Syntagma square with 2 greek Evzone guards slow marching with a rifle placed on their shoulders in front of the white Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Greece

Corinth to Athens (Canal to Cosmopolitan)

With Corinth firmly in our sights, and Nafplio disappearing behind us, we continued the day’s drive with no solid plan for our campervan overnight stop. But hey, this is Greece – it’s full of beautiful parking possibilities!

Ancient Corinth

With the day’s light rapidly fading we agreed to take a shot at the parking lot at the ancient ruins of AcroCorinth. It was a pretty steep but scenic drive up the mountain to the parking lot (Coordinates: N37.889312 E22.868258) and yet again we found that we had the spot to ourselves.

Ancient ruin of Acrocorinth on top of the mountain surrounded by rocks with a bright blue sky
Acrocorinth – the acropolis of ancient Corinth.

We parked to watch the setting sun over the nearby mountains and then with the remaining light, took a brisk walk around the acropolis. The wind chill had temperatures plummeting, so we retreated to the warm confines of the campervan.

Campervan parked at the Acorcorinth carpark looking out and down over the surrounding valleys
Our van parked at the Corinth Acropolis. Another free overnighter in Greece – there are so many great free and scenic parking choices here in Greece.
View of the orange sunset behind the mountain from the Acrocorinth carpark
Sunset over Corinth – parked at the Acropolis.

Corinth Canal

The next morning, we fired up the GPS Navigator with a plan to take a look at the Corinth Canal. It was only a short 20 minute drive to the Isthmus Bridge (avoiding the toll road to Athens) and we parked up at a vacant area right by the canal (Coordinates N37.925697, E22.995456) but still with close access to the toll road to Athens.

As the canal is quite narrow, you have to get close to get a good look. Wow, it was impressive. Now be warned, there are no fall barriers in place so be mighty careful. With 21 metres width at canal base and steep canal walls rising at an acute 80 degree angle – it was quite a feat of engineering for its length of 6.4 kilometres. A fall from our viewpoint would have amounted to a drop of about 90 metres! Yep, definitely something to be avoided.

Corinth Canal with sheer sandstone brown walls with a narrow base
Corinth Canal – sheer drop offs!

Also worthy of a mention is the Isthmus Bridge which is right by here (coordinates N37.927167 E22.994921) and crosses the canal at approximately the half way point. Great views up and down the canal from here! The bridge was adorned with tissues and plastic bags tied on the cross members of the bridge railings. We didn’t know the reason behind this but it certainly didn’t detract from the views.

Tissues and bags tied onto the bridge crossing the Corinth Canal
Tissues and plastic bags on the Isthmus Bridge

Onwards to Athens!

So after a quick bite to eat, we began the hour drive towards Athens with our final destination being Piraeus, a suburb within Athens. It was a pretty easy run until we came across the local markets set up beside the road and saw that the shoppers had taken it upon themselves to commandeer the slow lane of the double lane highway as a parking space. No stress, the traffic merged easily and we took the opportunity to view the wares on sale over the next couple of kilometres.

Markets on the side of the highway on the drive into Athens with cars parked on the slow lane
Athens outskirt highway markets

Negotiating traffic on a weekend in Athens wasn’t a problem and we found our stopover in Piraeus at a car park which was also designated for campervans (Coordinates: N37.94759 E23.64595). At a cost of 13 Euros per 24 hours stay, it was definitely a bargain – and although the outlook wasn’t one of our prettiest, there was absolutely no issue with security or safety. From the car park to the closest subway was a 5 minute walk and from there a 30 minute subway ride (with a change in between) to the Acropolis. The subway cost per person, one way was just a few euros – perfect!

Athens carpark at Piraeus with view of abandoned buildings in front
Athens Piraeus car park vista

Hello Athens… so what’s next?

Well of course a visit to the Parthenon and nearby ruins is a must. Not only are the ruins impressive but the view from the Parthenon over Athens is unbeatable.

Ancient ruins of stone - Amphitheatre will stone benches and backing wall
Athens amphitheatre near the Parthenon.

Arriving via the subway, it was a short rather steep climb towards the Acropolis passing the amphitheatre on the way. After paying our entrance fee to access the Acropolis, we passed under some majestic white marble ruins which opened out to a plateau to find the Parthenon dead ahead. This was definitive ancient Greece! It looked just the same as in images we’d seen, with the exception of the massive amounts of scaffolding in place. Restoration works were obviously in full swing.

Entrance leading to the Parthenon. White marbled columns tower over the people.
Walk through to the Acropolis – Athens.
Parthenon showing many marble pillars with scaffolding around it during restorations
Athens Parthenon – renovations are continuous.

Actually we were quite surprised at the large number of ruin blocks that lay strewn around the Acropolis – maybe strategically placed as part of the restorations? We couldn’t quite follow their system.

View of Athens city from the Parthenon showing a sprawling city of buildings
View of Athens from the Acropolis.
White marble pillars of the ruins on the hill at the exit from the Parthenon
View of the Propylaea ruins.

After a good look around the Acropolis, we descended and strolled through the old centre of Athens, Plaka, on our way to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Plaka was certainly a trendy area with plenty of cafes and eating places to satisfy the needs of most. Needless to say, we took some time out to sample the pastries and enjoy a coffee. Afterwards, a short walk took us to Syntagma Square where we sought out the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Syntagma Square

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is sited below the Greek Parliament and is a cenotaph in honour of the soldiers who gave their lives to defend the nation and her freedoms. We arrived at just the right time – the changing of the Evzone guards was about to commence.

Evzones - 2 of the Presidential Guards in ceremonial uniform with each guard holding a rifle during the changing of the guards
Evzones – Presidential Guards during the changing of the guards

The Evzones form the Presidential Guard and are famed for their ability to stand motionless. They work in pairs to perfect the co-ordination of their movements which is done at slow speed to protect their blood circulation after standing motionless for 60 minutes. Actually, these pairs team up for the life of their military career! Their uniform is a traditional representation of the mountain guerrillas who resisted the 400 year Turkish occupation.

Evzones during the changing of the guard in ceremonial uniform holding rifles in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Evzones during the changing of the guard in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

We watched the changing of the guard from start to finish which took approximately 30 minutes. No doubt about it – it was a great demonstration of training, focus and balance!

Athens has the wondrous combination of both the old and new. It is steeped in ancient history whilst offering the modern conveniences of a vibrant city!

For our next stop we have to say bye to our campervan for a few days and fly to the famed island of Santorini, Greece.

Lars

Author: Lars

Being an Australian boy brought up in the country, I learnt at an early age to enjoy the freedom and beauty of nature. Leaving Australia at the age of 20, although I didn’t know it then, would be the beginning of a life of adventure. So join me here on our travels and see the world through my eyes.

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