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 theyre 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
wont 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 diners laps.
Sing it with me . . .
"Well, just sit right back and youll 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
Our craft spent the second half of the five hour
trip bobbing like a cork in the Force Five wind and swells. For you landlubbers
thats pretty rough. For perspective, the Port Authority wont 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 wasnt 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
Rarely 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 ships 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.
This 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.
As 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.
As 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 Lauras 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 didnt really understand the details), and the monastery being ransacked
and torn down.
Certainly a tragic tale made even
moving by her tears. Its 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.
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.