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Hydra Mansions, in Greece: The Mansions of Hydra are the island's most distinctive and striking feature. The mansions, also called archontika, were built by wealthy shipowners and are reminders of the economic prosperity that the island was blessed with during the 18th century. While the mansions are ages old, they still stand tall and magnificent all over the island. All the mansions are made of stone and are mostly white and pastel colored. They are usually 3-4 storeys tall and most have external staircases leading to the flat roof. They have huge rooms with high ceilings, decorated with wall paintings, painted wooden ceilings and geometrical drawings on the marble floor.
Among the rooms, there were separate rooms for men and women, a large lounge, an iconostasis and a special room for the men to smoke nargile. The furniture, usually brought from the West, was of excellent quality and played a major part in adding to the beautiful decor of these mansions.
A distinctive decorative feature in these houses is the white frame around the windows which contradicts the otherwise grey building. Many mansions have beautiful gardens with fences and are complete with marble drinking fountains. Most of these mansions are still in the hands of private families and therefore not open to the public. Some of them, however, are now being used for public services and therefore allow visitors to take a peek inside, a chance that you should truly not miss out on.
Some of the mansions in Hydra are:
Kountouriotis Mansion: The Kountouriotis Mansion was built between 1802 and 1816 and was originally the home of George Kountouriotis, a wealthy shipowner who fought in the War of Independence and whose grandson, Paulos Kountouriotis became the first president of the Greek Republic. The building complex consists of three buildings and a garden. The lower levels of the central building were used as store rooms while the upper levels had reception halls and bedrooms. The garden consisted of three levels as well.
The mansion was recently acquired by the Greek Ministry of Culture and was renovated to house the Kountouriotis family Museum and the Post Byzantine Art and History Museum of Hydra. The Museum houses personal items of the family, as well as exhibits dating back to the Greek War of Independence that reflect Hydra's nautical heritage.
Tombazis Mansion: The Tombazis Mansion is a massive four-storied building on the west side of Hydra harbor near the statue of Kountouriotis. The original owner of the mansion was Iakovos Tombazis, the First Admiral of the fleet of Hydra. The interior of the building is decorated with paintings of historical events and ships of 1821. The mansion now houses the School of Fine Arts of Athens and also has a hostel for its students. You can usually get a peek inside while the lectures are on.
Kriezis Mansion: The Kriezis Mansion is located on the eastern waterfront on the main road to Kamini. The mansion currently houses the Home for the Elderly.
Voulgaris Mansion: The Georgios Voulgaris Mansion, also called Economou-Miriklis Mansion, is located on the western waterfront. Georgios Voulgaris was the Governor of Hydra between 1802 and 1812 and was in charge of building the wells at Kala Pigadia. The mansion is known for its interesting and beautiful decor but unfortunately is not open to the public.
Goroyannis Mansion: The Goroyannis Mansion was built in 1780 and remains one of the oldest mansions in Hydra. It is located in Kala Pigadia and is presently in the hands of a private family. While it is not open to the public, the walk up to the mansion on Miaoulis Street from the center of the harbor is well worth the effort.
Anastasios Tsamados Mansion: The Tsamados Mansion, located at the east side of the harbor was built between 1780 and 1810. The owner, Anastasios Tsamados, was a heroic admiral who died during the Greek War of Independence in 1821. The mansion now houses the School of Mercantile Marine Officers of Hydra, the oldest school of its kind in Greece. The school started to operate in 1749 and has been housed in Tsamados Mansion since 1930.
Other well-known mansions on Hydra include the mansions of Votsis and Oikonomou, as well as Boudouris and Miaoulis Mansion on the western side of the city.