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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Touring Some Greek Islands

By the end of our fifth day in Athens, we had decided to accept an invitation from friends to visit for a while in the northern part of Italy. We headed out to a travel agency to book a flight to Milan. While there, we met the charming owner of the agency. After booking us on a surprisingly economical flight to Milan, he was happy to suggest another activity for our remaining day, a short cruise through three Greek Islands. Many tourists here take longer cruises but this taste of the islands was very enjoyable.

We arrived at the appointed pickup location the next morning at 7:15 a.m. Soon a bus had us at the nearby port town of Piraeus (once described in guidebooks as "gritty" but looking pretty decent nowadays.) We were off on our cruise with a large contingent of Chinese and European tourists.

We took about three hours motoring down to our first destination, the island of Hydra. Some passesngers stayed inside shopping at the duty-free jewelry store. Others headed out onto the deck to take photos.
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The captain steered our boat carefully along the rocky coastline. Temperatures warmed to a comfortable level in the sun on the top deck.

Soon we arrived at our first destination. Hydra offers an attractive harbor. The harbor held a number of fishing boats and is surrounded with a town painted in varying shades of white.

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After a couple of hours on Hydra, we set off for out next destination, Poros. Poros doesn't have the same small-town feel that Hydra offers, but is an attractive destination.

Most people will remember it for the clock tower on the hill.
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Our final island destination was Aegina. Aegina is not as attractive a stop as the other two islands that we visited but does offer a tour that includes a stop at a pistachio nut packing plant. While Aegina was presented as pretty much the center of the pistachio world, this Wikipedia article on the nut suggests that the center of gravity for pistachios might be closer to home. Here is a pistachio nut tree as it appears in the winter. We were told it was easy to recognize since it is the only tree on the island without leaves in February.

We stopped at a cafe before coming back on board. Nearby, fishermen had piled their nets at the end of the day. We noticed the sun beginning to give a warm color to the surrounding buildings.
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Back on board, we admired the sunset just before departing the island to return to Athens.

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