During our three weeks in Greece we saw so many beautiful places, visited plenty of ancient sites and enjoyed some great walking. I thought I would concentrate on the walks in my blog posts, firstly a very memorable walk from Delphi and then a walk from Ancient Corinth that did include visiting the Acrocorinth. My second post will tell you about our walks on the stunning Pilion peninsular on the Aegean Sea.
The old zigzag path from Delphi to the beautiful Livadi plateau climbs the hillside from near the Museum of Delphic Festivals at the top of the town and black and yellow markers indicate the E4 path. The path firstly follows the ridge through flower-rich meadows above the site of the Delphi oracle and the Temple of Apollo [a fantastic site we had visited the day before] and there are good views on to the stadium. The path soon joins the old stone zigzag route that takes a gentle meandering route up the crag. This timeless path, that has been used for generations, is broad and cobbled and gave us continuing stunning views down to Delphi and the sea at Itea. Stopping for a rest was always interesting as around us there was an abundance of flowers, including giant fennel on the lower slopes and lots of tassel hyacinths, hypericum and sage as we climbed higher and we were accompanied by hundreds of butterflies. Each time the zigzags reached the most easterly point of the crag we had views down in the spectacular rocky gorge above Delphi. At the top of the crag we entered a sheltered valley of cropped grass, juniper bushes, more flowers and sparse trees with paths branching off across the red earth. This was such a tranquil and peaceful spot we spent some time here, identifying the flowers, watching the birds and practicing tai chi. The valley opened out and we reached a wooden water trough, farm buildings and suddenly, after a morning of solitude, met other walkers. We continued upwards to a grassy meadow on the ridge and had lunch with a view of the snowy massif of Mount Parnassus, cows quietly moving across the meadows in front of us. We returned the same way. The walks climbs about 700 metres and we had taken our time and so were out for six hours. We both agreed it was a fantastic day!
From Ancient Corinth we set off to climb the obvious hill you can see from the town. This craggy hill is topped by a fortress, the Acrocorinth. We found the Fountain of Hadji Mustapha easily enough just outside Ancient Corinth. When we arrived it was swarming with what we christened the Corinth walking group. The group, like any walking group, were chatting, checking their rucksacks and filling water bottles and we couldn’t get anywhere near it. Giving up on the fountain and avoiding the starving puppies we took the path behind the fountain. There were no signs and we quickly misplaced the path and followed a steep route that merely cut off the corner and took us back to the road. Rather than double-back we chose to walk most of the four kilometres to the Acrocorinth on the road. On the way back down we realised we should have stayed lower and taken a more gentle path that traversed the hillside. Fortunately, the road only goes to the fortress and was quiet and it was delightful with so many flowers along the verge and a fantastic view over the bay. Arriving at the Acrocorinth we were pleased to see the entrance was free and also pleased we had come in the morning as it only opens until 15.00. The castle was first used by the Greeks from the 4th century BC, in the 12th century first the Frankish took over and then the Ottomans and during their rule the Venetians took control briefly. Each of these different rulers extended the castle walls outwards and today these walls extend over two kilometres and visitors enter through three defensive gates. We walked up the steep hillside on marble paths in to the vast castle. The castle was used as a refuge from pirates by the people of Corinth and they built houses, churches and mosques here so they could survive a siege. The different occupiers have left a mixture of architectural styles and the buildings that remain are dotted around the hillside. Getting around these buildings takes some effort as you climb up to the different buildings on what are often very rocky and steep paths bordered by colourful wild flowers. I breathed in deeply, enjoying the sweet aroma of camomile, its scent released as we crushed the profusion of flowers on the paths. The animals that now call the Acrocorinth home are hundreds of house martins. They have found a perfect place to live here: castle walls with nooks and crannies for nests, an abundance of flowers that bring in insects for food and they constantly swoop acrobatically through the air above visitor’s heads. Health and safety is less of a concern in Greece generally and visitors are expected to use their common sense, so when you reach the outer walls, if you have a head for heights, you can stand on the walls enjoying the terrific views all around, a precipitous drop below and no railings to protect you. We had a picnic at the high tower looking over the patterns of olive groves below and then found the highest point where there had once been a temple to Aphrodite, followed by a Byzantine church, then a mosque and finally a Venetian belvedere. The Acrocorinth was a hard to beat place; it had great views, fascinating history and it was free! Walking back down the hill we met the Corinth walking group once again at the fountain returning from their own walk.
Greece was certainly proving to be excellent for walking.