Getting to Tzia
Ferry tickets to Tzia are a bit of a crap shoot. You can book the outbound tickets by telephone, but you need to be there an hour in advance to collect them, otherwise they get sold on. Return tickets are only available from the island, apparently to ensure that people booking the places are actually on Tzia and the places will be used. The ferries running the Lavrio – Tzia route are small, so this is probably not a bad thing. If you are only going for the weekend this means best to be booking your return trip immediately upon arrival in the port.
Word has it that a new larger ferry is being built to service the route, but this won’t be ready until 2009 at the earliest, and in the meantime rumour has it that one of the three ferries currently running will be decommissioned! So, book early if you want to head out there on a Friday along with the rest of the Athens crowd, mid week shouldn’t be a problem even in the middle of summer let alone the off season.
Arriving in Tzia
As always, we head away from the port of Korissia and up to the main village of Ioulida. We have had a number of pleasant stays in Ioulida over the years, but this is the first one with the baby. Let me tell you, if you have a baby that you need to carry… don’t stay in Ioulida! My knees are cracking like dry twigs, my back is aching, if anyone asks me now, I would say find some rooms closer to the sea and on flatter ground. Ioulida is great, no cars, fantastic view, but man those stairs.
The Lion of Tzia (Kea Lion)
What better thing to do bright and early on a Saturday morning than to take a stroll out to the famous lion of Tzia. I admit to actually never having gone to see it in person before, but it is the end of May, the weather is good and Ioulida is still almost deserted so off we go.
The Lion is reached by following the sign from the main square or asking directions (everybody know where it is). The narrow street takes you winding through the houses of Ioulida, past a café or two (still yet to open at this early time of the year) and suddenly without realising it you have left the houses behind and you are on an ancient stone paved track wandering through the blooms of the greek countryside in spring. The path itself leads you past a couple of churches, a refreshing spring and after about 15 minutes you see the lion below you across a small ravine.
I have to admit to being slightly perplexed by the Lion of Tzia. It is a great chunk of rock, carved to look more or less like a lion, but with a slightly cheesy grin reminding of a mix between the Mona Lisa and the cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz. Word has it that the sculpture dates to about 600 BC, but it sure doesn’t look like anything else you are likely to see from that period in Greece. Experts believe it is a tribute to the closeness the locals felt to nature and represents their animistic inclinations, I have yet to see a Lion elsewhere in Greece let alone on an island, but maybe things were different two and a half thousand years ago.
Regardless of the Lion’s origins or history, the walk out to see it is a great experience at this time of year. The sun is hot but not yet scalding, the flowers and trees are in full bloom and the birds are in song. On the way out we didn’t see a soul, and on the way back in passed only a couple of older residents with their donkey heading for the nearby church. If you would like to see Tzia without the crowds, May is definitely a good time to do it.
Day trip to Otzia
After our walk and a quick coffee to liven us up it is time for a trip to check out the nearby beaches of Gialiskari, Voukari and Otzia. These three beaches on the road heading north from Korissia are heaving in the summertime being both easy to get to and nicely protected from wind by their encompassing bays. Even at this early point in the season all three were busy enough with many out to enjoy their first swim of the year.
Gialiskari is a small beach with a lovely backing of tamarisk and eucalyptus trees giving dappled shade from the sun. The beach itself is sandy and has a number of man-made stands (read four poles and a thatch like roof) offering further shade closer to the sea. Unfortunately it is also home to a small beach café / bar on its southern edge which was pumping out some sort of beat even at this early point of the year. It had a bit of life around it, so obviously some were enjoying themselves, but not for us, so we continue on to Voukouri.
Voukouri Marina and Beach
Voukouri houses the main marina of Tzia, and the village itself has a definite marina feel to it. It is also the home of many of the island’s fishing boats and if you are looking for a feast of freshly caught fish this is the place to be. The road leading through the town is sandwiched between the sea and a host of small cafes, bars and tavernas which seem populated mainly by the sailing crowd. Shorts, shirts and deck shoes were de rigor wear with small groups of friends lounging around and discussing, well, sailing stuff. The beach is just a past the marina inside a lovely bay. It too is backed by Tamarisks and was pretty busy (no bar though!) but all the sailing folk had us spooked so we decided to head on for Otzia.
Otzia also has a lovely beach, sandy, Tamarisks, nicely protected inside its bay (are we seeing a pattern here?). It too is busy enough for the time of year, but the road that follows on to Kastrianis Bay is not fully paved and a hot bumpy ride with the kids is not what we are after. We camp out under a shady pergola, the adventurous jump in for a (not so chilly) swim and the kids have fun building a sand castle or two and splashing in the shallows.
The beach has a taverna behind it offering a decent enough fare, although I can’t say I was raving about it. Prices were pretty steep (read Athens like), but then, Tzia is bordering on being a suburb of Athens in this respect, so don’t expect to eat cheaply.
Back to Ioulida via Agia Irini
Stuffed with food and wine we wind our way back home making a quick trip out to see the ancient ruins at Agia Irini. They appear closed, but those interested in seeing the most impressive finds are urged to go to the main Museum in Ioulida, it is well set up and the finds are truly beautiful.