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  • Shelley Dark

#15 Profitis Ilias

I am lying in bed listening to the church bells ringing as they have for centuries.

When I rose early to make a cup of coffee I seemed to have twice as many bones in my left ankle as I did yesterday morning. Where is Angelika when you need her?

The walk up to the monastery yesterday afternoon was quite spectacular. George from the shop three doors down asked me where I was going. 'Up to the monastery,' I answered, pointing vertically into the sky.

'Do you have an umbrella?' he asked, looking worried.

'I don't think I need one, do I? Look at the sky!' We both looked up at the glorious blue.

'If you need one, and you don't have one, and it's raining and cold and dark and windy, you'll be sad.'

Put that way, only a mad woman would go without one. And I loved his concern. I retraced my steps. Another half a kilo in my bag, give or take a tonne. Thanks George.

I turned on my google maps GPS directions again and gave thanks for Telstra International Pass. Essential for negotiating the maze of Hydriot streets. And avoiding being lost up in the mountains! It told me I had 3.7km to walk up to the top, from sea level up to 1640 feet or 500m elevation, and 3.7km back.

I left town on the only street with a name - Miaoulis. He was one of the heroes of the revolution and commanded the entire navy.

Looking back as I climbed reminded me of the French impressionists.

As I left town, the path became concrete. That hill is only a bump compared with the height I would climb.

A contour map of the track.

The path soon turned into a stony track. I was a little discouraged - I didn't think I could walk over 7km there and back on this.

But it was only a trick. It turned into a washed out concrete path.

And then a proper flat cobbled pathway! Aren't they jokers? This is the reverse order of most hiking paths! See the many zig-zags?

I took my time, stopping to look back and photograph.

Such pretty lush green terracing with olive trees here and there. Now and then I could hear the sound of sheep bells.

I met a young priest on his way back down. I spoke to him but he didn't speak English and I didn't speak his language either. We both smiled at each other, raised our arms at our sides in hopelessness, shrugged and said goodbye...

My feet were hurting. I was hot. Blast these flimsy shoes. Where are my tractor tyre hikers when I need them? But the view was worth it.

It depends which guide book you read as to how long this hike takes - jogging maniacs take an hour to get to the top. Ordinary Joe Blows take two hours. The sign said I had half an hour to go. Fat chance. At least I was properly dressed.

Oh I do love a ruin! Now the path was leading through a shady pine forest.

Already there was a stunning view of the harbour and the Peloponnese peninsula.

Suddenly I saw a dog. Then a young woman hiker with a camera. Please let the dog be friendly. I walked past him without looking at him. The girl and I exchanged greetings. Her name was Sophie, she was French with practically no English, and Blackie had simply attached himself to her half way up the mountain. She had no idea where he came from. Thank goodness he was very friendly and stayed with us for the rest of the way.

I took the gentler zigzag path. Sophie and Blackie took the steps. Finally, the gate to the monastery! This is the only male monastery on the island, built in 1813 by thirteen monks who arrived on the island from Mount Athos. They chose the site of an old 1771 chapel. There are only a couple of monks here now. I suppose the others got sick of climbing. We didn't see any of them.

The church was actively involved in politics during the Greek Revolution in 1821. The leading Greek revolutionary Theodoros Kolokotronis was kept prisoner in the monastery cells for 4 months, after a dispute with the executive officer of Hydra.

We pulled back the bolt and opened the gate. Blackie slipped inside with us. Sophie and I looked at each other. Oh well. Maybe he lived here. It was deserted, but the huge doors to the monastery were ajar.

A lovely mosaic above the door - I think these are the horses of fire which took Elijah to heaven. You're right. I looked it up.

I walked through the door into the arched entry way. A dark room on the left had shelves of dried herbs and hand made soaps for tourists. And an antiquated water bubbler which didn't work. On the right of the entryway was a Madonna with an almost adolescent Jesus.

I peeked into the quadrangle. Blackie strode through ahead, fearless.

Suddenly from somewhere inside the monastery, we heard the most enormous reverberating barking of a massive savage dog. Blackie scampered back inside the entryway. He told me it was Cerebus, the three-headed dog from Greek mythology. I believed him. Sophie was behind me. I'm not sure who was most frightened.

I quickly took a photo of the beautiful building in front of me.

In silent agreement we both left. Blackie had already retreated.

There's a lovely chapel at the end of the terrace.

And old grave stones, one with this beautiful carving.

We walked lower down the hill beside the monastery wall to the extensive buildings of the Nunnery of Agia Efpraxia.

It was founded in 1825 during the revolution, but today it looks deserted. Nuns until recently used to practise the discipline of embroidery here.

The umbrella pines are reminiscent of Italy don't you think?

Sophie walked back up to the monastery with Blackie in hot pursuit. I took the faster route diagonally from the nunnery. When I joined the downward path again, I looked up to see Sophie and Blackie still up at the gates. I called out, and he came racing down.

Sophie and Blackie soon disappeared from view ahead of me, as I sauntered down. I noticed little grape hyacinths I hadn't seen on the way up. I knelt down on the ground to get a better view.

It's amazing what you can miss.

Such tiny treasures!

Suddenly, this caught my eye. A fritillary!

A whole gathering of fritillaries and muscari! I googled on the spot. This is fritillaria rhodokanakis, a tiny lily. It's an endangered species found only on the island of Hydra and neighbouring islands. How special to see it flowering!

Way down below I could see Sophie, and Blackie still with her - they're at the end of the s-bend. Maybe he lives in town?

There was a cold wind blowing, and my head was freezing. Eeeeek would I have pain in my head for months???? I took a scarf from my bag and wound it around my head and throat, just in case.

Finally back in town, the flowers were more familiar - watsonias and daisies are out.

I felt as if I were part of a painting as the last ray's of the sun lit the sides of the houses.

At 6pm my feet were very happy to be back in my warm little apartment!

5.30pm today

I rested and wrote this morning while the sun was shining. The sooth sayers were right. Today I have not quite a head full of pain, but a headful of cold. Ah well, I can't say I wasn't told! -:) It's the price of shopping - Sassa was sniffling when I bought the dress.

This afternoon I planned to walk to Mandraki, but it didn't look promising - raining, cold and miserable. Where to have lunch?

When I stopped to pat Blackie (the cat), this pigeon wanted to be in on the act.

I walked around to Isalos which is over on the touristy side of the harbour closest to the ferry landing place. It always looks busy. Its outdoor seating is almost always full.

It was, so I sat down inside and looked at the menu. It seemed to be mostly pizza and wraps. The name Isalos means the line where the hull of a ship meets the water. What a beautiful word! But I didn't feel like fast food.

As I walked back around the harbour, I saw this Greek priest approaching. I asked if I might take his photo. He smiled and indicated that he was about to catch the departing ferry. I was quick!

Aren't people so different? It was about twelve degrees. One man warmly dressed with an umbrella, another in shorts running in the rain.

I thought I'd go back to Oraia Hydra (meaning beautiful Hydra). It opened in 2016 with chef Kosmas Savriadi. Born in the northern Peloponnese, he has a reputation for a passion for pure flavours, fresh raw materials, with contacts all over Greece who supply the best of produce. The diners always look to be local.

I chose two dishes from the mezze menu: taramasalata, which I'd never eaten, and fried haloumi. Tarama stands for smoked and cured cod roe. It's blended into a dip with lime and soaked bread. It was absolutely delicious! A salty, fishy, tangy delight! Kosmas brought out some warm home-cooked bread, olive oil and olives.

Greek bread is heavy and dense in texture, with a golden colour. Delicious.

Much much later, the haloumi came out. Kosmas later confessed that his waiter had not turned up and it threw him to be both chef and waiter. He was very agitated until his fiancée kindly filled in. I didn't care that the service was slow. Neither did the other 10 or so diners. It was very wet outside.

Kosmas was having a smoke outside. Smoking is still common here. I went out to show him the photo of the priest - "It's Pater Ionekios from the church of St Demetrios,' he said.

Suddenly he said 'Look!'. Three donkeys had escaped and were wandering along the harbour front, neck bells ringing. We all laughed out loud. They looked for all the world as if they were out on a Sunday jaunt. I hope they didn't get into trouble when their owner found them!

On the way home, I bought an ice cream from Netta.

Now I'm going to take my cold to bed. Sadly tomorrow is our last day on Hydra. The forecast is for early rain and then fine. Keep your fingers crossed!

Until tomorrow buddies, I wait you,

shelley dark, writer 

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