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Hiking around the Marathon Lake! | Marathon paths

I was asking fellow hikers if they had circled the Artificial Marathon Lake and they all answered that they had reached a point and then there was no connection route for them to continue. It was a bet for the walkers of the Marathon Paths to complete the route!

 

marathon path marathon lake

Towards the end of September 2020 this dream became true. A group of 8 individuals, four of which are aspiring mountain guides, we set the small byzantine church of Saint Paraskevi as the meeting point, next to the Stone Theatre of Kalentzi, Marathon. After we parked under the shade of a thousand-year-old oak tree, we followed the downhill dirt road.


 The Byzantine chapel of Aghia Paraskevi
The Byzantine chapel of Aghia Paraskevi (Saint Paraskevi) next to the Stone Theater in Kalentzi, Marathon (Photo by Christos Maletsikas)


The traces of the old residential area of Kalentzi, which was unavoidably abandoned due to the creation of the lake, are obvious behind the church. Broken roof tiles, traces of foundations, desolated buildings parts of which stand upright against time and decay, covered by vegetation.


marathon lake marathon paths
The first view of the lake at the beginning of the route.

We quickly get to the first torrent. Its spring water forms an indiscernible creek which becomes invisible toward the lake. The road becomes uphill up to the point that the first images of the lake reach our eyes.

Cameras and mobile phones start their work among cries of joy and enthusiasm. Water always enchants people. A wealth of group photos as well as selfies and photos of the scenery are imprinted and stored within a few minutes. The leader’s voice “Off we go” sounds incongruous among the exclamations of delight.


The hidden canal which transfers the water from Yliki Lake to Marathon Lake. Lost under the sky high plane trees!
The hidden canal which transfers the water from Yliki Lake to Marathon Lake. Lost under the sky high plane trees!


We now see the lake on our left as we walk by olive groves and scrubby areas. This part of the route up to the next torrent is downhill. We cross its dry bed under the shade of the plane trees and the lonely walnut tree which stands arrogant at a higher point by the dirt road.

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This is where the long and demanding upslope of the route begins. We unfold our trekking poles. In 560 meters we get to the highest point of the route (300 meters) having covered a slope of 70 meters. The few remaining pine trees are an oasis of coolness in the sunny route. We have now arrived at the place where the lake and the dam are visible before us. Mountains Penteli and Parnitha are within our sight. New photos and exclamations of joy. The scenery looks like a painting.


The small paradise in Rathes


We go downhill again. Our next destination is Rathes in Kapandriti and the Varnavas Creek. Ripe black berries leave a sweet taste in our mouths. Like small children, we cannot help picking them despite the sting of the sharp thorns. The silence and the light breeze of the air are suddenly interrupted by the ripple of the water. A vertical red rock and a long row of high plane trees appear before us.

Rathes is almost 3 kilometers away from our departure point. It belongs to the Municipality of Oropos both spatially and administratively.
Rathes is almost 3 kilometers away from our departure point. It belongs to the Municipality of Oropos both spatially and administratively.


The crystal clear spring water of Varnavas Creek flows perpetually under the shady plane trees forming small waterfalls on its way to Marathon Lake. We step in water testing the waterproofing of our shoes, we splash water like small children while we are surrounded by lots of dragonflies of wonderful colors. 


The small paradise of Varnavas Creek in Rathes.
The small paradise of Varnavas Creek in Rathes.

Small fish in the transparent water give the sense of consecutive acquaria.

The small paradise in Rathes is unexpected for anyone who comes across it for the first time.


The small churches of Agia Anna and Panagia Mesosporitissa


We go uphill again among the pine trees heading for the small church of Agia Anna in Kapandriti. Built on an archaeological site, this church offers a place of rest in the benches under its shady trees. You can get a glimpse of the lake banks from its sanctuary.


marathon path marathon lake

After catching our breath, we lit a candle for the God each of us believes in, took our backpacks and resumed our journey. Lost in the vegetation, the small path takes us to the apiary. Walking at a safe distance from the beehives, we will follow the route to the church of Panagia Mesosporitissa.


Panagia Mesosporitissa, the balcony of the lake!
Panagia Mesosporitissa, the balcony of the lake!

Surrounded by the high trees over the lake banks, this small church offers a wonderful view but also drinkable water from the drinking fountain in its quadrangle. The huge engraved marble table outside the church transfers you back in time to a Roman mansion.


The meadow of Kapandriti and Afidnes


From this point onwards the route crosses olive groves, vineyards and fig trees. We are in the meadow of Kapandriti and Afidnes. 


The vineyards which belong to the local viniculture spread as far as the lake banks.
The vineyards which belong to the local viniculture spread as far as the lake banks.

The organized vineyards which belong to the big local viniculture spread as far as the lake banks. The very few bunches of grapes remaining on the vines are telling you that the harvest has already finished.

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The traditional local vines, still unharvested, stand loaded with golden grapes.The fig trees are full of figs as big as pears which are awaiting collection.


After crossing the small farm and hearing the voices of geese and the guardian dogs, we meet under the shade of the big oak tree which stands haughtily in the meadow and then head for the small church of Agioi Saranta with the typical marble post where passers-by used to tie their pack horses.


The Yliki Aqueduct


We continue our trip heading for Kotroni hill. It is on its top where we see the church of Zoodochos Pigi and the ruins of the Mycenaean fortress which is being excavated by the Arhaeological Service. The hill lies in the middle of the meadow and from its top you can observe everything which is situated kilometers away. Fortunately today we will not go to the hill top but we will follow the well hidden path. Its trail appears on GPS but we cannot actually see it. We cross the greensward olive grove, past the branches of kermes and small pine trees and the path magically appears. It moves like a snake through trees, bushes and rocks and finally leads us to a clear path which will take us to Yliki Aqueduct, i.e the canal which brings water from Mornos to Marathon Lake through Yliki Lake.


λίμνη μαραθώνα

Covered by enormous plane trees, the canal transfers thousands of cubic meters of drinkable water to Marathon Lake. We walk through the small bridge and rest on the bench. We are almost in the middle of the route. We take a rest and have a snack under the shady plane trees next to the buzzing river. We cannot believe our eyes that this place which does not appear in any map actually exists. 


Although we know that we still have a long way to go, we do not feel like leaving. The ungraceful role of the leader is to give the signal that we should depart. Our backpacks feel lighter. We have consumed a big part of the water and the food we had taken with us. The trail of the path disappears in the low vegetation of fern growing under the plane trees. We are walking by the canal until we have to cross the bridge over the drainage canal and we reach the fields in the countryside of Aghios Stefanos.


The lake fencing does not allow us to move to our destination. We need a passage. We enter the bed of a dried up river. High pine trees and plane trees hide its existence. There are broken branches and briers everywhere. There is always the trail of the path, however, thanks to the animals that follow it. We follow it, go uphill for a while and reach a big orchard. We follow the dirt road until it gets lost in the trees. We follow the path again surrounded by vegetation. All of a sudden the lake banks appear before us. We are just a step away from the lakeside road. Bur we still need to overcome one more barrier. We have to walk on a tree trunk which is the bridge with the stream which flows from Aghios Stefanos. Balance over the water is a nice unprecedented experience which causes adrenaline rush.


We are now on the lakeside dirt road. The lake spreads on our left. Flocks of birds are swimming in its waters. We can hear the birds in the reeds. It is a completely protected area for the flora and fauna which live in it. The greenblue waters of the lake accompany us in every step. Cameras capture beautiful images, mementos from a unique route. 


The more we approach the Athens Water Supply and Sewerage Company (EYDAP) plant, the more direct our contact with the lake becomes. Reeds become fewer and the view of the lake and the dam gets bigger.


The Water Tower of Marathon Lake


Small enclosures with emerald green water, rocks that spring out of the water and trees that mirror in the still surface of the lake. As we turn, we see the Water Tower of the Lake, this “strange” tower whose basis disappears in the water.

The Water Tower: water from here reaches Athens through an underground tunnel!
The Water Tower: water from here reaches Athens through an underground tunnel!

This special tower was constructed with inflow water gates at different levels so that the depth at which water is taken is arranged according  to the season.Through the Boyati tunnel water passes under Penteli and Parnitha before it reaches Athens. Nowadays, because of its vicinity to Athens, the Marathon Reservoir functions as an auxiliary source of water supply in emergencies.


Entrance to this part of the lake is only allowed with the permission of the Public Relations Office of EYDAP. For this reason, doors are closed and are only opened to those who have the special permit. 

So we leave the Water Tower behind and move on asphalt road as we go downhill for the Dam.


The impressive Marathon Dam
The impressive Marathon Dam | Photo by Christos Maletsikas.

This is the only dam in the world clad in marble from Penteli. A jewel for the Marathon area and a technological miracle for the time it was constructed.

 

We go past the Dam bridge looking at the lake in all its grandeur on our left and the copy of the Delphi Treasure and Oinoi canyon on our right. 


The recently constructed pedestrian area (donor: Athanassios Martinos) in Kalentzi which unites the residential area with Marathon Dam!
The recently constructed pedestrian area (donor: Athanassios Martinos) in Kalentzi which unites the residential area with Marathon Dam! | Photo by Christos Maletsikas

We are walking with safety on the recently constructed pedestrian area. Colorful oleanders absorb our thought away from the cars moving next to us. We turn left into the first dirt road and quiet is restored. We are now approaching the end of our route. Some sweet and sour raspberries help us forget how tired we are. The small church of Aghia Paraskevi appears and we immediately do not feel tired any more. We have covered almost 18 kilometers. We enter the Stone Theater, lie under the shady plane trees for a few moments of rest. We recall the images from our trip and share them among us.

A wonderful hiking trip has come to an end. We will repeat it!

 

Marathon Paths, follow our steps!



Periklis Vyltaniotis

Mountain companion - author

Marathon Paths


Translator: Konstantina Pollali







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