Monday, 3 August 2015

Hint of Crete: How much does a Grecian Urn?

stella palace and village analipsi crete excursion bus stopWe got up unreasonably early and were stiff due to hard beds. The shower developed a new personality flaw today when the glass screen door wouldn't stay still and closed on you when you were showering, wedging you against the taps.
crete highlights tour knossos hot dayAt breakfast I tried not to have pizza and chips due to being told off so had cereal. It turned out to be the wrong kind of milk so I didn't like it. Bud had local Cretish bread that was so hard, you could either build a wall with it or knock existing walls down with it, but we agreed that if you did build a wall out of concrete bread, the same bread wouldn't knock it down.
palace of knossos crete highlights tour excursionWe got to the bus stop on the Corniche road for our "Highlights of Crete" excursion with 6 minutes to spare. That's when Jof remembered the packed lunches we'd ordered so Bud ran back to the Poseidon restaurant to get them.
20 minutes later, the 4th bus to arrive was ours. He wouldn't let us on without the ticket from the holiday rep so Bud ran back to the hotel room to get it. There were only 3 seats left on the bus, all in different places. The tour guide got on the coach at her traditional place which was right in the middle of a busy road junction in Heraklion.
crete highlights tour knossos souvenir shopsThe first drop-off was Knossos. This Minoan palace is groovily old and very crowded. Jof had to pay to use the toilet and tickets to the ruins were 6 Euros each. Inside our tour guide held up an umbrella to show where she was so we dubbed her the Brolly Dolly.
We couldn't hear a word she was saying because of the crowds and all the cicadas so we ditched her and her valuable information and explored on our own. It has many giant Greek urns and frescoes and columns and pillars but it seems Mr Evans who excavated it all basically made up its structure and names and purposes for all the rooms as he went along, based on the most flimsy of assumptions.
Of course you can't ask the original inhabitants but all the tablets in Linear B they left behind have helped. It was very hot.
Immediately opposite the main gate is a row of Caveat Emporia. We visited about 4 of these trashy souvenir shops and got some booty and 2 medallions and an evil eye and fridge magnet, because you have to. I didn't get any of the numerous playing cards sets with sexytime scenes in ancient Greek style, don't want to have them confiscated at school.
At the bus stop, the Brolly Dolly said the coach had developed an air conditioning fault and in 5 minutes, a double-decker replacement coach would arrive to continue our journey. It only took 15, a fairly reserved example of the Greek '5 minutes'.
moni agiou apanosifis crete From there we zoomed along arid hilltops through tiny villages to the Monastery of St George. The countryside looks dry but it's covered in olive groves and vineyards and half-finished buildings and abandoned shacks of laughable build quality.
Along any road you should also expect to see mini churches (there are 2 in the hotel grounds alone) which are leftovers from when the Ottomans were in charge and also because it takes a while to get to a town big enough to have a real church if you're only on a donkey.
Also there are numerous metal mini-shrines with a couple of icons and dead flowers, only the size of a box on a pole. These are the sites of road accident deaths and they persist because it's just not the done thing to remove them. Ever.
moni agiou apanosifis crete highlights tourThe Monastery was started in 1865 but most of it is clearly from 1987 (dated gatepost) but we liked the many fruit trees and birds and herbs in giant pots and urns and wasps by the fishpond. Avocado trees really are enormous.
moni agiou epanosifi 4 monastery bellsIn the main church it's very goldy and spangly and some of their ornaments are trench-art Bofors 40mm shell cases. Jof went up the pulpit ladder and there are swords and pictures of St George spiking some innocent Wurm everywhere.
Outside they have a foursome of old bells and on one of them we had our first sight of an actual cicada, scratching away. It's the little lump on the right hand bell striker, see close-up, it looks like a giant brown Drosophila fruit fly.
Back on the coach, the next place was a family-owned winery and Raki distillery. We ate our packed lunches to piped wailing and Cretish Balalaika music in the barn surrounded by ancient farm implements including a damaged typewriter.
crete highlights tour family owned winery and distilleryAll the olds got to try Raki with pomegranate or lemon and I poured wine out of immense barrels and strummed the hell out of a Balalaika and all of a sudden it was back in the bus.
The last stop was the Nikos Ploumakis pottery workshop. We walked in past vast stacks of urns and he threw 2 pots right in front of us, starting with a lump of greenish clay and magically pulling it upwards into some really big shapes like a Tony Hart animation.
When he said can we have a volunteer I hid behind Jof but as soon as some other kid made (and got to keep) his own pot, of course I wanted a go and made one with a big lip, serious overbite. With a deft flick of his 30-year-experienced hands, he made it look sensible and I kept it!
nikos ploumakis pottery thrapsano crete We bought some more booty in the shop and I got another free urn! We stuck sweatily to the coach seats on the way back and the bus broke down again but not for long.
We got back at 6 and fell into the pool. At supper the pork was a bit chewy so I stuck with pizza and spaghetti and later we sat in reception and read books while the dancing entertainment went on in the amphitheatre and we stole some cushions in the hope that they would be more comfortable than the normal bed pillows.
We fixed the errant shower door by wedging a make-up removal sponge under it and the broken hairdryer just needed re-attaching.

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