And it was wonderful!
Between May, 28th and June, 8th, we (Barbara and yours truly) went to the Cyclades on the Aegean Sea (Kykladen im Ägäischen Meer) for the first time in our lives. We did some kind of “island hopping”. We had no bicycles with us and very little luggage. Greece is a country we often visited in the past, in recent years on the Peloponnese, but we had never seen those wonderful islands. Sometimes in the past, we went to Crete, either with the entire family or just the two of us, riding our bikes. That was about 30 years ago.
One reason why we took this trip was that our children had told us about their adventures. They had done some island hopping more than once and always been rather enthusiastic with their reports. So now we also wanted to make the same experience. Thus, early this summer was the first time we visited the Cyclades.
Barbara had prepared well for the journey: she gathered information on the history, geography and much more about the Cyclades. She had also found ferry connections, places to stay and such. The actual booking was only for the way out to Athens and back in and the first overnight stay in a Piraeus hotel. Everything else was done in an agile manner when we were there – for me, this is the best way to “travel freely”.
The journey lasted eleven nights with little luggage. Here is my report on these twelve wonderful days. As always when I write for my IF blog, I wrote it down for myself – but maybe some of you will also wish to do some island hopping. In that case, you are going to get a lot of information and motivation. And if you want to know more, feel free to contact me.
Saturday, May, 28th, – Flying to Athens
Our flight is Lufthansa LH1750. It is scheduled to depart from Munich at 8:55 hours. That is a rather convenient time. We can take the S-Bahn train from Neubiberg at 6:31 hours. That means we leave home at 6.15 hours and walk to the station. If I get some island hopping, I will gladly rise early. The partner ticket to the airport is 23 EURO. In theory, you could use it for the entire day… But this is not possible because we fly away.
The S7 arrives in Neubiberg on time, but by the time we reach Munich-East, we are a little late (unfortunately, delays on our service line are more the rule than the exception). Due to the short time for changing trains, we do not catch our S8 to the airport. But this is ok: knowing that optimism is something you should not have when it comes to S-Bahn trains, we had expected this and started earlier than strictly necessary.
We had checked-in via internet on the previous day from home and printed our boarding passes. Since we go “economy light”, there is no luggage to check in, so we can go directly to the security counter and on to the gate. The entire flight – two persons return – was 236.02 Euro, all fees and taxes included, with the actual price for the flight relatively cheap (22 € per person, i.e. 88 € of the entire price). Frankly, I do not understand why it is so cheap to go by plane. One reason is probably that airlines are subsidized and that there is no tax on Kerosene.
The call for boarding is on time, so is the departure. Travelling time is 02h 20min. In Athens, all clocks are one hour ahead of Germany, expected arrival time is 12:15 (local time). We arrive a little ahead of time at Athens Eleftherios Venizelo … airport.
First, we go to our Piraeus Hotel. We go by Metro. The airport service is the “red” line, the Piraeus service the green line. That means we have to change trains after more than 10 stops. On the whole, the Metro travelling time was a little more than an hour, the cost was low – 15 € for both of us together– a single trip from the airport is 10 €, but I pay less because I am more than 65 years old, so for me it is only 5 €. A partner ticket for normal persons would have been 18 €. However, the “normal” Athens Metro tickets (not for airport trips) are a lot less expensive.
Barbara chose the hotel because it is both close to the Metro station and close to the harbour. It is the Anita Hotel. I can recommend it. We had booked and paid through booking.com and one night for both of us without breakfast was 35 € . Breakfast is an additional 6 € per person and includes the transfer to the harbour. The Anita is a clean hotel, the people are friendly and the rooms are ok. It is very close to the centre of Piraeus and near the great harbour.
We arrive at the hotel early in the afternoon and consequently have enough time left for Piraeus. We enjoyed that time. Before we started enjoying our time, we decided upon our next leg: We were going to Santorin! So we went to the harbour to buy our tickets. And then the joy began. Near the yacht harbour, we eat a small Greek meal (with wine), walk through the old city centre, and then it is evening already.
Sunday, May, 29th – To Santorin by Ferry
The Delos of Blue Star Ferries starts its journey with us on board at 7:25 hours. The trip to Santorin is rather long. It is well over six hours, because Santorin is situated at the southern end of the Cyclades. Like all other ships we used, the Delos is not a high-speed ship. The ticket is 39.50 € per person, which is actually a rather steep price. The “high speeds” are a lot more expensive and faster, but they are also louder and not very comfortable. On these fast ships, there is hardly any room to sit under the open sky and it is not enjoyable to remain outside.
On board the Delos, we enjoy the sun, the wind blowing through our hair, the view of the Mediterranean Sea and of the islands we pass. Whenever there is a stop on the way, sailing into a harbour is an adventure that gives us special impressions. We arrive at the harbour of Thira on the island of Santorin around 3 p.m.. This is the “new” ferry harbour.
From the harbour, the street goes up to Santorin. The place is rather crowded, even though we are out of season. Many coaches, among them quite a few “local buses” wait for the stream of travellers from the ships onto the island. The bus ticket for the local bus is 2.30 € per person, it is a steep ascent and takes around 20 minutes. At the top of the hill, in the city, there is a “coach station” where we exit. And this is where all the activity is.
First and foremost, we look for a hotel and find the picturesque Lepa. We can choose between a simple room with a balcony and one that is a little more luxurious without balcony/patio – and we take the one with the balcony. The view is of the enchanting hotel area with a small swimming pool. In fact, it is a view as you could easily find it in one of those (older) Greek tourist leaflets. The hotel is cheap, our room is 60 € for two persons and two night. It is situated very conveniently, close to the city centre and not far from the “coach station”.
From our balcony, we have a view of the ocean to the north-east. To be sure, it is not quite as pompous and exciting as the famous west view, but then, it is a rather quiet beauty. Ours is the experience of the pre-season, because during the full season, the rooms cost three times as much – if you find cheap ones at all. Even now, room rates in Santorin only know one direction: up. During the high season, agile travelling is probably not possible this easily and with such a low budget.
We have enough time left for nice strolls. Back at the hotel, we make friends with our landlady. She recommends a restaurant. The evening stroll is along the Caldera. Regardless of this not being the high season, it is quite crowded. To me, it seems like half of the people come from Asia. We hardly hear any German. After the Asians, most of the travellers are French, Italian or English. As we continue our journey, we will not see many more Asians, but then, there will not be many Germans either.
The evening sun makes the panorama even better. Far below, you see the old harbour (where we did not arrive). Two crusaders lie there, their tenders commuting between the ships and the harbour. We can see the steep path that winds its way to the boat dock. We also see tourist boats as they arrive and depart.
When it gets dark, we go to the restaurant our landlady had recommended. It was certainly good advice and we are happy and well-nourished when we go back to the hotel Lepa. When our landlady discovers we are back, she serves us two glasses of cool white wine on the balcony. She also gives us advice for the next day. We choose the least expensive boat trip (20 € per person for around 3.5 hours) and book it instantly. Then we enjoy the evening on our balcony in Santorin and look forward to tomorrow!
Monday, May, 30th – A Day on Santorin
We start the day with a cup of coffee on the hotel roof. And we enjoy the wonderful view. It is a truly nice morning, warm and comfortable with a fresh breeze. We take our time as we go to the harbour where our boat trip is to start at 11:00 hours. As we pass a bakery, we buy some “provisions”. We walk down to the harbour. Alternatively, we could have ridden a donkey or taken the cable car.
The ship arrives on time at 11 a.m. It looks a little touristy. Many Asians board with us and in no time, we start talking friendly with a few nice young ladies from Hongkong. The program includes a stop for submerging in the warm sulfuric water near the ocean and a hike around the crater.
We return to the old harbour around 14:30 h. Now we have to go back up the narrow path. Well, it is rather hot and we are lazy. After all, there is the cable car and the donkey. Barbara takes the donkey and I take the cable car, both are 5 €. And then we can recuperate.
Later in the afternoon, we again meet our landlady. We ask her advice, because we are looking for an island that is a little less noisy. With not so many tourists. Do not misunderstand me: as far as tourism is concerned, Santorin is nowhere near as bad as what I saw in North African countries, like Egypt, Morocco, or Tunisia, or even in India and China. It is a lot more moderate and on a high level – perhaps a little “chic”. With many discotheques, none of which we went to. You really want to have seen it all.
Our landlady recommends Folégandros. As it will turn out, this was extremely good advice. We discover that a ship will depart from Thira with the destination Folégandros very early tomorrow morning. It will leave at 7:00 hours. You should be at the bus station one hour before the ferry departs. That means we want to rise early.
Tuesday, May, 31st – Continuing to Folégandros
When we bought our tickets, they told us we have to take the bus that leaves for the harbour at 6 a.m. However, there is no bus at the central bus station. Instead, there is a hand-written piece of paper on the board telling us that the bus has been cancelled. Well, what a fortunate coincidence that the taxis are leaving just next to it. Consequently, this is my first journey by taxi in a long time. The fixed price to the harbour is 15 €. The driver overtakes whatever is in his way, which means that we go down the snaky slope quite quickly.
The ferry is called ADAM. KORAIS and belongs to ZANTE FERRIES. As all ferries in Greece, it produces a big black plume of smoke that follows the ship and will turn yellow after having travelled a certain distance. This is something that could easily be avoided, but that would cost money. And for this kind of improvement, there seems to be no money left, not only in Greece.
We enter and soon the Korais, with us on board, leaves Thira and “steams“towards Folégandros. The trip is never boring and lasts three hours. The tickets are 25 € per person. On the way, we have short stops on two more islands. Shortly before 10 a.m., we arrive in Folégandros and the KORAIS continues her way to other islands – among them Milos.
In Folégandros everything is, indeed, totally different from Santorin, even at the harbour. We wonder if we should spend the night in the Chora and look for a local bus. The local bus is a wonderful old-timer, an old Mercedes minibus with less than 20 seats. It seems to have been made more like in the 1970ies than in the 1980ies.
The nice driver – we will see him again during the next few days – recommends to stay in the Chora and check into the hotel MELTEMI. With open windows, the bus climbs up to the Chora. Chora basically means “central place”. It is the name for all the small towns on the Cyclades that seem to cling to the steep precipices in such a picturesque fashion.
The recommended hotel is close to the bus station and not far from the centre of the Chora. We truly like it. We have a very nice room with a beautiful bathroom, this time we also have a patio. We book two nights (60 € for both of us) and discover that the bus will continue to Agali at 11 a.m..Agali is on a beach that is described in the brochure as the most beautiful island.
Consequently, we quickly pick up our bathing costumes and go back to the old-timer bus. It takes us to Agali. The beach looks southwards. Everything is quiet and peaceful. Not much grows on this island with its water shortage. In particular, there are no trees. Consequently, there is nothing on the beach to protect you against the sun. However, since there are all these small taverns in Agali, one can easily manage. At 4.45 p.m., the local bus returns and takes us back to the Meltemi.
We close the wonderful day by planning ahead. We find a very cheap ferry that leaves for Milos in three days and costs only. 8 € (eight EURO) per person. We really like Folégandros. It is a very quiet island, without “tourist exploitation”. It is a place where you can really let your soul go free. Consequently, we extend our stay at the hotel Meltemi by another night and stroll through the Chora. Before dinner, we buy the tickets for the ARTEMIS (HELLENIC SEAWAYS) to Milos on June, 3rd, in a travel agency.
And in the travel agency, we find another attractive advertisement. There is a ship tour on the next day. For 30 EURO, you can go around the entire island, it is all day and the meals are included. There are many stops if you want to submerge in the water or just enjoy the view. We book it. After our duty is done, we now focus on the physical joy. For dinner, we find a tavern that is truly fascinating. After a last stroll through the Chora another wonderful day is over.
Wednesday, June, 1st – All Around the Island
Today, we are circling the island by ship, we depart from Chora-Port at 11 a.m. After a leisurely morning, we take “our” bus to the harbour at 10.30 a.m. – it is always the same driver. The cruise is really enjoyable. The ship offers plenty of space, we are a small and rather international group. The two of us are the only Germans.
The tour is really worth its money, the beaches for swimming beat vie with each other for beauty. There are also a few sights to see. There is a special appeal to diving directly into deep water from the boat. Aegean waters are rather warm even this early in the season, the food on board the ship is excellent, the people on the ship are all very nice. So what else could we desire? We are making the acquaintance of the island from a totally new perspective. On the Cyclades, it absolutely makes sense to circle the islands by boat for a better understanding.
After a great day with many impressions, we return to the Chora harbour around 5 p.m., the bus is already waiting for us and takes us back up to our hotel. Before going to the Chora for dinner, we walk up to the church that looks down on the Chora from a mountain. The small church is one of the very few architectural sights on the island. Then we walk back down the snaky slope to have dinner.
Today, we test another restaurant. The food tastes delicious, but the landlord seems a little arrogant. At least that is our impression. This is something we only experienced once on the entire trip. Consequently, we will not allow this to put a damper on our high spirits. Instead, we happily look back upon another wonderful day on Folégandros.
Thursday, June, 2nd – Hiking and Swimming
We have become familiar with the island through our boat round trip. On the map, we find a beautiful hiking path to Agalis, which is on the beach we had visited on our first day on Folégandros. We start our journey. The path is well marked with signs. First, it is an incline. Everything is so beautiful: the ocean, the mountains, the sky – everything has this colourful glamour you always seem to find in Mediterranean regions.
Shortly before Agali, we find another beach: Fira. We want to do some swimming – and we are all by ourselves. Neither did we meet anyone when we were hiking. So why wear a bathing trunk? Well – we undress and jump into the water. It is a dream. After our swim, we continue to our original destination: Agali. It is a true pleasure to hike. The path continues towards Agios Nikolaus. Since it is such a nice hike, we decide to walk there, too.
After a few kilometres, we come to a tavern that is just being opened. We rest for a late lunch. This tavern can only be reached on foot or by ship. There is a freight elevator from the landing stage on the ocean. The landlord is delighted. We are actually his first customers this season. Consequently, there is not too much to choose from on the menu. But it is certainly absolutely adequate. Wine, grilled squid, a wonderful Greek salad, patates… Again, all we can say is: What more can you desire?
After a long rest with a beautiful view, we start on our way back to the hotel. Of course, there is another break for swimming. On our way back we even get a few raindrops, which is perhaps a rare thing. After a small tour through the Chora, we return to the tavern where we had been eating so well on our first day. Again, it tastes just as delicious.
Friday, June, 3rd – Milos is calling
Departure for Milos is in the evening: at 19:10. We can remain in our room in Meltemi until we depart. Consequently, we treat ourselves to a cosy morning in the Chora with a wonderful late breakfast. Among other things, we eat a rare treat – white Taramas, a local specialty that tastes absolutely delicious.
Later, we decide we want another swim. From the Chora, you first hike a few kilometres uphill until you come to three old windmills. Then you go down to the Vorina beach. It is another wonderful hike. Quasi as a reward, we get another special place where we can swim. We are totally at leisure and enter the water several times. Then we go back up the hill.
Uphill means back to the hotel. We take our showers to be fresh for the journey, pay our 90 € for the three nights we stayed, pack our luggage and are at the bus station on time. Our driver picks us up at 18:30 with his small Mercedes and takes us down to the harbour.
The ARTEMIS is a little more than 20 minutes late when is starts its sea voyage at 19:30 hours. First, it visits another island close by, then the course is set for Milos. It is going to be an impressive journey as dusk falls. The skies have a red gleam, the clouds are even more picturesque than they had been during the
Since our arrival in Milos will be rather late, we log into the internet on the ship and try to find a hotel near Milos harbour through booking.com. We find the Hotel Rigas. They have a luxury apartment including breakfast for two that costs 90 € for two nights. We book it. The hotel boss personally picks us up, regardless of the fact that the hotel is less than one kilometre from the bus station. That is just how it is done in this region. This time around, we do not sleep in the Chora. Instead, we stay lower than the Chora at the Papikinos Beach, which is opposite the harbour. Around midnight, we check into the hotel – and we are now
At the harbour, we find a small pita stand that is just closing down. But for us, they have something left. We are now in Milos – a little exhausted, but very happy.
Saturday, June, 4th – Kleftiko
In the morning, after a tasty breakfast, we walk to Rigas harbour. We learned that it is probably not a bad idea to first circle an island by ship. There are many day-trip boats in Milos. They are in competition with each other for potential passengers strolling along the harbour. We choose Marco’s yacht. Marco is the skipper, the catamaran is his. He was born in Milos. His seaman is called Happy and comes from Crete. The trip is not a round trip covering the entire island. It is only to Kleftiko and back. It costs 50 € per person, including all food and drinks (soft drinks, wine, beer). Some other trips are less expensive, some more expensive. We are 12 guests on board, the maximum number on this ship would be 24. Everything is very relaxed and we have lots of fun.
Marco was born on Milos and knows it well. He tells us a lot about the pirates who used to live in Kleftiko. Since we want to hike, I ask him if there are poisonous snakes on Milos. He says yes and tells us about the extremely poisonous “red viper”, the “Cyclades” snake. Allegedly, being bitten by one of them will cause death within 20 minutes. And there is no anti-venom. Luckily though, it is a very rare snake and a very reclusive one. Reading about the snake in Wikipedia later in the day makes me a little less fearful and we decide to go hiking, after all.
Happy, the seaman – that is really his name – cooks a delicious meal for lunch. We enjoy spaghetti in tuna sauce, drink cold white wine and enjoy sun, water and wind. Around 18:00, the ship is back in the harbour. We are content, well-fed and a little tired when we exit the ship and go back to the hotel.
The hotel Rigas is directly behind the mining museum. So we visit it on our way back. Milos used to be a mining island. Many metallic ores and minerals, as well as kaolin, were mined here. During the second world-war, it was occupied by the Germans, because there was something precious to take. Visiting the museum was a really good idea. There are some well-made video presentations. They inform us about the hardships people who worked in mining had to endure. And there is also a good exhibition of the minerals they mined and tools they used, etc.
In the ante-room, maps of official hiking paths on Milos are pinned to the wall. Unfortunately, there is not too much left for us to hike, because we are going to Serifos tomorrow afternoon. Now we first want to relax a little bit. We are still well-fed. Later in the evening, hunger returns. We go shopping: tomatoes, onions and a glass of olives. We use the kitchen of our apartment to make a huge tomato salad with oil and vinegar provided by the hotel. On our big patio, we then eat one of the best tomato salads ever. And again, we had a dream day on the Aegean Islands.
Sunday, June, 5th – Next: to Serifos
From Milos, we continue to Serifos. We take the ARTEMIS for the second time. Again, the ticket is only 8 €. She is supposed to depart at 14:05 hours. Seeing the maps in the museum motivated us to do some hiking. There is still plenty of time until 14:00. Consequently, we make good use of the time for walking up to Plaka and “ancient“ Milos. It is a nice path. At noon, we eat in a restaurant up on the hill with a wonderful view. And then we are back at the hotel on time, where we take showers and freshen up. Again our landlord wants to drive us to the harbour. We gladly take him up on the offer.
It is not very far to Serifos. We arrive late in the afternoon. Since we had been so lucky on Milos, we again use booking.com for making a reservation. And again, we find a really great hotel. As before, the landlady picks us up. It is a delight to see the sign saying Barbara Dürre as you step down from the ship. We are again welcomed extremely warmly and the understanding between us is instantly great. It is not really far to the hotel, perhaps around 800 metres. Immediately after having unpacked in the hotel, we go swimming – the beach is directly in front of the hotel. It is a wonderful swim. In the evening, we stroll through the harbour. We are looking for a restaurant our son Martin had recommended. Unfortunately, it is closed. We get a recommendation for a “meat restaurant”. We find it – the meal is healthy and tasty. We are now ready for the day ahead.
Monday, June, 6th – Beautiful Serifos.
We sleep in long and start the day leisurely. In the morning, the first thing we do is walk the small tour 1a up to the Chora, which seems to be rather high. It takes us a little more than one hour to get there. First we climb up to the “castel”, then we go back down to Chora. Here, too, there is no “tourist exploitation centre”, just a few small shops and bars. We drink a cup of coffee in one of them and eat some delicious cake. Then we climb back down.
The hike gave us appetite for more. Consequently, we walk another tour in the afternoon. We drive to Kalisto with the “local bus“. Tour number 1 starts there: from Kalisto to Chora. First, it goes uphill on narrow and rather overgrown paths. We remember what Marco told us about the “red viper”. When we arrive on top of the hill, we can see the Chora and, still further down, the harbour. Again, this is a dream. The view is enough reward for the hard work – and it also soothes our fear of the red viper. As we continue on our way, the undergrowth gets less and the feeling of happiness increases. At one time, we actually miss the path; somehow or other, it seems hard to make out. But we went only slightly astray. Again, it is wonderful – we reach the bus in Chora and it takes us back down. We now have quite a few public transportation tickets of Serifos, but, depending on the distance, they all cost between 1.30 € and a little more than 2 €.
There is also some time left for swimming, which we can do directly in front of the hotel. In the evening, we again go where someone recommended us to go and are pampered in a tavern directly on the sea beach.
Tuesday, June, 7th – back to Athens!
We rise early, because the bus leaves for Panagia at 6.30 a.m. We can hike two more routes: route number 4 from Panagia to Glyfada (where they also have the helipad) and, combining with it, number 2 to Chora. And then we take the bus back down to the harbour. After all, we want to be back at the harbour by 15:30 h in order to board the ADAM. KORAIS that will take us back to Piräus. It is the last boat trip of our island hopping. Incidentally, the ticket to Athens is 30.50 € per person.
The hike is another sensational experience. We are back early – it paid to rise early this morning. There is still time for a swim and a late lunch. Again, we eat in last night’s tavern. Then we go back to the harbour. Our landlady would gladly have driven us, but it is so near that this is simply not worth the effort. We arrive at the harbour on time, but the ADAM. KORAIS is rather late.
Consequently, we have to wait quite some time before it comes into view. Now we go to Piräus and the end of the journey is nearing. On arrival in Piräus, we get another Pita on the harbour, then we take the metro for the very few stations to Athens City Centre. The hotel Euripides is very close to the Acropolis – and the way from the metro station to the hotel is not far, either. Due to the delay of the KORAIS, I am late for a hangout that was important for me. At least the most important part is not yet over when I join. Now I am almost back to everyday life.
Wednesday, June, 8th – Flying back to Munich
The day starts with a wonderful breakfast on the 8th floor of the Euripides (65 € for one night including breakfast for two people). Athens and the Acropolis lie at our feet, it is a breath-taking view over the houses of Athens. We see that there is a vista patio with reclining chairs one floor up in the Euripides hotel. We know immediately how to spend the last remaining hours in Athens. First, we log into our computer and check in for the flight back, also printing out our boarding passes. Then we go to the old city of Athens, because we need to know what is generally up. After all, we want to take the metro in order to get to the airport. We discover that there is a metro strike. However, on this day the strike is only between 12:00 and 16:00. This is not a problem for us, because our flight departs as late as 19.15.
So here is what we do: stroll through Athens, drink some coffee, buy a few souvenirs. Afterwards, we find the Euripides patio, lazily lie in our reclining chairs, drink a bottle of beer and look down on the big city. At 16:00 on the dot, the doors of the station Monastiraki, that is the metro station close to the Euripides, open again and we are on our way. It is going to be a nice flight back. Arrival time in Munich is 22:50. We even manage the long way from terminal 3 via terminal 2 to the exit. The S-Bahn train takes us home. This time around, all trains are on time, so the change of train at Munich East went well. We are back in our own kitchen around 23:30. We had twelve wonderful days – and we really and truly enjoyed them. And we decided that there will be another island hopping vacation on the Cyclades next year.
🙂 Fair WLAN everywhere, Always friendly people, excellent food. And the best impressions in the world.
(Translated by EG)