Sunday, 2 October 2016

Crete, part five: Not So Knossosy (Harriet’s Sweet Digs)

Myrtos, Crete, Greece (Mυρτoς, Κρήτη, Ελλάδα)
22 July 2016
In the morning we made use of the hotel pool for a refreshing swim before starting another busy day.
Traversing the village to reach the waterfront, we settled at one of the many seaside restaurants. With a view of the calm blue water, we languidly munched on our breakfasts and planned our route for the day.

Taking one more stroll of the waterfront before our departure from Myrtos, we spotted a fragile wooden fence protecting a small circular area. A cardboard sign affixed to the fence read "!!WARNING!! TURTLE'S EGGS".
From there we followed our noses to a bakery where we acquired a loaf for later on, and then went in search of a new pair of jandals for Yannick, as his had broken the evening before. New jandals purchased and old jandals in bin, we drove off along the coast and went for a quick swim at a randomly selected pebbly beach.

Gournia is the site of an ancient Minoan town and palace complex on the northern coast of Crete. With a €2 entrance fee, we figured we didn't have much to lose if it turned out to be Knossosy. Luckily, it was not only fascinating, but nearly deserted! Aside from the lady at the ticket booth, there were only a couple of other people roaming around.

The houses in the settlement were thought to have been built around wooden frames which would have all perished over centuries past, and the stone walls we can see today were that of the basements underneath. Fun fact: The archaeologist who first began excavations of Gournia was a woman (!) by the name of Harriet Boyd-Hawes. Female archaeologists weren't terribly common in 1901.

Experts found no evidence of what the ancient townsfolk had called their home, so Harriet's team used 'Gournia' in reference to the stone basins that stood in many of the houses. Before we had read that they were used to store water, Fabienne and I theorised that perhaps they had been giant mortars (in terms of mortars and pestles).

With a clear definition between the streets and the buildings, it was incredibly easy to gain a sense of what Gournia might have felt like in ancient times. The bustling passageways, commerce in the courtyard outside the palace, rituals being performed on top of great stone slabs.

Muy caliente from standing in the blazing heat at a ruin with few trees, we were more than ready for a swim to cool ourselves down. Just along the coast we pulled over next to a beach, and the wind that roared off the sea instantly brought me down to an agreeable temperature so I stayed ashore and played with the camera. The wind brought more than respite from the scorching sun, however, and the others returned from their dunk in the sea very quickly, dodging a minefield of rubbish on the way. If you look closely in the photo above, you can see bright plastic bags along the beach (and a tiny church in the distance!).

Our final destination for the day was Mochlos, a little fishing village with plenty of choice for tavernas along the waterfront. Some would say that karma paid off, for we were able to acquire rooms in the first lodgings we found, making up for our stress-filled quest for accommodation in Myrtos. From our hotel overlooking the sea, we watched as a tourist couple attempted to swim out to the nearby island, which we could tell had some sort of ruin clinging to it. It turns out that archaeologists have been uncovering remnants of Minoan settlements around Mochlos since 1908, in and surrounding the village itself and on the island a short sail away.

During a brief amble through the town in search for a swimming spot we came across some beautiful streets and enjoyed the sound of the waves lapping against the rocks at every turn. A few restaurants had laid out cute displays with fresh produce like tomatoes and lemons. Finding the harbour unsuitable for a swim (too boaty), we returned to our hotel for our customary Greek homemade meal for lunch: bread, olive oil, thyme, feta and rosé (this time it was also accompanied by olives, tapenade and cucumber). By the time we had finished our merry feasting, it was 18:00 - an hour many would consider to be dinnertime rather than lunchtime. But we were in Greece!

Bellies full, we napped and read quietly for a few hours until we were ready to venture into Mochlos town for a small dinner. From our hotel balconies we were able to get an eyeful of the flaming sunset over the water.

The restaurants were lit up and made the town feel alive and thriving. We settled into a table at the restaurant that had the tomatoes and lemons out front and ordered a few mezes. As our meal progressed we became aware of a mystery: the restaurant's menu was in English, German and French, but the waitress spoke French very well and we overheard her chatting to some French patrons. We had also seen some signs in French near the town. Why was Mochlos seemingly a point of interest for French tourists? For once, Google let me down and the mystery remains. Nibbling on the dark grapes that were brought to us as a post-meal snack, we were peered at by a couple of stray cats (a most common spectacle when eating out in Greece) and after all the fruit was eaten we wobbled back up the hill to our beds and slept for a good while.

Today's post was almost called: 'Do Not Breach the Fertile Turtle Circle!'