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Travel

My Great Greek Adventure: Corinthos and Loutraki

December 12, 2020

Greece is made up of various peninsulas and islands which twist and turn around each other. The city of Corinthos is located on the isthmus that connects the lands of Attica and Peloponnesos. It is the center point between the main cities of Athens and Patras, located about an hour from both in each direction. This strategic location has always been significant and rich in opportunity.  

The area now known as Corinthos has been inhabited for millennia, once being a major Roman outpost. But its story delves deeper and farther back in time, entangling myth with reality. Popular myths include the city’s founder King Sisyphus being sent to Hades where he was punished for eternity. Or the myth about the king’s grandson Bellerophon and his winged horse we know as Pegasus.  

Corinthos’ history is also partially marked with difficulty and great losses in legendary battles. Corinthians participated in and were ultimately a cause of the Peloponnese Wars. The Council of the city flipped between rivals as the years and battles passed, once trusting in the Spartans and then revolting against them with the Athenians.  

But the defeats subsided and Corinthos became a center for prosperity. Julius Caesar established a settlement there in the year 44 BC. The land around the city became organized plots for agricultural production, which boosted the success of trade. Corinthos is significant in biblical texts as well, mentioned in the New Testament by Saint Paul. He visited the area some decades after the birth of Christ in 51 AD, and established Corinthos as an important place for the preservation of the Christian Faith. In these centuries of Roman and Christian significance, grand projects were proposed. One in particular was the creation of a canal. Legend has it that a philosopher by the name Apollonius of Tyana declared a curse of death on those who tried to dig a canal. And ultimately the curse would come true, claiming the lives of the Roman Emperor Nero and Julius Caesar among others, who proposed the idea and then died suddenly. Emperor Nero did manage to leave his mark though, by commissioning a relief of Herakles to be carved into the rock along the canal. This piece of natural art can still be seen today. 

A second attempt to construct a canal would not happen until modern time, in the year 1882. The narrow piece of land where Corinthos is located separates the waters of the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf. The creation of a canal meant that travel times across the seas could be significantly cut in half. The modern attempt to dig it out was sparked by the new found independence of the Greek state. The Corinth Canal we see today was officially started in April of 1882 with the blessing of King George I of Greece. After many trials and tribulations related to money, the grand project was completed in July of 1893. 

Today it is still a beautiful sight. The canal is too narrow for modern day ships and vessels, so it is mostly used by small boats or yachts. There are a few roads or walking bridges you can access that cross over the top of the canal and give you a perfect view on each side. The first road is where the sea meets the entrance to the Gulf of Corinth side of the canal. It is a small submersible bridge which opens up to allow boats to pass, and is an experience in itself crossing it. The road that leads to the bridge connects the modern town of Corinthos to the West with Loutraki on the other side of the canal to the East. Ancient ruins of the old road Diolkos which was used before the canal existed, lay at the bridge’s entrance. To walk above the canal, locate the Corinth Canal Footbridge just a few kilometers inland. You will know you are close to the footbridge when you see the ruined remains of German machine gun emplacements. There are more footbridges and major highways that cross the canal on the Saronic Gulf side, which is busier with traffic. 

The city of Corinth is a popular beachside destination which has a fairly big population and a main port with docks for boats. Many establishments are found along the beach and you can easily find restaurants that have tables set up right on the sand, which is a dining experience everyone should have when in Greece. Loutraki has a similar vibe and is only about a fifteen-minute drive away. Both towns have organized beaches with adjoining cafes and restaurants. Loutraki is perfect for long walks along the beachside promenade and around its small but picturesque marina full of traditional fishing boats. Loutraki’s hidden treasure is its thermal baths, located at the end of town next to the marina. In ancient times the city was called Thermae, which was inspired by the natural thermal springs that graced the land and attracted notable people to visit. Today, Loutraki is still recognized for its spas and as a place of healing and calm. The modern Loutraki Thermal Spa offers a wide selection of healing treatments as well as accommodation. 

The areas around Corinthos and Loutraki are popular in the summer when everyone is looking to get away from the madness of the city. There are small villages, ancient ruins, and holy monasteries scattered throughout the region. A mountainous landscape juts out across the Gulf of Corinth from the towns. At its point you will find Lake Iraiou Vouliagmenis which was filled in by the sea through a miniature canal of its own. The areas around the Corinthos Canal are well developed and populated. A place to stay or a homey taverna are easy to find as are an endless selection of wild beaches following the path of the roads. If you are pressed for time but still want to escape to the beach, these towns are easy to get to and have everything you could hope for, for a perfect summer in Greece experience. 

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