Sheila returned home from South America last week looking tanned and fit but unsurprisingly given her heavy schedule, somewhat tired. After a day or two to recover, we were quickly back into the usual routines but she brought with her a ray of sunshine and some much-anticipated warmer weather.
So, one fine afternoon during the week, we set off for a walk in our garden, (which is what we now call the steep valley behind the village and which of course, we have adopted as our own!). Having been up the E4 path with Hans and Hanneke some weeks ago (see a previous posting), I was keen to see where and how the track made it through the seemingly impenetrable cliffs above the valley. So, we again drove up to the ancient olive tree, parked the car and set off up the cobbled path with Bonnie in the lead.
It was not long before we came to the ruined church and as the trees began to thin, the spectacular views down to the village and beyond to the sea, opened up.
It really is a place of amazing beauty, especially with the spring flowers beginning to appear.
Then the serious climbing began as the path began to zig-zag up the hillside to the bottom of the cliff face. At this point, and much to my surprise, the old path was joined by a much newer track coming in from the right which clearly could be used by motor vehicles. However, the new path ended at the junction and so it was clear that our way led to the left up a steep but beautifully crafted and well-preserved section of the old mule track.
Just as we were about to set off, four hikers appeared around the corner who turned out to be English and were out for a day in the hills, so much useful information was obtained as clearly the leader knew the area well. After exchanging life stories, they left us for the descent and a well-earned beer and we headed upwards for another ten minutes or so to explore the wonders of mountain path building, Minoan style!
Our path climbed steeply along the cliff edge with an ever-deepening ravine below until it took a sudden turn back on itself before reaching a point where it swung back to the left up the ravine. It was steep but obviously manageable by mules or donkeys and amazingly well camouflaged from below, using natural contours and rock outcrops to disguise its existence – presumably important in days gone by to disguise its existence and thereby protect the folk who lived up in the mountains from the unwelcome attention of pirates and other ne’er-do-wells.
By then, it was time to turn round and retrace our steps but I now knew the way upwards and we resolved to return for the next stage at a later date when time permits!
When we reached the junction, we decided to take the modern track to see if it led down to the late Minoan site of Vrondas, which we knew was above the village but had not previously visited. Indeed it did, contouring around the top of the valley and gently dropping down to the site, where we spent an interesting half hour exploring the ruins of what had been once a thriving village. The folk who lived there must have been a hardy lot because it would have been a stiff climb down every time you wanted a dip in the sea or a pint in the local but the view is to die for!
We then followed the road down into the valley proper, picked up the E4 path back to our car and home for a beer.
The following day we went into Ierapetra to renew our health books or rather to find out the procedure for doing same. Last year when we got them, we were accompanied to the IKA Office by Stavros who had been introduced to us by friends and who speaks good English. This time we were on our own and this would be a test of just how much progress we had made with our Greek over the intervening period. So, having done some preparatory work in the form of a few well-rehearsed sentences, we entered the lions’ den and joined the inevitable queue.
When our turn came, we spouted our lines word-perfect, were clearly understood and the necessary paperwork was done there and then, with no need to return. Armed with our updated books, we headed for the door sure in the knowledge that while much of what is said to us still remains a mystery, we have at least made some progress with the language in the year or more, since we arrived,
DIY continues to occupy much of my time. Twice, I have removed the old front gate from its hinges to try to stop it sagging and twice, all seems fixed only for the whole thing to fall back to its original position. Yesterday, I had another go and although all seems well in the picture, I fear that what is really required (somewhat akin to the owner some might say), is a new model because before long, the same old problems were becoming apparent!
It was also Valentine’s Day yesterday. This exciting occasion does not appear to grip the Greeks to the same extent as it does we Brits but nevertheless, Sheila and I exchanged cards (mine having been bought here and being the only one in the shop!) and went to a local taverna for a romantic meal in the evening. Except for a number of Greek men playing cards, we were the only folk there! As we were leaving, I asked Bobo (the owner) why there were not more Greeks there. He replied with a knowing look that they had other places to celebrate!! As this was the man who had been given an inflatable doll for his Christmas present, I assumed that he knew what he was talking about and beat a hasty retreat! Nice meal though.