Blog Archive

May 8, 2013

2007 ~ Greece: Saronic Islands Hopping

In 2007 we decided to explore Greece and took a flight for Athens without any plan and just one bag of luggage. Athens takes its name from the Greek goddess Pallas Athena and is a phenomenal city with over 4 million people. We crashed at a small hotel in one of the alleys we found in the center and which was reasonable affordable (about 70 Euros per night for the both of us).

In summer this city is vibrant and souring hot. Water bottles are sold on the street everywhere luckely. The first evening we had dinner at a traditional Greek taverna where we immediately fell in love with the lamb chops, tzatziki, real Greek olives and dolmadakia's (vine leaves stuffed with rice). The Greeks drink ouzo as an aperitif and retsina (Greek white wine with a slight Pine resin flavor) when eating. We decided to apply this tradition and must say we gave it our best shot. After dinner we had a long walk in that magnificent atmosphere and enjoyed live music in the streets.


The next day we visited the Acropolis, which was very impressive with immense temples, columns and statues. We spent a couple of days on a mixture of temple visits, strolls through the city and famous squares, drinking retsina and enjoying each other's company on a terrace in the evening. You must visit the old neighborhood of Plaka, where you will find many authentic shops and markets.










We took off by metro for the port town of Piraeus, the harbor of Athens were we spent a day at the beach and we got the idea for island hopping. The special thing about Greece is that it has so many different islands and we chose to explore the Saronic Islands Archipelago which consist out of five beautiful Islands.



We left for the island of Aegina, a journey which took about two and a half hours by ferry. The arrival on the island felt pretty special and was a relief after the bustle of Athens and Piraeus. The atmosphere was even more relaxed, and the place is packed with cozy eateries and cafes by the sea. I bought freshly roasted pistachio nuts at a market stall on the way to our accommodation. A good tip for backpackers: if you arrive by ferry at the port, you should drop into one of the tourist offices as they arrange good and affordable accommodation. It saves you time and effort. If you think Italians speak crappy English, most Greeks are worse at it unfortunately.



Aegina is an island where you can do everything from renting a scooter to explore the island, enjoy the various beaches, biking, hiking, you name it. We have checked out this island mostly by foot, it is very charming and cozy and has many traditional tavernas and local specialty stalls (pistachio nuts and honey are delicious) where you can eat. We spent our evening sitting on the beach and ordered fish. Jeroen made a mistake and ordered (expecting a kind of white fish) whitebait which to his regret existed out of dozens of small fried fish full of fish bones. I thoroughly enjoyed my squid while he pried the bones between his teeth :)


After that fine welcome we sailed to Poros, again by ferry. The arrival at Poros was magical, the sun went down and it smelled delicious, a mixture of sun, sea and spicy meals. I fell in love with Poros instantly. And was even more in love when we found a mega luxury hotel room for only 40 Euros per night for the two of us. The feasting could begin! We bought a big bottle of ouzo which we drunk on our balcony enjoying the sea sight. Completely wasted we ordered a snack on a terrace where we were surrounded by live music and had a lot of fun with the locals. (this is our idea of a great holiday, staying up late at night enjoying the live music everywhere, drinking, eating and having fun with friendly people). Jeroen and I decided to stay three days lingering on the beach, reading books and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere on the island. In the evening we visited a bar or stayed on the beach drinking retsina until late in the evening.





As we were on a mission to explore the rest of the islands we said goodbye to Poros but were sad to leave. I have decided that I will return to this place for it gives me such a nice feeling of freedom to be there... Just do nothing but anything is possible.

Hydra was yet another nice surprise awaiting for us. There are no cars permitted on the island (just like Venice) so everything is done by cart and donkey or on foot. It is a small and picturesque island and sends you back in time. Beautiful houses everywhere, with plants and flowers all over the place and clear blue water for swimming and snorkeling. Hydra is a luxury island where you will find many jewelers which tend to attract the jetset. It has a rocky beach where you can swim very well. It has excellent living conditions, but its killing for your bank account is our conclusion.





After Hydra, the Island of Spetses was next which was very different compared to the previous islands. Spetses is very popular for Greek weddings in summer. It is a wonderfully and busy place with waterfront tavern(a)s everywhere, many tourist shops and beautiful beaches. Again, no cars are allowed except for bicycles and mopeds (which makes it more chaotic and busier instantly in my opinion). We stayed for two days, walked a lot and enjoyed the beach all day before we left by ship for the mainland with more culture as our destination.



We arrived in a truly unforgettable city, a place that is not well known among tourists, and so we are happy to share Naphlio city with you. It is a beautiful and romantic city, and even has been the Greece capital once. There is a large boulevard where you will find all sorts of stalls selling unique handmade jewelry and other goods. From the harbor you can chill out on the luxury hangouts with a view of the island of Boutzri where a large castle was built. In Naphlio you will enjoy shopping, the museums and art galleries, you will love the food and affordable stay. We lived at a romantic apartment in the center of town with a view of all four corners of the city for three days and nights. We highly recommended Naphlio if you want to pay Greece a visit.




The famous Epidaurus amphitheater was high on my wish list and we traveled there by bus from Naphlio. As I’m a theater lover, I was delighted to visit this gigantic theater with great acoustics, a place where many operas and concerts are given in summer.



The last island of the Saronic Archipelago is Salamina but is somewhat of a disappointment compared to the previous islands. The beaches are dirty and the island just didn’t have anything special. We did stay two nights there, but honestly would have been better off if we departed directly to Athens. The only plus worth mentioning was the nice room on the beach and although the owner of the hotel could barely understand us, he drank ouzo with us until deep into the night. I woke with a horrible hangover the next morning after losing my contact lenses in the toilet puking all night. Anyway, it was definitely worth it as it was a unforgettable evening. And one of the other tourists gave me the best advice ever to take care of a massive hangover which is eating dry bread and drinking bubbly water with lemon, a golden tip as it works every time I look too deep into a glass and have more then a few too many drinks.



Greece has conquered our hearts. We fell in love with all the beauty it had to offer, the relaxed atmosphere of the islands, the friendly Greeks who even though they do not always understand us and we certainly had a hard time understanding them, were kind, helpful and create delicious dishes. We knew straight away that this would not be our last visit to this country.

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