Now we find ourselves cutting across Athens to get on to the avenue that leads to the national road to Corinth. An obligatory stop is Dafni to visit the monastery, whose 11th century church is one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture the country has to offer. It was first founded in the 6th century on the site of an ancient sanctuary to Apollo, remnants of which you can see incorporated into the buildings. The mosaics are unsurpassed. Next to the monastery are the rather gaudy trappings of the GNTO's Wine Festival, for some lighter entertainment.
The next stop is Eleusis, or Elefsina in moderns Greek. This site of the ancient Mysteries is surrounded by smoke - belching factories, the port lapped by oil slick, a shame that a place of such major importance from Mycenean to Roman times should be so degraded. Still, the site and its museum are well worth a visit. The birthplace of Aeschylus, this was where Demeter and especially her daughter Persephone were worshipped. To get full benefit, take a good guidebook with you.
The drive down the national road is no longer the delight to the senses that it once was. The northern shores of the Saronic Gulf have been encumbered with factories, shipyards and refineries at several points; gone are the fishing boats and pine forests.
Still the sight of the sun reflected on the sea never fails to please and many areas have not lost their picturesque quality.
The pass over the tumbled Skironian rocks at Kakia Skala (Evil Staircase) has not completely lost its sinister aura, and the little resorts scattered along the coast provide a chance for a bite or a dip. Kinetta, an old favourite of Athenians among the pines, is perhaps the nicest of these.
Before Kinetta is the turn off for Megara, an undistinguished dusty town perched on the twin hills of a very ancient city. If you bypass it and persevere northwards, you'll come to the Bay of Aigosthena, a part of the Gulf of Corinth and the wooded areas of Alepohori, Psatha and Porto Yermeno, another popular holiday spot among Athenians.
Back on the main road, we continue on to the Isthmus, entering Corinthia prefecture. It is always fascinating, no matter how many times one crosses the Canal, to peer over the sides of the bridge and see whether a ship is making its way from the Saronic to Corinthian Gulfs. Though contemplated throughout antiquity, the canal was not successfully completed until 1893. It cuts the distance between Patras and Piraeus by 320 km. In the vicinity are many interesting archaeological sites, some of them testifying to earlier ways of crossing the Isthmus, others commemorating the Isthmian Games. If you wish to return to Athens, you may want to very your route and proceed at amore leisurely pace along the old national road.
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