Friday, November 6, 2015

Car-free Hydra a delight for those who like to explore on foot

Our day started with me writing a note about some things I wasn't too happy about: last night’s dinner of uncooked fish; a layer of dust on my night table and to top it off; someone else's hair at eye level in the shower.

Today we were in Hydra one of the Saronic Islands of Greece. It is separated from the Peloponnese by a narrow strip of water. Refugees escaping the Ottoman expansion settled the area. The rough and rocky landscape made the Hydriots turn to the sea for their livelihood - either as Mariners or as raiders and privateers. Hydriot ships plowed the sea lanes carrying cargo, ideas and wealth. Much of the latter embellished the mansions of the well-to-do and ornamented their churches.

The main town, Hydra Port, consisted of a lovely crescent-shaped harbour, lined with restaurants, shops, markets and galleries. It was just a short hop from the yacht to the port in the tender.

There are no vehicles in Hydra as the lanes are just too narrow. Instead donkeys carry loads and sometimes people as they have done for centuries. It wasn't unusual to see them climbing up steps or hills all over the town.

We meandered along the cobblestone front to the Historical Archives Museum, which houses a detailed account of Greek history before and after the Greek War of Independence. There were picture galleries depicting ships, local costumes and nautical maps.

The sky was becoming quite black as we retraced our steps to the centre of the Port and headed inland to an ancient tenth-century monastery and church. It was a really pleasant walk up the old lane ways passing ancient squares dotted with leafy olive trees. The church itself was quite ornate with lots of gold leaf. Meantime the heavens opened up and water came down the old spouts in torrents. Even the locals were taking pictures of this phenomenon. Eventually the downpour stopped and we ran up the stairs to see all the artefacts from the monastery including much of the finery that the priests wore.

Back in the village we wandered around looking for an authentic Greek restaurant and found just such a spot up a narrow side street. We had some lovely Greek cabbage rolls and some local, probably home made white wine.

I wasn't sure what would become of my note of this morning but in the evening at dinner the chef made a point of seeing us and I explained about the fish. This was to be one of several encounters with him. People did grumble about the food but when asked by the dining room managers, they seemed reluctant to say what they didn't like. Generally, the food was drowned in too many flavours and too many sauces. Eventually, I could order the food unadorned although sometimes it took a bit of explaining. It did seem odd to be in the Mediterranean eating fish from other areas of the world. One night you got fresh sea bream if you ordered the chef's special but if you just ordered the sea bream from the menu it was frozen. This seemed strange. Another time I had hearty vegetable soup. I asked if it was veggie stock. Supposedly it was but it was more like meat stock. The server who ladled the soup managed to avoid any vegetables in my bowl at all. After several encounters with the chef things seemed to improve. It is odd what people will put up with.

Aside from this it was pleasant to be on board the yacht and sailing towards Delphi, and the coffee was good.

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