Hydra is one of the closer Greek islands to Athens, only 2 hours travel time via ferry (FlyingCat6) from Piraeus port, so it is a common destination for Athenians on weekends.
I arrived today thinking I would just find a room off the boat, only to discover there is an actuary conference being held on the island with over 300 people staying. Finding an available room was looking a bit difficult, right up until a Greek mother at a (full) B&B I had inquired at took me under her wing and allowed me to get out from under my 1000kg backpack, offering me a bottle of water and courtyard shade as she took charge. She had her son ring several possible places for me and then told him to get dressed (30’s, clad only in board shorts, looked like a young Jean Reno) and show me to the place with a vacant room he had found.
Her husband ended up taking me as the son, who had no doubt been through this before, had disappeared, much to mum’s annoyance when it was time for me to leave.
Hydra is unique in that cars, scooters and motorbikes are not allowed on the island. If you want to go anywhere, it’s via donkey, foot or boat. Locals are very fit with all the stairs, and it is not unusual to be passed by 3 guys transporting stuff including luggage and in one case a small child from one area to another via hand drawn cart – one on the front directing and people managing and 2 pushing from the rear.
Hydra is also well-known as an artists residence. Leonard Cohen owns a house here, and each year painters, sculpters and jewellery makers come to workshop and exhibit their art. In fact while I was there painters were propped at easels all over the village water-painting the boats, donkey’s butts, the obsequious cats and the white-painted buildings with purple bougainvillea.
The shopping here is high end, with lots of gold and silver smiths in the port area; other goods include very pricey floaty linen tops, pants and dresses, leather sandals and woven beach bags. Accommodation is more expensive than Athens has been for me, and food prices also seem to be several euro higher than either Milos or Athens.
You can take water taxis for 3 euro each way from the main port around to various beaches on Hydra, saving yourself a long walk if desired, however walking home along the cliffs at dusk was one of the best parts of my day.
I managed to spend most of my time on Hydra’s beaches in the company of the same people – an extended family group of about 12 from Sweden; a crunchy granola, leather-skinned early 50’s American couple who hiked to the beach each morning in pants zipped off into shorts – bare chest for him, bikini top for her; the English couple in their late 20’s who had over the course of one morning, managed to burn themselves bright red, and then who continued to lie in the sun the rest of the day squirting on tanning oil.
It was nice to manage to completely get away from Athens and all the recent stress of the kidnapped bag. On Hydra life goes on much the same way it must have done for decades (probably with more tourists though). You wake up with the church bells which ring on the hour and toll on the half hour from 7am to 10pm), head to the bakery for breakfast, get water, peaches and rolls/spanikopita for lunch, decide which beach you want to go to and whether you want to walk there and/or back then head down to the water taxi if that is what you are doing. All these decisions and you can be on a deck chair by 10am with nothing more taxing to do than cool off in the unbelievably clear and very salty Aegean, and avoid the nibbling fish. Pretty cool.