[an error occurred while processing this directive]
::Stelios Jackson's walks
interkriti:the E4 and other Mythical Trails-by Stelios Jackson
A diary of events of the trials and tribulations
of a lone walker, in his attempt to cross Crete
from Kato Zakros to Kissamos...
Home Chapters History Boxes
Chapter 11: Ano Asites to Fourfouras (2 days).

Monday the 26th of May
I hate to disappoint you. I hate to disappoint myself even more. Twice on this walk, I could be accused of "cheating"; this is the first of those occasions.
At the Crossroads
I woke up this morning (in a very bluesey mood indeedy!), at: 1.04, 2.11, 3.18 ...; you get my drift? I was drifting in and out of a fitful sleep. What little blood I had circulating round my system was slowly being drained by mosquitoes, who insisted on boasting about it to their friends in that high-pitched whine, which follows them wherever they flap their wings. I'd given up assaulting my ears with left hooks which would have floored Mike Tyson, and just lay there and took the worse they could offer. Aside from bloodsucking insects, I was utterly miserable! I'd lost count of how many times I'd moved my sleeping bag from Crete's most uncomfortable rock formation, to Crete's least comfortable rock formation! I buried my head in the metaphoric sand that was my sleeping bag, and had taken to counting mosquitoes. I longed for sheep to count; I longed for sleep to come. By the time dawn - and her cacophony of feathery winged ones -   arrived, I felt utterly blitzed. I was not the happiest of Jacksons, and that takes some doing, these days! I itched from head to toe, but was, somehow, strangely, more wide-awake than I can ever remember having been in my life. I had come to a compromise with myself yesterday. If it were a clear day, today, I would walk across the Ida range of mountains to Fourfouras. If not, I would walk around the range, via the road and the village of Zaros. It was a beautiful clear morning. Damnit! After four days of incessant rain, it appeared that Crete had lost the will to make this walker any wetter! Great timing from the great god Pan, again! Looking at my watch, I discovered that the time-warp I'd been stuck in, had jumped a tad, and that it was now close to 7 AM.  I fancied a coffee, but didn't really want to bump into the good people of Ano Asites; not looking how I felt, anyhow. That pretty much decided me. I had a little under three  litres of water in my possession, when I needed at least six, should I be walking across the Ida range. My only, known, source of water lay in Ano Asites, and if those that dwelt within its confines had seen enough of me for this trip, then I might just have to follow "plan B". "Mildly paranoid", is how Rex described me, in these here journals (somewhat economical with the truth is our Rex!) - it helps at times!  Just about then - and far above the 480 metres that was my "resting" place's elevation - a wisp of cloud wandered lonely across an otherwise beautiful blue sky. That would do. I apologise in advance, for the decision I was about to make. I am a "big-girls'-blouse". And proud of it! I knew then, what I'd only suspected before: I wasn't up to walking across the Ida range; raining or not; yesterday had seen to that. That walk would take two days from here, and the rumours of whether or not the accommodation option at the Idaion Andron (occ. Ideon Andron) would be open or not, was not something I wished to test. At this moment, my whole outlook of the walk changed, from adventurous lone walker, to unadventurous lone walking. My objective was to get across the island on foot. I would walk around this mountain range; and, if I regretted this at a later date? So be it! I almost cried, in relief; or perhaps at an encroaching awareness of my utter cowardice!
Snails Place
I was just congratulating myself on my fabulous change of plan, when two things happened in quick succession: Lying in a prostrate position, merrily glaring at that wisp of a cloud - which had taken the shape of an elephant, and was now metamorphosing into a tractor with an unfeasibley large...sorry, I digress - and was growing into something a little more threatening in the "moisturing" department too - when, out of the corner of an eye, I noticed that the pair of t-shirts - which I'd "tied" to an olive tree the previous night, in a vain attempt to extract some water from them - were competing with each other in a bid to make the first unarmed flight from Ano Asites to Aghia Galini. I exaggerate, of course (when do I not?), they had barely travelled 20 metres, before being captured by a cluster of barbed wire (presumably there for no reason, other than catch errant t-shirts), but now I would have to go play "fetch". This brought about the second great happening of the morning. It didn't take much effort on my part. A few seconds after discovering my potential-diminishing-wardrobe situation, and pulling myself into a semi upright position, I saw them!  Every square inch, centimetre, and possibly millimetre of my sleeping-bag, was covered in snails. Agggghhhhh!  I screamed, with a ferocity to scare the hardiest creature. The snails were unimpressed, and continued to do what they were doing, which was to cover every square inch ...; that's what they were doing. I noticed that my rucksack and boots were having similar snail population problems They seemingly had no other purpose in life than to slither, slowly, across whatever I possessed. I have nothing against snails, but, at this moment, they had plenty against me, and everything I owned! "Shoo", I shooed. They didn't, unsurprisingly. I stepped out of, and shook, my sleeping bag, covering the immediate vicinity with snails, and gingerly trod my way - trying not to step on any literal, or proverbial, shell - to t-shirt city, which wasn't too easy, as I was bare-foot. Snails, in Crete, are regarded as a bit of a culinary delicacy, but even if I weren't vegetarian, I'd have had trouble with that particular concept. Pulling myself together was more difficult than it should have been. After flicking off a potential feast of snails from my boots, I inspected their insides (the boots'!), which revealed no immediate sign of current snail occupation, but there was a slight dampness within, which might, or might not, have been as a result of their residency last night; I cleaned my boots within and without. I recalled hearing stories of soldiers' boots being inhabited by lurking scorpions, so I suppose I shouldn't have complained, but it didn't stop me; it never does!
Singing 'aye aye ippy...'
So, wearing dirty tracksuit bottoms, and a damp t-shirt,  rather than silk pyjamas (my preferred attire!), around the mountains I would come. I looked at my map, and congratulated myself again, on my decision. I could easily make Zaros this afternoon, and Zaros is a place I like. The following day, would be spent getting myself to Fourfouras - back in 1987, I had spent an early morning there, before being driven up by a couple of crazy Kiwis (Geoff and Linda, I remember you well, though I have forgotten your names!) to the highest point that one can drive before being forced to walk  the rest of the way up to the top of Psiloritis (Mount Ida), and according to the 'Rough Guide' there was accommodation there -  so I knew that I could fulfil my every wish over the next two days. My "every wish", at this juncture, being to spend two nights in a bed; preferably, in a snail-free environment. Have I told you that I am a 'big-girls'-blouse'? There was still enough time, in Ano Asites, to discover where the mountain hut lived. It was signposted just north-west, of where I had laid my head last night,  I was tempted to inspect the place more closely, but had it been open, and offering hot meals, I may have been a little upset that I hadn't discovered it last night. What the eyes don't see, and all that! Besides, I have since discovered that it's a good one and a half hour's walk from Ano Asites, in a very different direction from the one which I preferred.   So, off I mooched. I must admit, that the walk across the Ida range, had been playing rather heavily on my mind for some time, and the "fear-factor" had grown over the past two or three days. Whilst I love nothing more than to be lost in the "big wide yonder", I was in no condition to attempt a two day crossing; at least not whilst I had a viable alternative, and this alternative was more than viable! The road I found myself on, was of the quiet, car-free variety, but it wasn't long before I could see the main road, running parallel to this one, and that was of the duel-carriageway variety; veritably ridden with vehicles. The terrain is somewhat blighted on this particular stretch. Looking at my map, I realised that the parallel road, ran from Venerato to Aghia Barbara. Had I known, yesterday, that I was going to skirt the mountains, rather than walk them, I could have taken that road, and saved myself a lot of angst. That, I decided, would have been a premeditated cop-out, so I had done the right thing; besides, in hindsight, I had quite enjoyed my al-fresco experience in Ano Asites.
Aghia Varvara
It was just as I arrived in Aghia Varvara (pronounced "Varvara", often transliterated, wrongly, as "Barbara"), that it stared it to rain. In total contrast to the way I had felt yesterday, I welcomed these heaven-sent droplets as a sign that I had done the correct thing. If it were raining here, you could bet your bottom euro that it was raining harder in those there mountains, and that I would have been closer to the cloud, if not immersed within it (perhaps even above it; wouldn't that be heaven?!), had I stuck to my original plan. I sat on a veranda of a kafeneion on the main road of Aghia Varvara, sharing this with the local high school students, presumably out for lunch. Dozens of girls and boys, cheerily calling each other the "m" word, at the top of their voices. It's a bit of a dusty old road this. A thoroughfare enabling one to get in and out of Aghia Varvara as quickly as possible. I quite liked this little town, though; there was something real and vibrant about it. A convoy of army trucks rolled by; the conscripts, atop, looking barely older than the school kids I was sharing a veranda with.
Sites with Sights
I had, up until now, been heading in a mostly southerly direction, today. A few hundred metres from my kafeneion there should be a sharp right turn, taking me west towards Gergeri and, ultimately, Zaros. This was found with surprisingly little difficulty, and off I trod. This is one of those roads, that is far smarter than its traffic would suggest it should be. A rolling landscape greets you, as you walk, and the road twists and turns its merry way towards the village of Panasos. During the couple of hours this took me, fewer than a dozen cars passed, in either direction. This is the Rouvas municipality, in the Messara valley, and very nice it is too. I have been known to wander the area to my immediate east, quite a bit in my time, and here can be found three of my favourite archaeological sites in the whole of Greece.

Thanks to Niki, Aurelia, Mieke, Tom (and Jane), Julie (for whom "Chapter 11" will always have a very different meaning), Kate and Luc and Chilla, for helping me decide which subject to make this history box. Pictures courtesy of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture. Click on them for enlargements.

The Sites of Phaistos, Aghia Triadha and Gortys

If you are ever in the area of the Messara plain, at a loss as to what to do, you should be delighted to learn that you have found yourself amidst three of Greece's (if not the world's) greatest archaeological sites. All extremely important, for different reasons, the "palace" of Phaistos, and the sites of Aghia Triadha and Gortys (Gortyn and Gortyna are alternative spellings), are dotted along a line, between the villages of Tympaki to Aghoii Deka. If you are as foolhardy as I, you can quite easily walk from one to the others, especially in the cases of Phaistos and Aghia Triadha. I shall not attempt to give you a "floor plan" to these sites. Most guide books include these and I would recommend you buy the Rough Guide or the Blue Guide to Crete should you wish to visit a number of sites, or a bespoke guidebook to these sites, which are available on the island. The best modern book on the Bronze Age Cretans, is J Lesley Fitton's imaginatively named 'Minoans'

A few important words on dating. Make sure you take precautions, and never wear red lipstick until you are entirely sure she'll accept you for it...and...oh yes...

Crete's bronze age history can be divided up in a number of ways. Arthur Evans expertly dissected periods according to the evidence of vase painting and the strata within which these and other artefacts were found, into three distinct periods: 'Early Minoan' (EM), 'Middle Minoan' (MM) and 'Late Minoan' (LM). Within each of these time periods, further subdivisions were necessary. This would seem straightforward at first. EMI is earlier than EMII for instance. Now for something a little more confusing: To break down these periods into more distinct timelines, an 'A' or 'B' is added to some of the periods. So, MMIB comes just before MMII and just after MMIA. O.K. Got that? Well, now for a leap into the future: 'Late Minoan' (LM), due to its regular new designs can be divided in the same way as 'Middle Minoan'. but with an extra value- a number - after all of the usual figures, to qualify its date. So: LMIA is before LMIB, as LMIIIA2 comes after LMIIIA1. Thankfully there is a clearer system for the novice, and indeed for me:

Neolithic = c6,000 - 3,000 BC (Neolithic)

Prepalatial = c3,000-2,000 BC (EM1 to MM 1A)

Protopalatial = c2,000-1700 BC (MM 1B to MM II)

Neopalatial = c1700-1450 BC * (MMII cont. to LM IB)

There is a period between the one above, and the one below,  (c1450 - 1375 BC or LM II to LM IIIA1), called the 'final palace' period, which seems to have only affected Knossos, though places - such as Aghia Triadha - appear to have flourished throughout.

Postpalatial = c1375-1000BC (LM IIIA2 to LM IIIC)

* Note. Current scientific theory pushes back the the dates around the Thera eruption, from the archaeologists' preferred 1450 BC to 1550 BC, before arriving back at a consensus, which only goes to prove that none of these dates are as accurate as we'd like to believe they are.

Of all the sites on Crete, Phaistos (occ. Festos, Faistos, Phaestos), in my view, is the most impressive, to the modern day visitor. This may have much to do with the site's geographic situation; though, for me, it's more likely a matter of Phaistos' relative calm, compared to Knossos. Originally excavated at the beginning of the 20th century, by my old mate, Fredrico Halbherr for the Italian School of Archaeology, (though in the mid 18th century, Captain T.A.B. Spratt,  makes mention of it, having discovered its whereabouts from Strabo's 1st century AD description), between 1900 and 1914 (having already reconnoitred the site in the 1880s), and then by Doro Levi from 1950 to the mid 1970s. This is a "must visit" site. The cosmetic changes to Knossos, undertaken by Arthur Evans, early last century, only add to the air of mystique and majesty surrounding that site's smaller cousin) the central court is around 50 metres long,and 24 metres wide; five metres narrower than that at Knossos, whilst the overall area of the site, at 8,400 sq. metres, is quite a bit smaller than that at Knossos, 20,000 sq. metres). Having said that, I'd definitely recommend a visit to Knossos before, rather than after, visiting Phaistos, as it might help one to make head or tail of Phaistos' complex make-up. All of the 'palaces' share the common theme of a 'central court'; Zakros' is far shorter than those at Knossos, Malia and Phaestos, but is, nonetheless there. It would seem very likely, that the architectural style, was borrowed from the Near East, but there is one important difference. Wherein the Near East buildings, the central courts defined the shape of their cities, in Crete, the environs worked outwards, and grew to whatever size was deemed necessary, which is why these ancient Cretan cities have such a "sprawling" appearance.   The major problem here, is attempting to extrapolate the evidence that is before your eyes. Remains of far later 'Sub-Minoan' and Greek sites vie for attention with the "pre-", "proto-" and "neo-" "palatial" , which can make viewing, somewhat confusing, especially when compared to the 20th century face-lift which Knossos underwent. The Italian School did a far better job, in preserving the ambience of this great site. Certain aspects have been altered, but sympathetically, leaving the infrastructure of the original to ones imagination. This is a "spirit of place" site, with wonderful views across the plain of Messara, to greet the visitor.  In Greek myth, this was the home of Radamanthys, legendary brother of King Minos (the other brother, Sarpedon, was a later interpolated addition by the Greeks; more of the three of them, and other strange happenings, in a mythological history box, in a later chapter), and, for me, he got the far better deal as far as choice of accommodation was concerned. Phaistos was settled in Neolithic times (pre 3,000 BC) and rose to prominence in the next thousand years or so, eventually becoming one of the five known (Knossos, Malia, Zakros and Petras; though we can surely add Kydonia - probably hiding beneath modern-day Chania - to that list, and there may have been more) proto-palatial 'palaces', which were built in, or around, 2,000 BC. It would seem certain that the devastation of the island's two primary centres, was caused by island-wide earthquakes, around 300 or so years after being built.  Not easily put-off, the island's architects rebuilt on the same sites, and created what we see today, which dates back to the early part of the 18th century BC. A future "history box" will discuss the various forms of writing on Crete, but one that immediately grabs the imagination, is the 'Phaistos disk (pictured, below), which was discovered here, in 1908 AD, and dates back to either between1650 BC - 1200 BC or 1908 AD! As I say, more of that conundrum in a later chapter. The largest collection of, as yet, undecephired protopalatial 'Linear A' tablets were also unearthed at Phaistos, but very little in the way of works of art; Aghia Triadha (see below), has proven an exponentially richer source for these, leading to suggestions that as Phaistos waned, Aghia Triadha grew in influence. Other than parts of the the central court and the south-east quarter, which have collapsed (a problem of building upon a hill), Phaistos is superbly preserved. A jaunt over to the west side will reveal the original palace; this is a jaunt, well worth your while. Curiously, Phaistos was downsized after the protopalatial period, whilst its "summer palace" down the road, went from strength to strength. Phaistos, of course, was looted, while Aghia Triadha was not, so we'll never know what treasures the people of the former, left behind. Thankfully, thieves weren't greatly interested in pottery or other earthenware objects, and quite a number of these can be found in the Herakleion Archaeological Museum. As at Knossos, a western obsession with royalty, has unfortunately scarred the terminology of some of the rooms' names: The "Queen's Megaron" and The "King's Megaron" for instance, are ludicrously dubbed, as we have little idea what these were used for, and 'Megaron' (great hall), is a term more easily applied to Mycenaean remains, which these are most certainly not. Later, from Geometric times (c 8th century BC) Phaistos continued as a city, though in a much down-graded way, from Mycenaean times, all the way through to its final collapse, at the hands of those from Gortys, in the 2nd century BC. Hellenistic finds are especially interesting, and quite a number of post-bronze-age dwellings, can still be seen.

The tourist kiosk sells quite a number of guide books to the site, and if you haven't already been wise enough to purchase a copy of the wonderful 'Blue Guide to Crete', prior to your arrival on the island, you could do worse than buy the Ekdotike Athenon guide to the site. 

Aghia Triadha
Aghia Triadha Despite the fact that Aghia Triadha (Holy Trinity) is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece, there is a fair chance, that you'll be close to alone, should you choose to visit (especially outside July and August); and choose to visit, you should. Aghia Triadha is, of course, the modern name for the site; nobody is quite sure what it was called in 'Minoan' times, which is somewhat surprising, given the wealth of material found here (The 'Blue Guide to Crete' suggests that it may have been the 'Da-Wo', found on Linear B tablets.) Excavated by the Italian School of Archaeology, at about the same time as Phaistos, work continues to this day at Aghia Triadha. The site is named after a 14th century (AD) church, and dates back to around the middle of the 16th century BC; i.e. it's 'Neopalatial'. Not that this was the first era that Aghia Triadha was occupied. Far from it. We know, for instance, that a tholos tomb (Tholos tomb A), found there, uncovered artefacts dating back to the 3rd millennium BC. It is almost certain that Aghia Triadha had a market place with proper shops, rather than temporary stalls, which would make this Europe's earliest shopping arcade. The sites proximity to Phaistos (3kms west), is curious. What was its function? A 'Minoan' road, quite clearly links the two sites, so in what way were they affiliated? It would seem certain that both used Kommos as their port.  That old chestnut, the "summer palace" theory has often been quoted, but Aghia Triadha, appears to have been too "busy" to have been used merely as a "royal" recluse. The fact that 'Linear A'  tablets were found here, within their own archive (a gypsum - there's a gypsum quarry a short distance from the site - chest containing 200 or so, clay seals were also found in this room), suggests a far more established site, than previously thought. As mentioned, above, it would seem possible that during the Bronze Age, Aghia Triadha grew in importance at the same time as Phaistos' began to wane. Finds from the 'neopalatial' period, include 146 linear A tablets, compared to a mere four found at Phaistos, from the same period. O.K., that doesn't prove anything other than Aghia Triadha went up in flames during this period, as these tablets were rather ephemeral, and were never 'fired' for posterity, in a kiln, but sun-dried. Any evidence on clay tablets of  'Linear A' and the later 'Linear B' - found mostly at Knossos - is as a result of our luck and the ancient Cretans lack thereof, though, according to the 'Blue Guide to Crete'. other than Linear A appearing on vases, there is also some "graffiti" found on the walls of a light well, in that script. That Aghia Triadha was burned is self evident - parts of the site are scarred by evidence of fire, probably exacerbated by the storage vases containing olive oil - but it continued to thrive as a community, later than even the mighty Knossos. Aghia Triadha, is shaped not unlike an 'L', making it extremely easy to get one's bearings, if one is prescient enough to have brought a map of the site; each of the 'residences' within, had their own storeroom, which, again, suggests, to me, a community rather than an out of town residency, though, of course, the whole site may have been used, solely, for the storekeeping. The Drainage system, is a rather late addition to the site, and is post-palatial. One of the major problems one encounters visiting any archaeological site, is the artefacts that piece the history together, are usually in a museum, some way away from the site itself. Aghia Triadha is no exception. Artefacts such as the 'Aghia Triadha Sarcophagus' - made of limestone, and beautifully decorated - the 'chieftain's cup' the 'harvester's vase', and the 'boxer vase' (all pictured below) as well as some of the finest examples of 'Minoan' frescoes (including the famous "cat fresco"), seal stones, 19 bronze ingots (weighing in at 556 Kgs!), were all discovered here, and can now be found in the Herakleion archaeological museum, but that shouldn't detract from one's enjoyment of this fabulous little site.

(I prefer the older spelling, Gortyn, but have decided to stick with the modern name, for the sake of consistency)
There is something utterly compelling about this site. Three times I have visited, and three times I have found something new to see; or at least a new angle in which to view the multifarious exhibits, which make Gortys (ancient Gortyn) a kind of al-fresco museum. Whilst it is certain that Gortys was inhabited during Bronze Age times, its rise to glory came almost a millennium after the downfall of those most famous of Cretans, the 'Minoans'. Gortys was a prosperous city from around the middle of the 5th century BC through to the early 9th century AD, when it was finally destroyed by the Saracens (824AD), never to be rebuilt. All of those periods are evident here, with Greek, Roman and Byzantine remains in abundance. It's very easy to get carried away with the age of a site. We all want to see remains of proto-palatial palaces dating back almost four thousand years, and it's very easy to ignore places such as Gortys, whilst visiting earlier, inferior sites, scattered elsewhere on the island. Do not ignore Gortys! What we have here, ranges from an inscribed 5th century "law code", Roman remains of staggering beauty and importance, and a 6th Century AD church, built upon the site where St Paul visited Titos, some 500 years earlier. Other early Christians were the "Aghoii Deka" (ten saints), who were martyred in 250 AD by Decius; a village named after these prior-day martyrs, lies just east of the site. All in all, Gortys  makes for a heady combination, and there are quite a few other interesting features here, allowing one to while away half a day, with a few other aficionados of Ancient history. If you like your history more aged than this, you can be sated by the mythology, where Zeus (disguised as a bull) brought Europa, and conceived a son. His name? Minos. Crete has had some notable visitors in its time - Napoleon Bonaparte, stayed the night at Ierapetra, for instance - and this site can boast appearances by such luminaries as St Paul and the Carthaganian general, Hannibal. According to the renowned and expert archaeologist, Costis Davaras (quite probably my favourite living archaeologist), the population of Gortys, was around 300,000, at its pomp. This is an oft quoted figure, but one that, personally, I cannot believe. Yes, it was a very large and wealthy city; yes people would have gravitated there from all over the island and beyond. But 300,000? That would equate to over half the current population of the whole of the island - and twice that of the city of Herakleion (currently Greece's 5th most densely populated city) - all in a city with a diameter, of under 10kms. Not impossible, I suppose, but, to me, highly unlikely. Some of the sites are inaccessible to the public at present, but what can be seen is mightily impressive. The road running from to (or from) Aghoii Deka, nicely dissects the site, with the three sites listed below, all to its north along with a theatre and the Roman aqueduct, which carried water here from Zaros, but a trip to the "acropolis of Gortys" is well worth a visit, enabling one to get a panoramic look at the enormity of this ancient city. To the south of this road, there is an amphitheatre and a stadium, the "praetorium" (the seat of the Roman governor who would have overseen the whole of Crete and Libya too!)  and a temple to Pythian Apollo. There are other places of interest, but these - almost on top of each other - illustrate the great depths of archaeological importance of sites that make up the wonderful world of Gortys. 

Pictures from Gortys:

The OdeumThe Odeum: This is one of five theatres, amphitheatres and stadia found at Gortys. The odeum, as the name suggests, was Roman, and was a covered theatral area, used for performances and games. What you see now, dates back to the cusp of the second century AD, and was rebuilt by the emperor Trajan, on a previous site.

The Basilica of Aghios TitosThe Basilica of Aghios Titos. This is the first site you'll see when entering Gortys from the road. Built in the 6th century AD, on an earlier site where Saint Titos was said to have been martyred, this is one of the earliest Christian churches anywhere in the world. In the capitals, you'll be able to make out the monogram inscription to the emperor Justinian.

The Gortys Law CodeThe Gortys Law Code. Discovered by none other than Fredrico Halbherr in the 1880s, this is Europe's oldest written law-code; and in fact the only Ancient Greek one to survive intact. Engraved onto rock in a form of Doric Greek, the script has 12 columns, with a total of over 600 lines, and is written in "Boustrephedon" (as the ox ploughs) style (i.e. the script runs alternately left-to-right, then right-to-left). The Gortyns law dates back to the first quarter of the 5th century BC, though it includes laws which go back a couple of centuries prior to its writing; these slabs of stone were - and are - very publicly displayed and include all sorts of fascinating details. The rights of slaves to marry, the rather disturbing "fine" for rape, which depended on how wealthy the victim was(!) laws on adoption, divorce property etc., all  from a time (early 5th century BC), contemporaneous with the beginnings of the Athenian Parthenon and the battle of Marathon.

Aphrodite becomes VenusAphrodite becomes Venus. Roman Copy of a Greek original sculpture found at Gortys, and currently residing in the Herakleion archaeological museum.

Stelios Jackson 2005

Memories of things past.
Pretty villages, minding their own business, were passed through. In the last of these (Nyvritos), before heading for Zaros, I stopped awhile at a kafeneion, to enjoy my usual beverages of a Greek coffee and a lemonita. A boy of around four years of age, stared at me for long enough for him to grow bored of staring at me, which was approximately 10 seconds. He proceeded to carry on with life as he knew it, which appeared to consist of being mercilessly teased by his older sister, who may have have reached the ripe old age of six! I was about to say something, when she cast a steely look in my general direction, which suggested that she may be pretty adept in the old "bite in the kneecaps" department, so I decided to concentrate on what I do best, and quietly drank my beverages. This was the day of the Tokyo earthquake, and just as I was weighing up my options, the owner of the kafeneion came out and asked me in! There, in front of me, was a television screen, showing shocking pictures of the insides(!) of wobbling buildings. It seemed like an age since I had last seen a television, and as disturbing as the pictures were, I couldn't help but be mesmerised by them. At home, I am forever listing to the BBC's 'five live' radio station, or watching the news; here, for the past couple of weeks, I had been sheltered from all the evils of the world, and the world, somehow, seemed a far nicer place.
A further three quarters of an hour walking, and I was on the outskirts of Zaros. Rex and I, had stopped and picked up an elderly gentleman at this very spot, just under 4 weeks ago (which, now, seemed like half a lifetime ago), and as I trod the final couple of kilometres into Zaros, I felt I had returned home, such was the familiarity of the terrain. By the time I arrived at Zaros itself, it was 3PM. Today had been a saunter, and a most enjoyable one at that. I stepped into the hotel Keramos to be greeted by a young girl, who insisted in replying to my Greek in German! There goes that deja vu...again! After a few seconds of trying to convince her that my German was non-existent, I decided to trump her at her own game. "Schnabeltier", I offered. At the merest mention of a duck-billed platypus she went and fetched her mum, and who can blame her? "Mama", as it turned out, was a charming woman, named Katerina, and whilst she too struggled with my somewhat maverick (i.e. awful)  form of Greek, she had no German to answer back with, so we got along just fine. I was placed in a small, but extremely comfortable room, with a shared balcony, divided by a low wall. Nobody was on the balcony, so I took the opportunity to rewash some of the clothes in my bag and hang them up to (hopefully) dry. Had it really been less than two days since the last time I'd struggled with a similar operation? One of my "neighbours" appeared on the balcony a few moments later. Pietr was his name, and from Austria he came. Thankfully, he spoke excellent English! He and his wife were on a cycling tour of the area, and had just completed an exhaustive (and, no doubt, exhausting!) tour of the lower part of the Ida range. We compared maps. Yep, they were identical. His 1-50,000 Harms map (this covers certain regions only), had various crosses against misspellings. My 1-50,000 Harms map, had not fared well over the past few days, due, mostly, to falling damp. Any attempt to swap maps was doomed to failure - smart bunch these Austrians - but it didn't stop me trying!

Je regret rien!
A meal at a road side taverna, boasting an enormous and outdated juke-box, was a treat. I allowed myself to become as relaxed as a newt, and to luxuriate in the knowledge that, whilst I may not have entirely known where I was going tomorrow, at least I knew how to get there! I had with me my favourite company: a book, and proceeded to read it whilst enjoying a thoroughly decent meal, a carafe of village wine and a beer as an aperitif. I can't remember precisely what I ate, which may be due to the beverages that I was guzzling, lest a prohibition set in. To that end, I allowed myself that extra tsikoudhia tonight; just as a treat, you know. After the past few days' trials and tribulations, I deserved it! So, I had one...two...or three; I can't remember, that either, precisely, I was a bit drunk at the time, if you know what I mean, old bean! One thing I knew for certain, I wouldn't regret these indulgences one jot, when tomorrow arrived; I may not know much, but that much I knew...
Tuesday the 27th of May
Je regret again!
...Tomorrow arrived, and I awoke with a head! I usually do - wake with a head, of course - but this was not the head that I would like to have woken with... it rarely is, these days, sadly. Not since that time a few months earlier with that lady from...Sorry. Babbling!. Allow me to start that sentence again...

...Tomorrow arrived, and my first thoughts were ones of enormous regret that I had allowed myself those extra tsikoudhies last night! I was more than a little "worse for wear", and staggered onto the balcony, with eyes-a'glazey. Whoever tells you that it one doesn't get hangovers with Cretan raki, talks with forked tongue, though it has to be said that the beers and village wine may have - ever so slightly - had a contributory affect! A few minutes of gazing idly, through optically challenged pupils, at whatever was happening below, and I was up for a fresh challenge. Heading downstairs to the lounge, I decided I'd become a laddie who breakfast'd this morning; and a fine decision it was too. An overdose of caffeine was partaken, along with a nosebag of bread, honey and preserves; you know the thing: strictly continental, in a totally Cretan kinda way! Heaven knows how long I sat there, but at the end of the feast, I felt vaguely human, so it must have been some time. I gathered together my possessions, thanked my landlady, bid a fond "schnabeltier" to her daughter, and was ready for the off. The hotel 'Keramos', is an absolutely splendid place, and I'd recommend it to the hilt.

Head in the clouds
Talking of regrets; any misgivings that I may have feared, due to my decision to take this route, yesterday, had already vanished (though you may be able to tell, due to my constant references to it, that that feeling occasionally nags at me, even now!); the hangover would hang over me, a wee while longer but, generally, I was a jocular Jackson on the morning of Tuesday, May the 27th. Another bright morning greeted this happy walker, as I headed westwards towards the village of Vorizia. One of the problems with walking on roads, is that you believe that it quickens you up, which I suppose, up to a degree, it does. The advantage, as I have said, is that it's very difficult to get lost; even for me! I arrived at Kamaras (Alt.: 600 metres; pop.1991: 491), just as the cloud touched the ears of "Freddy the giraffe" (pic), whom had joined me (actually, he hadn't, but the mist was descending with alacrity and, I suspect, I too would have been invisible to anyone 10 metres below where I trod). I passed the sign for the path that led to the Kamares cave, with a very sudden realisation that I had never actually visited it! The cave that is. I had, a couple of times, visited Kamares itself, whilst driving through, but the cave? Not the once. It can be seen from miles away, the Kamares cave (if you take my advise and visit Phaistos, look 'Psiloritis' way, and you'll be able to make it out, depending on the weather). A coffee was drunk at a roadside kafeneion, as I watched the mist descend to an area a few centimetres above my head. I felt like a cartoon character, with my own personal cloud hovering above, following me, wherever I went. At least it wasn't raining. It started to rain. Drizzly kind of stuff, but nonetheless, rain, in my book! It was probably the mist enveloping me, but I now felt able to collect my 'rain-spotter's' badge (I should have been upset at this, but knowing what I knew, I just smiled smugly at anybody willing to be smugly smiled at - which was precisely no-one - and thanked the Lord that I wasn't "up there", so to speak). I have always told people that it hardly ever rains in Crete from mid-May onwards. It was now late May, and I'd had six consecutive days of the stuff! O.K., this was hardly a torrent (in fact most people wouldn't have described it as rain at all), and I was in a rather mountainous area, but, nevertheless, it made me wetter than I'd have wished to be (allegedly, Kamares suffers quite a bit from this kind of climatic condition, but it should in no way detract you visiting, and enjoying, the place), as off I trudged towards the village of Lochria. The drizzle/mist was short lived, and as I passed through the villages of Ardaktos, Platanos and Vathiako, I was, all of a sudden, enjoying myself again, tremendously.
Beauty and the beasts.
As west turns to north-west, the views become even more spectacular, if that's possible. A short walk down the hill, would have taken me to the seaside resort of Aghia Galini. I have some great memories of this little town, and for a fleeting moment almost turned the memories into something more present, by taking a left turn. Of course I didn't do anything of the sorts, instead, I stopped a while at the lovely village of Apodoulou. It was siesta time for the village, and not a creature stirred, with the exception of a truck-driver delivering fish to a taverna - and, of course, the taverna owner taking receipt of the fish - and the village cats remembering that they had a fondness for such things and a stray puppy who positioned himself between those with an interest in fish...and me. I was being stared at by a pair of puppy-dog-eyes; and did entirely the wrong thing! "Ella skilaki mou" ("Here boy"), I coaxed, whilst removing and opening a can of dolmadakia (vine leaves stuffed with rice) from my rucksack. I was a man from heaven as far as the skilaki was concerned, and he wolfed down half the tin with a hunger that made the heart bleed. I threw away the remainder of the tin's contents and poured some water into it. As I was leaving, I couldn't help but notice, that my four legged friend was following me. This wouldn't do. This wouldn't do at all. I pushed on; the puppy pushed on. Just as I thought I had another Rex to accompany me for the rest of the walk, the puppy grew bored and, thankfully for the pair of us, decided to hang around the village for a little longer.  A little outside the main drag of Apodoulou, I found a kafeneion, as one does, or at least I seem to. This was one of those thoroughly old-fashioned types of coffee house. My favourite kind. I treated myself to a caffeine top-up, and spoke spazmena Ellinika to its proprietor for 20 minutes or so. A little further down the same road, I found a place offering accommodation. This would be interesting for the future, or at least as far as mentioning places to stay, for the purpose of these chapters, was concerned. An elderly chap returned the grin that I'd cast in his general direction. He was in no mood, however, to speculate upon future profits. As soon as I told him that I didn't wish to spend that night there, he lost interest in me entirely, preferring to flag down a passing car and talk to someone, quite possibly a stranger, about the price of cheese, or some such thing. Nothing of any interest happened, between Apadoulou and Fourfouras, but the scenery was stunning. The villages of  Nithavris and Kouroutes (presumably named after the mythological nine, shield thumping, protectors of the infant Zeus, on that mountain over there; more of them in a later chapter too) were passed through, as I walked in-between the stunning massifs of Ida and Kedros. This is fabulous terrain; a 360 degree panorama, of stunning beauty. Continuing on the road, and enjoying halcyon moments, I looked forward to reaching Fourfouras; a place that I knew, and one, I was sure, I would recognise immediately.
I had arrived, and I didn't recognise the place at all! O.K. It had been 16 years since my last visit to Fourfouras, but surely I would have had a slight inkling of a previous visit here. Wouldn't I?  A sign by the side of the road, advertised accommodation in the village. It was a grand sign, but the place's name - 'Windy Place' was a bit off-putting (if I ever met the owners, I'd tell them). Besides, it looked like one of those signs to a place which booked accommodation on a weekly basis. I ignored the sign and its 'phone number, and instead headed for the centre of the village, where I hoped to find the 'Rooms Fourfouras', as advertised in my 5th edition of the 'Rough Guide to Crete'. Fourfouras is a fascinating village, built into the foothills, and surrounded by mountains. Because of this, the village meanders it way down a rather steep precipice; if one hasn't legs of iron and steel, one is nigh-on house-bound here.  It has, conventionally, been assigned an elevation of 460 metres - which particular part of this hilly village, that reading was taken from, is anybody's guess - and has a population of just under 500. I passed a couple of yiayiades (grandmothers), dressed in the mandatory black of mourning. Whilst I have every respect for this tradition - which can see an elderly lady daubed in black for decades -  I am glad that it is beginning to die-out  (as it were!) in these modern and "enlightened" times. Meanwhile, I was desperately looking for my snail-free room for the night. Could I find 'Fourfouras' hotel? Nope! I searched high and low, then higher and lower; asked in one of the kafeneia, quizzed a couple of children as to whether or not they knew its whereabouts, all to no avail. I had little idea what I was doing, or indeed where I was heading, when I exited the village on its south side. It would be dark in a couple of hours, and I began to brace myself for another morning with the snails, probably the same ones as last night, given the leisurely pace I'd set today. As chance would have it, I passed another taverna. A chap was busy tying bamboo to the roof of the taverna's front yard as I passed.
Windy Place

"Yiasou", he offered, "Yiasas", I returned by way of courtesy, and, for the sheer hell of it added, "psachno yia ena dhomatio" (I am searching for a room). Well, wouldn't you know it. He had one! Not only that, but he'd drive me there. I was a bit worried about the "driving me there", part of this equation. "Einai makria apo 'dho;" (Is it far from here?) I asked him (knowing my luck, it would be in Ano Asites!). Apparently not. So, I bundled myself into Pavlos' (for that was his name; at least I think so), pick-up truck, and was driven the 50 metres or so to my accommodation for the night. The name of the place? 'Windy Place' of course! As was the taverna. Strewth! To be fair to the 'Rough Guide - and I am a fairish guy, in a rather dark kinda way - the 6th edition of the guide, has 'Windy Place' included, and 'Rooms Fourfouras' has, as miraculously disappeared from the book, as they had when I searched for them! I decided against letting Pavlos know that I wasn't too keen of the name he'd chosen for his hotel and taverna; he was an extremely friendly guy, and I preferred to keep him that way; besides, he was rather on the muscular side. The room was pretty nondescript - a bit like a 'Holiday Inn' from the 1970s - as it happens, but had everything I needed for an extremely comfortable night, including an en-suite bathroom. Before taking his leave, Pavlos asked if I wanted to eat at the taverna we had just left, that evening. Well, why not; he was my landlord - and now my chef - for the night (he also guides tours into Kedros and Psiloritis, should you be interested in such things).

Food and Stuff
The meal at "Windy Place" (taverna variety) was fantastic! There were enough vegetarian options to feed an army (I'd warned Pavlos of my strange eating habits when taking up his kind offer; I'd conveniently failed to inform him of my strange sleeping habits, when I booked the room!), so I had a bit of everything and ate myself silly! This was a great family. Two girls, aged about three and five, sauntered over to my table at regular intervals, for no apparent reason. The pair of them had smiles that could charm the birds right out of the trees; I was suitably charmed. Spiros, Pavlos' son, served me, kitted out in an Olympiakos shirt (him, not me!); I made an effort of not telling him, how I had visited Panathanaikos' stadium on a number of occasions, whilst living in Athens, but had never been to the home of his favourite team; one for whom my political motivations were far more in-key than the greens of Panathanaikos. I also made a note of not mentioning West Ham United; that most obscure object of my desires. I paid for the room and the meal together - which came to little more than €30.00 - adding the princely sum of €5.00, and especially asking that it went to Spiros. He was overjoyed by this small gesture; if all the world's children were half as nice as the ones I'd encountered this evening, there'd be hope for the world, yet!
All in all, I'd thoroughly enjoyed my brief stay in Fourfouras. Before leaving the kafeneion I had purchased a large  bottle of 'Mythos'; a very fine Greek lager. Now, back in my room, at 'Windy Place' (hotel variety),  I sipped away and looked at one of my maps, desperately trying to remember my original itinerary. The latter told me that I should be in Spili tomorrow, the former indicated it was possible. If I could do this, I would, somehow, have caught up with my original plan, despite losing two days, looking for my camera, in a wild goat-chase, somewhere off the beaten track, near Chrisopigi. This is the stuff that dreams are made; at least my dreams...and off I nodded.

Stelios Jackson's sponsor :
The Hellenic Bookservice - Britain's Greek (and Latin) bookshop. Est. 1966
© Stelios Jackson & interkriti

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

[an error occurred while processing this directive]