After two weeks of touring ‘sites’ in Barcelona and a week visiting archeological ruins in Athens, while staying in a tiny, very basic hotel with only one outlet in the room, we were ready for a break from being tourists. Welcome to the islands of Greece, specifically, Hydra, for a bit of down time. Yes, we do feel a need for a break from time to time as odd as that may seem.
Hydra or Idra in Greek with English letters (pronounced Ee-dra) is an island located just off the eastern most finger of the Pelopennese peninsula. It takes two and a half hours to get there from Athens by ferry. From where we were staying in downtown Athens it also meant a 45 minute Metro ride including a transfer. We were wise to take a practice run a day before our ferry set sail.
On our travel day we set out with our 3 bags in plenty of time. We each left a bag behind at the hotel. I had my roller bag and Doug had his backpack and our carry-on which included our kindles, iPad, cards, cribbage board, a few other items and my purse. My purse has all our important papers. As we maneuvered through the crowded port area with newsstands, food kiosks, shoe and bag venders and those coming off and on the Metro, Doug was very alert to notice a guy had lifted my purse. He quickly retrieved it without incident. Whew! Lucky us. That was not a smart place for me to stash my bag. This has been our only incident in the 5 months we’ve been in Europe.
Now, to find our ferry. We arrived just at the end of the boarding time. Little did we know we actually had assigned seats. Nice! After stowing our bags, we settled in for a 2+ hour boat ride. The seats were comfortable, more like on a U.S. train. Not at all like Wa State ferries. Doug did have to shag someone out of one of our seats before we sat down. The ride included old black and white Greek movies.
When we arrived on Hydra, we were greeted by ‘Mario’ holding a sign that said Douglas. With him were two horses that carried our bags to our Villa.
Hydra does not allow any motorized vehicles. The exceptions being a garbage truck, an ambulance and a port police vehicle. The horses, donkeys and mules haul pretty much everything. There are also a few man powered pull carts. In addition to luggage, the animals are known to haul small appliances as well as fire wood, bags of rocks and even big bales of straw.
There is one main town on Hydra here at the port. From there, everything goes up. This island is really a big rock. Since most of the streets are narrow and stepped I’m not sure how you would get a motorized vehicle up the streets. Motorcycles or scooters could no doubt be managed but what a racket that would make.
The island is home to a lot of cats. They are everywhere and well tolerated. The island folks put out bowls of food and water. The fishermen feed scraps. Island folks bring scraps to the waterfront to leave for the cats. The cats are all over and tame. We were with another couple at a restaurant and a cat jumped into the guy’s lap. No, that didn’t happen with Doug. The tourist shops sell t-shirts with cats or donkeys on them as Hydra Island souvenirs.
See if you can find how many cats are waiting for fish scraps in this next picture. Answer below.
In the summer people come to Hydra to enjoy water sports, swimming, and beach activities on the beautiful Aegean Sea. The beaches we saw were all rocky.
In the winter there isn’t much to do on Hydra but hike. The island has 4 main hikes mapped out. Two hikes are loops and the other two go to each end of the island with a water taxi back to Hydra town. Of course you have to be able to call a taxi or arrange it in advance. The hikes to the outer ends of the island are long enough that there isn’t time to walk out and back and not really anywhere to stay at the outer edges.
Most of the shops and restaurants were closed for the season. No worries, we found plenty to eat and our bags don’t have room for shopping. One of the restaurants served fresh, fried calamari. The chef was also a fisherman and caught what he served. This has been one of our favorite meals in Greece. It has to be healthy, right, it’s Mediterranean food.
Just two blocks from our house was a little market. They had fresh fruit and veggies as well as most other things we needed like yogurt, nuts and Snicker bars. This meant we only needed to carry items from the town butcher up the 220+ steps when we prepared meals.
We had two terraces. First thing in the morning I would go to the upper terrace and listen to the island wake up. The sounds of the birds, chickens, roosters, dogs, clomping of hooves and occasional braying of donkeys always started my day with a smile. The almond trees are in bloom as well as other shrubs so the air was fragrant. It’s amazing what you notice with the absence of traffic sounds. In the afternoons or evenings someone often played music that reverberated throughout the stone structures. It was almost like being in a scene from a movie.
It was cool in the night so we had a fire every evening. Smelling like a chimney brought back fond memories of camping years ago. In the day time we took long walks and had long lunches at the port restaurants.
When it got windy our wifi was sketchy so unfortunately I wasn’t able to use the down time to blog. Reading and playing cards is always good in the off hours. I wonder who’s ahead in Crib? Now I’ve jinxed myself.
Here’s a few more sights around the island.
A typical site since we’ve been in Greece but not so common in the Northwest US.
Our time on Hydra was exactly what we needed. The house was great with all we could have wanted. We had great massages and I practiced Kundalini yoga a couple times at the local studio.
Now refreshed, we’re off to explore the archeological sites of the Peloponnese peninsula, Delphi, Olympia and more.
(9 cats were waiting for fish scraps)
This is the day the Lord has made