About an hours ferry ride from the port of Piraeus in Athens is a small island called Aegina which is famous for stunning beaches, monasteries, ancient temples and growing pistachios. One of the smaller towns on the island is Agia Marina, a small fishing town with a few bars and hotels. The town is fairly sleepy when it’s out of tourist season and is what you would imagine a picturesque Greek island town to look like. But there is one feature slightly less expected. Looming over the town are the crumbling remains of a gigantic hotel complex which has been abandoned and left in ruins.
At first glance one could be forgiven for thinking that this giant abandoned complex was the product of the 2008 financial crisis which threw Greece into the financial mess which continues to bite in the country. However, it is not. Older residents of the island remember that the construction in fact started in the 1960’s while Greece was under military rule. Speaking to the owner of a local bar over a glass of Metaxa I learned that the hotel was part of one of the many financial scandals that occurred under the rule of the military.
Large loans were known to be taken out by the military government to build large hotels in parts of the country which either had little tourism. Sometimes construction would begin but the money would mysteriously be syphoned away fro the project, leaving great abandoned building sites around the country.
Walking around the ruins – which is not strictly allowed, however, the fences protecting the site seem to have long since crumbled, you can get an idea of the sheer scale of the construction. In total the hotel is roughly half quarters the size of the entire of Agia Marina.On the small hills at the start of the complex there are small villas on two stories, some are empty shells but in others you can see that building got as far as installing bathtubs and toilets.
Climbing up these crumbling structures is a challenge, and not exactly the safest thing to do – with jagged metal and lose stones everywhere. But the view of the town is spectacular, and makes one wonder how stunning the hotel would have been were it ever completed.
Further on there is a huge swimming pool that never saw water, and some huge subterranean spaces – impossible to explore without some far better torches.
Looking at the crumbling, graffiti covered remains you are reminded that not all of Greece’s ruins are ancient, but they do all tell a story.