Aegina lies just 27km (17 mi) from Athens out in the Saronic Gulf. The island has been inhabited continuously since 3000 BC. To get here is a 40 minute hydrofoil ferry or a 1 hour regular ferry from Piraeus (€4-15).
Once on the island, there is public bus service with 3 lines, that leave from
and return to the Port. Pick up a timetable from the port station as there aren’t
any at the other stops. You can purchase tickets on the bus or at the port station.
You need to understand Greek characters to figure out the destinations. The characters are quite easy to catch onto, in contrast to some other languages, since we have incorporated so many of them into English, and especially into the American college system.
But it is quite rare we meet anyone who doesn’t understand English, so you might
also be able to rely on asking for help from the driver or other passengers.
Cruising into the Port of Aegina.
We opted to take a bus tour offered by the cruise company, which took us around the island, taking in the most important tourist sites, and ended in a local food and ouzo tasting at a port restaurant.
Two thirds of the island is an extinct volcano as evidenced by these rocks.
This is Agios Nikolaos, the protector saint of sailormen, which stands in the centre of Aegina town.
The namesake of the island was the mother of Aeacus, a hero born on the island,
who eventually became it’s king.
The single column (kolona in Greek) shown here, was built in 520 BC, and is the
only remaining of 17 supports in a Doric Temple of Apollo. Destroyed in the 4th
century AD, because it was considered idol worship (much like the Taliban has
destroyed ancient temples in Afghanistan in recent years), it had a partner
until 1802, when it crashed down in a storm. The top part of this one was
lost around 1765.
This picturesque little seaside chapel sits right out on the jetty, steps from where we pulled in to dock. The top photo was when we got there, and the bottom was when we were about to leave. The weather turned on us between those times.
The waterfront port of Aegina town is the largest town and capital of Aegina island. It is the main point of entry to the island, where you can find the most dining, housing, shopping and entertainment options.
Island of Aegina – Souvalas
Souvalas is Aegina’s second port. It was named after ancient mineral water
spring cisterns found in the rocks located on the east side of town.
There is a direct ferry here from Piraeus or you may drive the very beautiful,
10km coast road, from the port in Aegina town. A fishing village until the
1950’s, it has become more of a vacation destination for Athenian’s since then.
Souvalas has existed since before Byzantine times. From 900-1800 AD, pirates
forced inhabitants to move up the hill to Paliochora. Later, with Paliochora the
capital, Souvalas was the main commercial port for the island.
There are hotels as well as private homes and apartments to rent here and
tavernas, cafes and shops overlook the ocean. It’s quite dead at this time of
year, but we were told it is very popular and busy in the summer.
Nikos Kazantzakis is purported to have written Zorba the Greek from his home near here.
These two young women work in Dubai. I originally thought they were in their late 20’s and was surprised to find they were both in their mid-forties with grown kids in their 20’s. I asked them where they were originally from, to which they replied:
“Guess! We are one of your country’s biggest allies in Asia.”
I guessed Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Cambodia, Japan, Indonesia, Laos, and then came to a standstill. They were all wrong. The young women were giggling at my inability to guess their country. I felt embarrassed at my ineptitude. Finally, they took pity on me.
“The Phillippines!” both giggling at me.
“No! I said that!” I exclaimed, sure I’d said it. “That’s impossible! My own sister-in-law is Phillippino-Canadian! That would have been my first guess … or should have been.”
Harold and the two women were adamant I hadn’t said it, so I was forced into letting them have this win. However, something else had come to me. I knew I still had a winning point to make – my ace in the hand.
“Okay, guess where I’m from!” I knew already what they’d guess. They’d told me that with their assumption of being “your country’s biggest allies in Asia.” Plus everyone everywhere always thinks the same thing.
“Easy! You’re American!” They were so sure they were right.
“No! You’re wrong!” I crowed, enjoying their confused expressions. My win was short-lived though. Of course they got it right on the second try. “Oh …. Canada!”
“As a matter of fact – that’s our theme song!”
Island of Aegina – Paleachora
Between the 9th and 12th centuries, pirates raided the island frequently. The
inhabitants of the lower lands and ports, facing horrific assaults and death,
were forced to join the pirates, move inland, up here to Paleachora, or
leave the island. They built homes, churches, mills, and a fortress up here.
The town was camoflauged from view since they used the same materials as were
found in the area, the fortress allowed them a good view so they were forewarned
of pirates, and the land was very fertile, with many small stony water reservoirs.
From 1204 on, the island fell back and forth from the Venetians to the Turks to pirate attacks. From 1800 on, with a good economy, and better safety, people began to leave Paleohora and move back to the harbour. By 1829, the town was mostly empty.
Island of Aegina – Monastery of Agios Nektarios
Founded by the Bishop of Pentapolis Nektarios, sometime around 1904-1910, at the
request of a group of nuns. The Bishop, a popular priest and educator, lived
here for 13 years and is now buried under a plane tree there. 14 nuns still live
Inside, there are two chapels where the tomb and holy relics of Agios Nektarios are held. Behind the two chapels, is the cell where he lived. There were many older women here prostrating themselves over his tomb. This made it impossible to get any photos, since I felt it was too personal to photograph.
Outside, in the parking lot, there were men selling the most wonderful pistachios I’d ever had. We purchased 3 packages, 1 to eat now, 2 to take home. They grow grain, cotton, vines, almonds, olives and figs on the island but the crop it is known for is Pistachios.
Back at the port, we visited a local restaurant where we had a tasting plate of local delicacies and shared a carafe of ouzo. Mezedes or meze are small plates of food served with ouzo. In Greece, like Italy, it is customary to eat while you drink. I love this custom. Greeks look down on people who get drunk. It is their way to sit somewhere for hours while talking and drinking. Without food, you would get never be able to control the effects of such strong spirits.
The fish market makes me very sad. Smells bad too.
The entire waterfront is one covered patio after another. There is a sidewalk connecting them all on the inside of the tented area.
Scooters and motorcycles are everywhere in Greece, and even more so on the islands.
As we came back to the docks, I noticed a young man and woman making out pretty voraciously. They were walking around the dock area and couldn’t keep their hands off each other. I could swear I’d seen her on the boat on the way over, but not him. When we got back to the ship, I watched for her to come back behind us. He escorted her all the way to the gangplank where they had a final hot and heavy goodbye, then she left her local Casanova there and floated on board in delirium.
We left Aegina not a moment too soon,
heading towards the clearer skies over the island of Poros.