Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Jogging in Athens #3: Lykabittos Hill

The first place that comes to mind when you say 'Jogging in Athens' is Lykabittos Hill. Lykabittos is pretty much the tallest point in the city center, and is surrounded by the neighborhoods of Exarkia and Kolonaki.

Visitors tend to associate the hill with the splendid view that it allows, and many a trip or study abroad program begins at the very top, in order to take a gander at the topography of Athens and Attica.

What's great about Lykabittos, however, is that it is a large wooded spot smack in the middle of the city; beneath those trees are a series of paths. They're populated by joggers, dog walkers and the occasional couple making out. There is also the chance to see sleazy dudes exposing their manhood, but read this for ways to deal with such an event. Luckily I have had no such problem and have, in fact, been enjoying the Lykabittos run quite a lot. For those coming from Souidias St., take Aristodimou 'up.' The entrance to the Lykabittos Park will be on your right. If you come up on those terribly steep steps that every large group seems to follow, head back down through the cafe terrace on the path into the trees.

The first thing I do when I go on this run, is WALK to the top of the hill (I'm not crazy, you know). I enjoy the view and feel like I have accomplished something by getting to the top. Then I head back down into the trees for the fun part.

The paths on Lykabittos are pretty well-maintained. Most of them are dirt, but several stretches are made of small gravel. The stairs, path edges and handrails are made out of logs/branches. It has a very 'national park' feel in that sense. The trails can go from pretty wide to very small and faint. Near the bottom of the hill is a 'ring road,' for those who like to stay on fairly level ground:

Now that it is Spring, everything is gloriously overgrown, but you can expect it to be far from lush during the rest of the year. When it IS spring, though, keep an eye out because it's not all pretty flowers and soft grass. Whole sections are lined with stinging nettles, which are no fun when you're jogging along and happen to hit the fricking daggers with your swinging arm or legs:

I promise that jogging with nettle poison spreading through your blood and sweaty boil-like welts growing all over your body is not especially awesome. Anyways. If you'd like to put some hills into your jog, I highly suggest just exploring the many different routes that you find along the mountain. In fact, the last time I did that, I found a huge ravine that I had no idea was there, and which had a little trail snaking along the bottom. Just on the other side is a whole other series of paths.

I used to find Lykabittos mostly boring. Perhaps I have been swayed by the red poppies and slanting sunlight of Spring, but over the last few weeks I have really grown to like this park. It's really never boring, since you can always take an entirely different route on the criss-crossing paths. I still haven't explored them all, so I appreciate Lykabittos Hill since usually there actually is something new around every corner.

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