travel

Aegina, Greece: Island of Enchanted Places

Agia Marina, Aegina Island

Last time I told you about Aegina Island‘s village called Agia Marina and the warmest and dearest feelings I have towards this place. Someone might call it tourist-oriented, some might say it’s so deeply old-school they forgot it’s 21st century out there. But I don’t mind (and my family joins me here), on the contrary I just wish it would really go on like this: we would come back there and each time find the dear old details and people. As my sister has put it, there’ll be no other place like this for us anymore cause a child’s perception of the place is unique.

Aphaia Temple, Aegina Island

We’re now heading from the small seaside village Agia Marina on top of the hill above – which houses on of the most visited and no less enchanted places of the island – the ancient temple of Aphaia, one of the best preserved ancient temples in Greece. Aphaia means transparent in Greek and there’s this beautiful (could it be ugly?) legend about the goddess fleeing from Minos’ lust. Anyway, the temple is very … I don’t know, I cannot call it beautiful but it is so much matching the place, standing on top of the hill from where one can see Piraeus and even Acropolis if the weather allows. They say that the temple creates a magical triangle with Parthenon and Sounion. You can take photos of the temple from all the angles and still its … beauty (for the lack of a more appropriate word) escapes you. I like the colour of the stone and the silence around it – even if the place is crowded with tourists, there’s this majesty and power about it, the silent knowledge and detachment. The sculptures from the temple are in Munich by the way.

Agia Marina, Aegina Island

In fact Aegina has it all: beach, ancient temple and a column (ex-temple of Apollo), medieval fortress and a hill full of old churches, a house-size camera obscura, the monasteries (among which the one built by one of the most recent Greek Orthodox saints), the house of Kazantzakis (yes, the one who created Zorbas), the oldest trees in Europe (olives – still have to see them!), the mountain peaks, the wild-life hospital, ex-military base, pistachio & olive groves and what not, really! It even has its own pistachio festival to celebrate the tastiest pistachios in the world. A list can be found on this website.

Agia Marina, Aegina Island

It also has the ruins of a wanna-be largest hotel on the island which was abandoned in 1974 and from then on has never been finished. Its ruins (cause it’s gradually dilapidating) can be seen close to Agia Marina and they make part of almost all the panorama photos of the village (see the first one). The taverna guy told me the hunta regime wanted to create a resort there for themselves but they never did. The hotel is gaping with its open windows and has a more powerful effect on me than any other building on the island. It’s surrounded by a (also dilapidating) wall which is covered with impressive graffiti. The church from the photo above is right at the wall.

Paleochora, Aegina Island

In this picture you can see both the medieval church and the most recent church built on the island – the ex-capital of the island called Paleochora (old town) and Agios Nektarios church. I love the fact that they are situated so close (although it takes some time and strength to get from one to the other on foot!), just opposite each other. From the monastery of Agios Nektarios (he died in 1920 and is considered to be saint, healing people and whispering them words from his shrine) you can see the imposing hill where Paeochora is (and it is essentially a hill with loads of old churches scattered around it + topped with a fortress and 2 churches), ochre in colour and as if made from ancient stones. From the hill itself the monastery looks like a ceramic house from a souvenir shop. They do match each other!

Paleochora, Aegina Island

Paleochora is a magic place. You need to go there in the morning before it gets too hot. Because I assure you you will regret it if you do not climb the slippery stones right there to the very top of the hill (at this point it will seem more like a mountain…) to feel the wind all around you and see this:

Paleochora, Aegina Island

And yes, do not step on the ruins! Although ruins are just everywhere 🙂 The Greek phrase actually warns you against climbing on the ruins, which is just the same thing.

Paleochora, Aegina Island

Before you reach the top you will take several dead-ends, by this I mean quite dangerous paths that seem to be leading somewhere but in fact just ending sharply with no chance of getting further. Even the Greeks get lost there. We by chance found a ‘guide’ just when we arrived at the foot of the hill – he said his father found relics of three saints on Paleochora and then built a church there.

Paleochora, Aegina Island

And when you feel tired, take out that tiropita which has been emanating the delicious tiropita smell in your bag all the way up the hill and down, up and down! The view is amazing too.

Paleochora, Aegina Island

And if you’re in the mood for a Greek party – join in the festivities in the church yard, with considerable amounts of (obviously not vegetarian) food and wine to be expected once the mess is over. They all gathered round the loud speaker, listening to a transmission of some Greek Orthodox chants.

Paleochora, Aegina Island

We then went on to the monastery, which is another place of power on the island. This is actually a convent and it’s beautifully decorated with flowers. The church is still under construction.

Agios Nektarios Monastery, Aegina Island

The sisters of the monastery support the island people in need, they prepare food and also help at the old people hospital. Greeks from all over the country come to this place to ask Agios Nektarios for something. Once on a stormy day my father saw a bottle in the sea, reached it and found a note inside, asking to order some church service for someone. We did – we brought it to the monastery.

Agios Nektarios Monastery, Aegina Island

And if you’re more into town – then do visit Aegina’s capital – well, Aegina. It’s a place for those of you out there who enjoy Greek style and decadence : )

Aegina, Aegina Island

This cafe was closed on Monday so we sat there and ate our second Italian breakfast – bread with jam. Then we carefully placed the chairs back in order and went on to explore the narrow streets of the town.

Aegina, Aegina Island

It’s the island’s most important port so what else would you expect to eat there rather than fish? Fish (and just) market is also famous for its mezedakia places where you can drink your ouzo and enjoy some saganaki…

Aegina, Aegina Island

The ever-present cats in Greece must be dreaming of this:

Aegina, Aegina Island

Once you got yourself loads of pistachios and pistachio brittle and pistachio honey, leave the market to see some of the old buildings and signs.

Aegina, Aegina Island

In Aegina the streets are narrow and winding as if trying to get all the pirates (who were never scarce on the island) lost and never found 🙂

Aegina, Aegina Island

I wish I had more time to walk up and down the streets. Decadence!

Aegina, Aegina Island

Decadence is more visible with every year, unfortunately. So when you get a bit stifled with it, go out in the open, to the port. There’s a tiny white-washed church and a new church and that imposing but now completely degraded building at the beginning of the port. There’s also a woman selling fruit right on the seafront. She once  had no change and so gave us a banana =)

Aegina, Aegina Island

I love the small boats, look so much better than the hi-tech yachts. And I love the blue colour in Greece. They just know how to use it!

Aegina, Aegina Island

Photography and art =)

Aegina, Aegina Island

And some more blue…

Aegina, Aegina Island

And then you get hungry before getting on the hydrofoil – and you eat your last gyros with Haloumi cheese (which is actually a Cypriot cheese). I’ve discovered this nutritious vegetarian version of the – usually – meat gyros and I loved it! Here’s the place on Tripadvisor, and here is Pita Tom, the best place for (vegetarian) gyros in Agia Marina, celebrating its 20 years this October!

Gyros me Haloumi, Aegina, Aegina Island

I couldn’t have NOT ended this post without food ,)

Love this island. Will come back.

That’s about it for today!

G.

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