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A week (or so) on Hydra

Neos Kosmos reader Hariklia Heristanidis tells us about her magical time on Hydra

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Hydra's picturesque harbour. Photo: Hariklia Heristanidis.

28 June 2011

Yesterday over lunch, my daughter Alexandra asked Craig and I, "What was your best day ever?" Several images came to mind. One was Alexandra riding high upon a mule together with our luggage, the day we arrived in Hydra (three days ago). She reminded me of a Greek princess, as well as a perfect picture of a happy nine year-old girl. A toothy smile lit up her sometimes grumpy face.

When we arrived at our holiday house and Taki, the muleteer lifted her down and she said, "That was awesome!" That evening, our first in Hydra, we struggled to retrace Taki and our mules's steps from the port area back to our house. Hydra reminds me of Venice, in that there are so many small streets, hooks and turns; but where Venice is more-or-less navigable in two dimensions, Hydra has three. One wrong turn and you may find yourself a little too high on the hill, overlooking the place you would like to be. We were all getting nervous as night fell and we still hadn't found our house. I tried to sound confident for my daughter's sake. I said it was an adventure. Craig navigated by way of church roof tops, and glimpses of the port and ocean.

Eventually my wonderful (boy scout trained) husband led us home to safety. We shared a cup of tea and watched some Greek pop music videos, then went to bed. Friday was warm and sunny, perfect holiday weather. As we sat at our (now) usual cafe, Isalos (the waterline on a boat), a huge ferry pulled into port and a crowd of tourists poured out. With local elections this Sunday, many people are returning home to vote.

I read somewhere that people generally do not transfer their local vote, preferring to have a say in their place of origin. I know my cousin Kosta in Athens is travelling home to Thessaloniki this weekend to vote. Craig and I both checked email and I updated my blog and had a peek at Facebook. The coffee was delicious!

At the next table a group of young men sat with their talisman spread before them, cigarettes, lighters, mobile phones, like lucky charms at a roulette table. We looked in a few shops and I bought a beautiful necklace. All the shopkeepers speak to me in English and I mostly reply in Greek.

Interestingly the only person who asked if I had a Greek background was herself foreign (French, and now living here). To her I looked Greek, to the Greeks I look foreign, be it my clothes, hair, manner or the fact that I'm in a gift shop. It's always been this way, at every visit. Lunch was in a small restaurant away from the port area. The fish was so tender and fresh it dissolved in my mouth, the salad was beautifully balanced and the chips crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. With a cold Mythos beer to wash it all down, it was the perfect Greek meal.

Back home, I read in the sun on our terrace. Then it was time for short nap, followed by afternoon tea. Yesterday we discovered a lovely bakery that does gorgeous chewy bread and small croissants, some plain butter ones as well as chocolate ones. We had our pastries with a lovely cup of tea. I'm getting tons of exercise with all the steps and walking, but I'm probably eating more too. Another walk before dinner, then pasta and a salad at home.

Today I went swimming in turquoise waters while Alexandra foraged amongst the pebbles of the beach, looking for the perfect skimming stone with Craig. I overheard people remarking on it being summer again. It's like September, they said. Egg and chips for tea, Shirley Valentine-like, with a Greek salad. My husband is concerned that just like the people on Lost we can never leave the island. Our scheduled departure date was yesterday, but the weather had changed, the winds had picked up and turned, and the ferries weren't running. I didn't want to leave anyway, as I had caught Craig's cold and felt awful. In fact I spent most of yesterday in bed. I read and slept, read and slept. Luckily someone else who'd stayed here had left a book behind, House Rules by Jodi Picoult, quite a page turner, leaving the reader guessing until the very end about the murder at the heart of the book. We have tickets booked on the 3.10 pm ferry and are hoping we will be able to leave tomorrow.

Still in Hydra. All ferries cancelled; a little frustrating, but life could be worse. I felt much better physically today, and although it was blowy, it was sunny and warm. We had coffee at our usual spot and stopped into the bakery later for a snack. The good side of being here for so long is that we've got to know some of the locals. The bakery guy and I exchanged a few words, we saw the woman from the Hydra Museum walk past, as well as our regular waiter on his way to work. The landlord's son and Taki the muleteer both waved hello as they passed by.

In the evening we went out for a meal at Taverna Gitoniko, which means the local or neighbourhood tavern; it's recommended by Lonely Planet. We snaked our way through narrow streets, up and down stairways, past a church or two and eventually found it. We were the first there at almost 7.30 pm. The woman who runs it with her husband, Christina, was very nice. We ordered fish, potatoes, horta and skordalia; everything was delicious. By eight a few more people had come in. Two large parties of people turned up, and there were several solitary men, eating at single tables; some of them chatted to the hosts like they were dining with them in their own home. A couple of cats crouched by the doorway and one broke into the restaurant like a fugitive into a bank vault. She was quickly shooed away.

After our meal, Christina brought us a dish to share, compliments of the house. It looked like the halva that my mum makes out of semolina. I can't remember the name, but it was like nothing I've tasted before. Neither Craig or I could work out the flavours. It tasted a little strange but left a pleasant and refreshing after taste. Then Christina came over to tell us that she only makes this after-meal dish once a year, when the grapes are harvested. It's made by boiling grape juice and adding it to semolina. It was sprinkled with cinnamon and nuts, and not really sweet as I had expected it to be.

Walking home I couldn't help but think of how disorientated we'd been on our first night, and how every turn was now familiar. It was still warm and still blowy - fingers crossed for getting away tomorrow… I suppose.

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Comments

Glad you liked it. Lots of travel writing on my blog, look under the 'travel' label, or 'Greece' if you want to more specific. http://hariklia-what-she-said.blogspot.com/
I remember going to Hydra for a day trip absolutely loved it. From the donkeys to the small streets and the great food. Found your story very entertaining also thanks for sharing it.

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