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Hydra differs from the other islands in the Saronic Gulf on account of its rocky, barren terrain and its characteristic architecture which is perfectly attuned to the austere natural environment. These endow it with a special charm that together with its cosmopolitan ambience, high standard of accommodation, luxury shops, art galleries, restaurants, night life and opportunities for sea sports have enhanced it as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Greece. Excavations have revealed the existence of a Mycenaean settlement to the west of the present town. The island flourished during the Byzantine Age the finds from the area of Episkopi – at that time its capital – on the west coast attest. During the Ottoman period the Hydriotes had secured a system of local self-government and many privileges, and so managed to create a powerful mercantile fleet. With the declaration of the War of Independence in 1821 the captains put their vessels in the service of the Struggle and fought valiantly.

Hydra, the island’s capital and port, a unique combination of architecture and landscape, makes a lasting impression. The stone-built captains’ mansions, two- and three-storeys high with tiled roofs, are built amphitheatrically on the two bare hills overlooking the harbour. In most of these residences, restored and renovated inside and out, the authentic interiors and antique furniture are preserved. Among the most important mansions are the Tombazis – which houses the annexe of the School of Fine Arts – the Kountouriotis, the Voudouris, the Miaoulis, the Voulgaris, the Kriezis – now the Home for the Elderly – and the Tsamados – the Merchant Marine School.

Places of interest include the old harbour with the battlements and cannon, the Koimesis tis Theotokou Monastery, built to the plans of Venetian and Genoese architects in the 17th century, and the churches of Hypapanti and Aghios loannis tou Nistevti with notable wall-paintings. At the summit of the hill, with a panoramic view over the town and the harbour, are the twin monasteries of Aghia Eupraxia and Profitis Ilias.

The Historical Archive-Museum houses a wealth of material on the island’s history as well as a significant library. To the NE of the town is Mandraki, and on a hilltop a short distance from there is the Aghia Triada Monastery. At the NE edge of the island is the Zourvas Monastery, dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin, and to the S is the Monastery of Aghia Matrona.

The coasts of Hydra are rocky and sheer. There is an organized beach at Mandraki, which can be reached by sea-taxi or on foot from the town. Other beaches ideal for swimming, at Kaminia, Vlycho, Molo, Bisti, Limnioniza and Aghios Nikolaos, can all be reached by sea-taxi. Between Hydra and the coast of the Peloponnese lies the islet of Dokos.

Easter is celebrated on Hydra with special customs. At Kaminia on Good Friday the Epitaphios procession continues down to the water’s edge, while on Easter Sunday an effigy of Judas is burnt.  In June the “Miaoulia” is celebrated. The highspot is a re-enactment of the Hydriote Admiral Miaoulis setting fire to the flagship of the Ottoman fleet.

Among the island’s advantages is the prohibition of motor vehicles. Several excursions can be made by donkey. Hydra is renowned for its delicious almond cakes.

 
 
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Mr. Babis Doukakis (we speek greek, english or german)