The 28 of October is a national holiday here in Greece, therefore, we got one day off work and a free entrance to all the museums and archaeological sites in Greece. We were thinking hard and long how to use this opportunity and in the end, we decided to visit Corinth as it is just about one and half hour away from Athens and has a lot to offer.
The most famous sight in Corinth is probably the Corinth Canal, the first stop on our road trip. I passed from the canal many times before and from the car, it doesn’t look like much but standing in the middle of the bridge it is an impressive sight. For those scared of heights, like me, standing on the bridge is gonna be enough of adrenalin for the day. For the rest of you, there is a Bungee Jumping site just under the bridge, but it was closed every time I’ve been here so I would recommend checking the website first.
I remember learning about the canal at school and always thought it was an important waterway and architectonic masterpiece showing the masonry skills of the old generations. In reality, the canal was opened only in 1893 but the Greeks and later the Romans were trying to dig a passage between the Corinth gulf and Saronic gulf since the 7th century BC. Most of the attempts were unsuccessful and when finally finished, it was too narrow and the rocks too unstable to be fully used. It was closed many times for repairs and these days is mostly used just by the small tourist boats. Well, it’s still pretty amazing.
The rest of the Corinth town around the canal is not very pretty or interesting so we didn’t stop there for much longer and drove straight to the site of Ancient Corinth. The Ancient Corinth is located on the outskirts of the modern city under the monolith of Acrocorinth. To get there take the road to Patra until you see the sign for the Ancient Corinth (Archea Korinthia in Greek). The entrance fee is 6 euros but on some national days and every first Sunday during the winter there is no fee.
Around 400 BC Corinth was one of the largest and most important city-states in Greece. Among other things it was famous for its Temple of Aphrodite, employing around 1000 prostitutes called hetaira who were contributing largely to the wealth of the city.
But for me visiting the ancient sites in Greece is not about the facts and numbers, I could never remember all the kings and wars and dates anyway. For me, it is about walking alone among the old columns, feeling the same wind in my hair as the people who built them and the same sun rays on my skin. It’s about watching the never-ending sea merging with the sky on the horizon, the mysterious mountain tops hidden in the clouds, the blankets of flowers on the stones and understanding why the ancient Greeks worshiped the goods representing all the elements of nature. The Ancient Corinth, important as it is, didn’t give me this feeling. However, the fortress of Acrocorinth is a different story.
Perched on the rock above the city of Corinth its hard to overlook. It’s a short drive up from the ancient Corinth and there are a car park and small coffee shop at the entrance. There is no fee, but in the winter they close early, last year it was at 17:00 if I remember correctly. In October the gate closes at six so we had enough time for exploring the fortress as its huge and requires a lot of walking.
The hill was inhabited through the centuries by the Ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Venetians, the Turks, the Greeks and so on but most of the remains today come from the medieval times. My favorite is the little church behind the third gate and the remains of the mosque.
But the best part of all is the view once you reach the top! To the south and west one mountain range after another, the Gulf of Corinth and Saronic Gulf to the other side and underneath the city of Corinth with the canal visible from the distance. I would be still standing there taking all the beauty in if it wasn’t so bloody windy and cold.
One recommendation at the end, the best season to visit is in May, when the whole place is covered with daisies and dotted with the occasional red poppy. Magic!