This island in the sun was the perfect travel antidote
16.03.2011 - 19.03.2011
Hydra Island, Greece
March 16-19, 2011
As much as we loved Portugal, Spain, and Italy in Feb-March, it was cold--long underwear, scarves, hats, and gloves cold. Cold weather exacerbated by the oddities of B&Bs, such as the occasional no hot water (“We have ordered the part and expect it to arrive any day now.”) or no heat (“The owner of the building doesn’t start the furnace until 8:00pm, and only if he thinks it is cold.”) Luckily, we also found something common in B&Bs: really heavy wool blankets. So thick and warm we named them “buffalo blankets,” because we imagined it was like sleeping under a buffalo hide.
Nonetheless, by mid-March, we were ready for a sunny, do-nothing break from the “rigors” of travelling.
Respite arrived on the Greek island, Hydra: sunshine, blue skies, hiking trails, no cars or scooters, and no art museums or historical sites to visit.
The perfect V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N.
View from the monastery at the top of the island.
We climbed a zigzag stone path from the town up, up, and up to a small monastery. We couldn’t imagine the human labor to build it up there. Yet, what can be built often cannot be maintained. The monastery looked abandoned decades ago and was now being slowly restored. It was vacant today except for chickens that had the run of the place. Someone kindly left a tin of cookies and a jar of water at the door for hungry hikers. I advised a reckless hen that the pot wasn’t a good place to hang out, but you know chickens, they never listen. (I think she retorted, “Don’t call ME chicken.”)
A million, zillion cats.
The ferry arrives twice a day at Hydra harbor. To disembark we hopped from boat to dock as four cats occupied the gangplank. It was a hint of things to come: cats everywhere, lots of them. Friendly, cuddly cats. A few are owned, but most seem to belong to the town. There is a small SPCA-type group accepting donations to feed and spay the cats, to which we contributed. Godspeed, they have serious work ahead of them. (Cat photos for you, Soquel!)
Can we get a place here?
A favorite fantasy conversation as we walked around the island was: Where would you want to live on Hydra? Brad picked in town to interact with the people, take part of town life, and eventually run for mayor. I picked along the coast: a villa with terraces of citrus trees leading down to the sea (with a dock for fishing and a boat to take to town when we wanted to). There are plenty of options for both.
Azure doesn’t begin to describe the sea and sky.
It’s true what they say about the Greek islands: the sea and sky are really blue. My nonscientific explanation is (1) the water is very clear--no sand or seaweed clouding up the pure blue. You can see down to the blue rocky bottom. And, (2) the white-painted buildings stacked from sea to sky make the blues seem bluer. Whatever the real reasons, it sure is beautiful.
Trails all around the island.
We hiked the trails in every direction, walking as far as we had time to each day. It was hot and sunny. Often our only companions were grazing donkeys and horses, and the ubiquitous cats, of course, which would mosey down the road to greet us. Sometimes we came across locals who spoke English and wanted to chat. Brad (laying the seeds for his bid for mayor) is talking with a man who is upset that the dump was located nearby (about two valleys over). The burning garbage caused smoke at his property. Even paradise has its problems.
Is it too late to extend our stay?
After four days we were just beginning to learn about the island and people. We could navigate the town’s alleyways, had shopped at the market and bakery, hiked the island, and spent a surreal afternoon in a bar with locals watching the Hollywood Greek-god movie, Clash of the Titans, in English with Greek subtitles. There was so much more to discover here; but, unfortunately, we couldn’t change our next reservations. So we had to be content with our Hydra mini-vacation.
Omelets by the harbor every morning.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and we had ours watching the goings-on at the harbor. Fishing boats with nets over the sides cut wakes of white water motoring off to the days’ work; red water-taxis lined up for customers needing lifts along the coast; farmers offered donkeys to shuttle cargo up the town’s alleyways; a fugitive donkey, untethered, trotted past with on-the-lam, they-can’t-catch-me-now determination.
No cars, no scooters . . . nirvana!
The best thing about Hydra is what is absent—those noisy road-bullies: cars, trucks, and scooters. Here, human and animal pedestrians are the Road Gods, serenaded by birds and donkeys, waves and wind, and fishing boat radios playing Greek pop music. Hydra is heaven on earth for a nice vacation.