Penteli: Mystery Mountain
The ancient Greeks were on to something when they decided to set up camp and call Athens home in between a bunch of mountains facing the sea. This natural fortification came with the added bonus of limestone citadel hills cropping up in several strategic locations around town, and that added an extra layer of security with vantage points to look out for marauders. Athens, thus was protected. The city’s northeastern barrier; Mt. Penteli, just 15 kilometres from the city center is probably the most famous, as it was quarried for the marble used to build the Acropolis. The world famous marble was also used to build the Panathenaic stadium, as well as several other temples and structures around Athens.
Nowadays, Penteli is a mostly residential area with little by way of any discernible attractions. What Penteli does have, and in spades one might add, is green hilly pine covered expanses. For hikers, Penteli should be super sweet. Several signposted trails exist, most crisscrossing the mountain from north to east and south to west. There’s a few old churches and refuges on the way, but the real zinger to this is Daveli’s Cave. This is one of the most secretive and esoteric spots in Athens and the reasons for that go way back to when the ancient Greeks worshipped Pan in that same place. More recently, it became the home of legendary bandit Christos Davelis who used the cave to hide his booty (legend has it that an extensive network of underground passages lead to the center of Athens where he consorted with the Duchess of Placence). Even more recently the cave has been appropriated by the military to conduct what still remain unknown tests and experiments, thus adding to the lore. The fact that unusual paranormal phenomena occur there (cars that flout the laws of physics by going uphill while stopped, UFO sightings, etc) does nothing to dissuade people from visiting, so it should probably come as no surprise to find out that massive rave parties took place there in the late 90’s. Far out!
Penteli has a few other tricks up its sleeve, namely the dirt road race track. If you’re into dirt bikes/motocross then you’ve probably stumbled on to the jackpot. Well kept and ample, Penteli race track is pure awesomeness.
Penteli also has a robust river called Valanaris which ends up turning into a 10 meter twin waterfall that disgorges on to a 50 square meter pool. Now, this might not be a strictly winter endeavor but if you visit in the ‘off-season’ and the weather does you a solid you could end up spending some choice time there all by yourself. The waterfall and its surrounding area is full of dragonflies, frogs and other little critters to keep the naturalists occupied. The area is eminently walkable as one can go up or downstream to explore and examine the fauna and flora.
Penteli is a curiosity, a mystical place that is inextricably linked to Athens and its history. Come for the UFO’s, stay for the views.