Saturday, December 6, 2008

Home Again

I didn't get any of the TEFL jobs I applied for in Prague or Santiago, so I am back in the USA, missing the food and the weather and the ocean and my friends. I'll have to go back as soon as I can.
The Wednesday before I left, I went swimming with Vasili at the Winter Swimming Place (it says so on a rock). Further down the coast from where we had been is a peninsula with beaches on both sides. Depending on the way the wind blows, the swimmers choose their beach. The water on one side can be whipped up in whitecaps while the other is smooth as glass. There are sheltered stony nooks on both sides to warm up in the sun. It was perfectly lovely in the salty water, and hard to get out. The same group of people swims here every day if the waves are not too big, rain or shine. Some huge rocks on the shore were riddled with holes that might have been made when they were formed, maybe from air in the lava.
Here in New England, the sun is bleak and low, and the weather is cool and raw. Exactly what we expect in early December, and a little depressing. Crete is not so far south as I had thought, and the days get short there as well, but the temperature makes it easier to get out in the sun and the water. Swimming every day sounds like such a delicious thing to do. Ahh, dreams!

Dancing at Lyriaca or Cafe Crete

Friday, November 28, 2008


I went for a three hour walk to the point where Vasili took us a few days ago. It is windswept and rocky, and there are low plants but not much for trees on most of it. The waves from yesterday's stormy day crashed and splashed on the rocks. The whitecaps were spectacular in the blue sea. It was reminiscent of Pemaquid or Thunder Hole or Ocean Point. I could have been homesick; instead I was right at home. The rocks, plants, soil are all different but the action is the same. I wandered around from rock to rock; the structures are pointed and knobby, as though the volcanic eruption that formed this land brought together different minerals that erode at different rates. Some of them formed cylindrical holes near the water.
I rubbed each plant I encountered. Thyme, of course. No other aromatics in the low growing areas. A tree with long slender leaves smelled camphorish, maybe eucalyptus.
The walk goes past four or five beaches, each with its own character. Where the stony parts met the waves, the sound was like a jet, or firecrackers. I had my shoes off, pants rolled above the knee, wading in the waves, and getting a little wet.
I went swimming on Wednesday at a little cove on the leeward side of a peninsula. There is a beach on the other side, too, full of waves; the winter swimmers choose the beach of the day according to which way the wind blows, and warm up on the rocks in the sun afterward.


Renee wanted a fireplace. She found one at Ela, a taberna near us, past which we had walked countless times, until she caught a glance of the fire. Live music starts at 10 pm, so we hung out somewhere else first and then went over. It was great! Four musicians, a bouzouki, guitar, accordion, and violin. Voices both together and separately. At the end, the youngest of the group got up with his microphone, the rest of them started playing the theme from Mission Impossible, and we were treated to an acappella rendition of the movie, with explosions, car tires, gun shot, motorcycles and chainsaws and all kinds of noise, all the things we saw at the A Cappella workshops in Boston. We didn't get home until after 1, and we were so happy we'd stayed for it.
We went again the next night. When we got there at 9:15, we were the only ones, so we got the best seats. The building was a soap factory in the 15thC., run by Spaniards who brought their Jews to the Evraiki, or Jewish quarter, to make soap, so the floors are stepped and the windows are set low to allow the soap to dry, and the beams are closer together than usual to support the stamping of the soap. The building had bee other things over the years, and was consumed by fire in the 1980's. The restaurant is the result.


Vasili made dinner for us last Thursday, slow-cooked lamb and vegetables, salad, feta and fresh tomatoes, a couple of kinds of bread. Red wine from a friend in a village, with overtones of cherries, very light, and better than any you could buy.No headache afterward. He makes a syrup by reducing wine to 1/3 volume and has it on bread with olive oil and it's good for sore throats; this is petimezi. Some people mix it with cold water to make a drink, or dip bread with feta, or sweeten rolls. Dessert was like Boston cream pie, with bananas. Cold, creamy, chocolate, and banana... He has his own olive trees, too, and keeps the oil in a big barrel in his kitchen, with a spigot on the side.
He has dried herbs in big bunches in his cupboards, some of which he picks in the mountains and others from friends. He rubbed bits of each one between his hands for us to smell and perhaps identify. Sage is faskolio; marjoram, oregano, chamomile and basil have familiar names, and he had bay laurel, and dittany and malotira.
He makes a "spoon sweet" from Pergamondo, a warty green citrus fruit. A little in yogurt is wonderful. Well - the fruit has a familiar scent - it's bergamot! Other fruits are used this way; it's like a preserve where the fruit keeps its integrity. I have to try it...



A quiet day, a little rainy between the partly cloudy sun. Not many people out; it has that late summer sad feel we get in late August or Early September in New England. Cooler, and breezy. The wind from the north decorated the blue, blue sea with whitecaps.
The walls around the old city in Chania have trenches next to them. I puzzled over them, thinking perhaps they were the source of material to build the walls. But why so regular, and 100 feet wide? Apparently there was once sea water in the trenches - a moat to protect the Venetian city!