Boat in Piraeus Port
Salamina (Salamis) is the largest Greek island in the Saronic Gulf about 2 km off the coast from Piraeus. My friend Christina lives on Salamina so each time I visit Greece I always enjoy a few days on the island with her.
Last September when I was there we decided to do some exploring. Salamina is a large island with an interesting history dating back to the Bronze Age. It is best known for the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC when the allied Greek fleet led by Themistocles, overpowered the Persian fleet. Today Salamis is the home of the Salamis Naval Base and a NATO base.
The island is one of the largest Greek islands with an area of 36 square miles. It is mountainous and covered with pine forest. It's popular for holiday and weekend visits for Greeks from the mainland but not many tourists visit there. There is an island bus service but to really see around you need a car to reach some of the lovely more remote beaches around the island.
View from Christina's house
Christina's house is in the village of Aianteio on the southwestern part of the island. Her house has a magnificent view of the bay below and down the hill is a small, pleasant beach. This time when I visited Christina suggested we go exploring and see if we could find some of the ancient sites. According to the map there are several but they are not well marked so you need to be prepared to do some searching and hiking.
Our first stop was to go to the memorial for the Greek fleet from the Battle of Salamis. Along the shore there is a memorial and nearby tumulus where the dead were buried. Higher up on the hill is a beautiful bronze statue depicting the sailors aboard a ship.
Monument Honoring the Greek Fleet from the Battle of Salamis
From there we drove around to another part of the island, this time in search of the ancient Mycenaean acropolis at Kanakia. The acropolis was on a hillside near the beach, but farther up the hill there are excavations and a memorial to Ajax, one of the warrior-kings who took part in the Trojan Wars. He is mentioned in Homer's Iliad and died at Troy, so a memorial had been built for him.
We found a dusty road leading up to where we supposed the excavations were and when we reached the top I heard some digging. Through the trees we could see some young people at work. They were the archaeology team. So we went to investigate. And what luck! I just happened that the archaeologist was there, Yannos Lolos, who is well known for his discoveries. He welcomed us to the site and showed us around. When I mentioned my novel Shadow of the Lion which had just been published, he was very interested. That was definitely one of the highlights of my trip last year!
Archaeologist at Work
Other interesting sites on the island include the Cave of Euripides. The poet was born on Salamis and this cave is where he wrote most of his works. Christina has been there but said it was a difficult trudge up the mountain so we passed on that idea and went in search of a nice beach where we could refresh ourselves.
Salamina has several very pleasant beaches and we enjoyed a nice feast of Greek mezedes at the beach taverna in Kanakia before driving around to see more sites.
One of many beautiful views
Along the way we stopped at The Monastery of Virgin Mary Faneromeni that played a role in the Greek War of Independence in 1821 against the Turks. Nearby on the beach is the house of the distinguished poet Angelos Sikelianos . The author wrote many of his remarkable pieces here. It is now a museum
Beautiful Views on the Island Drive
Church of the Virgin Mary Eleftherotria
On the way back to Salamina town we drove up into the hills to see the Euripidean Theatre and the beautiful Church of Virgin Mary Eleftherotria on the Patris Hill. The views from there were spectacular.
Back in town we visited the Folk Museum and also the archaeological museum that had displays from the Cave of Euripides and other excavations on the island.
Across the road we found a quaint old taverna and were welcomed in. It was like a mini museum with all kinds of Greek artifacts hanging from the rafters and decorating the walls. The owner was a very friendly fellow and we decided this would be a great place to visit again. (Maybe this year we'll go there).
The taverna in Salamis
Christina and me having fun
As usual my time on Salamina was full of fun and never a dull moment. It's always nice to get back to Chris's house and relax on her porch swing watching the collection of neighbourhood cats that like to come and visit. When I got back this year we plan to do more exploring as there are still a lot of undiscovered places to see.
The little courtyard and the suite I stay in
Christina's beautiful house
Here's a link to a published story about Salamina: http://www.travelgeneration.com/travel-stories/greece-the-hidden-treasures-and-secrets-of-salamina/