Nov 8, 2009

Aegean Oasis

Hydra harbor

In September I had the opportunity to travel with my wife to the Greek Saronic Island of Hydra.  As professional fundraisers we love to travel together while learning new ways to better serve our clients and their constituents.  Hydra was the location for the Leadership Summit offered as part of the Institute for Charitable Giving

We arrived at night after a quick 37 mile high speed hydrofoil trip from the Port of Piraeus just outside of Athens. In the night sky we could make out the parapets with the canons, which once protected the city. The Hydra port was beautifully illuminated and we were instantly consumed by the sights, sounds and smells of the port night life.  The main port of Hydra is horseshoe shaped with numerous narrow cobble stoned streets leading into the foothills and away from the Aegean Sea.  Our hydrofoil was met by donkeys and horses ready to help passengers and their baggage arrive to their final destination on the island.  There are only two motorized vehicles on the entire island both of them used for garbage collection.  The streets of hydra are far too narrow for a horse and carriage so the options are to ride or walk.

We walked a short two minutes up one of the narrow streets to the Bratsera Hotel, a beautifully restored sponge factory built in the 1860s.  Maritime commerce, including the farming of sponges, was the economic staple historically for the inhabitants of Hydra knows as Hydroits.  In the opening scene of the 1957 classic Boy on a Dolphin, Sophia Loren is seen diving for sponges off the Island. The Bratsera has 28 incredible rooms and a private courtyard with the only pool on the island.  The beauty of the rooms was matched only by the wonderfully hospitable staff. 

The lacy beaches along with the grey of the rocks and the blue of the sea, give Hydra a "wild" beauty and make her an ideal place for inspiration and creation!  For decades artists and poets have flocked to Hydra for insight, stimulation and rejuvenation.  The irony is that much of the island is extremely arid because the natural springs from which the island received its name have long since run dry so all of the water on the island is brought by boat and therefore very expensive. 

The olive oil was phenomenal…medicinal in fact.  While snorkeling I stepped on a sea urchin.  I was told that soaking my foot in olive oil would reduce the pain and swelling.  It worked marvelously and felt incredible.  Fruits and vegetables come from the mainland multiple times each day and fresh seafood is always at hand.  The simplicity of the way in which flavors are combined make for a symphony of individually pungent treats at each meal. 

If you find yourself in the Saronic Islands off the coast of Greece please consider making the trip to Hydra.  If the eyes are truly the window to the soul, then your soul will thank you a thousand times over.

About the author:

Don MacKenzie is the Founder of MacKenzie Consultants - a firm focused on helping not-for-profits be more successful in reaching their constituents and fundraising.  He and his wife Amber live in Rockford, Michigan, with their two children Isabella and Gabriel.  

A wonderful view of the coastline
Boats on the dock
The breakfast table at the Bratsera Hotel
Hydra Taxi
A "true" Greek salad
Crystal clear waters of the Aegean
A colorful salad
The author and his lovely wife, Amber

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