Here is a blog that has been sitting in my bin since last November. I started drafting this on the long flight home from Greece, but the distracting in-flight amenities on Turkish Airlines got the better of me. Probably the best economy seat on an international flight we’ve ever traveled on.
My travel guru, Rick Steves, has said that when you visit Greece, Fly into Athens, then get out! Well, I must say, we flew into Athens, enjoyed it so much that we spent our first two nights and last two nights in the heart of the City of Violet Crowns?? Yeah, I just looked up city nicknames and I never read or heard this city motto, but who’s to argue. I will however, argue with Rick Steves: Athens is worth visiting for a few days.
Though sprawling and congested, Athens has a compact, pleasant tourist zone, capped by its wedding-cake-like centerpiece, the Acropolis — one of the world’s top ancient sites. In this historic town, it’s easy to walk in the footsteps of the great minds that created DEMOCRACY, philosophy, spanakopita, mythology, and more. . .
Getting away from bustling Athens and off the beaten island-hopping path of Mykonos and Santorini, we hopped on a ferry to explore the Saronic island region of Southern Greece.
A cab ride from central Athens to the port of Pireaus is about €12 and about 30 minutes. Still without Uber in Athens, you can catch a cab anywhere, anytime. In the summer these spacious ferries are jam-packed. I booked all three of our ferry legs two weeks in advance to save 15%, about €30. Why not? A night on the town in Athens runs about €30. Στην υγειά σας!! (CHEERS!!). Or, Opa!! will do.
This ferry is like a wide body jet without seat belts. And just like airplanes, I prefer the aisle seat. The WC’s are clean and twice the space as your in-flight toilet.
This wasn’t the fastest ferry. This ferry stopped at a couple of ports, took twice as long as the “fast” ferry, and was half the price. Not only the was the low fare a bonus, but by stopping at these other ports we were able to scope out our next island hop. Unlike the fast ferries, our scoping out was done on the uncrowded upper deck. It was a gorgeous three hour tour of the Saronic Gulf.
There are about 6000 Greek islands. Of those, 200 are inhabited. My guess is that this was island number 200. Not that it is so remote but that it seemed so “old school”. The slow paced, relaxed atmosphere drew us off the beaten island-path of Hydra (pronounced, ee-drah). So slow, in fact, there are no motorized vehicles. Mules are the way folks move around this island.
Hydra doesn’t boast the Greek architecture of Santorini: blue-domed roofs atop white-washed housing, “all” overlooking the crystal blue Mediterranean. It also doesn’t have the mass of tourists coming off the cruise ships. What it does have, is an island charm of quiet evenings. And boats gently rocking in the harbor, the ever-present toll of a donkey collar’s bell. Then there is the lone church which sits above the bay, chiming in every hour and waking us every morning.
It was obvious when we ferried onto the the island of Poros that it was off season. The ferry was practically empty. The town square inviting the tourists off the boats was only occupied by locals escaping the rain. AND our $17 “from” room with garden view was upgraded to the large double with sea view. We were the only ones in this 12 villa building.
Our hostess showed us our lovely room and how to flick the switch for hot water and took off on her moped. We owned the place. Sat on the balcony with a bottle of Greek wine and enjoyed the thunderstorm, Grecian style?Something about Greece lightning is magical, mythical?
We’re about a mile walk from the ferry dock where the tavernas are open for business. However, out in Lovers Bay, where our villa sits, the seafront seafood restaurants are closed for the season. Our Greek hostess invited us to her house for a hearty English breakfast the following morning as the thunderstorm passed the night before.
Where Hydra is sleepy, Poros is asleep. Yeah sure it’s quiet. It’s November! I can only imagine what Poros is like in the summer. For Athenians, this is their summer playground, just an hour away by ferry.
For Passportsandpostcards, we both loved this trip. As far as the ferries go, the Greeks do it right. With more bang for your euro, we will be back!