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A fine example of a 'salty dog'Oct. 23, 1998  Ydra, Greek Isles

Any seasoned traveler will tell you that one of the key elements of enjoyable travel is flexibility. The ability to roll with the punches as they’re thrown at you is paramount to staying focused on the sights and sounds of each new experience, rather than being caught up in the many things that won’t go as planned. In this case it was that ever volatile villianess Mother Nature who threw a wrench into our plans. As we left Athens, the sun was out and the wind relatively calm. This soon changed, for by the time we sat down for dinner, the ship was rocking like a leaf in the breeze. I was probably one of the first of the 26 or so passengers on board to leave the dining area after appetizers in search of some fresh air on the upper deck. And there I stayed, standing and swaying back and forth, death grip on the side railing, as more and more people joined me, and then left again. The reports I got from them included flying plates of food, and tipping glasses of wine and Ozuo, the native liquorice flavored liquor, into the remaining diner’s laps.

Sing it with me . . .
"Well, just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip. It started from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship.

The mates were mighty sailor men, the Captian brave and sure.
The passangers set sail that day for a three hour tour, a three hour tour.

The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed,
if not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Zeus II would be lost, the Zeus II would be lost."

Docked in the peaceful harborOur craft spent the second half of the five hour trip bobbing like a cork in the Force Five wind and swells. For you landlubbers that’s pretty rough. For perspective, the Port Authority won’t let a ship like ours (less that 35 meters in length) sail in Force Six or better. Force Eight is gale force. On this night, it wasn’t so much the swells, as the wind gusts. These made the ship buck and turn in almost every conceivable combination of directions, rather that the much easier to ‘stomach’ back and forth rocking. Just imagine a cork floating in a half full mason jar. Now picture a three year old having a raging temper tantrum with the jar in both hands. Finally, try to imagine being a flea on that cork. My purpose here is not to go into Technicolor detail of the end result (at least from my side of the ship), but rather to explain why the Captain made the wise decision to port in Ydra, one of the Saronic chain, rather than continue for the few extra hours, on to Cyclades, our scheduled destination.

Intricate steepleRarely have I been more happy to see a giant chunk of rock than on this night. This wonderful protrusion from the raging sea was called Ydra, and the moment we docked, I practically jumped from the ship onto the sanctuary of the cement pier. My sheer joy brought forth an uncontrollable spat of happy feet as I danced a little 'dry land jig' right there in front of the Harbor Master and half the ship’s crew.

Laura, Jon, and I ventured out around the harbor that night. Nothing too exciting, just playing with the local cats and searching for something to put inside my stomach (considering I missed dinner aboard the ship). The next morning was a day of exploring as we headed up the hill and straight into the maze of streets that, together like a confusing web, form the small town encircling the harbor.

Taxis for hireThis small and peaceful island maintains its quaint charm by prohibiting the use of motorized vehicles of any sort. There are two exceptions to this rule, the garbage truck and a pickup truck for municipal use (we were lucky enough to see both). Donkeys, however, are a fine substitute for transporting almost anything up and down the narrow streets. Much like with a taxi stand, they wait patiently, lined up in the harbor, for an assignment.

Corner parking space - Ydra styleAs usual, our aimless meandering gave us new friends. The first, an older man, who seeming thrilled with our company, ran inside to get a few cold cuts to feed the many cats we had stopped to play with. This fun lasted a good twenty minutes until the lunchmeat was gone. In contrast, our next friend found us.

Laura and friendAs we wandered randomly around the small streets, she stopped us and asked "monastery? monastery? monastery?" over and over again. We finally agreed to follow her. She took Laura’s arm and the two of them lead the way. When we reached our apparent destination, she told us - as best she could (apparently the only English word she knew was monastery), about both her parents being killed (we didn’t really understand the details), and the monastery being ransacked and torn down.

Small chapel hidden in the hillsCertainly a tragic tale made even moving by her tears. It’s amazing how well people can communicate without speaking the same language. After hearing her tale, we stood there in silence.  I had the idea to try to cheer her up with the aid of my camera. I asked her to pose with Laura. She did, I snapped a shot, and turned the camera around so she could she her own picture. That brought a big smile to her face, allowing us to part on a cheerful note.

A rare church in red, in the old townWe wound our way back down towards the harbor, and then followed the coastline to the next fishing village. On the way back, we found a little outdoor party that was starting to really heat up in a large open area next to the road. The band was working the crowd hard, as we had a seat to watch the action.

Barbecuing octopus on the shoreApparently, the last sailing regatta of the season was scheduled for the next day, and the weekend sailors were warming up with a little tho’ down. It wasn’t long before we were offered a few beers (the best kind - free). We felt hunger starting to set in, so as the sun was starting to set as we walked back towards the boat just in time to catch the harbormaster helping our ship’s cook barbecue up a little octopus for the evening’s appetizer. Yum-yum!!

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Last modified: August 19, 1999    Photographs and text 1998 Scott and Laura Kruglewicz. All Rights Reserved.


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