Mr. H was in for a fine surprise: a summer holiday in Greece, to the islands of course, but best of all, to the prettiest diamond in the Saronic Gulf – with a one way ticket on the Flying Dolphin we forge through Aegean waters 90 minutes from Athens’ Pireaus Port to the Island of Hydra.
Our destination would be the most elegant of small boutique hotels available – Hotel Orloff. Here, chatting with our hosts, reading in the hotel’s comfortable library, our understanding of Greek nationalism developed.
Graceously nibbling slices of homemade spanakopita (so rude not to accept our host’s overtures) we learn from them how Greece fought for her Independence from Ottoman rule, played out in the naval battlefields off the island; the local heroes and the critical role in Greece’s history that Hydra played.
Hotel Orloff is intimately linked with the history of Hydra Island. It was Count Orloff of Russia who built this mansion in 1796 when he was sent to Greece in the fight against Ottoman domination of Christian states, upon the instruction of Catherine the Great, where he served under Admiral Spiridov, and was one of the first to break through the Turkish line of battle at Chesme (near Chios).
Subsequently, at Hydra, Orloff put to flight eighteen Turkish vessels, a harbinger to Greek Independence from Ottoman enslavement. Greece was finally recognized as an independent nation in May 1832.
The Orloff Mansion was subsequently restored to the Boutique Hotel that it is today. With only 9 rooms and suites, its restoration respects the traditional architecture and unique character of island life. The sitting rooms, reading nooks, courtyards and library ooze an atmosphere of classic elegance and chic bohemian lifestyle. I was inspired to write – pen to parchment! – and photograph Hydra Town just for being a weeklong resident of the hotel.
Meanwhile Mr. H would remain in the secret garden: secluded and embraced by high walls, sipping strong Greek coffee, reading the news, surrounded by the scents of Mediterranean plants and the the fruits of Greece…
Breakfast was our favourite meal of the day; our hosts laying it on thick for us hungry travellers. With our favourite table reserved under a shady sunbrella, Mr. H would emerge from his shower well covered in sun protection factor so as not to burn. I on the other hand was a lizard to the sun!
Orloff’s breakfasts are first rate: bio cookies and biscuits from Crete; organic-fruit jams; homemade marmelades using lemon trees of the Orloff garden; Greek summer tomato (strapatsada) omelet and traditional homemade sweets according to the season.
Our final breakfast down, it was time to bid our hostesses a loving “yia sou!”A promise exchanged to return to Hotel Orloff will be one day made good. How could we not return!