Andrew (Darby) wrote:Hey Maarten, thanks so much for another set of fab photos... and so quickly dispatched... the last Mythos's would hardly have hit the bottom of the stomachs at Roloi by the time you sent your photos!
Stamatina, your words are so sweet and touching (and inclusive) - it was so nice you could experience that and Sophia is to be applauded in no small measure for ensuring you could join the Cohenites on this happy occasion.
Lord Mickey of One wrote:You were much missed, Andy.
Hydra is heart and soul of poetic inspiration
STEPHEN SCOURFIELD, TRAVEL EDITOR, The West Australian
June 16, 2011, 12:30 pm
Behind is the rise of the hills, homes in layers. For Hydra is a steep island of quietly clopping donkeys - soft-nosed and ridden side-saddle, carrying everything from tourists' luggage to new fridges up hundreds of steps.
When Leonard Cohen arrived on the Greek island of Hydra in the 1960s, there were no cars, no motorbikes and no overhead wires.
A two-hour ferry ride from Athens, it became a place to write songs and poetry, and fall into the rhythms of the Greek way of life.
To look up and see an unencumbered sky and write the words "like a bird on a wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free", reflecting on his life, and those around him.
Cohen wrote wonderful poetry here; the forms and cadence of Greek music show in some of his songs. And he met Marianne, a beautiful and intelligent young woman who came to life in his songs.
Hydra still has no cars or motorbikes and though it now has overhead wires, its rhythm still creates an appreciation of life itself - of the moment. It coaxes creative thought.
It is a place still much as it has been for hundreds of years, with the pretty curve of the harbour at its heart. Vessels tied up in lines range from traditional timber fishing and sponge boats to hire yachts, pulled stern-to.
We sit on the quayside in blue chairs at tables for Greek salad, marinated sardines, perhaps an ouzo or Alpha or Mythos beer on the quayside.
The rows of shops feature jewellery and fabric work by island designers.
A place of animated Greek conversation, as much hand as voice, squares with orange and lemon trees, the mew of cats, a sense of humanity and a certain decorum, old men herding goats in the sage meadows above, and the ringing of church bells.
It is a place of narrow alleyways and stone steps, whitewashed buildings, shuttered windows and blue doors leading to private lives.
Leonard Cohen's three-storey whitewashed house had no electricity or running water, but buying it for $US1500 six days after his 26th birthday, from money left by his deceased grandmother, shows Hydra's emotional magnetism. It was a commitment that surprised even his closest friends.
He wrote to his mother: "I suppose it's about 200 years old and many generations of seamen must have lived here. I will do a little work on it every year and in a few years it will be a mansion . . . I live on a hill and life has been going on here exactly the same for hundreds of years. All through the day you hear the calls of the street vendors and they are really rather musical . . . I get up around seven generally and work till about noon."
Leonard could be describing my day, my room, this moment.
My brief home on Hydra is Hydroussos Hotel, an old mansion which still feels like a sea captain's home. It has 40 rooms, all set around a courtyard. The house was the work of a great Greek architect, Aris Konstantinidis, in the traditional style of the Leousis mansion. The walls are thick stone and whitewashed, the wooden shutters, to close during siesta, are dark grey. There are many subtle changes of level, marble floors and stairs and sturdy plumbing. The drawing rooms are much as they would have been, with portraits, antique furniture, heavy framed mirrors and armchairs. And for my three nights, with breakfasts, I have paid $260 (�).
Hydroussos Hotel faces the little Votsi Square, with its lemon trees and cats, and donkeys tied in a nose-to-tail row. To one side is Five Prime Ministers Square (for the island has produced these, one Greek president and numerous ministers) and it is all surrounded by old family homes.
And, as I sit here in the courtyard, shaded and cooled by the breeze, I know that Sophia Loren did, too, in the film Boy on a Dolphin, only she didn't have wireless internet connecting her to a world that already seems far away, though there is an old cosmopolitan feel here and Hydra has never been a backwater.
The island belonged to Venice from 1204 and 1566, and was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1566 to 1821. Hydriots are seafarers; they built big ships and this became an important commercial port, particularly in a lucrative period of trading between the Aegean and Black seas. By the turn of the 19th century, Hydra was trading as far as France, Spain and the Americas - the captains' mansions testify to the island's shipping prosperity.
By the time of the 1821 Greek Revolution, there were 27,000 residents, living mainly from the sea. And there were more than 150 warships armed with 2500 cannons, crewed by 6000 hardened seamen; a battle-ready fleet. During the revolution, the fleets of Hydra and the other two naval islands of Psara and Spetses took control of the eastern Aegean from the Ottomans.
Some of the history is shown in the Historical Archives Museum on the waterfront, and there are beautiful icons and rare books at the Byzantine or Ecclesiastical Museum of Hydra, at Cathedral of Hydra, also called Church of Dormition, Monastery of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
The days pass with a different pace. Sleeping behind shutters until there is the early morning conversation of locals going about their business. Breakfast in the courtyard, a stroll around the harbour, Greek coffee; hot or frappe, sweet and with ice.
But Hydra is also a wonderful place to walk. East and west from the town there is a wide, paved path, and for more serious hikers, footpaths lace the hills and coast of this 32km-long island. One day I walk east to the next village, Mandraki, then hike up into the hills, following a footpath past three monasteries. They perch high and dramatically on peaks, overlooking the terraced valleys.
We walk three or four kilometres either way out of the town of Hydra along wide stone paths that follow cliffs, high above the sea, and then drop down to pebble swimming beaches, or down stone stairs to flat rock and a ladder into the deep turquoise clear water. Lunch at an open cafe. More of that Greek salad, with wonderfully soft, ripe tomatoes, cucumbers that taste of something, fetta and crusty bread to mop the olive oil.
And then siesta. In much of Greece, things go quiet at 3pm. And then we all start moving again, slowly and quietly in the late afternoon, and today we walk high up in to the hills to look down on to the heart- shaped harbour as the sun fades. It is 8.30pm, and by the time we walk back down it is 10 and we are ready for dinner. A Greek salad is $6.80, a beer $3.40.
And then it is night again. A family of 12 arrive at 10.30 for dinner, eating with much fun and gesticulation, as the waiters carry off the children to show them this and that, attentive and showing kindnesses.
I've known for a long time of the importance of Hydra for Leonard Cohen - for not the effect it had on his poetry and lyrics (as is often written), but for the space it created, into which he gently poured them. The potential of this is not lost on me as I write this. And I struggle to write this. Usually I just write and move on; it's what I have always done. But Hydra flummoxes me. It demands a different pace; a different thought. A longer time to change from my own to its rhythm.
Just once, it feels like somewhere I should be longer.
·At Hydroussos Hotel, I paid $256 (�) for a room for two for three nights, including breakfasts. ·An average lunch or evening meal for two with drinks in Hydra cost about $40
Wybe wrote:What happens on Hydra stays on Hydra
bridger15 wrote:Wybe wrote:What happens on Hydra stays on Hydra
Well, I hope not. I am eagerly awaiting one of your magnificent slideshows capturing your Hydra adventure.
Please hurry home (safe travels, of course) and get to work.
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