Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Monday, June 12, 2017

GREECE: Crete - Crete by Car – Day 2

Chatting With the Owner of the Stavris Hotel

We are still in Hora Sfakion in the morning. The day is just too beautiful to leave early. We are having breakfast at the hotel, outside on the patio, instead of walking down to George’s place. What a nice spot. The sun shines, the warmth of the morning is wonderful. Coffee, toast and jam is all we need after last night’s grand dinner. Around us the town starts to wake up. This is Greek living at its finest. No hurry, no hassle, no rain. Nobody rushes you, it is all up to us to pack and move on. Even the Wi-Fi works out in the street. Local people walk past and don’t pay attention to us, they are used to seeing tourists but for us, the tourists; it is a view into the lives of the people
Narrow Streets in Hora Sfakion
who live here. We just sit and watch. There is a lady down the street sweeping off her doorstep and then she stops and talks with another woman who just happens to stroll by to go shopping. Men sit a few tables over, obviously locals, and have their morning coffee, smoking and chatting in Greek; their clothing anything but fashionable. We watch a young guy in a small truck trying to make it up the hill, through the very narrow street, he has a delivery of a washing machine to make, and it’s on the back of the truck wiggling around a bit. Daily life all around us and we are part of it, but we are not part of it. We are the people that bring in the money, the people the town lives from. Ah, a nice morning, a wonderful way to start the day.

Saying Goodbye to Hora Sfakion From the High Coastal Road

I could stay for another day just goofing off, but we only have 2 more days, so it’s time to move on. We pack up the car with the one small knapsack we each have for luggage and wave good bye to Hora Sfakion. This place is very small and touristy but since we came so early in the season, there were few tourists and it was a perfect day to experience Greece.
Now our decision is where do we go from here? We only have 2 choices, back up the rocky wall we descended yesterday or hug the ocean’s edge to see what lies ahead. 

Venetian Fort 1371 - 1374
We chose to follow the only road that meanders along the water. The ‘flat’ area is not very large but large enough for some small houses, even a small village here and there. Carol found in her books a reference to an old Venetian Fort that should be on the road we are now taking. Sure enough, there is an old stone castle-like building, not in very good shape, with an admission booth in front but……. nobody is there. We are the only car in the parking lot. The doors are open, which to me, means free
Inside the Double-Walled Fort

While Carol explores the empty inside of this castle I wander around the outside. I cannot help wondering why someone would build such a fort in such a peaceful setting. As far as I can ascertain, there would never be a threat from anyplace. The position of the fort is on flat ground, not even a little elevated. In the far distance are agricultural fields. The ‘town’ itself around the castle is puny. The harbor is
Another Area Inside the Fort
not really a harbor but just a small protected area from the ocean. So why did the Venetians build this fort? I am still puzzled even as I write this.

 Frangokastello is the name of this place and the efforts the Venetians put into building it were enormous. Was it only to protect Crete from the then invading Ottoman? It seemed impossible to me, even though here I stand, looking at it. The whole Eastern coast of Crete was open for invasion of the Ottomans, why build here?  Well, I call it a Venetian folly, but only because I don’t seem to understand why it was built.
Lots of Restaurants Right on the Beach

We are off exploring what else we can find, we don’t have a goal. A travel guide we looked into tells us of the most beautiful monastery in Crete someplace, not far from here. So we set our GPS to find the Monastery of Preveli. But being in no hurry, we first stopped for an early lunch in the town of Plakias. Why Plakias? No other reason than it was on the way and we liked the looks of it when we saw it. There must be some attraction nearby because there were many touristy setups along the road. We chose one of those to have our lunch. Situated along the beach it was another Greek location that magnetically pulls you in. It was only after we looked up this town on Wikipedia that we learned there is a nudist beach near here. Honest!
Monastery of Preveli

So we found the Monastery fairly easily, even though it is way off the beaten path. At the end of a winding road that you know when you drive it, leads to nowhere, is a large parking lot and next to it is a well-kept assortment of houses, buildings, sheds and a small centrally located church. The whole of it is walled in sitting on the side of a slanted parcel of land, surrounded by pastoral views; a wonderful spot for a semi hermit to live. The place looks rich, well taken care of, deliberately Spartan in appearance; a very likeable spot. There is an assortment of domestic animals giving the attending monks a livelihood. Peacocks were 
Tribute to the Monks Who Sheltered Allied Forces Until They
Could Be Rescued By British Submarines
strutting around wooing the females. The inside of the small church was splendid with ornamentation in gold and silver; a true Greek Orthodox display of wealth and prosperity to honor God. No picture taking allowed. Is it the most beautiful Monastery? I would not know, it’s a nice place to visit and it even has some historical references on display in the Museum the monks set up. The history of the place goes back to the middle Ages and this place served as a beach head for the Resistance against the Ottomans. As late as 1941 the local monks helped hide and feed the British during their battles with the Germans in WW2. As a result of this aid, the lower part of the Monastery was destroyed by the German occupation. Some of these ruins are still visible.
He's Struttin' His Stuff But She's Oblivious

Our visit to the monastery was a good excursion but we need a place to stay for the coming night. Spili is the town we read about and aimed for. In true fashion we set the GPS for Spili only to hesitate when the machine told us to take very local, gravelly dirt roads. I kind of knew from driving up to the Monastery that there is a paved road, even if that means driving the long way. So, we disregarded our GPS guide who insistently told us ‘other’ ways to get to Spili. Well, using our human brains we found Spili alright and drove first through the small town to see what hotel we liked the best. Just by looks from the outside we feel we can tell what is good or what is doubtful. We 
Fun Roads On the Way to Spili
decided to ask if there is a room available in a hotel in the middle of town so we would be within walking distance from everything in town. We rang the bell, knocked at the door, went next door into the empty restaurant, shouted, and looked in the hallways......nobody there.

When we exited from the restaurant, a young man smiled at us and asked if we wanted a room. To make sure the room was OK, I sent Carol to take a look. All was fine. the cost would be 35 Euros/night or 40 Euros incl. breakfast across the street in the bakery. Done! We took the 40 Euro option. We had a place to sleep.
Balcony of Our Room At the Costas Inn Overlooked
the Main Street

While the place is on the main road, this is way before tourist season, so what can happen, right?  Our rented car was parked in a no parking zone in front of the bakery but the proprietor said not to worry. Everything will be OK. We got our bags out of the car, and explored this town on foot.

The good guide book said a lot of people come here during the summer; evidenced by tourist shops with lots of tchotchkes that were already open for business. The restaurants were eager to serve us, well the ones that were open, not all were ready for business. We walked around, entered the local church, walked along a very short promenade that had food courts set up 
Greek Orthodox Church
Inside the Church
next to a small river and waterfall and watched this part of Crete live their daily lives. Crete 
Painted Ceilings and Walls in the Church
outside the big cities is very hilly. The houses here were all built on steep inclines. Walking those back allies, you have to be in very good physical shape, so this was not for us. We had walked enough already for the day. Dinner was outside in a nice place overlooking the promenade and a beer helped end the day. 
A Painting of the Samaria Gorge When It Is
Not Flooded

It was getting chilly, the temps dropping rapidly. When we went to bed that night we noticed our room had no heat. We found a few more blankets in the closet but still, it was a chilly night. Not only was it a bit cold in the room preventing us from a deep sleep but we heard gunshots echo off the houses around us; on two separate occasions. What is going on?  We did not go out to explore and finally just slept a little to be woken up again by another noise that again sounded like gun shots. Mmmm, now I know how it must have felt in the West when gun-slingers were on the loose. When we walked across the street the next morning for breakfast I noticed nothing out of the ordinary. Men were having their coffee, the women were busy, but there was a police car parked in front of our rental car. I checked, I did not get a ticket, the car was perfectly fine. I looked around but could see nothing. I still wonder what had happened last night. But how do you ask in Greek “What is going on here, were those shots we heard last night? “

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