Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sitia and Raki and Raki and Raki ...

Sunday, July 3, 2011—Sitia, Crete, Greece

Had a day today where I just sort of collapsed, which isn’t surprising, as I’d been feeling a little rundown lately and last night I piled a bunch of raki on top of that. Yesterday evening, as I was about to head out to dinner, I found Alexandra, the German woman who runs this place, and the old Greek guy who owns it (I either can’t remember or never got his name) sitting at a table on the patio in front of the hotel with most of the guests here drinking raki and ouzo and eating some appetizers—it was a kind of welcome to Sitia party. I was invite to join in and over the next hour or so drank raki, while getting to know my hosts (who are extremely cool) and some fellow guests—an Albanian man and his Italian wife, a youngish German couple, two forty-something French women (lesbians?), and a small group of Italians.

I had a good time at this little shindig, at which the Greek owner of the place held court and told us of his life as an importer and locals kids (two from here and two from Albania) who came up the stairs to sing and dance for us (the Greek guy afterwards gave them all apricots—their eyes lit up). But I was drinking raki on a nearly empty stomach. Later, when I finally did make it to dinner, the owner of Gato Negro, the restaurant I’d chosen, took a liking to me, sat down at my table with a raki bottle and insisted we have some shots together, while he told me of his world travels, of how had been a professional singer and had lived in Zurich and Hamburg for lengthy stretches. He was great. His food was great too—I had grilled chicken and tomato frits that were killer. Unfortunately I’d ordered some red wine before I realized I was going to be drinking more raki and that combo, combined with the fact that after dinner I ended up drinking more shots with the owner really put me under.

So I woke up today with a nice hangover. Still I managed to head over to the archaeological museum, which turned out to be pretty cool. It’s collection in mostly of stuff excavated in this area and features a lot of early Minoan material, along with a smaller amount of artifacts from periods up to Roman times. The coolest part of the exhibit for me, though, was the fragments of Linear A tablets they have. It still blows my mind that nobody has ever deciphered this script. This probably shows that whatever language the Minoans spoke it has no surviving relatives or even past relatives that were written down (if there was a similar language recorded someone would have by now figured that out and used it as a template to decode the Linear A stuff). Unlike the museum in Iraklio, this one doesn’t feature spectacular frescos or jewelry made of gold and exotic stones, which makes it a lot less flashy. But in overall content it’s nearly as good. The only problem is that things are not explained that well and one needs a bit of knowledge going in to really understand what’s there.

After the museum I took a stroll to thru the town, which was a little tough because of my still-aching Samaria Gorge legs and the fact that this town is built going up a hill. My hangover was of course with me as well. It was hot as hell today too. So all these things combined made for a rather short journey. In fact, by about one in the afternoon I had had it. I ditched my plans to go to the beach and instead headed back to my room, where I crashed hard for almost three-and-a-half hours. This turned out to be the best decision I could have made, as even without a hangover, in retrospect, I really needed a down day. Now I’m feeling pretty good, a bit groggy, but a lot healthier than I did this morning.

Skipping my beach day was a good decision in another way too. I’ve decided to take a day trip tomorrow to Vai, a famous beach on the island’s east coast, 24 kilometers from here, and I really don’t need two beach days in a row. The reason Vai is so famous, beyond the fact that the beach there is supposedly great, is that it’s home to a forest of a species of palms found nowhere else in the world. It’s supposed to be really touristy, in a manner similar to Elafonisi on the west coast. But Lonely Planet says that if you hike a bit to either the north or the south there are good beaches as well that draw much lighter crowds. Heading for these spots is my plan, once I’ve checked out the palm forest and generally gotten the lay of the land of Vai.


I’ve given up coffee again; I haven’t had any in forty-eight hours, which is the main withdrawal period. Surprisingly I’ve had no headaches of note. Been thinking a lot about the lactose intolerant thing. I’ve realized that it’s virtually impossible to cut dairy completely out of my diet while traveling thru a place like Greece. Still, I’ve cut way back the last forty-eight hours and my digestion is markedly better. What giving up dairy truly means is just beginning to hit me, though. No pizza. No ice cream. No cheese in general. Many many other wonderful things gone too. Now I don’t eat a lot of that kind of stuff, but when I do I really enjoy it. This might be what I have to give up, though—I just can’t function the way I’ve been going.

As I mentioned, drinking here is another issue. At this point in my life my body just can’t handle much alcohol. I’ve also figured out, though, that drinking and Greece are pretty inseparable—it’s too big of a social thing here. My new goal is to cut back as much as possible without offending my hosts, while just accepting that I’m going to have the occasion raki-heavy night now and then. I mean, I’m only here about a month more and once I get home things will return to normal in this regard, to where I need to be in this area.

Been noticing that Katie’s brief appearance during my trip has had an interesting lasting affect. Her background is in art history. This along with her job as a tour guide in Rome has makes her really aware of things like architecture. When she was here we were continually stopping so she could check out various buidlings. Now I’m doing it too! I often don’t undertsand what I’m seeing, but I am noticing things I’ve never paid much attention to before. She’s definitely corrupted me. Damn.

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