With most of the driving behind us, the rocket-powered tour bus zoomed us, at way-too-early-in-the-morning, to the docks, and we boarded a medium-sized cruise ship, for a 12-hour excursion (not a Three Hour Tour…) into the Saronic Gulf of the Aegean sea.
Three islands were are destinations today, in order to give us a little taste of island life: Hydra, Poros and Aegina were all sorta similar, because we only had a limited window of time and couldn’t really explore too much, but that doesn’t matter, because I loved what I got out of the trip.
First of all, I love sailing almost as much as I love flying, so this was a treat. Also, I’d been missing the sea food component that is part of any Mediterranean trip. Not that the food here hasn’t been wonderful–I love Greek food already, and I’ve not had a bad meal yet. It’s just that, well, I’m this close to the sea and haven’t eaten so much as a fish stick yet, and that just ain’t right. Lunch on the boat was poached fish. Okay, it wasn’t complicated or exotic, but after days of lamb and pork, this was pretty damn delicious.
We sailed out to the farthest island first, Hydra. Yeah, I know, some of you are making that nerd-squeal right now, and you’d be mythologically correct and pop culturally incorrect. This is the island that was mostly in my head in that nebulous, “This must be what the Greek Islands are like” kind of way.
The town is built into the side of a mountain, like every single other place in Greece. There are no real cars and roads here; travel is by foot or by donkey. Yep, in addition to the cats and dogs literally strewn about the docks, there’s several local Uber drivers with donkeys that will take you up the side of the mountain. Being from Texas, I’m immune to the charms of donkey riding, and left that to the French and German tourists, who seemed thrilled by it. Good for them, I say.
What struck and captivated me was the amount of height the town used, incorporating the mountain into its city streets. This is true for nearly every single place we’ve visited in Greece; development goes right up the side of the mountain. But Hydra has some particularly steep and interesting levels to it, with steep staircases that bend and twist to bring you up to streets that are narrow enough for people to walk and little else.
In my Dungeons & Dragons campaign, one of the five great city-states is Farington, a temperate coastal port that is cut into tiers directly into a bank of cliffs and mountains, like, ya know, Greece or Italy. I’d designed this city years ago, based on maps and photos I’d seen and studied. But now? Now I’m going to completely re-design the city to incorporate some of this up close and in person information I’ve gathered. There’s also an NPC tailor, named Kristos, that has something of an accent. I’ve been listening to it all week. It’s on point, now, and much better nuanced.
I could have spent a whole day at Hydra, but we had to get back on the ship, for my least favorite of the islands, Poros, hailed as a popular spot for the upper-crust to come party at, and you know this because you can see the signs for discos on the docks as you’re pulling in. This was not my scene, but I wish I could have looked around a little more. Evidently I missed a pretty cool bookshop. Nuts.
The final island was Aegina, and me and the Schanges booked a quick bus trek into the mountains to visit a temple, the temple of Aphaia, some forty years older than the Parthenon, and in pretty good shape, all things considered. These ruins looked a lot like where the harpies were hanging out in Jason and the Argonauts, but alas, we saw nothing except rude tourists wondering loudly why they couldn’t pay for goods and services with American dollars. Come to think of it, she was kinda harpy-like, so I may count that. We also scored some locally-produced pistachios, roasted with salt and lemon. Hold crap, those were good nuts!
The ship trip really knocked it out of us. With travel time, it was a fifteen-hour day, made more challenging with the wind and the cold and the rain. I think we managed to make the most of it. Tomorrow: The Temple of Poseidon.