August 1961 was the month that changed our life forever. We took the boat to Piraeus, I remember, to become acquainted first-hand with this singular historic island.
The “Golden Sun” sailed to all the harbors back then, and it took four hours to reach Hydra.
They had just finished filming Cacoyannis’ “Phaedra”, with Melina Mercuri and Anthony Perkins; the actors and the crew had gone, but a start had been made towards a re-awakening and rekindling of the old and unique atmosphere of Hydra. I remember the brightly lit harbor with the cafes that served fruits glaces, the bells that woke us early in the morning, the picturesque cobblestones, and houses waiting to be rebuilt, to be repaired and brought to life.
It was Sunday at dusk when my father came running and told me: I found a house and I’ve fallen in love with it!
Just a short way from the harbor on a wide and slightly sloping street I found myself in front of an old battered wooden door. A sign read: “For Sale”.
The sale was made that very first moment because we simply could not resist buying it.
We entered through the basement, dark and dusty, climbed a wooden staircase and then a second one with high steps and found ourselves on the second floor of the house, where the reception area was located.
The rooms were large with painted ceilings; we were enthralled. We stepped out onto the large terrace. There was magic in the air. It was the hour when the sun was setting; the harbor was a deep blue color, and the surrounding mountains golden. My father asked me, though perhaps he already knew the answer: Shall we buy it, what do you say? Yes.
Buying an old house is like falling in love. From the moment it comes into your life, you can do nothing but think about it and become its servant.
The garden was untended, the house in disrepair. There were only two lemon trees and two orange trees, and to the left in a stone- enclosed flower bed was a single large jasmine in full bloom.
The yard was paved in red tiles chiseled and installed by a skilled craftsman, and the high surrounding stone wall kept in all the beauty and all the secrets of the people who lived there – secrets we will never learn.
In that red yard, many a gathering and meeting took place, and someone once named it “the Yard of Miracles”.
Dina Adamopoulou, Director, Museum of Hydra, July 2009
In the garden of the hotel “Miranda”, the well-known “Yard of Miracles”. It is already past midnight and I, sitting under the orange tree, engulfed in the fragrance of the jasmines, unbearably fatigued form the ugliness of the times and the of people, am chiseling away at my time, trying to convince myself to see the unexpected antithesis, to live the miracle:
«… Awake my soul, awake, do you realize where you are at this moment? Do you see the divine gift fate has in store for you? You should know that from now on you will live in a karmic space, in the kind of atmosphere you always dreamed of… A stately old house engulfed in a green oasis, with red and purple bougainvilleas, multi-colored geraniums, fresh basil, jasmines in full bloom, fragrances that overpower our senses, colors that enchant our eyes and soul all at once. And the old art gallery is right next to your room, primum inter pares, first among equals, with its scenic stone arches, its ever-changing paintings by ever-prominent artists, and the old photographs on the walls, uplifting the heart and the mind… Dina, life at the hotel “Miranda” is a divine gift for you…” I continue my monologue and little by little I find peace.
Angelos Kotronis, Mayor of Hydra (February, 23, 2011)
…Since 1954 Hydra has become known as a unique and unforgettable place for tourism and relaxation. Its attractions are many and unique. Well-known directors have chosen the island to shoot films such as: “The Girl in Black”, “The Boy and the Dolphin”, “Phaedra”, and many others. Writers and musicians, both Greek and foreign, have come to live in Hydra and, inspired by the island, created works that have remained unrivaled.
Hydra soon became well-known. Caring, well-intentioned investors began arriving and the development of tourism on the island was underway. Among them, Nikos Sofianos, a man with vision and business acumen, who made us aware of the attractions and uniqueness of Hydra.
The house that is now the hotel Miranda was first built as a residence for the family of former mayor Tsipis, with all the specifications of a stately mansion on the then prosperous island of Hydra. It then belonged to Artemis Danambasi, but with the commercial decline of sponge fishing and the financial difficulties faced by those who made their living from this, the house was sold in 1961 to the family of the inimitable Mr. Nikos Sofianos, and was converted into a hotel in complete observance of architectural practices on Hydra.
In 1976, in the splendid ground-floor rooms that once served as household storerooms, our friend Miranda opened the first serious exhibition center and art gallery on the island. With her artistic instincts and sensibility she selected students with talent and enthusiasm from the School of Fine Arts and exhibited their work with great success. Later, most of these artists became well-known, and are today shining stars in the field of Art. In addition, many already well-known artists also happily agreed to exhibit their work in the convivial atmosphere of the Miranda Hotel.
The work and the contribution of Miranda Sofianou has been recognized; the high quality of the cultural, artistic, musical and literary events that took place and are still taking place in the superb rooms of the hotel, have made their mark and left sweet memories. Visitors, famous personalities from Greece but also from abroad, stayed here and are happy to return to the “Miranda” to re-experience the atmosphere of the hotel and the friendly hospitality of its owner.
Panayotis Tetsis, Professor, Athens School of Fine Arts, Member of the National Academy of Athens
There was a long period during which I stayed away from Hydra. I had left the island in 1952 when electricity was sufficient for light only until 12:30 am; and after that, the stars and the galaxy… I had left behind Pericles Byzantio Bardianos, evenings at his hangout, the Kaloyiannis “kafeneion” – leaning against the fence surrounding the statue of Kountouriotis – in the company of “respectable” Hydriotes living in Athens and of his friends Spahis, Giannoukakis and Spyropoulos. I was not there during Hydra’s cosmopolitan days with Sophia Loren, Melina Mercouri, Anthony Perkins and Elli Lambeti, the days of the many foreign writers and intellectuals, neither for Nana Isaiam who made the island her retreat or more two or three years, nor for the renowned Leonard Cohen, completely unaware of his existence. Hadzikyriakos’s high–perched home had been burnt to the ground and he had moved on. The glorious cycle of Lagoudera had been set in motion by the famous personalities who needed to establish a presence there.
When I returned to Hydra more than two decades later, many things had changed. Fully functioning electricity and frequent transpoartation; the “kafeneia” were no longer called “kafeneia” but had become “cafeterias”. The bitter orange fruits glaces, the “submarines” with sugary mastic on a spoon in water, the baklava, and the “Copenhagen”, a syrupy walnut cake , were a thing of the past; for water there was only Perrier, not even the Greek Souroti, and there was now plenty of water brought in by a water tanker, if you could call that water. The cosmopolitan atmosphere of Hydra was phasing out. There remained only those who had settled and deserved to be there, people who would become as much a part of Hydra as the Hydriotes themselves.
Its visitors were people who knew the value of what the island had to offer, and they would always find somewhere to stay. Of the three hotels on the waterfront only one was running, and not at full capacity so as to meet accommodation needs. The Leousis Mansion had been made into a hotel and had been re-fashioned with whatever was at hand to accommodate Sophia Loren, to be suitable for the diva of the Silver Screen. Before I returned to Hydra I had heard that one of the older homes had been turned into a “high quality” hotel and that the new owners had re-done the whole building and restored it, and what’s more you now felt that the owner was always there and that you were really in a familiar environment, unlike the cold, impersonal atmosphere.
The family of the new owners, the children of well-educated refugees from Pergamon, was set apart by its inherent Ionian courteousness, and as such was able to adapt and put down roots in a new country, worthy of inspiring feelings of love, patriotism and progress. Miranda and her brother Aris Sofianos worked hard at promoting the hotel – which was once the home of the island’s former Mayor Tsipis – fitting it out with furniture and other decorative items found in homes of that period. There was not a famous person who did not at some point set foot in or stays at this unique house, whose sibling owners and their family lent it, through their presence, a youthful and cozy atmosphere. Miranda, with Phoebe by her side, and Aris, a charming and knowledgeable conversationalist, would welcome you as old friends in their comfortable and spacious yard filled with jasmines, oleanders, and hibiscus, in an environment that was like a miniature paradise. But there was more. In this flower-filled garden, one’s ears were often treated in the evenings to the music of composers and the interpretations of musicians with exceptional repertories. The family’s love of music had consecrated that yard as a place for concerts and musical performances, but above all a place for incubating talented young artists. Correspondingly, the guests staying on the first and second floors of the hotel were often, and still are for the most part, young artists, and occasionally older ones like myself.
Miranda, Aris and now Phoebe are loving patrons of the arts. From the very beginning they put their own highbrow seal on our island, because they truly contributed through their efforts to the promotion of higher standard.
Alain de Borghrave
Every year I come back to Hydra to a house which is not mine but which is very dear to my heart. Every year is enlightenment, magical, pure happiness; I return to Hydra, I come back home. I seek out my old routines, the smells that I missed during the winter, the warmth of the stones, the color of the grand bougainvilleas, the pure water of the sea in which I loved to disappear. Every year, the magic works and I feel reborn…
In Hydra, one cannot fight against the enchantment of the colors, against the gentle sleep that takes you when the curtains in the room sway in the wind like sails.
The freshness of the sea in the morning is followed by the equally pleasant, soothing shower in the evening, when the exquisite hour charms our senses.
The hotel Miranda is not just a hotel, it is a mythical place, a world in itself with own stories and legends.
Thanks to Miranda’s talent, the old house became a hotel full of charm and beauty. It is a hotel where you sleep amidst the competing sounds of bells ringing in the few hundred churches of Hydra, but it also serves as a literary café, a place of art.
The hotel Miranda is a place for friends where love is born and dies, and where friendship blooms forever.