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  • Shelley Dark

#16 Last day on Hydra

The forecast said the rain would stop today by 10am. It did. A strong wind blew it away. I called in to say hello as I went past the archives to exchange emails with Eleni. She said she'll contact me if she finds anything. 

Then I set off for Mandraki Bay. 

It's east of the port, and was the docking place for Hydra’s navy during the 1821 Revolution. Two small forts were constructed on either headland to defend the fleet against unexpected attacks.

All along the coastline, there are steps zigzagging down to the edge, with concrete aprons at the waterline. I can imagine laughter floating up here in the summer.

Hydra's wild flowers are spectacular in the spring, so they say. I'd like to see them.

Isn't this the most extraordinary church, built right on the water's edge in a tiny inlet?

Such a pretty inlet.

The bay is quite wide at its mouth , the barren hills are not so high around it. It would not be as easily defended as Hydra harbour. Can you see the remnant fortifications on the other headland?

There's very little left at Mandraki - just the taverna built on the site of the old dockyard, closed of course, and bathing boxes. I had other plans, so I turned back. 

I'd noticed a set of steep concrete steps leading up the rocky hill from the main road, with a sign indicating it was a hikers' path. Over the top of the rocky hill. A back way to Hydra. I remembered seeing this hiking route online. It was meant for me, wasn't it?

As I climbed about a hundred stone steps, I noticed the hikers' mark on a stone seat. So far so good. I took off my down jacket and tied it around my waist.

Once I'd climbed the steps it was a rough bush track through the gorse, water trickling down the slope after last night's rain. Parts were quite wet. I seemed to be going left, away from Hydra, not towards it. I kept looking up to make sure the crest was getting closer! I was just hoping that I wouldn't be faced with another one!

At the top I looked back at the ocean. I'd reached a road! Now the wind was cold and blowing really strongly. Enough to blow my hat off. I put my jacket back on.

To my left was the Agios Triados, the Holy Trinity Monastery. I thought the Profitis Ilias was supposed to be the only man's monastery. Another mystery.

I knew I was still about two and half kilometres from Hydra, so I turned right.

The good road soon petered out - it had obviously come from behind me through Mandraki.  I hoped the trail wasn't going to peter out totally. The thought of going back didn't appeal. I went on.

The reward? This gorgeous little church. Big enough for one. The gate was on a clip which I undid easily.

How beautiful is the small mosaic above the door, under the cross.

Closer. Those delicate colours.

I was taking a photo of a prolifically flowering rosemary bush in the church grounds when this butterfly suddenly landed in front of me. 

Two people are buried here. I wonder who they were.

Refreshed by the short stop, I walked on - that's the Profitis Ilias on the far mountain. 

We're on the other side of the valley. Isn't it so pretty? Plus we were getting back near civilisation! Yayyyy!

Ahhhh there it is! With a nice stone wall on the cliff side. Did I tell you I sometimes get vertigo? I steeled myself.

Closer. It was enough to take my breath away. Literally.  The wind was so strong it pushed me backwards.

The rock wall disappeared. The path was rougher and narrower. It disappeared around a bend, with a sheer drop below. I was suddenly aware I was right on top of the town, quite close, and somehow, the path had to descend to it.

I put my head down and watched my feet, stepping carefully, one foot after another. It worked. Occasionally, when I could sit down, I looked out. I finally reached the bottom.

I met this man on the donkey coming up the hill. Generally speaking when I see these men sitting on their donkeys I'd like to push them off.

But he's a happy one. He can stay on.

It was no time before I was back at Piato, to Katerina and Tony's warm welcome. 'We have sagros for you! We hardly ever get it!' At that point I was more interested in a glass of water! The sagros was very tasty, but we're so spoiled with our seafood aren't we?

Katerina sat with me while the fish was being cooked. She has had a remarkable life. She is 85 years old and she and her husband have been married for 70 years! Her husband who is 97 lives in Athens, while she helps Tony. Yes, they were married when she was 15. They have been in Greece since 1973. Before that South Africa, before that Turkey.

'I am going to miss you very much when you go,' she said. There were tears in her eyes. I put my hand on hers. What a darling. 'Everyone is.' Oh dear, now she was making me cry. 'You are like family,' she said. 'You must come back, and bring your husband, and your children.' 

'Go on, I said, 'You won't even remember me!' We hugged goodbye. 

The harbour was a little choppy this afternoon, the boats' masts swaying this way and that. Even when it's choppy it's pretty! There were some white caps out at sea. The little water taxis were making heavy going of it. Tony tells me that it should be calmer in the morning for my ferry to Athens at 7am. I'll have to leave the apartment in the dark! Now I need to clean out the frig and pack.

I'm not sure about my post tomorrow night from Athens, as I'm having a tour when I get there, and it may not be possible to write as well. 

But I promise, I'll tell you all about Athens when I can.

Oh I nearly forgot to tell you. This is Niki Tsagkari. They've been in the food business here since time began.

This is their shop on the harbour in 1920 or 1930 I forget which. Now they're in a side street and they're the almond shop. Sweet treats all made from almonds.

I took a box of her florentines around to the archives for the staff. You won't believe what Eleni said to me as I was leaving. You will NOT believe it. 

She said, 'Shelley, I wait you.' I said, 'Excuse me Eleni, what did you just say?'

Shelley I wait you. Extraordinary. 

I wait you too.

shelley dark, writer 

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