As I said before, I spent too much time in Athens. If I’d simply trusted that an island – probably any island – would be cheaper and more fun than Athens, I would have left much sooner. Because of my deadly inertia I ended up with just two nights on the lovely little Island of Poros, which started out as a compromise destination – cheaper and quicker to get to than the better-known Hydra, and yet still with the exotic island-ness lacking in the mainland town of Nafplio. If I’d known how fantastic, sunny, relaxing, cheap and fun Poros would be I’d have left Athens in the dust the day after the marathon and not looked back. Lesson re-learned: as usual, doing anything is better than doing nothing. As it was, I came very close to simply abandoning my €148 plane ticket to Istanbul, and I have to admit that I'm still not sure I made the right choice on that score.
So Poros it was. After a quick 2-3 hour ferry ride from Athens, the boat docked at the town, which occupies most of the smaller of the two islands that comprise Poros. The other, larger, island is reached by a short bridge across a narrow isthmus and seems mostly uninhabited except for a fringe of beaches, some houses, a fish farm and a few other things. The LP pointed the way to a nice hotel with a sea view, and the room had two balconies (one best for the morning sun, one nice in the evening), rudimentary kitchen facilities, and a private bathroom, and was still €10 cheaper than the place in Athens.
On my only full day on Poros there was a scooter rental (Laurie, you would have been proud of me: my hawg was a full 50cc), a complete circuit of both the islands, and a picnic lunch on a deserted beach. It was perfectly brilliant.
My ride. (And yes, I did wear the helmet, though I think I was the only person on the island that did, and I'm talking about a place where it seemed like scooters outnumber people. No word on whether head injuries outnumber scooters.)
Really, there’s not much to do or see on Poros, which is perhaps why it was so appealing. The town has a nice clock tower (too far up to bother going to), a summer cinema (closed), a library, and about 7 zillion restaurants along the water, most of which were empty most of the time – it was mid-November after all. The big island has an odd abandoned Russian naval base, and the ruins of the Sanctuary of Poseidon (approx 520 BC, and fenced off, or so it seemed to one disinclined to leave the scooter), and a 358m high point adorned with cell towers and radio masts.
Other than the scooter adventure, there wasn't much to do except this: sleep in, lounge on either balcony, read, walk along the waterfront, do crossword puzzles and drink either beer or wine, depending on mood. I also had a nice early morning run during which I was surprised to discover that it takes only 20 minutes to get around the small island, and that was at a decidedly leisurely post-marathon pace. This made me reconsider my new plan to retire to Poros as soon as possible, but then I remembered there’s that whole other big island just across the bridge, with a good selection of hills for maintaining peak marathon fitness (and working off all kebabs, beer and baklava), and the plan was saved.
A view of the beach of the picnic lunch, on the big island
Yep, I have a strong feeling I’ll be back to Poros some time. Even though I was only there for two nights it now feels like my island. I can just see myself scooting into town on my 50cc monster to pick up some groceries and the latest English newspaper, and then retreating to a comfy balcony for another afternoon of nothing. It would sure beat shoveling a path to an ice-shrouded vehicle in 30 below temperatures to pick up a bag full of mealy, tasteless winter tomatoes and a DVD rental.