Teller At London’s Bank Of Greece Introduces Leonard Cohen To Hydra + Webcam At Hydra’s Port

The semi-official legend of Cohen’s move to Greece, as related by biographer Ira B. Nadel, follows:

In March 1960, when he had completed his manuscripts, Cohen was free to consider his position in London, and he found it wanting. After having a wisdom tooth pulled one day, he wandered about the East End of London on yet another rainy afternoon and noticed a Bank of Greece sign on Bank Street. He entered and saw a teller with a deep tan wearing sunglasses, in protest against the dreary landscape. He asked the clerk what the weather was like in Greece. “Springtime” was the reply. Cohen made up his mind on the spot to depart, and within a day or so he was in Athens. “I said to myself that I should go somewhere completely different in order to see how they live,“ he later explained.

Arriving in Athens on 13 April 1960, Cohen then made the five hour trip to Hydra via ship where he found an island where electricity was just being introduced,1 where plumbing was primitive, and where transportation was dependent on walking or using animals.

Cohen was enamored of the place, purchasing a 200 year old, five story house in need of much repair for $1500 and joining the island’s colony of English-speaking artists.2

Webcam – Port Of Hydra


This view displays scenes from the past 24 hours. Sunglasses photo by Luxottica – Luxottica’s photo gallery, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons


  1. This was, in fact, the inspiration for Cohen’s Song, Like A Bird On A Wire. As Cohen himself has commented, “this song was written looking at a bird on a wire.” The wire was part of the then newly installed phone lines in Hydra. Elsewhere (The Song of Leonard Cohen: Portrait of a Poet, A Friendship & a Film by Harry Rasky, Mosaic Press (NY) February 27, 2001), however, Cohen elaborates,

    I began that song in Greece. The melody began a few of the lyrics, a few of the lines. And then it was still with me. I was in L.A. I was living in a Motel on the Sunset strip – it developed a little further. Then I made a recording of it which David Crosby produced. Ah I never finished that recording. And the song continued to develop. I made a recording of it in Nashville with Bob Johnson as producer. And apparently the lyrics still weren’t finished. I changed the lyrics and a different lyric appears in a record called “Live Songs”. And then the lyrics changed again somewhat in the most recent treatments of the song – so it’s continued being written for about eight or nine years. []
  2. An especially evocative set of photos and descriptions of Cohen’s home in Hydra and of Cohen himself during his stay there are available at Leonard Cohen’s Hydra []