Wednesday, September 1, 2010

GB Gets Hydrated

While in Athens this time around, I insisted that the bipedals get out of the city for a day. I mean, I love museums and all but every once in a while you need to kick back and feel the sea breeze blowing through your flannel. So we headed down to the port of Piraeus and hopped on a ferry heading to the Saronic Islands, which lie between the Saronic Gulf and the Argolic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. (That was for the geography-challenged among my readership.)

We visited three islands that day, but for the sake of time and space, I'll confine my observations today to the island of Hydra. Hydra (pronounced ee-thra) is about 37 nautical miles away from Athens - I don't really know what that means - but getting there took about 3 hours of sailing through clear azure water peppered all the way with small islands. By the way, the name Hydra comes from the Greek word for water (there were a lot of natural springs there in ancient times) and not from the name of the 7-headed monster which Hercules slew. (That's for all of you mythology buffs among my readership.)

Hydra has been on the map so to speak since the second half of the third millennium BCE. That's an awful long time. Historically, we don't know too much about the island apart from who invaded it and when - at least until the Ottoman period when it (and its shipyards) began to prosper. It's a small island and never had a huge population, and was often depopulated due to invaders and plagues and marauding pirates. Fortunately, our ferry wasn't attacked by pirates. I wasn't too worried, but you never know how far those Somalians are willing to travel for booty (hopefully not my booty!).

In the 19th century - thanks to the prosperous sea captains and sailors who lived on the island - Hydra played an importa
nt role in the War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire. Sadly during the Second World War, it was occupied (again) and many people died of starvation. Poor island.

Nowadays things are looking up for Hydra. Tourism - mainly day trippers from Athens - is the island's number one industry which works out just fine because the island is gorgeous. The whitewashed houses of the hilly town of Hydra hug a deep harbour of sparkling aquamarine blue - it's paradise! Townspeople must think it's paradise too because they've made their little white town a green town: all motorized traffic is forbidden (apart from garbage trucks and a fire truck). In fact, visitors to the island are greeted by a taxi stand of donkeys and mules. Locals pretty much walk everywhere because the town itself is so compact, or use 4-legged transportation. A word of warning: you have to watch out for the donkey "exhaust" on the ground!

I must admit that it was pretty hot on the island (not Iraq hot, of course), but I still found myself needing to stop by the little tabernas which lie here and there to cool off and re-hydra-te myself (hee hee, that's a little bear humour). Seriously, staying properly hydrated is not a laughing matter - especially under the Mediterranean sun. I don't know what your problem is, but you humans are chronically under-hydrated. Don't you love your kidneys?

Anyway, most day trippers hang out on the waterfront which I find odd because the best of the town is found by following the back alleys which wind up up up from the harbour. Of course, because of the heat you just have to stop and have a drink - to keep hydrated. It really is important, you know.

There are beautiful churches and the mansions of sea captains to see, rocky beaches, a museum and even a giant chess board. (I was tempted to have a game or two but, in all honesty, I was the Alfred Sung Chess Champion for three years running among the other models I worked with when I was an International Fashion Model, and I don't like to show off.) And if you like cats (bears love cats), the island is virtually overrun with cats basking in the sunshine, doing nothing much but waiting for the fishing boats to come in. They're also fed well by the townspeople, so I think they have it pretty good. How people treat stray animals says a lot about them don't you think?

Eventually we had to leave, with our ferry bound for the islands of Poros and Aegina. Thanks to my highly-tuned investigative skills (as a freelance Goodwill Ambassador, you have to be very intuitive in order to sniff out corruption and stuff), I noticed that at the ferry's bow (that's the front for you landlubbers), there were deck chairs set up. And no one on them -imagine! So for the rest of the day, when we weren't on dry land, we cruised the Aegean with a front row view. Not only that but I managed to convince the bartender to serve us on the bow (that wasn't too hard because he had already recognized me). What a life! I keep telling the bipedals that this could be their lives too if they just developed a better work ethic. Until then, they had better keep buying those lottery tickets.


Anonymous said...

Hey Grey,
Nice blog. Did you have any Ouzo on the islands? I would love to visit the Greek Islands. You are a lucky bear!

Anonymous said...

OPA! You should be a Greek Ambassador. This is the first time I've seen your blog and I'm very impressed. My teddy - Morgan and I have been to France but not Greece, yet.

Grey Bear said...

Thanks Anonymous's for your comments! I didn't have any ouzo on the islands - only beer, because I was afraid I'd miss the boat for the next port of call! I drank lots of ouzo in Athens though - maybe too much. I'm not sure if I'd make a very good ambassador for Greece - we don't see eye to eye on a few things. They won't even let me have my photo taken on the Acropolis because they think I disrespect it!

Does Morgan blog?