Before we had come to Greece we had spent some time studying the various Greek isles
and their attractions. We had devised four potential routes based on the posted ferry
schedules and of course we could do them in reverse giving us a pretty healthy eight
options out of Piraeus. So it was maybe a tad disappointing when all of them were
defunct by the end of the first day. Oh well. We choose a ferry office at random
(okay, they advertised in English) and asked for the boat to Santorini. It was 8 AM
and we figured we were in time to catch any ferry we wanted. "It left an hour ago", the
lady at the ticket counter told us. We were prepared for this though and only slightly
disconcerted. Mykonos, our second choice was due to depart any minute. We were given
tickets and hustled off to the boat. I might point out that we didn't really want to go
to Mykonos itself, but it was the departure point for Delos which we did want to see.
15 minutes later we were heading out of the Saronic Gulf towards the Aegean Sea. The
first of the islands came maybe an hour later. We passed the barren southern coast of
Kea, shown here. On the other side of the boat
was the equally barren north coast of Kythnos.
It was a five hour trip to Mykonos. The first three hours were fairly uneventful.
The deck of the ship was uncrowded and had a good view but it was a bit chilly. We
had inside tickets which gave us admission to a variety of lounges with couches and
such that had been claimed by expansive families carrying all of their worldly goods
with them on the ship. We settled instead in a long room filled with widely spaced
airline seats and nice windows overlooking the passing rocks. When we came into port,
we went up on deck to see the sights. Our first scheduled stop was the island of
Syros, and the capital city of the Cycladic Islands: Ermoupolis.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Ermoupolis is clearly evident in this picture.
Two hills. The one on the left is known as Ano Syros and is largely made up of the
Catholic population of Syros. Atop it sits the Cathedral of St. George. The other hill,
known as Vrodado is crowned by the Orthodox Church of Anastasis and the settlement there
is primarily Greek Orthodox. Surrounding the base of the hills and running down to the
waterfront is the modern city of Ermoupolis.
With a population of 12,000, Ermoupoli is the largest city in the Cyclades. It is one of
the few locations in Greece inhabited by a Catholic population which makes up about 40%
of the city today. In the middle ages it was also the premier port in Greece. It has
long since been passed by Piraeus but it is still the administrative center of the islands.
One guide book we had mentioned prominently the Turkish Delight sold by street vendors
along the waterfront. Not only that, they also come aboard the ferry for the few minutes
it is in port. We didn't buy any, mostly because we weren't entirely sure what it is.
Our next stop was visible from Syros. For that matter, so were Mykonos and Delos.
The quiet island of Tinos was the next ferry destination. In truth, we were never
really 'wowed' by Athens. After stopping in Ermoupolis for a few minutes we were
growing considerably more interested and excited in the islands. Tinos was our first
good look at the archetypal Cycladic white architecture. Tinos is the name of the
island and the city. It's not really off the beaten path as it is geographically
surrounded by more famous islands but it is not as heavily visited by tourists.
It is apparently very heavily visited by Greeks however. It is a pilgrimmage site, and
during those times it is overrun with people who end up sleeping just about everywhere
available. While we were there it was nearly deserted and the harbor was just barely
large enough for the ferry to turn around in. Speaking of the ferry, the other passengers
we took the most note of were the teen-aged tour group from France. We mention them not
so much because they bugged us here but because of where we ran across them later. Also
of note was the motor-scooter riding dog. (More impressive because he was a large dog.)
We did not see him later however so that was really a rather spurious digression.
Each stop had looked more impressive to us thus far and Mykonos was no exception.
We spent a day and a half on Mykonos so it gets an entire page.
The Cyclades are so-named because they form an approximate circle, with the island of
Delos in the center. Delos was a sacred island to several civilizations and it was
also the mythical birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. It can only be visited for a few
hours a day. We spent one afternoon here via boat from Mykonos. It deserves much more
time than that and more than one web page as well. Instead we just have one very long
We flew in to Santorini where we decided to spend a couple days after just our first
glimpse of the island. We spent time in two towns there; the capital of Fira and the
town of Oia, both of which have their own pages as well. We left Santorini by plane
a few days later headed back to Athens where we rented a car and began the mainland
portion of our trip.