06 Aug Acrocorinth – a Greek fortress all for ourselves
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The Greek sun burns mercilessly down from the afternoon sky. Once again I am infinitely grateful for our air conditioning, which keeps the interior of our motorhome reliably cool and bearable and thus makes our car drive with small children possible at all. We are on the way to the south of the Greek peninsula Peleponnes. As usual in the last weeks we just follow the flow and decide spontaneously where we stop and what we visit.
On the motorway we drive past the sign “Ancient Corinth” and I quickly check the internet to see what exactly it is. Our European trip as a young family is wonderful, but the visit of cultural sites is obviously a little too neglected, at least for my adult views. Greece, the cradle of democracy, home of highly important philosophers, artists and architects, a paradise for lovers of antiquity – so far we have not seen much of it. But now, by chance, we are only a few hundred metres away from the remains of ancient Corinth. We are determined to finally take the chance and visit the ruins together with the children.
Expectations and Reality in Corinth
I imagine how we admire antique statues and columns together and how the children roam through old temples. A little later, reality catches up with me. The ancient Corinth turns out to be a fenced small complex lying in the brooding sun, surrounded by cheap tourist shops. Except for a few column remains behind the fence nothing but stones, neatly locked off by white ropes. There is also a small museum where, understandably, nothing can be touched or explored. Fenced, boring stones in the blazing heat – with children a visit is definitely a terrible idea. A little disappointed we drive on and I console myself with the thought of the next Greek dream beach with turquoise water.
A few metres behind the ancient Corinth we see a small signpost that points in the direction of a big flat topped mountain. From a distance high up we can see the remains of a fortress. “Acrocorinth” can be read on the sign. Maybe it’s not so hot up there in the wind? Now we have already come this far and decide to drive up a few minutes further up to the fortress on good luck.
Once at the top it is actually noticeably cooler, but also unexpectedly empty. There is nobody here but us and also the small café is closed. The view is fantastic and the old fortress looks absolutely impressive from the outside. But unfortunately, the next disappointment is already waiting: the fortress already closes at 4 pm. We are half an hour late!
We stay here!
We decide spontaneously to just stay up here and not continue any longer today. The silence and the wind here are good for all of us. When we then get to know a cat family with a kitten at the abandoned café, which is fed with feta cheese leftovers by the children, the family mood is perfect. I sit down on an empty bench in the café and work a little while Steve conjures up wonderful spaghetti with vegetables. During dinner we enjoy together the absolutely magnificent view of the valley and the fortress illuminated by the evening sun.
The night is calm and the sky sparkling with stars. We fall asleep full of anticipation with the thought of being the very first – alone! – to visit the Acrocorinth tomorrow.
When the sun rises the next morning, we walk up the steep path to the entrance gate at five to eight. We are indeed the only people entering the complex at this time of day – and to our surprise the entrance is even free of charge.
Surprise in the early morning
As we walk through the mighty castle walls, we are overwhelmed by what awaits us behind them. A steep, paved path leads past countless towers, walls and buildings, further and further up. The complex is much more enormous than one can see from the outside! It extends over the entire mountain ridge. We are not only in an ancient castle, but in a complete city of ruins.
The path becomes steeper and steeper and the end is not visible. We slowly climb higher. I am so glad that we take advantage of the coolness of the first morning hours to walk the strenuous path with the children in halfway bearable temperatures!
Now, one discovery follows the next. The children explore hidden dungeons, secret paths and high towers. Walking completely alone and undisturbed in the light of the rising sun through this impressive fortified city has something truly magical about it. Once again I am so happy about our campervan; if we had not stood directly in front of the fortress, we as a family would never have been here so early!
Ascents are damn exhausting
We only make slow progress and especially Neo wants to be carried again and again, which I can very well understand. Even Zoe, who is really very fit, reaches her physical limits here. The ascent is steep and really challenging, especially with rising temperatures. We never expected that our visit to the fortress would become a real mountain hike!
Two hours later, after many small breaks, we finally make it to the high tower on the west side and admire the breathtaking view. Miles and miles we look inland, at the mountains and the glistening sea. Cicadas chirr around us. The sun is already so hot around ten that I am very happy that we only have to go back down. From up here, I feel pity for the seemingly tiny tourists who are just arriving and now have this ascent in front of them in the heat.
We also take our time for the descent and Zoe is very happy about the great climbing possibilities on the numerous boulders along the way. When we arrive at the entrance again, we are all quite tired. We are glad that our home down there is welcoming us with a filled fridge, ice-cold drinks and a comfortable seating group. As we drive off after the lunch break, the first bus with noisy visitors rolls into the parking lot. In view of the large travel group it is almost unbelievable how lucky we were to have had the whole fortress to ourselves.
We leave the Acrocorinth exhausted, but absolutely enchanted. New adventures are waiting for us, we will make many other discoveries. But we will not forget this wonderful morning at the fortress together with our children for the rest of our lives and it will hold a special place in our hearts.
A few facts and tips…
…about the absolutely remarkable Acrocorinth: The fortress is the largest in Greece. The plateau was inhabited already in the Neolithic Age; fresh water sources ensured the water supply and the open view to all sides gives the mountain a strategically ideal location. Thousands of years later, the Greeks used the mountain to build the Acropolis, the fortress and temple of the city of Corinth. Since then, the fortress has been subject to constant changes of power and hostile takeovers until it lost its strategic importance and decayed in the 19th century.