04 Jun Mediterranean Secret: The Island of Crete
Mainland Greece and all of the Cycladian Islands are simply stunning. With crystalline turquoise waters lapping a variety of terrain, from the red pebbled shores of Akroiteri to the sheer cliffs of Sounoin, this is not an area of the world lacking in natural beauty. But, when it comes down to my humble opinion, the little-talked-about isle of Crete is the best. Often the least mentioned places are the most worthwhile.
I arrived on an overnight ferry from the port city of Pirreaus at five in the morning. After throwing my bags in the first taxi I saw, I gave the driver the address to the hotel I’d found in my guidebook. “Oh no,” he said, “You don’t want to stay there.” I assumed he was pulling the usual cabbie move, but he threw out an offer that was hard to pass up: twenty bucks a night at a hotel on the beach. At that hour I suppose I’m easy to convince, but this guy was no ordinary tour guide.
Johannes’ promises were always exceeded by their fulfillment. Even his speechless Grecian wife was more striking than he said. Whether it was cave framed sunsets over the green bay in Matala where Zeus stole Europa as a bull, or eating head-on redfish and watching the noonday sun over the abandoned leper colony on Spiralongia, he always had a story to tell. “Matala,” he said, sucking the open fish eyes from their delicate sockets. “It is Sodom and Gomorrah for the British.” His wife nodded before slamming a shot. Crete was more interesting than I could have ever imagined.
Pretty soon, they had adopted me as one of their own. I walked out of Phaestos, the famous Minoan ruins, to find Johannes parked outside. “Where’s Penelope?” I asked. He pointed off the side of a sheer precipice. Moments later a cloth sack swung over the ledge and up climbed Penelope without even an extended hand from her husband. She smoothed her hair before showing me her prize: snails for dinner. At their house, Johannes and I debated philosophy in his sea-side garden, eating cucumbers straight out of the ground and drinking warm homemade Raki in the a humid breeze. We dug the fatty grey creatures from their shells with enormous forks. They introduced me to their daughter, who (after dancing me dead at four in the morning) left me on high speed ferry headed for Santorini with the most beastly hangover known to man. I raise my glass to Cretan hospitality!