Crete road trip

July 11, 2008

The ghosts of Frangokastello

One of the things that had attracted us to stay at Frangokastello last year was the ghost story attached to the castle. The Hora Sfakian region has always been a thorn in the side to whoever was trying to conquer and occupy Crete, and the fort was originally built by the Venetians in the 14th century, and later used by the Turks.

18a_castle

The most famous rebellion occurred in 1828, when Hadzi Mihalis Dalanis and his 400-strong band of Cretan rebels lost a bloody pitched battle at the fort, but took twice as many Turks with them. On the anniversary of the their deaths - 17th May - the Cretan rebels are said to appear at dawn as misty shapes around the fort, and march into the sea.

Those who don't believe in the superstition believe that the visual effect is caused by atmospheric conditions specific to that time of year, and that the figures that appear are some sort of reflection from the Libyan desert which is across the water from southern Crete.

When we visited it in 2007, we stayed the night of the 15th of May, 2 days before the anniversary. Well, we decided it seemed churlish not to try and spot this effect - which if it was just down to the vague time of year might not be restricted to the 17th itself.

We were staying in the Flisvos apartments, with the sea literally lapping at the foot of our chalet door. Some of the rooms are in a converted old windmill, and we had a room in one of the old out-houses.

18b_flisvosdawn

We got up at 5am, and sat on the rocks outside our room to watch dawn come up over the Eastern mountains of Crete. And hopefully spot some ghosts.

18c_dawn

We did get a little spooked at one point by a small animal running across the rocks near us, which could have been a rat or a weasel, but needless to say, we didn't see any visions. Dawn was, nevertheless, as spectacular as you'd imagine as we huddled together with our little flask of coffee.

18d_usatdawn

August 08, 2007

Road Trip Day #9: Spili and the Spoon-Thrower

Following our unscheduled drive through the mountains, we arrived at Spili just in time for lunch.

Because we'd come in at the wrong end of town thanks to my idiotic navigation, it meant we ended parked quite a way from the main square - and Spili was a bit bigger than we expected.

Eventually we found fountain square, which houses the town's main attraction - a fountain and water feature where the water emerges from numerous lion's mouths.

0045bfountainmouth

We sipped some of the cool refreshing water, and then found a place to eat, perched above the fountain.

0045aspilifountain

It was very pleasant, but perhaps we did something to upset the waiter, as once we left and were walking out below the platform where we had been eating, he managed to drop on of our spoons down on us below! Claire went back up to return it to him, and then with a last sip of the refreshing fountain water, we headed off for our last destination of the day - Frangokastello

0045cfountainclaire

August 06, 2007

Crete Road Trip #9: Bad, bad navigation

On the whole, we found our efforts to navigate around the island worked pretty well. Especially after we bought a road map which actually showed Crete's roads with any degree of accuracy.

We had a little bit of trouble navigating around the Knossos region on the second day, but apart from that it had been fairly plain sailing.

Until we tried to get to Spili.

Day09 First of all I set us on a small road heading too far south, and we suddenly found ourselves at the sea again. And then, once we'd set ourselves right again, I managed to get us to take a wrong turn at a major junction, and to start heading off into the hills.

Now, I have to confess that I then rather stubbornly said, "Oh well, let's stay on this road, we can take another route there" rather than turning back. Without taking into account the type of road we would be travelling on.

And so, instead of a nice simple drive on one of Crete main roads, Claire got unscheduled practice of her mountain driving as the route I insisted we follow took us up hill, down dale, and then up into the clouds.

She was not, as I am sure you can imagine, best pleased.

The very last bit was saved for worst, as the descent into Spili was terrifyingly steep on a narrow road with endless switchbacks.

Oh boy, was I popular.

August 03, 2007

Road Trip Day #9: A spot of cat and mouse

0043amatalacaves

We got up early on day #9 of our road trip, and headed to explore the caves of Matala. Although they dominate the small village, we hadn't visited them on our first day. In fact, we were so early that the ticket office wasn't open yet, so we were able to sneak in for nothing!

0043bmatalacaves

After that we packed up the car, and then headed towards Kalamaki. Not the Kalamaki down the road from us, of course, but the Kalamaki beach with a good reputation about 15 minutes drive from Matala. We thought we would head there for a coffee.

We found a nice spot along the beach front at the Café Paradise, and settled down to enjoy a coffee, when we spotted a cat. Playing with a mouse.

0043ccafeparadise

As you probably know, cats can be quite cruel creatures when they have caught something.

And this cat was no exception. It was letting the mouse run away a little, then swatting it with its paws so the mouse stood still, paralysed with fear. Then when it had the courage to move, the cat was swiping at it again.

Well, we couldn't let this carry on in front of us, so, with the best of intentions, I tried to intervene.

I walked over towards the cat.

It looked up at me.

It looked at the mouse.

It looked back up at me.

It looked back at the mouse.

I gave it a bit of a "Shoo! Shoo!"

Whereupon it promptly picked the mouse up in its mouth, and sauntered off with the poor thing's tail dangling from the side of its mouth.

Not quite the effect I had intended.

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