Hydra. Pronounced EEEEE-druh. Christa made the wise choice to get off our small Mediterranean island and find a prettier one. After a weekend of racing, I was perfectly willing to go explore. A short hop on the ferry to the mainland, and then a longer trip south to the island took a couple of hours, and we came ashore as the sun was setting over the ancient city-state. Hydra is a car free town, and the only town on the island of the same name. We were here in the off-season, and a cool breeze blew over the harbour as we walked through the town. We’d booked into the Phaedra Hotel, and we found that we were the only people there. The lady at reception showed us our room, and then told us how to lock up, and that she’d be back to check us out the next day. Despite Christa’s best planning, most of the restaurants were closed, so we settled into a touristy spot on the harbour front for dinner and some wine. We woke early and packed our bags, having exactly six hours until our return ferry left. Being the only connection each day, we really didn’t want to miss it!
We walked along the harbour and marvelled at the immaculate houses, and then climbing around the coast on the narrow cobbled road, past more well looked after houses, and then climbed in-land, setting our sights on a small mill on the hillside. We didn’t have a map, and in the end didn’t need one, taking whichever turn looked the most uphill until we broke free of the houses and found the countryside. We didn’t stop at the mill though, and ended up climbing all the way to the very top of the island, to the Greek Orthodox Monastery that sits secluded and quiet looking over the sea. We were hesitant to look around, having seen no touristy signs what so ever, but we carefully walked around the modest building, marvelling at their view, before making haste back to the coast. We then found a nice quiet beach for a swim, just around the corner from the main harbour. It really was a quick swim though – just enough time in the water to wonder whether the med is supposed to be this cold, and then we went back to Hydra for lunch.
Contrasting Salamina with Hydra shows a world of differences. They hardly even seem like the same country. While the hills of Salamina are untouched and pretty, with forests going down to the beach, the towns are extremely run down. Hydra is the opposite; every house in the town was freshly painted. The roads were newly laid stone, the trees carefully pruned. It was immaculate. Although the town seemed asleep for the winter, I much preferred walking the streets alone, without the throngs of tourists that summer would bring.
Sooner than we wanted, we were back on the ferry to Athens, and then again to Salamina. You can clearly see that tourism is the only driver of the Greek economy at the moment, and its effects are very local. Salamina mainly caters to the weekend crowd from Athens, rather than rich foreign tourists. But in its run down state, it has a friendliness and warmth. Everyone we met was so delighted to talk to us, even if their English was as good as our Greek. When Christa and I tried to splutter out “Efcharisto” (Thank you), we could see how happy people were that we were there. It was really interesting to be somewhere with such little English around. I liked it.