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Fishermen and Pirates of Evia

The road this summer took us approximately 700km south to the Greek second large island of Evia (Εύβοια). Starting from this year we decided to leave Macedonian Greece and start spending our vacations and visiting other regions of the country and this southern part of the Balkans. Our vacation resort was located only about 100km from the spot where famous 'Battle of Thermopylae' took place and where in late summer of 480 BC, king Leonidas of Sparta confronted large army of Persian Empire lead by Xerxes the Great, who was trying to occupy ancient Greece in Persian second attempt. The Greeks was vastly outnumbered and faced with imminent collapse after the betrayal during the second day of battle, Leonidas dismissed majority of his army and in the most famous last stand, remained to guard the narrow pass of Thermopylae only with 300 Spartans, 700 Thespians and 400 Thebans. We all know what happened next. At least many of you saw the movie and although it was diverted from the real happenings and portrayed Leonidas defeat in more or less artistic way, this was one of the most striking battles of them all. In following months and years Greeks managed to stand on their feet and finally in couple of naval battles forced Xerxes to withdraw and to finally end the war.

Anyway, history aside, we spent ten days in the town of Pefki, at the northern shore of Evia. It is inhabited only with local fishermen and it's small harbour is occupied with small and medium size fishing boats. Every night this small fleet was sailing out from the bay and in the morning was returning with tons of various catch for local markets, restaurants and for further industrial export. Fishing is very successful business in Evia and there is no surprise if you see fisherman's latest models of Mercedes-Benz parked next to his boat. Of course during the summer, small fishermen town grows into large tourist resort and with couple of previous years, Serbian 'tourist armada' started to grow rapidly. Many of Greeks already learned couple of Serbian words and lots of menus in local restaurants and tavernas are already translated to Serbian as well. Even the Serbian flag is waving on the beach next to Greek on several places. I guess, Persians did it all wrong, instead of invading the Greek peninsula, they only needed to sail here for summer vacations and start spending gold and coins and Greeks would probably rise their flag for free. :-)

This vacation was a perfect chance to test our Olympus µ TOUGH-6010 under the water. Viktor and I were very excited about this and made tons of photos and video clips. The camera heroically withstood salty water and some of the photos, after little post processing, ended very well. Video clips, although in not too high resolution captured nice underwater activities, especially in those times when Viktor dropped the camera to the sandy floor and we had to search for the little thing while it was recording all our efforts from the bottom of the sea. Crystal clear water of Aegean helped a lot and we are looking forward for our next underwater adventures.

During the stay, we decided to take just one excursion, which is in part why we chose Evia in the first place. It was the trip to the western part of the island where we spent wonderful afternoon on the volcanic sand of the isles of Lichadonisia. Actually, this is a cluster of small islands which are created by volcanic energy leaving many of bigger and smaller cays in one single formation. The biggest island is called Magnolia and contains one of the kind beach-bar resort with its turquoise waters and many opportunities to explore nearby small colony of seals and a place among the reefs where still stands a shipwreck from the second world war. At the end of the day, two fast boats we used to get to the island spiced up the day with spectacular race and us cheering for our teams. We won. They lost. Probably because the other skipper gave the wheel to the couple of girls from the group for couple of minutes and that reckless moments cost them precious speed.

Sirtaki (Greek: συρτάκι) on the beach

The biggest star of the tour was our guide, Mihajlo. Extremely cool and funny guy with lots of interesting stories and with rare ability to tell things exactly like they are without any spicing or sugar coating the event or place. The story I still remember is about the pirates of Gialtra. On our way to the islands two buses had to use all their efforts and skills in order to pass the village of Gialtra, with all its narrow streets and houses built in irregular shapes and sticked to each other very closely. Mihajlo said the inhabitants of the village are actually descendants of local pirates and when their grand-grand-grand-fathers "ceased the business" long ago they chose to build this village in this way in order to defend them from authorities and other pirates more easily. They are now maintaining a small factory of Retsina (Ρετσίνα), famous Greek wine with its unique flavor made by pine resin they collect from nearby forests. Well, to be completely honest, I couldn't find any proof for this pirate story online but I am sure it is at least partly true if not at all. When we passed the village for the second time I was wandering if some of the descendants still keeps the black and traditional "Jolly Roger" pirate flag in some old case of some old house basement as a souvenir.

At the end, what was also very interesting was our car trip to the nearby open market in the town of Istiaia (Ιστιαία) and nearby coastal town of Oreoi (Ωρεοί), charming little place with many harbour tavernas, small marina and connected beach as well with a display of a large, more than 3 meters long, marble bull about 2400 years old, found and raised from the harbour in 1965.

There are many more sights and places to visit in this part of Greece, including the Greek capital Athens which is about two hours of drive away as well as the Evia chief city of Chalkida, but simply one vacation is too small time for all the things we had in our planner. Next time. Many thanks to our tourist agency "Big Star" from Niš and their amazing efforts to choose great vacation travels with their partner agency "Omniturs" from Belgrade.

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