Unlike yesterday, when grey clouds and drizzle made us focus solely on giant potholes in the road and the muddy water that filled them, today the sun shone brightly and we were able to appreciate the beautiful landscape around us.
Always excited about and appreciative of good weather, we wanted to take advantage of it by doing some sightseeing around Corinth. Instead of wheeling our dirty bikes back through the spotless lobby of our hotel, we opted to take a local bus. Ten kilometers from the modern city, our driver deposited us at the ruins of ancient Corinth. While others headed out to explore the few crumbling columns of the Temple of Apollo, we set off, happy to be alone, for a hike.
High atop a monolith, far above the sparse ruins of ancient Corinth, is the medieval acropolis of Acrocorinth. Unlike its sea-level counterpart, which costs 8 a head to gain entry, visiting Acrocorinth is free! Time and a little physical exertion are the only requirements.
At the beginning of our nearly 600 meter climb, we passed three construction workers in the street. One of them smiled and introduced himself and asked if we wanted to see what they were working on. "Sure!" we said, and peered over to where the man was pointing. There, in a gaping hole in the middle of the road was some kind of ancient ruin. While we stood there staring at it with our mouths wide open, the man explained that it was part of a wine press! Just hanging out under the asphalt! Crazy.
After snapping a photo we thanked the men and waved goodbye, happy to continue our walk. As we climbed, we admired the flowers blooming on the grassy hillsides, and listened to cheerful spring birdsong over the hum of many loudly buzzing bees. Besides the noise of the occasional passing car, all was quiet save for the sounds of nature.
As we slowly ascended the curving road through rocky hillsides, my thoughts wandered to stories about Greece that I read as a child. It was easy to imagine how a land such as this would develop a vast collection of richly detailed legends and religious traditions: I looked out to sea and could envision Odysseus and his men sailing from island to island at the mercy of Poseidon's winds. Meanwhile the flowery fields could have been home to Kore (Persephone) before she was abducted and taken to live as the Queen of the Underworld. A playfully devious half-goat half-human Pan would have been very much at home in these springtime hills.
Lost in thought, taking full, deep breaths of fresh mountain air, our trek seemed to pass very quickly. To my surprise, I found myself wishing the hike was longer! As we walked on I realized that lately I've been feeling a dramatic shift in my body. I feel strong! I actually truly enjoy things like hiking and exercise! A year or two ago it would have been tough to convince me that a several kilometer hike up a 2,000 foot high hill could make for a great afternoon, but today's adventure was my idea. Cool!
When we were very near the top, Tyler took a short cut, scrambling nimbly up the steep hillsides, while I stuck to the road and met up with him at the entrance to the site. Since we were basically the only people around (except for one other couple, and a few guys from Chicago!) we roamed the mountaintop in complete awe. Acrocorinth proved to be truly astounding and we had it all to ourselves!
Though in ruin, it was easy to see how impressive Acrocorinth had been in it's time. Hefty, fortified walls surrounded a large area where more than one thousand inhabitants lived, worked, and worshiped.
Numerous Christian chapels and even two Islamic mosques once occupied space in town. Getting to touch the stones, climb up to their lookout spots, and see where (we think) signal fires were lit, made the whole place seem to come alive.
As we clambered over walls and ran around feeling like we were on top of the world, we pondered what life must have been like for Acrocorinthians. It was fascinating to think about living one's entire life within these walls—being born here, marrying someone from the town, raising children, and finally being buried in the peaceful grassy graveyard. Simply leaving the city walls must have been a grand adventure!
Before we knew it, it was nearly three o'clock, when the gates of Acrocorinth close during their winter hours. As dark clouds overtook the sun, muting the surrounding landscape's colors to shades of gray, we made our way out of the park and began a very quiet and peaceful walk back down the mountain to catch our bus to modern Corinth. What a fantastic day!
And finally, here's Tyler's "stock photo" of the day: