Not even an hour drive of Athens there are two fascinating places to visit: the tidal phenomenon in the Evripus strait near the old bridge of Chalkida, and Avlida, the ancient port town from which the Greek army set off for Troy.
A fascinating natural phenomenon can be found below and around the old bridge in the center of the city of Chalkida. Chalkida is located on the shores of the island of Euboea and mainland Greece connected with each other through two bridges. The modern bridge is like any other modern bridge, but the old one has a history that dates back to 411 BC. By then it was a wooden bridge according to the writings. Nowadays it’s a bridge that slides back under the road on each side.
The bridge runs across the famous Evripus strait, on the narrowest point where the distance between the island and the Greek mainland is only 44 meters. In ancient Greece many armies traveled through the Evripus strait and it has been mentioned in the books of ancient travelers like Strabo and Herodotus.
Looking down from the bridge you can observe best the “crazy waters of Chalkida” as the locals call it. A tidal phenomenon that is very uncommon in the Meditteranean waters. You will see how the waters go up and down and change direction with high speed up to six or even sixteen times a day. Between the tidal changes the water is dormant for a couple of minutes. When the currents change you will notice fish trying to swim against the tide without making it as the speed of the water can run up to nine kilometers an hour. Because the tides change daily it’s best to look up information about the tide forecast on the internet if you don’t want to miss out during your visit.
The old bridge opens a couple of hours at night to let ships through. The opening hours also depend on the tides and are announced daily on a light-board at the bridge.
The regular tide changes will last for around twenty four days. For a couple of days there may be no tidal phenomenon at all, and then it starts all over again. The phenomenon remains unexplained since ancient times, though great thinkers like Aristotle tried to find an explanation. One assumption is that it’s caused by the magnetic attraction that’s applied by the moon and the sun on the water mass.
Not even a fifteen minute drive from the old bridge, on the side of the mainland, you will find the place Avlis, also located at the Evripus strait. This port-town is called Avlida nowadays and has been famous since Homer’s Iliad. When prince Paris of Troy visits Sparta he falls in love with Helen, the beautiful wife of king Menelaus. Because he was promised the most beautiful woman by goddess Aphrodite he takes Helen with him to Troy while her husband is absent. Helen’s husband of course wants his wife back and that’s why Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, raise an army of a hundred thousand soldiers and thousand vessels and so the Trojan War started.
In the Greek play “Iphigenia in Aulis” by Euripides which was written around 400 BC, Agamemnon had upset the goddess Artemis and on the day the army tries to leave for Troy she stops the winds. Chief commander Agamemnon can only appease the goddess by sacrificing his daughter Iphigenia so he tells his wife to bring their daughter under the false promise that their daughter will marry the Greek soldier Achilles. When they are on their way Agamemnon has second thoughts and tries to inform his wife by a letter. But this letter is intercepted by Menelaus. A struggle between the brothers follows, but in the end Iphigenea goes voluntarily to the altar and is killed and the army sets off to Troy.
You may have never heard before about the Evripus strait and of Euboea, which is the second largest island of Greece but hardly discovered by foreign tourists. Maybe it’s time to buy a travel guide to this area, read some ancient literature about the area and at some time make a trip?
Featured image of the old bridge of Chalkida by Georgios Pazios (Alaniaris), Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons.