ONE-DAY EXCURSIONS from ATHENS


THE KAISARIANI MONASTERY

Kaisariani Monastery This monastery, built in the 11th century AD, is set in an idyllic location on the slopes of Mount Hymettos. According to Greek mythology the area was frequented by the god Hephaistos. The river Ilissos, which has its source on a hill above the monastery, was sacred to Aphrodite. The monastery was built over the ruins of a Roman temple which in turn was built over an ancient Greek one. Four columns of the ancient temple have survived to this day and support the dome of the monastery's church.

The monastery flourished between the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th century AD. During the years of its economic prosperity it was a major cultural centre with a rich library and its priors were the spiritual leaders of the time. The church of the monastery, dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin, is built in the shape of the Greek Cross. It is decorated with wall paintings dating from the 16th century. Surrounding the courtyard of the monastery are a mill, a bakery, a bathhouse and a refectory.

On the eastern wall of the monastery you will see a fountain, whose water gushes from a marble ram's mouth. In ancient times these waters were believed to cure sterility and they are still believed o have "magical" qualities. Agiasma, a sanctum on the south-west of the monastery's courtyard, houses another fountain.

The Kaisariani monastery is an excellent starting point for mountain hikes on Mount Hymettos, as all paths lead to the forest from here. If walking does not appeal to you, you can sit and relax in the peaceful surroundings for a while and enjoy the scented mountain air.


MARATHON

Stele of Pausimache (Marathon Museum) A trip to Marathon and a visit to the archaeological site and its Museum is one of the things you must do when in Athens. Marathon is still one of Attica 's loveliest spots, as you are bound to find out long before you reach your destination. The road passes through vegetable gardens, vineyards, olive groves and wild vegetation which are nature's contribution to the uniqueness of this land. There are many lovely beaches where you can swim and sunbathe. The most renowned of them all is the beautiful Schinias beach, where the pine woods end almost where the sand begins. Your trip to Marathon can be combined with a visit to the archaeological site of Ramnous which is only 12kms away.

The main source of information about the battle of Marafhon is the ancient historian Herodotus. According to him, the Persian fleet landed 100,000 troops in Marathon, in the year 490 B.C. Against this huge army there were only 11,000 Greek soldiers (10,000 Athenians and 1,000 from Plataiai). the Greeks were victorious, thanks to an ingenious plan of the Greek army commander, Miltiades. Following the heroic victory, Pheidippides, an Athenian soldier who was dispatched to bring the good news to the city, ran all the way from the battlefield to the Athenian Agora. He collapsed and died immediately after he delivered his one word message: Nenikikamen (We have won). Pheidippides' run is the event which today's Marathon runs commemorate and which is symbolised by the opening ceremony at each Olympic Games.

Near the ancient battleground, and at a distance of about 1km from the road to Marathon, you will find the single tomb of the 192 Athenian soldiers who died during that famous battle. On the other side of the road, about 5kms away, stands the tomb where the dead Plataians, who helped the Athenians, were buried.

Pot from the Cave of Pan

The Museum is small but, apart from the finds from the nearby sites, it houses exhibits from other places and different periods as well. Important finds from the Neolithic Age, like those found in the Cave of Pan in Oenoe, coexist with a collection of stelae, believed to date from the 2nd century AD.

You can take the Paralia Marathonos bus, which departs from Mavromataion Street, near the Pedion tou Areos.
Tel: 821 08 72.

Kato Souli
The archaeological site of Ramnous includes the remains of two temples. The Great one was dedicated to Nemesis, the goddess of divine justice, while the Little one was dedicated to Themis, the goddess of human justice. Both temples were erected in the 5th century B.C. The name of the site is derived from the word ramnos, the name of the variety of bush covering the whole area. In ancient time, Ramnous was known for its port and its fortress. If you now feel that your visit to Marathon and Ramnous has sated your thirst for historical facts for a day, you can rest under the shade of the big pine tree by the temple and enjoy the view to Euboea and the Euboeic Gulf. It is one of these moments that only places as full of history and natural beauty as Greece, can offer their visitors.



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