A Chilly Warm-Up: Mt. Hymettos - Attic Explorations - CycleBlaze

February 12, 2022

A Chilly Warm-Up: Mt. Hymettos

After a week or so of just pottering round the city, it seemed like time for something a bit more strenuous. So, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I revisited a favourite (for me, and for lots of Athenian cyclists) short ride: up to not quite (see below!) the top of Mount Hymettos (or Imittos)

This is one of the three major mountains in Attica (Pendeli and Parnitha are the other two), and probably the one you're most likely to see on arrival (whether when flying into Athens or arriving by sea to Piraeus). Strictly speaking it's maybe more of a 'range' than a mountain, running about 15km from north to south.  Anyway: today I'm heading up the north-west(-ish) side, the part which is most easily accessible from the city centre.

After a bit of wiggling through the city streets, I get to the campus of Athens University -- closed to most cars, but the cheerful guard raises the barrier to let me through. Then it's a steady climb on a wide, traffic-free avenue, past dog-walkers and tennis players, up to the edge of the forest at Kaisariani.

Kaisariani Forest: nothing to worry about here!
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The first bit of the climb in the forest is probably the steepest -- or maybe it just feels that way?  It's a lovely ride, though, even if I am being entirely outpaced by every other cyclist on the road.

Start of the (proper) climb through the forest of trees. The forest of radio masts is where I'm heading...
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I carry on up, past Kaisariani Monastery (an important site, but I'm not wearing appropriate clothes for a monastery visit today -- or that's what I tell myself anyway), and past the little cafe run by the Kaisariani demos (a bit more self-restraint needed here, to be honest...)

After a while, wonderful views back down to Athens start to open up.

You have to squint a bit (phone camera pics only, sorry!) but that's the Parthenon in the middle distance; beyond that, Piraeus, the Saronic Gulf, and Aegina in the haze...
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Then, round a corner, and those views disappear, though there's another monastery (closed today, as it usually is, so I don't even have to justify not stopping this time), and a tower (which I always thought was Frankish, but the internet tells me probably isn't...) to keep things interesting.  And in any case, the steady climb through the woods is fun enough just by itself.

Through the woods...
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The final stage brings you out into the open again, on a wonderful stretch which snakes along the flanks of the mountain, once more with views out to sea.

The last leg.
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And then: the top!  Why no pictures, you might ask?  Because -- and here's the only slightly bad thing about this ride -- the top of this end of Mt Hymettos is occupied by a military base. So: no summit selfies allowed.  In fact, you can't even get right to the very top: the road is closed just below the summit.  (And -- very frustratingly for lovers of Round Numbers -- nine metres below the 1000m mark.)

Disclosure: my ascent of Imittos took a tiny bit longer than 34 and a half minutes (even without stopping at two monasteries and a cafe...)
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Oh well: it's pretty cold here at the (not quite) top anyway (there are still patches of snow, from the big storms which hit Greece last month), so it's time to put on all the (not enough) clothes I brought with me and claim my reward. This comes in the shape of 20km of almost uninterrupted downhill, taking a right at the (not-Frankish) tower to pick up another route back down to the city, and home.

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Today's ride: 36 km (22 miles)
Total: 36 km (22 miles)

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