In March of 2017, while on a trip with Will in New Hampshire, he invited me to join his friends, Kevin and Laura, on a sailing expedition off the coast of Greece. On a self chartered Catamaran, we would spend 7 days sailing the Aegean Sea, traveling between the Cyclades Islands and exploring their unique coastal communities. An additional 4 days would be spent in Athens exploring the vast history of the city.
This would be my first experience traveling outside of the United States and I was incredibly excited.
With our flights booked and our passports finally in hand, we packed up our backpacks and set off for Boston to catch our flight. Our first stop on our journey was Copenhagen, where we had a six-hour layover before heading to London where we would meet up with Kevin and Laura.
Our time in Copenhagen was short but sweet, we had just enough time to wander into the city and admire the local architecture, as well as grab a quick lunch and a chocolate covered waffle. We stopped at a small corner pub, crowded with locals on their lunch breaks enjoying tall pints of ale and finger sandwiches that we came to know as Smørrebrød. These sandwiches are traditional open-faced Danish sandwiches consisting of crisp rye bread piled high with sliced boiled eggs, fresh and pickled vegetables, and cured meats and fish.
Our next stop, London.
We spent the next few days with Kevin and Laura in their flat, exploring some of their favorite local spots. We ate french pastries from Madeline café, walked along the River Thames and visited a small pub serving traditional ales at room temp. We spent an afternoon walking around Richmond Park, one of the many Royal Parks, known for its protected herds of wild deer. Will and I spent time together wandering around Borough Market, London’s oldest and largest market dating back to the 12th century, where we ate fish and chips and meat pies while browsing through the hundreds of vendors selling local provisions. We also visited the London Tower, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, House of Parliament, and the Westminster Bridge.
As our time in London came to and end, we checked in to our flights and set forth to Greece. We arrived early in the morning, waiting for Kevin and Laura to arrive before hailing a taxi to the port in Lavrio where our boat awaited.
When we arrived it was near dawn so we napped along the docks of the harbor while waiting for our fellow shipmates to arrive. Much to our surprise, we spent that napping period shooing away stray cats and dogs, as well as listening to nearby club music from Aqua Cafe, a local spot that we came to recognize as both a nightclub and a breakfast café. Once everyone arrived we boarded our boat and set off into open water.
Our first stop was the Island of Kythnos.
From our docking, we could see a small whitewashed town just above a quiet beach with a paved footpath leading toward one of the Islands two thermal hot springs. The spring itself has two baths, Agioi Anargyroi and Kakavos, both dating back to the Roman and Byzantine time periods based on nearby archaeological finds. These two baths are the only thermal hot spring within the Cyclades Islands. After our soak, we indulged in the spinach and cheese hand pies known as Spanakopita, as well as Baklava, a sweet and savory traditional pastry of spiced nuts layered in phyllo dough, drenched in a sweet syrup.
Our next destination was the island of Serifos.
We explored the island of Serifos by foot, visiting local shops, historical sites and stopping to gander at the fauna and flora along the nearby hiking trails. It was on this island that I began taking notice in the vibrancy of the blue waters, contrasted with the rough ground cover of the surrounding cliff and hill sides. Small walking trails often lead to high looks outs, small chapels and the ruins of buildings with unrecognizable features.
Earlier that day, Sam, one of our two seafaring captains, gifted our fleet of eight with wooden swords in which he purchased in London prior to our trip. Little did he know, these toy swords would not only provide us with hours of pirate themed exploration but defence against intoxicated French speaking intruders who sought after our dingy in the wee hours of the night.
After a day spent near Serifos, we set sail for the island of Kea.
The Island of Kea is known for its “Lion of Kea”, a large Lion carved out of slab rock with a curious history. Nestled within the Grecian hillside of the town of Loulis, this lion gazes down on you with a subtle yet friendly smile. Archaeologists are unsure as to whether the lion was originally carved with this friendly grin, or if its facial expression changed overtime with weathering; this Lion itself dates back to 600BCE.
Milos, the most southwestern volcanic island apart of the Cyclades, was our next destination.
We sailed into a popular cove on the southwest side of the island for an afternoon of casual lounging and swimming in the pristine blue waters. With swords drawn, we even bellowed out a heartfelt birthday shanty for Laura. We never did set foot on the mainland of Milos, but we spent hours climbing along the rocky cliff sides and exploring the many volcanic caves by dingy.
Sifnos, the island of adventure.
The island of Sifnos brought us the opportunity to extend our explorations, as well as form a new group identity. We rented Mopeds from a small rental shop and took on the distinguished identity as “The Mopedos”.
We traveled across the island, zigzagging through small communities on narrow back roads and scenic byways, stopping occasionally to take in the sights, reconfigure our navigation and pet roadside donkeys. We made our way across the island in tact and spent some time exploring Castle Sifnos, ruins of a once fortified medieval settlement dating back to the 14th century. We followed a winding stone walkway out to the Church of the Seven Martyrs, a beautiful singular whitewashed church resting on a rocky peninsula high above the Aegean Sea.
Our time on the island of Sifnos wasn’t complete without a quick trip to the Old Captain Bar where we cursed like the pirates that we were slowly becoming and drank colorful rum drinks like the sailors we were. That night we marched through the streets in unison with our swords drawn towards the sky and gelato in our bellies.
After a couple more days at sea, visiting a couple more island communities, we headed back to the mainland to check in to our indoor garden themed airbnb and explore the city of Athens.
Our time in Athens felt much like taking a step backing into our grade school history books as we were overcome by the sudden depth of history. We worked our way through the bustling streets of the city, passing vendors and street performers, restaurants and shopping centers until we stumbled upon the ruins of a time long ago. The ancient Agora of Athens, the Temple of Hephaestus, the Stoa of Attalos (Archeological Museum), the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the Roman Forum of Athens, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus all surround the Acropolis, a powerful citadel protectively watching over all of Athens.
We spent the next few days visiting as many ancient ruins as possible, eating countless Gyros and truly enjoying each other’s company. The group was brought together by Kevin and Laura, an assemblage of friends from near and far, who undoubtedly formed friendships inseparable by time and space.
Once a Mopedo, always a Mopedo.
Check out my video below for a cinematic approach to our trip!
*All photos taken by WJ + JB with an iPhone 5, videography produced with GoPro HERO7 White — Waterproof Action Camera with Touch Screen 1080p HD Video 10MP Photos*