Aegina Home & Living - Living in Aegina





What is it REALLY like to live in Aegina?



As the aeroplane touched down in Athens airport, the late afternoon drizzle, a grey and clammy veil, blighted the mood of most of the passengers who sat in pensive silence waiting for the next tinny instruction. Perhaps the majority of us were returning to real-life Greece since it was the middle of September and therefore lacked the jovial optimism of tourists and holiday-makers. Or perhaps the weather simply instilled us with a feeling of resignation
Passing through passport control was slick and easy much to the relief of smokers who immediately fed nicotine to the agitated receptors in their brains screaming out for satiation and as the first rush of nicotine met its targets, the addicts stopped and savoured the moment, closing their eyes and slowly exhaling the smoke from their nostrils.
I meanwhile exhaled heavily at the thought of the tasks which lay before me, the first of which was to obtain a trolley, not an easy achievement in Athens airport.
It has never ceased to amaze me how the Greeks, a nation of people renown for their hospitality and generosity are so mean when it comes to baggage collection at Athens airport. The very time when people most need a little help and generosity is the only time when it is not forthcoming. In the past, I have witnessed exhausted passengers, weary from their flights, sometimes with hoards of children in tow almost burst out crying with frustration when they realise they need a euro coin in order to obtain a baggage trolley, not so difficult if the euro is one’s home currency but when it’s not??
On this occasion, I had my euro coin ready because my father had planned my needs in advance.
Taking heed of his advice, I remembered not to attempt to lug my baggage off the carousel and I certainly didn’t want to sustain a post-operative hernia so I set about selecting a fit-looking Herculean victim who might qualify to succeed. Spotting an athletic thirty something Greek male who wasn’t clutching a cigarette, I assessed him as a low risk coronary victim and able to cope with the task.
I thought back to the time years earlier when I was travelling to Greece with our middle child, then aged 1 who’d had bronchitis and consequently we’d had to postpone our flight to a later date, leaving George and our older son to travel ahead of us. As it was Christmas, my luggage was dangerously heavy and bulging with Christmas presents for all the family in Aegina.
All of our children being late walkers, I tucked my son under my left arm and with my right, I attempted to haul the first familiar suitcase off the carousel but it remained in place, like a rooted tree and so I had to revise my tactics. The luggage trolley (which in those days were free) continued to look redundant. I attempted to make eye contact with one of my fellow Greek passengers, willing them to insist on helping me by minding the baby but all they did was to mind their own business. I decided instead to place my porky one year old in the hand baggage section of the trolley and made a dash for the carousel, almost rugby tackling the first of the two suitcases and all was going well until I heard a metallic crash followed by gasps of concern and amazement. I immediately turned to find porky lying on his back on the lower level of the baggage trolley, too shocked I suppose to respond to his new perspective of the airport but on seeing me, he smiled and gurgled, his blue eyes full of pride and accomplishment. Several Greek women admonished me and complained that I was crazy not to ask for their help and they almost fought over who was to hold my gorgeous baby while I rescued my luggage. As I left the baggage hall, I was voted worst mother 1994 and I’m sure my baby was pitied for having an English mother.!

The day I arrived in Athens, the first day of my new life needed to be one in which events ran smoothly if things were to run according to plan .I was to meet George and the children at our favourite local taverna situated at the edge of Aegina port, the sort where you can sit with your feet dangling in the sea whilst enjoying a long relaxed lunch. We had exactly 1 hour and ten minutes in which to reach the last boat bound for Aegina. I tried explaining the urgency of the situation to the taxi driver who I desperately wanted to be on my side and to harness him to the anxiety of the situation but because the weather had been bad, the traffic had increased and every minute felt like ten as we crawled our way along arterial roads into Piraeus port. As we passed kiosks selling flags which flapped optimistically in the dusty air of Piraeus, my hopes were raised and I felt jubilant at the thought of seeing the family after a 10 day separation but as we hastily rounded into the mouth of the port, the last ferry boat drew up her ramp and pushed herself magestically just beyond my reach.
For the second time in twenty four hours, I felt like a lost child and as the taxi driver grabbed thirty five euros from me in a brusque, hurried manner; he merely shrugged his shoulders when I whined that I was now stuck on the mainland and my disappointed husband and children would be deflated when they learnt I wasn’t coming.
Mobile-less (I hate them), I struggled to edge my suitcases centimetre by centimetre to the nearest kiosk where I requested use of a phone. The kiosk proprietor was getting ready to go home so he reluctantly allowed me to use the phone while he and his two friends chatted and smoked, occasionally casting their eyes in my direction to assess my progress.
When George answered the phone, I exploded with frustration and fury, fuelled by the perceived incompetence of my taxi driver and the volume of traffic which had left me out of control of my journey and vulnerably homeless in Piraeus. The kiosk proprietor was unsympathetic and sharply reminded me to hang up the phone so that he could draw down the slats and as each plastic strip clapped down on top of the other like a sharp round of applause, the sky grew greyer as did my mood.
Not having budgeted for missing the boat, I wasn’t sure that my cash funds would take me to a decent hotel and pay for a taxi there. Fortunately however, we have some very empathic, caring friends living in Athens, one of whom works as a psychiatrist and after struggling yet again to nudge my luggage towards another pay phone, I called. On hearing my voice, which had developed into an incoherent trail of sobbing, he must have initially thought I was a patient…I actually felt like one and would readily have welcomed a  shot of valium with a spot of counselling but when I arrived at his home in a leafy suburb of northern Athens, I received a much more effective tonic in the guise of Greek hospitality, for not only was he waiting to relieve me of my cumbersome luggage but his wonderful wife, one of my dearest friends, had mustered up a hot meal and popped open a bottle of claret with a richness of satin.
I cannot remember which philosopher claimed that tragedy and comedy are of the same genius but we were soon laughing as I recalled the events I’d endured throughout the day and this  was enough to fortify me in preparation for the final part of my trip to Aegina the following day….

Alison Lorentzos   copyright 2007

*The E 96 bus runs regularly from the airport to Piraeus port and costs just over 3 euro. The journey takes from 1 hour to 1 and a half hours, depending on traffic.