After we finished exploring Aegina, we decided to head to the island of Hydra. It is about an hours Speeding Dolphin (a fast ferry company) ride away from Athens. We read about it in a guide book and were attracted to it because on the entire island, there are no cars. Only small ones to collect trash. Sounds perfect.
The island is small and only has a population of 1,900. It depends on tourism for its economy, but there is plenty of local charm amongst the souveniour shops. A lot of the restaurants and food places are locally-owned, family establishments. Hydra has a very interesting history, which I will attempt to sum up to such a huge degree that historians and Grecophiles will be offended. Hydra has had settlements from as long ago as the Byzantine Empire, and for three hundred years (1200-1500 about) was a part of the Venetian Empire. The Venetian Empire and the Ottoman Empire had a war, and Hydra became a location for refuges to settle. The Ottoman’s won the war, and started to use Hydra as a naval port. This was a not great deal for Hydra though, because the Ottomans charged a lot in taxes and tariffs and blocked access to the Black Sea for trading. Russia came in and made a treaty with the Ottomans, which under the Russian flag, Hydra was now able to trade to the Black Sea. The Black Plague also hit Hydra very hard, causing much of its 10,000 population to die or flee. Then the battle for Greek independence occurred, which it won, Hydra played a significant role by providing ships and supplies. This independence though ended up not working in Hydra’s favor, because they no longer were able to sail under the Russian flag, and other Greek islands adopted new technology faster (steam engine) so they were faster and cheaper at trading than Hydra. This again caused a lot of the island’s population to leave, abandoning many houses and mansions. During WWII, 8% of the population died due to famine.
Hydra is easily one of my favorite places to have travelled to. Hydra was lovely and quiet, I would absolutely choose to retire there. The waters are turquoise blue, the fish is caught daily, the people are kind, and there are tons of stray friendly cats. To me, this is perfect.
One day we went for a walk down a path that would lead to another part of the island. The path curved around the rocky hillside of the island, where houses were placed in groups of 3 or 4 for people who didn’t want to live so close to the port. Eventually our path ended, so instead of turning back we climbed down to the water and went for a swim. Afterwards we laid in the sun to dry off before walking back into town for a lunch of fresh seafood.
The next day we walked in the other direction, and it seemed to be a more populous route than the other. We walked to another small village, which was less tourist driven, and eventually we found a resort with straw umbrellas pushed into the sand to make a perfectly lined dot pattern when seen from above. On our walk we found an irresistible swim spot which Jeff took advantage of. I admired the view from the shore because I had hurt my knee the day before.
In the evening we headed back to Athens to meet up with my high school friend, Arin. I was sad to leave Hydra, especially because it meant I would be meeting my classmates in Istanbul the next day. Trading this beautiful and calm location, for a hectic and intricate new one.
I think this was the first time Arin and I had hung out together where both of us could legally drink. The Ouzo was passed around and we caught up on the last 5 years of each other’s life. Then we went right back to when we 18 and gossiped about other high school friends, telling bits and pieces we knew about other people. It was fantastic and rejuvenating; reminding me of my life that was so important to me 8 years ago.
After we left Greece, Jeff went back to Paris and I returned to Basel via Istanbul. I was about to hunker down and work on my Master Thesis, and wouldn’t be seeing Jeff for a long while. The next time we would meet would be in Israel, which is a complex and new culture.