Hydra is a place brimming with architectural character, history and, what is most interesting, devoid of cars. Yes, it sounds strange, but motorized vehicles are not allowed on the island. Two small garbage trucks and some fire fighting units are the only motorized vehicles allowed on the island. A host of always-posed Greek donkeys - their modeling career challenged by the hundreds of well-fed cats on the island - are responsible for most transportation services. Water taxis can take you around the island to otherwise inaccessible beaches or to the Peloponnese coast.
"Hydras' Donkeys" Image Credit: Athens Insiders
The inhabited area of the island is so small and compact and at the same time a perfect place to wander and explore. either on the bustling and picturesque cobblestone promenade, or in the colorful narrow streets, decorated with dazzling bougainvilleas and fragrant lemon trees leading up to the amphitheatrically built city facing the sea.
How to get to Hydra
To get there, you must go to the port of Athens, Piraeus, and find the pier "Flying Dolphins". These are interesting hydrofoils - some older ones were built in Soviet-era Russia for lake travel - that glide quickly and smoothly on waves of 30 to 40 knots. So, you ride these "dolphins" and in less than 2 hours, you find yourself on another planet ...: a place with the rhythm and the look formerly gone. Tiny cobbled streets lead to traditional houses from previous centuries and sumptuous homes, all restored and cherished by law prohibiting the construction of new buildings, to preserve the identity of this classified architectural reserve. No cars, no fuss, no rush. Welcome to Hydra!
"Hydras Architecture" Image Credit: Athens Insiders
People enjoy meals, drinks and coffee in many casual spots, right on the waterfront, on the harbor's waterfront, or in small secluded squares in the city's narrow streets. They walk, marveling at the stone manor houses - some of them actually functioning as mini-museums - or even venturing into them, to discover the echoes of the history of the places.
"Relaxing Cafeterias" Image Credit: Athens Insiders
Where does the name Hydra come from?
The name Hydra comes from the ancient Greek word meaning "water" and the place was so called to indicate that on its small surface of 49 square kilometers, one could find water wells. The island has been inhabited and deserted several times. His last glory dates back to the 17th century when his people turned completely to the sea to survive. They started building ships, increasing their fleet each year, and sailed from Russia to Gibraltar to transport and exchange goods. Sometimes they had to be equipped with guns and cannons - the ones we see today in the port - to fight pirates or raise the naval checkpoints, in order to prosper and keep their families in Hydra alive and well. fed. In this way, the island has reached a fleet of more than 300 ships - most of them worthy of battle - and rich enough for its most prominent families to bring in Italian architects who have built the very homes you admire today.
"The Fesh fish has just arrived!" Image Credit: Athens Insiders
The story of hydra
These families and their 150 fully armed ships - led by Hydra sailors - formed the backbone of the notorious war fleet of the Greek Revolution and some of these families remained in power nationwide. This is how we obtained the impressive fact that such a tiny island is the birthplace of five Greek prime ministers: Georgios Kountouriotis, Antonios Kriezis, Demetrios Voulgaris, Athanasios Miaoulis and Pavlos Kountouriotis.
"The hydra cannons" Image Credit: Athens Insiders
Unfortunately, the maritime grandeur of the island has never adapted to the naval era of steam engines. As a result, most of the sailors who did not leave the island turned to sponge diving until World War II, after which the island was almost deserted and many abandoned houses.
But less than two decades later, the island became famous again thanks to its beauty. In 1956, internationally acclaimed Greek director Michalis Kakoyannis filmed "A Girl in Black" here. The following year, Sophia Loren sang the Greek song "S 'Agapo" (which means "I love you") or "Ti einai afto pou to lene Agapi" ("What's called this thing called love? Ladd, in a Hydra tavern, in the Hollywood romantic drama "Boy on a Dolphin" shot on the island in 1957.
In 1960, famous personalities from around the world went for an ouzo, a walk and a dive into the beautiful blue waters. The Rolling Stones drank beer at the "Pirate" bar at the corner of the harbor, and Leonard Coen bought an old house, restored it and stayed there for years, finding refuge and inspiration. In a Hydra grocery store, he met Norwegian writer Marianne Ilene and their birthplace was the birthplace of songs like "So Long Marianne" and "Bird on a Wire".
Nowadays, every summer, the place turns into a paradise of yachting. Groups of sailboats moor in the harbor, where they are joined by dozens of motorboats and yachts.