A Short Greek Odyssey
I luckily managed to escape to Greece for a week, during the short period of time in late August when life felt relatively normal. After much deliberation, myself and my boyfriend decided to visit Greece, splitting our time evenly between Athens and the small isle of Poros; a 50 minute journey by boat from Piraeus, Athens’ port.
Splitting the trip between a city and an island, gave us the best of both worlds in terms of experiencing the ancient capital city of Athens and all of the artefacts within, and also experiencing the simple, island-life filled with beaches and exquisite sea-food restaurants.
I had very mixed feelings about travelling during the pandemic. The prospect of being a passenger on a plane seemed a very stupid idea, given the lack of fresh air and the huge mix of strangers. The constant wearing of a face mask and the copious amounts of hand sanitiser did alleviate my worries, but the guilt of travelling lingered in the back of my mind. I do not, however, have any regrets for taking a holiday at this time. 2020 was a tough year but this one week made it much more bearable!
I must admit that I will not be rushing to go back to the Greek capital. Our time in Athens got off to a rough start, with an initial pick-pocketing scare on the hectic underground. I was warned numerous times that pick-pocketers were rife in the city, however having lived in London I brushed the rumours off.
The truth is, that Athens appeared to be a relatively depressing place at times. Greece has been notorious over the past ten years for having serious financial issues: the country is in debt by around 310 billion euros. Unemployment in 2017 sat at around 22%, no doubt even higher now due to the pandemic. As a result, there are a lot of visibly desperate citizens in Athens, more so than other European cities.
Aside from the depressing statistics, architectural development and tourist attractions in Athens seemed to not go any further than the ancient Acropolis, which towered over the neighbouring buildings. The Acropolis itself is a fantastic piece of history. Our AirBnB was only a couple of blocks away from the 2460 year old monument, which was visible from our balcony and roof terrace. Students and under 25’s go free so make sure to take some ID. Also take a bottle of water.. That may sound stupid but we forgot to take one and nearly passed out! It is a steep climb to the top and in the summer it’s baking!
Other than the Acropolis and its museum, there didn’t seem to be much more to visit and we spent our last day sitting in cafes before going to a lovely restaurant for my birthday meal. The first ever Olympic running track and the Temple of Olympian Zeus sit a 15 minute walk from the Acropolis and are pretty impressive but if you’re looking for a fun-packed city; Athens does not fit the bill. Or at least not during a pandemic.
Food in Athens never seemed to compete with the cheap, gyros takeaway shops in which we frequented. We discovered that on an evening it was best to stick to the streets surrounding the Acropolis, which were touristy but felt safe and were no more expensive than further afield.
As soon as we stepped off the pier into Poros, it felt like heaven. A mere 50 minute journey away from Athens felt like a completely different world. The island is small, with only 3700 inhabitants and our AirBnb was an absolute dream. We paid £75 each for three nights, for a traditional Greek apartment in the heart of the island. Our hosts had renovated the residence with a Swedish architect and the effort showed.
There are many beaches in Poros: Love Bay, Monastiri beach, Mikro Neorio beach and many more; all equipped with attentive bar staff, serving cocktails via table service to content sunbathers. On our second day, we hired the preferred mode of transport in Poros: a quad bike. Exploring the island without the quad bike would have been near enough impossible due to the extreme heat and the steep hills. We hopped on and off as we explored the different sites such as Poseidon's Temple and Russian Bay. We had lunch, lay on Mikro Neorio beach and then circuited the island twice more (you may as well get the most out of it after paying 45€ for the day). The monastery provided a peaceful end to our quad-biking adventure.
The best thing about Poros (other than the abundance of cats), is the constant buzz in the evening. The whole marina comes alive! With tourists docking their boats to have dinner on land, the sun setting over the mountainous background and plates of fresh fish being served in the many sea-front restaurants; you feel as though you’re on the set of ‘Mamma Mia’. It would be interesting to see how busy the front gets in normal times but I feel very lucky to have visited whilst it was relatively empty.
As a short couples holiday, in the midst of a pandemic, we couldn’t have asked for any better. Whilst Athens did not manage to compare to my favourite city Barcelona, it certainly did the job of providing us with a busy city break, before experiencing blissful Greek island life. We spent under £300 each (excluding spending money) and have memories to last a lifetime. Hopefully one day we will revisit Poros, without the fear of catching Covid-19.
This post was written by Erin Hughes. Erin is from the North East of England and a very talented dancer, you can go check out any of her dancing on her Instagram page, Erin Hughes Dance. She has mentioned starting up a blog of her own and we hope she does. When she does we will put a link to it somewhere on our website, but until then go and follow her person Instagram which is full of wholesome and funny content. Erinhughez