Travel report: Boat and Bike - Greece's mystical island world
From Radweg-Reisen Managing Director Simon Mink
After 15 months of pandemic, the first flight. How complicated will that be? Entry form with QR code, vaccination certificate on the cell phone, boarding pass. But then, at first, no one wanted to see anything. Then the next surprise - the flight from Zurich to Athens was fully booked, and that on a Thursday evening. When we entered Athens, we had to show our vaccination certificate: Welcome to Greece! Done.
Because of the flight connections and because I didn't know Athens yet, I had booked two nights in the center of the Greek capital. The ticket office for the express bus at the airport was so well hidden that nobody found it. So a little time went by and, together with the time difference (by one hour) that had not been calculated for, ensured that I got off at around 10:30 p.m. at the central Syntagma Square, close to my hotel.
On embarkation day, I had quite a bit of time to check in on the MS Thalassa around 2:00 pm, so I took the bus to Piraeus and walked to the marina where the ship is docked. Really nicely located and very large, it took me time to find the ship - a wooden, very elegant three-master. I wanted to check out the ship and try out the bike and boat trip around the Peloponnese and Saronic Islands to decide if we would add it to our program. This is the most beautiful part of the job.
For me personally, the ship has a small weakness: Due to the design, all cabins are below deck. For me, who does not like air conditioning, this was a limitation. Let's see how it sleeps with open portholes.Show more Show less
Around 14:00 I moved into my cabin and i spent the afternoon on board because I had already seen the marina and Athens. In the course of the afternoon, six more guests from the USA arrived and at 20:00 there was dinner on board. If you only know Greek cuisine from Germany, you will be surprised how varied and delicious the food is in Greece. A paradise for gourmets! After dinner we were introduced to the crew by our three tour guides Catharina, Kristopher and Costas, a well-rehearsed team. The cook is undisputedly the King of coolness. After the meal, Thomas joined us as a late arrival and was also fed. And now we were complete.Show more Show less
After breakfast it was time to cast off and with 35 degrees and cloudless skies, the crossing to the island of Poros was a wonderful start to this bike and boat trip around the Peloponnese and the Saronic Islands.
Poros town is a very nice harbor town, perched on the hill is the landmark of Poros, the clock tower. The lively promenade promised a nice nightcap after our wonderful dinner at a seaside taverna. But first, a short but very nice bike tour across the island and to a monastery was on the agenda for the afternoon.
After I had noticed in the first night that sleeping without air conditioning at 28 degrees is not really restful, I slept from the second night on the sun deck. Even under a light sheet it was still very warm. But what a nice experience to sleep under the open sky. However, as soon as the sun came up, it got hot, so I didn't need an alarm clock to get up in time. After breakfast, we biked a few meters to the ferry dock, from there it was a few minutes across to the mainland, the Peloponnese. Once there, we started our beautiful, unspectacular, but enjoyable bike ride to Ermioni. On the way we stopped for coffee and a swim with freshly squeezed orange juice and Greek coffee. Fortunately, there was always a breeze blowing, because it was getting really hot. The weather forecast announced a heat wave with 42 degrees on Friday. With each passing day, the number of e-bike riders increased, because at these temperatures even 30 kilometers were sport.
In Ermioni, where we were to board, it was so windy that the captain had problems docking. But you could tell that the crew was made up of professionals. The crossing to Nafplio was beautiful, with a thick layer of sunscreen on the skin, the ride on the sun deck was a pleasure. Nafplio is a very beautiful fortress city, for a short time it was the Greek capital. Today there is an unbelievable number of beautiful shops in the countless alleys. A very beautiful little town.
Today it had become warmer once again and so the bike ride through the lowlands towards Mycenae was not too much of a highlight for me. Without wind, the heat became exhausting and shortly before Mycenae there was another climb. To visit the ruins of the ancient city, however, is almost a must. In the afternoon, the crossing to the island of Spetses took place, where we stayed overnight.
After breakfast we started for probably the most beautiful bike tour of the trip. Around the island of Spetses, a great tour! And the stop at the beach bar was perfect.
In the afternoon, the increasingly strong wind made it necessary to reschedule. Instead of the Thalassa, we took a hydrofoil to the beautiful island of Hydra, because the Thalassa could not dock there under these conditions. There are only three cars here. Otherwise it is walking or renting a donkey.
In Hydra town, an enchanting little town, time stands still. One does not stop taking pictures. Around 8:30 pm our hydrofoil left for Poros, where the Thalassa was waiting for us and before that I wanted to eat something. But my goodness: The power suddenly went out on the whole island. And so it was for me and the guides (the others had eaten before the blackout) to drive hungry to Poros, order from the souvlaki inflatable boat delivery service and eat aboard the Thalassa. Great how the guides improvise! With more freshening winds forecast for the next day, our captain decided to make a late evening crossing to Methana rather than risk being stuck the next day.
After a stormy night, it was time to get on the bike after breakfast. A round trip on Methana (mief 😉 - the name comes from the escaping gases) was on the program. The initial climb was in the heat - already in the morning at 09:00 the thermometer showed 37 degrees - not without. But I wanted to cycle and so I continued to resist the temptation to switch to an e-bike.
At noon, it was actually supposed to go to the island of Aegina with a swim break in between, but unfortunately there was a hydraulic problem on board. So we started a little later with the Thalassa and crossed directly to our last island (Aegina), where we enjoyed a wonderful dinner on the beach. The Greek cuisine is incredibly good.
After breakfast we started our last round trip. It was now really very hot and the first time on the tour the wind was gone. And so the tour was a real challenge. But it was worth it. After a climb we reached a temple with a great view and an attached café. Since Aegina is the island of pistachios, it was called eating pistachio ice cream. The descent to Aegina town felt like a roller coaster ride through a convection oven at 40 degrees in the shade, an incredible feeling! This is pure summer. Just what I was looking for after this long cold winter and spring. In the afternoon we unfortunately started again for the last crossing to Piraeus. After a wonderful last evening on board with lots of ouzo, it was time to say goodbye the next morning.
In the morning at 09:00 the cabins have to be cleared. The crew has only a few hours to get the whole ship back in shape. A strong performance. At 10:30 am, right on time, the transfer driver was ready at the pier to take us to the airport. Fortunately, I had booked another flight to Santorini so that I would not have to end my Greece trip abruptly. Normally crowded in high season, I wanted to take the opportunity in the pandemic to see a quieter Santorini. The Theoxenia Hotel in Firá, recommended by colleagues, was perfect. Fortunately, I had booked a superior room with a view of the caldera. What a dream! Admiring the sunset from my own terrace every day, while sundowner pilgrims passed under the hotel room looking for a free spot.
Great tour, beautiful, very comfortable ship. Due to the design, there are no upper deck cabins, which can be a drawback for fresh air lovers. The bathrooms are all-in-ones, which is something to be aware of. Weather in Greece is dry hot, wind often forces program changes. Tour guides and crew: super professional!
Tip: bring extra beach towel and light sleeping bag to sleep on deck. Extra nights in Athens and/or Santorini are recommended. Domestic flight Athens - Santorini in about 45 minutes for usually under 100 euros, alternatively by speedboat or ferry in 4 to 9 hours at similar prices.