Our last Saturday in Athens began bright and early this morning as we boarded the bus at 6:30 AM and got ready to head to the seaside for a three islands cruise. A lot of the girls in my apartment bought Greek flowy-style pants from the farmer’s market earlier this week (for only 5€!), so we all decided to wear them today to the islands. We arrived at our four story boat, complete with dining halls and shopping areas, and settled in to set sail.
Despite the ominous gray skies at the beginning of day, there was nothing but sunshine when we landed at the first island – Hydra. This island was absolutely breathtaking and made me feel like I was living in a movie scene. The white-roofed houses overlooking the seaside were exactly how I had originally pictured Greece and the ample tourism made it hard to believe that the Greek economy was suffering at all. Everyone found something different to do on this island. We shopped in the local boutiques, explored the picturesque streets, took donkey rides up the hills, and dove off rocks into the Aegean Sea. Once our time at this island was up, we boarded the boat again, where we were all served a delicious buffet-style lunch.
It wasn’t much longer after finishing lunch that we landed at the second island of the day – Poros. Poros is the smallest of the three islands and has been made famous by its clock tower. We all raced each other to the top of the rocks by the tower, which gave us a stunning panoramic view of the island. As always, this meant that Professor Helmke would call for one of his signature class selfies. We captured the picture, finished soaking up the view, and boarded the boat to the last island of the day – Aegina.
Aegina is famous for its naturally grown pistachios, so you can imagine that we tried everything from pistachio ice cream to pistachio hand lotion to pistachio drinks. It was all so good that we decided to buy some pistachios to bring back to the states for our families to taste. With full bags, we hit the beach. In Aegina, going to the beach does not just mean relaxing on the shore, but instead swimming out to far-off rocks, trying to ride a four-person bike, and renting ATVs (which, of course, we got Professor Helmke to ride on the back of). Once we had soaked up enough fun and sun for the time being, we went back to the shops where a group of us met a Greek store-owner who was originally from California. She talked about the economic crisis and how the culture of the islands has changed over the years, which was interesting to be able to compare to what we’ve been learning in class. We thanked her for her time and set sail for one last ride back to Athens.
However, the fun did not stop with the last island, as we managed to see two dolphins jumping alongside our boat and, later on, made it our personal mission to get every single guest on the cruise ship to join our top-floor dance party. Although this may not have been very successful, there’s something about dancing with all of your friends in the middle of the sea that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. We landed back on shore safely and made plans to nap, get dinner, return to our favorite bakery, and spend time with some of the Greek friends we have made. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to make such great memories today, and I can’t wait to sea (ha, get it?) what our last few days here have in store!