Spetses and Hydra … what a change from every other island we have seen so far!
Just a little bit about the name: The name Spetses, an Arvanite corruption of the Venetian ‘Isola di Spezie’ (Spezie: Italian word for spices), or ‘Isle of Spices’, more befits the island that we know today. The Venetians may have also called it ‘Spezie’ as it reminded them of the port on the west coast of Italy called ‘La Spezia’. The most infamous of the herbs growing wild on Spetses is ‘throubi’, which is a kind of wild thyme with a particularly pungent smell. Local folklore has it that the smell of the throubi is responsible for the islanders acting slightly crazy!
As the the weather was flat calm, we made use of the opportunity to see one of the most popular of the Saronic Islands. Spetses Island is the most “remote” of the Saronic islands. On approaching Spetses, one notices the white town with its red-tiled roofs, set against a back-drop of pine trees. We knew we would not have time to go ashore so we anchored for lunch and a swim (the anchorage did not feel all that secure to leave the boat and being high season, and the most popular island in the Cyclades, most docks were taken or pretty busy and mainly used by commercial boats)
The anchorage just to the right of the ferry dock gave us front row seats to the happenings on the towns promenade, watching the horse drawn carts going up and down, the buzz at the restaurants and people swimming meters away from the boat. Some really wonderful buildings could be seen from the sea approach. Coming in towards the town, there is the old Daskalaki Factory, now the Nisia Hotel, the imposing grandeur of the Possidonion Hotel (built in 1914, it’s the oldest hotel on the Greek Islands), the architecture owes much to its Venetian influences in the past, who brought a bit of the Italian finesse to the town.
It is strictly forbidden to build modern and high-rise buildings, which will certainly help to retain the character of this lovely old town! Some lovely old houses and the tall bell-tower of St. Nicholas could be seen in a distance which made me want to go there. Another next time item on my list? Although there are many sun-seekers streaming off the ferries, due to the nature of available accommodation, package tourism apparently has not caught on and a lot of them are day trippers.
We only had lunch, a swim and the enforced siesta (by the captain) before moving on. As we approach Hydra, we knew it would be an almost impossibility to go ashore. The marina/port is tiny and for local boats only and the island does not provide any anchorage close to the town as an alternative. So we scooted off to Poros to use their town docks to secure Scolamanzi and used the few days on hand to take a ferry out to Hydra – an Island that stole my heart the moment I have laid eyes on it!