Hydra: Simple pleasures on an 'aesthetically perfect' island
Half an hour out of Poros, the ferry neared our destination: Hydra Island, in the same Argo-Saronic archipelago. We sailed into its beautiful crescent harbour, from which whitewashed buildings with shutters painted every hue of blue spill up the hillside under a spray of bougainvillea. Strict building codes preserving the architectural purity of the harbour mean it is little changed from the time Miller sailed in and declared: "Aesthetically it is perfect."
The real beauty of Hydra is the absence of motorised transport. Cars and motorcycles are banned from the cobbled streets and the dirt paths that connect Hydra town to outlying hamlets and beaches. So we arrived clasping an email from our travel agent which included the intriguing instructions: "There will be a man with a donkey to meet you when you arrive. His name is Takis."
There were many men with many donkeys, the beasts of burden being the main form of transport on the rocky island, ferrying everything from the weekly shop to the island's elder inhabitants. We eventually found Takis, who loaded up our suitcases and led us up the hill to our apartment, the view of the sea and harbour increasing in grandeur with each step.
Hydra came pretty close to my perfect holiday island. Days were spent heading to the different coves, sometimes by foot over pine-forested cliffs, other days hopping on a small boat. There are three lovely shingle beaches within walking distance west of Hydra town – Kamini, Vliho and Plakes – each offering excellent swimming in clear, clean water. Sunbeds and umbrellas are available for rent, and beachside tavernas offer Greek staples, house wine for as little as €6 (£5) a litre, and an array of seafood plucked from the waters that morning. Our daily treat was Hydra squid, its sweet flesh served charred from the grill with nothing but a hunk of lemon on the side.
Unlike many of the islands of the Cyclades and Aegean clusters, Hydra is unencumbered by large resorts or sprawling holiday bungalows. Our accommodation was a lovely one-bedroom apartment up the hill in Hydra town with a huge terrace overlooking the interior. There are also plenty of B&Bs in the tiny lanes closer to the harbour, while a handful of grander hotels are hidden away in restored 18th-century mansions.
But if Hydra is meant to be a tranquil idyll with only birdsong and church bells to splinter the silence gently each morning, nobody told us about the island's four-legged inhabitants. On our first morning, we were awoken by the unbelievably loud braying of a donkey far up the hill, a grating, squawking noise that travels swiftly down the rocky slopes and into homes across the town. Then there was the dog barking at his own echo for a good half an hour, as we sat on the balcony nursing cold glasses of Greek rosé and listening to the canine cacophony. Compared with the donkeys and the dogs, the island's thousands of stray cats are relatively unassuming. Their only foible is to hang around your restaurant table in gangs, eyeing up your seafood dinner.
διαβάστε όλο το άρθρο στην The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/europe/hydra-simple-pleasures-on-an-aesthetically-perfect-island-8034431.html