Philothei Canal, Sunday 19 February 2012

Walk description: The walk starts at 12.00 noon and will be led by Christos (supported by Xenophon). Xenophon’s telephone is 6937055502. Philothei has probably the best town planning and architectural design in Athens. It is purely residential and prices of land are among the highest in Greece. Many buildings are detached and much of the area is green. The walk of 19 February will appeal especially to lovers of pretty buildings and architecture. The Philothei canal is part of a long and wide canal network, much of it underground. It is known also by the name Podoniftis (literally meaning ‘bathing of feet’). It springs on the Penteli mountain and pours in the Kifissos river, which in turn pours in the Saronicos gulf, in the area of Neo Faliro. We walk along all the length of the canal. At the end of it, we climb up 144 steps, to get to a panoramic view. We then descend to the crypt and the church of Agia Philothei. Finally, we visit the Poulaki park. This is a small park, adjacent to the Pikionis park. It features an outdoor gym, with lots of equipment, that any indoor gym would envy; time permitting, you may get a chance to try them! This walk is easy, except for the 144 steps, which you have to be able to climb. The walk will take up 1-1 ½ hours and will go ahead even in light rain.

Special today: 19 February is Saint Philothei’s day (to be more precise, we should be saying Santa Philothei, since she is a woman Saint). The church will be celebrating. We will allow time for those who want to go inside the church.

Cultural info – Philothei suburb: In the era of Turkish occupation, the land in the area belonged to the family of Saint Philothei. The area was rich in running water and a legend says that the Saint’s family offered water from its springs to passers-by, from where the adjoining suburb of Psychico has gotten its name (psyche is the Greek word for soul).

Coming from the North: You need to find yourself on the well-known Leoforos (avenue) Kifissias, heading south. When you get to the OTE tower (on your right hand side), in Maroussi, zero your odometer. Continue straight through the tunnel and then through a second tunnel. After 2.3 km you reach the traffic lights with the Ygeia hospital on your right. Go straight and keep on the right lane. At the 3.5 km point, there are traffic lights (1st traffic lights after Ygeia). A blue road sign reads ‘Philothei entrance B’. Turn right here. Zero your odometer again. You are in Agias Philotheis street. After 0.5 km you get to a roundabout. Continue straight along Agias Philotheis street. Take the 3rd turning to the left after the roundabout (the first two turns bear the cul-de-sac sign). This is at the 0.9 km point. You are now in El. Venizelos street, a wider road. Take the 1st turn to the left (at the 1.0 km point) and park your car on either side of this road. There are plenty of parking spaces here.

Coming from the Centre or the South: You need to find yourself on the well-known Leoforos (avenue) Kifissias, heading north. At the level of Psychico, there is a large AB Vassilopoulos supermarket on your right hand side. Zero your odometer at the level of the supermarket. You may go through the tunnel or stay at the higher level, which drives past the supermarket, with traffic lights. After 0.7 km you get to traffic lights (there is a road sign pointing to a right turn towards Halandri and Agia Paraskevi). Go straight at the traffic lights and keep on the left lane of Leoforos Kifissias. At the 1.4 km point there is a pedestrian crossing with traffic lights. At the 1.7 km point there are traffic lights and a Kotsovolos store on your right hand side. Turn left at the traffic lights. Zero your odometer again. You are in Agias Philotheis street. After 0.5 km you get to a roundabout. Continue straight along Agias Philotheis street. Take the 3rd turning to the left after the roundabout (the first two turns bear the cul-de-sac sign). This is at the 0.9 km point. You are now in El. Venizelos street, a wider road. Take the 1st turn to the left (at the 1.0 km point) and park your car on either side of this road. There are plenty of parking spaces here.

Coming by Bus: Take the 610 from Ambelokipi. It stops on Kifissias avenue, at the junction with Leoforos Alexandras and will take you to Agias Philotheis street. Get off the bus when you see the stone-built kiosk in the middle of a round-about on Agias Philotheis street (bus stop named “dimotiko scholeio”) and walk to the walk start.

The taverna: After the walk we will have a meal at “Souvlakia Philotheis”. The taverna is on the corner of Kapodistriou avenue and Thrakis street.

How to reach the taverna, from the street where you parked, at the end of the walk: You are parked on a quiet dual carriageway, with El. Venizelos street behind you. Do an about turn (180 degrees) at one of the several gaps this road has or at its end. Find yourself facing El. Venizelos street. Zero your odometer at the stop sign and turn left into El. Venizelos street, driving uphill. After 0.3 km turn right into Kyprou street. This road descends and reveals the Olympic stadium’s impressive Kalatrava roof facing you in the horizon. Drive straight ahead until you reach a crossing at the 1.0 km point. At the crossing go straight ahead, into Thrakis street and search for a parking spot. The taverna is a few metres ahead, on your left, and before the traffic lights. Avoid going past the traffic lights; these take you into the busy Kapodistriou avenue.

Cultural info – Saint Philothei (1522-1589): was born in Athens to a wealthy family. Against her will, she was married to a cruel man. When he died 3 years later, the Saint gave away her worldly belongings, took up the monastic life and established a convent, in which she became a mother to her disciples. Many women enslaved and abused by the Muslim Turks in harems also ran to her for refuge. Because of this, in 1589, the Turkish rulers of Greece became enraged and came to her convent and dragged her by force out of the church. They beat her cruelly and after a few days, she died. Saint Philothei is considered a martyr by the Greek Orthodox church and a patron of the city of Athens; her memory is venerated on February 19. The Philothei suburb is named for her.

Google Maps: Here is a map for those coming from the North. It takes you from the OTE tower to the walk start.https://tinyurl.com/36dsxh5
Here is a map for those coming from the Centre or South. It takes you from the AB Vassilopoulos supermarket to the walk start. https://tinyurl.com/2vxzxc9
Here is a map taking you from where you parked your car, at the end of the walk, to the taverna. https://tinyurl.com/2whpmw6