Published: February 18th 2009January 6th 2009
The rolling hills outside our villa. The place was so quiet it was amazing.
After 4 nights in Athens we are now leaving for a villa outside the small town of Marathonas, 26 miles north of the city. This is where the Battle of Marathon took place around 500 BC between the Athenians and the invading Persians. I know it's 26 miles from Athens because this is where, supposedly, Pheidippides ran from the plains where the battle took place into the city to announce the great victory for the home side, thereby running the first marathon. The story isn't one hundred percent true but it works in Greece.
The villa is managed by a local couple, Stavros and Rosa, that lives right next door and they offered to pick us up straight from our hotel in the centre of Athens. The trip takes about an hour and the traffic is absolute mayhem so we were happy for the ride. On the way there we stopped for groceries and they took us to their favourite bakery where we stocked up on delicious bread and sweets. The villa is situated at the top of a hill overlooking the plains (where the Persians actually landed) and the beautiful Aegean Sea. The place was amazing, we only had
Alex trying to pet all the dogs at once on Marathon beach
the bottom half of the villa rented but it was still tons of space with big bedrooms and a huge kitchen and living room opening onto an equally huge balcony. The whole place was marble which made for slippery floors on the few days that it rained while we were there.
Our first night there Stavros came by to tell us our options about sightseeing in the area. One of the services he offers is to be a driver/tour guide in a rented vehicle so we agreed to rent a van for 3 days and have him tour us around on longer trips for 2 of those days and we'd drive it around locally for the other day. We decided to take a day to go to Delphi and another to explore the northern Peleponnese.
First things first though, the second day at the villa was New Year's eve so we had some celebrating to do. We had stocked up with a load of Mythos and Champagne at the supermarket so we spent the night playing Yahtzee and a dice game we'd learned in Istanbul. We had a blast and when midnight struck we were out on the
Walking along the beach
balcony making as much noise as possible. There were only a few houses nearby and this time of year most of them were empty so we had no worries. We could even see fireworks along the coast in one of the distant towns.
New Year's day was a slow one as it usually is. We walked down the hill to check out the beach and the forest protecting the marsh from the sea. It is one of only 3 or 4 remaining stands of a rare pine tree in Europe so it was pretty cool.
The following day we set off for Delphi. It took about 2.5 hours to get there but we stopped at a real traditional bakery along the way where Stavros bought us some Greek holiday treats. It was cool to have him drive us around because he was always there to answer our questions and to tell us things about the area. He's lived here all his life so, as you can imagine, we had a lot of information coming at us. Delphi was very cool, it definately had a mystical feel to it aided by the fog surrounding the mountains. Delphi is high
Exploring the forest next to the plains. It was great fun until mom was swallowed up by the marsh.
up in the mountains and is where people would go for advice (mainly about war) from the Delphic oracle. Basically, a virgin oracle priestess would sit over a crack in the bedrock in a cave where gases would make her faint and speak gibberish (ie. hallucinate). They would ask her a question and then the temple priests would interpret this gibberish into predictions for the seeker. Many battles were fought (or not) based on what the oracles had to say. There are remains of many temples and sacred relics that have been preserved at the site including an armoury that held all the Persian weapons captured in the Battle of Marathon. At the top of the hill was a stadium for holding races and sporting events. On the way back towards the villa, we stopped at a great taverna for a traditional greek lunch. The highlight of the lunch was the wild boar hunted locally by the chef/owner himself.
The next day we got in the van and drove down to the town of Marathonas. In the 2004 Olympics, they started the marathon here and ended it in Athens so we went over to check out the facilities. We
The villa was at the very top of the hill which gave us a good opportunity to work off some of the food and beer.
were somewhat shocked at the state it was in, the place looked like it had been abandoned and there was graffiti covering everything. So much for a lasting legacy! There was a museum nearby but it was apparently closed that day so instead we went back to the beach then enjoyed another great lunch. The way the greeks have their lunch is amazing. We all ordered appetizers and shared them which seemed like a massive amount of food for us but the greeks will actually eat these large appetizers before moving onto the main course. It's weird most greeks are still relatively thin.
Our last day with the van was busy. Stavros picked us up early and we set off for the Peleponnese. We were headed for the ruins of ancient Mycenae and along the way we stopped at the canal separating the Peloponnese from the mainland. It's one of only 3 major canals in the world and the only one you can bungee jump but unfortunately they were closed when we went by. The old town of Mycenae was another hilltop village that has been completely excavated. This history at this place was incredible, it's not every day
Delicious New Year's Eve ham prepared by dad
you see something that's 4000 years old. This area is big on mandarin orange orchards and along the way we stopped at a little roadside stand where we grabbed all the oranges we could eat (all the oranges Mike could eat, I mean). The next stop was Nafplio where there was yet another ruin on top of a hill. This one was a relatively newer castle (only medieval, built by the Venetians) where we drove to the top and walked down the staircase carved into the rock along the back side. It was something like 900 steps so I'm glad we were walking down and not up. We were exhausted after another long day so after a bite to eat, we slept most of the trip back to the villa. The sleep was interupted by a quick stop in Epidavros to see a huge old amphitheatre which turned out to be pretty cool. Jay and I aren't used to cramming in 12 hours of sightseeing in a day!
Our last few days were spent relaxing and enjoying the time with family. One of the days was warm enough to sit out on the balcony eating fresh olives and feta
Happy New Year!
cheese while basking in the early January sun. This felt like a true greek experience. There was a little general store at the bottom of the hill where we walked to everyday with empty backpacks in search of the essentials. The lady there got to know us crazy canucks pretty well as mom continuously attempted to say 'Thank You' in greek. We spent a week in the villa and really enjoyed our time there. It was certainly the highlight of the trip.
Thanks to a 5am flight the next morning we have to spend our last night with the crew in the airport hotel. Only one more night before they head back home.
There are more photos below