Visit to Athens

Visit to Athens

DAYTRIPS FROM ATHENS

TEMPLE OF POSEIDON. The Temple of Poseidon has been a dazzling white landmark for sailors at sea for centuries. The original temple was constructed around 600 BC, destroyed by the Persians in 480 BC, and rebuilt by Pericles in 440 BC; 16 Doric columns remain. The temple sits on a promontory at GCape Sounion, 65km from Athens. (Open daily lOam-sunset. €4, students €2. EU students free.) Two bus routes run to Cape Sounion from Athens; the shorter and more scenic route begins at the Mavromateon 14 stop near Areos Park (2hr. every hr. €4.30).

MARATHON. Immediately after running 42km to spread word of the Athenian victory in the 490 BC battle of Marathon, Phidippides collapsed and died. Today, runners trace the route between Athens and Marathon twice per year, beginning at a commemorative plaque. The town is just south of Marathonas Olympic Complex, which will be the venue for two of the 28 sports during the 2004 Olympic Games. With a car, you can explore nearby sights and beaches. At Ramnous, 15km northeast, lie the ruins of the Temple of Nemesis, goddess of divine retribution, and Thetis, goddess of law and justice. Schinias to the north and Timvos Marathonas to the south are popular beaches. Buses leave Athens for Marathon from the Mavromateon 29 station (l’ahr. every hr. 5:30am-10:30pm, €2.50).

DELPHI. Troubled denizens of the ancient world journeyed to the Oracle of Delphi, where the priestess of Apollo related the cryptic advice of the gods. Head east out of town to reach the site. (Open 7:30am-6:45pm. Museum closed for renovations until 2004. Site €6, students €3. EU students free.) Buses leave Athens for Delphi from Terminal B, Liossion 260 (3hr. 6 per day, € 11). Delphi’s tourist office, Pavlou 12, is in the town hall, (s 22650 82 900. Open M-F 8am-2:30pm.) If you spend the night, stay at Hotel Sibylla , Pavlou 9, which has rooms with wonderful views and private baths at the best prices in town. ( 22650 82 335. Singles €15; doubles €22; triples €27.)

THE PELOPONNESE

A hand-shaped peninsula stretching its fingers into the Mediterranean, the Peloponnese is rich in history and folklore that contribute to its otherworldly atmosphere. The majority of Greece’s most significant archaeological sites reside here, including Olympia, Mycenae, Messene, Corinth, Mystras, and Epi-davros. A world apart from the islands, the serenely beautiful and sparsely populated Peloponnese remembers 5000 years of continuous habitation, making it a bastion of Greek village life.

FERRIES TO ITALY AND CRETE

Boats sail from Patras to destinations in Italy, including Brindisi, Trieste, Bari, Ancona, and Venice. Manolopoulous, Othonos Amalias 35, in Patras, sells tickets. ( 2610 223 621. Open M-F 9am-8pm, Sa 10am-3pm, Su 5pm-8pm.) Questions about departures from Patras should be directed to the Port Authority ( 2610 341 002).

NO WORK, ALL PLAY PARTY ON THE PORT

The city of Patras plays a great front: a well-populated port city that blends pragmatism with tight-clothed urban flare. But for seven and a half straight weeks, even the most blase crawl on hands and knees in a city-wide scavenger hunt or are blindsided by fudge in one of Europe’s largest chocolate fights. In the pre-Lenten madness of Patras’s annual karni-val, anything goes.

In 1829, the 19th-century merchant Moretis hosted an intimate, VIP-only Carnival ball in Patras. Since then, the festival has grown, and the guest list has been extended to anyone who can fit into the streets from mid-January to Ash Wednesday. In 1966 organizers introduced the treasure hunt game, still one of the most popular events, which unites all of Patras in a quest to unlock clues spread throughout the city.

For adults, there is the Bour-boulia, a night filled with mystery and seduction. Men pay a “symbolic entrance fee” and arrive at the Apollo Municipal Theater to await their imminent mistresses, dressed in black costumes and masks known as “dominos.” For children, the festival offers myriad parades, activities, and games. The Sunday before Ash Wednesday offers a 7hr. Carnival Parade; 72hr. later, on the final night, some 300,000 revelers convene for an all-night harbor-side party including the burning of King Carnival’s effigy.

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