The first problem we had was finding our boat. We found the harbor. We had two tickets to Hydra island, but couldn’t find any information on which boat was which & what went where. We found a crusty old sailor who mumbled something at us in Greek & waved us away.
We walked a bit farther along the harbor & came across a friendly old guy with white hair, big white eyebrows & skin like rawhide. He offered to help, took a look at our tickets & showed us which boat to take. When he picked up on Olivier’s French accent, he switched from English to French.
“French is better,” he said. “It makes more sense, the grammar. Je mange, tu manges, nous mangeons… okay. That’s grammar. English has no grammar. The dogs you see here in the streets, even they speak English.” We had a laugh & chatted for a few minutes. “The boat will be here soon.” He pointed to a kiosk behind us. “You can relax, get a coffee & then it will be here.”
“What a cool old dude,” Olivier said.
“Yeah, he’s funny. Crazy old sea captain.”
“Totally. I bet he’s got a lot of stories.”
“Definitely,” I agreed. “Funny old guys always have some great stories.”
Like the guy said, our boat arrived just after we finished our coffee. That’s when we encountered our next problem: our tickets were for another boat. We already knew this & the agent who sold us the tickets said it wouldn’t be a big deal. Of course, to her, it wasn’t a big deal. For the people working on the boat, it was confusing & gave them the impression that we did not know how to read.
Oh… & it also resulted in us getting fucked out of a seat assignment. Luckily, the boat wasn’t full & there were a few empty seats left, so all ended well. We had a nice little nap & woke up at Hydra island.
Our timing was perfect. It was still early, so it was rather quiet. There were almost no other tourists meandering about & the locals were just starting their day.
There are no cars on the island, which also contributed to the silence. The locals rely on bicycles & donkeys for transporting objects or traveling distances that are outside of walking distance.
We took advantage of the deserted streets, strolling around & taking a ridiculous amount of photos. All along the harbor, cats were hanging around, waiting to see if maybe one of the fishermen would toss them a delicious bit of fish.
After stopping at an outdoor coffee shop for a Greek coffee & to make friends with yet another dog, we went off for a much longer walk along the edge of the island until we reached the next town.
We spent a long time exploring – stopping to visit the dogs & cats we encountered along the way, climbing here & there to get closer looks at things – until we realized that our stomachs were sort of wrapping themselves around our spines in that delightful way that happens when your body demands food.
One thing that happens in Greece I do not care for – that is much worse in Athens than it is in Hydra – is the aggressive sales tactics. Each restaurant you pass by has someone standing in front of it, ready to pounce on you if you so much as glance at the establishment. If you stop for a moment to take a gander at the menu, be prepared for the pounce. You will not get to read the menu, as the pouncer will begin to recite the items to you until you either enter or make a run for it. This also happens with many of the shops, particularly in touristy areas.
Because we find this so off-putting, we decided to stop at a nice-looking place with the least-aggressive pouncer. We stuffed ourselves with grilled calamari, swordfish, bread, cheese & Kolokithokeftedes, (zucchini balls) which are so freaking good that eating them will give you fabulous taste-gasms. Yes, that is a real thing.
We did a bit more exploring & stopped by to see Olivier’s doggie friend from our morning visit to the coffee shop.
Before long, our visit to Hydra was over & we were back on the boat to Athens. As the boat docked, Olivier leaned over & looked out the window. “You think the captain is still there?” As he spoke the words, we saw the white hair & eyebrows in the mix of people below.
The old guy spotted us as we disembarked. He seemed happy to see us, as though he had just run into old friends. He asked us if we wanted to go for a drink. I thought it was weird, but Olivier & I… well, we’re weird enough that we just shrug & say, “why not” when strangers want to go drinking.
A few minutes later, we were sitting outside a creepy, run-down bar in an alley near the harbor. We ordered a bottle of ouzo & I went into the bathroom, which was really just a large storage closet with two shit-splattered toilets. (Literally. Shit. Splattered.)
Turned out, the captain wasn’t a captain at all. His name was George & he was a hobo from Serbia who hung out at the harbor everyday, assisting tourists with finding their boats & taxis. He had no job, he did this on his own, for tips or drinks or whatever.
George suggested a couple of times that we should get something to eat, that ouzo with no food is just a bad idea. Olivier & I weren’t hungry, but we ordered a big Greek salad & another bottle of ouzo.
The longer we sat there with George, the more we realized that he was slightly unhinged. Occasionally, the conversation would veer into nonsensical territory. That gave us a hint. Well, that & his penchant for spontaneously bursting into song at the top of his lungs.
After the second bottle of ouzo, the sun was beginning to set. It would soon be night. This alley wasn’t where we wanted to be when darkness fell. To George’s disappointment, we said our goodbyes, leaving him to finish his drink & his salad.
Walking down the street on the way back to our hotel, I commented to Olivier about how George had seemed so sane & normal that morning, that he must’ve already been boozing up a little before we came along.
“Yeah, probably,” Olivier said. “One thing’s for sure, though – he was hungry.”
“Yeah, it sure seemed like it.”
“Well, he helped us. That’s worth a salad & a few drinks to me.”
“Definitely,” I said. “What’s more… now I have another story to tell.”