Crete: Gnarly

I’m never one to pass up the opportunity for a holiday, and holidays between jobs are the best kind: no dwelling on the things you should have done before you left the office, and no mushroom-cloud of emails will await your return.

K-man and I settled on somewhere with guaranteed heat, no long-haul flight, and at least some culture.  A quick scan of the available reasonably-priced destinations and we marked Crete with a big red cross.  Neither of us have been there before, which is another advantage.


OK, so it’s not South East Asia and it does come with accommodation called things like ‘Hotel Engerland‘, but it is certainly a step up from the worst holiday I’ve ever had.  Lanzarote, in case you were wondering.  Crete is special, even within Greece, since it was the place the ancient Minoan civilisation was based.  It has more culture than you can shake a stick at.

If we had wanted, we could have inspected the palace of Knossos.  We could have hiked Europe’s longest gorge.  But these things were hours of driving away, and we only had a week.  It’s important to prioritise, and my priorities mainly consisted of this:

This is the legendary Elafonisi beach, an hour and a half away from where we were staying.  The drive to get there wound through tiny villages where it seemed time had literally stood still.

Don’t get me wrong, we did more than go from the beach to our hilltop villa, and from our bedroom to the pool.  I will never miss an opportunity to photograph a carved door.  Carved doors are like dry stone walls for me – endlessly fascinating and dismally underappreciated.

We located some suitably proximate ruins and walked around them too:

What this photograph doesn’t tell you is that it was 38C outside, and we lasted one hour before descending into the shade of surrounding narrow streets for a lengthy beverage-based sit-down under a fan.

This is Hania.  Not far from here is what is believed to be the oldest olive tree in the world, weighing in at approximately 4,000 years old.  Older than the Minoan civilisation by quite some margin.

The tree, sadly, is too big to hug.  It’s also the gnarliest thing I’ve ever seen; like something out of Fangorn Forest.  Shit like this really blow my mind, and quite frankly I will take an ancient tree over some old ruins any day of the week.

But you can read all about this stuff in the guidebooks.  What you can’t read about in the guidebooks is this:

He has no name, but he does have the largest set of testicles I’ve ever seen on a cat, and that includes the Top Tom Cat in the roughest parts of London.  You may or may not know that feral cats are a huge problem across much of Europe, and that they can be assertive to the point of outright aggression if they are hungry.  You should not feed them.

The neighbouring villa’s inhabitants appeared not to mind his fleas as long as he kept them outside.  He also didn’t get too close to them on account of the two giant dogs whose patch he would be invading if he tried.  This was amusing, until the neighbours left for a few days.

After two days of their absence, we were subjected to a barrage of whining and pawing and general pestering that would make even the most resilient parent crack and buy the iPad.  It was impossible to recline without being jumped on.  The poor cat was so hungry that it simply would not be ignored.  K-man cracked first and chopped up some salami we had been saving for our lunch.  Paroxysms of joy were observed, and we were left alone for ten minutes.

K-man pretends to have a heart of stone when it comes to animals (and especially cats). Inside though, he is a big softie made of expensive cat-food.  Let’s just say that the cat ate WELL for the duration of our stay.  It showed its appreciation by staying underneath the sun-lounger in the shade and not trying to jump on our heads.

Things were going quite well following the regular doling out of food, and the time came for our last evening.

At about 7pm, we were strongly considering returning inside from the pool when an almighty great crash issued forth from the villa.  If you’re from London, almighty great crashes mean a drooling intruder has smashed through your window clutching the end of your days and a blunt implement.

You’d better go and see what that was, K-man said.  He is not from London, so almighty great crashes mean perfectly innocent things, such as a picture falling off the wall.  I remonstrated, but he was actually in the pool and I was merely pool-side.

I opened the door to the kitchen and fended off the furball that tried to charge through it, before peeking hesitantly around the corner with my buttocks clenched.

A huge pile of plaster was on the floor.


I looked up, and this sight greeted me:

Daggers of plaster dangled menacingly.  After I backed out slowly and explained to K-man that his contribution to resolving the almighty crash would be to get on the phone and find someone to make this safe, he spoke to the Holiday Representative who called the villa owners.  Something would be done, we were assured.

A few minutes later, word reached us via four satellites that Dimitri would be attending in a few minutes.

There I stood, wrapped in a towel, with an incoming handyman.  Between me and the bathroom was the risk of a serious head injury.  There was nothing for it: the baking sheet from inside the oven was deployed like a shield and I pegged it upstairs for a quick shower.

If you had scripted a stereotypical Greek Entrance, you could not have described Dmitri’s arrival better.  I opened the door when it rang, to see a man leaning his substantial gut against the frame and smoking a roll-up.

Kalispera, he said, and wandered in.  He stared at the situation before laughing and saying sorry, eh?  I tried to communicate that we don’t really care about appearances and if he could just make it safe so we could get back to the plan of going out for dinner, that would be appreciated.  Dmitri’s answer was to bring down the parts of the ceiling still clinging on for dear life, and declare that he would return tomorrow. ‘A woman’ would clear up the mess while we were out having dinner.


The next morning at 7.15am we were sleeping when my finely tuned London Intruder-Ear Klaxon woke me with ALERT ALERT THERE IS SOMEONE ELSE IN THE BUILDING!  K-man slept on, so I had to nudge him awake and point out that the voices he could hear were not mine.

K-man went to investigate, because he never believes anything bad will happen.  The villa owner had seen fit to let herself and Dmitri in to the house we were renting, with the aim of ‘measuring up’ for replacement plaster so they could start fixing it up as soon as we were out the door headed for the airport.

I’m not going to mention that no matter how seasoned a traveler you are, apparently when it is too hot to think and you’ve been woken at 7.15am, you will still fall for the lunch-waiter’s how about I ask chef to make you special platter, not on menu? Lovely bit of traditional seafood trick.

But then it wouldn’t be travelling.


18 Responses to “Crete: Gnarly”

  1. 1 staciemarkcoop August 22, 2012 at 12:17 am

    Love this post!! Traveling brings out the most entertaining experiences!

  2. 2 staciemarkcoop August 22, 2012 at 12:22 am

    Oh, and I was wondering about all the cats we saw in Rhodes and Cypress when we were there a few years ago. Now I know.

  3. 3 Jen August 22, 2012 at 1:26 am

    But of course a woman would be cleaning up the mess. Of course.

  4. 4 Jenn @ Juggling Life August 22, 2012 at 2:36 am

    I love your adventuresome spirit!

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