Our trip to Aegina started adventurously… We had started early enough to catch our boat and we were sitting carefree on the train to Piraeus. We chose not to take our car, because we wanted to walk on the island, collect sun and island air, and burn calories from all the nice things we would eat. So we sat on the train ready for our trip, until things went wrong… The train stopped because a tree had fallen on the lines! At the moment we were anxious but we moved strategically and we quickly found a taxi that brought us to the port. So off we go to Aegina!
In our new travel article we go on a two-day trip to Aegina, hike and visit the Capralos Museum and Agios Nektarios, try pistachio products and enjoy the local cuisine, take a dip in the island’s sea, find shops with traditional products and chat with the people of the island.
On the ship we sat on the deck and enjoyed the cool sea breeze.
Arriving in Aegina we left our things at the Aphrodite Art Hotel, which hosted us for our article. It was very convenient, as it was only five minutes from the port. An elegant room in minimalist colours was waiting for us, with works of art on the wall and a balcony overlooking a beautiful garden with fig and pistachio trees, and in the background the sea. The sea looks even better from the roof of the hotel where one can sit and enjoy the view!
In all the corridors of the hotel there were water machines, an ecological choice since instead of buying plastic bottles we filled our bottles and glasses with cool water. Well done to the hotel for their initiative!
We spoke with Mr. Vangelis and he told us that the hotel is a family business and that he is preparing it for his children. He told us that there is a lot of mobility in Aegina, since it is close to Athens and that in fact the tourist season begins now, after what happened with the pandemic. We wish the best in general for Greek tourism, which we all know how important it is for our country!
We started by making a first walk in the port, where we saw pistachios, the local product and trademark of the island, dominating. This would be the souvenir we would take with us back to Athens!
So we headed to Fistikato, a store with pistachio products in the port. From there we were given traditional Aegina products, Aegina pistachios of their production, pistachio butter, pistachio pesto sauce and baklava with pistachio and almond. Delicacies to take back to Athens and share with our beloved ones!
Pistachios are the most typical product of Aegina. And because we like to learn everything, we looked for a few things about their nutritional value. We found out that they are essentially a superfood, which is good for the heart, cholesterol, eyesight and helps with weight loss. Aegina pistachios are in fact one of the few foods that in small quantities give a variety of beneficial ingredients.
The next stop we wanted to make was for coffee and something to eat for breakfast. So we decided to sit at Tortuga Art Cafè Wine Bar, in an alley of the historic center of Aegina. We ordered our coffees, a savory sandwich and a tiramisu, with Aegina pistachio both of course! We should also mention the cookie that accompanied our coffee, which tasted like amaretto and we really liked it!
The café is housed in one of the oldest buildings in Aegina, a beautiful building of 1800. It houses works of art by local and foreign artists which in combination with the beautiful furniture create a colorful atmosphere.
We spoke with the owner Dario and he told us that for three years now he has been serving authentic Neapolitan coffee, homemade desserts and delicious panini in his shop. It also has a rich range of wines, and also a variety of Italian dishes such as spaghetti, salads, vitello tonnato and more. All this in an artistic atmosphere, since except from the works of art that adorn the walls, music nights with live music also take place in the café.
Then it was time for our hike to the Capralos Museum in the area of Plakakia, north of the port of Aegina. At half an hour’s walk, the route is really worth it. We went through the inner road that passed through fields with pistachios and returned from the coastal road, which we will refer to later. We may have warmed up a bit, but the museum and the excellent tour by the museum manager really compensated us!
Arriving at the museum, the first thing we saw was the large and imposing statue of the mother, a landmark of the area. It is a sculpture by Christos Capralos (1909-1993), the artist who owned the space that now houses his museum.
Upon entering the museum, we were very impressed by the various sculptures that were scattered outside. As the museum manager later told us, the sculptures were placed by Christos Capralos himself, who lived among them. There were even sculpted tables and chairs, in which the sculptor used to sit with his company!
Entering one of the buildings of the Christos Capralos Museum, we met the person in charge of the museum, art historian Areti Pigiaditi. She willingly and happily gave us a very comprehensive and interesting tour of the interior of the museum, of which we will mention only a few points, since it would need an article on its own. And let’s emphasize here that admission to the museum is free! We warmly thank Areti for the wonderful tour, which made us feel that we were not just in a museum, but in the personal spaces of the artist and that we actually met him in person!
The tour started with Areti telling us that we were in the summer house and workshop of Christos Capralos, who came from the Panaitolio of Agrinio and lived from 1909 to 1993. He came to Aegina because he wanted to work with the local stone. He first came to the island in 1951 and was thrilled with the material, the wonderful light and the cultural heritage of the island. From then until 1993, he lived in Aegina for almost half the year.
In 1963 he built his own house, which he could do because 1962 was a great year for his career, as he represented Greece at the Venice Biennale and had since embarked on an international career with exhibitions in America, Canada, Europe, even Japan. This house has been turned into a museum, a branch of the National Gallery, to which Capralos left all his property and creation. There is, in fact, a plan for a new wing of the museum to house all his works, since here we see only a part of them, the part of Aegina creations.
The most interesting element of the museum, we would say, is that they have left everything intact, just as the artist had set it up! As Areti told us, Capralos lived among his sculptures… His armchair, his pipes, his office, his photograph with his wife Souli, everything has been left as he had placed them. So, walking around the museum, we were essentially taking a look at his daily life…
In addition to local stone and marble, Capralos also worked with eucalyptus wood, clay, and in Athens with bronze in his foundry. As Areti explained to us, Capralos focused on man. He used to say that he had a great love for man, and he wanted to express it.
His work is dominated by the figure of the mother, and his works are characterized by abstraction and fragmentation, as Areti explained to us. Having studied painting in Athens and sculpture in Paris, Capralos married Greek roots and ancient Greek art with influences from abroad, resulting in a Greek-style modernism, with a purely personal character. Other themes found in the work of Christos Capralos, apart from the mother, are the couples, the individual figures and the mythical figures, such as the Centaurs and Nikes.
Closing the tour, Areti told us that Christos Capralos left all his works to the Greek State, that is, to all of us! So, we can enjoy them at his place without paying a ticket, which is worth noting again!
Leaving the museum we thought that very close to the Capralos Museum is the house of Nikos Kazantzakis, which is a private space, but remains an attraction of the area. We couldn’t help but go see it and photograph it, and also look into its history!
We read that Nikos Kazantzakis settled in Aegina in 1933, returning from Europe and lived there until 1939. He continued to work on his “Odyssey”, but also on other works. In 1936 he began to build his own house designed by architect Vassilis Douras. In 1937 he settled with Eleni, before the work was even completed, which he ended with his personal, manual contribution.
We imagined Nikos Kazantzakis writing his works in this house and we felt ready to take the road back, “full” of art and culture. Returning to the port we followed the coastal road and saw various beautiful places where people enjoyed their swim.
For this day we chose to see the nearest beach to the port, the beach of Avra, to see if we would recommend it to other visitors. We dived into a shallow and warm sea, suitable for small children. Definitely the farther from the port the better, but in case someone wants a choice close to the port, the beach of Avra is fine.
Then we went to see a store suggested by a friend who deals with traditional products, which is called Galates. There we met Nikoletta and Nikos, the owners of the business they have with their best man Drosos. The store has been around for just six months and its main goal is to support small producers, while keeping prices low. The owners are young people with a lot of passion for work. They have high quality products from selected producers in their store and are constantly looking for new products from reputable Greek companies.
Nikos and Nikoletta told us that in the store they focus on traditional products, mainly the products of the Holy Monastery of Makariotissis in Boeotia, to which Nikoletta is related. They told us that the monastery has its own production unit in which it produces pure and quality dairy products. In the Galates store you will find the whole range, from milk and cheese to creams and rice puddings.
The store also has dairy products from other parts of Greece such as Naxos, Syros, Crete and Pelion, pasta from small producers, pasta made in Aegina from the milk of the monastery and much more. Recently, they also brought Greek beer from Chios, Rhodes and Corfu, since they aim to constantly bring new quality, Greek products.
We left the store with a bag of selected products that the owners gave us, for which we thank them very much!
It was time to go back to the hotel, take a bath and get ready for our night out. The bathroom in our room was spotless and elegantly decorated, so our shower was enjoyable.
So, we got ready and went for a walk in the alleys and coastal road of the port of Aegina. When we started it was still evening and as it got dark the streets and the port got filled with people who took a walk before sitting in one of the many shops of the port.
We were starting to get hungry and so we sat in Αgora, the fish tavern of Geladaki family, next to the fish market of the port. In addition to the delicious food, we appreciated the amount of hospitality and hard work of all the family members, father Stelios and his children, Christos, Evangelia and Anthi. They set us a table with squid, octopus, skate with garlic purée (skordalia), chips, eggplant salad and Greek salad, and it was all fantastic. Especially the fried skate impressed us, since we tried it for the first time.
We thank from the bottom of our hearts the family for everything, not only the wonderful dinner, but also the friendly behavior, as well as the gifts they gave us the next day from the store of traditional products they have!
The traditional products store of Geladaki family is called Mikaela’s goods and is located on one of the streets of the old town of Aegina. In its physical and online store, it has traditional, local and organic products from Aegina, but also all over Greece, excellent virgin olive oil, honey, legumes and pasta, herbs, spices, sweets from pure ingredients and many other nutritional products. With their e-shop they make the quality Greek products available all over Greece, but also abroad!
After our wonderful meal we wanted to take an evening stroll in the port. At night, the street closes and becomes a pedestrian street full of families, friends and couples walking along the sea, next to the boats. Others sit for food, others for drinks, others for desserts, in the shops that, despite the crowds, followed the rules of protection from Corona virus. We chose to walk and buy an ice cream and a soft drink to go… We sat on the bench to enjoy the moon and the sea… Seeing the port buzzing with life we thought that going out at night in Aegina will satisfy all visitors, regardless of company and age!
After our nice night walk we returned to the hotel for a quiet and cool sleep. The next morning we sat in the hotel garden to enjoy our breakfast. Breakfast had everything we needed to start our day, juice, milk, coffee, bread, ham and cheese, cookies, toast rusks, jams, yogurt, honey, boiled eggs and cereals. The hotel meets all the necessary precautions meticulously, with staff serving breakfast wearing a mask and gloves. Also in all the corridors there are antiseptics outside all the rooms.
Our second day on the island, since it was also Sunday, we wanted to dedicate it to Agios Nektarios, the saint of Aegina. So we took the bus from the port, wearing our masks and in ten minutes we had arrived, making a nice uphill journey through the green landscapes to the entrance of the temple.
Reaching Saint Nektarios we saw a very beautiful and large church, overlooking green forests. We caught up with a bit of the mass and heard nice words about the value of humility.
The church of Saint Nektarios is located in the area of the Holy Monastery of the Holy Trinity, a women’s sanctuary. There we met Mrs. Triantaphyllia, who willingly guided us and showed us the cell of Saint Nektarios, his latest personal belongings, his icons, photos of his family and much more. She told us about the Saint of the last century, a real man of God, who was wrongfully accused during his lifetime and restored after his death.
We read that Saint Nektarios was born in 1846 to a poor family in Silivria, Thrace and grew up with great deprivations and difficulties. His name was Anastasios Kefalas and he was characterized by brightness, spiritual dynamism and hard work. Having lived through great hardships, in 1877 he was ordained a deacon and was named Nektarios. In 1885 he was ordained an elder in Alexandria, Egypt. In 1889 he was elected bishop of Pentapolis, Libya. Mrs. Triantaphyllia told us that he was also a principal and professor at the Rizarios Ecclesiastical School.
In the monastery we saw the written apology from the Patriarchate of Alexandria, which arrived at the monastery in 1998. We searched a few things for this story and learned that the apology and restoration of Saint Nektarios, who had been accused and expelled by the Patriarchate of Alexandria, took place 77 years after his death, 108 years after his departure from Alexandria, and 37 years after his recognition as a Saint of the Orthodox Church. The reason for his slander we read that were his brilliant course, his rapid development, his natural qualifications and his great pastoral and social action, which were noticed by the clergy of the Patriarchate. The Saint forgave his slanderers and left Alexandria in 1890 for Athens.
We left the monastery feeling calm and beautiful. We returned by bus to the port and took the coastal road, looking for a place to have our last swim on the island. We went a little further than our previous bath and discovered a small place where we could sit in the shade and swim in the clear waters of Aegina.
From the sea we will say goodbye to you for now! We had fun, we tanned, we met Aegina, we made new friends, we received many gifts and now we return to our base to plan a big trip to places of the Peloponnese soon! Happy summer to everyone!