Sep 23, 2019 - Sea Cloud

We dropped anchor in the lovely bay of Hydra at 7:00 a.m. There is no initial “h” sound in modern Greek, so the name of the island is pronounced “Eedra.” Ancient Greek did have the “h” sound and so the word, at the time, was sounded out like “High-dra,” precisely like the name of the monster that Hercules killed. We took Zodiacs ashore and began a leisurely excursion of the principal settlement of Hydra Town.

Bordering the Saronic Gulf, Hydra’s history stretches back to remote antiquity. However, the lovely two- and three-story gray houses with the red-tiled roofs date from the 1770s to the first quarter of the nineteenth century. We strolled on the waterfront with our guides and then visited the beautiful Church of the Dormition – the Orthodox Church refers to the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (15 August) as the Dormition, her sleeping.

The luminous church is all-marble. The interior holds many fine icons and some magnificent massive silver chandeliers, likely given by captains of wealth-laden ships, with ex voto ships suspended from their base. As much of the population in the seventeenth century would have been unable to read, the icons always provide hints in their decoration as to whom they are celebrating. Here we saw the beautiful silver icon of John the Baptist who – despite being depicted with wings and thus being mistaken for an angel – had at his feet a platter with his head on it, a reminder that he was beheaded by Herod’s daughter. The church was originally a monastery and the monastic enclosure still surrounds the church.

We returned to Sea Cloud and feasted on the great parmesan wheel pasta dish — the pasta is swirled inside a 100-kilogram wheel of cheese, coating it with the delectable cheese. At 2:15 p.m., our historian gave a talk on the bubonic plague and its impact on Greek society and the many profound social changes it effected. John arranged with the captain for us to have a photo safari with Sea Cloud under sail, and shortly after our return, Massimo Bassano gave a photo-illustrated talk on monasticism.

We ended the night with the Captain’s farewell dinner and celebrated the great week we enjoyed together.

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About the Author

Tom Heffernan


Tom, a native of New York City, who has had a life-long passion for travel and exploration, is the Kenneth Curry Professor of Humanities at the University of Tennessee and the founding Director of the university’s Humanities Center. His areas of interest are anthropology of religions and historical linguistics.

About the Photographer

Jennifer Davidson

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Jennifer Davidson has been a lifelong lover of wide-open spaces. She grew up in a ranching family in remote West Texas. Her roots run many generations deep in that land, which she has always considered home. She studied marine biology on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, participating in monitoring projects in the bays of Texas’s Coastal Bend Region and the Flower Gardens National Marine Sanctuary. In 2005, she moved back to the drier climates, this time to the mountains of Northern New Mexico, to pursue a career in photography, which had been a lifelong source of enjoyment.

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