This morning we left Athens for Hydra, a small island known for ... well, unfortunately I need to digress, there is something more to say about Athens.
We were mugged this morning, on the metro. Maybe mugged is strong but it was more than a pick pocketing; it involved physical conflict, Paul and I versus several others. Not to worry, we weren't hurt and all we lost was a passport but it shook us up. It sucks. Put a big damper on the day.
With that out of the way, I'll move on to our final Greek stop, Hydra. It's as laid back, as bucolic, as non hustle bustle as can be. The anti Athens.
We took the sinister-looking Flyingcat 4 from Piraeus to the town of Hydra which is on the island of the same name. It's a rocky island with maybe 3000 inhabitants almost all of whom live in the town.
So what's so interesting about Hydra? At first glance it's a typical picturesque Greek port, stone buildings climbing a hillside and wrapping around a port filled with colorful boats of all shapes and sizes, fishing and pleasure and transport. But what is unusual about Hydra is that it has no automobiles, no motorscooters, they don't even have bicycles. (How do you forbid bicycles?) All transportation is by foot, hand cart, boat, or donkey.
Weather permitting we'll spend the next couple days exploring the island on foot then we'll start our journey home. I confess that at the moment home sounds pretty good.
This morning the events of yesterday seemed distant, almost surreal, so we were back to enjoying the Greek island of Hydra, the car-free land of donkeys and cats.
Ahh, but we couldn't leave the unpleasantness quite yet, we had to file a police report because Canadian authorities require this for a replacement passport. We found the Hydra police in a small dark office (at first we thought they were closed) where an un-uniformed fellow sat at a desk watching a Greek telenova. A second casually-dressed officer soon joined him and he took our case. For some reason Barney Fife and Andy Taylor came to mind.
The second fellow took our information, wrote the report, had Paul swear on his choice of thing to swear on (honor, holy book, mother, etc.) then told us to return later when they'd give us a copy.
With that out of the way we stopped at the Hellenic Seaways office to inquire about tickets for Wednesday. There we were told that the sailing schedule for November had yet to be released since it isn't November. I wondered what makes this November different from previous Novembers but I kept this thought to myself.
With these tasks out of the way we had a late breakfast and shopped for something small and unbreakable that would remind us of Greece.
We then walked along the coastal path to the nearby village of Mandraki, though I'm being generous with the word village. Since the island has no cars most everyone lives in the town of Hydra. You can't zip into town for milk, it's a walk or a donkey ride, or a horse ride away.
Speaking of donkeys, today's Times debunks some of the myths that bedevil donkeys. For example, donkeys are cautious as opposed to contrary; they are employed to guard livestock - guard donkeys; they are one of the earliest beasts of burden, predating camels; and they can be friendly, what one person calls a dog you can ride.
Here are a few photos of the many donkeys seen about Hydra. The donkey rider in the last shot - they seem to mostly ride side saddle - was talking on the phone so I guess there are no rules about using mobile devices while riding, not that Greeks care too much about rules. The lead donkey appeared to know the route to the monastary.
Our last morning in Hydra and the weather is clear, cool and still. Great weather for the ferry, not so great for the sail boat racers. We squeeze in a last morning in this tranquil place. Our hotel is a few blocks up the hill from the harbor, where the town suddenly transitions to country, and you wake to the sounds of the animals who wake up with the sunrise, crowing and barking and mewing and braying.
We walked down to the harbor then hunted for stairs that lead up to the ruins. The ruins aren't much in themselves, but they are evidence of a defensive position, so they overlook Hydra harbor and the coastline to the southwest.
Once up there we watched as the sailboats headed out into the deep sea to resume their race. The views are spectacular, with the deep wine sea and the steep brown and green hillsides here on the island and also across the water to the Peloponnese mainland. The sea is peppered with small islands, most have a small white chapel, even if the island is so small that no one could possibly live on it. I remember the port of Naxos town has a tiny island maybe forty feet from shore, and even it has a tiny chapel. Every island needs its chapel.
We had a long lunch at a harbor-side cafe where we watched the donkeys wait for their next assignment. Then we boarded the Flyingcat 6 for Piraeus and from there it was on to Athens airport for the night.
I'll miss Greece. The people are warm and welcoming. They have a long history of independence which was typified by the Hydra police officer offering Paul his choice of what to swear on (I swear on ... that this is the truth). They've been fighting for their independence for a long time, against the Ottomans, the Venetians, the Nazis. A shame they gave up their currency; my semi-informed opinion is they fit in with the EU philosophically but not economically.
The Greek scenery is so very beautiful, the seas crystal clear, and aside from Athens with its ugly buildings and graffiti the towns were pretty and clean. And such variety: super-scenic but oh-so-touristy Santorini, bucolic Hydra, medieval Monemvassia, outdoorsy Kardamyli, historic Athens, elegant Nafplio, and pretty Naxos. Greece isn't without its problems, some of which I now understand a little better, but it's a great place to visit both for its history and its present.
Well I guess it's time to go home.
I didn't take a wide* lens to Greece last fall so I didn't get any of those mind-bending panoramas that a wide angle, a fish eye especially, can get you. Oh well. That I miss those shots so much tells me I may have to get another lens, like the Rokinon 8mm, or maybe a converter for the Nikon 10.5. It seems my shopping list is never empty.
On the other hand, I'm not really looking to add to my carry on. The iPhone's panorama function works in a pinch. Or, just overlap a set of shots by about a quarter frame then merge them later. The cost of these hand-made panoramas is in immediacy, the time spent processing, and a potentially ungainly file size, but it doesn't add to your bag.
Speaking of panoramas, here is an example of how not to shoot a panorama: the shots aren't lined up. It's not right, but I like it anyway.
*I'm gonna define wide as 10 to 12 on DX, 15 to 20 on FX.
Stepping off the ferry in Hydra the first thing that caught my eye was a blue boat. A lovely blue, it reminded me of a plastic-toy blue offered on the first-generation Miata. So I thought I'd have some fun with the blue boat set against the town as backdrop. First I cropped some sky off the top and some sea off the bottom which left just a band of each with a band of land in the middle.
Poverty, too, needs no explanation. In a world governed by entropy and evolution, it is the default state of humankind ... What needs to be explained is wealth. Yet most discussions of poverty consist of arguments about whom to blame for it. Stephen Pinker, The Second Law of Thermodynamics
I caught these fellows walking one morning along the harbour in Hydra. Actually I encountered the priest several times through our short stay. The tourists were mostly gone, except for me of course, and the seasonal businesses were starting to shutter their doors, so you saw the same people over and over again.