At 6am on Saturday morning we found ourselves amongst the dishevelled late night party-goers on the Athens metro. While they appeared to be on their way home, we were on our way to Piraeus, the largest port in Greece, and indeed in the whole of the Mediterranean. There are endless quays, and even at 6.30 in the morning, innumerable ferries and ships.
Nonetheless, everything was well signposted and we easily found our boat to Syros, which we were reassured to find was one of the larger ferries. We had booked economy seats (as opposed to airline lounge seats, business class seats or a cabin) and took our place among the many Greek families in the indoor decks. We saw three French people, and other than that no other obvious tourists. It was a quiet, pleasant trip, and measuring our progress as we threaded our way through different islands, the four hours passed quickly.
Arriving in the port of Ermoupoli, the town was a sight to behold. Behind the port, a wall of pastel coloured houses rises up two hills which are topped by magnificent churches.
The harbour itself is lined with taverns, cafes and shops, and is full of life.
Ermoupoli is the capital of the Cyclades island group, and home to government administrative functions, and hence does not rely on tourism in the way many other islands do. In our few days here we didn’t see any other tourists, just Greeks out and about on their daily business.
Many of the steep streets behind the harbour are stepped, and without cars and mopeds, are blissfully peaceful to walk. We climbed up to the churches several times, and every afternoon without fail, Daniel had D-I-S-C-O legs from the relentless steps. The locals must have calves of steel from a lifetime of such climbing.
The town has a wealthy past, thanks in part to its ship building industry (which still continues today), and away from the port, the sea front is a line of beautiful mansions. Distracting us from the views are the hundreds and hundreds of feral but friendly cats that live here, in harmony with the people. Many houses have food on the doorsteps for the cats and volunteers have created cat “gardens” with chairs and cushions for the wild cats.
We just loved our 3 days here; it is everything we hoped for when visiting a Greek island. Beautiful architecture, a vibrant harbour life, gorgeous views and a taste of real Greek island life, without many tourists.
It is a soothing, relaxing place particularly after the grunginess of Athens. Since the moment we arrived, we felt at home and have been fantasizing about coming back one day for longer.
In total, we plan to spend four weeks in the Cyclades group of islands, moving every 3 or 4 days. Up next is Paros, then nearby Naxos followed by the most famous of all, Santorini. Four more islands follow that before we return to the mainland and transfer to a different island group. Of course everything is dependent on the ferries, as we discovered this morning …
We were booked today on a 9am ferry to the island of Paros. Upon heading to the port, we discovered that our ship is not running today due to choppy seas. A larger ferry MAY brave the waters tonight, and if not, it looks like we may inadvertently get our wish of spending more time on the beautiful Syros …