Hydra: Lunch and Wandering around

Part of Hydra's transport system hanging out by the port
Part of Hydra’s transport system hanging out by the port

This morning, a ferry took me from Piraeus, the port city for Athens, to the town of Hydra on the island of Hydra. It also took a number of other people there and to the one other stop on the ferry’s route, but never mind that. It’s not important. This is my journal. If those other people want to present themselves on the web they should publish their own online journals. Harumph. Some people, I tell you.

I chose Hydra for two reasons. First, it’s only a two-hour ferry ride from Piraeus. Second, and more important, Hydra doesn’t allow private cars or trucks on the island.

For a fee, donkeys haul luggage for tourists who brought more than they can or want to carry between the port and their hotels, which, in many cases, involves climbing up steps that pass as roads

(I assume the donkey owners get the fee for the haulage, not the donkeys. The donkeys probably work only for food. It’s exploitation, I tell you. Exploitation!)

I didn’t use that service. However, I had occasion to observe that the donkeys had no problem maneuvering up and down the steps.

The donkeys perform those duties with much greater ease than I did. By the time I reached my hotel with my bag and small backpack, I was involuntarily huffing and puffing quite heavily. Although, I’m proud to say, it turns out that I’m in pretty good shape for a man my age. My lungs worked heard, but my muscles didn’t feel it at all, and my heart felt fine. All I can say is, I hope I’m still in such good shape when I turn seventy, which will happen in a little less than two months from the time of writing, if I live that long.

So far, I haven’t seen donkeys moving goods for restaurants and shops in Hydra, but I imagine they do that too.

A Hydra beast of burden and its owner ready to serve a customer
A Hydra beast of burden and its owner ready to serve a customer

I saw a string of horses with what looked like members of a family of tourists sitting on them, one family member on each horse. Someone whom I assume owned or managed the horses walked in front of them, pulling them slowly along with a rope.

What with the donkeys and horses, the trick here, as I fortunately figured out before stepping in it, is to keep your eyes down on the path ahead of you as you walk along to avoid stepping into the transport system’s solid exhaust.

(Yes, that was a poop joke. I provided it in case anyone who, unlike my regular three or four readers, has a juvenile sense of humour manages to stumble on this page. Except, it’s not a joke.

True, it’s not all that frequent a problem. I guess someone does some cleaning up after a while. But if you visit Hydra and don’t watch where you tread, including the steps, you might at some point stumble into something other than this page.)

I read that, despite the no private cars and trucks rule, the island has a few emergency vehicles and garbage trucks. But I haven’t seen any yet. And I imagine they find it difficult maneuvering up and down the many sometimes steep steps here.

I hope I don’t need one of the emergency vehicles while I’m in Hydra. As far as I can tell, there is no route to my hotel that doesn’t involve steps. I imagine that, if necessary, they would drag me to the nearest point that an ambulance can reach. But, as I said, so far, those alleged emergency vehicles are sights unseen for me. So, they may have to drag me quite a distance if they don’t, in fact, exist.

I guess they have garbage trucks because hauling garbage is beneath the noble donkeys. 

Lunch

A view from my lunch restaurant
A view from my lunch restaurant

After checking into my hotel and settling in a bit, my visit to Hydra began with lunch. That wasn’t as easy as it sounds. The first two restaurants I tried to go to based on TripAdvisor’s lunch recommendations were closed, I think that’s because it’s the off season. The first restaurant I tried opens for dinner, but not for lunch at this time of year. The second looked like it was closed for the season. Before coming to Greece, I read in a guidebook that I should expect to find some restaurants and hotels closed in some tourist areas after mid-October. It’s now after mid-October.

On my third try, I found a nice little open restaurant right by the sea. When I say “right by the sea,” I mean right by the sea. The restaurant’s patio overhangs the water.

Another view from my lunch restaurant
Another view from my lunch restaurant

I had a table immediately beside the railing. Not that sitting on a patio overhanging the sea makes me anxious or anything. Oh, no. Not me. By the way, are there sharks in the Aegean Sea?

Lunch was lovely. I ate bread that I dipped in a full-bodied olive oil, nibbled on olives, enjoyed nicely prepared scallops, and slowly sipped a glass of wine, all while contemplating the sea and keeping a sharp eye out for any cracks in the patio floor and dorsal fins in the water. In other words, lunch was as relaxing as relaxing can be for a neurotic person in such a situation.

Walking Around Hydra

A Hydra street
A Hydra street

So far on this trip, the weather gods have smiled upon me. The temperatures have been about as close to perfect as they can be. The evenings get a bit cool, but nothing a light jacket can’t cure. During the days, I walk around without a jacket. And most days have been short-sleeve days.

I had one cloudy day, but it didn’t rain. The rest of the days have been sunny with barely a cloud in the sky. None of the clouds that did appear were the least bit threatening. And, trust me, I’m easily threatened. If anyone can be threatened by a cloud, it’s me.

Today, wasn’t that one cloudy day. It was gorgeous. I took advantage of the exceptionally pleasant weather to spend the afternoon wandering aimlessly around Hydra, as well as taking ample opportunity to stare at the sea. My aimless wandering shouldn’t surprise my three or four regular readers. I do a lot of it.

Another Hydra street
Another Hydra street

If you’re not a regular reader, I’m sorry for surprising you. I’ll try to give you more warning next time.

Hydra is a quaint, quiet, picturesque town that climbs up the horseshoe-shaped hills that form the cove of Hydra’s protected port.

There are no high-rises in Hydra. Most buildings are two or three stories tall, at most. Whitewashing is the dominant decoration of the exteriors of the buildings. Although, door frames and shutters typically wear colours.

The only commercial buildings I spotted here are restaurants, bars, cafes, shops and a couple of small museums.

The streets, if you can call ways without cars streets, vary. Some are as wide as a normal single lane street in a big city. Others are little laneways wide enough only for at most two people to walk through side-by-side, and sometimes not even that. And other streets range between those two extremes, if you can call something so enjoyable for perambulation an extreme.

Oh, as I mentioned above, some of the “streets” have steps. Some have a lot of steps. Some have steep steps. So, if you are stair-challenged, you might not agree with my “so enjoyable for perambulation” assessment of the so-called streets.

A Plateau and An Admiral

Statue of Admiral Andreas Miaoulis
Statue of Admiral Andreas Miaoulis

At the end of one side of the horseshoe-shaped land around Hydra’s port there’s a small, unnatural, almost circular, stone-floored plateau. “Almost,” because the back of the almost circle is flat.

I climbed the equivalent of about two or three normal residential flights of stairs to get onto the plateau. It’s a nice place to view the full sweep of the town.

At the back of the plateau, there’s a not terribly tall sheer rock face, filled in with human-placed rocks and mortar in some gaps in and above the naturally occurring rock.

A thick wall made of stones that is, if I remember, about waist high almost circles the remaining perimeter of the plateau. “Almost,” because, one, it’d be silly to block access from the stairs. So there’s an opening for that. And, two, there are gaps in the wall at regular intervals. The gaps are wide enough that someone could easily mount an old cannon in each of the gaps. I know this because someone mounted old cannons in the gaps.

A statue stands prominently on the plateau. It’s of Admiral Andreas Miaoulis, who led the Greek navy during the revolution that began in 1821. Admiral Miaoulis, or rather his statue, stands permanently peering out to the sea.

The admiral better not make trouble
The admiral better not make trouble

But the Admiral better watch out, though. I included an almost-face-on picture of his statue at the top of this “A Plateau and an Admiral” section. There’s another picture of it close to this paragraph. I took the one here from the stairs leading up to the plateau. As, a result, the picture captures the statue from the side. But it also captures something else. Look near the top of the stairs, on the right side of the steps. There’s a small cannon pointing directly at Admiral Miaoulis. The townsfolk here aren’t going to take any guff from him, I can tell you that.

Cats

One of a great many Hydra cats
One of a great many Hydra cats

In addition to donkeys and horses, another very noticeable non-human animal species walks the streets of Hydra. Cats. Lots and lots of cats. I never walked far without seeing a cat saunter by or sitting tranquilly. They prowl mostly solo, not in clowders. And they seem quite languid.

Although, prowl may not be the right word. The dictionary says “prowl” means “move around restlessly and stealthily.” The cats here don’t exhibit such a demeanor. Did I mention they seem quite languid? Yes, I did. Maybe I should stick with the “saunter” I used in an earlier sentence in the preceding paragraph. Scratch “prowl.”

But, whatever their behaviour, there are a lot of them. If cats ever get the right to vote here, the Mayor of Hydra and the entire town council will be cats after the very next election.

UPDATE

I wrote most of the above before dinner. Some of the reviewing before publishing of the above and the writing of the words in this update are being done during dinner to fill any waits and to slow my eating down to something closer to a pace one might enjoy when dining and talking with others. That’s one of the things I don’t like about dining alone. I eat to fast.

But none of that is what I wanted to say here. I found what looked on TripAdvisor to be a great restaurant for dinner. Because it’s the off-season, I didn’t bother to make a reservation. Nothing is particularly busy here now.

Both TripAdvisor and Google said it was open. It wasn’t. And this is a Saturday night. Like the first lunch restaurants I tried going to earlier, it appeared to be closed for the season. There are some disadvantages to traveling in the off-season, it seems.

There was an open restaurant not far from the restaurant I wanted to go to. It looked pleasant. I took a table outside. It is pleasant.

The menu presents simple food. (“Simple” is not to suggest I could prepare it. I’m hopeless at that. I just meant that it’s not gourmet food with complex flavours.)

As I write these words, I’ve finished my appetizer (spinach pie) and have so far had half my main course (moussaka). Both are very tasty.

I should have known it would be a good restaurant. A few cats trolled the outdoor tables hoping for droppings.

So, it worked out alright.

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