Tuesday, August 2, 2011—Lendas, Crete, Greece
My second day in Lendas. It took me a while to get here, though. I left Hora Safakilon on Saturday for Iraklio, where I was supposed to catch the bus here (two busses, actually—this place is kind of hard to get to without a car). When I got to Iraklio, though, I found out that the busses down here only run on weekdays. So I got stuck in Iraklio, the last place in Crete I want to be, for nearly two days (I really wish the Lonely Planet would have mentioned the no weekends thing). I finally made it here, though, on Monday afternoon, in a fairly foul mood because of the hassle and expense of hanging out in Iraklio. But I’ve mellowed since then—Lendas is a nice and quite relaxing place.
It’s not exactly what I expected, though. I was hoping to find something more backwoodsy, like Gavdos. What I found instead was more of a resort, though a tiny, very laid-back one. This is OK with me, I’ve decided. All I want to do my last week in Crete is relax and this is a good place for it—there really isn’t anything to do besides hang out at the beaches (which are actually pretty mediocre by Crete standards), watch the sunset (or rise), sleep, and eat and drink. Today, for example, I ate breakfast at a little café just up the hill from where I’m staying. Then I hung out with this French couple who’s staying in the room next to mine (she’s actually Italian, but has lived in France since she was very young). After this, I hiked the kilometer it is to the first beach west of town (the little town beaches are crowded with middle-aged Germans—of course, as I’ve mentioned many times, not my thing), where I swam, read, and lay around for about four hours. Now I’m typing this, eating some white grapes, and drinking a Mythos (a Greek German-style lager I think I discussed in an earlier post—meh). Later I’ll head out to dinner and maybe have a drink at one of the several “clubs” they have here, which are little outdoor bars really. And that will be my day. (It will also be my day tomorrow, except that I plan on hiking to the first beach to the east of town).
My only goal here, besides relaxation is to finish reading Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet. I’ve of course read it before, but I’ve never done all four novels in one go. In other words, I’ve never tackled the piece as a single entity, which it of course is. I’m enjoying it a great deal. More importantly, as I hoped, I’m getting more out of it reading it this way. The only problem is that I’m going thru it too quickly: I may be in Lendas until as late as next Monday and I’m already on, Clea, the final novel of the set. I do have another book with me—a history book about Crete during World War II—but going to that might be a jarring transition. Man, my life is tough: I mean, I’m about to run out of great literature by the beach in Crete. What would I do if I ever actually faced a real problem or two? …
I just realized that I haven’t really described Lendas. First, though, the trip here. The Iraklio province, I’ve been told on a number of occasions, is not the prettiest part of Crete. After driving thru it (on the bus) I can say I agree with this assessment. Basically, once you get out of the city you find yourself in a giant farming district: olive grove, hayfields, and various vegetable plots are everywhere. The geography predicts this. Once one climbs over the northern mountains, instead of more mountains, as is to be found on the more western parts of the island, there is a giant basin of flatlands and rolling hills—an agricultural paradise, in other words. Who knows how many olives are pulled out of this region, how much of Crete’s food in general? Massive amounts, for sure (after seeing this part of the island I understand why Iraklio is the island’s power center, its richest region). It’s not the most visually exciting, though: it’s too big and uniform, too dominated by straw yellows and waxy olive greens to have much drama. Still it was interesting. And it smelled good! It’s the only part of the island where the scent of olives made it thru the environmental controls of the fancy Anek and Minoan Lines busses in a big way.
Once you’re thru this valley and begin scaling the southern mountains things change radically—it starts looking a bit like the high deserts of California or Nevada. There seems to be little water here and on the south side of these mountains are definitely in the rain shadow—tough, scrubby yellow hills replace the agricultural utopia of just a handful of kilometers past. This has a harsh beauty of its own, but the beaches, which are the only respite from the heat of the area (which is formidable this time of year), are its only real selling point. And even these are few and far between, and as I mentioned of less than stellar quality.
In certain ways, though, this is a good thing, in that it keeps the tourists away. Not to many kilometers away, on a west facing bite out of the coast is a town called Matalla (I may be spelling this wrong), which once was considered to be one of the most beautiful and magical parts of the island (it was also supposedly one of the coolest places to be in the late sixties/early seventies—Joni Mitchell wrote a neat little song about the place … “Come to Matalla and I’ll buy you a bottle of wine …”). Now it’s completely overrun, just another tourist trap. Lendas, one of the few other settlements in the region simply isn’t pretty or big enough to invite that sort of exploitation. The fact that it’s Matalla’s “fat friend,” so to speak keeps it nice and tranquil for those of us who strive to get away from the big structured world of the tourist trade. Again, the beaches may not be that great, but they’re relatively tranquil. And the prices in the little town are reasonable too. All in all, there’s nothing epic going on here, just a handful of people smart enough and with taste enough to want something smaller and more real getting together and hanging out a bit.
The town itself is interesting mainly in that it’s such a little jumble. Other than the road that leads into town and dead ends into a little car park there are no roads here, which of course means there are no cars driving around. There also appears to have been no plan to this place: everything just seems to have been built where and this manner which its owner wanted. To get across the little town involves ducking into little defacto alleys, crossing vacant lots, going across private property, or heading down to the beach and walking its crescent to your next destination (which is the easiest way not to get lost). One really cool thing about this place is that the whole town is sitting atop an ancient settlement, (probably Dorian, from what I can tell). So here and there, throughout the town, there are partially excavated section of the old settlement, including one section in a lot just in front of where I’m staying! So everyone who is here is literally living on top of the site. Cool stuff, no matter how you look at it. It makes me wonder what’s under Iraklio and Hania and especially Athens. Talk about building on your past …
One other thing. Greeks don’t seem to differentiate much between the d and t sounds in English. So sometimes Lendas is spelled Lentas, occasionally in the same document! Interesting …
Wednesday, August 3, 2011—Lendas, Crete, Greece
Another wonderfully lazy day in Lendas. Like I’d planned I hiked to the beaches to the east. There was one nice little one just around the point that marks off the east edge of town, but it was a bit crowded (ten people would make the place packed). I then headed along the trail to a beach that was basically the same as the ones in town, except that there were only a couple of tavernas/guesthouses there and far fewer people. The beach was way too stony for my tastes, though. So I kept walking down to a sandier beach that had only one other peson on it. Not a great beach either, plus it was a bit lonely feeling there; I don’t like crowds, but neither do I dig such isolation—I like a little human company when I beach it. So I ended up hiking all the back thru town and over the hill that leads to Dytikos Beach, where I’d hung out the day before.
And that was the rest of my day—swimming and sunning there for nearly five hours. It was great, mainly because the winds shifted today and started coming off shore. This meant that though it was hotter than hell, it was a really dry heat, which was quite nice; it was kind of like being in a sauna—a sauna with a cooling ocean attached to it. I remember I said in one of my recent Gavdos entries that I was as tan as I’d could ever remember being. Scratch that—now I’m as tan as I can ever remember being. What’s cool is that I got at least one more day to add on to that record, maybe as many as four.
This brings me to a decision I have to make. My flight out of Hania is at five-something in the morning and my goal is to be back in that town by late afternoon/early evening the day before; I plan on doing some shopping and getting dinner and then taking that final bus to the airport, which is around midnight (I’ll then find some bench there and try to get a few hours’ sleep before I have to check in for my flight). Because of the limited bus service to and from Lendas I have two options as to when I bail out of here. I can leave Friday, which means that I’ll have to spend two nights elsewhere, probably in Iraklio and/or Hania. Or I can wait till Monday the seventh to leave, which is actually perfect, in that I’d much rather be here than in either of the Cities I just mentioned. The problem is that that’s cutting it close: if there’s any bus issue or some fuck up on my part I could miss my flight (unlikely, but possible). As of right now I think a Monday departure from here is what I’m aiming for. I’m just not in the mood to be anywhere else until I leave this island.
I forgot to mention that I checked out an archaeological site today on my way back from the eastern beaches. As I’ve mentioned, this whole town is built on an ancient settlement. On the hill just to the east of town this becomes really evident: the surface of the hill is strewn with pot sherds and chips of marble. There’s also part of a marble column just sitting on the ground as well. Here and there too can be seen the outlines of stone walls. Based on its location it was probably some sort of defensive structure or perhaps a temple complex (these things are what one tends to find on hills overlooking ancient towns on these islands). I of course don’t have the permits to do any digging here (I would have loved to have sunk a couple of test pits to see what I’d find), but I did take a bunch of photos I can use in my archaeology class in the fall. Cool stuff.
Something’s biting the hell out of me here: I’ve got what looks like mosquito bites all over my back and on parts of my arms and shoulders. I haven’t heard much in the way of buzzing in my ears at night, though, which I usually do when I get chewed up like this. I’m hoping I’m not dealing with some sort of bedbug or sand flea issue. I don’t think I am, because the parts of me that are getting bitten are the parts that usually aren’t covered by the sheet at night—which spells mosquitos. But why am I not hearing them? Am I sleeping harder than usual? That certainly doesn’t seem to be the case. A strange, unpleasant mystery …
This town is loaded with cute, young German girls. (Way too young for me, alas—Ah the sorrows of getting older!). There’s one particularly scrumptious group camping together on Dytikos Beach who are staggeringly hot—they are a combination of blondes and brunettes that remind me of the Castle Anthrax girls in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (Oh yeah, I never say “scrumptious,” by the way.) I have no particular reason for mentioning other than I think beauty should always be noted (especially when it’s in the form of stunning girls traveling in packs).