'Oh like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in the midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.'
|Hydra - Leonard Cohen's home for a decade|
We've just returned from Hydra (E-drah) island. It is the one getting a lot of attention these days thanks to this year's documentary, 'Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love'.
Several of you have written us about Nick Broomsfield's film that tells the story of Leonard Cohen, the Canadian singer, songwriter, poet and novelist who spent a decade living on this island in the Saronic Gulf, just off the coast of the Peloponnese. Marianne Ihlen, the ex-wife of Norwegian novelist Axel Jensen, (who also lived on Hydra back then) was Cohen's 'muse' and girlfriend during his time on the island.
Cohen died in 2016 at the age of 85, many long years after his time on Hydra. But still, if you've read his poetry or heard his music or watched the recent film, you can't help but think of this wordsmith when you visit Hydra.
|A home in Hydra|
It takes only one visit to understand why Cohen's creative juices flowed while living here. And after several visits, your own creative juices seem to come to life as well. Even a short stay will refresh your senses.
If ever we were to live on a Greek island, we both say, Hydra would likely be the place. While it swells with tourists each summer, it remains for most of the year, a small charming place where you could lose yourself to your imagination, take an afternoon nap without apology or spend an hour or more at a harborside taverna sipping an icy Aperol Spritz.
|The road around Hydra - two- and four-footed traffic only|
Even though you can buy trendy fashions at small boutiques and pricey baubles in tiny jewelry stores during the frenzied summer months, it still feels different; like you've stepped back in time on this island. Perhaps so, because Hydra doesn't allow motorized vehicles other than the small garbage truck that makes its rounds each day.
|Suitcases carried to the hotel and guests walked ahead|
The port town where the majority of restaurants and tourist accommodations are clustered along narrow whitewashed pathways, is the largest one on the island. The last census - in 2011 - tallied 1,900 living in it and less than a few dozen residents in the nearby villages . So there might be a few hundred more now, certainly not a place that is over-populated or 'over-touristed'.
Back in September of 1960, when Cohen was 26 years old, he purchased a three-story white washed home for $1,500US using a bequest of his recently deceased grandmother. The building had no electricity, plumbing or running water. He liked it that way. In fact the story behind his famous, 'Bird on the Wire' is that he was inspired to write it as he watched his island being transformed with electric wires. He wasn't pleased, but one day he noticed a bird on the wire. . .
|One of the yachts visiting Hydra during our stay|
He'd likely be blown away now as he watched the summertime ferries disgorge hundreds of tourists each day. He'd also likely gasp at the size and number of yachts that moor each night in the tiny harbor. He'd probably be stunned at the many shops along the harbor catering to those visitors these days.
|Fishing boat's arrival Sunday morning brought shoppers and cats|
In the fall the boutiques, restaurants and accommodations begin shutting down for the season. There's always a few accommodations and restaurants that stay open year round, but there are decidedly fewer options for travelers than during the warm weather months.
A blustery wind and rain storm welcomed us to the island last November; the place so empty, it seemed our own private island. Hotel and restaurant choices were few. Another gusty, chilly wind greeted us in March just as the island was waking to 'the (tourist) season'.
|Hydrofoil from Athens stops several times daily in Hydra in summer|
Last week the place was teeming with ferries and yachts in the harbor and the town pulsating with visitors. The contrasts between seasons are vivid and each had its own special charm.
|Overlooking an island village|
With the summer wind much more welcoming (meaning, less fierce!) than the wind on our previous trips, we set off on foot to visit the nearby villages and were gobsmacked by the vast beauty the island has to offer
We understand why Cohen was inspired to write:
Days of Kindness
Greece is a good place
To look at the moon, isn't it
You can read by moonlight
You can read on the terrace
You can see a face
As you saw it when you were young
There was good light then
Oil lamps and candles
And those little flames
That floated on a cork in olive oil
(Those little floating corks in olive oil are still used in Greece!)
|Off to another village in what seems another world - Hydra|
That is it for this week. We thank you for your time with us and hope that if your travel plans ever bring you to Greece, that you include a night or two on Hydra. It's magic!
For those seeking information about Hydra (getting there, places to stay, etc.) visit:
Linking soon with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday