'greek open' at akanthus beach in Athens
my first swim race this season
The city is still asleep when the taxi drops us off at the most popular beach on Athens' suncoast. Akanthus Beach is the premier name in Athens for good vibes-chilling during the day and a true place to see and to be seen. It's a fashion show of tight bikinis, a display of six packs and biceps and a place where silicone meets botox. It is however, a great beach to spend time at and as soon as the sun goes down, the venue transforms into one of the hottest night clubs on Alimos’ Akti tou Iliou.
But we are here for something else today and it is still too early for the beach show to start. The Swimming Club Greece has rented the place to host the Akanthus open water swim race. Soon the place fills up with hundreds of swimmers who now occupy the famous beach chairs and pavilions on this sunny morning. Everybody is getting busy, preparing for one of the three races (1,000 m, 3,000 m and 5,000 m) that will take place here today. The race track is a 1,000 m pentagon shape close to the shore.
I'm registered for the 5,000 m race and I hope I took the right decision. It is not the distance that worries me but my left wrist bone which was fractured last winter. There were only three months left for proper training since I got rid of the cast. This race will be the first test to understand whether my arm has recovered fully or not.
9:00 am, the start signal sounds and the race is on. Like in every open water race the start is nothing for the faint-hearted. Everybody is trying to get a good position and a straight track without obstacles. We are struggling until we reach the first buoy after 300m. While changing the direction we are partially swimming on top of each other. After the first round, the crowd is gone and the field has opened up. Now it is time to go with my own pace to get over the distance. After the third round, I'm confident that my wrist will hold and that I can finish the race without much pain. After 1:17 hours I'm crossing, in 8th place, the 5,000 m finish line in my first 2018 open water race. I'm exhausted but also very happy when I receive a gold medal in the award ceremony for the best race time in my age group.
the 'Sacred Rock' and Plato's claim
Before we leave Athens we are heading north to climb the famous Acropolis hill. The sun is high and the weather is hot when we reach the top of the sacred rock. Not much is left of the ancient temples, magnificent sculptures of the gods and great marble masterpieces, constructed during the golden age of Athens. Most structures, including the famous Parthenon, were temples built in the late 5th century BC to honor Athena, the city’s patron goddess. They were built in just a few decades without concrete but using quite simple construction technologies.
The restoration works at the sacred hill had started in 1975 with the objective to return the Acropolis in Athens to its ancient condition. Visiting the site for the first time, I have to admit that the restoration progress in almost 45 years is quite disappointing. However, what remains on the "high city - acropolis" is still impressive and breath-taking for its size, proportion and craftsmen-ship.
The Acropolis was also known as Cecropia, named after Cecrops, the legendary serpent-man and first Athenian king. The earliest artefacts shown in the nearby Acropolis Museum, date the ancient roots of Athens back to the 6th millennium BC. However, the Greek philosopher Plato tells us in his famous Socratic dialogues 'Timaeus and Critias' another story. In here Plato claims that there was an ancient war between Athens and the famous Atlantean civilization, 9,000 years before his time. The war ended in a cataclysmic event that destroyed the island of Atlantis. As the source for this story, he refers to ancient scripts that still existed in Egyptian temple libraries in the 5th century BC. If this is true, then the foundations of the 'sacred hill' might be much older than mainstream archaeology wants us believe.