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Agia Roumeli, Crete, Greece: Life is but a Dream

Relaxed in Agia Roumeli

Agia Roumeli, Crete

Agia Roumeli, Crete

I’ve been in Agia Roumeli for two weeks – the longest I’ve stayed in any one place in the last five months.

Admittedly, there are other places to see in Crete but I’m stuck here willingly and gladly, relishing the beauty, the monotony, the simplicity, the quiet and the safety.

No worries about missed connections, where I’m going to find food or a bed.  No worries about having valuables stolen, or walking alone at night.  This is small village Crete where justice is served by the people and few step out of line. The police don’t visit Agia Roumeli.  No need.

Busy by Day, Quiet by Night

I was last here in October 2013 and it was much quieter then.  Now, at the beginning of the Summer season, everyday gets a little busier.

Agia Roumeli is the terminating point for those walking the increasingly popular Samaria Gorge. Between noon and 5 pm, some 600-900 exhausted hikers pour into town. Fortunately, the afternoon ferry takes 95% of these people out of the village, leaving behind locals and people like me, who’ve been bitten by the bug, their heart strings pulled all year by this tiny village.

Other than the ferries coming and going, the only indicators of time are the ringing bells on the goats as they walk down the mountain in the early morning and the rising and falling of the sun and moon. Perfect.

Georgo and Maria

Me and Georgo

Me and Georgo

My hotel hosts are Georgo and Maria.

Georgo was born here and his family has been here at least 700 years. Like his father, and his father, and his father…he is primarily a goatherder. Every morning with crook (and sometimes gun) in hand, he climbs the steep and craggy mountain (an hour hike) to visit his goats. He knows each one and says it pains him to kill them despite the necessity. He then returns to his hotel to sit with Maria and have coffee.

Georgo spends hours alone watching the ocean. And he knows everything that happens in the village. “Any problems, you talk to me” he demands – lovingly.

In the afternoon he waters his garden which produces at least one delectable dish a day.  My favorite is wild greens or “hortas”, sautéed in olive oil and served with lemon.

Bedtime is near when Georgo calls his cat, Tikka, to go for an evening stroll. With shepherds crook in hand he calls, and Tikka follows, walking beside him on the shore as the sun sets.  It’s a beautiful, simple life.

Resurgence of Creativity

Finally, after years of being artistically fallow, I’ve experienced inspiration here and can draw.

My days have been a blissed-out combo of bikini-wearing, music-listening, and drawing – without time pressure, which seems to be key. A few sips of local wine, bites of local cheese and fresh oranges from Georgo’s garden keep me fueled.

Still recovering from tonsillitis, a beekeeping local gave me bee propolis to eat daily.  I dare say, it’s been a wonder drug.  Apparently, the Romans used propolis as a natural antibiotic.  My health, in every aspect, seems to be improving.

Watching the Libyan Sea

A Flying fish!

A flying fish!

I’m learning about the sea. It’s so different everyday…the color, the waves, the clouds, and the fish.

A local showed me his catch which included a flying fish, known by the ancient Minoans but unknown to me.  These fish can fly for 45 seconds and travel a quarter mile above the water!  Everyday I learn something new!  And now I see a bridge between sea and sky.

Passing Time with Locals

I’ve spent many an evening sitting with Greek men while they talk about mundane things (but with intensity!)  I grasp the meaning of one word for every twenty. I like to guess what they’re talking about.

Last night I observed a heated discussion amongst six huge, drunken, mustached, Greek men. The volume and body language suggested a debate on politics or religion. Anxiously, I asked an English speaker what they were talking about, worried the discussion might soon go to blows. The answer: “Potatoes”.

That’s passion for you.

Signmaking for Food

I’ve been making signs again in exchange for food, which makes me feel like a real hero. Certainly, there’s a big need for sign-makers in Crete (and Santorini).  I’ll be taking this potential moneymaker more seriously moving forward.  Next year, I will be better prepared.



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