Upon arrival in Aegina we got off the ferry and headed to the port area of the town. We passed many places selling pistachios which are grown in quantity on the island. Various tourist shops littered the waterfront and we started to explore. Knowing there was more to the island than the coast, Sissi and I popped into a small tourist information place to ask how to see the ruins and other sights of the island. The woman at the desk said that there was a bus that we just missed and that the next one didn’t leave until 15:50 – an hour and a half from then. She said that we could rent a car because there were four of us. I asked how much it was – only 25€. So I went out to ask Pablo and Daniel what they thought and so we agreed. Being the only person actually carrying my license, I rented the car. Of course the rental place kept my license while we had the car so it really didn’t seem to matter. It was a little red Daewoo Matiz and it had just enough trunk space for our backpacks.
We stowed our bags and went for a quick bite to eat before setting out on the road. We had the car for 4 hours and we didn’t want to waste too much time. We grabbed a sandwich at one of the many waterfront restaurants and then headed back to the car. It was weird having a car for the first time in a long time – longer for the others who weren’t home at Christmas. After getting everyone into the car and taking off I realized two things: it had been a long time since I’d driven a standard, and we had no idea how to get out of the town. We tried once and ended up back where we started. The one crappy map that the tourist/rental place had to offer was about as useful as a map of a different island and so Daniel and Pablo got out in search of something more useful. They came back with a couple different maps which I’m not sure how they found, but they seemed a bit better so we took off for a second try.
This time we didn’t end up in someone’s private property and on a road that held some promise, but since none of the streets were marked our new better maps still didn’t help us much. We stopped to ask a couple of guys who were painting a fence. Daniel and Pablo, armed with multiple maps got out to ask while Sissi and I tried to make sense of the other maps. According to these two, we were actually on the other side of the island which wasn’t true because the ferry only stops at one point on the island which was marked clearly on the map. Too many paint fumes perhaps, so that didn’t get us anywhere. It was here that I decided that Pablo needed to drive since he was far more capable of handling both the manual transmission and the lack of power steering (one of those things that I take for granted since I’ve only really driven newer North American cars which essentially drive themselves). So I slipped into the back – no small challenge, and became a backseat navigator/photographer. Now generally much safer, we were able to figure out where we should be going. The problem we faced is that we thought the island was bigger than it actually was and before too long we were actually half way across the north shore of the island.
We then headed into the island to a large monastery called Agios Nektarios. Once we found an entrance we stopped and and went into the courtyard outside and above the monastery. We realized there was a proper parking lot on the other side of site, so Pablo brought the car around while the rest of us walked down the winding hillside path. The monastery itself was beautiful, but unfortunately undergoing renovations which detracted from the splendor. We wandered around, took the required photos and decided to head along so as to have enough time. We piled back into the car and headed further across the island.
The next stop was Nαoσ Aφαιασ which is the temple to Apheas which I remembered from my previous time in Greece. Unfortunately, because of the time and the holiday the site was closed, but we were still able to get some photos from around the grounds. It was just as I remembered it. Amazing how you can remember some things so vividly. There was another group that had rented a car and were out there. It kind of pissed me off that the woman at the tourist info place didn’t bother to mention that the one place I asked about specifically might you know, be closed. Maybe she didn’t know, maybe he first priority is renting the cars and bikes – which is quite likely, but it pissed me off nonetheless. The view was excellent any way and it definitely wasn’t a wasted trip. We got back into the car and decided to head to Ag. Marina which is a community on the opposite side of the island to the one we originally landed on.
The tourist material stated that this little town was a lot more happening in the summer – and I can definitely tell that. It has a really seasonal community feel, kind of deserted and a little bit creepy, but very homey at the same time. We parked the car and took a look around. We saw a path to the beach and decided to go down and explore. A small beach which looked much like more of the beaches in my part of Nova Scotia, except that the water here in March was as warm or warmer than it ever gets at home. :) We all took turns “touching” the water and got our shoes various degrees of wet. After spending 15 minutes on the beach we headed back to the car, because there really wasn’t much else to do. Heading straight across the island you can make it in around 30–35 minutes.
We drove back into town, filled up the gas tank as instructed (9€) and brought the car back. After prying our bags out of the trunk, I went back and picked up my driver’s license. Then we did a bit more exploring as we had a bit more than an hour before we needed to catch the boat. At this point it was starting to get dark and we decided to stop and have a warm snack on a restaurant boat. All they seemed to have was toasted sandwiches so we each had a toasted ham and cheese with a hot chocolate. I put the day into perspective by mentioning that our entire afternoon car rental cost only one euro more than the quick snack we were eating. We paid and left, heading towards the ferry. On the way, I grabbed a half kilo bag of pistachios because I have a bit of a weakness for them. And these are good ones. Actually I bought a bag of pistachios from Aegina the last time I was there 8 years ago and brought them home to Canada with me. I doubt that these will make it that far, but I might still be eating them on the plane to Spain.
The ferry back was a lot nicer than the one on the way there and I dozed a bit after the long tiring day. Before long we were back at Piraeus and caught the subway back towards the city center. Daniel wanted to go to the Olympic stadium, so we stayed on the line 1 train almost the entire length and got off at a very nice metro station that I suspect was built for the Olympics. A lot of the metro stations had a new feel to them which wouldn’t surprise me. We walked over to the gates and found that one set of gates were open so we wandered in. It was generally quite dark, so photos weren’t that easy especially without a tripod. Setting the camera on flat surfaces and propping it up and using the timer and long exposure times were the techniques for that situation and I think we all got some interesting photos. While taking the photos, we heard some other people and then I heard our whistle and of all people it was Q, Max, Mateen and Adnan. They had been there taking photos too. We chatted for a few minutes and they head off back towards the train station while we continued our exploration. We spent about 30 minutes there I’d guess and then we caught the metro back to the train station.
It turned out that Max and Q were on a different car of the train than we were and once it showed up we got on our respective cars. At least, what we thought was our car… I think the train only had 7 cars and we were supposed to be in 8. So we got in the last one and it wasn’t that crowded. We sat down and when the man came to punch our tickets he tried to tell us something in Greek probably along the lines that we were in the wrong car or something, but we didn’t understand and so he left and didn’t seem to care that much – probably because is wasn’t a full train. This time, we were in the seats which face the other seats and I took my sneakers off and was able to stretch out across two seats. In general, this return trip was much more comfortable, but the fact that Thessaloniki wasn’t the final destination had me never quite drifting off. Daniel, Sissi and Pablo were asleep most of the trip, which must have been nice. I listened to another hour of my audiobook and drifted in and out of unconsciousness. One of the interesting factors of this trip is that Daylight Savings Time started while we were on the train. At 3:00 Greek time, the clocks changed to 4:00, and are now on Eastern European Summer Time (EEST) GMT+0300.
And thus it ended, at the train station in Thessaloniki as half of us caught a bus home only to sleep the rest of the morning. Perhaps Spain will provide many more opportunities for adventures such as this one. One can only hope.