Saturday, July 20, 2013—Myrtos, Crete, Greece
Feeling considerably better, to the point where I'm getting a bit bored: I'm forcing myself to lay low because I know I'm not full speed but I'm close enough that doing little has become a job. I did manage to make it to a new destination at least. I'm now in Myrtos on the southeast shore of the island. This place is almost exactly what I expected it to be. But more on that later. I want to say a bit about the bus ride down here first …
It took a route that sliced thru nearly the center of the Lasithi province (which geographically amounts to roughly the eastern fourth of the island. The richness of the valleys and foothills I saw on Crete's eastern coast increased dramatically as we veered inland and south; I realized that I was seeing the edge of this part of the island's very productive agricultural zone. The olive trees were everywhere of course, as were all sorts of vegetable plots, plus some vineyards and other kinds of orchards; things were greener here that on any other part of the island I've been to, including the center of the Iraklio province, which was extremely productive, impressively so.
A we came out on the southern side of the mountains things became a bit less fertile, though there was still much more green than I've seen anywhere else on this island's southern shore. Soon, though, as were neared the city of Ierapetra, the greenhouses this area is famous for began appearing. One of the reason this city and the areas around it have such a bad rep is that these contraptions, frames covered exclusively it seems with stretched white plastic of some sort, as seen as being a major eyesore. I've seen these things in other parts of Crete but in nothing approaching the number they have around here. In small numbers they didn't bother me; I hardly noticed them, actually. Seeing them practically coating the coast here, though, I quickly came to the conclusion I agreed with their detractors: these things are pretty damn ugly. Still, the produce is almost uniformly good here and a lot of it is grown in these tents. Seeing that I've eaten and enjoyed my fair share of it I don't feel I have too much right to complain. That doesn't mean that I have to like looking at the things, though. Nor does it mean that I have to keep entirely quiet on the subject …
Ierapetra itself also has a pretty bad rep: the tour guides pan it en masse and I've never heard any traveler have a good thing to say about it—for most of them it was a place you had to get thru to get to somewhere more interesting. After the bus came out of the hills we hugged the coast for a while to the east of the city (this area was surprisingly touristy and built up, like a mini, far less intense version of the coastal tourist strips in the north). Finally we came around and down a bend and could see Ierapetra. After being on little island and Crete's relatively empty east coast it seemed shockingly large. Lonely Planet calls it a dusty agricultural hub, or something to that effect. Later, as the next bus I took moved thru it to its western outskirts where the number of greenhouses increased exponentially, I could see where this description comes from (my guess is that this become even more pronounced on its inland fringe, which I did not see). What I wasn't ready for was the ritzy, trendy, and frankly lame-ass fashion tourist atmosphere I also would encounter.
I had to wait about two hours before the next bus left there to Myrtos, so I decided to wander the town a bit and track down something to eat. I couldn't really get too far, both because I had to stay relatively close to the bus station and because I had my full pack with me and I didn't really want to lug it around town (I was still feeling slightly feverish from the illness of a couple days past). I quickly found myself on a waterfront that was lined with trendy cafes that really could have been anywhere in Europe. Backing these were the same silly tourist shops one can find pretty much everywhere. The place was completely characterless: it reminded me of certain sections of Iraklio, which has got to be one of the ugliest cities in the entire Aegean. I was starving so I picked a café (they all looked pretty much the same, so based my choice mostly on which one seemed to have the cutest servers working there). After eating a boring club sandwich I walked around some more and, yep, everywhere I went reminded me of a lower-key Iraklio. I got so annoyed that I went back to the bus station a half hour earlier than planned and waited things out there …
Myrtos is far more pleasant. As I said, it looks pretty much exactly as I thought it would. It's a semi out-of-the way little beach village, moderately touristy, but with a bit of a Greek feel to it still. It reminds me of a bigger version of Lendas, the little beach enclave on the south shore of the Iraklio province where I more or less ended my trip last time thru. Houses climbing up fairly steep hills. A small flat coastal strip. Restaurants, shops, but real places too, like an actual Greek bakery and some shops where everything seems written in Greek only. A decent beach, not very crowded because this place it a touch off the beaten path. Little to do in town do besides swim and eat and decided when and where you next want to swim and eat. It looks like it will be a nice low-key place to wind away a couple of days, to finish healing from my illness. As of right now my impression of the place is that I've been to similar little beach towns I like a bit better (such as the aforementioned Lendas). Still, I do like this place a lot—it's got a really good vibe and is definitely pretty (it's also on a beautiful stretch of coast, now that most of the greenhouses have been left behind). I'm glad I've come here …
I didn't get into town until about one this afternoon. By the time I got a place (a nice room with a kitchen nearly on top of one of the hills that backs the town—I have a fantastic view—for fifteen euros a night less than I was paying for basically the same thing in Kato Zagros) and explored the town a bit all I was really up for was a little beach time. There's a Minoan site I want to see here that's back up in the hills a ways and another hike thru this cool looking gorge I want to do, so that will be my day tomorrow (plus a little more beach time). And then I'll be off the next morning.
Suddenly feeling a little tired. Thinks I'll call it a night on this writing.
Myrtos from above
Myrtos from my Balcony
Beach at Myrtos
Greenhouses on the shore
The steps up to where I was staying
Minoan site above Mytros