Romance ofGreek islands
After an exciting two days exploring Athens’ historical marvels, goes island-hopping in the Saronic Gulf, sailing across the blue waters of the Aegean Sea
IT’S Day 3 in Greece for me and on my itinerary is a visit to my favourite Greek God’s hilltop temple. A Ganymedes Tours coach will take me to Cape Sounion from Athens, the capital city of Greece, where I’ve spent my first two days. Cape Sounion is at the southernmost tip of the Attica peninsula, some 71km from Athens by road. Here on a promontory caressed by winds, majestically looming over the Aegean Sea below, lie the ruins of the 5th-century temple of the Greek God of the Seas, Poseidon.
The ride there, around an hour and 15 minutes, allows me to admire Greece’s fabulous coastline. The beaches of Glyfada, Vouliagmeni and Varkiza are just beginning to shows signs of life this early in the morning. City folk frequent these stretches
Church of the Dormitian of the Virgin Mary in Hydra. of golden sand and little coves for a day’s swimming and sunbathing. Others set sail on their boats across the startlingly blue Aegean sea for weekend adventuring. On my left are luxury villas perched on hill slopes.
At the Cape, there is a very slight walk up from the parking area to where the marblecolumned temple stands. My ticket takes me to very near the structure but not into it. The temple is guarded from vandalism. This is because at the base, on stones from which the columns rise, visitors have left their mark. One stone bears the inscription “Byron”.
The English poet Lord Byron had twice visited this famous archaeological site during his travels in Europe in the early 19th century. Did he put “pen” to marble HYDRA
I’m walking down the beautiful harbourfront of an island termed a “living museum”, torn between keeping my gaze on the very cute donkeys standing before the moored yachts and the artistic shopfronts on my left, with window displays of handcrafted jewellery, fine silks and Grecian handicraft.
It’s Day 4 in Greece. I have arrived on the island of Hydra, a parcel of heaven — where motor vehicles are prohibited. Where writers, artists and artisans retreat to mull, reflect and create amidst hills, secluded beaches and monasteries.
The Italian actress Sophia Loren filmed
(1956) here and said, in an interview with a newspaper, that Hydra was one of the most beautiful places on earth. In fact there is a statue of a boy on a dolphin behind an old renovated mill.
All along the paved roads tavernas and chic cafes welcome sightseers, and the items on the menus are surprisingly affordable. While modern conveniences are present (three banks and a post office), Hydra, which is under a preservation order, is replete with old sanctuaries; and any new building work must conform to the architectural styles of its past.
Hydra’s allure is of an old-fashioned port settlement. Adding to the romance are the more than 200 chapels, the monasteries, picturesquewhitewashedvillashuggingthe hillsides, and mansions-cum-museums whose contents reveal the buildings’ past as fortresses against pirate attacks, and the island as a bastion of Greece’s struggles for liberation against the Ottoman empire in 1821.
I arrived here by the yacht Cosmos
which will take me to two more islands, with brief stops at each. The trip to Hydra takes three hours from Marina Kallitheas in Athens. I have an hour and 50 minutes to look around on my own (since I did not take up the guided walking tour, available for a fee).
The donkeys at the harbourfront can be hired for riding or carrying luggage. Getting around Hydra or to one of its beaches is either by riding the donkeys or water taxi. Apart from beach activities, there are also hikingandhorseriding. Butforthesemore time-consuming attractions, I would have to stay overnight.
So for now, I follow the melodious peal of church bells past a high gate and find myself in the stone courtyard of the Church of the Dormitian of the Virgin Mary. The grounds