Thursday, September 11, 2008

A spontanious memorial off the beaten track

I have been knocking around with Vaughn a gentleman from Wales. He is a young 55 year old who is now a parole officer in England, but he has traveled the world doing a variety of things ranging from teaching English (how I don't know, I can barely understand him - ha ha, sorry Vaughn!) in places like Greece, Crete, Indonesia, Russa and China. He has worked "smoothing the beach" here in Plakas, working in bars etc. Doing whatever to extend his travels. He is a pretty cool cat who loves talking about politics - "Oh them (insert any nationality other than Welsh here) are bloody bastards"; philosophy - "fuck those daft (insert name of anyone who disagrees here) bastards"; shagging - "Fuck those - "see - you - next - tuesday's" they'll fuck you then screw you..." He's really not that bitter. I rather enjoy his rants and he is a good guy.

Anyway, he and I have been knocking around and the other day we decided to go see this old Venician mill (1300s ish) that is off the beaten track not a tourist sight and about a 20 minute hike from the hostel we are staying at. We talk as we walk thorough the olive orchards and over the stream that is somewhat guiding our way. It is simply beautiful, no one is around, we are surrounded by blue sky, gusts of winds (Plakas is VERY windy) and some jagged mountains. I tell him about losing Bryan that day and he shares some stories of losing his father. We cross over this ancient arched stone bridge from the middle ages (wow if only our roads in Michigan could last as long!!) and begin assending the old walls of the mill. We are still talking and climbing and taking some great pics (soon to be up loaded to this site!) and I see across the other side of the stream on the face of the mountain facing us an old church imbeded in the side of the mountain. We say "what the heck" and decide to try to get to it. We climb down the mill, cross the river and climb across a narrow stone path to reach the small santuary. After a few minutes we get to this old church that is built into the side of this mountain. The door was small; something like an knome would go through and on the inside the was a small alter, offering bowl, candles, cross, and pictures of Jesus, Mary, arch angels and saints. It is still a functional shrine/temple. Vaughn suggests that we light a candle for Bryan and have a moment of silence for him in rememberance. So we have a small spontanious memorial service for Bryan in this ancient, tiny church in Southern Crete that we found while hiking. I felt it was not an accident that we found this place literally in the middle of nowhere. Bryan was a spiritual person and it was a very approperate way of saying goodbye to my good friend eventhough I was to miss his funeral in the US.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I've seen fire and I've seen rain...

I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end. I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend, but I always thought that I'd see you again...

Yesterday I got word that Bryan Schultz, a very dear friend of mine died from a heart attack this past Saturday. I was shocked and very sad. I will miss him. He was a good person, someone I was lucky enough to have known and call my friend for over 25 years.

None of us know how long we have, all we can do is live life the best we can; do more good than harm, inspire through our actions and keep going until our path is at its end. As William Wallace said, "Every man must die, few men truly live."

Bryan your music plays on in everyone that you touched... words cannot express how much I will miss you.


Remembering 9/11

Today is 9/11 and I want to take a second to remember all of those who passed away in and who sacrificed their lives for the lives of others in the World Trade Center attack.

My hope is that we can all take hate and turn it into love. Through compassion, education and deeds we must as Gandhi said "Be the change we want to see in our world."


The Service of Service

Hello all. Lets talk a little about the service industry over here. I am referring to the service at restaurants. In a word it is SLOW!! It kind of goes like this: They sit you quickly. It often takes them a while to get you menus. Then it takes maybe 4x the time you would expect them to take your order. They get you your food extremely fast (probably 2x as quick as in the US) but then you NEVER see your server again unless you send out a search party complete with flairs and the National Guard. Now at first glance the intreped if not particular American may be put off by this and get impatient and pissed, but hold on to your Coke a Cola's and strip malls gang because this strange non-capitalist type behavior was explained to me in this way: Things are much more layed back here. It is not so rush, rush, rush. People get together for a meal to do more than just eat. It is an event to be shared between people. It is a process not meant to be rushed. That said they would think it rude to rush you in any way or to interupt your conversation. They figure that that if you want refills on something or your bill you'll ask for it. Speaking of refills, they eat and drink much slower here too. Which is a change for me because as any of you know if you've ever had lunch, dinner, snacks or drinks w/me I mow through my food rather quickly. Some of the people I have had the pleasure to hang out with over food and drink were a bit amazed at my ability to attack my meal with the fervor of a starving pack of wolves. It took me quite a while to slow down to a pace more suitable for the area (although I am still faster than most here, I've made substantial improvements!). It is not uncommon for people to order a single Frappe' (iced coffee) and sit for three hours entrenched in conversation. If that happened in the States the people would be regarded as loiterers. It is all about the turnover here in the States. Get'em in, get'em out. When they're here fill them up fast and make sure they eat/drink more so we can raise the average sale per receipt... A different philosophy all together. So no stopping for a quick bite or even a quick drink, both are to be savored with your company. Try it you may find it suits you!!


Monday, September 8, 2008

Ray Ban Sunglasses

Ray Ban Sunglasses are very popular here. Well, let me rephrase: Ray Ban knock-offs seem to be very popular over here especially w/men. I liked them so much that I shelled out 10 euro for a pair. :) Heck, they even say "Made in the USA!" You can buy a lot of knock off stuff over here.

Sorry, but I gotta jet...


Typos galore!!

Hello gang~

Wow I am reading back through some of my posts and seeing sooooo many typos, add on and fragmented sentences, bad grammer, spelling etc. etc. I corrected some but not too many. I am usually in a hurry here and rarely proof read; that combined w/poor internet/computer conditions add up to...well, you see the result. Anyway, I will attempt to do better in future posts. :)

Thanks for your understanding!!

Samoria Gorge

Yesterday I hiked the Samoria Gorge. It is about 20 km of very rugged terrain (& hot, temp. was in the mid 90's), but very beautiful. The entire hike takes people from 5 to 8 hours approx. to complete. This trip would never fly here in the states, at least marketed how they do. It was a very touristy and high profile hike, all of the tourist places sell this trip; They sell it to everyone; young, old, fit or not. What they don't tell you is that it's a technical, very physically demanding hike. Not to mention that you definitely need the right gear (aka hiking shoes and possibly poles). The only way in or out of the gorge short of a helicopter would be by foot, by donkey, mule or horse. Three people got carried out on stretchers, two more had to ride out on donkeys, and a number of them had to turn around because it was too rough (and that was just yesterday). I guess last year a couple tried taking a short cut and ended up lost. Their tour guide was afraid to report their absence so it was another two days before someone noticed they were missing...well five days after that their bodies were found. Anyway, I am rambling. Bottom line is it was a good work out with beautiful scenery, but rather misleading to the tourists. ...and I think the bus ride was even more dangerous than the hike...more on that later.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Plakas is Greek for...

Well, I think Plakas (the town I am staying in) is Greek for the middle of flipping nowhere!! This is GREAT! An all day bus ride (well, about a 4 hour bus ride and a 2 hour "layover."). Through the mountains the bus driver had his work cut out for him. We kept getting further along our journy and further from Western Civilization the roads keep getting more narrow and the guard rail eventually disappear almost entirely. A couple times while going up a mountain we had to stop and back the bus up because there was a car coming from the other direction and we both couldn't fit. Yea, it's all fun and games until someone plummets off the side of a 300' cliff. Which incidently is what I was staring down inches from my window of the bus... no guard rails...miles from anywhere w/the technology to put an American like me back together if broken like humpty dumpty... Oh well, the view was amazing anyway. This is like Zen, you really have to let it all go and live in the moment. Finally after what seemed like a decade in the bus and numerous close calls we arrive in Plakas a very small beach town tucked away behind some rather shaggy mountains in Southern Crete.

I have no idea where this youth hostel is where I am staying so I wander a bit and ask shop keepers until I find my way. I have notice that there are a lot of people of German decent here, which is especially ironic (isn't that a name of a, that is ionic, or doric or something... ha ha) especially because of what happened in WWII. But then again millions of Americans go to Japan every year, more and more people are visiting Vietnam and heck, even Marc Specter went to Germany and ate pork sauage :) so I suppose it is not that big of a deal that Germans like to hang out here.

If the last Hostel I stayed in was the 90210 of Santorini, then this one would be the hippie commune of Crete. I am bunking with 9 other people here. There are no doors anywhere except for the bathrooms and showers. It is VERY laid back. Like something you'd find in some movie of a tropical paradise that a corporate executive would go after he grabbed his "manisfesto," the goldfish and his back pack saying "kiss my pooper-flap to corp. America..." ...hey wait a minute... uh, oh, mmmmm....maybe we should skip that... :)

It is very windy here!!

I am looking at the map and taking into consideration how much bus, ferry and airplane time was needed to get here and I am thiking I have a fuck of a long way to get back to Athens.

Hmmm, lets add this up:

4.5 hrs back to the sea port
4 hr ferry to Santorini
4 hr ferry to Athens
1 hr train/bus to Airport

Total time w/o "lay overs"

13 1/2 hours !!!!

hmmmm....I may stay here a bit longer.

Chris the hostel owner is a rather polite brit who has owned this hostel for about 12 years. He was an architect in England and hated it so he got pissed and quite.He says it was the best thing he ever did. Now he loves what he does and works like a madman (in a laid back Cretean way) for 7 months out of the year running this hostel and takes the rest of the year off. Most of the Creteans do the same. I guess the country pretty much shuts down from Nov. till April. Sounds like a good deal to me.

The internet is crap here, so it is very difficult to get anything through, but her we go...

I am waiting @ a cafe' by the bus in North Crete. It is beautiful here. I am on the waterfront that looks like some postcard you would get from someone you want to hate.

This seems like a nice town. Not too tiny, but far from being huge. It looks like an ancient venisian fortress to the East of me. It runs along the shoreline; the lookout towers and large stone walls stretch into this modern time from somewhere in antiquity.

It was funny, I got here @ 2:12 pm and I see the bus schedule sign for transport leaving to Plakas (from what I can make out) and it says the next bus leaves at 2:15pm... uh, oh... So I am rushing to get to the ticket window so I can hopefully catch the bus. Well...things don't move too fast here in Crete. People tend to chat and linger which is exactly what happens. So when I finally get to the ticket window the time is 2:17pm. Now although people here aren't in a hurry, the transports do run on time, so needless to say my bus was leaving my American butt at the station.

Anyway, I am at the ticket window and I say "ticket to plakas" the best I can to the attendant who gets a strange, mildly disgusted yet overall bored look on his face and proceeds to get a woman who speaks English to talk to me. She starts in by mildly scolding me that I should pay closer attention because my bus already left (no really!!). (Side note) I have learned that over here although the people are generally friendly and nice they tend to have a somewhat gruff exterior and being able to hold your own, being polite yet very firm works in your favor. (anyway continuing the story) So I proceed to tell her with a stern look in my eye that my bus just arrived and I have not yet purchased my ticket for Plakas. She looked at me for a moment (possibly determining my resolve to get to my final distination, or more likely trying to decypher what I was trying to say). She then nods politely, says a few things in Greek to the ticket attendant and I get my ticket. The next bus arriving at 4:30pm which is ok because it will give me while to eat.

What I have determined so far that most people are generally nice even if they appear to be gruff on the outside. It's alright for you to smile and be friendly, but if your smile is too big and are too friendly it seems to be counter productive. I don't know if they then think you are being fake, untrustworthy, weak, "touched," or whatever, but it doesn't seem to get you too far. I have found that being reserved yet polite and friendly when needed seems to be the way to go.

Well, that's it for now.


Friday, September 5, 2008

It is amazingly hot here today and it's only 10am. I have been here in Crete for about 4 days now. I am heading to southern Crete on a bus to a Youth Hostel in Plakas. This one should prove to be interesting because I am supposed to be staying in an 8 person dorm. I am going to try to get into something with less people in it, but we'll see. It has been nice being in my own room here.

I saw some really cool things here in Herkiloin (which means city of Herculies), Crete's capitol. The town has some cool museums (only if they weren't under construction) and such. I went to Knossos (ancient Minoean city/palace), Yeta a town that produces olive oil and wine (pretty cool) and some areas that I didn't see down town. In Knossos I found out about the Minetour and Theasus. Saw the oldest paved road in Europe (dating back to 2000 bc). I guess they (the people inhabiting Crete) make up some of the founding members of European society, ranging back to 6700 bc or so! The tour guide seemed very knowledgable about where we went. She was a spunky older Greek woman who reminded me of a teacher I had when I was in middle school. She's a fiesty one. I think I saw her drag a couple people off by the ear and make them write "I will not hold up the exhibit line" on the chalkboard 1000 times. She asked me if I was from the states (I have not run into anyone from the states here in Crete...ironically enough no Aussies either, a bit of English and lots of Germans though) and after I told her in fact I was, she proceeded to tell me a joke about President Bush and his poor speaking skills. I have to admidt that I don't quite know how to take jokes like that from people other than Americans... It is even more amusing to me that these people I run into know intimate details of our administration and government and I couldn't tell them anything about theirs. Heck, they know more about my own government than I know about it. Wow, no wonder we have such a bad rep out there...

I have been having dinner with Eva the past few nights. She is a middle-aged English woman who is a social worker in her home town Durand. Her dad was Indian and her mom was from England. She spent a good number of years living in Calcutta, so she had some interesting stories. She is staying here in Crete alone on holiday. She is nice enough and provided interesting conversation regarding the UK and her travel experiences. She is happy to get out of the rain and crap weather of England. She says that it has been really wet this summer.

Oh, George's connection never worked out... oh well, no worries.

Prince is playing on the radio right now. Which reminds me how ecletic the music has been here. They (the stations) will go from American music to strange dance mixes from all over Europe and if the mood strikes them they'll throw in some traditional music w/a techno back beat to it...weird!

Well, I should get up to my room and pack my stuff for my bus trip to Plakas. I think I'll be in the bus for about 4 hours or so.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Are people from Crete Creteans??

Here I am in Crete. It is a pretty cool island. It is a bit more difficult getting around, but far from impossible. Most people speak at least a little english and I have gotten very good at asking (in Greek) if they speak english. I walked around about 15 miles today. Into town, around town, to all (and I do mean all) of their museums, archelogical sights, some cafe's and town squares. I really didn't even get lost today. Wow, I must be making some progress. I met a couple English people (yes, people from England silly) we hung out until about 1am or so and talked about politics, troubled youth, the difference between the FBI, CIA, and Secret Service (don't ask, if I told you I'd have to kill you:), body guards, ccw laws etc.

It was kinda of funny, most of the museums that I went to today were under construction and had only one exhibit open. Geeze, you'd think that they would have at least discounted their entry price, but noooooooo! Oh well. I at least had a really good frappe' at a cafe' after!

In one of the museums I saw the ww2 history of how Germany invaded Greece and Crete in 1941. I didn't really know about that part of history. We don't talk about it much in the States. It was pretty powerful.

Tomorrow I head to Knossos the land of the Mineitour (I really don't know how to spell it and this spell check is not working...damn it). I am excited to see that archelogical dig!!

Well, that's all from me right now.

Catch up with you all later.


Monday, September 1, 2008

The Transporter goes Greek!

Well, today I decided to have an adventure and rent a moped to scoot around the island. Wow is all I have to say. That was quite an experience! First; of all of the European countries Greece has the most accidents; second, I don't understand their signs; third, I may not understand the language, but I understand what the sound of the horn means; 4th, the roads are narrow and everyone experiences traveling on the road, cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, scooters, atv's, people, animals, etc. There are no sidewalks and the roads are REALLY narrow.

I wanted to go to Fira which is the capital of Santorini to see their Historical Museum. I figured what the heck it probably won't get any easier to drive in Greece than on a small island. I go to rent a scooter it costs about 12 euro, that's $18 US. The thing looks fairly beat up with bald tires and a horn that doesn't work. Not to mention the guy renting this to me either didn't explain well or I didn't understand, because I am tooling around and suddenly puuut, ppppppttttt..... blahhhhhhhhh. The damn thing runs out of gas. I don't know if you've ever seen Santorini, but it is pretty much all mountains, and there are not a lot of gas stations. So, here I am pushing this moped up the side of some mountain trying to get it to the next station of which I have no idea where one is, so I could be pushing this thing until Zeus comes down himself to help me out. So I'm pushing and pushing and finally I see a sign that says Petrol 500m ahead... Thank the gods!! So I push this thing the longest 500m of my life up the side of this mountain in 95 degree heat to the next gas station, put some fuel in it and am on my way again. I finally get to the Capital Fira and have to go down these old roads where it is a free for all regarding driving, riding or walking, so everyone is yelling and honking and giving me what is the Greek equivilant of flipping me off (I'll show you later), but after circling the town about five times I finally say screw it and decide to park the scooter and walk to the musuem (I am having trouble finding it). I find it w/o much trouble and I proceed to get in. All the doors are closed so I circle the facility only to find out that it is open every day EXCEPT the day I decide to visit. So, I walk around a bit, buy a couple things and try to head back to the hostel. I am driving around and around. I don't how I can get lost in this little (but confusing) Greek town, but I manage and just as I think I get my self square on the directions I run out of gas AGAIN!! Yes it's true, I guess a liter doesn't get you too far... so once again I push this f*#%-ing thing to a not so near gas station (lucky for me this time most of it was down hill!) fuel up and make it back to the hostel in one piece!

I am off for Crete, my ferry leaves at 3:30 am... yes that's right I typed that correctly, I have to catch that infernal thing at 3:30 am... waaaaahhhhhhhhhh!