Many people know Rafina as a port near Athens where passengers board ferry boats for the island of Evia and other Aegean islands.

But how many people actually know the history of this port, one of the largest in Greece, and one of the chief communities of Asia in Greece Minor refugees?

And how many people know that the Rafina area offers sparkling, picturesque beaches and an active nightlife?

The rich history of Rafina, or Arafinidon Alon as it was known in ancient times, has its roots in prehistoric times and more specifically in pre-hellenic times. Just south of Rafina, at Askitario, archaeolo-gists have dug up a unique vase with a dog painted on it, which has been dated back to 2800 B.C. Near the port a bronze foundry has been discovered, one of the oldest in Europe dating back to 1800 B.C.

In Rafina you will also find the ancient temple of Artemis Tavropolos .

The modern history of the port really begun at the start of this century when the Asia Minor catastrophe forced the Greek government to give land in the area to the refugees who arrived in Greece from Triglia, a city near Prousa in Asia Minor.

It was early in 1924 when the community began to be built near the plantation of Alexandros Skouze between Rafina and Pikermi. The memories of that period are bitter as the difficult living conditions in tents and the diseases which resulted caused major problems to the refugees.

But when the refugees began cultivating the land and building started, things changed for the better.

The magnificent church in Rafina contains the miraculous icon of Panaghia Pantovasilisa which was brought over from Triglia by the refugees at the last minute before the town was destroyed. The nameday of the church is celebrated on September 8 when a colorfull procession takes place in the freshly-painted neighborhoods of Rafina.

Rafina has developed rapidly since the coming of the Asia Minor refugees. At some points the port has grown dangerously, eating up entire beaches and rocky areas where the best beaches in Attica were once. Now cars cram them-selves into the parking area, waiting to board the ferry boats to the islands.

The Harbor Fund, the National Defense Ministry and the Merchant Marine Ministry have authority over the port today while the local government would like the port to remain only for passenger ships service.

Nevertheless, the port of Rafina has not lost its picturesque appearance with fish tavernas offering fresh catches from the small local fishing boats.

And the beautiful beaches are also not completely lost, despite the development of the port. Pebbled and rocky beaches with crystal clear water offer ideal bathing for visitors. There are beautiful secluded beaches such as those which stretch from Aghios Nikolaos to Ble Limanaki (Blue Harbor) or larger beaches such as Ble Limanaki itself and Kokkino Limanaki (Red Harbor) towards Mati, and Marikes on the road towards Loutsa. The best time to visit these beaches is on weekdays, when they are a lot less crowded.

A walk towards Aghios Nikolaos, the trademark of Rafina, just before sundown is something that should not be missed. The small white church reminds one of the churches in the Cyclades islands and is built where Aghia Marina (the old Italian fort) was located at the hill overlooking the harbor. The view from there is impressive during the evening hours, with hundreds of lights showing from Nea Makri and Marathon, to the island of Evia and its ports Stira and Marmari.

Rafina offers a number of restaurants, fish tavernas, cafeterias, bars and outdoor cinema to pass the time.

To reach Rafina, take the bus from 29 Mavromateon Street in Athens at the Pedio tou Areos Park. For information call 210 821-0872.

At Rafina you can stay at the Avra (Tel. 22940-22781) or Akti (Tel. 22940-23410) hotels.

For ferry boat schedules call the Rafina Port Authority at 22940-22300. The police in Rafina can be reached by calling 22940-22100, the town hall number is 22940-24444 and the taxi station is 22940-23101.


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