The island of Hydra in the Saronic Gulf off of the Greek mainland may have served as the natural model for the ancient architects when they were designing the marvelous acoustically magical amphitheaters in Greece and Rome. Its horseshoe-shaped harbor welcomes hydrofoils and tour boats at all hours of the night and day. As with most of the Greek islands, Hydra's port is the center of activity. It is lined with the obligatory tourist shops, restaurants and independent merchants. It is also a wonderful place to sit in a cafe, munching on a Greek salad, writing postcards or watching the world go by. The «tink-tink» of the halyards on the sailboat masts as the boats bob up and down at the docks or on moorings is in stark contrast to the «thwack-thwack» of fishermen tenderizing octopuses by hurling them against the bottoms of overturned dinghies. Around the corners to either side of the port are the beaches, although some are more rock than beach. Mandhraki beach offers sand for traditionalists who want to feel the grit between their toes. It is about a half-hour walk east of the port, or about a 10-minute ride in one of the red and white «water taxis.» These taxis can also take people to the next island, Spetse. The beach to the west, in the town of Kamini, is one of the rocky ones, as is the one at Vlykhos, a half an hour further west. In fact, most of what people consider premium tanning spots on this island are rocks. The further from town, the more private the area is likely to be. The town rises up and away from the port much like the tiers of an amphitheater. This creates a wonderful situation where every sound down at the port can be heard, no matter where one is in the town. Even from the Monastery of Profitis Ilias at the top of the mountain, every sound is crystal clear. In the morning, it is not unusual to be woken by the sound of bells on donkeys' necks as they pass beneath the windows on their way down to the port for another day of work. Cruise ships rarely, if ever, stay overnight. That means that in the evenings the island returns to the residents. In the alleys and side streets behind the first wave of buildings from the port can be found wonderful local eating spots where outdoor dining is «de rigueur». To work off all the culinary delights, go to the Kavos disco on the hill or the Pirate's bar at the far end of the port. Simply climbing the stairs to the disco may be enough exercise, but once there, you might as well dance. If the throbbing bass of the sound system is a bit much, a simple walk along the coast will also serve the same purpose. The only sound heard there, other than the whispering of couples, will be the Mediterranean caressing the rocks. The lights of the Peloponnese can be seen across the water, and on the water, the lights from the ring of shrimp boats on their nightly excursion.