Saturday, April 16, 2016

When in Crete...

One day is really not enough in Athens, if you ask me.  In one day, you don't get to experience the laid-back-ishness that is fundamentally Greek, just wandering down streets and seeing where you end up.  But that was what we had, if we wanted to see some of Crete and Santorini, too, in less than a week.
After a taxi ride from a driver with a sense of humor...actually, let me stop there for a moment.  That sounds like a good thing, but it rarely is.  I don't want my driver to make jokes like, "No, you're right, this isn't the way we should be going...I'm taking you to the mafia," or, "OH!  You wanted to go to Eleftherios airport?!?"  That is some stressful shit first thing in the morning.  I know the way to and from Athens' airport relatively well, and I wasn't sure where he was going, so I didn't appreciate it particularly much.  We should have called the driver that took us into the city - he gave me his card, but it was too much hassle to think about.  Lesson learned.  Anyways, we made our morning flight into Heraklion and stepped out into bright sun reflecting off the ocean.  Engrish booked our hotel, which was near the waterfront, and after getting settled in, we went around exploring.  We were very close to the main pedestrian area, so we wandered around and found the old lion fountain, which was conveniently located next to a Ben and Jerry's.
"It's only a model."
After a decent amount of walking we found our way to the museum, which had a lot of really cool stuff.  Crete was the center of the ancient Minoan culture, and the palace of Knossos is only 5km outside of Heraklion.  It was cool to see some of the octopus vases I studied in art history classes, and I enjoyed seeing the reconstructions of what the palace looked like (supposedly) in its glory days.
The actual site was pretty cool, and Five, Engrish, and I had fun guessing at what functions different areas had originally (none of us are nerdy audioguide people, so who knows whether or not any of us were correct).  Heinrich Schliemann, the guy who dug up Troy, originally had plans to, excavate, Knossos as well, but he died and the privilege went to a British dude, who seems to have been somewhat less of an amateur...meaning I had to use my imagination a lot less in order to get an idea of the grandeur of the place.

Also, I had to buy a hat.  It was sunny, and I have no idea why I wasn't using the olive oil sunscreen I bought from the guy who kept telling Engrish and Five what the fragrances they were considering would do to their boyfriends...
There were other cool things to see and do on Crete.  Unfortunately we weren't there long enough to see most of them, because Crete is a bigass island.  But we did get to see the Venetian fortress...from the outside, at least.  The inside was under restoration or something.  Seeing San Marco's winged lion took me back to the summer.  Later that evening we went to the best restaurant we ate at the entire trip (I'm not counting Katharos, but I'll talk about that in my next post) - Peskesi.  If I'd had my way we would have gone back the next night as well.  They didn't have any of my favorites (tzatziki, dolmades, and Greek salad) because it was authentically Cretan, but it was so delicious that I DIDN'T EVEN CARE.  If you go there, get one of everything.  You won't be disappointed.
We also enjoyed Starbucks on more than one occasion.  You can not underestimate the excitement you feel after months (okay, so it was October and it had only been two months...DETAILS, DETAILS!!!) without it.  Mongolia's improved since I first came in terms of coffeeshops (Tom n Tom's cinnamon hot chocolate actually slays), but there's nowhere that does good frappuccinos.

Oh yeah, and we went to the beach.

Forget about frappuccinos - there is no beach in Mongolia.  Or, well, there might be a good one somewhere around Khuvsgul, but I have almost never been hot enough here to think that getting into a body of water seemed like a good idea.  Not so in Greece.  Even in October it seemed pretty damn hot to me, and even if I weren't in a beachy mood, Engrish and Five were determined that they were going to get some sun (I was not - I hid under my umbrella, determined not to blind anyone with my scary whiteness as demonstrated by the glare coming off my leg).  It was actually lovely - not crowded at all (apparently late October seems like a terrible time to go to the beach for the Greeks), hot, and yet, a nice breeze was blowing off the ocean.  We had drinks from the restaurant just inland and I had my hundredth serving of tzatziki, and it was a nice, chilled way to spend our second afternoon in Crete.

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