It’s the one place on earth where I don’t like to sleep: I don’t want to miss a thing.
I don’t want to waste a minute of the day, or night.
It’s my spiritual home. The place where I take off my suit of armour and just be me.
It’s where I breathe deeply.
Where I laugh like a child again.
It’s where suddenly I am speaking my newly-acquired second language, without reticence and hesitation, and I’m understood.
Where I live like a local, with only a passing notion of time and a glorious tendency to live spontaneously.
“Sit for a coffee.”
“Share a meal with me.”
“Let’s take a walk.”
“Come for a swim.”
It’s so liberating.
The place is small but has a gargantuan history and culture, and has contributed more to the rest of the world than any other place its size. It has endured centuries of invasions and so been injected with extraordinary influences such as Byzantine, Venetian and Turkish to name a few. It lies at the heart of the Mediterranean diet and is known as the cradle of western civilization thanks to the ingenuity of the Minoan race.
It is the island of Crete.
The largest of the Greek islands, Crete is a tourist mecca. But push past the noisy the English-style cafes and the lines of shops selling gaudy t-shirts and you’ll find the ‘other’ Crete.
Where the food is all locally grown, and is literally taken from the ground and the sea the very morning it’s lovingly cooked with olive oil from the trees outside the kitchen window and fresh oregano and thyme from the fields beyond.
Where an angular, blue-eyed shepherd deftly herds his flock over the ragged, unforgiving terrain, as the tune of the goat bells clang in harmony with their own echoes from the mountains above.
Where Yia Yias (grandmothers) enshrouded in black blithely sweep the crooked pathways around their village, while the men loudly discuss the day’s news from under tamarisk trees as they repair sunflower- coloured fishing nets.
Where the aroma of strong Greek coffee and Assos cigarettes coming from every cafeneion beckons like forbidden fruit …since when did cigarettes smell so good?
Where pale Cretan cats, lithe and sleek sleep Sphinx-like beneath Carob trees dripping with fruit.
Where I swim far, far into the blue as I play hide and seek with an octopus scurrying along the sand and pottery shards beneath me.
Where the Mediterranean sun hopscotches over crystal clear waters creating blues and greens unseen on an artist’s easel.
Where visually, life is like living in a postcard, and where, despite the political and financial woes of the country I am treated as one of the family – greeted with open arms and a warm hug and generously given everything they have. Food…oh so much food. A place to stay. The use of their only vehicle. The list is endless.
It’s where I rise daily just as a pomegranate sun first spreads her sleepy fingers over the hill, creeping forward and painting all gold as she passes.
My own very special place in Crete is a little balcony in a villa in Adrakos, a small Cretan family-run escape nestled high on a hill between the two fishing villages of Agios Nikolaos and Elounda on the East Coast.
Here I sit looking at a view which defies description, suffice to say I can see forever. Over pristine bays and whitewashed houses; perfect hotels with their perfect swimming pools; Byzantine churches; old windmills and a road which meanders along the water’s edge. In the distance I can see Spinalonga – or what I call ‘the island of infinite tears’ for it too has a huge, but very different history. It was the last leper colony in Europe.
Here I voraciously consume the days and nights…exploring…eating…swimming…walking…talking… learning…questioning…writing…photographing…observing…absorbing…thinking…dreaming…planning
Here I am inspired…passing time wisely…with no regrets. Just being me.
About the Author: Francesca Muir – I am passionate about photography, travel, colour and the Mediterranean lifestyle. In the late 1980s I lived in Agios Nikolaos, Crete for nearly 10 years where I had the only English-speaking, daily music and news radio program on the island and ran villas and a dance school, amongst many other things. My daughter was born there and in 1996 we returned to Sydney, Australia. Find me on Facebook.
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