We took the opportunity of Rob and Jen’s visit to visit the Island of Hydra which is a 2 hour boat ride. The boat that we took was a 1983 Russian made Flying Dolphin that is a hydrofoil where the boat hull lifts out of the water to reduce drag. There is a wing attached to the hull that allows the hull to lift out of the water at high speeds. This is a relatively fast boat, but a rough ride especially when the weather is bad and the water is choppy (which was the case on both of our trips to and from the island).
We had heard from many of the locals in Rafina that this is a good place to visit in the winter time. It is an island with no cars (except for a few trash trucks which we did see). They use donkeys to transport goods throughout town and the visitors often use the donkeys to carry their luggage to their hotels. L1 took to calling it Donkey Island.
We happened to visit on Greek Independence Day and got to see a parade of children wearing traditional dress and carrying the Greek flag. Greece had been a part of the Ottoman Empire since AD 1453. Greece’s War of Independence was precipitated by Bishop Germanos of Patras flying a revolutionary flag over the Monastery of Agia Lavra in the Peloponnese on May 25, 1821. Their rallying cry was “Freedom or Death”. The Greeks had some early victories against the Ottoman Empire but infighting left the Greek army destabilized. The leading powers of Russia, Britain, and France decided to intervene on Greece’s behalf and sent a fleet to support Greece. They intercepted the Ottoman-Egyptian fleet at Navarino in the Peloponnese when it was on its way to retake the Island of Hydra. The war actually continued until 1832 with final success and independence of Greece. We talked to a local who thought it was interesting that we called it Independence Day. He had a more nuanced understanding of the day and explained that it was the day that Greece decided to revolt and take a stand against the Ottoman Empire.
Hydra has a beautiful little bay with a town clustered around it. The streets wind up the hill and you never know what interesting architecture, beautiful flowers, or ornate doors you will see around the next corner. Walking the streets was a fun adventure with little shops hidden throughout the neighborhoods.
All of Greece seems to have a feral cat problem (as well as a feral dog problem). Hyrda was no different. On an early morning walk, I found 10 cats eating at a trash pile that was set out for collection that day.
Many places in Greece had wind turbine fields. We saw this across the way from our house in Rafina on the Island of Evia and we could see it across the water on the Peloponnese as well (see the turbines dotted along the hill top in the picture above). The islands and coastal regions receive a lot of wind and the Greeks are taking advantage of that. We also saw many disbursed solar installations around the Peloponnese, but it was not clear what they were powering. Just like Mykonos, Hydra has some 16th century wind mills that used to be used for mechanical power. The circular buildings are still present but don’t seem to be used today.
|Does anyone know this red fish? Photo by Karla Hansen-Speer|
We had our best meal during all of our travels on Hydra. We happened by a beautiful restaurant that had a lot of seating underneath a wisteria covered patio. We simply ordered Greek salad, some appetizers, and the asked for a fish to feed all of us. The waiter recommend a fresh red fish that they had in their bin that would feed all of us (the one that we got was larger than the one in this picture). I think that the waiting said that it was carp which I was not too excited by, but it was an excellent white fish that was served with a tureen of melted butter. It tasted like lobster and melted in the mouth. After six months of traveling, this was the best meal that I had.
It seems that most coastal Greek towns had large covered patios outside of restaurants and cafes along the waterfront. As I mentioned before, we were traveling during the off-season which is a bit more cool and rainy than peak summer times (you can see us wearing our fleece jackets and the wind whipped flags in many of our photos). I could imagine that these patio areas are packed full during peak tourist season. Our visit to Hydra was also one of the highlights of our entire trip. The Greek Isles are a wonderful and beautiful place to visit. Their towns are picturesque and their windy streets make a stroll through town a wonderful adventure. The cooler temperatures and lack of crowds of the off-season suited me just fine. This would be a great place to return to for an extended stay in a place that embraces the allure of vacationing in the Greek Isles.