The Town of Aegina
The long history of Aegina is immediately obvious as we enter the beautiful harbour of the town where to our left comes into view the low Kolonas hill, the old citadel of the town, with the only remaining upright column that stands out from afar. Kolona is one of the most important archaeological sites of Aegina. Imagine that here findings from all the different periods of habitation on the island have been accumulated in this small area. Findings from more than ten villages have been excavated, from the Neolithic up to the Mycenaean epoch. Among these findings are the ruins of the temple of Apollon with its monolithic column.
The Archaeological Museum of Aegina since 1980 is situated at the entrance to Kolona. It was the first museum in Greece after independence. Its rich collection contains, among other things, findings from Kolona, Aphaia and Mount Ellanio. A second, small archaeological museum functions at the archaeological site of Aphaia.
To the right and left of Kolona, we can see two of the three main beaches – sandy beaches of Aegina town (the other one is on the side of Panagitsa). The beach towards the town, Avra, is organized and busy. The beach to the right of Kolona is larger and attracts fewer people. If we proceed a little further to the right, to the point where above us is the characteristic tower of Aegina, we can find a very beautiful, almost deserted lovely small beach with striking blue water. Along the coastline and also in the sea, we can see archaeological findings.
The town of Aegina, invites us to stroll around to acquaint ourselves with its beautiful neoclassical buildings, its streets, churches and monuments. The coastal avenue that crosses the town parallel to the sea, starts from the archaeological site of Kolona and ends in the southern part of the harbour, where the Panagitsa, (the Presentation of the Virgin Mary), towers with its large dome and its domed arches. The church was built on the site of the Early Christian basilica from which sections of the mosaic floors have been discovered.
We can see another two main churches in Aegina town in addition to that of the Panagitsa . One is the Cathedral, dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, to Saint Dionysios and to Saint Ioannis the Theologian. It is a three-aisled basilica with a dome that was built in 1806. The reception of I Kapodistrias took place here in 1828. It has a marble altar screen and three altars. The other is that of Saint Nikolaos, the third large church of the town. Coming in to the harbour, we can see from far off the two very high bell towers with the church’s clock. At a short distance was the former cathedral, with a large basilica ( Vardas) of the 5th or 6th century that no longer exists today. The small, but very picturesque and characteristic all white small Church of Saint Nikolaos at the entrance of Aegina harbour. Built in the 14th Century on the rocks of the ancient defensive towers at the entrance of the old harbour.
Beside the Cathedral we can see the Eynardeio building. A rectangular building with two pediments and porches that was built in 1830 with donations from the philhellenic banker Eynard. Initially, it housed the main school of Kapodistrias. Up to 1980, and before its transference to Kolona, it housed the island’s Archaeological Museum.
Behind Saint Nikolaos, we can see the Tower of Markellos. A construction of Venetian form that was built by the philhellenic notable Spiros Markellos in 1802. When Aegina became the first capital of the Greek State, 1828-30, under Kapodistrias, it housed different Ministeries and the office of the Police Head of the town.
Two parallel roads to the east, beside the 2nd Primary School, we can see the former Governate. Large, simple, two-storey building that was renovated in 1828 to house the Governate of I Kapodistrias. It was formerly the household of a Dean. Here, the first Mint also operated. In newer buildings in its courtyard, the Library has functioned since 1948.
Following the road south from Panagitsa, having passed on our right the lovely beach below the church, we arrive at the football stadium of the island. The road (Gymnastirio street) runs parallel to the stadium, goes up and takes us to the former orphanage, built in 1828-29 to accommodate the orphans from the Greek Revolution. It operated until 1834. From 1880 and for about 100 years, it functioned as a prison for political and criminal prisoners . Until 1989 it housed the EKPAZ (Greek Centre for the Protection of Wildlife).
On the other side of the building, its NW side, ancient graves dug into the soft rock have been excavated. In one of these, a family grave of the 6th Century BC, many offerings were found in its sarcophagus.