1330-1335: Olive Groves, Ice Cream and a Monastery

1330:  England Beat the All Blacks & Kokkinos Pirgos

Saturday 26th October 2019

This morning was pre-booked ages ago.  No matter how much the sun shone or the dogs looked wistfully at the door.  We weren’t going anywhere!  England v. New Zealand.  I felt sick to the pit of my stomach, and two tries disallowed.  But they prevailed.  Could it be a Great British Final???

After lunch we wandered around Kokkinos Pirgos – a village of two halves.  There are essentially two streets, the main road and the lower beach front.  The main road had a lot of half built and abandoned buildings.  It really looked like people had seen the opportunity to develop the town for tourists, but then the tourists didn’t come.  When we hit the beach road, there was a bit more life, as in open cafes and bars.  A manky, ice cream … he’d obviously scraped the bottom of the container … yuk!  After the not so good meal when we arrived last night, we didn’t see any restaurants that would entice us to part with our money.  

1331:  Wales Loose to South Africa  Agios Gallini

Sunday 27th October 

Day 2 of sofa surfing.  Sadly Wales will not be in the final with England.  

We had plans to go for a walk, but by the time we’d lunched, it was too late … the hour change makes such a difference to when the long shadows draw in the day.  So a trip to Agios Gallini.  The car park is right down the small town that clings to the side of the hill and by a small port.  Thankfully it was getting on towards the end of the day so we could park.  Pretty and full of bars and restaurants.  A walkway across the bottom of a cliff to the small beach.  We wandered around what there was to see and sat facing the port with an ice cream.  One of the things we love about Italy is their love affair with gelato … at least one gelateria on every street.  Here, we are finding it a) hard to find places that sell proper scoop ice cream b) ice cream that is not slightly off / old and c) has a limited choice of flavours.  So limited that today I sampled Kaimaki flavour … slightly chewy and made from mastic!!!  Please note that most of the holiday makers around us were on Aperol and wine!   Not us, we’ve nearly cracked Go Sober for October!

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 Agios Gallini clinging to the hill side.

 1332:  Aborted Gorge and Matala

Monday 28th October 

So today we packed up a picnic and headed off to the Agiofarago (Ayio) Gorge.  We stopped at the Moni Odigitrias on the way.  A service was in progress, but worshipers were wandering in and out of the church, sitting around and all eating cake … no-one offered us any :(.  A lovely floral courtyard and views.

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Moni Odigitrias – pretty courtyard.

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Obviously they expect tourists here, as there was a two room Monk’s cell for visitors to see.

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Great views for the monks, including an outside privy.

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And another chapel at the end of the hill.

From the monastery, the road disappeared and became a dirt track. I walked the dogs a short way whilst J drove and a local told me their had been land slips, so after a bouncy 2.5 of the 5km trip, we aborted.  Shame, as I’d fancied this walk as hermits lived in the caves either side and there is a full church.  Never mind, perhaps another time.  

What to do … we headed off to Matala, known for caves and hippies. We stayed here in a heat wave in March 2018 when we were looking for a sea breeze and discovered a semi abandoned and free campsite.  I stayed here with Maddy whilst James went home for a few days.  We checked out the campsite; it is still operational and we will come back at some point.  A coffee, a wander and then lunch overlooking the very busy beach.  I’m always a bit wary to revisiting places, but Matala did not disappoint.

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Small chapel.  A sign at the entrance said to enter respectfully … I slid off the very worn step and let rip a ‘shit’, don’t think I entered respectfully!

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Views from our lunch.

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1333:  Vori & Kamilari

Tuesday 29th October 

Picnic packed we drove to Vori.  First stop is coffee, always!  We heard and English voice talking to Manoli the barista … could he find two people to turn her mattress.  The English voice belonged to Hebe, resident of Crete for 20 years.  She joined us for a drink and a lovely chat and then we went back to her house and turned her mattress.  How often do you end up stripping someone’s bed only minutes after you’ve met them?!?

The Museum of Cretan Ethnology had won an award, but was pretty old fashioned in its presentation.  Having said that, it had a good display of weaving, tools and household items.  And all the exhibits had English explanations.  We had a little wander around Vori … a lovely village with carved stone lintels.  Everyone saying hello to each other.  Nice vibe.

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From here we drove up to Faistos … the car park only as we explored the ancient site on our last visit.  We used the wall as the table and got the chairs out for our picnic.  Other than the odd coach running its engine we could forget the car park behind us and just enjoy the view.

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Kamilari was described as slightly up market due to the house purchasing by expats … certainly the lass that served us coffee spoke excellent English. You could really see the wealth compared to most villages in the way some of the properties had been restored.

1334:  Another Olive Tree and Apolichonos

Wednesday 30th October 

Coffee at the hamlet of Moroni … the barista had no English so Google Translate got us to an espresso, with a little hot water and milk.  Nice chap, lots of smiles and he pressed an extra bottle of water on James as we left.  

With so much of the countryside covered with olive trees, it is no wonder the ancient ones are much revered.  We drove to see the Monumental Olive Tree os Paliama.  Surreounded by much younger trees, it had another gnarled hollow trunk.  Sadly the information board was as ancient as the tree and therefore illegible, so we can only guess that it is several thousand years old.

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Naughty me… I climbed under the fence to stand inside the monumental olive tree.

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Apolichonos is a abandoned village.  We walked down dirt tracks amongst the olive groves; a few now being stripped of their fruit.  Lovely views across to the distant hills.  A smart white washed church and a summer time taverna, plus the requisite sheep bells and barking dogs guarding sheep to get Corrie on high alert.

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 Baby olive trees – planted deep and with the landscape looked like lots of giant mole hills.

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Apoloichonos:  Abandoned except for in the tourist season … a small chapel and summer time taverna.

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The abandoned village … didn’t discover why.

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We’ve seen these large water pipes all over Greece irrigating the crops, but these had water metres with the names fo the farmers on them.

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We had the goat leg, but this time Corrie brought us the gift of a claw … far too big for a chicken.  

1335:  Moving North Analipsi 

Thursday 31st October 

We have decided that to really be able to get around to some of the more remote places we would like the use of a car.  Emails to about 7 car hire companies (small local ones) yielded only 2 result, one is from Kalyves. A 1250cc Fiat Punto is ours at EUR9 per day on a month by month fee.  We pick it up on Saturday.  The theory is that we will park Jez up for a few days and use the car to get up into the hills and down to small coves.  We will then start to move west along the north coast.  Budget justification is that it will save money on fuel and wear and tear on Jez … he’s done 40,000 miles in under 3 years!  

Today was a wander around Heraklion. James needed to stock up on e juice … he’s switched to menthol and is nearly nicotine free :).  We just had a wander of the proper busy town and lunched with both of us facing the street people watching.  Like Heraklion … it has an honest feel.

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Our over night is a bit further east in Analipsi … what a great name.  This has several large hotels and one huge one … sun umbrellas and bars.  It is surprisingly busy.  We’ll only be here the one night!  Not our cup of tea.


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Is this no shagging in a motorhome allowed, but you can park up?

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1323-1329: Same Aged P’s, Different Location

1323:  Travelling South Via Aryiroupoli

Saturday 19th October 2019

We used the beach shower to fill with water as Mother did her daily fast morning walk.  She’s done more exercise than James or I!  We were 10 mins from setting off when a chap from the hotel behind asked us if we could move Jez … the new guests had complained about the van blocking their sea view and we were much higher than cars would be.  Can’t resent this, as they are probably on a week’s precious holiday and had paid for a sea view … not the not so clean rear end of a grey van!  

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This is the view we were blocking the hotel guests from!

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The Aged P’s flat was behind and to the left of Rentacar.

I drove the hire car with the Aged P’s and J followed in the van. Don’t usually like driving in convoy, but the roads here are pretty empty and the larger ones have an extra half lane so the slow vehicles can allow others to overtake … which they do despite bends and double lines in the middle of the road.  We’d planned to picnic lunch as Aryiroupoli, but got there earlier than expected and as we parked up Jez, a restaurant owner was concerned that we would park where his customers might like the shortest walk to a meal at his establishment.  He must have been expecting coach loads judging by the amount of meat barbecuing.  No, just staying for a few hours and (as and appeasement), was he serving coffee?    There are two parts to Aryiroupoli, predictably, Lower and Upper!  The Lower has Springs, water flowing trough loads of channels in the restaurants and further down.  The Upper consists of a small village centre with a few shops and some Roman mosaics.  Good olive oil products shop.  We didn’t even stay a couple of hours in the end, as the rain came down … so we set off again for our south coast destination.  

Home for the next 6 nights was a very small hamlet with a few restaurants with rooms and a small, but well stocked shop.  The Aged P’s were staying in a room at the latter.  It is a bit off the normal tourist trail (good!), being known to locals and overseas regulars.  Friends of ours have been coming here since 1980; one of the restaurants lets them empty their black waste in his toilet and another washes sheets and towels for them.  Food in the restaurants was super tasty and inexpensive.  A really restful place.  However, we did day trips out!

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Apparently this was ‘erected’ as a German kept getting his tackle out!

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Our beach.

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The next beach along.  Lots of cairns.

1324:  Prevelli Monasteries

Sunday 20th October 

There are two monasteries.  The old Lower one had been destroyed a number of times and the Monks finally moved into the new one about 50 years ago as the upkeep was difficult.  There are now only 2 monks in the Upper Monastery.  The guide at the Lower Monastery explained that there are too many tourists and not enough meditation time at this location, so monks tend to go elsewhere.  

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The Lower Monastery.

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A short drive to the Upper Monastery … a large car park with an H painted on the tarmac for helicopters.  A number of coaches at this one. The buildings were not remarkable, but the history is.  During the wars of independence again the Turks, some of the Monks actually took up arms and there are pictures of gun toting monks in the old monastery museum.  Although they did not fight in WW2, they were active in aiding the Allies.  After the Battle of Crete was lost, thousands of Allies headed south through the gorges.  Preveli hid a lot of them and then assisted them onto a submarine.  They first effort was so successful, a second was attempted, but by this time the Germans were wise to it.  They raided and ransacked the monastery.  A number of the Monks were arrested.  Intervention by one of the Bishops had them released, but the head Monk had to escape to N Africa, sadly only dying a few days before the end of the war.  The monastery continued to support and feed soldiers and the residence.

The main relic of the Monastery was being held by a Monk in the church and kissed by the coach passengers … a Cross.  The story about this cross is fascinating.  It had been captured by the Turks at the end of the C18 and sold to Genoese sailors, who later happened to be passing by.  Their boat stalled, if boats can stall?  It wouldn’t move, so the superstitious sailors returned the cross to the monastery.  Then the Germans tried to fly it to Berlin, but the plane had a fault and would not take off.  They changed plane and this one also refused to budge … so the cross was once more returned to the monks.

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The new Monastery church housing the True Cross.

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Many of the evacuated soldiers were from New Zealand and Australia and have donated / paid for monuments expressing their thanks.

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Picnic view … this south coast is stunning with mountains and gorges running right down to the sea.

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The monument to the monks and the Allies.

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Coffee and ice cream back on the deck at the Aged P’s accommodation.

1325:  Frangokastello and Up

Monday 21st October 

Frangokastello is a great coffee / lunch stop.  Good beaches if that’s your thing.  The castle 1371 is fairly impressive, built to protect the Venetian occupiers from invaders and pirates, but now just a shell.  Being badly restored at the moment … a few workmen slapping on non matching mortar and therefore not open to visitors.  

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After coffee we headed up a gorge to Kallikratis.  The guide book described the road as ‘the steepest, most winding and spectacular in Crete’.  So it had to be done.  A friend told me that she remembered it being built and had driven it before it was widened … coming down the car bonnet was over the edge of the drop.  Going up was much easier, aided by the fact we didn’t meet any other traffic until the top, and we came back a different route.

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Kallikratis Gorge.

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Picnic stop.

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Local inhabitants tormenting CO2.  How do they get up here?

1326:  Plakias

Tuesday 22nd October 

Plakias is another holiday destination, with a good number of restaurants and bars.  However, all the buildings are low rise so it has not been spoilt.

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Don’t know how or why this van had made it into the water.

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We had ice creams, but Mum had a Pinicolda!  She could taste the copious alcohol in it … yummy … for her.  No taster sips for us, as we are still battling through Sober for October.

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1327:  Chora Sfakion and Imbros Gorge

Wednesday 23rd October 

Chora Skaflion is the capital of the region, but is relatively small.  Growth has been restricted due to the surrounding mountains.  Busy with a coach park and a nearly full paid for car parking … EUR3 per day.  We arrived, coffeed, walked around and then sat on admiring the small port for and ice cream.  Not one to break a trend, Mum had another booze laden cocktail.

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The waterfront with wall to wall restaurants.  The fresh fish on display looked good … but we have a picnic.

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Whilst we ate ice cream, we watch this trip boat fill up.  Surely it is a bit top heavy and the wind was blowing!


We drove up the main road from Chania to Chora Sfakion, which goes along the Imbros Gorge.  This is the second most visited gorge and even at this time of year there were 4 coaches parked up at the bottom waiting for their passengers to walk down.  We established that a car (taxi) to drive to the top of the gorge is EUR25 … I may do this when James flies to Dublin in December.  As we climbed, the mists came in and views diminished.  It was also much chillier, so we almost descended the whole way before we picnicked.

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Did I mention the wind … we had to hold everything down, even the food.

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Goat Gate:  Oscar does like a stick and brought this one home after a walk.  He left it in his bed, where Corrie found it.  She has a habit to shred sticks, so I grabbed it to chuck it out … only to discover it was part of a goat’s leg, with hoof attached.  YUK!  But what happened to the rest of the goat?


1328:  Fish Fest

Thursday 24th October 

Our last full day with the Aged P’s :(.  We had a coffee on the deck at their accommodation and then we went to the taverna on the neighbouring beach.  Ordered a few meze to start and then ordered some fresh fish.  We’ve worked out that to make the meal last, order the courses as you want them.  The two large fish, bream and sea bass, were just beautifully cooked … double yummy.  The Aged P’s managed to NOT hold back on the booze front … whilst we are STILL dry for Go Sober for October.   

 

1329:  North and South

Friday 25th October 

A drive up to Chania Airport for the Aged P’s to catch their flight home.  Gonna miss them lots.  People seem to think that having one’s parents around for 11 nights would be a chore, but they are such good company.  More of a chore for them, I suspect!

We headed back south through the White Mountains, but a bit further along the coast east … to Kokkinos Pirgos.  We walked along the beach to the restaurant next to the small harbour … but flavourless and expensive off a huge tourist menu. Worst meal we’ve had so far.  Shame as fab location.

 

1316-1322: Charging Around Chania

1316:  Bali?  Cretian Style.

Saturday 12th October 2019

An early doors shower on board followed by an early disembarkation.  We were heading west along the north coast, and looked for somewhere to get our heads down.  Neither of us had slept well in our cabin … we seemed to be above the engines and felt all the vibrations!  Steady hum, Vibrate and rattle and repeat!  Oh and I shared my bed with two furry and wriggly bodies … you’re not allowed on the furniture in the van, my dears!  Our first identified spot was a car park, but the pukka gypsies (not sure of the distinction, we are van dwellers but not gypsies!) had moved in, so we kept going to Bali.  This Bali had a lot in common with the island Bali … probably, having never been there!.  Beaches, cafes and restaurants.  We rested, walked what there was to see, had coffees and ice creams, a light lunch and stayed that night too.  The only incident was early evening when some ‘idiots’ started throwing glass bottles around ing the car park.  Not at us, but I was out with the dust pan and brush concerned for tyres and paws … if I’d spoken Greek, I’d have kindly given them a bit of what I thought of them and offered them the brush to clear up!  

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Bali tree, crying out for pots of flowers on its trunk.

1317:  Kalyves

Sunday 13th October 

With beach shower water to enable a fill up, we cleaned the inside of the van … we aim to do this every Sunday, but somehow life can get in the way.  Then we drove into Almyrida, to check where the Aged P’s apartment was and assess the parking for Jez.  A move just up to the next village, Kalyves, where we spent the night in a large car park.  Another beach resort, with coffee shops etc.  But behind the beach area, there was more of the original town.

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Coffee overlooking the beach.

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The small harbour.

1318:  Aged P’s Arrive Almyrida

Monday 14th October 

Being opposite a plumbed in public toilet, we set the alarm for 0600 hours for operation ‘Black Waste Empyting”, but a certain person was awake and up at 0400 hours, so the military manoevre was brought forward.  The advance party emptied and the rear cleaned and sprayed air freshener!  Back to bed!

We picked up the hire car and  shopped.  James then took Jez off to our parking and I went to collect the Aged P’s.  They were in a small apartment, just set back from the beach in Almyrida, and we parked along bit in the car parking area.  Early the next morning we were able to move to just outside their apartment … result.  Another result, was that their apartment had two balconies, one with 4 chairs and the other with a clothes horse … we made good use of both.  Oh and an amazing power shower, which also got put to good use, especially as Mum was kind enough (coerced) into dying my hair!

Supper was a restaurant right on the water’s edge watching the sun go down behind the cliffs and leaving a soft glow.

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Didn’t fancy eating a meal here … wonder if the chef has an unpleasant habit?

 

1319:  Charming Chania 

Tuesday 15th October 

The Aged P’s had visited Chania well over 20 years ago with my sister Clare and hubby Chris, and we’d been for a day wander 18 months ago with Maddy.  All of us remembered liking the town and the revisit, as so often is the case, did not disappoint.  Our only irritation was with the crowds of Americans off a cruise ship that thronged the walk along the harbour front.  On talking to one set, we had had it lucky … the boat’s capacity was 2,500, but only 2,100 were on board … there could have been even more of them, or even worse, 2 ships in!

We coffee on arrival, wandered along the front, accelerated through the busy bit, and up through the back streets, where we had lunch.  

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1320:  A Mystery Tour of WW2, Caves, a Cove and an Olive Tree

Wednesday 16th October   

Picnic, table and chairs all loaded … we headed west.  Along the coast was pretty uninspiring … miles of ribbon beach hotel and tavernas.  Pleased not be staying here.

First stop was Plantanias where German Tunnels had been dug out by forced local labour to store ammunition.  The tunnels supplied the hillside defensive battlements.  The museum is run by volunteers and is funded by donations.  A film with sub titles explained how the local children used to play in the cool tunnels when it was 40C outside , pinching candles form the church.  The wiring for the lighting had been pinched by the locals and used to tie up fences etc.  The locals felt it was important to remember and tell the story.  It is almost possible to feel blasé about war atrocities when you visit a lot of sites, but Crete suffered hugely during WW2.  And it is obviously still very raw to many of them.

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One of the entrances to the tunnels.

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 An olive tree outside the main entrance … the story goes that one of the German paratroopers had been nursed by local women, but died and was buried here.  When the Germans wanted to start the tunnelling here, scared of reprisals, the priest persuaded them to dig a little way off.

Stop number 2 was the German war cemetery in Maleme.  The airfield here saw a lot of the initial fighting of the Battle of Crete May 20 1941.  The Allies lost it early on and with lines of communication lost west-east, they pretty much gave up.  Piss poor communication and shockingly poor management at the command levels basically lost Crete to the Germans. Resonance with our politicians today?  And bear in mind the Allies had double the numbers of the attacking Germans and the goodwill and military of the indigenous population.  So many Germans were shot out of the air, that they abandoned their plan of conquering Britain with a similar air invasion.

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 Hill 107 where 4,500 are remembered here.  Ironically, the cemetery’s care takers were for years the author of “The Cretan Runner” and Manoli Pateraki, who played a leading role in the capture of General Kriepe … for which there were also horrendous German reprisals.

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We drove part way up the Rodhopou peninsular, through a few villages and then east at Afrata, down a gorge and onto a small cove.  Not suitable for a motorhome.  Having the use a car does have its benefits. 

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A cafe and a few sun bathers, but a super picnic spot.

On the return journey we had two stops.

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The first was St John the Hermitage’s Cave, although I’m pretty sure he had several caves as we’ve come across at least one before!  It was quite a complex and obviously used for ceremonies.

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Just outside was a small cemetery, and Google translate was able to tell us that this was for heroes.

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The last stop was an ice cream stop!  Although the main reason to come here was this olive tree in Ano Vouves.  This tree is one of the oldest olive trees in existence and is believed to be 3000 or 4000 years old, depending on which source of information you use.  Nice to think it may have been around during the Minoan age.  It’s trunk was seriously gnarled and hollow – it could have concealed several people.  During the last Athenian Olympics 2004, a branch was transported to Athens where victory wreaths were made for the winners of first and last events.


1321:  Not Finding the Rhythm in Rethymno

Thursday 17th October   

Having really liked Chania, we were expecting to like Rethymno.  Parked up, had a rip off coffee.  Chatted briefly to a couple who James had chatted to when they admired CO2 in Chania, to be told that the beach football championship was going later that day.  Perhaps, that was what had drown the crowds?  Or was to the over narrow shops, offering all the same silver jewellery or tourist tat?  We’d planned to stop for lunch, decided to see the much made of Rimondi Fountain, and then to skiddadle out of there!  We just tipped over into the second hour on the car park!

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Similar to Chania harbour, with its harbour front restaurants and Venetian light house, but MUCH smaller.

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Maps.Me – blame the map rather than the navigator!, led us to this Fountain, but it wasnt the right one!  So we’ve not seen the Rimondi Fountain and now won’t, as we won’t be going back!

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A lot of graffiti, but this was quite artistic.

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This graffiti not artistic.  We were more than happy to oblige.

Dog walking earlier that morning I’d chatted to a Brit, local resident for 10 years.  He was digging a boat out of the sand by the harbour.  A friend was very poorly and he was helping him sell his boat and car and re-home his two large dogs!  Er, no, we really don’t want any more dogs!  But he’d told me about a really good restaurant in a nearby hill village.  And so this was where we went for lunch.  It really was good and more typical of Cretan low prices.  Such good value.  

 

1322:  Theriso Gorge

Friday 18th October   

A super drive as the road follows the river bed up to Theriso.  Lots of z bends and great rocks.  Coffee on the way up … unusually dogs were not allowed in the restaurant and the outside tables had all been cleared.  But they let us in the side door and we watched the green patio canopy being pruned right back.  Mum and I wandered over to the adjacent cheese shop … just one choice of cheese, but we got to sample before buying.  Still soapy, not a big fan of Greek cheeses, but at least it had some flavour.  A sheep cheese … so many goats around, but what is their milk they used for?

At the village, the Museum of National Resistance 1941-45 seemed to be shut, but as we walked away, a lady appeared from a neighbouring house with the keys.  At EUR1 each, it was really good value.  Boards in English explained the Battle of Crete and there was hundreds of photos of locals who had fought in the resistance.  The village is also very proud of their connection with Venizelos’, it is the hometown of his mother.  Venizelos fought in the wars of independence against the Turks, was instrumental in self declared incorporation of Crete with Greece, and then became premier of Greece in 1910 (and several times after), thereby assisting official incorporation of Crete with Greece by 1913.  

Supper back at the beach front Cosanita restaurant for our last night in Almyrida … Fish Med Veg … salmon on roasted mediterranean veg … yummy.

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We drove further up the mountain until we found a flattish spot for our picnic … great mountains.

 

 

 


1048-1054: Munchkin Visit and a Change of Direction

1048 – Thursday 19th April: Munchkin Arrives

We set off for Iraklio at 8.30, what an early start for us.  The hire car process was extremely simple … hand over EUR30, no hard sell or any sell for additional insurances and no walk around to note dents and scratches.  I didn’t worry about additional insurance as we have an annual hire car policy.  For that we had a 4 door Nissan Micra 52,000km on clock and suspension on the way out … but perfect for a day for us.

Being in a car, I was able to park in the airport carpark, see James to Departures (he was off back to Blighty for 2 nights) on the plane that brought Maddy Munchkin out to me.  We stopped for a late lunch in Sives, and then had and ice cream in Kalamaki, making good use of the car.  We deposited the car and ate again in the town.  This was a recommendation by one of the cave men, Jeremy, we’d met … he offered us a tour of his cave, but it felt a bit voyeuristic … anyway, the restaurant was un-prepossesing, but the food super.

1049 – Friday 20th April:  A Beach Day

Being a working girl, Maddy wanted a beach day … so we did.  Jeremy came to find us on the campsite and volunteered to join us for supper … we went back to the same place. And I paid 🤨

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1050 – Saturday 21st April:  James Returns

We had planned another beach day, but the wind was up.  Seriously up, every time we went near the beach, we were shot blasted, making it very uncomfortable.  We tidied up and left our free campsite in Matala.  With time on our hands we went to a ‘fake’ Cretan village which was really a hotel and then up to a small seaside village for coffees … not up to much.  Maddy had said she would like to stand in an olive grove … anyone that knows Crete, or Greece will know the landscape is predominantly olive groves!  I chucked and pointed out a few olive trees!  As J’s flight was due after 11.00 p.m., we headed out to supper.  Took a recommendation from a pharmacist and it was really good … Maddy raved about the pork belly.

 

1051-1052 – Sunday 22nd to Monday 23rd April: Chania/Hania

We had forgotten how the Greeks really do got out en famille en masse on Sunday … no chance of getting parked in Hania, so we headed for a campsite just west of the town, by a couple of sandy beaches.  The afternoon saw us basking again!

If you are ever in Crete, avoid Camping Hania!  It was built in the days of small tents only, so they planted lots of low olive trees for shade.  Great in principle, but hopeless for getting caravans or motorhomes in.  A few smaller vehicles managed to swing into a couple of pitches, but no way could we.  So we ended up parked up on the central road.  One water point only, right by the reception which meant we blocked the entrance.    And don’t expect a good night’s sleep … not one, but at least two cockerels from about 4.00 a.m.  I was not happy to pay EUR36 for the 3 of us per night anyway … and certainly not with rubbish sleep.  Decision to leave … We had to reverse all the way out :(, brushing the olive branches.  The owner was somewhat elderly … as I followed him into the reception to pay, he let rip a minor parp …. surely not?  Yes, it was as it was followed by a major long one!  He couldn’t get the card machine to work either!

We parked up by one of the beaches and slept, dozed … late p.m. M showered and we headed into Hania.  Our first choice carpark was unobtainable as two cars had had an ‘incident’ and were not moving their cars, as I guess they were waiting for the police.  We re-routed to choice number 2, but one of the access roads looked a little narrow, so choice Number 3 … a fee paying carpark, which was perfect, as no crowing cockerels overnight and walking distance into the old town and harbour.

Hania definitely has the wow factor.  Pretty narrow streets, a massive waterfront with restaurants and a harbour.  We had coffee, wine and supper … oooh and a super ice cream.  Seems strange to have a pizza on the last night in Crete, but that’s what M and J both wanted, and it was yummy, as was my chicken soup.

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Maddy seems to think that Corrie is hers!!  She became known as the accessory dog when M was wearing black and white.

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And no, she does NOT look like me … M takes after her father.

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1053 – Tuesday 24th:  All Aboard

Maddy caught her lunchtime flight back to Gatwick and we headed for the beach (again) for dog walking and demanding the van.  Our overnight Anek ferry left at 9.20 p.m. and the dogs got to poop in the poop deck again. Comfortable beds and a good strong and hot shower in our cabin. But all too early up, as it arrived at 6.00 a.m.

1054 – Wednesday 25th:  Birthday 1 and Rear Air Suspension

Happy Birthday Maddy Munchkin.  I am no longer the mother of a teen!

Off the ferry and into West Athens … back to Adria Athens to fit the rear air suspension … their second attempt … but we’ve booked the ferry from Patras to Ancona for Friday afternoon, just in case!

*** There is change of plan, cutting short this extended trip.  James needs to be back in the UK for tests and treatment.  We will keep blogging our trip home and when we do anything of interest whilst in the UK.

1041-1048: Oozing along the South East Coast

 1041 – Tuesday 10th April 2018:  Ierapetra

Vet needed for Corrie’s booster injections and rabies blood tests – so straight to Lerapetra to vet Michael and his team…..3.5 hours later all done and the vet missed his lunch, for the first time ever apparently!  But such a thorough examination: ears, teeth, paws skin etc.  Huge thanks to Michael and his team. 

We were starving by now – so where to go?  The answer was obvious – right across the street – “G-spot bar” with ‘playzone’!!! Not a “G spot” in sight and the plays were cards and board games ……  

An evening wander – buzzing town – and wild parking on a town street with a not noisy fairground nearby. 

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Ierapetra.

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Any Greek coastal town of any import has one of these …  A Venetian Fort.

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Napoleon spent one night here … according to the map and vague direction of the rusting sign … this is it!

1042 – Wednesday 11th April: Mirtos

Morning – I ran on a real running track for the first time in 2 years. Repetitions x6 – a 250 metre short track. If I put my fast laps together – it would be 4 minutes for a kilometre!  Quickest for several years…..  K shopped – lamb and sea bass – and wine from a shop/local vineyard.  K:  I had to send for reinforcements to carry it all back to Jez .. J deployed the trusty shopping trolley.

We kept meeting a ‘interesting’ Dutch/Norwegian lady whose Greek finance had died – she seemed very concerned that he’d died in the street with one show off.  She’d seen the police photos  She’s buying a house in nearby Mithi, uphill from here.

 

 

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Pyrgos Ancient mini site looking down to Mirtos.

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Mirtos:  very pretty but too twee.

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 Gourmet supper:  Parchment backed sea bass, with spinach drizzled with oil and garlic and Fava (a puree of split peas).

1043 – Thursday 12th April: Sarakinas Gorge & Gortys

In the afternoon, we drove to the Sarakinas Gorge for our overnight – completely secluded…… Early-ish morning, we set off to walk the Gorge – but after 20 minutes the way became too difficult for our doggos so we aborted. But we had a real flavour of the steep sides – a bit like the Syq in Petra…..

En route to our next destination (monuments to WW2 fallen), we encountered a small mountain town. The streets were narrow – ok, we’ve done this before – easily….the got more narrow – and cars blocked our way, completely. To make matters worse, 2 cars came towards us – more blockages. We had mistakenly drive the wrong way into a one-way street!  (K: to be fair, when I was shown the no entry sign it was flat against the wall so fairly invisible!) We scraped one side of Jez on foliage … hearing the nails on black board sound as we passed – and on the other side we broke a cars wing mirror!  Guess who was driving?  Moi!  K leaped out to spot – the people didn’t speak any English – and one man shouted at her – unusual in Crete….. others were very helpful.  20 minutes later, the 2 cars reversed – which they could have done much earlier and saved a lot of bother.  We scraped through and out of the town – huge sighs of relief – this was Castelbellissimo in Sicilia all over but just as stressful!!!  The joys of motor homing, indeed.

Quiet afternoon (K walked) and overnight parking in the car park of an ancient site at Gortys……much needed relaxing glass of vino or two …    

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Windscreen passenger.

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Start of Sarakinas Gorge walk.  Only possible when little or no rain.

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Really impressive high and narrow gorge.

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This is where we aborted as we’ve not taught the dogs to climb steps.  Oscar had already been scrabbling to get this far.

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A monument to one of the villages where men and boys were killed by the Germans in September 1943 as reprisals for resistance activities.  

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This monument was just outside Ano Viannos.  A huge number of names.  Very moving.

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Gortys:  A 1600 year old Olive tree; surreal as growing around Roman pillars.

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Gortys:  The Roman Temple of Apollo.  A lot of the rambling site is fenced but easy to wander around for free.  Gortys was a major city by 8BC and later co-operate with the invading Romans, so the city was not destroyed, but developed.  At one point it had a population of 300,000 and the provincial capital.

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My walk … The neighbouring village is Ayii Dheka, which means Holy Ten.  Ten Christians were martyred here in AD250, this is the tomb of 6 of them underneath a much newer church.  Christianity first reached Crete at Gortys.

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Ayii Dheka is really authentic … slightly tumble down with odd Roman pillars and stones lying around or having been used in more recent buildings.  The church is where the martyrs met their fate … sadly it was closed, so I could see the actual stone where they were decapitated with their knee imprints.

 

1044 – Friday 13th April:  Blimey It’s Hot … Sea Breeze Needed

We both ran in the morning 2k and 6k – excellent…  K visited the Gortys ancient site, while I cogitated.

It was so hot that we decided to head for the sea and shoot the breeze – at Matala. An unmanned and unmaintained campsite, but with electric, toilets and water – free!!!  A regular hippy colony with many pony tails – K suggested I grow one. Well, I remember 1968, flower power and Haight Ashbury – “If you’re going to San Francisco….wear some flowers in your hair”, etc. 

We were not the only Brits … We met Diane and John – fellow motorhomers from Nottingham. What happens when motorhomers meet?  Drinkypoos, of course! They’d come to Matala for 2 nights … 6 weeks ago!  This is something like their 18th trip to Greece.

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Flowers along K’s running route.

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Some fine Roman statues …

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Gortys ancient site – Ayios Titos Church 6AC: fenced off, but still remarkable.  It was Crete’s main church.

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The Odeion: the structure at the back houses the law code, dating from around 500BC.  

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The Law Code is an ancient Doric Cretan dialect and is written left to right and then right to left, so eyes can continuously follow the script.  The code is a series of rulings on specific cases.  For instance 5 witnesses were needed to convince a free man, but only one to sentence a slave.  The law covered rape, trade, children of mixed marriages and property & inheritance rights … giving historians a clear insight into the Gortys society.  

1044-1046 – Saturday 14th to Monday 16th April: 

K walked to Red Beach – whilst watching nakedbuttocksbathing – a nuddy beach!   K:  I was chatting to the parents of an ex-student in the cafe, when I suspended my train of thought … pert buttocks do that to one!   The campsite bins overflowing due to some campers being silly?  Solution?  A complete site community project to sort it!!!   We supplied the rubber gloves.  Diane and John admired our twin tub, so K Diane went into full laundrification mode… Meal in Jez – and first swim of the year – sans K9s… 

Matala was a hippy town, but the caves on one side have all been fenced off and people are charged to wander around them.  However, there are still occupied caves around the other side, plus a number camped pretty permanently with us.  One such cave dweller is Jeremy … adopted from the USA, public school educated, agricultural collage, chef trained etc etc … he has an opinion on EVERYTHING, but is well informed.

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Looking down onto Matala.  Many caves in the rock.

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Red beach.

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Matala is nothing but a tourist resort with tat shops and restaurants.  Great beach though. 

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John and Jeremy, who just happened to pass as we were hitting the gin.  He stayed to supper.  No prizes for which is the cave resident.

1047 – Tuesday 17th April: The Bikes Came Out

Running again…  Then for Corrie’s first bike ride – a total success – but we decided not to harness them in the Os-car OscarCorrie buggy as Corrie nearly strangled herself!   Kommos beach walk and lunch nearby – ice cream and more vino in Kalamaki… 

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Kommos:  we parked the bikes and walked the beach with the dogs.  Surprisingly busy given none of the 3 tavernas were open.

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Lunch in Pitsidhia:  Supposed to be a dry day! 

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Fine bone china coffee cups 🙂

 

1048 – Wednesday 18th April: Bike Ride Number 2

Cycle to Ayia Triadha and Festos. Entrances were free saving €18 – worth a good lunch – lamb for moi and chicken for K –  ‘nostimo’ – delicious in Greek.  Rental car booked as Maddy will arrive tomorrow – and I will depart on her Squeezyjetplane…..  Maddy will love Matala – shops, beach, restaurants – and Hippydom…..

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Ayia Triadha:  some of the best finds were vases, now in the Iraklio museum.  Another site where you could wander at will.

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Festos:  Busier and larger than Ayia Triadha.  The original palace was used as a foundation for a later one.  The central court had amazing views.

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