Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Crete: day 3

After a long night of Chicken Foot (and its requisite beverage consumption), Cayce and I took full advantage of the rooftop garden for coffee drinking and laundry drying.

The Amphora Hotel had graciously agreed to store some of our luggage while we headed south for four days, so we re-packed our backpacks to lighten the load for our hikes ahead. We also arranged for a cab to drive us to the Omalos Plateau, where we'd start our expedition.

Stelios picked us up at 3 pm and we headed for Omalos, the beginning of the Samaria Gorge. In April 2000 my parents, Michael, and I drove to the head of the gorge just to be turned away; it's only open from May through October. We watched villagers foraging in the fields, then ate those foraged greens in a delicious lunch at the Neos Omalos Hotel. I saved a card from the hotel, hoping to go back one day.

Driving into the mountains, the roads were stomach-turning: narrow, rough surfaced, with precipitous drops and no guard rails. Thankfully we didn't meet a bus coming the other way...just goats. Lots of goats. Stelios was thrilled when he realized we were interested in plants and food. He began to describe every tree we passed: this one produced the finest apples on the planet, the most healthy, the most delicious. That one gave the most remarkable nuts, better than any you could find in a store.

He stopped and pulled pomegranates from a tree (not HIS tree), almost slid under a fence and down a mountainside in pursuit of figs, and harvested wild pears, which he then cut and distributed, one hand on the wheel.

When we arrived at Omalos, proprietor Giorgios Drakoulakis greeted us in the parking lot and showed us to our rooms: 35 Euros for a double room with balcony, including breakfast and a ride to the trailhead the next morning. The air at 3500 feet was thrillingly cool, and we relaxed outside with local olives and red wine before moving on to the hard work of dinner.

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At October 20, 2010 at 8:31 AM , Anonymous Leda Meredith said...

Wonderful! I remember those mountain roads. Very jealous of your trip!

At October 20, 2010 at 1:50 PM , Anonymous Mark said...

You're offically killing me.

But I'm loving the vicarious pleasures.

At October 20, 2010 at 7:11 PM , Anonymous Zoe said...

I am loving reading about your trip, Ellen! And seeing your pictures - they're beautiful. I made a vegetarian version of your boureki for dinner tonight, with our homegrown Carnival winter squash, onions and oregano. Great recipe - it was delicious, and with our big basket of squash, I know I'll be making it again this winter. Glad your trip was fun - and looking forward to hearing about the rest.

At October 20, 2010 at 10:53 PM , Blogger Sara said...

OK, I know it's wrong to single this out, but - olives!

Can't wait to hear more. The pictures are great, and oh, the food...

I know we need to hike the gorge, but I'm also thinking we might need to study Chicken Foot one fine day.


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