No Cars, Just Donkeys

Last week I posted pretty magazine-y photos of my trip to Greece because I didn’t want to muck them up with my usual verboseness. So all that pent-up wordiness and writing-on-photos exploded into this post (rubs hands with glee!):

Cath and I grew up going to Ocean City, Maryland and Amish country Pennsylvania for our family vacations. Exotic it was not. Hearing about other people’s far-flung traveling escapades seemed an extremely distant pipe dream, something done by fancy folk. So I’m still a bit in awe that this move to Scotland has had the wonderful advantage of getting to fling myself further (Istanbul and Greece in two months) without my bank account shriveling up and dying. This totally makes the living too far from family worth it (almost).

Anywhoodles, back to Hydra and donkeys! We chose this lovely isle to visit because we read it had no automobiles, just donkeys and hilly foot paths. We wanted to get away from noisy, night-clubby islands (cuz we oldies at heart), so donkeys and quiet pebble peaches sounded perfect.

Also, donkeys are so sweet looking — who doesn’t want a donkey instead of a Civic. And, I’m convinced if they spoke, they’d all sound like Eddie Murphy (“And in the morning, I’m makin’ waffles!”):

Hydra Port is a town of fancy schmancy yachts, but away from the hubbub of the inlet, the dwellings are far from pretentious. The house we rented (called House Elizabeth) is beautiful and rustic — and I mean authentic rustic, not shabby chic-ified. I love me some peeling paint and creeky shutters (especially when they aren’t in cold places. like Edinburgh!). House Elizabeth is set high up on a hill looking down at the harbor:

It even came with it’s own stray kitty cat! Here she is waiting patiently for her dinner at the back door:

Here’s where the rustic living comes into play. Living up on a hill in Hydra means you get zero water pressure, so our showers were bucket baths and the toilet tanks took about an hour to fill after each flush. I washed my hair only three times during my ten day trip (sorry, travel companions!) because it took so long to get my hair wet. I now know it takes approximately five litres of water to shampoo and rinse my hair — I’m sure I use gallons more when I actually take a shower.

Hydra doesn’t actually have any fresh sources of water, and so all drinking water has to be shipped in. The water we used to wash ourselves, our clothes, and the dishes, was chock-a-block full of minerals and left a scummy residue on our clothes, plates, skin and hair (when certain people bothered to wash said hairs.ahem).

Low/no water pressure also makes hand-washing clothes tricky (an already difficult skill in my book):

I was grumbling about how I felt a bit dirty and unsatisfied with my bucket-bathing on the fifth day into our trip, and my lovely and very intelligent sister-in-law said “so you are about as clean as most of the developing world.” Said sis-in-law lives in Rwanda and works in development all around eastern Africa (see her amazing blog here) — so she knows what she’s talking about.ย  I was like “holyschmoly, you are so right!” I forget how stuck-in-my-bubble I am. I whole-heartedly believe any vacation that gets me away from my sanitized bubble world is a priceless thing — even if I feel unwashed at the same time.

And I really shouldn’t have grumbled at all. Hydra is paradise and our house was also good-quirky. For instance we had a large protuberance of rock in the middle of the living room — let the mini rock climbing begin!

And this is what it looked like on the way up the hill to our house:

Most of the days my intrepid travel companions hiked around the mountainous countryside. I joined them once to go to the highest peak (a little more than 500 m) — you could see for miles and miles around: teeny islands floating in the Aegean:

But the rest of my days were spent on a much more serious task: attempting to make up for my lack of vitamin D in Scotland in 8 days (tough life):

Every evening we would sit out on our patio to eat dinner and watch the twinkly lights come on in town. And when night fell we would name constellations and count the number of shooting stars we saw:

Even without showers, this has to have been one of the best vacations of my life (no offense boardwalk fries and Amish bacon!).


Dear Cath,

Isn’t it beautiful! I feel bad that I keep mentioning the poor water conditions on Hydra because everyone is like “ugh!” But the island is such a paradise, it was totally worth it. The water was so clear that looking in the harbor (even with all those oily boats) you could see right down to the rocks below. And I don’t think I will ever stay in a place again with such breath-taking sunsets.

The last night we were in Hydra there was a storm coming in across the sea. Bolts of lightening frizzled from the clouds to the water and island mountains. I can totally see why this was the world of Zeus and Poseidon.

I missed you so much when we were there. Next time we are having waffles with the donkeys together!



11 thoughts on “No Cars, Just Donkeys”

  1. omg i love this post! looks like an AMAZING vacation!!!

    and so much better than Amish country. i live in Amish county.and i never understand why people come here. is it really that fascinating???

  2. What an amazing trip, Lar! Love that scenery so much. I’ve never seen a man-made color that could replicate Aegean blue it’s just in a league of its own. I hope you got enough sun to set you up for the winter! One thing I noticed when I was living in England and Scotland was how people would pick up and go to some of the hottest, sunniest countries for a month or two in mid-winter, presumably just to stock up on vitamin D. You gotta do it, I guess.

  3. Gorgeous! What a great opportunity to be able to travel to places like that so easily from Scotland. Growing up in land-locked places like I did, even Ocean City sounded very special to me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I feel so non-cultured that all I could focus on was your lack of water. It truly looks like such an amazing vacation. Part of me hates that you experienced it without me and the part of me is so grateful I didn’t have to carry my used toilet paper over to the trash after using. There I go again! Being close-minded and focused on the wrong things.

    I love looking at these photos and reading about eating dinner while watching the sunset over the harbor. How magical!

    Maybe if we’re lucky, we can go back to Ocean City together and watch the sun rise over the high rises that block our view of the ocean ๐Ÿ˜‰

    xoxo, Cath

  5. What an amazing experience! I hope you enjoy your stash of Vitamin D for a few weeks.

    And your comment about the donkey’s Eddie Murphy voice made me laugh out loud at my desk. hope my fellow government employees don’t think I’m crazy.

  6. Sounds dreamy, even with the lack of showers, washing, etc. I know I’ve definitely traveled to places in Guatemala & Thailand where daily washing is not even possible. Makes you realise how much we take the basic amenities for granted, eh?


    p.s. Now you make me want to travel!

  7. this looks amazing! jon and i are hoping for a cheap grecian vacation in the spring (totally agree with the “makes up for being far away from family” bit!), and you’ve given me a good place to look into:)

  8. I love these travel posts! Hydra looks absolutely beautiful – I’m adding it to my travel list. Were you able to visit any of the other islands as well?

  9. WOW. The pictures are magnificent, but your story is even better, Lar! What a grand experience, and how awesome is it that you actually got to rent a home and live there. My husband is the kind of person who doesn’t like going on vacations and would much rather move and live in a city or country so we could really “experience” it. Which is what I think you all did! I would probably be grumbling about not having clean hair and mucky clothing, but your sis in law is right– there are so many people out there who are living just like that everyday.

    AND how is it that I have never had Amish bacon in my life? I live 45 minutes away from various Amish towns! MUST SEEK IT OUT.

  10. oh oh oh! ps. Thanks so much for your sweet comment on the blog and about me quitting! i am having a blast, albeit unemployed, but I am sure things will work itself out because they always do, right? HUGS!

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