The Dream Comes Crashing Down

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April 23rd 2010
Published: May 11th 2010
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Going to Aegina could have been a low point, or just the most hilarious point of our travels. It started out like a great adventure—Greek yogurt and honey for breakfast, then metro to the taxi to the port. When the taxi driver asked us which gate at the port we wanted to go to, we all enjoyed replying “anywhere…”

We found tickets pretty easily—10 euro tickets on a boat that left in half an hour to Aegina, the island that was closest to Athens. We had spent about 2.5 minutes looking it up the night before and Denise had scrawled the name of a Hotel that looked really cheap but had really great reviews on the island, and was right next to the supposedly best beach on the island, although we didn’t know if we’d really need it, because if Aegina was anything like Ios, there would be lots of shuttles to different hotels at the port, all of which should have room. But we had looked up the name of one, just in case.

We embarked on our one hour boat ride, and halfway through, everyone seemed to be getting up and causing a commotion on the deck. We followed suit, and saw that our boat was being invaded by The Greek Navy. Typical. Apparently they were practicing or something, but it was really intense! There was a rope ladder that they were climbing up from the water and onto the deck, then they were crouching with their machine guns and patrolling the boat. There was even a helicopter next to our boat that people were jumping out of!

The first sight of Aegina was beautiful. The weather was beautiful and the water was the most beautiful aquamarine. We got off the ferry, thinking the island wasn’t actually that big. Look left…look right…no shuttles for hotels. OK, I guess we’ll just track down Hotel Rachel, the one Denise had written down from the night before. We had the address…now if only we had a map…we considered just walking around the town a bit—it didn’t look too large, but instead we stood dumbfounded staring at the tiny map that was posted on the side of a closed information kiosk with only Greek words and letters, trying to figure out where we were and how exactly one would spell this street name in Greek, and then where exactly this was on the map in comparison to our still unknown location. Instead we turned to the nearest taxi and told him to take us to Hotel Rachel (which he thankfully knew right off the bat—good thing we had the name of a hotel.)

We drove through the city…and then left the city. And were on a lone windy road on Aegina, surrounded by desert-type vegetation. Apparently that hotel was not in the town where our boat had dropped us off but…in the middle of nowhere? Our taxi driver’s English wasn’t very good, but after some asking we were able to figure out that the hotel was indeed on the other side of the island. We asked him what the main things were to see on the island, what we needed to make sure we saw while we were there. He asked how long we were there and we said probably a week, to which he replied, “Oh, one week you can’t see anything! You need to stay for a month.” (Are you serious? I don’t think it would take a month to see any island except maybe Australia, but that doubles as a continent.) In the end, the only information he gave us was that the island was famous for its pistachios. Cool.

We arrived at Hotel Rachel which was in the middle of a tiny town which consisted of souvenir shops. We go into the hotel, ask if they have room for three people (the eager, of course! should have been a hint, but no…not yet.) It was only 15 euro a night each—cheaper than we had thought! What a great deal! We paid for three nights right away, not knowing if we would want to stay stranded there until the following Tuesday or move to a different island at some point, or maybe just a different hotel on the island…nonetheless three nights had seemed like a good answer to his question (although apparently we needed to stay 30 to truly see the island…whatever that means).

We followed the hotel guy up the stairs and he led us into our three person room. It was tiny. There were two beds pushed together and a cot made up, pretending to look like a normal bed. As in this wasn’t a two person room and they had just added the cot for us, but this was actually the advertised three person room but the third person got stuck with basically a piece of foam on a small rectangular trampoline. At least we had a small terrace with (if you craned your neck a little…ok a lot…) an ocean view. He also showed us how to plug the fridge in if we wanted to use it—no of course they don’t ALWAYS leave the fridge plugged in (?) He also showed us how to use the heat/air conditioning, being fairly specific with his directions which we didn’t even try to follow later when our room was way too hot and then freezing cold.

Once we saw our room things just kept getting worse and worse. Starting with the bathroom. After emerging from the bathroom for the first time, I came out declaring, “We are leaving on Friday. I cannot stay here more than three nights.” At this time, Allison and Denise thought I was being dramatic, but within a matter of hours they were in complete agreement with me. We “explored town” which was indeed just the one road with souvenir shops, and a few restaurants sprinkled in. We had lunch where we all just kind of sat and stared at the barren-ness around us.

Denise and I tried to go to the beach later, taking the mats with us that the hotel had available for us, but we ended up having to walk over a bunch of furry leaf type things to get to the sand, only to find that the furry things were also covering the beach, along with significant amounts of trash. We sadly laid out our beach mats which took more effort than we had hoped because of the uncooperative wind, only to lie down for about five minutes before deciding that the sand in our eyes and this landfill of a beach was not exactly the place where we wanted to be.

We returned to Allison who had been reading in the room (who doesn’t get cabin fever as easily as me or Denise) and the three of us began formulating a plan of how we could get back to Ios. If we were stuck in Greece until Tuesday, it was not going to be here. However, Greece was doing its favorite thing during this time: striking. No ferries on or off the island until Friday unless we wanted to pay like 300 euro for a water taxi, only to be stuck in Athens again. Also not ideal. We decided to hopefully make the best of the island and stick around until Friday.

The next few days moved at a snail’s pace. All we wanted was to be back in France, and it looked like they were opening flights up again and Mackenzie would probably get back on Thursday. Why hadn’t we taken the risk and booked the same flight as her? We spent these slow days mostly watching movies on my laptop, with an occasional walk “through town.”

Denise and I hiked up to the Temple of Aphea one day, a slightly more intense hike than we were expecting, but it gave us some much needed fresh air. We went back into the main town on the island—the town where the port was that we had come into, thinking that it was larger, but realized that it was just about three roads larger than the town where Hotel Rachel was. We sat and played some backgammon and drank some fresh squeezed orange juice before hopping back on the island’s public bus with wooden seats and Styrofoam insulation to take us back to Hotel Rachel.

We did make one friend at our hotel—a lone traveler of about 75 probably—a retired schoolteacher from West Virginia. He seemed kind of lonely and we would cross paths with him fairly often and it was usually enjoyable to chat with him a bit. He taught us some phrases in Greek and told us stories about when he studied abroad in Greece oh-so-many years ago. We enjoyed our run-ins with him until they started to last well over 20 minutes and he tried to ask us our last names and then try to think of people who he knew that might be related to us. America is just not that small.

Then, Thursday, a miracle happened. Flights were leaving. The ferries would be running the next day. So much for Ios—for the price it would take to get there and stay there until Tuesday, it would be just slightly less than booking a new flight to Paris the next day. So we did it. Leaving Aegina first thing Friday, heading back to France as soon as possible, and hopefully making it back in time to meet the Bucknell group for the excursion in the south of France. We had survived Aegina.

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