Aegina Island and Nafplio (bonus: Lake Vouliagmeni)

Well, I just typed a blog post to tell all about Athens, but then I remembered that Lindsay already did that! So that was 30 minutes down the drain. This blog post will be much less exciting now because my life has taken such a terrible turn for the worst with this revelation!

While Lindsay was typing the last blog post, I was at a really, really awesome place called Lake Vouliagmeni. It’s a lake that maintains (according to google) a 24 C (75 F) temperature all year round. Sadly, I didn’t take any photos, but it’s a pretty magical place. Basically I took a bus South from Athens for ~1.5 hours, got off and walked 500 feet to this “resort” (which isn’t really a resort, though I bet in the summer it’s pretty fancy/happenin’). Keep in mind it’s relatively cold here, ~40 F, and I’m wearing 5 layers + hat + gloves. I paid my 10 euro (one of the more expensive things I’ve done on this trip) and put my stuff (bag, towel I brought, etc) at a table next to the water. If it was the summer, this would be where people were sitting out drinking wine, eating fancy foods, etc. But when I was there the tables were mostly empty. Anyway, I put my stuff down, stripped down to my trust Speedo, and jumped in the water!

The water, which I wish I had brought my gopro for, was beautiful, beautiful water. It’s brackish and there are a number of sea like creatures living in it (something similar to sea anemones?) in addition to these little man eating fish. I say man-eating fish, because they are man eating, but they only eat little bits of dead skin off your feet. It was like one of those fancy spas where the fish eat your dead skin, except it was in a very beautiful, clean, deep, crystal clear(ish) lake! But the fish were pretty awesome, and I have some serious (and slightly painful) calluses I’ve built up over the last 6 months or so, so it was actually pretty handy to have fish eat them for me. Also, this wasn’t a joke, there were literally 100+ little fish at a time.

But, the fish were not the coolest part. The coolest part was that I could swim out to a deeper area of the lake, and I was able to (sort of) do a bit of freediving practice. Quite honestly I had a chill at this point, so it was a bit tough for me to relax and really work on my breathing, but I was able to dive down to the bottom of the lake along a decent line to 35 or so feet, which was fun. I’ve been carrying a mask and snorkel with me for the past 6 months (through Canada, then through the rest of our trip) and this was the first time since Canada that I’ve had a reason to use the mask/snorkel.

Sadly I didn’t get any photos as I forgot my camera, but the lake’s website has a few photos, and Google image search has a bunch of photos that give a pretty good idea.

Anyway, the next day Lindsay and I left for Aegina Island. We took the metro down to the port in Athens, and then we took a ferry (the flying dolphin!) to the Aegina. It was a short trip really, only took us 40 minutes from the port to the Island.

Here is the town/port of Aegina near where we arrived from the ferry
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When we got to the island, we were quite honestly thrilled. Lindsay and I both really love the water, and an island happens to be surrounded by it. Beautiful water in fact. The island of Aegina is (especially during the winter) very slow and quiet. This has been the case most places we’ve been because it’s the winter and quite honestly most places we’ve been are a bit more comfortable during the summer. Swimming and sun bathing and that type of thing are what this island would be great for, sitting out on a hot summer day and drinking a (cheap!) beer. But during the winter things are likely just as beautiful, we’re just more likely to be looking for a warm coffee in a heated cafe (more difficult to find then you’d guess!). Anyway, I’m sending mixed messages here. Basically the island was beautiful, but felt a bit “dead” because it’s the low season. In the summer I guess many rich people in Athens come to Aegina to live, and many tourists come to enjoy the sun/water as it’s a quick day trip from Athens. But none of those people were there.

various photos of the beautiful water
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We stayed in an AirBnB apartment again, in the small town of Perdika. It’s about 15-20 minute drive by taxi/scooter. We were staying in a very cute/homey little studio apartment. It had a wood stove (which we were ironically too cold to use), a little propane stove for cooking, and a space heater for heat.

The road almost to the studio we stayed at in Perdika
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Our kitchen
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Lindsay cooking in the kitchen (recipe: mulled de la 2.98 for 1 liter wino rojo)
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Me drinking coffee (?) and eating something (maybe dinner? or some garbage sweet thing?)
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Our host brought me the night we arrived back into the marina (Aegina, the main town on the island) and she brought me to a friend who rents scooters. I rented a 80cc scooter (2 stroke though!) for 25 euro for three days. I can’t describe how happy I was about this, there is little I love more then riding around little beautiful islands on a scooter. The drive back from town to Perdika was something I hope I’ll remember because it was pretty magical. Cold, crisp, the sun setting, driving along the coast, passing a bunch of “cute” Greek fishing boats and various small harbors. etc. Very awesome.

Our scooter, parked at the studio
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This is from a different night on the island, but basically is what I saw while scootering back home
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Me with my trusty helmet about to set out home (except actually from the next day again, but let’s pretend)
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That night Lindz and I slept well, but the next day we went outside and it seemed that there was a hurricane. There wasn’t really, I don’t think, but it was incredibly windy and raining a bit and very very cold. This was a bit of a “yolo” decision, but we didn’t want to sit inside all day so we decided to brave the weather and ride the scooter back into town so we could go to a cafe and get some coffee and some groceries to make dinner with. Anyway, on the ride I had one eye closes the entire time, and the other eye was squinting. If you clothes one eye completely, and then squint the other so that your eye lashes nearly completely keep you from seeing, that’s how I was driving. The trick was to go fast enough so we didn’t have to drive in the miserable cold with ice rain stinging our faces for hours, but slow enough that we didn’t outright die. This picture is probably one of the best memories from the Greece trip, and is 100% out of the camera and with as far as I can tell pretty reasonable white balance.

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hella
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Anyway, the next few days we basically did the same thing, except with better weather. Still bone-chilling after 3 hours or so out exploring around the island (we drove around MOST of the circumference), but not so bad that I had to drive with my eyes shut. We drove around the island on the scooter, went to get food at grocery stores (yogurt, chocolate, bread filled with chocolate spread, eggs, sausage, beer and wine and ouzo), and got a gyro every once in a while. Then we’d walk around the town a bit, then head back to our place and cook dinner, research the next leg of our trip, and when the internet worked watch Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

exploring, etc
(imagine some of these places during the summer… they’d look the same, but there would be tons of people sun bathing in bathing suits, and we wouldn’t be wearing gloves)
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Lindsay being bad-ass (like Mac)
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Dead sea urchin decorated by the ocean for xmas
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The day we left Aegina we had to make our way down to Nafplio. As the crow flys our AirBnB place was only 60 kilometers-ish from our AirBnB place on the island, let me tell you, we did NOT travel as the crow flys. Instead we road the scooter back to Aegina port, then took a ferry back to Athens, then a bus to a larger bus station in the opposite part of Athens, then finally a 3 hour bus to Nafplio.

View of Nafplio from our guest house (I think..)
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Nafplio is apparently the original capital of Greece. I’ll save some time by telling you that Nafplio felt a lot like Aegina did in terms of being out of season, but it was just as beautiful if not more so. Well, probably less beautiful actually, but more of a fancy sort of old town feel. Lots of fancy stores, etc, but also beautiful beautiful water.

water and boats, fancy stores, etc
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On our first full day in Nafplio (actually we only really had one FULL day) Lindsay and I hiked up “999” stairs to Palamidi Castle. I use quotes because the claim of 999 stairs seems to be in question. Actually if I read the wikipedia article I could probably find out the actual number of stairs, but if I had to guess I’d guess 917 stairs. I counted 3 sets of 100 stairs, give or take, and that was far less then half of the stairs I’m guessing.

This is some of the castles and bastions (Ian, if you happen to read this, I can’t tell you how many times I thought of you on this day as every single little plaque thing that explained the history said “… something-something bastion was build in …”
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A thing in the water
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I guess the number of stairs don’t matter that much. The point is, we walked up this thing which gave us an awesome view of the city. The most important thing that we saw, from way up on this hill, was that in the beautiful water near our guest house (where we had talked about wishing it was summer so we could go swimming!) there were a number of people in the water, swimming! In the water! So we got up to the castle, explored a bit, took some pictures, then we raced our asses down those 999 or not stairs, ran back to our guest house, grabbed our swim suits and mask and snorkels, and went swimming!

Note that in this picture, I think that thing in the water is a person swimming!
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Here is another picture of a different person swimming in the same place!
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Let me tell you, for the second time, we really love the water. The water was so beautiful, very clear (I’m guessing 40-50 foot vis), and not all that cold. Thanks to Marc, I can tell you the water was 18 C, or ~64 F. The air was considerably colder (we passed a small pond that had ice on the surface while running to grab our swim stuff), but oh well. The sun was bright and warm. I found a octopus! And Lindsay found some fish!

This doesn’t really demonstrate how great the water was, but sort of I guess
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The before/after swimming location
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Bonus: after swimming Lindsay and I was going through the rocks on the beach (which reminded us a lot of a beach along Lake Superior in the UP) and we found something very similar (if not) agates! A bunch of them! I’m hoping to take them with me when we visit Nicola’s family so perhaps his Dad (or Mom!) can tell us if they are in fact agates.

After the swimming, I ate a bunch of baklava, and a bunch of different types of baklava. Note that “baklava” may not be the correct word, but if you saw what I was eating that’s probably what you’d call it.

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This is a bite Lindsay gave me that I was selfish and greedy and took a HUGE bite

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That pretty much brings us to today. Today we woke up and had breakfast (provided by our guest house), then we took the same bus we took down here back up to Athens. Then we took another few buses to the guy we are currently staying with (super nice guy named Chris). Now, we’re freeeezing in bed, typing this blog post and figuring out what time we need to leave to get to the airport. Lindsay thinks we’ll be fine leaving at 6AM, I would feel more comfortable leaving at 5:41AM. If the next blog post involves a “we missed our flight” then I guess we’ll know who was right.

So, tomorrow we go to the airport (ATH), and from there we fly to Budapest! Budapest for 7 days!

Athens, a Graffiti wonderland.

So, it turns out Athens is a graffiti wonderland, and it’s AWESOME. Literally every step of the way to the Acropolis and Acropolis museum was covered in graffiti. Of course, no pictures do it justice, but I can assure you, you would have thought it was awesome too. Every few minutes had me saying “Babe! Just one sec!” *snap* etc. which is why you’ll see him waiting for me in so many pictures….:)

BUT SERIOUSLY! LOOK AT THAT COLOR!

IMG_3438IMG_3413IMG_3426IMG_3428IMG_3398IMG_3406IMG_3435IMG_3430IMG_3414IMG_3421Even where there’s supposed to be NO color, there’s color.IMG_3423IMG_3439IMG_3415IMG_3417IMG_3416IMG_3452We had to walk straight up to get to the Acropolis museum (and to see the Parthenon) but it was well worth the climb. The museum was filled to the brim with pieces (4,000!) of every artifact found on the rock and on the feet of the Acropolis, from the Greek Bronze Age, to Roman and Byzantine Greece.  While wisps of info about Athena and Zeus and Hercules wafted around in my head before the exhibits, it was incredible to see just how ornate and modern people were in regards to their art, language and architecture. Pictures weren’t allowed inside the museum, but we found a great view of our next goal for the afternoon: climbing Mt. Lycabettus to get a 360 degree view of Athens. (View from museum)IMG_3455IMG_3446Sweat. Nature’s blush.IMG_3467IMG_3478IMG_3462IMG_3466

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On the hike down, we decided to get some more delicious gyros (only $2 Euro!) and enjoy the city square at sunset. As you can see, it was pretty glorious. Just 2 days in, Athens has FAR exceeded our expectations in regards to the UNBELIEVABLE food, genuine warmth from the citizens of Greece and overall history and beauty. Pretty stoked to be here.IMG_3461Great view of Parthenon from the square.IMG_3482