We ended our fall break travel spree to Istanbul and Athens with 3 days on the island of Aegina, which is a 90 minute ferry ride from Athens (about 20 miles) in the Saronic Gulf. After the ferry dropped us off, we lugged our backpacks around looking for the “Liberty One” hotel until a woman shook her head and said, “Bus.” I thought I booked a hotel in Aegina Town, the largest town on the island, but it turned out that the Liberty One hotel in “Agina Marina” was on the other side of the island, a 30 minute bus ride from where the ferry dropped us off. It was sort of an “oh, &%$!#!!” moment, but it turned out just fine. As you can see from these pix, it’s a beautiful (though a little run-down) tourist town:
This is the low season on the Greek Islands, and the place was pretty much shuttered and desolate except for a few restaurants and shops selling left-over sunscreen, which was fine with us after the somewhat manic pace of Istanbul and Athens. Before going to the island, we consulted with a person we know who lives in Athens about which island to visit and her response was essentially, “not sure why you’d go to the islands now – it will just be the locals.” To which I wanted to respond, “Exactly.”
Funny moment with the waiter at this restaurant: I asked what was “fresh” on the menu (meaning fish) and he said “small fish” and “calamari.” I said yes to both, then he came back a few minutes later and asked if we wanted fresh calamari, to which we said, “yes.” Then he explained that the calamari was “about this long” (he held his fingers about 12 inches apart) and gave us the per kg. price (which means nothing to me). I asked him how much the calamari would cost and he said, “About 25 euros.” That’s about $35! We passed. Then I thought, “does he have a knife — maybe he could CUT the calamari to a reasonable size????” I had the sense that the hotel and restaurant staff in Agina Marina were worn out and didn’t REALLY want to be open, which I understood and did not hold against them.
Another funny (I think) bit of information. This from the guidebooks: history on the island dates back as far as 2000 B.C. – it was once a center of trade in the Aegean, even rivaling the state of Athens as a navel power. Basically, the place rocked. Now? It supplies Greece with pistachios. Pistachios! Oh, how the mighty fall! That said, the pistachio trees are quite lovely.
Aegina also produces a great quantity of olives.
I had never tasted a ripe olive from a tree, so I plucked one from here and took a bite. It’s very bitter and gives off a juice not unlike a cherry. Strange.
Beyond simply hanging around the seashore and shooting pool in the hotel lobby, the highlights of the trip were probably the very, very cool Temple of Aphaia (500 BC). Click on the link to read more. It sits on one of the tallest elevations on the island. It was about a 45 minute hike up into the mountains from the hotel. From the top you can see both sides of the island. Here are some pix:
The other highlight was probably the day James and I took the bus to Aegina Town and rented a scooter for the afternoon. We scootered up and down the coast, fully helmeted for extra safety. When we’d find a relatively straight, traffic-free section, I’d get off and let James ride alone for a bit — great fun and incredible vistas.
We left Aegina on Sunday morning – took the ferry to Athens, the metro from Piraeus to the Athens airport, flew to Budapest, took a cab to the train station, and took the train from Budapest to Pecs (then walked 8 blocks to our apartment).
Total travel time from Agina Marina to Pecs, Hungary: 12 hours. Number of travel modes: 6 (including feet). James was in school the next day. Margaret and didn’t have to teach until Tuesday.
Taking the train to Vienna tomorrow afternoon (Thursday). Will visit the Mauthausen Concentration Camp. More later.