Two hours out from Piraeus by slow ferry, and just over half an hour by fast commuter hydrofoil or catamaran lies Aigina, an island with a history of ever there was one.
Did you know that the world’s first coinage was minted on this island around 700 BC? Well, you know now. Of course, it doesn’t exactly look like a global financial centre. At its heart is an extinct volcano, Mount Oros (1,745 feet). The town of Aigina proper is clustered around a natural harbour on the southern end. Alighting from the boat, you’re thust into a bustling community. Shops and tavernas line the waterfront where fishing boats unload their catches in the evenings and early mornings. Chances are you’ll find a smart yacht or two bobbing at the moorings as well. Almost from the first minute you’ll be inundated with shops and vendors selling Aigina’s supreme product, pistachio nuts. Aigina pistachios are about the best there are. They’re sold half-roasted, so there’s no difficulty is prying open the half-open hard shell with teeth and tongue (that’s half the pleasure of it) and chomping the aromatic red and green kernel inside. Pistachios have lots of antoxidants and are good bowel-movers, if you need that sort of thing.
According to one of the wilder Greek legends Zeus, father of the gods, took Aigina’s ants and turned them into soldiers who helped Achilles attack Troy. In the 19th century an English shipping agent named George Brown craftily built a house right over a very ancient tomb where he knew where a lot of jewellery was buried. In 1892 Brown sold the loot to the British Museum for £4,000 – a lot of money at the time.
Opposite Brown’s house stands the 5th century BC Temple of Apollo which in the 19th century was employed in succession as an orphanage, a death row for convicts, a high school and a museum, which it has remained. Much more impressive, eight miles inland, is the great Temple of Aphaia, a local princess who was fished out of the water in a net after trying to commit suicide. This was built just after the Battle of Salamis with loot seized from the defeated Persians.
There is a good bathing beach at Aghia Marina, which can be reached by a short boat trip from the main port. East of the main town, within walking distance, is Greece’s leading wildlife refuge, where sick and injured wild animals – especially endangered species such as storks and rare birds – are taken for treatment.
Offshore, about half an hour away, lie the two island of Moni and Angistri. Both are green with pine woods and have good beaches. Angistri in particular remains a favourite of the Athens expatriate set, with a selection of throbbing clubs in the summer.
The first museum of Greece opened in 1829 on the archaeological site of Kolona thanks to A. Moustoxydis. The building it is in today was built in 1980 as a gift from the Bavarian Society of the Friends of the Museum of Aegina. The museum exhibits many findings from excavations in the region, which date back to 1700 BC.
This is situated in the area around the Temple of Aphaia. The most interesting exhibits in the museum are the restored pediment of the church, a replica statue of the goddess Athena (the original has been in the Glyptothek Museum in Munich since 1813) and the votive plaque (560 BC) which states that the temple was dedicated to Aphaia Athena.
HISTORICAL AND FOLKLORE MUSEUM
The Folklore Museum of Aegina is housed in a neoclassical building, built in 1828, at 16 Spyros Rodis St.. It was a house built by Giorgis Ireiotis (or Kontogiorgis), father of Panagis Ireiotis, for his family. Later, his descendents left it to the Municipality of Aegina to house the island’s Folklore Museum. The original exhibits came from the family’s personal collection, as they were great lovers of tradition. A significant contribution was also made by the Society of Friends of the Aegina Folklore Museum (begun in 1989 by residents of the island) which has managed to collect the money necessary to found the museum through numerous events. The museum contains the archive of the Folklore Museum, which includes a large part of Panagis Ireiotis’ correspondence with scientists of his time; the library with books of great historical importance; and the archived material which is available to study. The museum also displays antique furniture, paintings, traditional costumes of Aegina and many other objects belonging to the Ireiotis family. On the ground floor there is the ‘House of Fish’, a room with objects related to fishing and sponge-diving, and the ‘Village House’.
CHRISTOS KAPRALOS MUSEUM
The Christos Kapralos Museum is in the area of Plakakia, about 3 km from the harbour. It is housed in the place Christos Kapralos had his workshop from 1963 when he arrived on the island. Today, it comprises 6 showroom-workshops, which display works the great artist created between 1963 and the end of his life, in 1993. Amongst these works is a bronze statue of the artist’s mother, which is situated in a specially-created square at the entrance to the museum. Other exhibits include paintings and terracotta and ceramic items. As well as the works of art, the museum displays the tools Kapralos used to create his art.
The Agia Marina settlement is situated on the east coast, about 16 km away from the island’s capital, and it is the most cosmopolitan resort on the island. The landscape of the region consists of a wealth of vegetation and beaches with on-beach services with shallow water. There are many hotels and rooms to rent in Agia Marina, as well as charming seaside taverns, bars, folk-art shops and two summer cinemas. The Church of Agia Marina stands near the beach. It is directly accessible from the port of Piraeus.
A beach with on-beach services, at which there are many archaeological findings.
Nine kilometres from Aegina town is the beach of the traditional village of Perdika, which is teeming with narrow paved roads and fish restaurants. The unspoilt blue sea, the pebbly beach with patches of shade, and the little harbour which welcomes boats, means that the area attracts a large number of tourists.
A beach with warm therapeutic waters, also known by its old name Therma (warm), suitable for curing rheumatism and skin complaints.
These are two sandy beaches with on-beach services, one next to the other, four km away from Aegina town.
From the Port of Piraeus there are daily connections:
These run from 07:40 and stop at 18:30,
By Flying Dolphin:
These run every hour from 07:00, stopping at 18:00.
These run every hour from 08:00 stopping at 17:00.
Aigina can also be reached by boat from Angistri, Hydra, Poros and Spetses.
TOWN HALL OF AEGINA Tel. 0030 1 22973-20000
HOSPITAL “SAINT DIONISIOS” AEGINA Tel. 0030 22970-24489
MEDICAL CENTER M. TZIKA Tel. 0030 22970-22222
LOCAL POLICE STATION OF AEGINA Tel. 0030 22970-22100
TOURIST POLICE AEGINA Tel. 0030 22970-27777
AEGINA PORT AUTHORITY Tel. 0030 22970-22328
MUSEUM OF FOLKLORE HISTORY AEGINA Tel. 0030 22970-26401
ARCHAELOGIC MUSEUM (KOLONA) KOLONA Tel. 0030 22970-22637
HISTORIC – FILE MUSEUM OF AEGINA GOVERNOR’S HOUSE Tel. 0030 22970-26332