The ferry pulled into the docks at Athens. We were finally in Greece and the crew gave us our passports back as promised. We had made a lot of new friends on board and some advised us not to spend a lot of time in Athens. Sean and I were prepared to hate Athens. But in fact we quite enjoyed the ancient old city.It was bloody cold and the air was filthy but we made the best of it. We teamed up with Katrina, she and her best friend had arrived in Athens the previous week from Stockholm and she was now traveling solo. It seems the friend found a Greek God and the two of them had not been seen for about a week, so Katrina joined up with us. The three of us had a wonderful time exploring Athens. We climbed to the top of the Acropolis of Athens in the snow. Something we never could have imagined, the Acropolis or the snow.
When we got back to our hotel there was a commotion outside on the street involving a large animal.
The thing about travel I was discovering that once you are out of your comfortable Canadian surroundings you are forced to have an opinion about things that you hand never given much thought to. Standing on the streets of Athens that day I was thinking about animal rights. There was this large Eurasian Brown Bear, he had a contraption on his snout and a chain was hooked on to it. He was so emaciated and was being forced to dance by his Gypsy owners. It was a horrible thing to witness, the bear’s eyes were beyond sad. The Greek people did not seem at all impressed by all of this either and seemed angry at the whole scene. In hindsight it may not have been the bear they were angry with but the Gypsies themselves
A similar scene but with a much healthier bear
It was now time to leave Athens and head to Crete. We were going to spend Christmas in Matala on the beach. However I was not sure how that was going to be possible. It was about 2°C in Athens and Matala was not that far away on the Libyan sea.
The thing about Greek transport, is that it is not Swiss transport! I really like the efficiency of the Swiss watches and Swiss trains. I was thinking a lot about them whilst waiting for our ferry to board for Crete, that, and the fact I really really needed the bathroom. So once on the ferry I headed to the only bathrooms on board. What I found there I will never, ever forget. I will spare you my descriptive writing skills but it was bad. I came out of the bathroom and Sean was quick to notice that I was in the state of shock. I described to him what the Gypsy family had done in the only women's bathroom. He thought quickly and ran to the cafeteria grabbed a hand full of plastic draft glasses and our sleeping bag, and we headed outside to the deck. Yes, I would pee in a cup and threw it over the side of the ferry .
We had been traveling for over 2 months now and our nerves were getting raw. I was missing the simpler things of home like a nice white clean toilet and nice clean white walls…
The ferry docked in Rethymnon from there we went by bus for 78 kms to Matala on the other side of the island. We made our way along the most incredible road there must have been 100 switch backs or maybe 25. The landscape and the view were amazing.
We finally arrived in Matala, a beautiful spot on the Libyan sea. There are these man made caves in the Bay of Matala that date back to the Neolithic age. They had been used by the Romans and the beach is part of Greek Mythology. When Zeus seduced the princess Europa in the form of a white bull, he crossed the sea and brought her to the beach of Matala. There he changed into an eagle and flew her to Gortys, where he had sex with her. Wikipedia’s words not mine.
The caves were inhabited by Hippies in the 60’s and 70s. They were also immortalized by Joni Mitchell in the song “Carey”. But on the day we arrived there was no hippies, Romans or mythical creatures, just a really cold wind.
It also was very apparent that Matala was not a hot spot on the tourist route in December 1986, as we were the only people around. There was a bakery that had the most bizarre prices. It was mostly down to how the lady felt that day but usually 25¢ got you a days worth of bread. The only meal was in the only open restaurant, pizza and salad which would be our daily supper. One evening we heard the chatter of someone else in the booth next to us and recognized the accent. The only other tourists in town were from Quebec, I wondered if they too had watched Summer Lovers?
We were awe struck by the historical ruins in the area and enjoyed the hikes along the waterfront waving to the Colonel each morning across the Libyan Sea. From Matala we would head to Heraklion, a city on the north of the island. Hopefully there would be a few more people and change in diet from bread, pizza and salad.