map of the portPiraeus (Pireas) Porte de Leone Page 1

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This city is best known as the port of Athens.,, and has occupied this role for some two and a half millennia. The population of the greater metropolitan area of this demos (which is really a city in its own right, though hard to tell for the urban sprawl that has joined it to Athens) is around 600,000.

As such it is the third largest city in Greece, after Athens and Thessaloniki. Many visitors know it only as a port a place of transit, with over sixty ferry and hydrofoil departures per day in season, serving Greek Aegean and Ionian islands and some international destinations as well (Cyprus, Turkey, Israel and Egypt).

In addition cruise ships with up 650,000 passengers per year depart from this third most important international passenger port, though perhaps the annual figure given for the total number of people who used the port in 1992 can give an idea of why this is so: a whopping 6.3 million.

But passenger ships are not all that the port of Pireas serves. There is also the Greek merchant marine, with more than 3000 cargo and tanker ships, representing almost half of European tonnage.

If one looks at the geography, one can understand why all this is so. There is not just one natural harbor at Pireas, but three. The Great Harbor on the west side of a peninsula, and the two round harbors of Zea, and Mikrolimani (or Tourkolimano, which means 'Turkish harbor).. Piraeus was actually once an island surrounded by marshes. The Athenians used to keep their triremes (war ships with three banks of oars) on the beach of Phaleron Bay.

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