Chapter 1 Preparation
Chapter 2 Sitia, Cycle Tour
Chapter 3 Lasithi Plateau
Chapter 5 Ag. Nikolaos, Spinalonga

Festos and Matala

At Thursday we start at 9.30 for we cannot get the car earlier. At Ierapetra I try to get fuel, but the tap is defect. At the second patrol station we succeed. We go west and pass large hothouses for tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables.

Then the road at the nice little village Mirtos turns towards the Dikti mountains. Nice views to the sea, the villages at the coast to be seen from above are only to be reached be dead end roads. The flora is beautiful and in the air are the vapours of the smell of thyme and other spice plants. After 30 km up and down we reach the plane of Ano Vianos, a smaller copy of the Lasithi plateau.


The village Vianos is glued to the slope. At the entrance of the village a problem arises as a big lorry comes contrary to us. Now the old men who kill the hours at the cafenions come to life. With their sticks they gesticulate what to do and we realize: we shall enter a pass-by-stripe aside. As the lorry has passed the old men return to kill the time.




We now ride downhill all the time and leave the Dikti mountains behind. The character of the landscape turns to become agricultural. Sometimes there are harvested barley (Gerste) fields. If you have luck you see a donkey loaden with a bag of hay or straw. We come to the town Pirgos and suddenly find ourselves inmidst of a market lane. This really was not our destination and carefully we curve out of this mass.

So we leave the town into the wrong direction and end at Charkas. Parallel to the coast there is a ling ridge named Asterousia mountain. Near Pirgos a couple of rocks look like a miniature replica of the Tre Cime di Laveredo at the Dolomite Alps. From Charkas we have to ride some kimometers to the north ro reach the main road again. This road once was an eukalyptus alley. It hurts to look at the truncated trunks though they get fresh sticks again.

Heidi looks at the map and so to her luck misses the sight of two hens which have been run down. The hens run free everywhere and we argue where they will deposite their eggs. Now we reach the towns Agii Deka and Mires and these look as if they have come from the Wild Wild West. As we saw the donky as main vehicle at Pirgos here we find small tractors in different technical state.

Ahead we see the snow fields of the Ida Mountains and finally the hill arising from the plane where we wanted to go: the Minoan palace-city Festos. The parking site is nearly full and like the spider in its net a black bearded announcer appears to try to advertise any restaurant nearby. We can get rid of him but at the entrance counter we must purchase the tickets to enter the holy area.

We stumble through the ruins which are digged out and preserved. The walls are as high as one's knees and sometimes they are kept together by modern cement assistance. In contrary to the more famous site of Knossos at Herakleon, which was digged out by the Englishman Evans at the end of the 19 th century, they have resigned on questionable reconstruction experiments at Festos. Famous - because to be seen at most postcards - is the grand staircase as part of the ancient theatre. At some corners there are amphores large as a man. We argue about their destination. May be they are the ancestor of the refrigerator and served to store meals and drinks. But how did they haul up the pieces out of the amphore? What's about the length of the Minoan arms?

Let's join a guided group for a while, an experted lady leads the interested listeners. (We like these adventures as we did at the Cathedral of Palma de Mallorca or at the Fortress of Carcassonne). As well this time we hear interesting news again. And I don't tell lies like all people of Crete, which is said to be said by a man of Crete...

So let us listen: "The material of the Minoan buildings were stones. The joints were made of clay, not of cement. And above all there was the roof." We are really impressed. But they tell nothing about the amphores and the length of the Minoan arms. What we had read is (but better you ask a travel or historic guide): The Minoan buildings had no militaric intention. This was because they had such a strong naval power to prevent an invasion of enemies. Moreover the females are said to be dominant. May be they sent their male heros to the sea. And who did build the palaces and carried the loaden amphores? We only know the division of work nowadays: the men go out to the village-road or -place or cafenion and the women do their handmade crochet work.

20 minutes later we are at Matala, a place which is mandatory for every proper tourist. The bay of Matala is surrounded by cliffs of soft sandstone, and in the banked rock layers there are natural and artificial caves. During the 60s Matala was known worldwide as a shangrila for hippies and flower children. These times are gone and the locals have exorcised the trash (in their opinion) by law. Today this place is a favourite destination for hired car drivers and bus tourists. So you find restaurants one after the other. Of course the view is beautiful, the white mountains at the weset, the blue sea and the mysterious caves at the cliffs. If one pays an entrance fee one can enter the cave area and climb among the cliffs behind a wire netted fence. (Someone told us, that there is no good smell in the caves because someone better had choosen another place to do certain things...)

We walk along the beach, the sand is not as hot as our gravel. A girl speaks to us, if the sand is not too hot and what's about the price of a sun-couch? The girl looks like a Tibetian monk bare headed and suited into an orange cape. May be she has met the wrong year a Matala.

We enter our red car again and start for the 140 km-tour back. Another rest should be made at Gortys, where they digged up Doric and Roman antiques, e.g. the oldest law boards of Europe (Law of Gortyn). And in a grove nearby Zeus is said to have seduced the beloved Europa. Somewhere else one can read that this happened at the beach of Matala. So why only once? At the other side of the road there are wide fields of  archeological excavations, but we have no more energy today.

At the bus stop lots of backpackers wait for the bus to Herakleion. So this seems to be a place of pilgrimage for this kind of globetrotters. In the town Mires of the Wild Wild West much more people are crowded at the bus station - so we are glad to be individuals.

As we pass the flat hens on the road we know to be on the right route. At Pirgos we get lost again and we perform a lap of honour, fortunately the market is over. On the way back the landscape looks different to this morning, this may be caused by the opposite direction. We see a goat with a bag covering her udder and her lamb looks stupid. At another place someone cuts bushes of thyme to sell them as souvernir. At some pine branches we ovserve mysterious weaved bags or nets, may be those are the nests of wild bees or bumble-bees. After a curve a goat lies amidth the road and sleeps.

So eventfully we head for Ierapetra. Near the hot houses lots of big vans drive to and fro and are loaded with the fruits and vegetables, which are exported to the rest of Europe.

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