Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Saturday, June 11, 2011, Falasarna, Crete, Greece

Got to Falasarna early yesterday afternoon. As we descended from the mountains down to the coast I was surprised at what I saw; the guidebooks didn’t quite prepare me for the region’s geography or climate.

The settlement (it’s not really a town, just a bunch of guesthouses, restaurants and a few mini-marts) is located just a few kilometers up the Gramvousa Peninsula, which makes it the farthest west you can get in Crete—the next landfall is Malta. The region is really exposed—there’s an almost continuous wind that keeps the place cool by Crete standards. This along with the scrubby hills backing the coast gives the coast more the feel of someplace like central Baja than anywhere else I experienced in Crete. The ocean’s quite cool by Crete standards: it’s about the same as Southern California’s waters during a typical late July/early August. Another thing that makes this beach unusual for this part of the world is that it has waves! In fact today they were almost surfable; I got out there and got a few short slides bodysurfing. I was definitely not expecting this. Every picture of the Mediterranean you see, it seems, shows a placid, azure, lake-like scene. Yet yesterday I was dealing with moderate shorebreak and even some minor rip currents!

Another odd thing happened to me last night—I got cold. I was having dinner at a little seaside restaurant called Sun Set (two words—they’re spelling). I took a seat at one of their outdoor tables and was immediately pummeled with wind. Wind that got so cold once the sun went down that I guess it made me look so visibly uncomfortable that the proprietress of the restaurant insisted that I take one of her jackets to wear, which I accepted.

Despite this local strangeness (or perhaps in part because of it), I’ve had a pretty good time here. Like I’ve mentioned I’ve gotten in what's got to be some rare Greek bodysurfing, took a long nice walk along its sandy massive beach, and I also briefly tried my hand at nude sunbathing in a little cover south of the main beach that naturalists have colonized in a minor (only guys, though, that day at least—strange). I didn’t do it very long, not because I was uncomfortable—it’s actually quite fun and liberating—but because my happy parts were so white looking under the Cretan sun that I was afraid of getting sunburned—it’s hard to see how a burned willie could be anything other than a miserable experience.

Though I enjoyed my day here, the night was a different story. When I first checked into the place I would be staying at, Anastasia-Stassia, a little guesthouse recommended by Lonely Planet, I noticed that the air conditioning wasn’t working. Now I’m no pussy who needs that sort of thing—I’ve traveled thru many a hot climate without getting near one of those contraptions for weeks at a time. But there’s a real mosquito problem here—I’ve been getting eaten alive nearly every night. There’s of course also an issue with heat, which when combined with mosquito’s can be a problem. Let me explain. To avoid the skeeters you basically have to shut the room up tight, which means you have to have the air conditioning or you roast 
alive, (and in my case at least, get headaches). The other approach is to just throw everything open to the breeze and just deal with the mozzies. I figured I’d be fine with the second option, being so close to a big windy beach which is not usually the best environment for mosquitos. Plus that wind, I reasoned, would keep the room plenty cool on its own.

My room didn’t have any opening facing the ocean. So despite all the wind my room was a major cooker. My belief that I was in a bad mosquito environment turned out to be wrong as well—big-time wrong. Where they breed in this dry rocky place I don’t know—I’ve been getting a steady whiff of sewer around this place, which may be the answer—but they invaded my room in force. It gets worse, though. Early in my restless, mosquito-laced attempts at sleep I suddenly felt as if I weren’t alone in the room. So I kicked on the light and saw TWO nearly fist-sized spiders, one of which was frantically crawling across the room’s front door, while the other was on the ceiling above me (it later fell onto the bed).

Now normally I’m not too weirded out by spiders (snakes are another matter), but these things were huge and fast and for all I knew my room was full of them lurking out of site. More importantly, I had no idea whether they were poisonous or not. I couldn’t just share the place with them, I knew, so I tried to chase them out. That didn’t work so I ended up having to kill one by wacking it with my hiking boot. The other hid itself in the room somewhere; I never did see it again. This whole episode really creeped me out. So I shut the room out to keep out any more potentially toxic visitors and decided to keep the lights on that night. I did this for two reasons. I hadn’t seen any spider in the day, so I figured they might not be active when I have a light on either. I’ve also noticed over the years that mosquitos too are a lot less active when you have a light burning. So I ended up having a very creepy, hot, well-lit night that featured little in the way of sleep.

Despite my rough night, I basically like Falasarna. But it’s not quite what I’m looking for. (I mean, I can hang out in Baja much closer to home).So I’m off again, in about an hour or so. After here I was going to head down to a very interesting sounding beach area on the island’s southwest coast called Elafonisi, but the way the buses run that doesn’t work from here. So instead I’m backtracking to Hania, where I can catch a bus down to the south-coast city of Paleohora, which sounds really interesting as well and will make a great hub from which to explore Elafonisi, as well as a big chunk of Crete’s southern coast.

Oh yeah, I checked out another archaeological site this morning—ancient Falasarna, which is maybe couple kilometers from where I’m staying. Falasarna used to be a flourishing City state and was a major player in western Crete (it was also aligned with Sparta at one point). Later they made this mistake of tangling with the Roman Empire and were wiped out. Little remains of the old City, a few bits of wall, a stone cistern, a weird stone “thrown” whose is hard to fathom. Like the Polyrrinia site, the one was mostly covered in plant growth, so it was kind of hard to understand what was there. Still, it was worth checking out, especially since I didn’t have to kill myself getting out there.


Some random notes on Crete/Greece, observations, thoughts, etc. that have been rolling around in my head but thus far haven’t found their way into my writing.

The rooms here often come with a complimentary bottle of wine, sometimes homemade, (the Cretan equivalent of moonshine?). The bottle I have in the room I’m in now tastes like wine mixed with raisins and melted Band-Aids. Wine should not be brown.

There seems to be a physical type here in regards to the women, a country girl kind of thing. In the bigger towns there are a fair amount of the sleek beautiful women you can find in any Western urban center. Out of these areas, though, I keep seeing a different body type dominating. It features wide hips (not necessarily fat—she pelvic bones are just wide), big bootays, partially because of the wide hips but also because there’s a juicy factor going on, more than a touch of belly, and breasts that are relatively small in relation to what’s going on below their ribcages. I didn’t dig this at first, but the look’s starting to grow on me—these girls are kind of like erotic pears or something …

All the dogs in Kolymbari seemed to have embarrassed looks on their faces, like they were ashamed to be dogs or something, like they now realize that if they would have stayed in school and studied hard they could have made much more of their lives.

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