Tourist First

Travel notes and advice from around the world. Above, the daily flight from Managua at the San Carlos, Nicaragua, airstrip.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Greece: Hydra, a Unique Island Experience

Flags fly at the entrance to Hydra's harbor.

People coming to Hydra by boat -- and it's the only way to get there unless a helicopter is involved -- don't see Hydra Town until they're practically in it. Hydra's circular harbor is almost hidden from the sea; the story is that invaders didn't know where to land if they missed the harbor entrance. Once inside the circular harbor, you're on a island like no other.

For one thing, there are no motor vehicles, save for a couple tiny fire department vehicles and at least one noisy miniature garbage truck. There are no bicycles. No electric scooters. There are donkeys, however, working donkeys that carry building supplies and visitors' luggage and everything else that arrives by boat. And, oddly, by Greek standards, Hydra Town is fairly new. Most of the buildings are less than 250 years old and very little seems to date earlier than the mid-1700s. When we arrived by ferry from Athens, the hotel had a man with a handcart meet us and take our luggage to our lodgings at the Hotel Leto Hydra, right in the middle of the maze of stone streets that forms the town.

Previous visitors have ranged from a young Leonard Cohen (this is where he met his muse, Marianne Ihlen) to Aristotle Onassis and Maria Callas. During our stay, I'd guess that at least half the people in restaurants were Greek -- Hydra is a favorite island escape for Athenians -- and the rest were other Europeans, perhaps mainly British and German.

For our Balkans itinerary and hotel information, click HERE.
For our visit to Athens, click HEREDelphi, HERE
Santorini, HEREHeraklion, HERE. Chania, HERE
Thessaloniki, HERE. Kotor, HERE.
Dubrovnik, HERE. Hvar, HERE. Split, HERE.
Zagreb, HERE. Ljubljana, HERE. Piran, HERE. Trieste, HERE. Venice, HERE.

Beaches and restaurants outside the town are reached by walking or by water taxis. A seaside trail heading east from the harbor took us to Mandraki, a restaurant at the island's only sandy beach. Much to the horror of locals, it cost 10 euros to rent a lounge, towel and an umbrella for the day, including waiter service and access to showers and bathrooms. In Greece, the usual practice is for beachfront restaurants to provide lounges and umbrellas without charge as long as food and drinks are purchased.

The seaside trail west of the harbor took us one night to Techne Restaurant and Social (click HERE), where we had one of our best meals in Greece in a beautiful courtyard as the sun set over the Saronic Gulf (a shared cuttlefish appetizer, followed by grilled drum and rack of lamb).

Here are some photos.

View of the harbor from beneath the awning of a waterfront bar.

Even on an island named Hydra, one must
try to stay hydrated.

The waters around Hydra are
startlingly clear. 

The Eastern Bastion guards one side of the harbor entrance. No idea when those cannon were last fired.

Lounges on the beach at Mandraki. 
Pleasure craft dock alongside restaurants on the harbor.

Hydra is proud of its maritime heritage.

Portraits of prominent Hydriots of the past
(all men, by the way) fill a wall at the
island's Historical Archive.

Donkeys line up at the harbor awaiting work. 

This donkey is carrying what appears to be
building supplies.

This walkway takes people west of the harbor. The land in the distance is the Greek mainland.

A rocky coast doesn't deter Hydriot swimmers. This "beach" is below
a restaurant just outside the harbor.

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