“The largest philanthropic race in the world, No Finish Line, now comes to Athens to support children in need.” Thus began the official presentation of the race which will take place from the 26th to the 30th of April at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation’s Cultural Center (SNFCC) – a race which records the number of kilometers you complete and raises money for a worthy organization: “Together for Children”.
Kilometers turn into money for poor families with young children
The race begins on Wednesday, April 26th at 7 in the afternoon and concludes 90 hours later, on Sunday, April 30th at 1 p.m! And for these 90 hours, men, women and children of every age will run, jog or walk – whenever, however long or far, and at whatever pace they choose – around a specially configured 1,000-meter loop at the SNFCC and will contribute money, according to the distance they cover, to the organization “Together for Children”.
The event’s Ambassadors offer support and inspiration
The combination of athletics and philanthropy in such a setting of aesthetic beauty, a glimmering point of pride for all Athenians, with the participation of people of all ages, speeds and abilities, is warmly supported by a number of Greece’s most distinguished Olympians, such as the race’s Ambassadors Nikolaos Kaklamanakis and Katerina Stephanidou. Kaklamanakis’ statement at the official presentation of the race: “This event succeeded the moment it began and will grow even larger and better because it involves people will real values…” – inspires us all to participate.
Orthodox Easter is redolent of jasmine, lilac and wisteria. The days are warm and radiant, while the nights are moist and cool, even in May. And leading up to Good Friday – certainly during the day itself – the sky will often turn grey, and a light rain or drizzle will fall. But in the evening, when the Epitaph emerges from the main doors and slowly makes its way around the church, the rain will usually halt and the air grow fragrant with the carnations and other flowers which deck this peripatetic “tomb” of Jesus. Saturdays are usually bright and sunny, and only rarely is Easter Sunday less than brilliant as well, seemingly by order of God.
The Athens Cathedral embraces Easter this year with its “new” image
The center of Athens is perhaps the ideal place for someone to experience and really “feel” a Greek Easter. Dozens of humble little churches built on a decidedly human scale dot the city center. Often stooping to enter their ancient stone doorways, you feel transported by their candle-lit interiors to the islands or small country villages which are the ancestral home of every Athenian. An exception is the Athens Cathedral in Monastiraki. Although large in scale, the Cathedral, free of scaffolding for the first time in 17 years and wearing brilliant new murals and painstakingly restored icons, is one of the best choices for celebrating the procession of the Epitaph on Friday evening and the Resurrection on the following midnight – holding a candle while standing in its vast marble courtyard under the starry sky.
The “little” churches in the center create a unique Easter atmosphere
Athens’ little churches are many and superb. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the first one in Greece to receive the “holy light” each year. Dark inside save for the flickering light of a few candles and with a courtyard surrounded by flowers and fruit trees, this ancient gem has the power to warm the soul of devout celebrants and casual visitors alike. Nearby, also in Plaka, lies the Church of St. Catherine with its two Roman columns near the entrance. The Church, in cruciform Byzantine style of the 11th Century and with early-Christian influences and elements inside, carries within it the history of the ages – while all the different Epitaph processions of Plaka cross in front of its doors, a moment that will forever live in the memory of anyone who experiences it.
The choices are numerous - and very special
A little ways beyond Plaka, on Ermou Street, we find the 11th-century church of Panagia Kapnikarea; among the pines and olive trees of Philopappos Hill - the Church of Aghios Dimitrios Loumbardiaris; the Russian Church on Filellinon Street; Aghios Georgios and the “hidden” Church of Aghioi Isidoroi on Lykabettus Hill. Aghia Foteini with its view of the Parthenon and whose Epitaph procession reaches the columns of the Temple of Olympian Zeus initiates us into the mysteries of Easter worship…
“When you look from on high, the world looks like a painting”…
Seeing Athens from above is relaxing and refreshing. Your gaze sweeps over the thousands of buildings and stops to rest at the mountains which embrace them. Here and there, scattered widely throughout this urban tapestry, lie little islands of greenery. Although they are few and far between, for some reason, to the eye they seem sufficient. Athens doesn’t have huge urban parks or a large river running through it like many European capitals. Here instead there is an impressively chaotic collection of buildings, an architectural polyphony,
a banquet of various trends and projects and historical periods that some have called harmonious or interesting. And just a step away the land ends, and there is open sea, blue and sparkling in the dazzling Attic light, which shines over this city almost all the days of the year.
Climb up high: To the Acropolis of Athens, the Acropolis of ancient Athens. And all around, nothing may be built higher than the Parthenon. Everything spreads out before and below you, and around the Acropolis you see practically everything that defines and embraces this historic basin, this land of Attica.
The Hill of Philopappos. Just southwest of the Acropolis, following paths through pine and olive trees, you quickly reach the top of this lovely little hill and turn back to face the Parthenon – another view, another perspective entirely. Turning now to the south you enjoy the sparkling Aegean, just steps away – and all around you the peace and greenery of a true Mediterranean landscape.
The Hill of Lycabettus. At 277 meters in height, Lycabettus offers surprises and delights at whatever hour of the day you choose to visit. The modest white chapel of St. George at its summit, the feeling of unfettered freedom and the 360ο panoramic views make Lycabettus one of the most beautiful spots in the capital and provides a view which lets your mind and imagination soar like an eagle.
Strefi Hill. In the middle of the old anarchist neighborhood of Exarchia, charming and beleaguered, the Hill of Strefi stands as an oasis of green – and richly rewards anyone who takes the trouble to climb it. With its paths and trees and athletic courts – and its views of Athens, it makes for a wonderful urban stroll, especially in the morning.
Ardittos Hill: One of the most scenic runs in Athens follows the pine-covered hill which embraces the gleaming marble Panathenaic Stadium and ends at a 500m horseshoe-shaped dirt and cinder track going all the way around the top of the stadium. Here you can stretch and jog in sight of the Parthenon, Philopappos Hill, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the neo-classical Zappeion building, the National Gardens and the Hill of Lycabettus – the perfect spot in the city to exercise your body and imagination.
The 10th floor of the Athenaeum InterContinental. At the renowned Premiere restaurant, where sensational tastes lift your senses to another level, a highly refined atmosphere emerges from subtle lines, colors and understated luxury – all surrounded by a view truly unique in the world: the Acropolis and its crown jewel the Parthenon, and, spread at your feet, glimmering Athens throbbing with life.
*Words from the song “When you look from on high”, composer, Costas Hadzis; lyrics, Sotia Tsotou.
Athens welcomes spring with its own special road race. The 3rd Sunday of March has been selected as the date for the 6th annual half marathon road race for all Athenians and foreign visitors who want to test their running abilities in a mass-start race in the center of the city. One of the main goals of the race organizers has been to create a road race in Athens that would attract runners from all over the world during their spring vacation and to give them the added opportunity to sample our Mediterranean cuisine, to learn about the city’s history, to visit museums and other points of interest and to enjoy the rich variety of entertainment and nightlife offered by Greece’s lively capital.
On Sunday the 19th of March, four different races await you
The Athens Half Marathon is co-hosted by the Hellenic Athletics Federation (SEGAS) and the Cultural, Sport & Youth Organization of the City of Athens – and this spring, on Sunday March 19, they hope to see a record number of over 20,000 participants of all ages.
The three official Half Marathon races which will be timed electronically are: The Half Marathon race of 21,100 meters, the 5-kilometer road race and the 3-kilometer road race. An additional 1-kilometer race for children, Special Olympics athletes, and those with disabilities is untimed – but very festive.
On the race’s official website you can find information about the route, the start and finish lines, the basic roads that the races will follow, the organizations and agencies that are participating – and you can sign up to participate as well. And while you are running through this fascinating city, Athens will win you over with its charms.