A lifting experience

Sightseers, day-trippers and punters heading for the Mont Parnes casino are now having a smoother ride up the mountain since the completion of a new Lower Station. A three-story underground car park, strategically sited so as to reduce traffic flow on the mountainside, allows visitors easy access to the new cable car station – a marvelous example of architecture that looks more like a small hotel or art museum. Paintings and sculptures, original works of art commissioned for the building, stone paving and timber paneling on the walls all combine to produce a restful atmosphere. The 10-meter-high chandelier steals the show with its 8,500 pieces of blown glass that continually change color. As for the cable car itself, there are 21 cabins setting off all the time, whether with one passenger or the full complement of 20, at average speeds of 20 kilometers an hour. The trip takes five to 10 minutes at most, meaning that up to 2,400 passengers can be transported in an hour – the old cable car, with just two cabins, carried 10 times fewer people. The new cable car system had its trial runs under difficult circumstances – last July’s forest fires – when it brought 1,700 passengers down within 45 minutes. The short trip is also smooth; the five pylons are built to withstand winds of up to 120 kilometers an hour. Representing an investment of 70 million euros, the largest for a project of this kind in all of Europe, passengers are not charged. About 90 percent of visitors use the cable car, but they are not all heading for the casino. Visitors take note, however – the service is closed Tuesday mornings for maintenance. This article first appeared in the December 2 issue of Kathimerini’s color supplement K.