Our time in Greece is coming to a close (already?!), but we’re still squeezing in some last minute exploring. We decided on Spetses, a Saronic island located about 2.5 hours away from Athens by hydrofoil. Because it’s relatively close to Athens, it tends to be especially busy on the weekends, so we smugly decided to leave on a Monday after the rush. It would’ve been a good plan, but because neither of us are up to speed on European royalty gossip, we hadn’t realized that our trip coincided with the wedding of Prince Nikolaos, the son of the former King of Greece. Despite the fact that Greece hasn’t had a king for over 30 years, King Constantine won’t give up his title. Their friends – kings and queens and princes and princesses from all over Europe – still consider them royalty as well, and came to the island for the wedding. And when royalty travels, paparazzi does too.
To tell you the truth, it was kind of novel to be on the island while this was happening. People were excited; it was palpable. But it wasn’t too distracting – the island was simply bustling the way you would expect it to in the summer. That being said, Spetses is a swanky island, but not obnoxiously so. It has all the charming markers you’d expect of a Greek island: narrow cement paths, seaside cafes, lots of pretty vegetation and good beaches. People tend to emphasize the fact that cars aren’t allowed on the island, but motorbikes are to the point of nuisance. We opted to enjoy the island on foot, and particularly enjoyed the walk between the main town of Dapia and the old port, where we came across pomegranate trees, courtyards littered with fallen lemons, and kittens that walked right into our outstretched hands for a cuddle.
Laskarina Bouboulina, a heroine of the Greek War of Independence, is also an important part of the island. She’s revered in Greece as being one of the toughest ladies around. One of the toughest humans actually. As historian Hilomon says, “Against her, the unmanly were ashamed and the brave stepped back.” She captained ships, she ordered arms, she lead men into battle, she lost not one, but two husbands to pirates. Essentially, she was a badass. She spent her last few years on Spetses (where she had a rather disappointing demise in a feud over her son’s elopement to the daughter of a rival family). Her house, a kind of rambling neo-Classical estate you seldom see in Greece, has been converted into a museum, and is worth a visit.
Spetses is also a big sailing island, and you’ll constantly see boats in the water ranging from small fishing skiffs to billionaire owned yachts. We didn’t go on any boats, but we spent some time at Ligoneri Beach, and the water was beautiful. Clean and clear, and there were little coves along the side of the island with sandy or pebbley beaches.
On the way back to Athens we stopped on the nearby island of Hydra, which doesn’t allow cars, but unlike Spetses, also forbids motorcycles. The only form of transportation is donkey. Leonard Cohen used to live on Hydra, but hasn’t been back in years. That didn’t stop me from looking for him, and although I didn’t find him, we had a great lunch in a taverna hidden in one of the small roads snaking away from the port. And I saw Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands up close in Spetses, so that kind of makes up for it? Okay, not really, but the islands themselves were enjoyable even without any celebrity sitings.