Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

199712 Greece – Crete

MONDAY 1 DECEMBER 1997 – It’s a rainy day so we take a walk into the new part of Chania and find a man who repairs “Mitac” computers and another shop to check out the camcorder problems.  Reckon I am already starting to really like Chania. 



TUESDAY 2 DECEMBER – We wake up to rain so doss around watching videos until it brightens up.  Steve is suddenly inspired to clean the van, as it is the dirtiest it has ever been.  Make use of a huge rainwater puddle and soon have it looking nice and clean. 



WEDNESDAY 3 DECEMBER – A pleasant day so we stroll around the harbour then via the Venetian port to the town park complete with “mini zoo” (a bit of an exaggeration as all they have are budgies labelled up as small parrots).  Outside the park there is a lot of activity at a crossroads.  Road works have ground to a halt after ancient ruins have been discovered.  As we watch an archaeological team are there unearthing skeletons and these are photographed from every angle before being removed.  A man sits at a make shift desk cataloguing all the finds.  They only have a couple of days to excavate before the hole must be filled in to enable to road to be finished.  Explore the war museum and archives and check out the Samaria Hotel for my birthday.  Late afternoon we drive back to the car park behind the beach just west of Chania.  The park is very popular with joggers and cyclists and again locals are swimming in the sea.  We just sit out, read and play board games then feel guilty later.



THURSDAY 4 DECEMBER – A nice sunny day so before reading and playing games we make ourselves take a long walk.



FRIDAY 5 DECEMBER – My 41st birthday and I hot day so I take a birthday swim in the sea (but not in my birthday suit).  I receive a very funny birthday card from Netty “How do you spot the most attractive man in a nudist colony? – Then inside it says, “He’s carrying 2 glasses and 12 doughnuts” and a picture showing how.  I chuckle for ages.  For my birthday Steve has booked us into the Samaria Hotel 16,000 Drs (£35) with a double bed and bathtub.  Early afternoon we check in and I’m soon to be found wallowing in the bath sipping champagne.  In the evening we go to an “authentic” Chinese restaurant with a Japanese name and Thai staff and have a super meal.  We follow this up with a visit to the cinema to see “Airforce One”.  Collect the camera and it comes as no surprise to find the bill is for the maximum of the possible prices quoted, 23,000Drs (£50).  Fit in another bath before bed.



SATURDAY 6 DECEMBER – A last soak in the bath before breakfast.  Pig out on the hotel buffet and promise ourselves to eat less and exercise more starting tomorrow!  The computer shop cannot get the part to mend my laptop and the cable has still not been returned from Athens.  We don’t want to hang around on the chance of it arriving on Monday so set out to explore more of the island.  The road east via Souda towards Rethimno is great but as soon as we turn off this and head south we are back on terrible winding mountain roads that take us through to Imbross Gorge.  After what seems like hours we emerge on the south coast at stop at Frangokastelo fort before continuing east to Plakias.  En route Steve is amused to see a football pitch full of sheep and reckons it must be Sheepfield Wednesdays home ground and maybe they are playing the Derby Rams (groan groan)!  In Plakias we see a strange vehicle parked at the back of the beach.  A sort of cross between an armoured car, truck, jeep and land rover.  It’s Bernard and Noa’s motorhome built by Bernard many years ago o travel round Africa.  He is German and Noa is from Israel but they converse in English.  He is now a writer but previously was the manager of Steppenwolf group and a star of a BBC programme “On the road again” featuring him in his van touring Africa.   We learn all this after inviting them into our motorhome for drinks so once again we have interesting company and a change to pick up travel tips.  The night is very windy and rainy, not good news as the south coast usually gets the best of the weather.



SUNDAY 7 DECEMBER – It’s still windy but there is no rain so we take a walk along the promenade into town.  We can imagine that in summer it would be a busy little place but just now there is only one supermarket open.  Back in the van I am upset to see that we have trodden tar onto our new Turkish rugs. In he absence of proper cleaner the Bulgarian vodka does a good job and is probably a cheaper spirit to use.  Another wild night with wind and rain.



MONDAY 8 DECEMBER – Drive north and a much better road to Rethimno where we park just outside town.  Walk in to see Porta Goura, Rimondi fountain, Venetian loggia and to look inside the ancient fortress.  Lots of rain again but it still beats being at home in England working.  Phoned computer shop and they can’t get a cable from Athens but will return the faulty one and try and get an electrician to repair it.  We drive back towards Chania but turn off to Lake Kournas, the only lake on Crete.  It has stopped raining and we really appreciate our peaceful surrounding with the mountains reflected on the multi colour lake.  Put on he boiler and enjoy and nice hot bath, lotus style. 



TUESDAY 9 DECEMBER – Rain during the night combined with last nights bath has left us with a condensation problem, as we have been unable to open the window or roof vents.  I make some Christmas decorations, paper chains cut out from the coloured pages of magazines and Blue Peter style lanterns.  Steve goes for a walk whilst I’m doing this, he thinks it’s all too sad and leaves me along with my Christmas music tape blaring away.  The restaurant opposite has allowed us to park up so we go in for a meal and a snack.  The menu in English advertises many cocktails including a “rasty neil”!  Our first few choices for food are unavailable to I settle on a chip omelette and Steve a mushroom omelette.  Shortly after the man comes out and says he is sorry but they only have enough eggs for one omelette.  Quick thinking Steve saves the day by bringing three eggs in from the van.  Two chip omelettes arrive so we guess that mushrooms are also off.  We are very surprised when a couple walk in and begin talking in English.  Steve and Laura are Americans and he works on the NATO base on Akrotiri whilst she is here on holiday from Florida.  Her Aunt has an RV and she is keen to know about ours so we invite them back to our motorhome for coffee after the meal.  Once again they turn out to be interesting company and we pick up information about John’s garage near Chania where they may be able to service the van.  Steve also tells us about lots of interesting caves in the area and offers to show us some.  There is no doubt in our minds that although we are seeing some great sights on our travels it is the people we are meeting who are making the trip so special. 



WEDNESDAY 10 DECEMBER – Steve told us about a cave near Kournas but the Taverna with the maps is closed.  Settle for a visit to Aspera site with water cisterns and a Turkish fort.  Find John’s garage near Chania.  John is Greek but lived and worked in Toronto for 20 years.  Within minutes the oil and filter change are in progress and we are making arrangements for the rest of the service to be done once we have obtained the fuel filter and other required parts.  He only charges us the oil (very expensive in Greece at 1,500Drs (£3.30 litres) and we need 11 litres) as he says he just enjoys company and speaking English.   Spend the afternoon on our regular beach having a few hours sunbathing.  At the computer shop where we get the computer back but in order to trace the problem (which was due to wires connected incorrectly) they have disconnected nearly all the wires.  Originally you couldn’t charge the battery but now I’m worse off as it won’t work from the mains either.  American Steve lives on he west side of the Akrotiri Peninsula at Ag Onoufries, which has a blue flag beach where we can park.  Walk up to Steve’s house and sink a few beers before Steve & Laura come down to the motorhome for a meal.  Plan a caving expedition for tomorrow.  Laura goes back to Florida Saturday and offers to buy the parts we need for the RV and post them to Steve, as it will be the quickest and cheapest way for us to get them.  I try to get into the Christmas spirit by playing festive music and serving dinner on Christmas paper plates with matching serviettes, Steve gives up in despair. 



THURSDAY 11 DECEMBER – Steve calls to pick us up in his Trans Am sports car (the bath tub lotus positions comes in handy in the back seats).  Our first stop is the Goubernetou monastery, in the process of being renovated.  An interesting sight in the courtyard is an orange and lemon tree (the lemon tree has been grafted onto the orange tree) and this produces both types of fruit plus a third fruit the size of an orange but shape of a lemon.  Further on we park up and hike to the cave of the bear, named after a rock formation inside that looks like a bear climbing up into the holy bathing pool.  It’s a lovely warm day and the blue skies intensify the beautiful surroundings.  We continue down a hill and after quite a hike reach the ruins of the abandoned monastery of Katholiko.  The cave of John the hermit is here and it runs inwards for about 150 metres.  We are prepared with torches and old clothes and set out to explore.  Someone has marked the passage with a rope but we still feel like explores as we clamber through.  It’s very different to a tourist cave with floodlights and marked paths, much more exciting.  Reach the end where this is a small church complete with altar, icons, crosses and candles.  Rather spooky and we couldn’t imagine any Muslims climbing in and out 5 times a day to pray.  It’s warm in the cave and we feel quite tired by the time we emerge.  Explore the ruins of the monastery before setting of back.  Laura points out geep droppings and explains they are from a creature that is a cross of a goat and sheep and very common on the island.  Back at Steve’s we enjoy real American hamburgers whilst watching a video of American football, Minnesota Vikings (Steve’s team as he is from Minneapolis) V Green Bay Packers.  I enjoy the game so much that I spend most of the time on the porch sunbathing. 



FRIDAY 12 DECEMBER – In Iraklion we collect mail from the Amex offices.  It’s very exciting to pick up letters and cards from Mum, Mavis and Trevor, Netty and Carol.  The Christmas cards get stuck on the bathroom door to add to the festive flavour.  Look at a few of the tourist sites but it’s very busy in town and the sun is beckoning.  The tourist information office tells us there is an LPG station at Amoudara Beach.  Find the garage easily but by the time we have parked by the beach the clouds have rolled in.  Walk along the back of the beach to check out the 5* Candia Maris Hotel with a view to stopping there at Christmas.  It’s very nice with bowling, snooker, swimming pool and fitness centre but too expensive for us.  They are advertising a ten pin-bowling tournament tonight at 9pm and the receptionist says we can join in.  Walk back past the van to the French owned Continent Hypermarket where we decide to pick up one or two things.  There’s a great choice and prices are low so the basket rapidly fills up.  End up going back for the van so we can buy a trolley full of stuff.  They are offering lots of free samples, beer, wine, coco pops, biscuits, cheese and crackers, no need to cook tonight!  Wine is sold from the barrel.  By the side of it are empty 1 ½ litre plastic bottles and you can fill one for 390Drs (85p), after sampling them all to decide which one you like best.  Can’t decide so buy some of each.  Next door is a BHS and Marks & Spencers store but prices are much higher than in England.  Return to the Hotel Candia Maris for bowling but no one else shows up, not surprising as there are only 13 people staying in the whole hotel.  The Manager says we can stay and bowl and charges us at total of 600Drs (£13) for 3 games each instead of 900Drs (£20).  Steve wins our tournament but there are no prizes.



SATURDAY 13 DECEMBER – Catch the local bus into Iraklion, 160Drs (35p) rather than drive, as the traffic is really bad.  No more mail at the Amex office but the man there says any large envelopes may be at the Post Office but this isn’t open until Monday.  Wander around and take in a few more sights but once again the heat tempts us back to the beach.  Back at the van the clouds are playing games with us so we return to the hypermarket for more wine and lots more beer as it has just come on special offer at 18p a can.  Following our shop we dine on French bread, pate and cheese washed down with some rose wine – could easily be back in France.  Steve tunes in the TV to catch he football match, Chelsea v Leeds, but with no sound.  His Greek is improving as he translates the scores flashed on the screen MΠAPMEΛEI versus NIOYKAΣTA = Barnsley versus Newcastle.



SUNDAY 14 DECEMBER – Back on tour we first visit the 4000 years old Minoan site of Knossos just south of Iraklian.  1500 Drs (£3.30) admission normal but free on Sundays as are all the sites in Greece.  There’s hardly anyone around.  It’s a very large impressive site with remains of the ancient palace, pillars, frescoes and staircases etc.  We follow this us by returning to Iraklion to check out the archaeological museum where treasures from Knossos are displayed and there’s also a wooden model of how the site would have looked.  As we need to be in Iraklion tomorrow we find a parking spot just East of the city at Amnisos Beach, near the airport. I sit and catch up with the diary and Steve goes out for a walk and returns with a gem.  He saw a nice hotel and went in to see if they were going to be open a Christmas.  Steve asked the receptionist but she only spoke Greek and German.  Fortunately Steve understood enough German to figure out that she was saying it was a hotel for woman i.e. a brothel – confirmed when he saw a girl in a flimsy dressing gown appear in the lobby.  He never did get an answer to his question!  Move along the beach to a spot Steve has found nearer to Iraklion.  Phone Claire and she tells us we are now the owners of a Bahamas International Business Company, bought on Barry’s advise to enable us to offset capital gains tax. Back in the van a scooter pulls up at about 9pm and the driver tells us he is locking he car park but we are welcome to stay provided we don’t want to leave before 10am.  We wanted to leave early tomorrow so end up returning to our original spot at the eastern end of Amnisos Beach



MONDAY 15 DECEMBER – torrential rain, thunder and lightening wake me at 6am.  Steve is eventually woken (more likely by my fidgeting) but manages to doze on and off.  Finally get up at 8am to drive back to Iraklion.  The Amex office has now received a letter for us postmarked 21st November and presumed by us to have been lost. Apparently anything A4 size or bigger takes much longer than the normal week to get here.  Sounds Greek to me but gives us hope for 2 more envelopes we are expecting.  Phone Claire and find out that David is in trouble yet again.  Last night he got drunk, overturned a car and ended up in a fight.  Discussing how to deal with it causes Steve and I to fall out and I storm ahead back to the van.  Steve loses sight of me and falls back on our rule that if we get split up we go back to the last place where we were together and wait.  All well and good except that I haven’t got split up.  Very much later he reappears at the van by which time I have calmed down but he has flared up.  Maybe we should go back to England to sort David out so drive to the airport but the only flights are via Athens and Heathrow, very expensive at £300 and few seats available.  Speak to Claire again and decide there is nothing we can do wherever we are.   Drive east and turn off to Malia archaeological site 800Drs (£1.65) but closed today.  Park up at the Sun Hotel on the beach where there is a huge sign promoting free beach, free parking, free showers and free toilet.  The hotel is closed and under normal circumstances we would be delighted finding such a spot but we are not in the mood to appreciate it. Steve takes a hike and I clean the van.  Steve returns and hits the whisky and I get stuck into a huge bar of Cadbury’s chocolate. – Strange how we both cope differently with stress!





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