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  • Shelley Dark

#4. Hydra

Two hours by 'slow' ferry from Athens today, yet I'm now a world away. 

My taxi driver to the port of Piraeus was called Euazzelis - pronounced ev-aye-yellos. When I exclaimed over the bitter orange trees again, he said 'you will try not to eat them.' He's right. I will try. Not to.

He asked why I was going to Hydra. I said I would do some writing. 'You really look like a writer,' he said. I'm glad I didn't say I was going to do some welding.

An old woman wandering through the waiting passengers on the quay was trying to sell boxes of matches. Everyone she spoke to pretended she wasn't there. I can understand why, but I felt so sorry for her. At least she wasn't begging. 

She was much older than I am and it was chilly in the wind. I gave her a couple of euro. When she held out a box of matches, I smiled at her and shook my head.

She was so practised that I had to stifle a bigger smile. Without making eye contact with me or changing her deadpan expression, she theatrically brushed off an imaginary tear from her cheek and held her hands together in prayer in front of her chest. Life is so hard for some people isn't it. So unfair.

It was a glorious blue day with hardly a ripple on the water as we sailed between the islands. Unfortunately you can't go outside on the ferries so these photos were taken through the crazed window.

There is only a narrow channel between the island of Poros and the mainland. We stopped briefly to let passengers off.

As we reversed away from the dock, the propeller churned the water to such a pretty green...

We entered the strait between Hydra and the mainland, where the wind and waves picked up. It took only minutes to reach the calm of Hydra's harbour.

No one on the quay was holding a sign saying 'The White House' as Eliana had written they would. Everyone was going about their business. The only person standing looking into space was a fashionably dressed young blonde girl in mirror glasses. Surely a tourist. But I couldn't see anyone else remotely likely. I raised my eyebrows at her. She said 'The White House?' I smiled and nodded.

A​ donkey owner was asking if I wanted a lift somewhere, but my greeter had grabbed one of my bags and was bumping it along the quay over the big rough slabs of stone polished over centuries.

I followed in hot pursuit, only stopping to photograph a donkey.

 the stairs to my apartment

I couldn't believe my eyes as we began to climb these few steps. Picture perfect! 

A white marble stoop extends outside the double blue doors, and another metre inside.

When the door opened, I gasped with pleasure. But no sooner were we inside than Manjola turned to go. 'Wait!' I said. My head was filled with a thousand unanswered questions, but I couldn't think of one. 'What's the wifi password?' I asked. She looked puzzled. 

We walked into the bedroom where she picked up the small router. To cut a long story short, she made a dozen phone calls and texted a dozen people. Eventually a man in Athens called Costas told me that he would phone back in an hour with the password.

I couldn't bear to keep her any longer. Too bad there was no manual for the apartment. Too bad about how to work the coffee maker, or where to put the rubbish, or how the lights or air-conditioner worked, or where to buy my groceries. I'd manage. What's more, I didn't care.

​The apartment is all white - very high ceilings, walls, wide wooden floorboards, sofa, bed throw, kitchen chairs. There are just a few touches of two shades of grey - inside the front doors, the heavy wooden window shutters, bedhead, bed bench, kitchen cupboards. The plastered stone walls are two feet thick - that's 600mm! 

No wonder I have such a broad grin! 

​By this time I was starving. Costas had told me to eat lunch at Psarapoula.  Further toward the main part of town, I climbed steep white steps, then up a steeper wooden stairway to a rooftop restaurant overlooking the town. The other diners were eating inside out of the wind.

I hadn't eaten any breakfast in case I was seasick. I needn't have worried. The pasta with shrimp was an utter delight!

Next on the list in order of importance were flowers. I wandered the back streets of Hydra looking for Seaside Rose. I eventually found her - her name's Katerina - and these pretty pink alstromeria. 

The tantalising smell of something coming out of an oven drew me to the almond sweet shop where I bought six slabs of almond crunch. They've been in business since 1930, and the taste told me why! There's an almond blossom festival on here in February. I hope we see it!

I think this house in the back streets has my name written on it.

Is this the prettiest little town you've ever seen?  The view from near my front steps.

After I'd taken the flowers home, I went to buy a few groceries.

the view from my bedroom window

On the way I called in at the shops near me. I met red-headed Sophia who introduced herself and told me to call into her shop any time with any questions I might have. Then George who has travelled all over the world and lives upstairs. Spiros who designs jewellery inspired by the octopus and stocks Byzantine-style multi-coloured pieces with semi-precious stones, made by his best friend. Two fifty euro, he said, but for you, one fifty.

Everyone is having a sale. There aren't a lot of customers at this time of year. And everyone has a friend who lives in Australia.

Finally the grocery store. Pete sits behind the counter at the front door, calling out constant instructions in Greek to his helper. Get this, fetch that. I asked if I can drink the water. 'Yes you can, it's not dangerous. But it doesn't taste good,' Pete said. 'Everyone buys water. I'll deliver it for you for free.'  Great! I bought 6 big water and 6 big sparkling water.

I sorted out the cows milk from the goat's milk, taste-tested some local cheese, climbed upstairs to find the tinned peaches and crackers, found a green olive paste made in Greece. A pear, an avocado, a big ripe tomato and an apple, and I was done.

Pete had it all delivered by a man and his small son before I had finished paying. I walked out of the shop and I could see them waving at me from my front door. 

Just after sunset, the lights around Hydra harbour were reflecting in the water. A few people were wandering along the quays. The donkeys which stand around the water's edge all day waiting for carting jobs had gone. I'm sure they'd all had their saddles taken off, been brushed, given a huge feed of hay, and put to bed.

The moored boats outside my window are rocking at their moorings, the water slapping the stone edge. A novel lullaby.

I thought you'd like to see some of the mosaic floor at the hotel this morning.

And a beautiful brass knocker on a door near mine.

It's 9pm and very dark now. And so to bed buddies. I hope it's comfy! This is longer than I said it would be, but I don't have work to do tonight. 

This is Blackie. Well that's what I call him. He was waiting outside my door earlier on. Well fed and healthy, he rubbed himself purring around my legs when I sat on my little terrace overlooking the water.

Hydra is an absolute delight. I can't wait for tomorrow although it's supposed to rain. But we're going to the archives, you and I.  Now that's something to look forward to!

Until then.....

shelley dark, writer 

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