Day 3: Poros to Hydra

Dinner in the highly recommended Gian mas restaurant last night was the usual disappointing Greek restaurant. I shared a grilled fish platter with S. By the time it arrived, an hour later, it was cold and we’d filled up on bread. So, I made three cats very happy. I figured they would enjoy the food more than we did. 

The messy leftovers near the table were not my problem. Make cat-quality food, slowly, serve it cold, what should a restaurant expect unhappy customers to do? 

Looking forward to Hydra today. We have to leave early to get a decent berth apparently so we don’t have to walk across other boats. 

Don’t feel sorry for me: ‘early’ is 08:30! And I’m in a cafe over the road having coffee now, at 07:36, and there’s not much life on our boat yet with breakfast still to be served and eaten. 

One person is sleeping in the salon, at the meal table. She hates her cabin, a 2 berth. Despite being the sole occupant she opted to move out and refers to it as the sarcophagus. 

Two have bunks in the other aft cabin, the captain is in the proper aft cabin, under the anchor locker. The remaining 2 of us each have a single in the stern of the boat. Us with singles are each next to a shared head. I like my room. Not spacious but well and truly enough for one. 

The heads

Turn little lever to the left, action, pump 10-15 times to clear ‘the act’ away, turn lever other way and pump about 5 times. Despite living next to a head, it’s very quiet during the night. 

Shipmates

Now, my fellow travellers are continuing to prove interesting. L has a few difficult corners. I avoid them so I can enjoy her intelligence etc. C has remained fun, lighthearted, easy to be around. D insists on chattering and always giving all the details. When I bought this from the x store….; stating the bleeding obvious as to why something is being done a particular way; and incessantly relating what her adult kids do and like; ahhhh. Like an OTT primary school teacher but one who is unable to adapt when her pupils show signs of understanding something. S is hard to describe. So far beyond my experience I have trouble. Put it this way, we motored for hours to Hydra, competed with many other yachts for a berth, docked and are now off it and she stayed zonked out through all this. She was up a few times overnight and obviously can’t sleep without chemical assistance.  

And the Captain: very impressive. Knows what she wants and gets it. More when I get over the horrors of getting a berth in Hydra! Unbelievable…. 

Brief spat between 2 of the group last night – big cultural difference (poor white  – ‘now rich’ vs ‘longstanding’ money & class & education). An interesting point: ‘Now rich’ flew 1st class for her first trip, ‘longstanding’ only flies business class. 😁

I missed another couple of spats apparently. One was to do with S smoking in her cabin and the other, I don’t know. Don’t really want to know either. Happier to be out of it but did spend time last night with S to keep her away from L. 

Must go. Cook/first mate has just come into cafe I’m in. Guess it means no action yet on boat, especially with L sleeping at the table!

Leaving Poros

The yacht leaving before us had its anchor caught up in ours. Drama, as the other skipper was not especially proficient and, had problems with his winch as well.  The anchor had to be pulled up and the other chain lassoed and pulled off. Not unusual apparently. 

Why are so many men resistant to help from better qualified women? Our captain, Valerie, is clearly very competent and in the end he had to use her suggestions.  Ha ha!  A Brit, so he didn’t have a language excuse for being an ignorant arsehole.  Hope he felt he lost face ++. He did. 😁

Arrival in Hydra

We arrived at about 10:00. Well, so did 6 other boats, just behind us. And the morning exodus from Hydra hadn’t yet started. Well, the manoeuvring forwards and backwards so no one ran into anyone else and we preserved an order of arrival for berth selection was a little stressful!  The narrow harbour entrance with so many boats manoeuvring compounded the stress levels. Our captain is impressive. And we got a good berth as a consequence. Hydra has no shore power for anyone but our location was great.

Hydra

I need to walk. Got wifi, had a coffee and I’m off walking. Once I download a map.  

As usual, the monastery is on top of a hill, about an hour above the town. What is more impressive than most is its location right up on top of the overlooking hill. Good view from up there down over the town.

Hydra is my favourite place by far. Clearly many rich visitors, see the prices in the shops. Lots of donkeys, cats and big and small boats. Truly beautifully maintained place. Very obviously wealthy. 

No vehicles, except a dead tractor, one cart and the garbage truck.

Life on the boat (Soapie: take 5)
We have an undeclared war operating. Madam ‘now rich’ is drinking all hours of the day and night and smoking on the boat. These 2 activities guarantee she will upset most others. Plus, she keeps odd hours, very odd. Last night she was perched on the edge of the deck loudly chatting up a guy from another boat until at least 02:00. Then she apparently clanked her way around in the fridge getting ice for her next drinks. Unusually, she is up now, 07:00 ish. A bottle is still on the deck and a glass with a red ring under it. 

The other 3 are endlessly fascinated, and reasonably, annoyed by her. I sleep very well so don’t hear much of the nocturnal activity. Heard ‘her’ visiting guy serenading her very proficiently, with a guitar, and I went off to sleep again. Thankfully I can keep separate from all others. Some are horse riding this morning so I’ll go walking, alone, again. Very happily. But, this is not a well functioning group! 
In truth, the preaching supply teacher bugs me more with her excessive details on EVERYTHING. But, she is very personable and nice so I try to just tune out. I’m getting better at that. And I go off alone. Phew…..

And madam ‘now rich’ seems to feel I’m an ally as I listen to her repeat the same stories every opportunity she can. I limit them but get caught at times!

Wifi is godawful so only very very small photos are uploadable!

Day 2 sailing: Epidavros to Poros

Day 2 Our itinerary is changed, again. Forty boats, 2 flotillas, are expected are the place we were heading to on Thursday so, we have rescheduled Poros to today, Monday.

The sunrise was spectacular.

A walk along the waterfront interesting: from the 3 Brits testing their fitness, a pussy looking for food and others avoiding dogs, to boats and the bay.

Our first stop was beside an underwater town. Three thousand or so years old,  close to shore and only 1.5 plus metres deep. Undersea you can see some remaining walls, huge broken amphorae, and some wells. 

It’s really special and not yet in guide books as little is known about it and indeed, found only relatively recently.  In fact, this place is in the bay featured on the last entry in this blog, near Epidavros. Why was this submerged? Forgotten? Presumably a consequence of earthquake activity sometime.  S picked up a few sea urchins: one was sacrificed before crowd pressure won out and the rest went back home, into the depths. 


The water was warm, maybe about 24C, and so clear you could see a few metres depth. The Canadians stayed in forever, not finding it eventually got cold, like some of the rest of us. 


Lunch

We stopped for lunch in a bay with beautiful aqua water. The plan was lunch + swim. Four, or was it five, other boats made it a little crowded. 

Touristing via a boat is getting busier and more competitive every year apparently. After the mini armada we saw heading our way this afternoon I can believe it. 


Thought we might do WW3 with the German boat as she cut across as beam as we were backing into a berth. Our captain had to alert them. Even as we left athens another boat tried to cut across us. We had right of way and the bit of testosterone behind the wheel seemed intent on winning, despite being in the wrong. Our captain, Valerie, was very effective.  Both times 👍

Did I tell you that 3 of the 7 of us are called Val? Unbelievable! So we now have Cookie, Valerie and Val. A little less confusing. 

Poros

Coming in to get a berth in Poros, first mate on lookout. 

Beautiful town. I’m not going to describe it. Beautiful covers it.



Athens before the sailing trip

The little church part way up the top of St George hill was shut. Open on the way down so I joined the three people heading into it. A priest entered and, looking serious, walked its perimeter waving a smoking thing, blessing the church for another day. 


The interior is spectacular, built onto a solid rock hillside. The natural rock is exposed on a couple of the inner walls and the church has the special gold haloed paintings that mark the Orthodox Church. Equally distinctive are the great heavy black dresses the priests wear, topped with a solid black beard and pillbox hat. And as they enter the locals cross themselves and kiss multiple glass covered portraits of saints and, if available, the cross.

Not sure what it means but a priest was distributing bread rolls in a plastic bag to all of us. I accepted, as it seemed politer to do so, and was happy to see ground feeding birds on my way down. Of course they were hungry and looking to me as St Francis. 😏 Too easy as the roll was um, very easily crumbled, definitely stale. 

So pleased I visited again. Even found the railway up here this time, looking very shut as the next train, the 09:30, seemed like many others scheduled before and after it, unlikely to run. Who knows. 

Honestly, although I’ve loved my few days here i am glad I’ll only have another 20 odd hours after leaving the boat. The veneer is one of prosperity, tourists having a good time, buying and eating up. The reality is, I suspect very different for most. Too much graffiti and too many empty shops, ashtrays and young men loitering. Churches seem to be doing a great trade. Correlated with hard times or just the usual level of devotion here? 

Boats

We are meeting at 5pm down at one of the marinas. Huge. So many hundreds of thousands of $ of boats moored here. Some huge and some moderate but many look very expensive. 

Finally, we met. Two Americans, 2 Canadians and 1 Aussie (me) as paying passengers plus the cook and the captain. 

The other 4, all except the crew and me, are on deck busy testing their alcohol tolerance. Most are fairly drunk and repeating the same stories. One is very drunk. I expect headaches tomorrow for at least 2 of them. Only 21:30 and there are more bottles to go yet. 

Dinner was listed on the itinerary but, all we got was a few bread sticks, little tomatoes, bits of cheese and salami. Not a good start and very limited options around here. 

They are onto their marriages and deep truths, numbers of marriages at present. 

Very comfortable night. Little movement of the boat, hard to tell we were in a boat. The marina is very protected.

Another day in Athens

Everything stays the same and it doesn’t. One of my favourite sites in Athens is now fenced off, behind one of the long line of paying would-be visitors. Even with my nose between the bars I couldn’t see but, i think I heard earlier it’s being ‘renovated’. The wonderful little Dionysius theatre Neil and I visited on the downhill side of the acropolis. We were alone so he checked the acoustics by performing down in the stage area. Now, fenced off, being fixed, who needs to see it like that. Better to retain a good image, perhaps idealised, of what it was like.

Similarly with going back to the Acropolis. The crowd size, even by 9ish, was not pleasant. A small part of it is visible in my very bad photo of one access area. 

All around are the remnants of past civilisations, classical geeece, Román and even a little evidence of the long time the Turk’s ruled here. Imagine the archeologists’ pleasure every time a hole is dug. And the finds when they put in the underground stations. Wow! 

Meanwhile, the two soldiers in syntagma square continue with their strange ritualised and stylised performance. Sometimes looks like ritualised fighting, and sometimes just a silly anachronistic dance that must have once had meaning. Why keep it going otherwise? Tourist trade alone doesn’t seem enough. I did think they wore white skirts, maybe they have a seasonal uniform. White skirts look smarter than brown on soldiers. 😏

A very significant outing for me here last time was with Klaus, to a concert, a Turkish violinist playing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D. I already knew the music, her playing was exquisite and I had such a great night. Maybe it was my first orchestral concert ever. Whatever it was so memorable. 

Yes, here for just a bit over a day and I’ve already bought a new hat. Might even replace my solar hat. Time will tell if it’s sufficiently durable. The label says it’s made of paper so, no doubt recyclable, whether you love or it or not. And I love it. 

Met 2 of my new companions for dinner. Another 2 tomorrow. Of the first two, one is very pleasant and easy going. The other is hard for me to hear and has, I think, a very different view of the world. She disagreed with almost everything I said, except for one thing: we 3 all agreed dinner tonight wasn’t good. Ugh! Very average, with an undeserved positive rating on the web. 

For once, I found conversation lagged at dinner time. Not a problem I usually have but people need to participate, to develop and extend topics and to avoid culturally excluding topics. I neither know nor care to know which party governs which states in Canada. Boring! Unless you live there or it is an internationally noteworthy person. And being with anyone who has to have done more, seen more, been more is yawn, yawn. Yup, rather than go with them for a drink I gave a flimsy excuse and came back to my room. And went out for a walk, alone, a few minutes later.  

We will share a taxi from the hotel at 3 tomorrow to Piraeus, where we meet the others and the boat. Until then our paths probably won’t cross much as they’ll go to late breakfast, visit the acropolis and I’ll eat early, as usual, and go up the other hill again to St George’s on the top. 

 

And take the time to gird my loins to help ensure a good time is had by all. And I expect to have a good time! What’s not to like on a yacht sailing the Aegean for a week 😁.

A day in Athens

After a very nice inhouse breakfast I headed towards, wherever. First stop the beautiful little old church down the street a little way. Orthodox and with men singing and chanting and a priest in a fancy dress kept his back to us all as he ‘did things’ and mumbled incantations. Small church, a chapel even. The (mainly) pedestrian roads go around it.

Very busy, mainly women inside, each kissing one or more pictures, or the cross, as they entered. All the while, outside, a drone buzzed irritatingly about 4 m above ground all around the building. I often wonder who watches the crappy movies most drone flyers must make! Must be like the horrible slide evenings we attended as kids: poor quality slides, boring and worse. Thankfully the drone was disappeared quickly at the behest of two police officers. 

Smoking is common. I’m having coffee outside and, as usual, most are smoking. More common even than in spain. So is the graffiti on buildings, stationery objects generally. Ugly tagging mostly and many empty shops in places. It’s a bit depressing on the edges of the central tourist area. 

My neighbours in the cafe are speaking Spanish. One is learning, and sounds good. Very few english speakers. Well, except for a small proportion of my fellow 50,000 tourists. The hotel tv has only 1 english and 1 French language channel. Rest are Greek. Signs and shop names are often in english and Greek. Except for IKEA. Of course.

The cafe is in one of the streets running through the large fresh produce market. Maybe it’s the day or season, maybe it’s because I’ve seen so many more markets all over the world since I was here the first time but it’s a little tired and rundown. Bought figs but reckon I’ve done my dough. I just can’t pick them. Cheap and very possibly past being cheerful. Fingers crossed I’m not too late for the Spanish fig season. Roadside fig and blackberry pickings were sparse last year as it’d been so dry. This year? 🤞

And the cakes. Lots everywhere. No longer tempting. And then there’s the rice pudding….😸 Now that is a favourite I remember here last time, an improvement on the yellow, pink or chocolate coloured versions of the then-recent rice pudding from boarding school. Yes, school milk generally was one of those 3 colours in Tasmania. Luckily for me  😏. 

And now, I’m near the top of the big hill that looks over to the acropolis and the port of Piraeus. At the station of the cross 14 (?) chapel, below, a beautiful male voice was chanting and you could hear him from a long way down the hill. Lots of people in and standing around the small chapel with its many colourful pennants. 

Don’t know why so many as they were not obviously tourists. Like being part of the church overflow at a funeral. Maybe it was. After a while I left and continued to the top of the hill and the cafe. The view just gets better and better as you go up. I thought it was St Johns hill but it’s George’s church at the top. And many maps here use Greek script so I can’t always read the text.  

You can see the acropolis from here and right past it to the port of Piraeus, where my little sailing group will meet on Saturday. 
Made one error with the sailing trip: didn’t read the what-to-take list until late. My focus was on collecting lightweight gear for walking in spain after the boat. 

Imagine my surprise when I found the list recommended a dress or skirt to wear to dinner! A dress! For dinner! Years since I tried one on. Not sure what it means for who my fellow travellers will be. Two arrive from Canada tomorrow and are staying in the same place as me. So, interesting times. I know there is one coming in on the Saturday from the USA. Maybe there are only 4 of us. I think 6 was the upper limit. I’ll soon know. 

Slept ok last night. If you ignore two hours of drinking coffee, reading and hoping to sleep again from about 2am on. Finished the few dates left over from my time in the emirates club in Dubai. So tonight I’m starving. Grilled octopus and greens at a place nearby that got a good write up. Seem to be in a reasonable area, to the side of the Plaka. Could just be that many places near here are written up because it’s a tourist area and it means little for the food! More a function of customer numbers. Hopefully not.     

And the meal was fine. Locally picked greens, the slight bitterness countered by sliced and grilled capsicum and small tomatoes and also some grilled octopus on a lentil salad. A good dinner. Yup, kiddies hour so getting a seat was easy and I could ignore the nearby smokers. 

Clearly there is a positive association between poor economic circumstances and smoking. Graffiti, the tagging type, fits in that equation too.

Absence of pictures? Did you guess wifi upload speed? Yup! Less than 0.01Mb/sec. Equals semi moribund. Equals no pictures this time. 

Quick overview: Athens then and now

Athens airport seems a little small and rundown. But, it was very efficient.
The last time I was there was in 1974, happily farewelling Neil P who was heading off to with a NZ woman we’d met on Crete or Santorini. A very good outcome from my perspective as it was clear by then that we had little in common, except our previous (forgettable) time together in Tasmania! 

Athens

Easy getting a taxi at Athens airport today. Fixed cost to the city centre, the tourist mecca. And it was wonderful coming in. Unbelievably, I recognised streets and hills that I’d not seen for over 40 years. The numbers of trees, the extensive foliage in the city surprised me. Perhaps because I was there through late winter, into spring and it’s now late summer/early autumn. Also, the inner area streets are much narrower than I’d remembered. And many, more beautiful. 

Can’t quite figure which street Funny Trumpets was in but it was very near the Athens Status Hotel I’m in this time, in Petrakis Street. I loved this area. Walked it extensively over my time here previously. After one trip to Crete and Santorini i had to stay somewhere else when I returned, the nearby YMCA, with its cheap meals. Not the same as the 11 bunk bed room I was used to in Funny Trumpets. That was where the Canadian oil rig worker sleeping on the bottom bed on my bunk used to go out nightly, get very drunk, and occasionally vomit in his bunk. Charming! And while it was memorable it was still better than my first night on a bunk in a semiprivate room in Funny Trumpets. On the other wall of the small room was a double bed with a very active couple in it. One long night of involuntary voyeurism was too much. After that the big bunk room was much better, irrespective of what my lower bunk occupant did. 

Back to present day Athens. My room is so much better with its shared balcony and private bathroom. And it’s big. 

The same things still seem to be on sale as 40+ years ago, outdoor eating, clothes (not strange eyed kids as might appear) and genuine relics (?).


And I am so looking forward to Thursday’s explorations! The day started with breakfast and the Acropolis. Many more views of that area to come. But, first, some early street walking on another warm day in central Athens. 🤗