“Hydra is almost a bare rock of an island (…) There are only two colors: blue and white, and the white is whitewashed every day, down to the cobblestones in the street (…)”. In his book, “The Colossus of Maroussi” Henry Miller describes Greece as “a voyage into the light”, into the Earth inner blaze. An image, a collection of impressions aesthetically perfect, like “the very epitome of that flawless anarchy which supersedes (…) all the formal arrangements of the imagination (…)” And Hydra, with its wild beauty, embodies this perfection, like a pause, entered “in the musical score of creation by an expert calligrapher (…) one of those divine pauses which permit the musician, when he resumes the melody, to go forth again in a totally new direction”.
Henry Miller’s Hydra is a naked Aphrodite born from the foam of the sea, hidden in the never ending back and for of the waves.
The island is detached from Peloponnesus only by a spoonful of water. His past is long, like everything else in Greece. Known since the Third Millennium BC, was probably a maritime base for the kingdom of the peninsula. Abandoned during the Dorians invasions, came back to life in the 8 Century BC, repopulated by farmers and herders and since then – besides being mention a couple of times by Herodotus and Pausanias – remained at the margins of History.
Today, the island is a touristic destination, thanks to Miller and especially to Leonard Cohen that in the Sixties moved there falling in love with its peace and nature.
Its main town, simply known as Hydra Port, clusters about the harbor like an arena, a metaphor perhaps which looks at the not so distant – in space and time – theater of Epidaurus. Hydra is another amphitheater, made of squared little houses among which the voices of the fishermen get lost while leaving the shores to sail into the big blue of the Aegean Sea. There are no cars in Hydra but boats and donkeys. The island’s rocky and harsh beaches are often concealed behind small inlets of water, connected to the main town by meandered goat paths.
Hydra takes time: time to walk from the village to the banks, time to follow the line of the coast and the ups and downs of the hills, time to enjoy the nature and the wilderness of the place. And then, above all, Hydra is silence. A deep, ancient whisper of absence, like a song that is not forgotten nor completely recalled. A melody that is something in between. A feeling of belonging and deep, quiet happiness. “Just that feeling of being grown up, with somebody beautiful that you’re happy to be beside and all the world is in front of you.” as Leonard Cohen said in an interview by Kari Hesthamar of 2015.
There is a sense of freedom in Hydra, a peaceful abandonment, there is that longing of stillness that takes the sailor when he is far and that remains unfulfilled even when he goes back home, as a never-ending wanderlust. Cause the sea is there, with its deep blue and its mysteries: it calls us, whispering us to leave, to depart, to sail away. Maybe this is the magic of Hydra: there, for a moment, this murmur silences, letting the traveler gazing at the dawn from the sand. But it is just a moment, cause soon enough when the night will fall the urge to leave will come back again. “Like a bird on the wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free”, sang Cohen. We all are like birds: looking at the sun and flying away, just to come back one day with even more story to recall. Hydra will be there, as it has always been.