Ermioni is a picturesque village of about 2600 people on the southeast shore of Argolida, with a characteristic island look. It’s next to the piney cape of Bisti, at the further end of the Argolic peninsula, facing the islands of Dokos and Hydra. Its inhabitants are mainly occupied in cultivating olives. Over the last decades the area has become a touristic attraction leading many locals into the touristic business.
How to get there Ermioni is about 180 km from Athens. You may get there by car, taking the Athens-Corinth highway; when you reach the Isthmus, take the by-pass to the Loutra Oraias Elenis (Baths of beautiful Helen) on the road to Epidaurus. At the bridge of Epidaurus take the road to Koliaki. Just before Kranidi, at the crossroads, take the road to Ermioni. There are also frequent buses from Athens (KTEL tel. no: 126.96.36.1998) and Nafplio (KTEL tel. no: 27520.27.323). There are also flying dolphins from Piraeus (tel. no: 210 210.41.99.000) to Poros, Hydra and Spetses, which get to Ermioni in two hours.
A glimpse of the past It took its name from the legendary hero Hermion, son of Europs, who founded the ancient city of Hermione. Hermione had been a flourishing city and a great naval force ever since Homer’s time. The boundaries of the Ermioni municipality of today are believed to coincide with those of the ancient city-state Ermionida. The ancient Hermione, believed to be underneath the contemporary city, had been the centre of Ermionida; from the 7th to the 4th century BC Hermione and the city of Halieis were the most powerful cities of Ermionida. Hermione participated in the battles against the Persians and in the 4th century BC it joined the Peloponnesian League. With centuries of shipping history behind it, the city offers three triremes in the Naval Battle of Salamis in 480 BC, and 500 of its men are sent to fight in the battle of Plataeae in 479 BC. In the early 3rd century BC Hermione will be the most powerful city of the region; Ermionida is now quite underpopulated and towards the end of the century it joins the Achaean League (gr. Sympoliteia).
In the early Roman era, Hermione suffered pirate attacks, which caused it great damages. During the Roman domination, Pompeius will eliminate the pirates’ threat and the city will flourish anew. For many centuries, its wealth came from the production and trade of the renowned “porphyra” (royal purple), a purple-red unfading natural dye extracted from the homonymous sea snails of the region; it was the same dye used for the tunic of Alexander the Great and the mantles of Roman dignitaries. A few years later Hermione will be abandoned; it reappears in the 14th century under the name Kastri. In 1537 it switches from Venetian to Turkish domination. It’s around that time that many Arvanites settle in the region. From the 18th century onwards, Hermione will become a commercial centre with its own fleet, which will be used in the Greek War of Independence. Many local people joined the revolutionary forces organized in the area and took part in many battles in the Peloponnese and Attica. In was in Hermione that the Third National Assembly began its sittings, which were concluded in Troezen.
It’s a must If you like hiking trails, you should definitely cross the small Katafyki Gorge that links Ermioni with Fournoi. It’s a half an hour walk that will surely entice you. The landscape is of unique beauty, comprising of rocks, caves, rich vegetation and the little church of Saint Nicholas, built in 1740, with ruins of medieval walls in its yard. The old historic bridge takes you to the nearby picturesque village of Fournoi via an enchanting landscape of pines and running waters.
Events Many are the events organized in Ermioni every year. Among its most important cultural societies is the Music Society, founded in 1988. It plays a leading part in the cultural events of the region, organizing great musical events and participating in various festivals in Greece and in Europe. Every summer, mainly in August, it organizes a choir festival with traditional music and dance.
It’s been four years since the municipality, together with other local authorities, has been reviving the carnival customs. On the last Sunday of the “Triodion” (gr. Τριώδιον, the three-week pre-Lenten period), the town of Ermioni swarms with local people and visitors, taking part in the festivities and having a great time. The carnival floats with various themes, the scabrous songs and the satirical atmosphere will make you have a wild time laughing your brains out. People of every age dress up and have fun.
Local events There’s a local custom called “giala-giala” to celebrate the Epiphany day. Young people decorate the boats on the previous day; on the day of the Epiphany they dress in traditional naval costumes and go from house to house, receiving treats and hearing wishes. They sing the traditional song “Giala-Giala” and rock the boats pretty hard; then they dive in the water to grab the holy cross.
Another impressive custom of the area is the burning of Judas at Easter. The custom has been carried out for decades in the central harbor of Ermioni on the night of Easter Sunday. A group of people is engaged in making an effigy of Judas a couple of days before the great day, using cloths, straws, wood, flammable material and a couple of firecrackers. Then they put the effigy at the harbor where anyone can see it. Boats of every kind participate in the burning of Judas. They arrive from Bisti with smoke canisters aflame, make a couple of circles around the effigy and then the leader sets it on fire. It’s a very impressive spectacle accompanied by music, fireworks and flares. At the beginning of the ritual there’s a brief introduction on the history of the custom and in the end people dance traditional dances near the central harbor.
On the 1st of July and the 1st of November there’s a big religious festival to honour the memory of Saints Anargyroi, where everyone, locals and tourists alike, can participate.
Then, there’s the fishermen’s festival organized by the municipality on Shrove Monday; Lenten food is offered to visitors, such as lagana (traditional bread), trachanas (traditional pasta), and seafood fished by local fishermen. Live music plays on and everyone has a good time.
Local products The fertile plain of Ermioni is famous for the delicious citruses and pomegranates produced there, considered to be the best in the market. The region is also known for its excellent quality olive oil, and the all fresh fish and seafood.