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New Life for Nea Makri

The new airport, Olympics have enlivened this town


Located a handful of kilometers north of Rafina on the Attica coast, this small town on the shores of the gulf of Marathon is growing. The increased importance of Rafina as the port nearest the new Eleftherios Venizelos airport at Spata is putting more tourists on the short road to Nea Makri than ever before. And a newly excavated temple complex is promising to attract still more visitors to this idyllic spot located just 35 kilometers from Athens.

Unlike Rafina, which offers, for now, only a couple of mid-grade small hotels, Nea Makri has a larger selection of hotels and good restaurants. Its position on the protective gulf means milder weather even in winter, and the village has been a favorite location for year-round Greek language training schools. Until now, most visitors have been history buffs, who come to gaze at the gulf and to look at the plain where the Battle of Marathon was fought. The Greek government is hurrying along the nearby Temple of Isis excavation, and this new site was opened in time to welcome tourists during the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. Its construction was originally funded by Herodes Atticus, who erected his eponymous theater in honor of his murdered wife Regilla alongside of the Acropolis... the gesture would have meant more, except he was suspected to be the murderer. Several major statues have already been excavated and can be seen in the Marathon Museum.

Surprised to find an Egyptian goddess snuggling up alongside the Greek pantheon? With temples all over Greece, including Epidaurus, on the slopes of Mount Olympus, on Delos, Rhodes, and Crete, the Greeks warmly welcomed the exotic newcomer. So did another daughter of Greece, the Ptolemaic queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt, who often dressed in the guise of the goddess. The ancient Greek writer Plutarch was a friend to a priestess who served Osiris, Isis' consort, and he wrote "On Isis and Osiris," an extensive analysis of the ancient worship and its parallels with the Greek faith of the time.

Many Nea Makri hotels do close for the winter period between November and March. An exception is the small, 18-room Olympic which stays open all year. Another choice is the four-star Marathon Beach Hotel, offering rooms for low rates. If you're looking this one up elsewhere on the Internet, be aware that there is an identically named hotel on the island of Cyprus. Make sure you are dealing with the one in Nea Makri in Greece.

Some long-term visitors find Nea Makri a pleasant haven outside of the hustle and bustle of the capital itself. Frequent and regular bus service from KTEL makes the hour-long trip into or from Athens quick and easy. Not up to buses? Remember taxis in Greece are relatively inexpensive, and even fairly long-distance travel can be well within the travel budget.

Some of the Olympic rowing events were held at Schinias, near Nea Makri. These included the canoe and kayak sprint events between August 23rd and August 28th, 2004. Savvy locals worried that the strong winds in that time period would disrupt the schedule, as they did during a test event in 2003, but most of the events went off as planned.

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