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Autumn 2005

Posted by Kritsa Yvonne, 17 April 2006 · 1,131 views

As in previous years as soon as the work contract ended we were off! We hadn’t been able to get away as early as 12th August before so we were looking forward to a “summer” journey by road en route to Crete.

Alan had spent ages planning the trip with the first highlight being a revisit to Innsbruck that had been such a wash out the previous year then across the Dolomites and down into Italy and across to Venice. The journey through France was everything we expected with sunshine all the way. However, as soon as we reached the Austrian boarder rain started and it before long it seemed like it was going to rain for ever. Bypassing Innsbruck was an easy decision and we continued to head over the mountains towards Venice but visibility was reduced so much we really couldn’t appreciate any of the scenery.

We hadn’t realised that this very heavy rain was actually causing great concern and it was being reported on the news across Europe and in fact widespread flooding resulted a few days later.

It was still raining in the early afternoon when we reached the bridge across to Venice and we were very pleased to see a Visitor Information point as we had not pre booked any accommodation.

With great efficiency we soon had 2 nights booked in a small Hotel on the Lido, a nearby island reached by a 20 minute car ferry journey. As we neared the Lido we could see the sky clearing and dared to hope that Venice would not be a wash out too. After so long sat in the car we really enjoyed walking about and decided to eat locally in the bustling town centre, pizza of course!

The next morning we set off early and bought a “run about” ticket for the waterbus; heading towards Venice we enjoyed seeing the famous skyline although light rain spoilt the prospect of photos.

Think of all the famous scenes you have seen in and around Venice and I bet it doesn’t include one like this!


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We were ahead of most tourists, St Marks Square was not very busy and the Gondolas were still moored up but the skies were clearing and we set off to “do” Venice. The “run about” ticket proved to be excellent value as we hopped on and off different waterbuses and walked and walked and walked. We didn’t go in any buildings or galleries and some people might view this as a lost opportunity but we were fascinated by the streets and canals and saddened by the extensive water damaged being caused to buildings due to the ever rising sea level.

We had intended going back to the Lido for a wash and brush up before returning to Venice for the evening but we were absolutely shattered so we bought salad, bread and wine and enjoyed a room picnic instead.

Of course we awoke to the best sunshine we had seen since France but by now our tourist days were over and we needed to head for Ancona. We decided to take minor roads rather than the motorway as we did have plenty of time but with hindsight this was a mistake. The land was absolutely flat and therefore it was not a very scenic journey; had we taken the other route we would have had more time to explore a hidden jewel beyond Ancona. We had always viewed Ancona as a place where we got the ferry to Greece rather than a destination worth seeing but a few spare hours gave us the chance to see that another time we would aim to spend more time there. The appeal is not the town itself but the area of highland just beyond Ancona; it appears that there are villages and coves to explore with fantastic scenery too – we will return.

We enjoyed the familiarity of the overnight ferries, first one to mainland Greece and then onto Crete. Almost as soon as we stopped the car in Kritsa an English friend, Jenny passed by on her way to work and before we had even set foot in the house we had a dinner date arranged for a couple of days time.

On arrival at the house we found a kitten asleep on the doormat and as soon as the door opened he was inside and acting as if he owned the place. Some friends of ours with two children had been staying in the house for the two months prior to our arrival so we realised the kitten had probably had at least two adoring fans so no wonder he felt at home. I don’t like cats so he was promptly deposited outside and he certainly didn’t like the new rules.

The kitten had obviously been used to breakfast so I conceeded that I would put a few scraps down for him outside the house.

By the time our friends Barry and Hazel arrived for their 3rd Kritsa holiday a few days later I explained that the kitten came in every morning, asked for his breakfast and was fed outside BUT he was not allowed on the furniture.

The next morning as soon as the door was opened in came the kitten and Hazel screamed in fright as he attacked her toes attracted by brightly coloured nail varnish! Well OK, the cat could sit on Barry’s lap but not on the furniture.

Poor Barry had come to Crete for a holiday away from his job as a bathroom fitter only to find we had a broken shower that needed replacing. Easier said than done as the fittings had been brought from Austria by the people who had refurnished the house, the connectors were all Greek and Barry thought in Imperial not metric measurements.

The plastic shower tray had split so we decided to replace this with ceramic and as this was a different shape to the original one the plastic surround was replaced by glass; the connectors were built by Barry from assortments he found in the plumbers merchants. It took several days to order the fittings, get them delivered and complete the various stages so in between we did have visits to the beach to prove he was on holiday. We made a return trip to Chrisi Island off Ierapetra and although we had a very good day we all agreed that now we had now found so many other great beaches it wasn’t worth the €15 each it cost to go to the island.

Whenever Alan and Barry took a coffee break sat on the step outside the house the cat joined them; he shared his favour between them quite fairly when he made his choice of which lap to sit on. Very nice for them but I wouldn’t be holding the cat, after all you don’t know where it has been!

On a previous holiday, when we had struggled to take food up to the balcony, Barry had remembered he had an old Baby Belling calor gas cooker in the back of his garage and he thought it would be great for cooking up on the balcony. We had enjoyed using it the previous year but this was the first time Barry and Hazel had seen it in situ. We have an old table and cupboard set up with duplicate kitchen utensils and although it looks a bit messy it is great fun and more importantly very convienient.

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The two weeks flew by and it seemed that no sooner was the shower grouting dry than they were off. They had an early morning flight so Alan took them to the airport before 5.00 a.m. The fact that I didn’t go wasn’t because I wanted some extra zzzzz’s but Jim and Mo were arriving for their second Kritsa holiday late that afternoon so I had some heavy housework to do.

After a couple of days settling in Mo and Jim went off to Santorini for two days based on our enthusiastic description of the trip we had enjoyed the previous year. It seemed like we “oversold” it because their hotel was nowhere as good as the one we had and to be honest they seemed pleased to be back in Kritsa.

One of the highlights of their time with us was a visit to the caves at Milatos; although not spectacular to look at they are in a very scenic location. However, the caves are infamous because in 1823 local clergy, woman and children hid there from the Turks but the siege ended with very tragic loss of life. Inside the caves is a small church cut into the rocks and the events are made very real by the glass fronted “coffin” full of bones.

The area around these caves is very beautiful and we also followed some very steep tracks down to remote beaches so all together a great day out.

Another memorable day was our visit to Knossos and Heraklion but it is hard to say if this was because of the wonders of the Palace or the Cretan customer service Jim experienced. Jim had bought a pair of sandals prior to embarking on his trip to Santorini and whilst walking around Heraklion the strap broke rendering them useless. As we were so close to where he bought them Jim decided to return them and ask for a replacement pair – this would have been the automatic response to a similar complaint in the UK. However, the vendor got on the phone and then said his brother was on his way with very strong German glue. It took quite awhile for the brother to arrive and the shopkeeper disappeared leaving us all bewildered with a shop full of stock and an untended till. When the shopkeeper returned he had a bag full of cold drinks to ensure his customers kept their cool! Once “glued up” we went with a still barefoot Jim to a bar for afternoon coffee to allow time for the glue to set and as far as we know the sandals remain in use.

During this time the cat was continuing to enjoy breakfast with us and I must confess that sometimes the contents of our picnic were dictated by what leftovers I thought the cat might like. Tuna, ham, cheese and egg he loved them all. Most fun of all was when we had emptied a large container of yoghurt and he went in headfirst. Well I thought his black face with white tips on his nose and ears looked adorable - oh dear it seemed like I was forgetting that I don’t like cats!!

The final days with Jim and Mo were spent on various beaches and then we were able to enjoy our favourite pastime, waving people goodbye at the airport. Oh yes, we both have a nasty streak.

It was now tine to pull on the walking boots again and explore with the help of our favourite book of circular walks. As the evenings were drawing in we spent less time on the balcony and the cat started sitting outside as he could obviously sense we were in the lounge. Well OK, I decided he could come in and sit on my lap for a few minutes but only whilst I sat on the bottom of the stairs so he wouldn’t go on the furniture.

Two of our walks remain very vivid in my mind; one was through the Gorge of the Dead in Zakros in the far east of Crete and the other closer to home on big Spinalonga near to Elounda.

We had visited Zakros the previous year and we knew that if we parked at the top of the gorge and walked down we would be able to get a bus back up late afternoon so it seemed like a good plan. It is not a difficult walk and stout shoes would be enough for most people to make the steady decent in circa 1.5 hours but it is awe inspiring and recommended if you can make the trip that far. We enjoyed a lovely meal at the edge of the sea as a reward and realised that we had the perfect excuse to do the same walk again; it must be spectacular in the gorge in the early summer with Oleander and Hebe in full bloom and there are at least another 3 tavernas to try.

The walk around Big Spinalonga was with Kritsa friends Bob and Jenny and although they didn’t know it the day just happened to be my Birthday. It was a bright and blustery day and ideal for walking. Bob and Jenny had brought a flask of tea and cake and we had the filled rolls so a picnic midday was eagerly anticipated by all.

After our fist stop at a small church I offered to carry the rucksack but Alan declined saying “I would hardly know it was there”. The walk was quite taxing in places and the advice in the book of “shorts may be worn” was quite incorrect as our very scratched legs proved. Half way around the walk we found an ideal place for lunch, only to discover that Alan had lefty the rucksack behind – probably about an hour’s walk away. So, after tea and cake we retraced our steps and enjoyed the filled rolls much later than anticipated. We have since heard that Bob and Jenny have completed the walk so we really do need to do this to even up our “score sheet” as they have the same guide book as us,

Back home and the day had turned very chilly so instead of going out to for a meal to celebrate my birthday we stayed in and cuddled the cat on the sofa whilst watching a DVD. Well, we would be going home soon and it seemed a shame to shut him out.

Explore Crete is a wonderful website with so much information but I think the real “jewel” is the forum as it provides the opportunity to make virtual friends with people with wide ranging interests and experiences but all bound by their enjoyment of Crete. It was via the forum that we met Dinny.

In the run up to our holiday we had become very “involved” with Dinny’s move from Italy to Pitsidia in Crete and we looked forward to meeting her. Alan drove the long way along the south coast and we enjoyed seeing many places we hadn’t visited before. This meant it was mid afternoon by the time we arrived in Pitsidia so we didn’t get time to explore the village but we very much enjoyed out first meeting with Dinny. (Well we are sure it won’t be the only time we meet)

The last really memorable event was Oxi Day, 28th October and after watching the children parade through the village we went to Sisi for lunch. As it was a national holiday and the tourists had virtually all gone the seafood restaurants were full of local people having family get togethers; we looked quite out of place just being the two of us but we really enjoyed the atmosphere as much as the food.

As we prepared to leave the house the cat seemed to know something was happening as everywhere we turned there he was and we made horrible jokes about him getting locked inside the house.

As Alan went to lock the door I said do it quickly and I will watch to make sure the cat doesn’t go in – oops he already was and Alan had to move quickly to retrieve him.

Travelling back to the UK I couldn’t help wonder how long it would take him to realise we were not there anymore but I didn’t worry, after all I don’t like cats................much.

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Well, for somebody who doesn't like cats, this one certainly got you wrapped his little paw! We have been in much the same situation when on holiday as we normally have cats turning up and we can't resist feeding them, but then we do like cats. I console myself with the thought that at least they got well fed while we were there so have some reserves to get them through the winter. Hopefully on your next visit he'll turn up again.
As always, I enjoyed reading your blog, Yvonne. I realize that you are probably in Kritsa these days, or maybe just went home. I have been busy having a friend from Denmark here, which gave me the opportunity to see a lot more of this beautiful island than I usually cut out time for. And then of course there is the ever-returning work to see too, so I guess this was not the opportunity to meet again. Whenever I find out where Kritsa is I shall be looking forward to taking the drive though on one of the future occasions when your Kritsa Funds are allowing you to come down.

As for the cat... hopefully there is a Dinny in every small village taking care of the "leftovers" from tourist season. I understand perfectly how it is impossible to resist when they present themselves for breakfast! smile.gif As far as I'm concerned this has resulted in something like 20 guests for breakfast and dinner on my terrace and now in my in-house cat, Coyote Bill (which just by chance turned out to be a female Billie) meaning I have now 1 in-house cat with 4 wonderful kittens.

I have talked with my neighbour about these cats. He likes to define them "your cats" (meaning mine!) but I immediately turn back the ball telling him that these are actually "his cats" (being a citizen of Pitsidia) which he declines to take responsibility for. So he should be happy that I do...

Hope to see the both of you soon again smile.gif