Ancient Corinth commanded the passage of trade between mainland Greece and the Peleponnisos peninsula, which made it an important and rich city. During antiquity ships were pulled across the Isthmus on a portage road for a fee.
Fortunately our Sharki did not have to go the 6,5 kilometers over land on rolling stones! She also didn’t have to take the 700 km journey around the Peleponnisos. Instead we went through the canal, which was a much anticipated highlight of our journey. It is – and feels – very narrow, and one marvels at the digging feat which was started in 1881 and finished in 1893. Vertical rock walls rise up straight to up to 90 metres, the water is silty and turquoise and there is only room for one-way-ship traffic.
It has been a dream since ancient times to dig a canal at this thinnest bit of the isthmus, connecting the Golf of Corinth to the Aegean Sea. Apparently the first one to propose the idea was the tyrant Periander in the 7th century BCE. Since it turned out too costly, he had the idea of the portage. Nero got as far as removing the first bucket of soil in 67 CE, but when he died shortly after the project died as well.
Thankfully the canal is still in operation today, even though it was never a success. Too narrow for most commercial traffic, it is difficult to navigate due to strong tidal currents and high winds. It is also often closed for repairs to the crumbling sandstone walls and to clear debris from the water. But it was open for us and we motored through easily with great weather and light wind. An Italian Warship happened to lead the way for us.