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  A Journey to Euboea (Evia)


Well known are the Greek archipelagoes of the Sporades, Cyclades or Dodecanese. But who does know the island Euboea or Evia? (I will prefer Euboea in this text). We have seen in the catalogoue of the tourist bureau that there are only a few hotels available at this island, so we deduce that there is not so much tourism. We book the hotel Holiday in Evia near the town Eretria. If thereafter someone asks where we will spend our holidays and we say "Euboea" everyone replies "What is that?".

So some informations must be given. Anyway this island is the second largest in Greece after Crete and before Rhode. So we will be able to state that we will have seen the three largest Greek islands but we are no statistic principalists. We have seen this island from above on our flight to Crete two years ago. It is stretched 150 km long eastern to the Greek mainland. At one point the island is only 35 m (!) apart from the mainland and just there is the capital Chalkis or Halkida. Of course there exists a bridge. The highest hills of the Dirfis mountains are 1743 m high. Near Eretria, our destination, the mountains are about 1000 m high and are named Olimbos mountains. This is all to be seen in the map: "Athen - Delphi - Euboea, M 1:250 000 Freytag und Berndt".

As we have booked the tour no one could think of the Kosovo War. Meanwhile this is in full action and no end in sight. The flight courses are shifted more east to Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. But it is not due to our security that we feel so strange. It is that we will lie lazy in the sun and dine with a voluptous buffet while the fugitives of the Kosove some 100 km away freeze and starve. So apologize that we decide to spend our holidays anyhow.

Friday, 23.4., Arrival

The departure at the airport Hannover is 6.45 am and for security we set three alarm clocks to 3.00 am. It is hard to restrain them all when we must get up. Our daughter brings us by car and after the check-in we sit on a bench and look at a charwoman who cleans the moving stairs. She has an easy job: she presses a floor cloth to the glasswalls and then glides up without any motion. Just adequate for this daytime.

At last we sit in the plane (Hapag Lloyd), but just above the wings so we will not see much below. Moreover it is cloudy, and so there is nothing to report of the geography. Near Athens it gets clearer and gliding down we see the endless deserts of cubic houses. It looks like a ocean of thousands of matchboxes. After we have got our baggage we hear from the service maids of NUR (Neckermann Reisen) that we will be brought by taxi and that will be about 60 km.

The taxidriver doesn't speak English or German, "Greek" he says, but that is not our field. So we do not speak so much and it is a long time until we leave the suburbs and sub-suburbs of Athens. I have my map on my knee and try to orientate. Then we leave the highway and cross a pass to the town Nea Palatia at the sea. We shall leave the car because we will enter a ferry boat to Eretria at the other side of the gulf. As we ask for our baggage the driver insinuates that he will come with us. We had thougt that his time is too precious.

So we now have a boat trip of 8 km and the island of Euboea lies in the sun just in front of us. In the background there is some snow on the higher mountains. Near the coast the mountains look bleak like without any vegetation. After some time the wind gets too cold and we go inside.

One hour later we arrive at Eritrea. This is a busy little town, later we will get known to it. The taxi needs only some minutes to the hotel at the busy coastal road. We say farewell to the driver by handshake and spend some money for his helpfulness. We get our lodging at the reception and then "the boy" comes up with a 2-seated vehicle. The baggage is put on the platform and I must sit on it too. It is only a short distance (150 m) to our appartement but I do hard not to fall off the waggon. But we arrive and the boy gets a baksheesh too. This was a mistake for he never takes any attention on us in the future.

Bungalow and Date Palm Tree
We have a nice bungalow. At the entrance there is big date palm tree and up at the ceiling there is a nest of swallows. We arange our stuff and then start for a walk. We have a certain problem at the beginning of every holidays. That means we don't like our location and feel bad. In German there is a word for this: "fremdeln" (to have stranger anxiety). There is a nice pool area with many flowers, bushes and trees, at a subway one can walk under the road to the beach which is gravel or raw sand. The weather is grey and then we detect that the whole area is enfenced, so one can only leave to the road? In the back parts of the area they build new bungalows and here and there there are some bad smelling fires of garbage. We have doubts if we can live two weeks within all this.

The Pool
We return in silence and read some time until it is time for dinner (7 pm). After the first frustrations we never have to worry about the dinner. There is a delicious soup, a dozen of salad-arrangements, a warm buffet with 6 "Rechauds" and various dishes. We soon find out, that there are lots of French people and families around - we cannot explain why. To complete the dinner: finally there is a dessert of ice, cake or fruit-salad. So we are used to enjoy a 4-course-menue and as ordinary Germans we drink a beer (but a Greek sort: Mythos). We have to pay 1800 Drachmen and so this is rounded up to 2000. The waiter is very friendly his name is Dimitri and we will get this or that hint or information of him.

So let us give some informations about the service hierarchy at this hotel. There are two smiling gentlemen in suits whose only task seems to be to welcome the guests by "Kalimera, Bon Soir, Good Evening, Guten Abend". If a guest by mistake asks these gentlemen for a drink they sniffily shout "Garcon". This is the next level below. Here we differ between the clerks which bring the drinks and those which clear the tables from the used dishes. Then there is a woman to arrange the buffet if someone has made too much confusion. And above all there is a chief-controller who always looks frowning, may be to get the others scared.

OK, we feel fine after the first dinner and I buy a bottle of vine at the Bar. It costs 2500 Drachmen or DM 15.-. This would be too expensive for the rest of the time though I get a probe of the barkeeper.

As we sit down at the foyer there are swarms of youngsters like from a beehive. 6 busses have arrived from Athens and spit out 300 Greek teenies. They are quartered in our neighbourhood and we anticipate that there will be a problem. After 10 pm it gets silent for the Disco down at the hotel will start. We enjoy our precious vine and sleep well (for a while).

Saturday, 24.4.: Eretria

We sleep until 4 o'clock in the morning. May be the Disco was closed at this time because the juvenile crowds swarm around, shout and laugh and have a final chat in front of our bungalow. We do not dare to go out and complain against the noise and after some time it is quiet again. But the youngsters do not need so much sleep, at 7 am they all swarm out again for breakfast. So we have a second short night and still wait for the recreation phase. After breakfast we meet the service girl of Neckermann and ask her about the circumstances. The young people are schoolboys and -girls from Athens and spend this weekend here. Due to a school-strike in the past the excursion has been shorted, otherwise they would have stayed a full week. We bless every strike! And we wonder why there is this conflict between such different kinds of guests. The cause is, that early in the season the owner of the hotel tries to get it full without respect.

We go to the road and take the bus to Eretria. We walk around there and think that this place really is not so much touristic. But then there is an urgent need of a certain locality and in vain for a while we look at restaurants or cafenions. Finally just in time we find the blessed letters WC at a bakery with open air chairs and table. Thankfully we stay for a Greek coffee and study the streetlife.

Houses and

Bus-Stop in Eretria
In front of a butcher's store there are hung up 4 naked animals, may be goats or sheep. Then we look for a supermarket to avoid to buy such an expensive vine again. We get five as much for the same price and buy a big 5L cannonbottle. This may last for a couple of days to get asleep whatever happens outside.

The sun shines bright meanwhile so we soon return to the hotel to start our sun-tan activities ("Can you cream my backside please?"). At the swimming pool there are white sun chairs. I read a book of John Krakauer: "Eiger Dreams" and those stories of ice and snowstorms are a real contrast to the sun of Euboea. But I prefer the shadow of an olive tree at first.

The area where they have built the bungalows and the pool arrangement was an olive grove in earlier times. Fortunately they have preserved some of the trees which may be some hundred years old. After some time we even succeed to jump into the water. And we hear the worldwide phrase again from two other ladies: "It is cold to get in, but then you feel nice".

In the evening the teeny groups assemble here and there. It looks as if they have gotten a severe lecture, but it is impossible to calm down the south-European temperament completely. So we barricade behind our 5L vine bottle in our room because it is too cold outside.

We sleep well and only now and then hear a brawling group coming along.

Sunday, 25.4.: Halkida

It is my birthday today and I get shirts, shorts and books. After breakfast there will be the official welcome date with the service girl of Neckermann. She is very friendly and comes from Belgium. Her name is Veerle and she speaks 5 languages: Belgium, Dutch, French, English and German. Greek is more difficult for her due to the strange letters (alpha, beta, gamma etc.). We are promised that there will be an official protest related to the noise at the hotel owners. Then she advertises (as usual) various round trips by bus which are (as usual) rather expensive. There are: a boat trip to the islands of Salamis, Aegina and some others, a visit of Delphi, the cloister Meteora or at last Athens. Some people who have been there however tell us, that Athens is very busy, noisy and dusty. Unfortunately no one knows where to rent a bike, so this time I have to be content with myself without a bike tour. As we leave the session we observe with satisfaction that the teenie-crowds with the 6 busses prepare their return.

We want to walk to Eretria and go to the road. Just then there is a bus to Chalkis so we do not need to walk and moreover we can go to Chalkis by this opportunity. We speak to a couple who had absolved a one-week educational trip in Greece and have seen the most important cultural and historical places. No they must relax another week. Yes, it was very interesting, at Arcadia there is much garbage and Athens: Horror, traffic noise all over the night, no chance to sleep well.

So we are content with Chalkis or Halkida and discuss which will be the real name. On the route we see the ruins of some fortifications ontop of hills, a mountain with some rests of snow in the background, the dry bed of a river and a new suspension bridge to the mainland.

We leave the bus at the busy bus station. The busses go in all directions of the island. We follow the educated couple and soon find ourselves in front of the Archaeological Museum. So we purchase two tickets after we have found the cashier behind a newspaper. In the museum there is an open air area with the relicts of columns stonefigures oder coffins. The inner section contains show cases with restaurated jewellery, crocks that are sticked together for a 100 or so single pieces. Dominating are some marble statues, but possibly without head or genitalia. There is a guest book and we read: "All what we have learned at school we can observe now, the figures of marble..." We coincide with "Old Stones" and think to have done enough for our cultural education.

Archaeological Museum of Chalkis

Outside again we detect the blue mirror of the sea whichat this place forms a narrow estuary. There is a nice promenade to stroll up and down. Just there is a church, there had been a wedding before and we see two black bearded priests leaving the scene. The entrance of the church is open and so we go in though we have shorts only. There is much gold, candelabra and icons. Behind us a woman closes the entrance by an iron crossbar and we jump there in panic. But she laughs and the other half of the entrance is still open and we do not end as prisoners in a church.

Streets of Chalkis

The restaurants at the promenade are full, we have Sunday and it is well known, that the Greek like to sit together and discuss the fate of the world. We have to look for a dry location too for the rain starts. We find a sun umbrellar and beneath this have our Cappucino. Nearby there is the famous bridge. The bridge can be opened for a ship which then saves more than 300 km detour. On the road there are some Africans or Philipinos who had to interrupt their trade with CDs or jewelleries.


Bridge to the Mainland
After the rain has stopped we observe some back roads. It is the same situation here like at many other places: the most romantic houses are uninhabitated and in decay. At 2 pm we are back in the bus. For the rest of the afternoon we have rain, so we read or make up some of our lost sleep.

In the evening we hear some hints how to walk outside the hotel region behind the fence.

Chapter 2