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Parting Ways

June 21, 2009 Leave a comment

It’s a quarter to eight in the morning in Iraklion, and I’ve just returned the rental car. The rest of my group has departed for Santorini already, and I’ll be following along tomorrow, albeit with only a brief stopover before leaving for Naxos.

It’s Sunday, and everything in Iraklion is closed, the only open doors being the car rental place, and the Agia Titos, the Church of St. Titus. I’m sitting outside in its courtyard, listening to the liturgical chants from inside. All is peaceful and calm here, a welcome few moments in what has been a whirlwind trip so far.

The Church of Agios Titos

The Church of Agios Titos

Yesterday we saw Knossos and the archaeological museum, which for a bunch of Classics majors was a bit like getting drunk on the Juice of Pure Awesome. I’d like to be a bit more articulate than that, but, really, words fail. For Aegean archaeologists, this place is our Louvre, our Vatican, our Fenway Park, our Gettysburg Memorial. After years of seeing these objects in textbooks, the bunch of us tottled around with stupid grins on our faces, randomly bursting into uncontrollable giggles, and whispering things like “Gosh!” and “Holy Crap, there she is!” in hushed whispers.

The Snake Goddess

The Snake Goddess

 

Bull Rhyton

Bull Rhyton

A big chunk of the museum is closed for renovations, so they’ve crammed most of the major pieces into a tiny horse-shoe shaped hall, the result of which is that every few steps you’re confronted with YET ANOTHER incredible artifact you’ve been seeing in textbooks your entire life.

That afternoon we ate lunch off the ground in what looked like a little municipal building off of the Plateia Venizelou (possibly this was the Venetian Loggia, what had been a gentelmen’s club and is now the town hall).

Eating like gypsies off the ground outside city hall

Eating like gypsies off the ground outside city hall

With the departure of my companions, I am now, truly, flying without a net. I have no plans, no tickets, no bookings beyond the next week. This will either be phenomenally interesting or insanely boring, or, perhaps most likely, will alternate between the two.

Luke, friend of dogs, nurse to cats; Lena, smasher of all things, Rebacca, Laurie (stop trying to make Jerf happen, it’s not happening)…to everyone that invited me to tag along on this leg of the journey to Crete, thank you and adio. To those of my older cohort reading this, do yourself a favor: hang out with the youngsters. They will make you young in turn.

To the youngsters: don’t stress the small things so much. Things are often not as difficult or insurmountable as they first seem. If you want to go into the church, go into the church, wait until the priest yells at you to leave for not wearing a skirt. Travel without a return ticket sometime. Make no reservations.

The beach at Agia Pelagia

The beach at Agia Pelagia

Robert Herrick invited the virgins to “make much of time”. ALthough I think Herrick was probably just trying to get in some nice English girl’s pants, I  echo the sentiment. Don’t put off that overland trip to Vladivostok just because you have no money. The money will come, and its easier to make up for time spent travelling when you’re 20 than when you’re 30. Do not be too responsible. Take chances. Do something stupid once in a while. Make mistakes. Forgive yourself for them, learn from them, make new mistakes.

Find love and intimacy where you can, even if it’s only for a few weeks, even if its not forever. Love and sex and all that stuff are the best human commodities we have. Take what you find with both hands, give back as much, appreciate it while you have it, don’t mourn for it when it passes, as it inevitably will.

And if you find yourself alone at the end of the night, and the party’s breaking up, and you still haven’t found anyone to take you home, listen to Broken Social Scene’s “You Forgot it in People.” You’ll immediately feel better, I promise.

Finally, be patient with those of us arrogant enough to try to give advice. We can’t help it.

Vagabond

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Akropolis dogs

June 19, 2009 Leave a comment

The Vagabond is living it up in style tonight, writing to you from poolside at the Renia Hotel. I’ve included a link at the right hand of the screen. The manager has graciously allowed me to use his internet free of charge for this post, indicative of the graciousness you’ll find among the staff here. They’ve been a big help to our group of eleven in only the few short hours since we rolled into town. If you come to Agia Pelagia, a small town about 22 miles west of Iraklion in Crete, tell them the Vagabond sent you. Now that we’ve given the proper shout out to tonight’s post’s sponsors…

Hotel Renia

Hotel Renia

“Stop emiting phermones.”

Seven of us make our way down Avgoustou, toward the old Venetian port, accompanied as usual by three or four stray dogs. Luke, a man born with no fear of rabies, scratches one of them affectionately on the top of the head and grins.

“Seriously,” Jen continues. “HOW are you doing this?”

From Pylos, to Athens, and now Crete, Luke has demonstrated a ngh-Beastmaster ability to befriend Greece’s dogs.

An Akropolis dog, one of Luke's friends

An Akropolis dog, one of Luke's friends

The reaction of the local canine population to his arrival in every city we’ve passed through is both so immediate and dramatic that we can only assume that by spreading his arms wide (which he does, as if to embrace every new port of call in an eager and affectionate bear hug) his armpits emit the doggie equivalent of catnip.

Either that, or his voice transmits some hypersonic dog-whistle frequence that screams “Fried of dogs! Hear me!” Phermones has been given 3:2 odds.

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In Iraklion

June 19, 2009 Leave a comment

Or possibly Heraklion. Or both. I don’t get this Greek thing. We pulled into port at about 5am after a fitful night in an overly air conditioned cabin. We paid about 30 Euros for an economy berth, which is the right choice to make.
The ship reminds me of a Norwegian Cruise I took once: huge, with a dance club, restaurant, internet cafe, all the usual cruise amenities. But in addiiton to that, you stumble over random tribes of gypsies sprawled out in the hallways, listening to some funky Greek music. I’m not kidding. An old woman decides to go to sleep by the stair well, cigarette butt stubbed out in a make-shift ashtray she’s fashioned out of a plastic bottle. Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up. I don’t get a picture, because I’m a little fried from the whirlwind tour of Athens, the bus trip from Pylos (4 hours, friends), and the general stress of trying to navigate public transportation for the past few hours.
I sympathize with the first-class passengers: no matter how secluded their cabin might be, they’re still going to here the crazy gypsy music that will keep you up all damn night. You’d ask them to stop, but they massively outnumber you (even though you may be travelling in a group of ten) and they look surly.
Sunrise over Heraklion (or Iraklion) is gorgeous. We find our way to the Venetian fortress, and by slow steps up to the Plataea Venizelou, where we eat bougatzi and I snap a few quick pictures. Luke, the only other guy on this estrogen-filled group (9 gals, two guys), seems to give off a phermone that attracts all the stray dogs in any Greek city he happens to be in, and makes them follow him around like their long lost master.
The good people of Crete have turned their island into a hotspot, and I post these few photos of the Plateia to you, dear readers.

Always,

Vagabond

Sunrise over Plateia Venizelou

Sunrise over Plateia Venizelou

Iraklion 002