...and everything fell into place...


             ...'how can you not love her when she gives you all she has - and only takes your heart'...

Our ferry from Sitia was as smooth as the ride to the mountains was short but the moment we finally pulled to a halt and the driver had shouted 'Kritsa!', there was nothing short of organised chaos. In that instant everyone seemed to stand up and start chattering and begin a mad, life-or-death scramble to get off the bus.

The lady across the passage from me seemed to be struggling with all her bags so I offered to help. She indicated she could manage and then I told her we were looking for a room. She winked, and waved a beckoning finger. What adventure was this, I wondered? Where to now?
At last, with bags in hand we looked about and she was waiting, talking to a lady seated in a doorway of a shop that was completely dressed in hanging squares of lace, embroidery, crochet and linen of all descriptions. The lady had an air, a warmth, and a soft and welcoming smile. Still with needle and thread in hand, she introduced herself as Maria, 'Please, come and look,' and she held open the door.
And we looked and saw the simple way into the open heart of this mysterious country and together, we stepped inside.

Maria showed us three rooms in a breezy, shadowy two-storey building. The first overlooked the street when we really wanted calm. Maria looked at our faces, 'Maybe noise? OK. Quiet. No problem,' and then showed a room just big enough for the double bed it contained, 'Too small? OK. No problem.'

Then Maria opened the door to a third room and smiled. It was as if all my dreams had come true.

our balcony view
My first impression was that the room smelled of fruit.
Then through an opposite doorway we saw the blueness of a perfect sky and a sweeping panoramic vision of surrounding mountains. I thought I was dreaming. I stepped forward onto a balcony that led, by a set of spiralling metal steps, down to what appeared to be an allotment or orchard. Looking to my extreme left the mountains ranged high above us making the village look fragile and tiny; they continued round above and in front of us behind a wide and verdant pasture dotted with olive groves, one or two chapels and an ancient dusty road that sliced it in half from west to east. The road drew my gaze to a break in the range through which could be seen the ancient, shining Sea of Crete and more mountains behind. From the road, the range climbed up on the right to the skyline then round and high behind.
Little Kritsa lay sprinkled on what could be taken for the slopes of a crater almost completely encircled by mountains.
When Maria left us to our senses, I sat on the balcony and fell into a deep and gentle stillness.
It was as if I had never known contentment before.

During our stay I tried to keep some notes and here are a few you might like to read:

Thursday. We spent all day wandering in Kritsa surrounded with flowers, and old ladies in widow's weeds, some bent double - all smiling - out and about through shadows, old houses and passageways. People are village kind and village gentle. The village sells handicrafts; a little twee maybe but our kind of twee. Linen for the bed and the furniture, leather goods, pottery, carved olive wood, beautiful glassware, hand-made crafts that stir the mind as well as the soul. Goat and church bells chime. Dogs bark. Olive groves profuse. Vines grow everywhere with honeysuckle, bougainvillaea and purple plastic chairs. Voices echoing shadowy pasts and dusty passageways. Puppy dogs, donkeys and children. There are balconies too, smiles and nods, food smells and steps and slopes leading up and away.


Friday I woke with a mouth full of sand and our water bottle was empty.
I took it outside intending to take a chance on one of the village taps because I had a vague memory of being told that Cretan mountain water was safe. There was a well tap across the road near a bench outside a little chapel. A man and a small little boy sat there. The man was clipping his son's finger nails and the boy was having fun writhing and complaining. I put the bottle under the tap and turned it on. Nothing happened. I turned it off and tried again. Still nothing.
'Is it finished?' I asked the man.
'No. You have to wait a few minutes and it will come through.'
I turned it on with the bottle underneath and waited watching the father having fun with his son, clipping away at the nails and sometimes clipping his own whilst holding the boy's fingers ready. Suddenly there was a gurgle and then another and then ice-cold water spurted from the tap into the bottle and all over my hand. As soon as the bottle was full, I turned to the man,
'Well, you were right. You know everything.' The boy looked proudly at his Dad, the man laughed and shrugged, 'I am a father.' 'Thanks again.'
'You're welcome.'
I asked Maria if she has anything with which we can heat some water for coffee in our room. She apologises. She hasn't anything.
I lay down on my bed after a hearty lunch and the pillow's like wood but the winds of Crete waft through the window, fanning the hairs on my stomach, my chest and blow across my mind.

Saturday. One of our routines has been to frequent the very old kafeneion, Sareidakis. It sits in a higgledy-piggledy of little houses and shops at the meeting point of two sloping lanes. In the apex is an ancient Platanos tree and old Mr. Sareidakis is not at all pleased that the new restaurant that has opened next door has been called 'O Plantanos'. They needn't worry. Its proprietor seems tense and never smiles. The old couple make pleasant hosts, as unbusinesslike as you could wish, and always make a great fuss when we approach. I've taken to kissing Mrs. Sareidakis on each cheek and she giggles when I call her 'Mamma'.


   Monday. Our last full day in Kritsa. It's about ten and already hot. We got up around six to watch the dawn so must have been out and about since before seven to check on bus times for tomorrow. Our check-in time at Iraklio is 11:10. If there is a bus 08:30, as we expect, we will be at the airport for 10:00. Our plane leaves at 13:10.

   Yesterday morning, Sandy found she'd been bitten by the selfish flying attacking thing that comes while you sleep and whines "Meeeeee" right up close in your ear until you wake but by then it's too late and you've been got.

 Before we left our room, I was just about to climb down the spiral staircase into the orchard and pick some lemons to rub on the sore spot when our landlady, Madam Maria, called and took us into her shop where she proudly presented us with a primus stove so we can make water 'zesti'.
   We don't think she has had guests before because she seems flustered and over-anxious in her desire to make us as comfortable as possible. But, of course, we thanked her as much as we could for her thoughtfulness and installed the little stove on top of the washing machine in the bathroom. But there was a snag.

   We couldn't find anything to drink from in our room, or in the kitchen, or the room on the roof, or in either of the other two empty rooms, and we couldn't embarrass the lady who had done so much for us already so the stove was left unused right up until after we left.


 I feel a little low. I don't want to go home so soon. I try to keep busy.

I sunbathe on an old iron bedstead on the roof but it's too hot.

Then I recall Sandy's bites and spiral into the orchard for the lemons. Oranges, apricots, rose hips, roses, lavender, mint; I stand and fill my lungs and chuckle. I pluck two fat lemons from a swaying limb then, as I stretch up higher for a third, I become aware of faint weak tweets coming from somewhere close. Peering through the leaves over the wall into next door, I come face to beak with a rather indignant hen surrounded by her chicks. I felt like a visitor opening the bathroom door and finding my host in the bath. I apologise and back away hoping they haven't been too disturbed.

   But the encounter lifts my spirits so next a rose and some violets to add to the bouquet in the bowl I made from the base of an empty water bottle, I climb back to our room and present my hunter-gatherings to Sandy. She's delighted and within seconds of her scraping the peel to release the zest, she is rubbing a lemon over her bites and they lose their spite.

 At once our room is filled with the freshness of fruit, fruit just as fresh as only fruit can be.

...some thoughts...



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