1733-1877: Resident in Greece

3rd December 2020 – 26th April 2021

OK, so Im playing Blog Catch Up, in a big way!

A Tale of Two Houses

The Drapanos house was a Winter let and we wanted a permanent tenancy contract for when we came to convert the beige floppy bit of card (Photo attached with a single staple) to the credit card style biometric residency card.  So after the Christmas and New Year festivities we started house hunting.  It was all a bit gloomy to start as so many places would allow not dogs.  And if they did, they had to be housed outside.  The Greeks don’t have the concept of ‘pet’ like us.  Can you imagine our pampered pooches being tethered day and night outside?  Not happening.  Having put a post on FaceBook a UK based lady made contact and suggested we look at her house in Almyrida.  We shot over there as we were just about to sign on the dotted line for another house.  It was filthy but I could see through the dirt.  James took my word for it.  This house was cheaper and bigger … and didn’t have a pool as we didn’t want the expense of the maintenance.  So we went for it.

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Leftheris Villa:  Our winter home.

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Not a bad place to do Pilates.

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It’s a dog’s life!

The new tenancy contract ran from the start of February, so we had two months of double rent.  Expensive, but it allowed us to stay over in our mountain retreat the we were meeting up with Drapanos friends.  We had access to the new house for a week before we moved in … just as well as we had to move cockroaches and other bugs out!  The house had not really been lived in for some years and the basement flat was particularly bad.  Even when we left to come back to the UK, we were still sweeping up stinky worms daily despite spraying to terminate them … twice.  Our two set of Drapanos friends are kindly checking on the house fortnightly and Julia sends me pix of the worms they are still sweeping up!  They don’t actually do any harm, but climb walls and stink if squished.

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Just YUK! 

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The Almyrida house  (our half is this side) … no name or even a street name.  Tried to send a letter to myself … we think Hassan’s Cafe now takes in post.  The garden is dog proof … Oscar would have been out if he could have found a way.

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We had to buy a few items of furniture … this one is a chest of drawers … I won’t reveal how long it took to assemble!  Or that the missing part was found tacked under J’s shoe!!

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CO2 have their end of the sofa …

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They’re very comfortable there.

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We made good use of this!

We really love the house, not just because it is relatively inexpensive but it has a warm vibe, views of the sea and the White Mountains, which have snow until June.  The basement is virtually a self contained flat for guests.  We’ve put a desk in there so I also use it as the study.  We live mostly on the ground floor: lounge / kitchen with double doors through to a covered terrace.  Our bedroom upstairs has an en suite and a large balcony with even better views.  There is a difficult neighbour …. shame!

 

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Our first aperitif on the upstairs balcony.

As part of the rent, we do some maintenance.  So this year, we’ve cleared both levels of the garden and planted herbs.  Well, Spiros did all the hard work.  He also supplied us with a generous ton of logs for next winter.  We have a trade … cakes from me and oranges, raki (sure is strong) and wine.  He also supplies really high quality olive oil.  Apparently the average Greek family will consume about 80 litres p.a.  Stupidly, I did not bring enough when we return to the UK and I’ve had to buy expensive supermarket oil … really nothing like as good.  Oh, and we’ve also had all the wooden shutters, doors and windows re-varnished … in some cases they had to be glued back together first as they really were in a poor state of repair.  Looking good now … 

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Spiros handiwork … you couldn’t walk between the over growth.  Discovered 3 lemon trees and a small orange tree. 

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Basement garden.

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Thats a lot of G&Ts!

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New stones coming for the garden … amazed the truck didn’t roll down the steep hill.

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Herbs … had to do a fair bit of weeding before the new stones were laid.

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The first orange blossom in our garden.

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Shutters, doors and windows being repaired and painted.

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Looking good.

Walking

With such amazing and varied scenery we continued to do some new and revisit other walks.  With lockdown there were usually restrictions about not walking with others.  At one point we couldn’t even drive elsewhere for exercise.   We had planned to do odd trips over the island, but Covid …

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Finally some Autumn leaves.

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View from one of our regular walks.

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Another monumental olive tree …

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… Oscar inside it!

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Socialising

With lockdown, events / fund raisers etc have all been cancelled, so we have only been socialising with a few people where we could.  We were allowed to meet up for Christmas and New Year … spent both with Drapanos friends.  Karl and Julia are amazing cooks so the food ain’t too shoddy!  Restaurants and cafes closed, but most were open for take aways.  Our favourite restaurant in Drapanos, Eleanora’s, supplied us pretty much weekly.  But we also liked a chicken dinner from the souvlakerie or grill in Kalives.  Restrictions lifted just as we left to return to the UK!!!

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Michelle kindly loaned us a Christmas tree.  Other decorations had come with us in our motorhome Christmas shoe box.

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Favorite takeaway:  Grilled fish from Eleanora’s …. and it’s all MINE, MINE!  J likes the battered fish.

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Visiting the wine cave for the Christmas purchases was an experience … lots of tastings and spent far too much money!

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Christmas Day.

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And I opened my stocking from the Aged P’s.  They buy items for Clare and my stockings on their annual travels.  This year not many countries … South Africa, Switzerland, France and of course UK.

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Not a work of art, though it was.  Karl is an amazing cook … passionate about it.  His Christmas dinner was something special.

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I tried to compete with New Year’s Eve canapés.  We had to celebrate NY early due to 9.00 p.m. curfew … But it was midnight in Pakistan!

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Julia patronises a particularly good patisserie  … this is the traditional New Year cake … one lucky person finds a coin, if they don’t crack a tooth on it.  James was that lucky person and he still has the coin.

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Cake lady with Valentine cakes!

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Julia and Ant loaned us a proper monopoly board … shouldn’t have challenged them to a game … she has a killer instinct!

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We started to feel a bit low and slow with persistent lockdown.  So we had a few Planning Picnics in a lovely bay.  Working on the principle that if you have a diary full, even with chores, the time passes more positively.

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I think the incredible water colour where we had the Planning Meetings helped lift our mood too.

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Gillian and I spotted the “How much is that doggy in the window?”

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Painting project:  Gillian wanted to reduce some of the wood effects in her house … so we attacked them with chalk paint and effects.  She was a quick learner and was soon going solo.

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With so much live stock CO2 have had to show restraint!

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We had a few appointments in Chania and walked back along the Venetian Harbour just before Christmas.


Residency

Having got our beige residency permits in November, I had to change mine to a biometric come the new year.  James, Ireland being in the EU, keeps his floppy beige card for 5 years.  It will be rather dog eared by then.  To get my credit card sized card, I had three trips to the main Police Station in Chania … submit the forms, documents and evidence of payment, come back for digital finger printing (not sure why this couldn’t be done at the same time) and then to collect the card.  Lots of horror stories of folk having the wrong documents and leaving it post 31.12.20 to apply.  And different Police Stations wanting different documents.  So it was a jubilant moment when I collected mine.

Both J and I have 5 year residency permits.  During this time we have to spend a minimum of 6 months p.a. in Greece.  No hardship!  After 5 years, we can apply for 10 year and have more freedom to be away from Greece.  

An important benefit of an EU residency for us, is that we have the right to transit through EU countries between Greece and the UK.  

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Car Repatriation And Introducing Zorba

We drove to Greece in October 2020 in the old Merc estate.  This normally lives on the Aged P’s driveway so we have a car when in the UK.  Dad’s function (not his sole function, you understand!) is to drive it regularly, MOT, pump air into tyres etc.  Mum’s task is all the admin!  Post Brexit, UK registered vehicles can only be in the EU for a total of 6 months.  Pre-Brexit it was 6 months before country before you were supposed to import it.  As we’d arrived in Greece before Brexit, the old rules applied … in other words we had to get it out of Greece before mid April.  We had planned to drive it back ourselves and return in the motorhome, but were nervous due to Covid. In hindsight, we need not have been … I subsequently found a FB group called Roadtrip to UK from Greece and Back … folk detailing their own trips.  And there were quite a number making the trip.  I’d put a FB post out there asking if anyone wanted to drive it back to the UK and we would pay costs.  Julia suggested asking the animal charities.  There are SO MANY abandoned dogs and puppies here and a number of charities work tirelessly to re-home them.  Greeks don’t pay to neuter dogs or cats, and the pups are often found in bags in skips or boxes underneath.  Often lobbed out into car parks.  So if anyone is interested in a new pet, PLEASE DON’T PAY £1000’S FOR ONE THAT PROBABLY CAME FROM A PUPPY FARM … LET ME KNOW!

Cretan Animal Protection operate out of the UK.  Carl left his van on the Aged P’s driveway.  After a delay as he’d tried to catch his flight to Crete with and NHS covid test (duh!), he stayed the night with us.  Next day took his PCR test locally, 4 dogs delivered and caught the 5.00 ferry to the mainland.  After a second over night crossing, he arrived in Ancona, Italy giving himself 26 hours to make it to Calais for his tunnel reservation.  He dropped one dog in Belgium on the way … left the car on the Aged P’s driveway in the middle of the night and then delivered the other 3 pups.  He caught a few hours sleep here and there en route and survived on Monster energy drinks!

Expensive at £1200, but it would have cost us £1500 to use a freight company.  It got the car back to the care of father and gave us peace of mind.  

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Two of the pups being re-homed.

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If she can go on the sofa, so can I!  But that’s not the dog section!!!

In January we bought a Greek car.  You can add about 30% to what you would expect to pay in the UK … it hurts.  Our choice was limited as we wanted enough boot space for CO2 to lie down.  Road tax is around EUR200 for 1.4 litre, but as soon as you go over 2 litre, you’re looking at EUR1000 p.a.  So we have Zorba a Skoda Roomster.   Dull as ditchwater, but a very functional, if underpowered (1.2 engine), run around, which has to get us to the UK.  Prior to setting off for England, we had Zorba checked out by a garage … needed a new timing belt & water pump, brake pads & disks and new tyres and we put new wheels on whilst we were at it.  We bought a dog!!!  So underpowered and VERY EXPENSIVE!

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Zorba.

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The Merc had a flat … the same chap that sold us new wheels and tyres did rather well out of us … we ended up with 4 new tyres for the Merc too.


CO2 BONUS PIX

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1382-1387: ‘Ela of a Place

1382: A Birthday and Open Mic Night

Monday 16th December

Katherine’s birthday…..

Nice walk with CO2 amongst olive groves and cypress woods. K opened her gifts – from family and moi. Michelle from Icarus restaurant (and Michaelis) brought a surprise gift – a lovely Cretan necklace!

Late afternoon – we moved Jez to Almyrida for the open mic night. Lots of good music – including “Happy Birthday” for K – and a birthday candle from Capt Jacks!

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An Ottoman water fountain on our walk.

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Dodgy alcofrolic shot and candle from Captain Jacks.

1383: Castration and Dinner Guests

Tuesday 17th December.

Well, Oscar didn’t realise what was happening (just as well) – he sort of lost his ‘thingies’ – had to wear the ‘cone’ lightshade worst! But the vet was great in Kalyves.  Later in the afternoon, he was real pain in spite of getting painkillers in the morning. I drove him straight to the vets again – another painkiller – and this settled him – we muzzled him instead of the cone…..

Evening saw us entertaining Julia and Anthony – motor homing friends from Drapanos – lively chats and some vino… for James, K was dry after the excesses of yesterday!

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Wrinkly scrotum.

1384: Chores

Wednesday 18th December.

Kalyves again – our most visited spot in Crete – K got the twin tub out – for laudrificationing!  I washed the HandyPandyCar and cleaned the inside – oh and morning coffee at Ari’s “Fresh and Cool” cafe – chats with the regulars…..  K recce’d our nightly parking for Christmas Day in Drapanos – kindly provided by friends of Julia and Anthony!  We will eat in “Eleanoras” restaurant – our favourite in the area…booked by K.

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A couple of older ladies stopped to admire the twin tub  nostalgia on their part?

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And a conveniently closed  cafe as the drying deck.

1385-1386: Elafonisi 

Thursday 19th – Friday 20th December

Beautiful scenic drive down through the mountains – to Elafonisi……  Little did we know what awaited us! Normally, we would recce a dodgy road – alas not this time – oh no! The access road was a “Strada Horribilissimo”!!!  Craters, fissures – oh and some road surface as well. K bounced down in Jez – I followed in Pandacar and watched as she wobbled and straddled the obstacles – we have never seen such a road in all our travels! We later lay awake dreading the uphill journey – watched the forecast avidly as rain would effectively imprison us there for days…  Stunning place though – one of the very best – we’ve said in about most of Crete…

Brian obligingly cooked supper – caulifloweriness and cheesely – noshtimo!

Next morning saw us joining the road gang – repairing the ‘volcanic’ craters – or so they seemed to us – Michael from Germany had started patching already – we rolled boulders – big on top and small to fill in – in 2 different places. Not exactly Dept of Transport Chapter 8 and BD68 (I’m giving away my work background) – but it looked good!  

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This is a panorama shot zoomed in to where Oscar was moving  could replicate this effect! 

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Places have a light dusting of fine pink sand, from coral and shells.

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The Lagoon.

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Soft fine sand  and dunes.

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1387: Getting Out and On to Sfinari 

Monday 16th December

K had a rather early morning walk – we needed to get up the hill asap!  Brian went first and had one place where he had to roll back and have a second go – K took 3 attempts int he same place … and I andycarred uphill….  K started up – traction control on – and raised rear suspension – raised nerves and adrenaline – and buttclenchingness….. but guided by Brian and moi – it all worked ‘straddlingly’.   K:  I was shaking by the time I got to the top!

Hugely welcome coffee – and then the most amazing drive to Sfinari – now parked up along stony beach in Cretan sunshine – not a pothole in sight. We never want to see such crazy craters again. Oscar and Corrie were completely unfazed by the whole experience….

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Elafonisi in early (for me!) morning light. 

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View back from the island … sand causeway.

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Straddled!

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A little of the road repair.

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 Part of the route up to Sfinari, looking back down to Elafonisi – the hazy bit in the distance.

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Corrie on the beach at Sfinari.

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Brian believes Zoa is looking for fish, I think he’s checking out his reflection!

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Nor see this one before … looks like cabbage leaves.

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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.