Having spent 10 days in Athens and enjoying the city every day a little bit more, I couldn’t help a feeling of missing out on something creeping up on me: The Greek Islands! The very definition of vacations in Greece! Most tourists visiting Greece don’t even bother about Athens (a mistake!) or Peloponnese (another mistake!), but head right to the usual suspects like Santorini, Corfu, Mykonos or Rhodes. But the friendly folks at my hostel had told me that some of these beauties can be visited quite easily from Athens. So I decided to go on a day trip to a Greek island.
The Trip to the Greek Island of Aegina
The cheapest option of getting some island soil under your feet while in Athens is to take the metro to Piraeus and hop on one of the many ferries. Once you get out of the metro station, look for the over pass that takes you to the port area and bear left to find the entrance to the port. Right behind the entrance are many travel agencies that sell tickets for the ferries. Plan to be there no later than 8 am to not “miss the boat”.
Having heard that the island of Aegina is one of the nicer ones that can be reached easily from Athens, I bought a ticket to Aegina for 18 Euro round trip. If you return with the same ferry you came with, you get 50% off the return ticket. My boat would leave for Aegina at 8:20 and head back to Athens at 6:15 pm, perfect timing for me. I quickly found my boat and hopped on board, while they were still loading the belly of the ferry with cars.
After a short 1 h 20 min trip, we arrived at the city of Aegina, the capital of the island of, you guessed it, Aegina. Just off the boat, you’re greeted by pistachio sellers, and lots of them! These pistachios are a specialty of Aegina, and they’re delicious! They make all kinds of things from these tasty little nuts: pesto, ice cream, liquor, cookies…are just some of the things I remember. I bought two kilo for 24 Euro I had promised the receptionist at the hostel in Athens.
My Island Tour around Aegina
After checking out the fancy boats in the harbor and walking around in the city a little bit, it got so warm that I felt like having some wind blow around my ears, so I checked out one of the vehicle rental stores that can be seen from the ferry already. The bicycles didn’t impress me much (also check out my post about a very different bike rental in Tuscany, Italy), so I opted for a scooter, which I rented for 20 Euro for the entire day. I rented the smallest one they had, a 50 ccm one, which hardly made it up the hills, so you might want to get the next larger engine. After filling it up with some gasoline I was off to my island tour. Now I was in my element, this is what I’ve been looking forward to! I couldn’t help feeling a bit guilty when I reached a mountain top, because I didn’t get here with the force of my own muscles for a change. Initially, being a rule-abiding German I wore the helmet that came with the scooter, but in 36 degrees C, the helmet was in the compartment under the seat in no time! Let’s be Greek for a day!
Temple of Aphaia
One of the highlights of Aegina is the Temple of Aphaia, which sits at one of the highest mountains of Aegina. To culture-buffs like me it looks a bit like a miniature version of the Akropolis. They usually charge 6 Euro for seeing the temple, but when I went there nobody was there to sell the tickets, so I sneaked in, feeling more Greek by the minute. When I left they were back and I greeted them nicely, and they responded equally nicely.
Restored Wind Mill…or not?
I came by a sweet wind mill that had been converted to a house. It could also be that it had never actually been a real wind mill and the owner had just decorated it accordingly. In any case, it looked to beautifully cliche “Greek Island”, that I couldn’t resist stopping to take some pictures. The owner appeared quickly and I thought he would tell me not to take pictures, but instead he opened his door and let me in, inviting me to take pictures. I love Greece!
Towards the end of my island tour I had to speed up, because the boat wouldn’t wait for me. I arrived at the harbor just in time to bring back the scooter, buy the pistachios for my receptionist and hop on the ferry. It turned out that quite some folks arrived even later than I did, even after the official departure time of the ferry. They still managed to come on board, though. Did I mention that I love Greece?