Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Shout Out to Eric Wikiman

Hey Eric,

I can't remember if you said you went to Rhodes or not, but if you did I could use some advice. I'm really looking forward to hanging out in Rhodes Town; I can't wait to check out the Knights of St. John stuff and the old quarter in general, but I'm still trying to figure where to go on the island after that. Any recomendations? I was hoping to get away from the east coast tourist scene and find something a bit quieter, but still cool.

Thanks in Advance!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Iraklio Shots

Some photos frpom around the main center of Iraklio, where I'm staying. If you read my post on this place all of these will make perfect sense.

Knossos Shots

Some shots from Knossos. All of the painted stuff, columns, frescos, etc. are "reconstructions" done by "archaeologist" Sir Arthur Evan (cheesy shit, if you ask me). The rest seems to be relatively authentic. The last shot is an ancient cistern  (or something similar) in which some asshole decided to toss his empty Redbull can. I'm going to use this shot in my class: don't let this happen to you.  \ 


Some shots of the archaeological site Lissos, fronted by pictures Katie and I took on the trail getting there. Notice the cool fragments of a Roman-era fresco. The last shot is of this clean, very drinkable spring on the site (probably why people settled there). The last time I was at the site I had to chase away a bunch of goats to get to the water.

Summing Up The Katie and Rob Show: More Hania and Paleohora, Sougio, Iraklio, and Knossos

Monday, June 27, 2011—Iraklio, Crete, Greece

Sudden change of pace for me. I’m now in Iraklio (also known as Heraklion), the largest City in Crete and the fifth largest city in Greece (I mistakenly called it the third largest in an earlier blog post, I think). Katie and I came here yesterday to use it as a base for seeing Knossos, the remains of the largest and likely most important of the Minoan palaces. She flew back to Rome last night and I stayed here today to see the City’s archaeological and natural history museums, which I’ve already accomplished.

Iraklio has a bad reputation amongst travelers—it’s usually referred to by outsiders as being some combination of ugly, trashy, dirty, noisy, hectic, “unscenic,” [is this even a word?--I found it in a Lonely Planet Guide],and nondescript. I’d say all of these slights have some truth to them. Still, I’m finding the place more interesting than I thought I would, for a number of reasons. It’s a very lively place. It’s also surprisingly Greek, in that, unlike say Hania, the areas frequented by travelers are still dominated by locals. It also seems like a place where people are engaged. Everywhere there is political graffiti—from what I can tell anarchist stuff seems to dominate, with an undercurrent of Marxism. There are also posters everywhere for anti-government demonstrations planned for tomorrow and the next day, which is really adding a visual edge to the city (I almost want to hang out another day to see how these demonstrations go down—they’re likely to get violent, given the “austerity measures” the Greek government and the EU is trying to cram down the peoples' throats, while the bankers and politicians that largely caused the financial mess here, as elsewhere, take none of the hit whatsoever).

That said, it’s kind of a gray, drab city, especially considering it’s in the Mediterranean. The graffiti, though interesting in places, is also starting to bring me down. Also when you are on the outside culturally, being surrounded by such a whirl of activity tends to confuse and wear you out more than anything else. I’m glad I came here, though. It’s given me a perspective on Greece I probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, since I’m not going to Athens or any of Greece’s other bigger cities. And again, it does make a great home base from which to explore the island’s Minoan history.

Since I’m on that subject, as I mentioned earlier, Katie and I checked out Knossos yesterday. It was definitely interesting. However, the site is dominated by Sir Arthur Evans’ “reconstructions” of the palace, and his work is often dubious and sometimes just plain fanciful. In the end all his concrete and painting probably damaged the site more than anything else, and in the process cost us precious historical knowledge. By the time we left I was feeling a bit cheated, like the long-dead Evans had pulled a fast one on me, a fast one on all future examiners of the site. But it was still worth seeing; there was still a lot to be learned there. I also feel that my trip would be missing something if I’d chosen to pass the site by.

I like the city’s archaeological museum much better (though it was much smaller than the guide books implied—I couldn’t believe it when the exhibit simply ended and I found myself back on the street). It’s dominated by Minoan artifacts, frescos, etc., and really shines in this area (it also has stuff from other periods, but these parts of the collection are pretty paltry compared to the Minoan items). In fact I wish I would have gone to the museum before heading over to Knossos: seeing the artifacts first would have really enhanced my ability to picture how Knossos was used all those centuries ago …

However, digesting the Minoans, no matter how you go about it, is pretty tough; they just don’t seem much like other ancient civilizations. Traditionally the Minoans have been viewed as these peaceful, female-goddess oriented people. Lately this view had been challenged on a number of grounds. Evidence has arisen that they might have practiced human sacrifice, with children no less. It’s also hard to imagine any society that stratified and that powerful not having a darker, tougher side. Still, the feeling I get from the artifacts and the paintings doesn’t jibe with the uglier aspects of human behavior—it really does give off a peaceful vibe. It also gives off a strange, very foreign vibe. Who were these people? How did they develop the way they did? I mean, they weren’t European in regards to what came after them culturally. But neither were they quite Asian, even though that’s where their roots seem to lie. To me they’re the people of soft dolphin frescos, weirdly placid snake-charming goddesses, and enigmatic shades of red, black, and blue … They are palaces without war, stratification without oppression. I realize that as I write this that it can’t be true, that it isn’t true—but that’s what I feel about their society. A soft-headed, completely unprofessional view, I know that I can’t possibly back up. But that's where I am, for now …

OK, I think I want to backtrack here a bit and account for the days previous to hitting Knossos. Katie met me in Hania on the twenty-third. We didn’t do too much there, just had a great dinner, which featured a killer—and expensive—Cretan cabernet, at a restaurant called Portos, which I discovered on my first swing thru that town. We hung around town the first half of the next day, wandering thru the shops of the city’s twisty old Venetian back alleys. Then we caught the bus down to Paleohora, where we spent a windy day at the beach. The next morning we awoke to a blissfully wind-free day and caught the 8:30 AM boat to Sougia, the little beach town on Crete’s southern coast that I’d been planning to visit for over a week but couldn’t because of the windy conditions.

Sougia was nice, very slow. The kind of place where you can spend an extremely pleasant day or two but would probably start getting bored with if you tried to stretch it much beyond that. Katie wanted to see Lissos, the archaeological site I’d hiked to from Paleohora a while back. It only took us about an hour-and-fifty minutes to make the hot, sometimes challenging hike there from Sougia. The site’s pretty cool. The best thing about it is that some of a floor fresco built in Roman times still exists in situ (usually frescos are carted off to museums pretty quickly). After hiking back out, we had a nice lunch at a beachside café and then headed to the beach, which was a bit of a tough go. It was so hot that the rocks (yes, it was another of those so-called “pebble” beaches). Basically cooked you thru your towel while the sun cooked you from above. Still it was a nice, mellow day; I really had a good time. That evening we caught the boat back to Paleohora and the next morning took two long bus rides to Iraklio, and, well, you know the rest of the story ...

It was really great having Katie here. I’m definitely going to miss her now that she’s gone, because I just really like having her around, but also because I enjoyed having a travel buddy those few days. I’m definitely getting to the point where my loner tendencies are dropping away a bit. Maybe I’m not as complete unto myself as I’ve thought (or have liked to pretend) …

Heading back west and south tomorrow, to Hania and then Paleohora. As anyone who’s traveled with me before knows [Eric W. will definitely understand this, as we developed this attitude together on the road many years ago], I hate backtracking. Most good backpackers do, actually. The Crete part of this trip, though, has featured more of this than probably all my other journey’s put together. The combination of the way this island's road/bus services are set up, the wind, Katie’s visit, and some other issues have meant that I’ve been continually going back and forth. In regards to the first issue, there are simply certain places here you can’t get to from other places; the people here apparently abhor diagonals. The whole thing makes me feel like I’m a castle in some real life game of chess: I can go up and down and sideways, but cutting across the board is simply not possible.

This, however, will be my last trip south. I am not leaving Crete without hiking the fabled Samaria Gorge, the Grand Canyon of Europe (I’d planned on doing this before meeting Katie, but the combination of getting stuck on Gavdos those extra days and the fact that my feet were all blistered and sore from other hard hikes messed me up on that). I also want to check out Frangokastello, an old Venetian castle and cool-sounding beach area on Hania provinces' southeast shore. Once I’ve made these journeys I’ll begin heading out of Crete, via a couple of short stops to places in more inland areas I want to check out. I estimate I’ll be out of here by about the fourth or fifth of July, which means I will have spent slightly more than a month on Crete—and I will only have seen a relatively small portion of the island! (It’s a lot bigger than you might think, just by looking at a map.)

As far as my next destination goes, I’ve all but decided that it will be Rhodes. Though Santorini intrigues me, it looks like it will have to wait for another time. As I’ve mentioned, this trip was planned as a Crete/Dodecanese journey and I just don’t want to go that far off my initial course. I know I’ll come to Greece again at some point and then I’ll hit all the places in other parts of the country I’d like to go. As I also mentioned before, I do reserve the right to change my mind. So nothing as of yet is written in stone.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Katikins and Me

My old friend Katie flew in from Rome to hang out for me for a few days, so I haven't been writing much (I was far to busy, happily so, hanging out with her). Until the next diary post here are some photos to keep things rolling. The first four are taken in Hania. The following two are us on the boat to Sougia. The next two are us at an old WWII gune in Sougia. The finally pictures were taken today when we visited the Minoan site of Knossos.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hania-Katie Express

Thursday, June 23, 2011—Paleohora, Crete, Greece

It’s about nine-thirty in the morning and the wind’s still blasting thru Paleohora. I’m sitting in the courtyard/garden of the place I’m sating at relatively sheltered from it all—the occasional swirling mass of detached leaves and flower petals coming at me is all I have to worry about.

Right now I’m mostly killing time, waiting until I catch the noon bus to Hania, where I’ll meet Katie around eight-thirty tonight. I’ve had a pretty quiet twenty-four hours, actually. Like I mentioned in my last entry, the wind pretty much killed my options yesterday and last night I was feeling a bit worn out, like I needed a night to myself where I did very little. So around seven I went down to the market and got some stuff for dinner, came back here and ate, and then just lay around my room reading The Sheep Look Up, a classic Sci-Fi novel from the early seventies written by John Brunner—good stuff. So that’s where I’m at …

Feeling a little lethargic at the moment. I’m also feeling like much of the momentum of this trip has been lost. The wind of course has been scuttling my plans left and right and has forced me to hang out in places I’m kind of thru with. Also my left ankle has started giving me trouble. I injured it years ago and sometimes it just locks up. I guess all the hiking I’ve done over the last couple of weeks plus has taken its toll. For the moment my ankle is telling me that it’s done …

Katie should infuse some life into things, though. Also, by the time she heads out I’ll be ready to power thru the last of my Crete itinerary and move on to other islands—and new adventures always get the juices flowing …

Speaking of other islands, I’m already rethinking my plans for Santorini. The basic idea behind this trip is that it would be an exploration of Crete and to Dodecanese. By going off this plan I think I might find myself becoming a bit scattered in purpose. Plus as I read about Cyclades islands besides Santorini I’m having trouble finding much that really calls to me; I find mostly crowds and high costs, which is not what I’m looking for at all. So I think I’ll go back to my old plan and head over to Rhodes once I’m done here. I think Santorini might have to wait for a future trip. I think it will survive without me …

We'll see, though. I'm going back and forth on a lot of things right now and it wouldn't surprise me if Santorini ends up on the table once again ...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Stuck Inside of Paleohora with the Sougia Blues Again

Wednesday, June 22, 2011—Paleohora, Crete, Greece

Learning a little something about Crete’s south shore: the wind really has a lot of say in things down here. Yet again it has kept me from heading to where I want to go. I woke up early this morning to get ready to head out to Sougia and the wind was blasting. So no boats to Sougia from here today, or to anywhere else. I could have taken a bus there, but I couldn’t see much point in that. It’s so windy that going to the beach and the like is not really much of an option—and beaching it is pretty much all there is to do in Sougia. So all I’d be doing would be trading sitting inside here for sitting inside there, while adding the hassle of moving—bah!

Heading up to Hania tomorrow to meet up with Katie. Hoping the wind doesn’t fuck up her short time here in Crete.

I have decided to alter my plans a bit. Everybody I run into—EVERYBODY—keeps telling me that I must go to Santorini. Even though it’s touristy and expensive it’s supposed to be so spectacular that those drawbacks are canceled out. Santorini is part of the Cyclades group of islands, which in general are more expensive and visited than other Greek islands. Because of this, I feel it’s better to go there before going to the Dodecanese, which were to be my next stop, so I can hit these costly and crowded islands earlier in the season when things are more reasonable on both accounts.

So, once I’m done with Crete, instead of heading to its eastern port of Sitia to catch a boat to Rhodes, I’ll be heading north to Iraklio (Crete’s biggest City and I think the third largest City in Greece) to catch one to Santorini. From there I’ll head north thru the Cyclades (which islands in this group other than Santorini I'm going to visit I'm still figuring out) and then over to the northern Dodecanese. I’ll then filter down thru these islands to Rhodes and then from there back to Crete, thru Sitia.

I’ll probably spend the rest of the day researching these changes, as it’s too windy to do much else.

Paleohora--Round 2

Tuesday, June 20, 2011—Paleohora, Crete, Greece

Finally got in from Gavdos. After two days of strong, non-stop wind I woke up this morning and things were calm as could be. Now I’m back in Paleohora, just for the day—tomorrow I head down the coast just a little ways to Sougia, a tiny beach hamlet. I was planning on spending a couple days in Sougia but getting stuck in Gavdos has altered my plans a bit, because I know need to be in Hania in just a couple of days to meet Katie. No biggie. If I like Sougia and feel I need to spend more time there maybe Katie and I will head there. Or maybe I’ll come back on my own after she leaves. Time and space are very elastic for me at the moment …

Not much else to report. I’m relaxing at Anyndri Beach, after hitting the internet café when I first got into town. Now I’m eating at Third Eye, a hippy-vegetarian place, which has become my favorite restaurant here in Paleohora. Later I’m going out with my Dutch friends from Paleohora. Then sleep and onward to Sougia …

Oh Windy Gavdos, Windy, Windy

Monday, June 20, 2011—Gavdos Island, Crete, Greece

Wind continues. No boat this morning. Therefore I’m still here in Gavdos. Though it seems to be blowing as hard as the previous couple days, I’ve been told that there will definitely be a boat heading out at 9:00 AM. I really hope this is true. I am officially ready to move on.

Because of a combination of laziness, fatigue, and the fact that the wind is making everything outside a bit difficult and unpleasant, I just hung around the room the first half of the day, putting journal entries onto my netbook and then reading a bit. Around one-thirty I began to get restless, so I decided to head over to a beach just past Korfos, just to check it out. It turned out to be a pretty sad place, filled with trash, plastic bottles and other plastic items mostly, along with things such a car parts(!). Though it involved a bit of tricky coastal rock-hopping to get there, the trip out didn’t really take me all that long. Since it was still fairly early I decided to head over to beautiful Agios Ioannis Beach to get the trashy beach out of my mind, so to speak, and also to cool off with a swim. After getting back from there I showered and crashed for a couple of hours.

And that was my day. Like I said, I’m more than ready to leave here; I’m out of things I want to do, other than thang out at the beach, and the wind is taking a lot of the fun out of that.

Not much else to report. My anxiety attacks have turned into short, swooning depressions. A lot of tough, weird stuff is going thru my mind at times. The natural outcome of finally getting off the crazy treadmill of endless work and finally having time to think about things. I don’t want to emphasize these moments, though—they’re a minor component of something that is overall quite positive, quite wonderful.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Gavdos Photos

Gavdos Photos. All pretty self explanitory. Beaches, where I stayed, ate, hiked, etc.