I think that whenever someone is born, wherever they are, they should be given a voucher which entitles them to a free trip to anywhere in Greece, at any time of their life that they choose. I can guarantee that if this happened, the majority of people would fall in love with Greece and return again and again….
I think I would use my voucher to visit Hydra.
Hydra is a busy, bustling, but fairly small harbour, with all the boats moored to the quay. A working port, there are numerous ferries, day trip boats, water taxis. During the months of April to October this is a favourite destination for yachts and motorboats of all sizes, and there is nothing more entertaining than sitting on deck of your own boat, or at a nearby taverna with a long drink, any time from noon onwards, watching newcomers arrive and try to find a space to moor, jostling amongst the fishing boats and dodging the ferries. I could write a whole chapter on the different mooring styles of different nationalities, but I’ll leave that for another time ….
No vehicles are allowed on the island, except for a rubbish truck, so everything has to be carried by donkey, mule or pony. The harbour and only town in Hydra is surrounded by houses built on steep hills, reached by narrow streets and steps which are well trodden by many donkeys over the years.
There is so much going on, you could stay here for days and never tire of things to see. Everything has to be imported by boat, so every morning the quayside is bustling with men unloading goods from various craft – from bottled water, huge bottles of mayonnaise, oil and vinegar for the restaurants, tinned tomatoes, yogurt, fresh fruit and vegetables of every description, paper tablecloths, sacks of potatoes, tubs of washing powder. Every so often building supplies arrive, also furniture, electric fans, and I even saw a kitchen sink!
The donkeys and mules are amazing. They line up along the quay, with two or three tied together, each group owned by one person who is always hovering nearby. Most are not tethered but they stand perfectly still, awaiting instructions with only a swish of a tail or stamp of a foot to break their silence. They occasionally give rides to tourists, but this is not their main function.
They are true pack-mules and carry everything, everywhere. This morning I saw mules laden with visitors’ luggage, bags of cement, ten foot scaffold planks, rolls of carpet, and even a brand new three piece set of cane garden furniture! On an early morning walk we saw mules carrying crates of empty beer bottles, bags of rubbish, and even one serving as a mobile bakery with the owner aboard carrying many bags full of bread freshly cooked at the nearby bakers, destined for an outlying village.
Boats rarely get charged for mooring here, as is common in most of Greece. You can come and go as you please, stay as long as you want. I do feel that in these times of austerity measures in Greece, they are missing a great money making opportunity, yet I think it’s not something Greeks are bothered with. As long as they get visitors to their tavernas, or in the shops, they are quite happy with their lives. We have heard that Greek pensions have been cut quite dramatically, and there are tales of severe hardship in the local papers, but we have seen little actual evidence that the islanders are suffering as much as the Athens media will have you believe. Island families seem to help each other out, they all grow fruit and veg, have chickens and sheep or a goat, they may have a fishing boat. The Greeks are always so friendly and helpful, no doubt they will survive just as they have done in centuries gone before ….