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May 20, 2007

Road Trip Day #1: Episkopi and Sfendoni Cave

After the Melidoni cave we took a detour to one of the numerous villages on the island called Episkopi.

Here we (well, chiefly I) wanted to see the ruins of a 15th century church, which retains fragments of the original Byzantine fresco decoration.

From the front the church looks relatively well preserved, but going down the side reveals the front to be little more than a hollow shell. The church was now more of a nesting ground for pigeons than a place of worship.


You could just about make out traces of the frescoes, and we think we identified St. Paul amongst the religious figures who had survived.


The village of Episkopi also claims to have a Venetian well, but although we found a grandly decorated water fountain, we didn't find this feature.

As a soundtrack we'd gone for a 1990's pop tip on the iPod all day so far, and the cheese factor was in full effect - Britney, Ace Of Base, Kylie etc. Perhaps the musical highlight of the day, though, was flying through the village of Garazo, past the bemused old boys sitting outside the kafenion, with The KLF pumping out of the car at top volume.

We got a bit lost on the way to our next site - another cave. The Sfendoni cave is reputed to be Crete's most impressive. When we arrived there we were told it would be about twenty minutes until a tour left - well, on Greek time that turned out to be closer to 45 minutes.


However, we spent the time sipping cool drinks on a veranda with an amazing view out across the valleys, watching birds of prey soaring through the air - below us!


The cave was worth the wait, even if the metal walkways did remind us of the mining levels on the Wallace & Grommit PS2 game, which got us giggling. For once I wasn't the annoying camera nerd in our party, as one woman insisted on videoing everything, in a level of light that will surely render her footage unwatchable.


Our guide was very funny, and told us stories about how, before it had been officially opened to tourists 7 years ago, he and the other boys from the village used to sit outside with torches to take tourists in. He said they only knew two words of English: "Help!" so they understood if someone was in trouble, and "Thousand", as they charged a thousand drachmas to each tourist, enough to buy many ice creams!


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