Mount Cithaeron is a mountain located north of Athens, of which the highest peak, known as “Profitis Ilias” or “Elatias”, rises to 1409 AMSL. The homonymous, elongated mountain range to which it belongs to used to form the boundary between the territories of Athens and Thebes in the ancient times; and the border between the Greek prefectures of Attica and Boeotia today.
Its mainly composed of limestone slopes are exceptionally lush for a south Greek mountain. They are occupied by extensive forests of pines and firs, and various kinds of peculiar mountainous vegetation; and are inhabited by various sorts of notable wild creatures, as foxes and even wolves!
It also enjoys a great deal of fame; with many prominent events of the Greek mythology and history associated with it. It was especially sacred to Dionysus’ worshippers, being, according to Euripides, the place where the god of wine with his priestesses were carrying out their occult, ecstatic rituals. It was the site where young Hercules performed his first feat, slaughtering a ferocious lion which resided in the mountain – a common act among his kind of ancient heroes, which led to depriving the out-of-Africa world of those noble animals – receiving in reward the allowance to sleep with all the 50 daughters of the king of Thespiae. It also was the place where baby Oedipus was abandoned and found – fortunately for him and the great ancient tragedians – by a wandering herdsman. Historically, it was the ground of much skirmishing preceding the famous battle of Plataea, the concluding battle of the Greco-Persian Wars, which took place in the plains off the mountain’s north face in 479 BC.
This was the mountain we were bound to conquer that day…
We started driving out of the Greek capital early in the morning. We took the highway to Corinthus until Eleusis; then the road towards Thebes; and finally, some 5 km after the town of Inoi, the small road to Vilia village. Less than a kilometre after passing the village, there is a little park by the right side of the road (38.1698 – 23.3158), right opposite to a ravaged building on the left. That’s where we parked the car and took the trail which starts, after about a 100 m, off the right side of the road.
The trail is very easy and well signposted. It first runs along the right side of a shrubby, shallow gully, direction northwest, for a couple of km. By the uppermost end of the gully, where the densely forested peak of the mountain becomes apparent to the west, the trail reaches a narrow meadow and continues ascending to the west, straight towards the peak. After crossing twice a meandering uphill dirt road, the meadow ends together with the view to the peak, as the trail enters a charming fir forest. It soon leads to a narrow col where a refuge is located and the view towards the south appears. That’s where the steepest part of the ascent begins, still through the fir forest, and straight up towards the mountain’s east peak. About half the way to the peak, from there, the trail meets a natural porch hanging off the north face of the mountain and offering a magnificent view to the Boeotian plains.
At about noon, we had made it to the east peak; which is slightly lower than the west one, it is, however, recommended if only one needs to be chosen; as, in contrary to the heavily packed with telecommunications and wind power installations west peak, this is fully pristine.
Having enjoyed the placidity and the great views the east peak has to offer aplenty, it was time to head for the west one. The trail continues along the abrupt, narrow ridge connecting the two peaks, giving you the impression of fluttering across from peak to peak while traversing it. Both the views to the north and south are simultaneously open and absolutely splendid.
Having allowed the time appropriate to enjoy the standing on the heavily spoiled-by-human, yet lofty and thrilling summit of Mount Cithaeron, time was come to return.
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