We’d travelled to Hydra by hydrofoil from the port of Poros – a quick 20 min. The little horseshoe-shaped harbour was packed with brightly painted fishing boats and yachts and a few super yachts hanging back in deeper water. The foreshore is the tourist street as usually is the case with all islands – one after the other restaurant/ coffee shop with pretty much the same menu and prices in every one of them and a few touristy shops in between. On our arrival that morning, we opted for a good coffee and a breakfast of Greek yoghurt and honey (what else)! No matter where … the portions are massive in Greece and the Honey and Yoghurt (note … it was not Yoghurt and Honey this time!) always a treat! (Again – we should have shared, as both of us left half our yoghurt untouched!)
Surrounded by the view of one after the other white Greek house stacked on the sides of the hill we could not wait to explore this gem. It is only when you stroll out of the tourist hub up the hill or around the hill all along the cobbled stone paths, that you know that this is really something special. Looking down the cliffs towards where people are swimming, the water is changing from shallow turquoise blue suddenly to a deep ink blue, meaning that it gets very deep within about 5-10 metres from the beach. That is why it is hard to find anchorages around Hydra – it is just too deep.
As we went up and around to the top of the hill, we were met by an elderly women with a donkey carrying an enormous load of suitcases hanging off his back on either side of his struggling body. The cobble stones are at best of times slippery under my track shoes – needless to say the poor donkey was struggling to hold on to his footage and stay upright. With wobbly legs he was slowly making his way down – I could not help to feel sorry for the poor animal. The load was just way too heavy to be fair! If I could have spoken Greek, I probably would have made some enemies at that stage.
The island is quite unlike the rest of Greece – or Europe for that matter – in most ways. There are no vehicles on the island. Even bicycles are banned. It’s left to donkeys and the odd pulled trolley (pulled by young men this time) to lug visitors’ luggage and islanders’ goods up the steep, stepped lanes.
Walking back from the hill and up into the village was just an amazing sight! Passing some old Greek women in their black dresses going about their daily tasks (even here I found the odd old women on an iPhones… which unfortunately spoiled the perfect picture for me!) and kids playing on the steps in the narrow alleys with hardly any tourist shops in site, makes you realise that this is something special. I know that I have mentioned the narrow cobbled stone alleyways a million times in previous blogs as well as the white houses with their blue doors and window frames, but Hydra was somehow different. The feel of walking amongst locals (greeting us with their familiar “yia sas”) , watching them attending the morning service at a small hidden church and then gathered in an outdoor restaurant with the priest joining in, almost felt like we are watching a live Greek life documentary. We were just too tired and hungry (it was a very hot day with lots of walking up and up and…) and was dying for a cold Mythos Beer by the time we got to this restaurant, and ended up being the only foreigners sitting in on this amazing experience.
Hydra seems to attract the sort of independent-minded traveller. Once they have seen and feel the place and love it, they will return in search of the calm down-to-earth environment provided by the car-less tranquillity. (Just ask Leonard Cohen… He first visited in the 60’s, fell in love with Hydra and bought a grand old house in the town.)
Hydra Town is a national monument which safeguards it’s time-wrapped appearance – so no tacky new builds will be allowed to spoil the white-stone face of this tranquil little village on the cliffs of the island of Hydra. This is a place I will always dream of as my wishful-thinking new dwelling in a few years time!