Well it’s now been over two weeks since Yineka-Mou and I arrived in Crete, and I haven’t written a word since…. just too busy! Doing what I hear you ask, and to tell you the truth I’m not really sure. A couple of days a week I go to language school, and YM has joined a gymnasium, and the time seems to fly by….
Right now we are staying a couple of nights at a place called Milia, which is about two hours drive away from our house in Chania. It’s a tiny little settlement way up in the mountains above the Topolia gorge in the foothills of the White Mountains ( Lefko Ora) in Western Crete. It’s not that easy to find, being literally, off the beaten track ( the last 3 kilometres you drive on a narrow dirt road which clings to the side of the mountain) but of course, with the aid of my new TomTom gps device installed in the hire car, we managed to find it without too many dramas.
This place is a cross between a traditional Cretan village, and a ‘greenie’ mountain retreat, and with its 14 stone built rooms, spread down the valley, Milia looks kinda like it was built by ‘hobbit’s’. The story is, this village was abandoned sometime last century, and the buildings were left ruined. During WW2, and after the ‘Invasion of Crete’ by the Nazi’s, the locals used the village to hide fleeing allied soldiers, including Anzacs, who were trying to get over the mountains to the south coast and eventually rescue by boat to Egypt. No wonder the Germans couldn’t find them, this place is really hidden away….. as well, the Krauts didn’t fancy venturing out into the mountains too often, for fear of being ambushed by the Cretan mountain men, ( and women!) all of whom were armed to the teeth and strongly disliked these intruders! A really good book about the wartime history of Crete is by Antony Beevon and is available thru Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Crete-1941-The-Battle-Resistance/dp/0143126423 and also worth reading is the book by Paddy Fermor ( a legend in Crete) called ‘Abducting a General’, when the resistance captured a German General, General Kreipe….. Boys own stuff!
No such problem today, as it seems that many of the guests here are from Germany, and are made welcome by the locals, or so it seems. I doubt that Mrs Merkel would be made so welcome though. OK….that’s enough of politics, it’ll get you into trouble as Yineka-Mou found out after a particularly long lunch on Monday here, when she became embroiled in a discussion ( some would say argument) about the German PM and her refugee policy, with a few of these same German guests…. In the interests of diplomacy, I needed to intervene before it came to YM snatching an old shotgun off the wall and re-enacting some of the past history from ’42….
But back to our arrival at Milia…. and those of you who are aware of YM’s normal custom of refusing the first room offered, won’t be surprised to hear that naturally enough, the room that Zoran showed us to was not to her satisfaction ( I thought it was pretty good actually) and so he then showed us, no kidding’ The Honeymoon Suite’, which of course YM just loved. I asked how much extra it was and was told by Zoran ( no, not a Greek, he’s from Serbia) that as the phones were down, ” I let you know in the morning what difference will be….ok !! ” Well OK then Zoran, that sounds like a really good deal mate, so we’ll take it.” ….. and with that clinched he shows us the way back to the restaurant.
The restaurant/ bar/ common room here dishes up some really delicious organic food, all grown locally, as well as organic wine, and plenty of non-organic FIX beer.
So there we are, it’s a nice sunny Sunday afternoon and we are sitting on the balcony contemplating lunch, when a couple at a near-by table, a Greek couple, invited us to join them at their table for lunch. It could have been because they recognised that we shared mutual interests …. namely drinking and eating and having fun. Naturally we accepted their offer, and pretty soon with our new friends we became the noisiest table in the restaurant, which up until then had been about as quiet as a monastery. Andonis INSISTED we try the red wine from the barrel, which he said was very special and also ” Poli Aurea’ …. Very good! Well I don’t know about that Andonis, but have to admit that after the second ‘kilo’ of wine we drank, it began to taste a little better! Unless you order a bottle, you order wine by asking for a ‘ tetarto’ a quarter of a kilo, ‘miso kilo’ a half kilo, or just a ‘ kilo kokkino krassi parakalo’ roughly translated as bring me a litre of red wine in a jug. Anyway, we shared a delicious meal of tiropitaki ( mini cheese pies) Choritiki salata ( Greek Salad) rabbit, goat, lamb etc and good few Kilos (κιλά ) of Krassi ( wine). In Crete they have a curious, but wonderful, custom…. When you ask for the bill in order to pay, they then bring to the table a small bottle of Tsikoudia, its not unlike Raki, and some plates of desert, always ‘on the house’….. and if you refuse, they can get quite upset….and an upset Cretan is not something you want! I reckon that this Tsikoudia can send you crazy though, and is so strong it could strip paint ( which accounts for why it tastes like paint stripper maybe ….don’t tell them that though) and if I were an Indian ( cough…red Indian…cough) I’d call it firewater….. but I’m already beginning to develop a taste for it even so. It comes in at between 40% to 60% alcohol by volume , and Andonis, not satisfied with the freebie, ordered another one for, in his words ‘the road’!
Unlike us, Andonis and Vickie were not staying at Milia, and so after we finished off desert and the extra bottle of Tsikoudia, at about seven o’clock they had to leave to drive back to Chania. Despite our urging that it was probably wiser to stay the night….. I was worried about their safety, after all, the roads were very narrow and twisty, and I found them quite a challenge even when sober, Andoni insisted it wasn’t a problem. OK Andoni, no worries then, and so we bid them a Kalo Taxidi with a promise to meet later in the week in Chania ( should they make it back down the mountain in one piece!)
Well I don’t know about Andoni, but I found it quite a challenge just to find my way from where he’d parked his car back to our room romantic suite in the village. One of the joys of this place, at least in Winter and Spring, are the big open fires they have in the room. The management had not only thoughtfully provided us with a big bin of wood etc , but had already set up the fireplace with wood and sticks , and it only required me to light a match to it, and within minutes we had a roaring fire going.
After rearranging the furniture around, we sat on the sofa enjoying the fire, the peaceful surrounds and a couple ( or maybe more) glasses of that special red wine we’d bought at the restaurant…..and then promptly fell asleep.
It was probably because the fire had gone out and the room began to get colder that made us wake us up a few hours later…. but at 10:30 at night the restaurant had already closed….. and as the next closest restaurant open at this hour was back in Chania, nothing else to do but climb into bed…. Kalinichta. ( Good night) Or maybe not, as in the middle of the night, about 3 am I believe, I’m awoken by YM who’s complaining about a cold draught. ” you go and look” I say, as I’m quite comfortable thanks. She gets out of bed to investigate the source of this cold breeze, and returns a few minutes later to tell me that we’d ( I’d ) forgotten to close the front door and it is wide open. “den mi Pirazei’ as they say in Greece… ” never mind”, at least out here we don’t have to worry about burglars or rapists….or terrorists!
Slept like a baby the rest of the night, but the weirdest thing happens in the morning when I try to open the door to go outside. It won’t open, no matter how much I try…. God knows what YM did to it in the night, but it won’t bloody budge, try as I may. OMG we are locked in. Despite my faculties being on a go slow for whatever reason, I still had the nonce to remember this is the honeymoon suite, and it has a back door ( yeah, I know this is Greece, but try not to read into that too much OK) . No, really, there is another door at the rear of the HS ( Honeymoon Suite, vlakka) and I exit thru this, walk right around the village, dressed in only my jocks ( actually my sons jocks, can you believe he throws out perfectly good pairs of Dolce & Gabbana underwear! What’s wrong with young people these days) with the intention of opening our door, and eventually I do find our front door….. but I forgot to take the frigging key with me didn’t I…… Or let me rephrase that shall I….YM forgot to remind me that I might need the key to open the door that she had jammed shut!!! Another return journey around the village and back in my very sexy D&G’s and I eventually manage to open the door. And so begins another day……
At breakfast in the morning, and still still feeling a bit woozy, I’m asked by Zoran’s wife Theodora at about what time we will be moving to a different room. “Why? ” I reply “we really like the room” It turns out that Zoran hadn’t realised at the time he showed us the room, that someone else had already booked the Honeymoon Suite for tonight. ” So why didn’t he tell me that yesterday” I ask, and am told that yes, he actually did tell me. ” He have long explain with you after you lunch, but you maybe not good remember” No, possibly not Theodora, I not good remember, especially after long lunch…. bloody Tsikoudia.
No big deal changing rooms again, but no way do we go back to our original room……. YM has found a better room at the top of the village, very large, also with a fireplace and with a marvellous view.
Moving finished, we decide to take a long walk in the mountains, and so armed with a map , a bottle of water and an orange ( who needs a compass when you have an orange, I say ) we set off. To start with I feel quite unsteady on my feet…. But soon, and after every step I take, I slowly begin to recover and feel better. Which is just as well, because these ‘trails’ hug the side of the mountain, and a trip-up here could mean a long trip down! After about an hours walking, and by walking I mean slowly stumbling along not daring to look anywhere but at your feet in case you trip on the loose rocks, I realise that , while we are not exactly ‘lost’, we don’t know which way we need to take to get back to Milia. Yes, I do have a map, as YM tells me at least 10 times ….”you have a map, how can you be lost, don’t you have a compass? ” No darling, but I do have an orange, which I then take out and peel. Cretan oranges are without doubt the juiciest tastiest oranges in the whole world, ( not an exaggeration, I don’t do that) and this one tasted even better than that…..Hmmmmn …. lets see how good a compass would have tasted eh? What about the map? The map might just as well have been written in Arabic for all the good it was to me….. take a look. Now someone who’s circumnavigated the globe at least 20 times in his life, all before I was married, isn’t going to be lost for long is he, and so calling on my long disused, but never forgotten knowledge of navigation, I deduced that judging by the position of the sun etc….. but by then we had reached a dirt road…. With a signpost….to Milia…. !
By the time we made it back to the village a few hours later it was time for lunch. Well what is is there to do here but eat drink and walk ( any other suggestions place your answers in a sealed brown envelope and leave them under my mat)
Great lunch they serve up here, there is no menu as such, Zoran just tells you what dishes are available that day, depending on what they picked, shot or dug up that morning. What I most remember about lunch though was the discussion that YM had with some Germans later, about the ancestral heritage of Herre Angela Merkel ( a legendary person in Greece, did I mention ? )
Dinner that night was a far cry from the noisy lunch the day before…. For a start there were no Greeks present…. As you know, they are naturally noisy…. and due to the cold weather that night, everyone was eating inside. The atmosphere was quite subdued, almost silent…. Like a convent. This was due in no small part to the fact that most of the diners were from that part of Northern Europe were Lederhosen is still considered fashionable, and had probably been told that YM was not a fan of their chancellor, and so was to be avoided. Also, there is NO, repeat NO, music being played, this is an organic venue remember. Despite this, the candles on every table made the whole effect considerably romantic. Not a lot of choice on the menu, basically the same as lunch, minus the items that they had run out of , but never mind, who can ever get sick of goat? Which is what we had.
Did I mention that we had also eaten fasolakia for lunch. Fasolakia is a delicious dish of runner beans in a tomato sauce, and no one does them better than the Greeks….oh yes, we also had ‘Gigantes’, which are a type of giant beans, hence ‘Gigantes’ which are also delicious when cooked in a tomato sauce. Unfortunately, like most legumes, they induce ‘wind’ in some peoples tummy. Not mine of course, buy YM’s ….OMG. And so during a particulary quiet gap in the meagre conversation going on (no music, remember) YM’s problem with the gaseous pressure in her intestines, thanks to the ‘Gigantes’, gives vent to the loudest and longest …. Stop there ….. The Poles ( polish people OK) have a word for it, they say “Pierd” which means ‘break wind loudly ‘, which quite inadequately describes the sound that YM made, but will have to suffice. Let’s just say that Joshua would certainly have enlisted YM to take a leading role in his quest to bring down the walls of Jericho. The little conversation there was stopped immediately and the fellow diners were all looking around trying to identify the perpetrator . YM was curled up laughing, while at the same time scraping her chair on the floor in a vain effort to try to simulate the sound of her ‘Pierd’! Just as well we leave here tomorrow to go back home to Chania…. Guten Nacht!