Day Trip to Aegina

NOVEMBER 23 : Today was our last day in Athens, and we spent the day visiting Aegina – an island about an hour off the coast from Piraeus.  The port of Piraeus is the main sea port of Athens, southwest of the city center. It is the last stop on both the green and blue subway lines.

We arrived at the port, bought tickets and then wandered through the huge port looking for our ferry. It seemed like we took one wrong turn after another. The place was huge. We finally found someone to ask, who pointed us in the right direction. We learned that our ferry had not yet arrived.

Ten minutes before we were to depart, our ferry pulled into the harbor. Within those 10 minutes, the ferry docked, the arriving passengers disembarked, the new passengers climbed on-board, and we left on time. Very efficiently done.

This boat was a high-speed hydrofoil ferry. The crossing would only take 50 minutes.

Being on this ferry was very similar to being on an airplane – just that the cabin was wider. We were indoors with windows that do not open. There were compartments overhead for baggage. On the back of the chair ahead of us, there was a drop-down tray with a cup holder. There was also a pocket with a sheet of emergency instructions. Before we left the shore, a crew member demonstrated the use of the life jackets and pointed out the emergency exits.

I wish the comparison ended there – but it continued. Just like on a plane, when you feel sick when there is turbulence – this was the same. We were thrown from side to side and up and down. I was thankful they had vomit bags in the seat pocket, just like on a plane. This was 50 minutes of rough seas, that made me wonder why we were doing this. This was a completely different experience than the ferry to Corfu, which was very enjoyable.

We reached the port in Aegina, and gladly disembarked to walk on firm land. The first thing we noticed were the many stands selling pistachios. Aegina is known for their pistachios, which are grown locally. They are a unique variety of pistachio that thrives on the island and they have a special flavor – a bit sweeter than other pistachios.

We came to Aegina because we knew of an ancient mosaic of a synagogue floor that was discovered here. It is now displayed in the yard of the Archaeological Museum of Aegina. This was our first destination, a short walk from the port.

As soon as you enter the grounds of the museum, outdoors on your right is the synagogue mosaic. The mosaic is undoubtedly from a 4th century synagogue, thanks to two inscriptions in Greek that refer to the construction of the synagogue using donations from the community. In 2019, there was a crowd-funding campaign to raise money to help preserve the mosaic, and in 2020 it reached its goal for contributions. Since then, I am not sure what happened – if the preservation work was already done or not.

The Archaeological Museum of Aegina, founded in 1829, was the first National Museum of Greece.  On the museum grounds, is the Archaeological site of Kolona. This was the Acropolis of Aegina in ancient times. At the top of the hill is the Temple of Apollo, with one pillar left standing.

The museum exhibits what was found at the archaeological site as well as additional finds ranging from prehistoric to Roman times from all over Greece.

After our visit at the museum, we wandered through the alleyways of the town. Being off-season, only some of the stores were open. At the harbor, was a large billboard detailing different hikes to take in Aegina. It seems like a nice place to return to one day, rent a car, and explore beyond the port city.

The way back to Athens in the ferry was just as choppy as the way to Aegina. We arrived back at Piraeus port and took the subway to the center of town. After the turbulent ride, we both were not feeling great, and returned to our apartment to rest.

As a special treat for our last night in Athens, we had reservations at Winners, a vegan gourmet restaurant located in the Niki Athens hotel. We eat in vegan restaurants all over the world, and this hands-down was the best. The food was different, creative, and delicious. Each dish had a long list of ingredients, and each ingredient was perfectly handled. We spoke with the chef, who told us that he aims to make this a known restaurant for anyone, not just for vegans. I guess he liked the compliments we gave him, because he treated us to a vegan pavlova desert on the house. We think he is well on his way to establishing that vegan food can be tasty to all. This was a really nice way to say good-bye to Athens.

Back in the apartment, we packed our many suitcases to be ready for our flight tomorrow morning to Crete. Bye-bye nice place.