Thursday, May 14, 2009

Up to the Ruins (4/26/09): Akrokorinthos

Ancient Corinth
Ride: Vrachati – Akrokorinthos – Vrachati
Distance: about 25 miles (with my cycling around looking for food)
Difficulty: Hard
Sights: Ancient Corinth, Akrokorinthos, Gulf of Corinth
The guide book clearly said “Acrocorinth is a s
hort trip from Ancient Corinth.” About 15 minutes up to Akrokorinthos, I realized “Maybe the guidebook handed planned to have someone cycle up.” But I figured I was almost to the top but then I saw the car that had passed me on what I thought was another hill. “Shit!” I thought. I wasn’t going to make it without stopping. I found a safe place to stop on the shoulder and drank a whole bottle of water. I took a breath and pushed my way up to the top of the hill.
My first day in Corinthia, I needed to see Ancient Corinth. I got onto Schwarzfahrer and made my way out. I rode out east from Vrachati down the National Road for a good 5 or six miles. There is a turn off to the town of Archea Korinthos. The small r
oad that leads to the town heads straight toward Akrokorinthos. If you follow the signs to Akrokorinthos you come across the archaeological site of Korinthos with the remaining pillars of the Temple of Apollo..

For six euros you get entrance into the old city. The main piece to the site is the Temple of Apollo. There are 5 or 6 columns remaining from the temple. What is weird is that the columns are not Corinthian. They have the Doric capitals, not the flowery, leafy ones which are named for the city. There are Corinthian capitals remaining from “Temple E” in the back part of the site.
The site is beautiful with ancient trees growing amongst the crumbling ruins. As earthquake after earthquake knocked down the city, the sites that have remained the best include the colonnades of shops and the one temple. Everywhere I went I kept running into masses. There were three going on all around the site. One was in Latin, one in German, and one in maybe Italian or Portuguese.
After a couple of hours wandering the old city, I left for my “short trip” to Akrokorinthos. I followed the first sign which then merely took me to an unmarked fork in the road. I had to decide which left or right. I had a fifty-fifty shot so I went right. That only lasted about 30 feet over the crest of a small hill when I was stopped by sheep crossing the road.
There were two Roma people fixing their car. I asked “Akrokorinthos?” They both shrugged. The shepherd then pointed his stick (not staff) back behind me. “Shit, I should have gone left!”
From Archea Korinthos
I turned around got back to the fork. I went left! That’s when my “short trip” to Akrokorinthos really began – up 600 meters in 3 kilometers. That makes an average grade of 20% - more steep than any hill on the Tour this year (but considerably shorter).
I finally fought my way up 3km of hell. At an average of 5 mph, it took me nearly half an hour to reach the top. Strangely enough, it was well worth it. There is an old Frankish/Venetian fortress at the top. It was remarkably well preserved and took up a huge acreage. I spent about 2 hours climbing around the walls and ramparts. Some parts of the fortress were right up against the cliffs of the hill. There is no way they would let you traipse around it so freely in the States.
From Archea Korinthos
I made it back down the mountain and cycled along the back roads and beach back to Vrachati.

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