Seeing more of less.
There are times when we move on every day. Sometimes that’s the right thing to do. But after a while it wears you down.
This month we’re doing the complete opposite.
We’ve done ten nights in just three spots, and all within a 20 mile radius.
And it has been wonderful.
Strolling on a Sunday.
There was a strong wind blowing off the sea so we chose the calmer back streets of Paleochora this morning. There we caught sight of the priest hurriedly pull up his car in the middle of the street. Without turning off the ignition, or shutting the door, he rushed down the narrow footpaths as fast as his cassock would allow. We assumed to preform last rites for some ailing soul.
It wasn’t to be our only brush with death today.
After the institution of waterfront coffee, we wandered a long way along the low path that winds under the cliffs to Anidri Beach. It’s probably 45 minutes on foot, but only a few minutes in a 4×4. It’s a little paradise. None of the caravans that are slowly submerging under the sand look occupied today, but several are clearly still in use.
This French van hasn’t moved for many years, but it still looks serviceable as a home. With this view to wake to every day it’s hard to find reasons why living here isn’t worth a try.
Back in town we sought a few vegetables for dinner, but when we turned onto the main street we found a costume party in full swing.
The Orthodox hierarchy were out in force, along with a number of youngsters in fabulous traditional costume. Boys wore high boots, baggy trousers stuffed into the tops, deep cut blue capes and the wide cummerbund that holds the pistols and daggers of a Cretan ready to defend, or attack.
The clerics are majestic in their cylindrical hats, their flowing brocade copes and chasubles (robes to you and I), their display of gold is set off perfectly by a token monk in sombre habit. Long hair, long beards. They look unapproachable, but they’re clearly part of the community. Everyone greets them, there’s kissing of rings.
The procession got underway in dramatic style. We heard police sirens approaching, then saw the blue lights. Two police cars escorted a black limo that had everyone taking pictures of its guest. An elderly priest stepped out in modest black, but he was clearly THE MAN. He was surrounded by the others, there were kisses, arranging of his garb, his hair, and then finally the band struck up and they all marched off to church.
Was it a funeral? It’s hard to tell. Greeks always don black when they want to look smart.
Can you have too much ginger? I thought not, but Minty has declared peak ginger on my dahl. A generous quantity of ginger and garlic forms the basis of much real Indian cooking and I’ve been slowly ramping up the amount I use to match them. Here in Greece the ginger is fresh, juicy and packs a punch. My dahl has moved from a gentle dish to something fiery, too fiery. I’m cutting back forthwith.
The gift and the VanJuicer.
Last year in Lefkada our rented house had a simple electric juicer. It had almost daily use.
A couple of days ago in Paleochora a smiling Albanian fellow approached us and offered a bag of huge oranges, there must have been 2 kilos. He implored us to visit his beautiful country, and to take these oranges from his garden. This sort of thing happens here. It lifts your spirits on a dull day and restores your faith in your neighbours.
The gift spurred us to go in search of a manual juicer. We had in mind the sort our mums might have used for a lemon, but what we found was a whole lot better as it has the capacity to hold a pint of juice.
Such a tool is a luxury in a confined space, but with so much fruit available it makes good sense. It cost a princely €4.50, less than a café would charge for this morning’s amazing sweet fresh juice, and there are several of Alan’s oranges left for tomorrow.
Note: The country code for Albania is AL, and all their car registrations carry it, therefore all Albanians are called Alan until identified otherwise, regardless of gender.
Lad. A Yorkshire Tale.
We watched Lad. What a beautiful film. It’s the antithesis of a Hollywood blockbuster. Filmed on a pocket full of change, using local people, this coming of age tale set in North Yorkshire made me pine for England, for lost innocence and father figures.
Minty found it on Amazon Prime, but I think it’s on YouTube as well. Set aside an hour and a half. Be moved.
The road to Elafonisi.
I could think of no reason to leave Paleochra, but after ten days in the vicinity we chose to move on, knowing that we’ll be back before long.
We were twice thwarted on our previous attempts to reach the west coast gem of Elafonisi. It was time to try again.
We’re now used to rounding a corner and finding the road blocked by heavy equipment. En route to Elafonisi the block was more serious than usual. The only warning was the concrete mixers we passed on our way. Then suddenly there was one in front of us, completely blocking our way as it poured its load into the reinforcing mesh that was recreating the section of road that had fallen down the hill a few weeks earlier.
Once we were through the road block it was down hill all the way to Elafonisi. Our first glimpse of the sea told us that the 90 minutes to cover just 30 miles was going to be worth it.
What paradise is this?
The road winds on, degenerates into a track, then opens up into the strange and beautiful land that is Elafonisi.
This is sand country.
Wildly contorted lava rock has been shaped by the near constant wind blasting the sand over centuries.
Similarly contorted trees struggle against the salt and sand, few achieving more than three metres of height.
Within the bay there are a series of mini bays, each different.
And the sand.
Most of the south coast has black pebble beaches that are harder to love. Here at Elafonisi there’s a small intrusion of white limestone among the lava that creates a beach that’s perhaps 500m of white sand.
The area attracts incredibly pretty little pink shellfish, and the wash where the tiny waves lap the beach is pink with their dust.
Claims of Elafonisi being a pink and white sand beach are perhaps exaggerated, but it is undeniably pretty.
And we had it all to ourselves.
I’ve been self employed for many years and so sick days could only happen at weekends and on holidays, generally the latter. On the road we both had colds in Norway, but since then we’ve remained remarkably healthy. Until yesterday.
Yesterday a beast of a cold knocked me sideways. It came on fast, superfast, laid me low, but already this morning I’m much recovered.
Yet what a great day it was. My head was pounding so badly I couldn’t even indulge in a day of Radio 4, or bear to read a book. So I just lay there, listening to the gentle lapping of the waves, the tweeting, and the absence of man made sound. If I opened my eyes I saw blue from the windows on three sides. If I pushed myself up on an elbow I saw sand, punctuated by the bluey greens of the scrub, and just beyond it the aquamarine sea.
I may have been bored on day two, but for 24 hours it slowed me to a halt, and it proved to be a rather special experience.
How weird our memory is. I know I felt awful, yet already I remember it fondly.
Climbing from Elafonisi a couple of days later we stopped in an empty village to fill with water, and helped look after some of the grapefruit that were falling from a tree in an abandoned garden. Our morning pint is now two parts orange, one part grapefruit. More zing, and a rush of vitamin C that should get me back together.
Hopefully this will be the most extreme.
We backtracked up the west coast to join the road that had thwarted a couple of weeks back. It was yet another incredible feat of engineering that makes no economic sense and helps keep the state poor.
The narrow road clings to the cliff edge climbing above 1000m at points and offering distant views along the coast. There were many places where rubble had recently been cleared, then 30kms into the drive, with no other options other that returning to the start point we came to this.
Amazingly this road is not closed.
We waited ten minutes while the CAT shovel loaded the truck, then the driver of the CAT waved us through and gave us a toot. There were no warning signs. No Stop Go man. Just a sea of mud.
Getting out at the other side we realised that this was where we turned back when travelling in the other direction. If it has taken them two weeks to get the road to this state then the slide must have been serious indeed.
My cold drags on.
Falasarna. Still beautiful. Still windy.
Kissamos. Still random, dirty, real and exciting.
Chania. Oh Chania. Such an enchanting place. I love you. I hope I feel better tomorrow so that I can enjoy you again.
Minty is ever strong. She only catches half the viruses I attract in normal life and this week she’s had a snivel, but little more. I dislike other people having colds. I dislike mine a whole lot more.
To see and smell meat grilling in Greece is nothing unusual, but on Thursday the air was thick, blue with barbecue smoke.
We asked what was happening and were told it is a day when they like to eat meat. What’s new we thought?
Research pulled up tsiknopempti, literally smelly Thursday. It’s a nationwide meat fest as the second week before lent, and the Thursday it all goes mad. At every bar we passed men sat drinking beer (that’s rare here) and eating souvlaki.
Apparently next week is cheese week, then it’s carnival next Sunday.
Orf on the water.
This Saturday morning as I type we’re parked by the outdoor sports pools to the west of Chania.
Carl Orf’s Carmina Burana blasts from the pool’s sound system at the only volume appropriate for the piece – loud. It’s stirring stuff.
I must stop. Now. Press publish. And shuffle down the road to the morning market.