The Mediterranean Sea is unique for its location between Europe, Africa and Asia, and its rugged and varied coastline. There are a number of islands of all sizes such as Ibiza, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily; the coast of Croatia, for example, is surrounded by more than six hundred islands and islets. Our goal for this year, however, was Greece.
Approximately one quarter of the area of today's Greece is covered by islands. There are over three thousand islands in this country, and in present, 167 of them are inhabited. And because most of the islands can be reached only by ferry or by a private boat, this was the perfect opportunity for us to combine our biggest hobby, yachting, with exploring new places.
At the end of January, at the largest boat show in Düsseldorf, we meet with a nice elderly Greek and we agree to rent a sailboat in May.
We get a good price with a substantial discount, the only thing that is worrying us are the concerns about the overall situation in Greece. The news are full of gruesome political comments about the country's debts, questions about its future and the impact of its economy, loans and elections on this year's tourism. Finally, still worried, we decide to send payment to a charter company in Greece. But everything goes well, all the papers and documents from the company arrive in time, so, on 1 May, a large van with our six-member crew sets out on a nearly two-thousand-kilometer journey to Athens (via Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia and Macedonia).
After nearly 24 hours of driving, we arrive at the sea, to the Kalamaki marina, and for the first time, we see the sailboat named Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 40 - Panic, which will become our home for two weeks. The plan is to explore especially the Cyclades archipelago.
However, the city of Athens itself offers a number of interesting spots, ancient monuments and other things to see, so we don't waste our time and head to the city. We keep the Syntagma Square, the Panathenaic Stadium, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Acropolis and other monuments for the next day. Even two whole days in Athens aren't enough to get to know the city and explore everything it has to offer. But, the sea is already calling us, so in the evening we set out from the harbor in the direction of the island of Kythnos. A morning swim in the Fikiada bay is a reward for the night sailing and also our first taste of the Aegean Sea. Our next stop is the island of Mykonos. The setting sun and the silhouettes of the historic mills look like from a travel agency ad. A visit of Delos, on the other hand, takes us back into the past and we learn a lot about Greek history and mythology. The boat then takes us to the islands of Naxos, Ios and Santorini. This gem of the Greek islands which is depicted on almost every postcard from a holiday in Greece is full of fascinating places with wonderful views of the remains of a volcanic crater. Its center was smashed by a massive explosion after which only peripheral parts of the island remained, surrounding a 400 meters deep lagoon.
After the tour of the island it's time to get back on the boat, our next goal is the island of Crete and its capital Heraklion. We cover the distance between the islands in about 9 hours. The weather is beautiful and we have wind in our back. The conditions become worse on the way back: a strong wind and storm cause that the return to the island of Ios lasts three times longer and sailing in big waves and strong wind extends this part of the journey to about 27 hours. We manage to visit the island of Milos, and after the necessary repairs and replenishing supplies, we set off on the return journey. We sail towards the eastern coast of Peloponnese peninsula and we visit the island of Poros which is a stone's throw away from Athens.
After two weeks of sailing, amazing experiences, visiting many historical sights and interesting places that the tourists traveling with a travel agency could never get to see, we are once again in Athens. Tired at the idea of two-thousand-kilometer return journey, but full of wonderful impressions. We are planning to do it again soon because we've seen only a tiny bit of the Greek islands so far. Many other islands, monuments and places reachable only by boat are still waiting for us. And sailing and ships is what we enjoy.