Friday, April 30, 2010

last day in Crete

things are way out of order now, but it seems the only way i can do it...

last day in Crete.... Linda, Greg, Jim and I with our dear friend, Berend who has a touring and trekking business in Vamos and has been all over western Crete with clients and also while looking for new treks. anyway, Berend has a wealth of knowledge of the history of the area, knows of lots of places to go, and of course he knows the locals along the way.... all of which makes him an excellent guide. he’s also a delightful person to be with... great sense of humor! young, energetic and full of a sense of adventure. so... he picked us up in his mini-van and the first stop was to see an old Roman bridge where an old road used to go down to the ocean. talk about well-built... still there and in good shape after all these years! on up in the hills south of Rethymnon with stop at Lake Kournas, biggest fresh water lake in Crete. parked near a taverna which had a ram’s skull perched on a pile of rocks as part of its outside decor. further on are the springs at Aryoupolis, then to the upper village of Aryoupolis where we walked around and of course had to visit another old church, which had beautiful well-tended flower beds around it. next stop was roman grave sites in the side of a hill, and another chapel. walked down a very very long cobblestone road to see the grave sites and the largest tree in Crete... which takes 14 men standing hand-to-hand to go around it. more feelings of amazement and awe in this area!! by then we’d walked and gawked the morning away and the next part of the plan was lunch. Berend decided on an out of the way taverna where he takes trekking groups. Stelios was happy to see him and brought out a round of raki before starting the lunch.... began with 2 huge bowls of salads, bread, oil, then came plate of sausages, plate of grilled pork, piled-high plate of fried potatoes, another of potato frittata, yogurt and of course non-stop wine. he said no to a request for beer... we must drink his home-made wine from his vineyard... and it was very good. his wife had been out harvesting herbs and came to show us what she’d picked. according to Berend and later confirmed by others who had been there... Stelios has a regular routine of going around to his customer’s tables, sitting with them and sampling the food, drinking wine with them, and by the end of the evening being totally happily, jolly drunk! at lunch he brought out a pitcher of wine, sat down by Jim and made him his drinkin’ buddy... Stelios would fill both their glasses, hit the table with his fist, hoist his glass for a toast, then chug it down... expecting Jim to do the same! he tried it with me and i only did once, then declared Stelios the champ! so, that was another one-of-a-kind happy adventure. and the next stop was a pottery village, where they make ceramics and every other shop sells it. Jim found a really sweet raki glass and i got a small vase! wandered around for awhile, stopped for coffee, then on to Rethymnon for a quick walk thru part of the old town before taking Linda and Greg to the bus station so they could go on to Heraclion and then see the ruins of Knossos Palace, a famous Minoan site, the next day. and we went back to Vamos to have our last night dinner at Bloumosifi and get packed to leave the next day and fly to Athens, then Samos. very grateful for no strikes or volcanic ash in Athens that day!!!!

biggest tree in Crete
Roman tomb
another Roman tomb
the five holy virgins in one of the small chapels we went to. the story goes something like... during one of the occupations in Crete these 5 young women were ordered to marry and submit to some of the conquerors, refused and were martyred.

ram's skull as part of outside decor of a taverna
Lake Kournas
Roman bridge
our neighbor, who brought out a tray of raki and shortbread biscuits to welcome Linda and Greg to Vamos... they are all big on hospitality that way!
me and Jim with our housekeeper, Eleni, who came from Romania to Vamos.

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