Thursday, December 6, 2012

Iraklio, Crete - Dec. 6, 2012

The flight was only a half hour. Landing reminded me of Tinia and the other island landings I've made. Sea on one side land on the other. We were down. Windy on the tarmac. My hair blowing every which way. A day I should have worn a pony tail. We all crossed from the plane to a bus that took us all not very far to the terminal. We could have walked but the bus was a nice touch.

My Europeia car rental person wasn't there when I arrived. The plane had arrived early. I didn’t realize this so walked across the street to a Eurocar place where the girl told me that they were a different company. The major trouble with Greek is not only do I not know the language but the alphabet has alot of different letters and the words are often multisyllabled. My mind gets lazy and registers only the beginning parts I recognise. This has caused me reading maps and driving no end of misery with trying to remember and find roads. GPS would be the answer but the fellow at the car rental says gps works well in cities like Athens but not elsewhere. My bet is the maps aren’t accurate just like on West Coast Vancouver Island when my gps had me sailing a mile overland.

When I returned the young black haired Europeia man was there with a sign showing my name, just as Hannah my assistant, had written there’d be. We signed the contract. It was in Greek but he insisted that all the insurance for everything and everyone else that was possible for a car was covered and included. We then walked me to the lot where there was a little Kia. "I had a ford fiesta a bit like this in Israel," I said. He gave me the keys. I later wondered if the Greek contract had life insurance.
So far I've only had one near death experience, a near head on collision as the sun was in my eyes and both I and the other driver were too much in the centre of the road coming around a hillside corner. Now that’s holiday adventure. The gas tank was empty but the gas station attendant was really helpful. $40 Euro for a tank of gas. 1 Euro is about 1.3 US dollars.

I was booked into Kronus Hotel, a very fine hotel indeed, right on the seaway a short ways up from the 16th century fort. I didn't have a map or gps and the only one of the 2 streets turned out to be on the map the car folk gave me. I was convinced also some enterprising surviving Japanese came to Crete and set up the Kamikazee motorcycle school which continues to this day. I was told to ask directions. This is hard to do from a car, in a foreign language. There was absolutely no parking. Crete is wall to wall parked cars and motorcycles, with occasionally one lane for driving, that must be shared with passing motorcycles, pedestrians, on coming cars and the occasional dog or cat. I drove around for an hour after filling the empty tank. Finally finding a place to stop I was told it was by the fort beyond the 'little boats'. That was the marina I'd passed several times. There was the fort that had held of the Turks for some time and sure enough there was Kronus Hotel.

I was getting irritable (on vacation)  by the time I found it, praying to God and thinking that this town reminded me of Honolulu, Cozumel or LA. It had that rich kid vacation vibe too with lots of tourism motif. This was off season. Apparently in the summer there are 10 times the people and vehicles. I can imagine it. A traffic jam of monumental proportions in paradise. I was reduced to stop and start often a 2 km hour in the town as it was. On the other hand it was noon and in the morning and evening I found things thinned out. I was not like this either in the countryside and towns there. Taxis are everywhere in the town and it's easy to walk all over the downtown area. Lonely Planet recommends buses and taxis. I think the way to go would be by far the scooter.

 After dropping off my bag in the very nice room with great little balcony I returned to the car following the well laid out signs to the Knossus Palace site. I arrived at 3 pm just when it closed. I was miffed.Fortunately the gift shop was open and I could bought a classic hand made Cretan male knife with handle carved from goat bone and a gold bull's head. I'd heard in Athens about these special Cretan knives all the men had. Now I had one. I also bought a guide book of the Palace which I planned to study before going to the excavations. It brings back undergrad as memories are constantly being tweaked. I'm so looking forward to seeing the dolphin fresco and the griffins, I bought a small tera cotta of the snake goddess, the topless Minoan woman so appropriately attired. Civilization has gone down hill since it began in Crete.

 I drove south into the interior arriving at the Monastery Elafonfries. This was a beautiful site. So peaceful, serene and sacred. I felt God here in that special way one does in monasteries. I put it down to all the prayer and meditation that has gone on and goes on here. In the chapel I met a sweet little old lady who came up to my navel. She beamed and rattled on to me in Greek, not a word of what I understood.

I drove across the country with it's wine fields and olive fields and now some industrial windmills looking like the latest crop. Each little village still had people and dated back to time immemorial. I reflected how this was just an 'island' comunity, like Salt Spring Island or Vancouver would be if it had 5000 years of human habitation, with armies invading routinely I was glad to gt back to the hotel.

I've just had a lovely meal at Restaurant Pantheon. The town comes alive at night in a very attractive way. Stores are open, markets doing business, people ambling about the streets, a band playing classic big band anthems. I certainly can see the appeal and frankly envy the rich kids these days whose parents send them here for vacation. I'd like a summer here. I'd sing Carey too, feeling nostalgia for the days when Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen were in the islands. I’d dance in Zorba the Greek's village which I drove by earlier in the night too. As it is I’m thankful for this trip and time.

It’s like putting faces to names I’ve known for a very long time. I'm really loving it. DSCN0282 DSCN0283


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