There is an island in the Argo-Saronic Gulf that features a history so long, that goes lost in the mists of time. Salamis, made world-famous by the eponymous ship battle that took place there in 480 BC, is where a small number of Greeks did everything right to defeat what looked like an unbeatable power, the almighty and numerous Persian fleet. Actually, according to historical sources, the warlike Xerxes himself, grand leader of the Persians, witnessed everything, sorrowfully, sitting atop Mount Egaleo, along the Attica coast.
Salamis has been the… apple of discord between various wannabe conquerors through its apparently endless history. Yet, it somehow withstood all challenges that were thrown at it. Furthermore, it can boast that it has been the birthplace of such prominent historical figures as Euripides, and the mythical King Ajax of Telamon. Salamis was also were Georgios Karaiskakis, one of Greece’s leading figures in fighting off the Ottomans in 1821, spent a good part of his life, setting up his military base on the island. Last, a renowned Greek poet as well, Aggelos Sikelianos, spent much of his life there, getting inspired while overlooking the Gulf of Elefsina.
Being within a stone’s throw away from the mainland, Salamis, or Koulouri, as the locals call it, looks practically like a geographical continuity of Piraeus. The short distance and the abundance of ferry schedules makes commuting between Perama and Paloukia, but also between Nea Peramos and Faneromeni, an easy task for locals and the island’s numerous visitors alike. Actually, it’s very common to find locals who commute on a daily basis, people who are working on the mainland and live on the island, or vice-versa.
Salamis City itself has nothing to envy from any mainland city of its size. With ample roads and more than enough shops of any kind, the visitor can’t help but feel that while there, he is enjoying all the pros of being in a proper city, without missing out though on that special “island feel” that Salamis City manages to deliver, even during the high-season summer months, when the total population can reach a staggering 300,000 people.
Cooking is an integral part of the tradition of Salamis. In our tour around the largest island in the Argo-Saronic Gulf, we had the chance to enjoy many delicious culinary creations. With Salamis being an island, it comes as no surprise that fish play a big role in the locals’ diet, with shellfish in particular featuring in every restaurant’s menu. Probably the best place to enjoy a meal by the sea is Skala I Megali, “The Great Staircase”, which is how the locals call the western coastal front of the city. There, one can enjoy a “meze” or five, and sip a coffee, while rowers are training on the calm waters of the Gulf of Megara.
The maritime tradition is evident all over, with the historic Salamis Naval Base lying at the northeastern part of the island, an area where seeing ranked officers is all too common, while locals may go around greeting each other with a “hello Captain” salute. Seamanship is big in Salamis, no surprise, and one can easily feel that the water, the sea, and everything that has to do with it, play a huge role in shaping life on the island.
As previously mentioned, Salamis’ short distance from the mainland makes it a top destination for people from Athens, especially, but by no means exclusively, during the hot summer months. Beautiful beaches like the ones at Aeantio (Moulki), Kanakia, and Peristeria (“Pigeons”), lure visitors who crave for some relaxing time next to the sea. Actually, “Koulouri” is so close to the mainland that someone can visit it from Athens even on a day-trip.
The island’s rocky terrain resembles an earthy palette with intense thyme aroma. On the way over to Perani and Kakia Vigla, plantations with pistachios (“fistikia Aeghinis, as we call them in Greece), attract the eyes of the visitor.
One of the most beautiful pats of the island is the little town harbor, where numerous boats of all sizes throw their anchor, protected by the security the gulf naturally provides. The place is also one of the best ones to go for a stroll, year round. Also, the surrounding area is home to many -peaceful- stray dogs -and cats- that live on the island.
Salamis holds a special place in Greek history, being an island where mythology meets seamanship. Loved by locals and visitors alike, historic Salamis seems to keep growing and growing, acquiring an ever more lively atmosphere. We’ll definitely keep on visiting, and, who knows, one day we may even be able to reach there not disembarking some ferry, but driving over the bridge, which is supposed to link some day the island to the mainland.