Friday, March 31, 2017

What's in My Jug?


Carnations. A nice, safe choice. I forgot how much I love the smell. This was a rushed photo. Can you tell? Of course you can, but you're too polite to say anything. That's why we like you.

UPDATE: I took a second photo, because I was so unhappy with the first.


It's a little better.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Evia

Did I tell you that we drove to Evia? Probably not. I don't remember telling you, and if I don't remember it, then it didn't happen.

We drove to Evia several weeks ago, during the Clean Monday holiday. Clean Monday is the kite-flying national holiday following Carnival. This year, it was gray, drizzly, chilly, and bleak. I guess it was windy, too, because people still flew kites. Bully.

Evia is the second largest island in Greece. It's connected to the mainland by two bridges, which are about a two hour drive north-east of Athens.

There are three major things in Evia that shouldn't be missed. The first is Mount Dirfys, the tallest mountain on the island. It's a gorgeous feature in the center of Evia, with famous hiking trails. Here's the mountainous view we saw on our journey:


The second thing you cannot miss in Evia is the trela nera, or "crazy waters" of Chalkida. Due to a natural tidal wave, hydrodynamics, and other things I've never studied in my life, the flow of the water changes directions every six hours. Honest to goodness, the flow of the water completely reverses directions. Usually the change in flow is preceded by about 8 minutes of calm waters. We camped out in Chalkida for two hours waiting for the water to reverse directions. Eventually, we realized we'd incorrectly calculated the estimated time of the change. We trooped to our car, only to realize as we were driving over the bridge that the water had reversed direction. We missed it by minutes.

Happier times--when we still thought we were going to witness the water change directions. The water flows really fast under this bridge. Wikipedia tells me it's flowing about 9mph. Here's that page, if you want to read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trela_nera

The third thing(s) you can't miss are the thermal springs. The northern part of the island has plenty. There are nice resorts, which have blocked off some of them, and require you to pay an access fee. We don't know anything else about the springs. We never even got close to them.

All in all, it was a bit of a bum trip. We missed pretty much everything that would have justified the drive to Evia. Let our failure be your guide. If you go to Evia, go on a clear day. Make sure you've carefully researched the reversal times for the crazy waters, or build enough time into your itinerary to camp out in Chalkida for a few hours if you have to. If you want to go to the thermal springs, plan that as a separate day trip. Most importantly, take a good camera, so when you write about your experience, you're not sharing blurry, cheap cell phone photos.





Despite it all, Evia is pretty, even in crappy weather, and it's one of the easiest islands to get to from the mainland. Go, please. Take lots of pictures. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

What's in My Jug?


These are really meant to be participatory posts, since I have little to no knowledge about plants (as we have witnessed countless times).

These were very pretty, and very fragrant while they lasted. They didn't last long, though, and bordered on being too fragrant for their own good. Still, no regrets.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Still Life: Laiki Haul

It's been a while since I've publicly bragged about my purchases from laiki. I want to rectify that.

Nice photo, right? I'll give you a "behind the scenes" look at the end of this post. 


Strawberries are in season again. They trickled in slowly this year. First, I could only find a few half-decent berries at one guy's stall. Now they're on every fruit seller's table. It's delightful. I bought strawberries from two different sellers today, because I have a lot of irons in the fire at laiki. My loyalties are divided. I feel guilty, okay? I feel guilty when I don't stop by my usual stalls.

Guilt is the reason I bought a thing of honey this week, too. We like the honey, and we eat the honey, we just didn't necessarily need the honey.

I also bought a new bouquet for my apfelwein jug. I skipped last week because I had a stomach bug, and wanted to get through my laiki shopping as quickly as possible. I'll post a photo of those flowers separately, but not for another day or two because they aren't bloomed out magnificently yet.

Phil returned from his work trip yesterday morning. Bella freaked out when she saw him. So did The Kid. So did I, if we're being honest. It's good to have him home. Kid has been wrestling some sort of sickness for a couple days. He capitulated yesterday, all over his clothes, and the kitchen floor. He's not as sick today, but he's still feeling crummy. Poor little dude.

I found a lone, little bug as I was combing through Bella's hair last night. She's current on her flea and tick prevention, but I still devoted an hour to panic about it before bed. It's fine. She's fine. We're all fine. In the rational light of morning, I trimmed and cleaned her without finding another bug.



We have relatives flying in tomorrow. I cleaned the big balcony in anticipation of their arrival. I actually cleaned it because it was filthy, but it was nice to have a reason to do it. It occurred to me yesterday that they'll be here during a holiday weekend. Saturday is the celebration of Greece's War of Independence (from the Ottomans). It's also the celebration of the Assumption. It's a double whammy, so a lot of things are going to be closed. On the plus side, this will be a good chance for us to put our knowledge of free, open, offbeat things to do in Athens to the test. Yipes.

I must rouse the child, and stuff some food into his face. I'll leave you with two behind the scenes photos to show you what really goes into nice pictures of laiki purchases.





Pleasant Pictures from Greece








Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Excerpts from the Life of Kid

She clung desperately to his leg with one hand, while the other hand wiped furiously. The toy ball dangled ever closer to danger, as he swung his hand wildly in all directions. She kept wiping, unflinchingly, as the rush of the inevitable swept his leg from her grasp, like a rogue wave in a vast ocean of disgust.

"It's not the worst diaper change we've had," she thought consolingly as she watched the crap-covered bottom crawl off the changing pad and onto the rug.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Crete

I've said before that Greece is a big country, and if you come here, you should put in the effort to see as much of it as possible. If you're a regular person, with a regular budget, and American-standard paid time off, bag every other place I've ever told you about in Greece, and just go to Crete.



Crete is achingly, stunningly beautiful. It's also a great island to visit during the off-season. Almost everything is up and running during the winter, which is a bit of a rarity in Greek islands. There are two main cities with airports: Heraklion, and Chania. We spent most of our limited time in the area around Chania.

The Minoans popped up in Crete around 5,000 years ago. Crete was the center of their civilization, which included some of the other nearby islands. You'll remember that the Minoan civilization eventually collapsed, possibly because of the massive tsunami from the massive volcanic explosion that formed present-day Santorini. In its prime, it was a powerhouse of trade and culture. According to a careful reading of Wikipedia, the Minoans are regarded as the earliest recorded civilization in Europe; which makes Knossos, the main archaeological site we visited in Crete, the oldest European city.

Knossos was excavated by an English man, Sir Arthur Evans, beginning in 1900. Arthur Evans had a talent for deciphering undecipherable artifacts, and reconstructing entire structures based on his findings. That is to say, he invented a lot of crap about the site, but made it sound believable. Some of the most recognizable elements from Knossos may be completely fabricated. Some elements are definitely real, though, and it is completely thrilling to see a city that had working water pipes 4,000 years ago.

















There's a real thing for you. Those rocks are the original stairs.










After the decline of the Minoan civilization, Crete changed hands a bunch of times. Sometimes it was under Greek control, sometimes Roman, and sometimes Ottoman. You can see the different influences in Old Town Chania. We stopped by the Archaeological Museum of Chania first,  to check out old stuff.






After the museum, we walked around a bit. We saw an old church, an old synagogue, an old street, an old mosque, an old castle, and a bunch of old people.









We stayed right on the coast, in a rental from Airbnb. Our apartment was in the old tannery district. A lot of the surrounding buildings were vacant, and full of junk. It was cool. Our building was beautiful. And, I mean, it was ON the coast. With a capital "O, N!"


Here's a view from the front door. There's a bedroom to the immediate right, a full kitchen to the right of that purple backpack, and...



...this living room to the left. 

The living room doors opened to this patio. The sea is on the other side of those rocks.

This is the lived-in loft bedroom upstairs. The ceilings are gorgeous and vaulted. 

Here's the balcony off the upstairs bedroom. 

Our view from the rocks in front of the house.

More view. 

It was a stunning property. I hate to even share it with you, because I don't want it to be booked if we try to go back. It's already booked most of the time anyway. Okay, fine. Here: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/14129747


We were in Crete during Carnival. We were a week early for the big celebrations, but we got a taste of Carnival in Rethymno. 

















We spent our last afternoon driving through villages, and the mountains.


During World War II, Greece was part of occupied territory. The people of Greece heavily resisted German occupation. Every road trip we've taken has routed us past a WWII memorial commemorating local resistance. Crete is no different. Several of their villages suffered huge losses. This particular church is located in a village that repelled a group of German troops with a small local force. Germany returned with more soldiers, and executed every man in the village. In the churchyard, there was a monument engraved with the names and ages of the men who were massacred. It was sobering.

I hate to leave you on a mournful note. Why do I do that? Why can't I just let things be beautiful and pleasant? I guess I do it to remind myself that the places I visit aren't just one-dimensional postcards. In Greece, especially, there is a deep, ancient history, punctuated by good times, and terrible times. Understanding the history is an important part of experiencing the country.





On the other hand, sometimes you just have to shut up, and enjoy the view.

Go to Crete. You will never regret or forget it.