Hydra Heaven

If you could combine Italy, 19th century Britain, and Greece you would end up with Hydra.  I honestly feel spoiled for having been able to visit such a beautiful place at such a young age.  It was breathtaking.  And it turns out its got some great history to tell.  Even though it is a small Greek Island, Hydra was once (1800sish?) the homeport to over 2/3 of the Greek navy during Greece’s fight for independence from Turkey.  Because of this it became know as “Little Britain.”  And it kinda felt like a little Britain-with colonial lamp posts and cannons everywhere.

It also kinda felt like Itlay.  The “mansions” (now mostly small villas and hotels) look Tuscan in style.  And the countryside in the mountains has those “Tuscan trees.”  Further, no cars, mopeds, or even bicycles are allowed on the Island so it was incredibly serene, clean, and quite.  Donkeys and horses are pretty much the only form of transportation.  For the most part the island is designed for walking.

But Hydra is nonetheless very Greek.  As soon as we got off the ferry, Costas (everyone is named Costas!-or Nikos) who runs the villa that we were staying in came to the port to meet and greet us.  He even brought his puppy, Nino.  “Yiasas Yiasas, welcome.  Nino and I go everywhere together so I hope you don’t mind.”  He walked us to the villa and stopped for some errands along the way.  I held Nino’s leash while Costas went to buy fruit.  I’m in Hydra for 10 minuets and I already have a best friend. 

We got to the villa and Costas served us the fruit and juice he had just bought.  We asked him how long he has been on Hydra.  “O about 25 years now.  I came for a weekend and decided to stay and run business.  But this is my last year on the island.  I’m moving to Athina with my wife and kids.  So I’m gonna sell this house.  You three are my last guests to ever stay here.”  No pressure though.

Now I was beginning to feel the Greek in Hydra.  In Greece, it seems that everyone on an island (who wasn’t born there at least) got there unplanned just like Costas.  And I can imagine why.  Leaving on Sunday was difficult enough.  But I don’t really understand how everyone on Hydra makes ends meet.  I mean the island definitely sees money.  I was there during the low season and saw some of the biggest yachts I’ve ever seen.  But as far as the locals go, I don’t really get it.  Costas for example, did not charge us what he would charge others for his villa.  And I could actually afford to eat at Sunset Restaurant (BBC’s #2 most beautiful restaurant in the world?) and sit in the same seat that Catherine Zeta Jones sat in when her and Michael ate there (the waiter was very excited to tell me and then show me in pictures despite my larger interest in the grilled octopus I was trying to eat).  There was also a wedding on the island that weekend-and we were offered free wedding cake.  Don’t take candy from strangers.  But if you don’t accept a piece of wedding cake from a Greek well look out my friend!  (it was vanilla and lemon) Furthermore, even the starving artists of Hydra cut me a deal.  “posso yani?” I said about two paintings.  (one 20 euro and one 5 euro).  “Eh dio? 20 euro parakalo.”  Let s face it I’m not built for bargaining so you can imagine my excitement when I was offered something for cheaper.

“ohi, you should have tried to get them for even cheaper. He would have agreed to 15 I bet.” Costas later informed me.  And another one bites the dust.

Ultimately, Hydra is a combination of cultures and beauties.  It’s got British charm and Italian luxury.  But it’s also got Greek hospitality, which borders on stealing, and “Greek Time.”  Done with dinner?  Why would you want the check when you can sit for two hours and relax.  At one taverna, we literally could have dinned and ditched.  Where were all of the waiters?  Sitting inside smoking and eating of course!  So I guess all in all Hydra really was all Greek to me.




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