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Wet and naked in Crete

I think there’s a leak in the room.”
“A leak?”
“There’s water all over the corner.” And I think it might have ruined my one good shirt, I think but don’t say to the proprieter of Hotel Lena, the second cheapest hotel in Iraklion I was able to find in the Lonely Planet guidebook.
“No.”

The skater punks of Iraklion

The skater punks of Iraklion

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Statement of fact? I’m lying to you? I’m not telling you to try to get a reduction on my bill, buddy, I’m trying to do you a favor.
“Well, there is.”
“Okay,” he sighs. “I send someone up to check.”
It wasn’t a bad hotel, all things considered. It had an air conditioning unit in the corner between the ceiling and the wall, right where you couldn’t reach, and a television with no remote control. Since the last hotel I stayed in charged to turn the AC on, and since I was only staying the night, I never tried to negotiate either the TV or the AC. The standing water was a downer, though, as I had unpacked all my clothes to do a complete inventory that night, leading to several items (including that one nice, button-down white shirt) getting soaked through with some odd stains as a result (don’t think about it, don’t think about it, don’t think about it…)

The Venetian fort at Iraklion

The Venetian fort at Iraklion

Its balls

Its balls

Just a shot I thought looked cool

Just a shot I thought looked cool

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The room was spare, but had a desk and was more than large enough for a single traveller, containing as it did such luxurious amenities as a sink, a wardrobe, a desk and, wonder of wonders, a spare pillow and blanket, two items I had been lamenting the lack of at Renia.
Trying to stay in shape on the road is an admirable ambition, but freakishly difficult to execute in practice. I’d taken my resistance bands, an inflatable exercise ball, and a length of rope with me, enough to do all my exercises except for the pull-ups. I’ve yet to figure out how the hell you do a pull-up on the road, though I’ve been searching every town and city for a parallel bar located conveniently eighteen inches above my head. So far nothing to show for my efforts other than a swiftly atrophying back and arms. At least if I buy a couple litres of water and stuff them in my backpack I have enough weight to a challenging sit-up. If anyone has figured out how to do a pull-up on the road, tell me how.

Closeup of Morosini Fountain, Plateia Veneziou

Closeup of Morosini Fountain, Plateia Veneziou

The room cost 35 euros, not bad, but more than I was hoping to spend. Since I made the reservation the day before, though, I wasn’t terribly upset. All the rooms on the floor shared a single bathroom, not a problem for me. Particularly when I saw something truly wonderful, something I had been without for three weeks.
The showerhead was attached to the wall ABOVE MY HEAD. I would actually be able to stand there and relax for a few seconds with my head under the water. Glorious.
That was assuming, of course, that there was any hot water to be had. Greek hotels seem to have, at best, a notional idea of hot water. You might get a minute or two of lukewarm water, only to be followed by rapid cooling until you’re dancing excitedly under a stream of ice-water. Given the extreme heat in my room, though, maybe most travellers prefer the cold shower.
I had made the further mistake of neglecting to take my towel in to the bathroom with me. Which gave me two options: get my one pair of relatively clean and dry boxer shorts soaked for the day for a minutes’ worth of modesty, or scramble awkwardly back to my room naked, hoping I could get in my room before anyone else came into the hall.
Any of you who know me can guess which choice I made.
I tentatively stuck my head out of the bathroom. No one in the hall. It was 7:30, late enough that guests could awaken at any time for their morning shower, but there where only seven other rooms on this floor. I liked the odds. My room was at the far end of the hall, right by the stairwell. Nor problem. I’d opted against taking my flipflops with me (yes, I know mother, foot fungus et al…don’t care), which left me hot-footing it on slippery tile back to my door. I inserted the key into my lock. Safe.
Wait.

Nightlife, Plateia Venezeiou

Nightlife, Plateia Venezeiou


The key wouldn’t turn. I tried again. No dice. I tried a third time, my feet slipping a bit from the force of my efforts to turn the key.
Then I heard footsteps up the stairs. The guy at the front desk was coming up.
Darn.
A spider stared up at me from a grimy corner of the hall. “You’re screwed, buddy,” the spider seemed to say. I nodded.
But then I remembered there were TWO keys on my chain.
Second key in lock. Turn clockwise. Wrong way. Turn counter clockwise. Result!
I closed the door behind me as I heard the footsteps reach the landing. Safe as houses.

The day before I scaled the city walls of Iraklion looking for the tomb of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikos_Kazantzakis&quot; Nikos Kazantzakis. What I found was a simple wooden cross, and behind that a white stone slab with this inscription:

“Δεν ελπίζω τίποτα. Δε φοβάμαι τίποτα. Είμαι λεύτερος.”
“I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free. ”

Tomb of Kazantzakis

Tomb of Kazantzakis

We know him best as the author of “The Last Temptation” and “Zorba the Greek,” but Kazantzakis as I learned was a fellow traveller, a Buddhist, atheist, skeptic and wanderer. His epitaph comes from his own work, “The Odyssesy.” These words wholly encapsulate the state of mind your Vagabond is trying achieve. If I am very lucky, someday I hope to be worthy of a similar epitaph. So may we all.

Iraklion's favorite son

Iraklion's favorite son

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  1. Karin
    June 24, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    I’m pretty sure Bo used to do modified pull-ups hanging on by his fingertips to the top lip of the bathroom doorframe in my Park Slope studio. This did require a fair bit of rock-climbing-built finger strength and a great deal of faith in the doorframe (and my security deposit)!

    • nycwastrel
      June 25, 2009 at 12:00 pm

      Hmm, I’ll have to give that a try, though i doubt my fingers are strong enough to carry my body weight. Fortunately, the last place I stayed at was geared toward German fitness buffs (I know, I have no idea either) and they did in fact have enough exercise equipment for my purposes.

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