Hydra and Piraeus

I left Hydra today a little before 3:00 p.m. on a ferry back to Piraeus, where, tomorrow, I pick up a rental car I have booked and then tour around for most of the rest of this trip. Before catching the ferry, I had time to visit the Historical Archives Museum of Hydra and a former monastery, both beside the port. I also had time to do a bit more wandering around.

But first, a brief note.

Monday seems to be the day that the town of Hydra shows off its very few motorized vehicles. (I mentioned the alleged existence of those vehicles in my post about my first day here. I hadn’t seen any of them until this morning.)

A garbage truck drove ploddingly on the cobblestone road beside the port. And a couple of small fire trucks were parked, unattended, beside that road.

I imagine it’s not just Monday that the town exercises its motorized fleet, such as it is. Today is my only weekday in Hydra. The vehicles probably come out on other weekdays too. But, if today is representative, the vehicles are very few in number and don’t make a nuisance of themselves.

Hydra

Historical Archives Museum of Hydra

Historical Archives Museum of Hydra
Historical Archives Museum of Hydra

The Historical Archives Museum of Hydra is small. Most of the exhibits are in a few small rooms on the first floor, with tiny exhibit spaces on the ground and second floors.

The museum focuses primarily, but not exclusively, on Hydra’s naval history. And most of that focuses on the Greek War of Independence, also known as the Greek Revolution. It lasted from 1821 to 1829.

Artifacts in the museum include documents, maps, medals, model ships, uniforms, portraits of personages, swords, guns, and other small weapons. There was also old ship navigational and related equipment such as old compasses, clocks, sextants, barometers, and eyepieces.

(The eyepieces looked like small telescopes to me, but the English portions of the accompanying placards told me they are eyepieces. The dictionary tells me that an eyepiece is the “lens or group of lenses that is closest to the eye in a microscope, telescope, or other optical device.” The displayed artifacts are tubes. I imagine there are lenses in them, but the lenses aren’t immediately apparent the way the museum orients the items in the displays. So I think they were telescopes, not the eyepieces in telescopes. But what do I know?)

I said “and other small weapons” a couple of paragraphs ago. One of those other small weapons is a large three-pronged metal hook. (Large for a hook, not for a weapon in general.) The Greeks suspended one of these hooks on a mast of a ship loaded with barrels of gunpowder. They then rammed their boat into an enemy ship, dropped the hook onto the enemy ship to attach the two ships, lit a fuse, and escaped in a dinghy. The gunpowder then turned the two vessels into infernos.

I imagine this was particularly beneficial for the ship-building industry because it would have created a lot of demand. No one taught me that marketing strategy in business school, but it was probably effective.

One of the exhibits in the Historical Archives Museum is macabre. It’s a silver urn. Inside the urn is, according to the signage, the embalmed heart of Andreas Miaoulis, a local hero of the Greek Revolution.

Non-military exhibits include period festive costumes.

Moth Exhibit, or Something

A moth flew around the museum. At least, I think it was a moth. It was generally moth-shaped. But it was larger, including a fatter body between its wings, than moths I’m used to. It also flew more aggressively than what, for me, are normal moths. Are there any moths or moth-like insects on Hydra Island capable of lethally attacking humans? Just asking.

I don’t think the moth was one of the museum’s exhibits. But I can’t be sure. I imagine it’s hard to attach a descriptive placard to a moth without weighting it down so much that it can’t fly. Although this moth, if that’s what it was, might have been able to carry it off with aplomb. 

An evermore cruise ship
An evermore cruise ship

The museum is located beside the port. When I exited, a small cruise ship of the “Evermore Cruises” line had just docked almost in front of it. Thank goodness Evermore Cruises lets passengers disembark for a while at ports. How could anyone stand an evermore cruise otherwise? Eternity is a long time.

If I heard the ship personnel correctly as they called out to the passengers, the ship was docked for about two hours. So, for most of rest of my time in Hydra, there was a small lousy of tourists in town. (See a reply from a regular reader on my post about my first day in Hydra for a discussion of the collective noun for tourists.)

Monastery of the Dormition

Two-tiered former monastery as viewed from the interior courtyard
Two-tiered former monastery as viewed from the interior courtyard

A small, two-tiered former monastery sits beside the road that runs beside the port, the Monastery of the Dormition. Its exterior is stone. An attached clock tower also built of stone looms over it. The tiers around the interior courtyard are beige, with white trim.

A small church, also with a beige and white exterior, sits in the courtyard. Despite its diminutive size, it’s considered to be Hydra’s cathedral. Small town, small cathedral, I guess.

Exterior of the "cathedral"
Exterior of the “cathedral”

When I think of cathedrals, I think of the duomos of major cities in Italy or of Notre Dame in Paris. This isn’t that.

The church is one small room. That room is clearly somewhat, but probably not all that much larger than the smallest of condo units constructed recently in Toronto. If you’re not familiar with new Toronto condos, that measure won’t mean anything to you. The smallest units are so small that if the occupants want to own a normally sized dresser they have to rent a self-storage unit for it somewhere else. Otherwise, they’d have to sleep standing up because there wouldn’t be enough room left for a bed or couch in their unit.

Interior of the "cathedral"
Interior of the “cathedral”

Obviously, I exaggerated. But only slightly. Hopefully it gave you a sense of the size of Hydra’s “cathedral,” particularly when considered in the context of what I think of as cathedrals.

Despite being small, the church is decorated richly, including attractive candle chandeliers.

The former monastery has a small museum on the upper tier. According to one of the guidebooks I use, it displays icons, vestments and other religious knickknacks from the monastery and church. I didn’t go inside.

It wasn’t the €2 fee that deterred me. When I was there, a small tour group, I think comprised of temporarily pardoned passengers from the evermore cruise, filled the place. I could hear the guide from outside. She was speaking English. I couldn’t make out all of what she said, but it didn’t sound like she was close to wrapping up. I’ve seen enough vestments, icons and other religious paraphernalia in European churches elsewhere to feel it wasn’t worth hanging around until there was room inside.

Wandering Around

Another view of Hydra
Another view of Hydra

As I said in the introduction to this post, I had a little time to wander around in the town of Hydra some more today before heading to Piraeus. The streets and stairs I walked on were similar to the ones I reported on in the post on my first day in Hydra. So I don’t have anything more to say about them here other than today’s wandering was as enjoyable as my first day’s wandering.

I’m sorry for not providing you with more narration and descriptions in this section, but you know what they say. You get what you pay for.

I will add this, though. Near the top of one of the stairs to the upper part of Hydra I spotted evidence that what must have been a truly epic donkey, or possibly a horse (I can’t distinguish among the dung of different species), passed that way earlier. All I can say is, I wouldn’t want to meet that beast in a dark alley, if only because I wouldn’t be able to see and avoid its poop in the dark.

By enough about poop.

In hindsight, I should have booked more time in Hydra. As far as I can tell, there’s nothing more to “do” in Hydra. But it’s such a pleasant, relaxing town and island that I think I would have enjoyed more time just being rather than doing there and spending more time walking along some of the trails on the island.

Although, it seems that as the days march farther into the depths of the off season, the restaurant options become increasingly sparse. If I stayed much longer, I might have had to rustle a donkey, butcher it, and cook it over an open fire for sustenance. There’s no way I want to do that. It would disabuse me of my belief that meat magically forms, from nothing, directly in packages in supermarket meat sections. I need to hold onto that belief.

Having said all that, my original thought was indeed to spend another portion of a day here. But it didn’t happen because…

Piraeus

I won’t be in Piraeus for long. My original thinking was that I’d spend only enough time here to get the ferry to Hydra then, on the way way back, only long enough to get to the rental place, pick up my car, and head out.

My original thinking was that I’d leave Hydra tomorrow. But when I looked at the ferry schedules, the first ferry to Piraeus left at 7:00 a.m. That wasn’t going to happen. I move too slowly in the morning to catch that one.

The next ferry wasn’t until the same time as the ferry I was on today. It gets into Piraeus not much more than an hour and a half before sunset at this time of year. I didn’t want to start my drive in the dark. So I came back a day earlier than planned and booked a night in Piraeus.

The ferry docks in Piraeus are on one side of a small bulbous, irregularly shaped peninsula. It’s possible that all of Piraeus is confined to that peninsula or it may spread beyond it. I couldn’t tell from the map I looked at. Maybe a keener could check that out for me, but it’s not relevant to this discussion.

The part of town where the ferry docks are is kind of gritty and not terribly attractive.

My hotel, less than a 15 minute walk from the ferry docks is close to the other side of the peninsula, which is much more attractive.

One side of Piraeus's marina cove
One side of Piraeus’s marina cove

A little more than a block from my hotel is a fair-sized cove that contains a marina. The marina hosts a few small ships and a number of yachts including, closer to the open sea, a couple of supersized yachts.

From a distance, the cove appears to be a near perfect circle, with an opening at the sea. A walkway surrounds the cove close to sea level. A little above that and immediately behind it, a somewhat grander walkway runs parallel to it.

I said that it appears to be a near perfect circle only from a distance because when walking on either of the parallel walkways that bound the cove, it’s clear that they’re made up of a number of straight sections joined at slight angles. From a distance it’s hard to see the straight sections. It just looks like a circle with an opening out to the sea.

Trees line the outer perimeter of the outer walkway. There are palm trees in one section and most of the rest are citrus trees. The fruit is mostly still green now, so I wasn’t certain what they are. My guess is either limes or unripe lemons. However, at least one tree has some larger, rounder fruit. The fruit is still green, but it may be oranges. Homeless people here, if there are any (I haven’t seen any obviously homeless people here), probably get more than the recommended dosage of vitamin C when the fruits are ripe.

One section of the upper walkway has restaurant and café tables on it. The associated restaurants and cafes aren’t on the walkway. A multilane, busy street is behind the outer walkway. The restaurants that serve the tables are on the other side of the street. I think there are only a couple of crossing lights around the whole cove and only a few crosswalks without signals. And I didn’t see any of them that were close to the restaurants with tables on the walkway. I wonder what the turnover due to traffic accidents is for the servers.

Tonight, I had dinner at one of the tables on the walkway by the cove. My waiter survived until I finished eating and paid my bill. I have no way of knowing if anything untoward happened to him after that.

Having said that, the drivers in Piraeus seem much more considerate of pedestrians than the drivers in nearby Athens. On the walk from the ferry to my hotel, drivers stopped for me if I so much as looked like I might want to cross the street. Maybe that’s just a benefit of looking like (and being) an old man. People might take pity on me here because of my age. Although, that didn’t get me any consideration in Athens.

My Piraeus Hotel

The hotel I’m staying in in Piraeus is small. And it’s nothing fancy. It’s very simple, but very respectable.

My room within it is, likewise, very small, much smaller than I prefer, but I’m here for only one night. The room, however, was recently renovated. The decor is quite simple and clean. And, being newly renovated it’s fresh. So, it’s okay.

The hotel gave me room 608. I thought, “Wow! At least eight rooms on each floor. The hotel is bigger than it looks from the outside.”

I took the elevator up to the sixth floor. When I got off, room 616 faced me. I thought, “Wow! It’s even bigger than that.”

I looked for the corridor leading off from room 616 to find my room. There is no corridor. I turned around and saw my room, 608, just behind the elevator. There is no corridor beside it either. In fact, there are no corridors on my floor. The hotel must use base eight for the room numbers on my floor. It’s possible that the top floor has less space for rooms than the other floors. There might be some mechanical equipment up here. Or maybe the top floor isn’t as deep, with a cut-out at the back not visible from the street. I don’t know.

Oh, about taking the elevator. It’s a tiny European elevator. It has enough room for me, my luggage and a mosquito. Fortunately, no mosquito boarded the elevator so I had room to spread out.

The woman at the front desk was quite convivial. After getting the check-in formalities out of the way, she said, “If there’s anything at all that you need, just let me know. We’re here to service you 24 hours a day.”

“Service you.” That was her phrase, not mine. I considered suggesting to her that she might want to consider “serve you” rather than “service you” lest any anglophones who are more lascivious than I am misinterpret her. However, I decided not to make the suggestion in case that was what she meant.

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