Feature: Leonard Cohen in Hydra
Hydra's pull on the artistic soul is well documented, but there is no more famous former inhabitant of this mesmerising island than the bard of the bedsit himself, Leonard Cohen (1934–2016).
Depressed by the cold weather of his native Canada and adopted UK, Cohen made his way to Greece, after allegedly asking a man in the street where he got his tan – the man answered: 'Greece!'. Prompted by artistic expats already living on the island, the 26-year-old Cohen landed on Hydra, and bought a house only a few days later. The five-room house, which sits in Kamini, was whitewashed, dishevelled and charming; Cohen published the poetry collection Flowers for Hitler (1964), and the novels The Favourite Game (1963) and Beautiful Losers (1966) while living and writing there.
Young, and not quite the star he became later, Cohen shared his Hydra house with Marianne Ihlen, whom he met on the island; Ihlen is the subject of Cohen's well-known song 'So Long, Marianne'.
Some say that the years on Hydra were Cohen's most productive and tranquil – and no wonder, considering the beauty and simplicity of life that must have surrounded him. He wrote the poem 'The Days of Kindness' about his days in Hydra.
Cohen loved the Greek way of life, and the port cafe, Rolo, then known as the Kafenion o Katsikas, is apparently where he held his first public performance, with a few friends for an audience.
Cohen left Hydra for pastures new in the mid-1960s but kept returning whenever life and stardom, and increasingly ill health, allowed him. The house remains the property of his two sons. Cohen fans go to leave offerings and read his poetry at the door to this day; ask for directions locally if you want to find it for yourself.