I want start by acknowledging you, our family members and friends who check in with us via this blog, send us email or U.S. mail. It is always wonderful to hear from you and to learn a little of what is happening in your lives too. Thank you!
Still in Chania on Crete at the beginning of this week, we were staying at an AirBnB guest house that took part of its name from Morfeas – God of Dreams. And yes, I had a memorable dream one night there! Last week I had bought a bottle of Retsina, which I had fallen in love with in Greece 25 years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed it again while we were here! This white wine has a distinct flavor, from the resin of the pine barrels that store it. The only other time I have tasted it are perhaps on rare visits to Greek restaurants over the years, and, for sure when I went out of my way to find it when Loren and I hosted a Greek themed fundraiser for our church. Loren instead preferred to enjoy a bottle of red wine…
The afternoon that we left Chania, we first took a walking tour of several hours. Because it is near the end of the tourist season we had the guide all to ourselves. He took us to see some wonderful sights. As I am enjoying the last glass of Retsina, I want to share two different stories that our guides in Chania told us. They both first asked, “Why do people clink glasses before they drink?”
Our previous guide, who escorted us in a 4 wheel drive vehicle around Chania’s outlying villages last week said that it is to stimulate the fifth of our senses – since we can easily smell the flavor, see the liquid, touch it, and taste it on our tongue, then, the clink, allows us to awaken the sense of hearing. That makes sense! However our second guide, who walked us to several important sites in the city, suggested it was a ruse to spill drops of the liquid into your companion’s glass to be sure it was not poisoned, even though a villain could slyly spill it on the ground afterwards. Hmmm. Which is true? Probably both!
Along the walking tour we stopped for Romeko wine, the one that tastes like cherry sherry, yum! And, more Raki. Raki is quite harsh, a drink I can forego since at least having tasted it. All the Cretan eateries serve it in tiny shot glasses after any food – even breakfast! One waiter, surprised when I declined it, protested, “But it is an herb to help with digestion.” I learned that the appropriate response instead is to accept it, say Yamas! – Cheers!, then just put the glass down without drinking it. However, our guide taught us to actually enjoy Raki by blending it with enough honey to make a big difference in the smoothness and taste. That said, it is still not so good for my continually growing waistline. My pants this week are complaining – the final indication that I absolutely must reverse my trend – now.
A bus ride that took us to stay in the larger city of Heraklion – or, Iraklio, or Irakleio, or Iraklion, Herakleio, Herakleion, and, also spelled with Greek letters which derive from the earlier Phoenician alphabet, and the ancestor of the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets, was uneventful, except for seeing more dramatic mountains along the coast. Our room at an AirBnB overlooked the coastline, offering views of some stunning sunrises and sunsets. We rode an Open City Tour Bus here, that transported us to the ancient Minoan Palace of Knossos, most famous of the ancient sites on Crete. My Western Civilization professor had inspired me to want to see this site too, many long years ago. At one time, there were over 1,200 rooms in this palace that is now mostly rubble.
But there is great controversy here. Sir Arthur Evans who led the initial excavation of Knossos Palace had a few of the rooms recreated to give a more realistic impression. The work even included piecing together artwork from meager chips of the originals. It definitely brought the site more to life for me, and Loren would have liked to have had the whole palace reconstructed instead of just seeing so many piles of old stones.
Later we stopped at the fort in the harbor, which has survived intact from the time of Venetian rule on Crete – 500 years ago.
The Cyrillic alphabet that we first encountered in Macedonia, and based on the Greek alphabet, explains why the spelling MAPKET – MARKET is advertised by the same spelling here as in Macedonia. But then there is the name dispute over this country of Macedonia and the region of Macedonia that is part of Greece… I also must mention the street art, throughout this post. So often the messages are obscure, but here, written in English, I found thought provoking.
Somewhere – I think in a magazine on a plane, I had read about a most appealing restaurant in Heraklion – Vourvouladiko Taverna, so I added it to my wish list. One evening Loren put it in our navigation app which helped us find the vicinity but took us in circles for some blocks. He was ready to abandon the effort, then indulged me. We arrived exactly at opening time for the evening meal! Fortunately we were there early, because after the next guest arrived without a reservation, all others were turned away. We dined in a beautiful garden setting, our table and chairs sat directly on the earthen floor. The food was excellent, living up to the glowing review that I had read, so it was well worth the time it took for us to find it.
We then had another full day tour on a 4×4 tour, which followed an ancient Minoan path high up into the mountains, from the Mediterranean coast to a fertile plateau. We stopped at Dicteon cave, the birth place of Zeus (!) with time for a little hike. I was hoping that we would see one of the few remaining Kri Kri mountain goats who are distinct from other goats for their long horns and a long beard, but, we were not so fortunate. We spent the day with a couple from Denmark, and two other couples from England. All lovely people, so in that way, we were fortunate.
Loren and I then flew from Crete, connecting through Athens, to Kefalonia, an island we had especially enjoyed on our honeymoon 25 years ago. We are occupying one of only two rooms in use at our guest house, grateful that the crowds have already returned home. Early this morning we took the ferry to the neighboring island of Ithaca, so famous thanks to Homer’s and Cavafy’s poetry. Another memorable college class had required me to read Homer’s Odyssey, for which I am also grateful. Loren and I were most enthralled 25 years ago here in Vathi – spelled Vathy too! on Ithaca, with its delightful horseshoe bay.
The cave where Homer’s protagonist Odysseus buried his treasure, and a romantic night at Gregory’s Taverna in Vathi stand out as highlights from our honeymoon. Now on our 25th year Honeyversary, Gregory’s is no longer in operation. We learned that Gregory had sold the place and is not well, needing oxygen from years of smoking cigarettes. The restaurant is now called Ithaca Mare but was closed for the season. On our visit today we chose to walk the more than two miles of mountainous roads from the port to Vathy. On the way we hiked up one mountain to see ruinous remains of the ancient Ithaca, where Odysseus was revered and pictured on their coins. We also looked where I thought I recalled the path to Odysseus’ treasure was buried, but this time we could not find it.
Today is probably the happiest day so far of our 25th Honeyversary in Greece, because prior to coming to Kefalonia we have mostly visited new places on Crete together. Today in Vathi we reminisced a good bit about our very special time here 25 years ago, and marveled at how the town has evolved and modernized in that time as well.
Later this week we will travel to Prague…
PLEASE NOTE: While this week we have some internet coverage, we may not have service over the next few weeks. Please check back here, I will share my weekly post when and as often as I can!