests literally in the heart of the city, right in the buzz of a modern metropolis, but curiously enough, remains the least visited. Kerameikos was the cemetery of ancient Athens situated on the northwest fringe of the Capital. Follow Ermou street pass the Monastiraki train station and there it is on your right. Its natural surrounding proves equally serene, almost magical: a small part of the Eridanos stream, turtles and frogs, birds and a vast variety of colorful flora.
The old Euripos bridge at Chalkida
Watching the unique tidal phenomenon of Euripos from the old sliding bridge is truly amazing. The old Euripos bridge is one of the world’s last remaining sliding bridges while the unusual effects of the tide that happens nowhere else in the world, are on full show six to seven times a month with the strait’s current changing direction as many as 14 times within a single day. Chalkida, an ideal daytrip destination, also offers scenic waterfront walks amongst fishermen dilettante and street performers. A line-up of colorful umbrellas reveals an endless stream of fish restaurants and cafes for some traditional Greek hang-out.
Ιsthmia and the Corinth Canal
Another bridge one should definitely “cross” is the submersible bridge over the Corinth Canal; actually there are two such bridges, one on each end (the bridge of Posidonia on the Corinthian side and the bridge of Isthmia by the Saronic Gulf) both surrounded by beautiful local tavernas and refreshment spots. The 6.4 kilometers long Corinth canal with its imposing rocky walls rising 90 meters above sea level is definitely a must-visit site. The canal links the Corinthian Gulf to the Saronic Gulf through the narrow 25 meters isthmus of Corinth, once an important navigational route guiding ships into the Aegean Sea.