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February 25, 2016

Scenic rail journeys in Greece

While Greece’s craggy landscape means it is not as connected as countries in northern Europe it can actually claim the first railway. An ancient paved trackway in Corinth which allowed boats to be transported across the isthmus is the first known example of a fixed track for vehicles. Today the new high-speed main line between the capital Athens and Thessaloniki is a hugely important link between the two most important cities in the country. There are also a handful of routes especially popular with tourists.

The Rack Railway



The Diakofto to Kalavrita rack and pin line is one of the oldest and most spectacular in the country.

Kalavrita is a small village on the slopes of Mount Helmos in the Peloponnese. In ancient times it was a city destroyed by the Aetolians and rebuilt by the Roman emperor Hadrian. In the early 13th century it passed into the hands of the Franks and the fortress whose ruins lie above the town was one of the most important medieval castles in the Peloponnese.

Kalavrita also played a leading role in the 1821 Greek war of independence against the Turks. The nearby monastery of Agia Lavra, was where the local bishop raised the revolutionary flag which remains one of the country’s most valuable national treasures. Today there is a monument to the fighters.

Construction of a rail network to connect it to the seaside town of Diakofto on the Gulf of Corinth began in 1889. The 14-mile narrow gauge cog track was built from stone and wood and renovated just after the turn of the millennium. Its small train known as the Odontotos which means “tooth” runs daily all year round. The journey takes an hour from bottom to top, running parallel to the Vouraikos river and follows the gorge through tunnels, over waterfalls, along cliffs and through forests of pine and oleander.

Find out more at odontotos.com »

The Little Train of Pelion



Another of Greece’s railway treasures is the Little Train of Pelion.

Pelion is a heavily forested mountain area in south east Thessaly above a peninsula between the Pagasetic Gulf and The Aegean. The area contains 24 little villages and is a popular attraction year round with hiking trails and stone paths accessing springs, coves and the many excellent beaches a few miles down in the bay.

Accordingly to the Greek mythology, the summit of the mountain was also the home of Chiron the Centaur, a tutor to many Greek heroes. It later became famous as a source of medicinal herbs and plants.

In the late 19th century it was decided to connect the area to the coast in order to improve trade via a train line rather than a road. The construction was handled by the Italian engineer Evaristo De Chirico (father of the great surrealist painter) and an Italian workforce. It was completed in 1897, then extended, and ran until 1971 before its revival in 1996.

The Moutzouris, as it is known locally, crosses a dozen viaducts, two tunnels and stops at two stations, Ano Gatzea and Milies, in a journey time of 90 minutes. Nowadays it runs once a day from spring to autumn.

Find out more at trainose.gr and discoverpelio.com »

The Katakolon train



Katakolon is a quiet seaside village on the Ionian Sea that has become a key destination with cruise lines because it acts as the gateway to Olympia, the original home of the Olympic Games. The Sanctuary of Zeus, with its athletics quadrangles, stadium, temples and treasuries, along with the museum containing many fine sculptures, remains one of the most popular attractions in Greece.

The site lies 25 miles inland and can be reached by car or bus but the Katakolon train offers a quick, modern solution, taking 45 minutes and costing €10 (£7.20) return.

From the scenic little port of Katakolo, the train will take you through the magnificent history of ancient Olympia.

Find out more at trainose.gr

Source: Telegraph.co.uk

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