By Georgia Dousikou
“This landscape is an ancestor who has seen it all, has known it all…” Kostas Ouranis, Greek poet, travel writer and journalist.
This initiative arose out of a deep calling to reconnect nature with culture in Greece. To welcome the wisdom of the land and the authentic nature of every human being into everyday life. To create places of learning and healing in nature where we can gather together to regain our wisdom, intuition and resourcefulness. Places that are dedicated to cultivating the capacity of a deeper ‘thinking from the heart’.
The name “the Spine of the City” refers to the forgotten ancient marble transport route from the Penteli Mountain on the outskirts of Athens, to the sacred rock of the Acropolis, at the heart of the city. For two and a half years we have been working hard as full-time volunteers for this vision to unfold and to be expressed. We have built relations and we listen deeply to ensure that the guide in this process is this opening towards the wisdom of the land.
Penteli mountain carries in its belly the unique Dionysian marble, famous all over the world. Through scientifically documented drawings, descriptions, sketches and analyses we are exploring the depth of this ancient route which was used to build the Parthenon, the ancient Greek spiritual center, and enabled the enormous history of the city to thrive. The distance between Acropolis and the ancient marble quarry is 10.5 miles.
We will walk along this route to listen and remember the special relationship of human beings with place. We soon plan to walk from the ancient spiritual centre in the heart of the city towards the Penteli mountain as an act of respect and deep gratitude to this mountain from which the marbles of the Parthenon originated. We connect with nature that exists around us and with people along this journey weaving the voices of the spine of this city. Walking in ancient Athens has been connected with Aristotle’s Peripatetic School (Walking School) where students walked while learning.
Ilissos, Kifissos and Eridanos are the three sacred rivers of Athens. The Ilissos river offers a beautiful route and Socrates once taught on its banks. During ancient times there was a constant source of fresh water and natural springs around the Acropolis itself. In the 1930’s everything changed when the city’s rapid growth began. The rivers were buried beneath asphalt streets and massive modern buildings. The rivers have continued to flow underground for all these years and there are very few spots now days that one can still see the flow of them. We intend to connect with the waters that give life to earth and discover where and how this route is connected to the flow of the rivers.
Some of our walks along this ancient route will be in partnership with Walks of Resilience. We are working on preparing and planning this over the next months. The vision is to create a women’s walking group and/or an intergenerational group. The mythology and stories of this land are moving within us and are an integral part of what we are doing and creating.
Here in Greece, our relationship with resilience is revealed and strongly related to the Odyssey, Homer’s epic poem written in the 8th century BCE. After Odysseus left Troy he is challenged by many temptations yet he shows resilience throughout the epic journey, and it helped him return back home (Nostos), the place where he truly belongs. In this journey one can see that there is a strong connection between resilience and listening to the inner voice and spiritual world that calls us to where we truly belong.
This sense of belonging is part of our initiative. We endeavor to cultivate a relationship with the city of Athens as a whole and to find ways to consciously integrate natural spaces into both the urban and rural environments. The initiative is dedicated to democracy, the spirit of the agora and the roots of Way of Council in Greece, and the energetic field where all voices can be spoken and heard. We ask: How does this ancient path relate to us and what does it mean for our times?
Integration of natural places within the city.
Along the ancient route we are researching a number of natural landscapes of ecological significance for the purpose of creating natural spaces within the city. We are also encouraging the regeneration of indigenous Athenian plant and animal communities.
We have already started working with two places. One is the “Agricultural Nature Sanctuary”. We learn how to reconnect with the “voice” of Nature in the city and beyond on 5000 sq meters. The sanctuary acts as a threshold for our walking journey and it is dedicated to the roots of Way of Council in Greece. Our aim is to repair the divide in the natural bond between earth and humans and our work is dedicated to exploring ways to embrace this nature-human relationship in a conscious way for the next generations.
The other land is the “Three Trees Nature Sanctuary”, 10000 square meters at the mountain Penteli where the ancient route begins. We dedicate this land to regeneration of land and reforestation as this mountain has been devastated by many fires and mining.
We are also in the process of exploring other public and private land that has been neglected through urban development. These lands would profoundly benefit from conscious and knowledgeable working groups that can facilitate an ongoing ecological stewardship process over time. Additionally, these pieces of land are scattered along the entire ancient route.
We hold an inspired and informed vision for working towards the integration of these fragmented ‘Ancient Route’ landscapes into a contiguous ecological corridor alongside this significant and sacred route. We envision a holistic stewardship process that supports a profound threefold weaving of Community, Nature and Culture together.
The circles for community building within this initiative are the Stewards of the land circle, the Teachers’ circle, the Children’s circle and Women circle. We, also, hold the vision for a possible intergenerational circle that will emerge from this journey.
Wilderness holistic approach: The experience in deep nature helps inform and direct us in our work.
The long tradition of being in what is often termed wild or remote places to seek new insights and fresh ways of thinking is well known across many cultures in Greece.
The Oiti wilderness retreat center is a special place dedicated to this and is located in the heart of Greece near the ancient sacred oracle of Delphi and the hot springs of the Gates of Fire. As a ‘community under construction’, we offer members the opportunity to travel to Oiti Mountain to deepen our relations with the wilderness. We return to the Oiti mountain retreat to reflect on, integrate and absorb the experiences of the “Agricultural Nature Sanctuary”, the Ancient Route and the other more urban spaces we work in. The experience in deep nature helps, inform and direct us in our work.
Call for support
Athens and Greece is a great destination for many people from all over the world. Also many people from abroad are connected to Greece. In this journey we intend to include people from wherever they are to join us either from a distance or in person. Please reach out to us if you feel called being part of this extended community as we are now working on ways to make these connections possible. For us this is one more way to manifest the “think global, act local”.
We hope to witness abundance in all its forms. There are many ways you can support us. You can contribute your time and expertise or your resources and connections and/or you can support us financially. We are raising 12,000 euros in order to cover our operational costs. This covers basic construction expenses, some materials, the children’s’ Land Stewardship educational program and the Ancient route overview mapping.
This vision is made possible by the generosity and support of people who share the same values and are part of a paradigm shift towards a heart connection with earth. Your contribution will help us make the manifestation of this vision possible and strengthen community spirit. Contributions can be 1 euro up to 12000 euro. Any and all support is greatly appreciated!
Donations can be made through PayPal here
Our website is under construction. To reach out to us for further information please contact us at [email protected]
Thank you for being a part of our community and our story in Greece!