spetses

Why Spetses?....

Simply - 'quality and pace of life'. Relaxed atmosphere, pleasant environment, good people, coffee on the Dapia, lunch in the Palio Limani, hardly any cars and easy access to quiet rural surroundings - or if you are feeling masochistic, one of the busier cities of Europe is just two or three hours away.

What to do

As a visitor?.....relax. The beaches are good - some get very busy, but it's not difficult to find a quiet corner, even in the height of summer. There is a pleasant, occasionally frenetic buzz in the town and the scenery is beautiful - maybe not spectacular; but it's on a human scale that you can take in and enjoy.

There is a limited amount of watersport for the hyperactive. ....and at night? There are more than enough bars, tavernas and clubs to satisfy all (well most) tastes and pockets; and if you are crazy enough and want to keep going all night, the cafes start breakfast just about when the clubs finish......

Who comes here?

Nowadays Spetses is a popular weekend trip for many Athenians and the island is currently 'the fashionable place' in Greece to own a holiday home. This brings mixed blessings, not least in the rising price of real estate and restaurant bills. But it has led to a big improvement in the quality of some of the restaurants and hotels on the island over the past few years which has to be good for you as a visitor. As for whether you would enjoy the island; who am I to judge other people's likes and dislikes? I mean if you are looking for traditional unspoilt Greece, seeking an action holiday, want to gasp at spectacular scenery or squeal at the theme park then you may be wasting your money coming here.

However, if you enjoy simple pleasures, a relaxed pace with lively moments, good (Greek) food and fairly easy access to some superb historical sites, then you may well like it. People of all ages and nationalities come to Spetses and although the majority of tourists nowadays tend to be Greek, you can find people arriving here from pretty much all around the world. Many visitors come back again and again - I know quite a few who have been visiting regularly for thirty years and more.


What the Tourist Guides say... is frequently out of date.

Some tourist guides will still tell you that 'the island has no cars', 'the roads are dust-tracks', that 'the island is popular for its sandy beaches', in the town 'the streets are paved with cobblestones' and that the 'local people all use horses and carriages for transport'. These are all wrong!! Even recent (in fact, even current) editions of quite well respected guides keep failing to correct these half truths.

'(Spetses town ambience) is enhanced by the absence of motor vehicles' is a wholly inaccurate quotation from a recent Greek Tourist Ministry guide to the Saronic islands. And if they can't get it right then what hope is there. If you have an older guide however, do bear in mind that the tourism character of the island has changed dramatically in the last 15 years. We are no longer a haven for 'teenyboppers and ravers' as at least one 1980's guide claimed! To be fair though, current editions of some of the more respected international guides do get it about right.

The truth is....

That the use of private cars is severely restricted (and virtually banned at times) particularly in the summer months. However an increasing number of bloody minded people insist on driving cars around, often in open defiance of the law - steadily destroying the roads which were built for horse drawn transport. AND... the restrictions on commercial transport are not so limiting; delivery trucks and vans seem to flood the town centre every morning. Anyway, for public transport there are several taxis and in the summer, two small buses and also the Horse Buggies (sorry, Carriages) which are picturesque and popular for getting around town during the summer.

Some people get around traffic restrictions by using vehicles with less than four wheels which means that we get a lot of those infernally loud Italian three wheeler runabouts that sound like hyperventilating sewing machines. And curiously, the island has also been an outpost of support for the British Reliant Robin, plastic bodied three wheeled car from the 1970s (yes, really), although most of these are just about worn out now and quad bikes have pretty much taken their place; yes, I know they have four wheels but they seem to be acceptable to the law here now..... personally I am not too sure that that counts as a move forward.

Most people use small motorbikes -
I am told that they outnumber the population. They can be a downside to the island too - they're bloody noisy and at times quite intimidating, particularly in our narrow streets (okay, I ride one too!! So I am not going to preach). It's not too difficult to get away from them though and out of town life is usually very quiet. To be honest the bike issue is pretty common around the Mediterranean countries and I can think of places that are far worse than Spetses on this count. That's not an excuse; just a mild consolation.

The main roads are nearly all now concrete or tarmac surfaced, albeit often pretty bumpy, although they are steadily being improved year by year. Only the internal roads in the forest and some of the tracks down to the beaches remain as dust tracks.

Now the beaches...... lets face it are not sandy. True there is sand in places on many beaches, but mostly the beaches are shingle covered. Wonderful shingle though, with a stunning mix of different colours and minerals in the pebbles and stones. The sea is usually crystal clear and ideal for snorkelling.

You want sand? Well the beach at Kosta (the closest point) on the mainland is an easy and cheap boat ride away and that is sandy enough to keep most kids happy all day. Apparently this is actually a popular way to holiday; stay on Spetses and go to the beach every day at Kosta...

......and cobbled streets? Maybe it's a translation thing.... I know of some very attractive pebbled mosaic paths and yards; this is a traditional art across the Greek islands and Spetses has some of Greece's finest and oldest mosaics of this type. There are nicely paved pedestrian ares in town and some pretty bumpy roads too, but cobbled streets? Not on this island.

boat_building

Earning a Living

Spetses is very much a holiday island - and although the numbers of tourists has dropped dramatically in the last few years, the island still gets busy at weekends and festival times through the summer. Many of the islanders rely on the tourist trade one way or another to keep their bills paid.

farming_spetses

This is a limited amount of agriculture and Spetses also has a thriving boat building industry, being one of the main centres still involved in building traditional Greek wooden ships and boats. Added to that there is a curious mixture of professionals in all sorts of occupations who base themselves here for all or part of the year - I guess I probably belong somewhere in that group.

cats

And builders! Were there ever so many who claimed to be builders crammed into such a small place? Spetses current fashionable status in Greece has led to a high demand for new or renovated property and it seems as if half the men on the island declare bricklaying, decorating or tiling as their profession. Between mid September and Easter it sometimes feels as if the whole island moves to rhythm of the concrete mixer and pneumatic drill.

pine_island


paraskevi_2000

This Website is Unashamedly Biased

Just in case you missed it elsewhere on the site, I lived on Spetses for several years and I still spend a lot of time there. I make no particular claim that this gives me more right than any other person to write about the island. That said, I have tried to get the facts right and if you believe that I have any of the facts wrong then I welcome your input.

Opinions are a different matter. Those stated here are my own and if you disagree with my views then, well that's your perogative. I still welcome your input, I've had some entertaining debates and made several good friends starting off over a difference of opinion....

sunrise