April 2018

- The Eternal Spring of Crete -

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What do we like about Crete in the spring so much that we come back every year? This question occupied us one evening when we were sitting with friends at Athanasia’s tavern. On the table lay bowls of nuts or olives, glasses of retsina and red wine, a few bottles of beer, a pot of herbal tea, fresh bread, and sheep cheese with thyme. Confirmed Crete lovers sat at the other tables, all immersed in animated conversations. Soothing and powerful, warm and melancholic sounding Greek music chimed from the speakers. Music that comes from the soul.

“For me it’s these carpets of flowers everywhere: on the hillsides, next to the streets, in the old olive groves. I like it when everything hums and buzzes around me when I go for a walk or sit under an olive tree,” raved Renata. – “For me it is the sea – definitely,” said Klaus. – “No, it's much too cold now,” said Bärbel, imitating a shiver. Klaus laughed: “I don’t stay in for long. Getting my head under the water and then doing a few strokes, that's enough. It’s wonderful.” – “I’m of Bärbel’s persuasion,” Jan now added, “the beach is so beautiful, Renata and I are always walking along looking for shells. Behind the ruins of the Minoan harbour there is shade, that’s where we rest.” – “Talking about the Minoan Harbour,” Jürgen interjected, “when we come to Crete, we always visit the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion first, then we drive to Phaistos, to the old palace and only when we are in the right mood for Crete do we come here to the sea.” – “Jürgen and his passion for everything Minoan,” Bärbel rolled her eyes, “Zeus caves, age-old burial sites, Icarus, the Minotaur. Tomorrow he wants to see the ‘Mother of the Olive Trees’, an ancient tree from Minoan times.” – “Sounds great, we’ll all come along, right?” Renata suggested.

Now Athanasia brought the first plates with our dinner. “Well, you all seem to like everything here,” she said. Her German alone put us all in a good mood. “It is good that you are all coming here. It means for us that we are also able to live here, we are not having to be going into the town to be earning money.” She sounded happy, her restaurant was full today. “You haven’t even told us what you like about Crete yet,” said Bärbel addressing me. I thought of my first impression of Crete more than 40 years ago: this long island with greyish-blue mountain ranges surging higher and higher, which I had seen from the ship in the early morning hours. Then a winding drive through the barren, rocky landscape with ochre-yellow, white-grey rocks. Suddenly the sea, blue and smooth, friendly as the sky. In the meadows, colourful oceans of flowers, sheep with their lambs everywhere. In the taverns silent men playing backgammon. And there it was again: the small mountain village with its many winding corners, the clay jugs with flowers and Joan, the young American woman who lived in an old house here and painted a picture by the sea every day. “I find Crete inspiring, casual, cosy, simply timeless. But best of all...” I said deliberately clearly, as Athanasia was just putting the last plates on the table, “… I like the excellent food here.” That was the way into Athanasia’s heart. Her black eyes sparkled with joy. And that´s also what creates the magical charm of Crete for me.

 

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