One of the striking features of Hydra's architecture are the traditional
lords' mansions, the "archontika". The houses of the wealthy admirals
and ship owners of the 18th and 19th centuries epitomize this grand style.
Genoese and Venetian architects were commissioned to build the "archontika",
the assumption being that Italian culture and craftsmanship were the acme of
"Archontika" can also be seen elsewhere in Greece, but the drama of their
amphitheatrical arrangement in the harbor of Hydra is quite unique.
The "archontika" are a far cry from the simple traditional Greek houses
in the way they were constructed as well as decorated. The owners
themselves brought back precious objects and furnishings collected on their
extensive travels. Historical documents and old ships' records, lamps and
logbooks are often found in the "archontika".
Althought the public has had little access to these houses so far, there
are now quite a few which you can visit:
- The "archontiko Pavlou Koundourioti", a strikingly yellow-ochre building
next to the famous church of "Ypapanti", has recently been restored, taking
the visitor back into the days when the Koundouriotis family lived here.
- The Naval Academy has its premises at the "Tsamados" mansion above the docks
for ships and hydrofoils, and the Historical Museum of Hydra ("Archeio
Hydras") is housed in the mansion nearby.
- The "archontiko Tombasi" on the western slope above the harbor has housed
the School of Fine Arts, many Greek and foreign artists, and the Children's
Painting School of Hydra.
- The "Rafalias" mansion - a few minutes inland in the middle of "chora" -
functions as a pharmacy still inhabited by the original family,
whereas the "archontiko" in front of it has been made into a hotel, the
- On the inland road from Vlychos to Kamini, which is actually named after
Nikos Chatsikyriakos-Gkikas, the famous Greek painter, you will marvel at
the imposing ruins of his mansion, which extend far above and below the road,
shortly before the village of Upper Kamini. Nikos
Chatsikyriakos-Gkikas had made his home into an informal cultural center: in
the fifties, many famous artists and writers met and worked in this house,
among them Henry Miller. After a ravaging fire at the end of the sixties, Nikos Ch.-Gkikas never set
foot on the island of Hydra again, and the once magnificent
building sadly lies in ruins.