|A common sight on Hydra and island keeping equine traditions|
Equines - horses, donkeys and burros - have always transported both goods and people on this small island in the Saronic Gulf. Even in this age of technology, they continue to do so. There are no privately-owned cars, trucks or bikes here. One of the island's endearing charms for us, is its nod to history by continuing its reliance on animals.
This island, with only one harbor town and a few smaller villages scattered about, has only three motorized vehicles: a small garbage truck, a small truck for hauling and an ambulance. For that matter it has only one or two short stretches of roads wide enough to accommodate the small vehicles. Even taxis are in the form of boats . . .or horses!
The island's main commercial area wraps around its picturesque harbor. Most tourist accommodations and private homes are housed in centuries-old buildings snuggled side-by-side on the steep hillsides that frame the harbor. Many of them are accessed by narrow passageways and stairs; just the right size for a pedestrian or an equine.
One of our favorite times here is in the early morning when the supply barge laden with everything from pallets of bottled water to construction materials arrives. The muleteers, or as they are called in Greek, the agogiatis or kyratzis, and their animals are ready. The distribution begins. During our recent visit it took two days to get all the supplies offloaded.
|Might be hauling his own dinner off the barge|
Since back in the time when pirates plied the waters and the town was centered on the hilltop, these steadfast steeds have carried people and parcels to those upmost reaches of the island. Many continue to be outfitted with the same style wooden saddles as those used decades ago for goods transportation .
|Loaded and headed to the construction site|
I was a bit surprised when researching this post, to learn that there was a time when 40 percent of Greece's donkeys were found in the southern Peloponnese; as that is the same area where we make our home these days. There, like on Hydra and elsewhere in Greece, the animals hauled goods and people over the kalderimi's, those narrow stone roads that linked villages in early times. They were used to plow the fields and as the power source in grain mills and olive oil presses.
With the advent of motorized vehicles and construction of wider asphalt and concrete roads, the use of animals has, since the mid 20th century, been diminishing. What was startling -- and dismaying -- was learning while researching this post was that the numbers of animals themselves has also severely diminished.
In an on-line article about equine in Greece, Giorgos Arsenos, assistant professor at the Aristotle University of Veterinary Medicine says that the numbers of donkeys had fallen from a half million in the mid 1950's to just over 18,000 in 1996. I was unable to find more current figures.
|Step aside the pack train is coming through|
Luckily, the Municipal Council of Hydra and the residents there see the value of this time honored animal tradition and are continuing to foster it in a manner that is both humane and practical.
|Yes, even the kitchen sink!|
As animal lovers, we are always concerned about the treatment of animals and in the case of the equines on Hydra, I can assure you that the animals waiting at harbor's edge to transport tourists and luggage have sunshades provided and plenty of water. As you make your way through the passageways back from the harbor it is always a delight to happen upon a few bales of hay, one of their many feeding stations.
Since what goes in must come out, we can also vouch for the fact that at the first dropping from an animal the entire pack is stopped, the manure is scooped up by the muleteer and carried away in leather packs attached to the animals backs- we suspect - to later be used as fertilizer.
|Morning coffee floor show on Hydra Island|
The welfare of the animals is also monitored by the combined efforts of HydraArk, an animal lovers group on the island, The Municipality of Hydra, The Greek Animal Welfare Fund and Animal Action Greece. These four entities provide annual visits to the island of a team made up of a dentist, veterinarian and a farrier who provide free of charge exams for all the animals.
|Too cute for words in Hydra - old style saddle|
If visitors to the island is concerned about a particular animal's welfare they are encouraged to contact the local police who are in charge of investigating any abuse reports. I suspect few reports are made as the equines and the island's cats are among some of the most pampered animals we've encountered in our travels in Greece. But the tale of the cats is yet another story for another time. . .
|Sunshades for the horses waiting for the ferry|
That is it for this week from very hot Greece. Summer has arrived. The country continues to monitor COVID19 numbers and face masks continue to be a required part of this 'new normal' world in which we find ourselves. We hope where ever this reaches you, that you are safe and well and at least doing some armchair traveling! Hope you'll be back with us next week and as always, thanks for your time!
Linking soon with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday
How interesting it must be to be in the midst of an outdoor meal when a donkey train passes by. I know that these were common about everywhere in the world at one time or another. It just seems to be such the unique experience to see them in this day and age.ReplyDelete
I think that might be one reason we like Hydra so much! Those ties to the past are charming!!Delete
Fantastic post about the horses, mules and donkeys of Greece. We certainly had our experience with the mules that took us to the top of a mountain & then left us there! It had gotten so hot the owner took them back down to the water while we were having lunch! So it was a very long and hot walk back down to the water where our boat was waiting.ReplyDelete
Guess the silver lining was that the owner was caring for the animals, but I can appreciate those long hot walks down hillsides in Greece in the midday heat!Delete
Loved joining you for a step back in time visit to Greece. Loved the photo of the donkeys on top of your coffee! Is there anything they can't carry - those ladders?!!ReplyDelete
We've seen them packing everything there when even the kitchen sink came by, I knew I had to write about these amazing animals and their role on Hydra! Thanks for stopping by!!Delete
this looks like a lovely and unique island to visit. Though it may be a bit crowded during the tourist season? I was glad to read that the health of the pack animals is monitored and they are cared for. I enjoyed logging into your blog today and seeing you are still doing well in Greece. Probably better than being back in the USA? Take care and enjoy the rest of your week.ReplyDelete
Yes, we are happy to be in Greece and not the US right now as between the pandemic numbers and the protests it just isn't calling out to us -- even if we could find a flight home!Delete
Wow! I have yet to travel to Greece and wasn't sure where I'd want to go when there. This will definitely be on my list. I like the slower pace of life and all the donkeys and horses. So atmospheric.ReplyDelete
Yes, definitely make Hydra a stop for at least a couple of nights. The place is simply enchanting! Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment!Delete
Amazing that they still use beasts of burden for so many things. Very cool.ReplyDelete
It is nice to see now as it was then, that is for sure! Thanks for stopping by, Susie!Delete
Too funny seeing those donkeys carrying the kitchen sink. I remember the donkeys in Santorini when I hiked from Fira to Oia. It was a tough hike and I could have used a donkey.ReplyDelete
Yes, once you've done those island hillsides you understand how important these four-legged transport vehicles are! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!Delete
I find this window into how the island donkeys fit in with Hydra Island's commerce quite fascinating. I'd love to experience one of the donkey taxis, and I can't wait to hear your upcoming story about the spoiled island cats!ReplyDelete