Last week, Liz Turner arrived from the UK for her second stay with us in Crete. Liz is my ‘favourite’ relative (in joke) so we knew we were in for a good time with lots of family stories and laughter – and so it proved!
As Liz has been before and seen many of the sites in the immediate locality, we decided that we take a little excursion to show her some of the rest of the island but the tourist season is now over here, so where to go which would be open?
Last year, Sheila took Annie and Gid to Agia Galini (a small tourist resort on the south central coast) and we checked the place where they stayed and it was still open, so we booked a couple of rooms and one fine day, we headed off!
Our way was along the south coast west of Ierapetra through the foothills of the Dikti Mountains (the highest range in Eastern Crete), so the views are stunning down to the coast and all around. This was an area where the andartes (guerillas) were active during WW2 and many of the villages were burned by the occupying army and the men and boys shot, so there are a number of memorials to what was obviously not a happy time in Cretan history.
Once out of the mountains, the road descends to a wide fertile plain (Messara) which has been the bread basket of Crete since God was a lad and is where one of the most significant Minoan Palaces is located. Phaistos (or Festos) is one of our favourites, partly because there is lots of information provided but mainly because of its location high above the plain on a rocky outcrop. The location is just amazing and the folk who ruled here were so rich that they could have a summer palace just 5 km away where they got the sea breezes and a view to die for!
After lunch, we were off to Matala about 10 km away, where Joni Mitchell and the ’60’s hippies lived in the caves above the beach (allegedly) and which supposedly was the ‘location for ‘Carey’:
The wind is in from Africa
Last night I couldn’t sleep
Oh, you know it sure is hard to leave here Carey
But it’s really not my home
My fingernails are filthy
I’ve got beach tar on my feet
And I miss my clean white linen and my fancy French cologne
Oh Carey get out your cane (Carey get out your cane)
And I’ll put on some silver (I’ll put on some silver)
Oh you’re a mean old Daddy, but I like you fine
They make you pay to look at the caves now, so we didn’t bother – it sure is a strange world where hippie haunts from the ’60’s become payable tourist attractions! But I did try to pretend that I was smoking a joint – not very convincingly!
And then it was off to Galini and the Hotel Akteon where we had a fine evening in Galini drinking beer and raki followed by fish souvlaki at a taverna overlooking the harbour.
Breakfast the following morning was a real treat! Described as ‘continental’ it was a curious mixture but nevertheless delicious. Words fail me so I’ll let the photo do the talking …..
Sheila and I then had a short walk around the town, including the spot where Icarus was supposed to have set off on his ill-fated mission!
Our journey home took in a twisty mountain road along the southern slopes of Crete’s highest mountain, Mount Ida (Ψηλορείτης) through Zaros and thence to Heraklion where we had a well-earned coffee on the beach. We were intending to visit Archanes along the way but apparently missed the turning. It was near here where Patrick Leigh Fermour et al kidnapped General Kreipe during WW2, so just as well that Paddy had a better sense of geography than we did!
The weather had improved significantly so we then chanced a trip to the Lassiti Plateau. This is a flat upland plain hidden in the Dikti Mountains at a height of some 850 m.
The climate is temperate and so it provides a variety of fruit of vegetables not normally found in Crete but it is the location, which is so astounding.
You climb for an hour around endless hairpins and finally breach the rim of hills to see this flat plain about two miles by three set out below you. The villages are all set out around the outside, presumably so as not to use up valuable fertile soil. And then of course, it takes another hour to get back down to the coast and home.
Other highlights of Liz’s stay were a trip to Mochlos,
site-seeing and various visits to Bobo’s taverna in Pacchia Ammos.
Liz also bought us a large earthenware pot for the terrace, in which we will probably plant a bougainvillea for the pergola when it is constructed next year. While we were at the garden centre, we looked at trees for Bonnie’s grave and decided on a Pefki pine – more news on this to follow. Oh and she started to teach me to play (?) the piano!
We also bought a new σόμπα (wood burning stove) while she was here which was finally fitted the day she left. This involved a trip to my favourite hardware shop (ie just like we used to have in the UK before B&Q killed them all off) where we were presented with small bottles of herbal raki (or φάρμακα – medicine), which Liz rather took to! She will be amused to know that when I called in there yesterday for something or other, the ladies asked after her and thought she was only about seventy. Must be the herbal raki, said I!
Our neighbour, Andreas has taken the old stove away – ιn with the new and out with the old! No money changed hands in this respect but Andreas has invite us to his olive oil party and delivered a bottle of raki yesterday!
Finally, it is that time of year when the Christmas cake has to be made, so yesterday was largely taken up with this annual task, interspersed with watching Andy Murray beat the young Canadian at the ATP Finals in London.
We are never very sure about the oven in our house here so it was with some trepidation that I removed the cake from its tin after Delia’s regulation four and a quarter hours but as you can see, it looks fine this morning!
Now for the Christmas cards.
Oh and there is yet another pumpkin to deal with!