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Crete, Greece: Day 4, Plakias to Matala

Max trying to hitchhike.

Max trying to hitchhike.  Nice sign!

It’s a long way out of Plakias…

While the Elvis songs were outstanding, the amount of wine consumed had my head spinning today.  Our goal is to get to Matala.  The “how” is unclear.  Figuring it out entails a lot of head holding on my part with deep sighs and a wish that teleportation had already been invented.

Finally, we decide to take a cab.  The cost is 80 euros – “too high” we agree.  “Ok, so how about we hitchhike?”  I write out a sign for the first time in seven months using the art supplies I picked up in Glastonbury.  We walk to the side of the road and wait while seven-foot high Max holds the sign like a gleeful schoolboy.  Not two minutes pass before a local tells us that what we are attempting will not work – nobody picks up hitchhikers in Plakias.  Shame on us for believing him.  In any case, we give up like amateurs and head for the bus.  After an hour of waiting, the bus is packed on arrival and we spontaneously agree not to take the bus.  By now, hours have passed and no progress has been made.  Are scientists working on teleportation?  Because really, it IS a need.

We decide again to take a taxi and not take multiple buses that won’t get us to Matala until nighttime.  I wait at the taxi stand while Max sits across the street with a beer also working on a plan.  No taxis come.  Forever.  And ever.  It’s the middle of the day.  Siesta time.  It doesn’t matter that there are many, many people who need taxis and want to spend the money.  Sleep appears to come first.

I meet a couple and ask if they would share a taxi should one ever arrive.  Mind you I still feel like hell and am more desperate than ever to get to Matala, or more directly to a bed.  And so, I make the terrible mistake when a taxi does arrive (to me it looked like a religious apparition) of jumping in the cab with them (calling Max over) without realizing that the couple was going in the opposite direction.  When they offer to pay their part, I refuse, thinking they were being dropped on the way to our destination.  Wrong!  Worst of all, I had no negotiation with the taxi driver whatsoever about our fare which causes Max to be appropriately pissed especially when we know that what should have been an 80 euro taxi ride is now 110 euros.  Rookie, desperate mistake all around and for the next hour I want to hide in a hole.  A deep hole.  It was a long, silent ride.

We arrived in Matala. Thank. You. God.

Upon arrival, now face to face again, I apologize profusely to Max for my mistake.  He accepts my apology.  And then he goes to find a place for us to stay while I keep watch over the bags.  At this point I am fairly certain he will be departing my company which I feel sad about.  I like Max.  Despite my error, I too was mad for not being let off the hook for an hour in the car.  Much to my surprise, he actually returned having found us a place to stay.  We had celebratory drinks (hair of the dog) on a terrace overlooking Matala and a vertical cliff pocked with caves tilting strongly into the Libyan Sea like a sinking ship.

The beach and caves of Matala.

The beach and caves of Matala, Crete, Greece.

A Bit about Matala, Crete

Matala is famous for many reasons.  Most recently it was a hippie community where people like Cat Stevens and Joni Mitchell hung out in the 1960’s.  The caves I mentioned above are all around the area and it is speculated that they were created and occupied by Stone Age families.  Later the caves were used as tombs by the Romans in the 1st and 2nd Century AD.  There are still people living in some of the caves and most are open to be explored.  And there are still hippies.  Maybe some that never left.

Matala continues to cash in on it’s hippie reputation.  Along the street you will find a permanently-parked Volkwagen bug embellished with painted flowers.  Nods to the 1960’s are all around.  It is full of tourists and therefore restaurants and bars stay open till dawn with bartenders imbibing as much as the tourists.  The town surrounds a beach full of umbrellas and lovely clear water but as beaches go Matala’s is somewhat unpleasant due to the lack of sand…mostly the beach is made of large pebbles that hurt to walk on.

In mythology, Matala’s beach was where Zeus, disguised as a white bull, brought Europa whom he had seduced.  From there he transformed into an eagle and carried her to Gortys where he consummated their union.  Their affairs led to the birth of Minos, Rhadamanthys, and Sarpedon who became kings of the three Minoan palaces of Crete. (Source: Wikipedia)

Learning a Lesson that Stung

Not one to let a sleeping dog lie, I apologize again over the next drink.  But really now, I want an apology for what I perceived as cold treatment during the taxi ride.  And with that in mind, I began: “I come from California where we talk about feelings but Germans are so harsh, so abrupt, cold, so”…I bang a clenched fist on the table to indicate just how stern Germans are…and I go on.  Max allows me to continue.  Because he is infinitely polite.  Even then, I did not see.

Later, Max revealed how offensive my statements were to him.  I threw them out like it was nothing – it’s a known fact that ALL Germans are this way.  And this is one reason why travel is so good for a person;  You simply don’t know how misguided, racist, confused, wrong, ignorant, warped, or naive you are unless you are challenged by people from other countries and other lifestyles to think differently.  Here I was face to face with my own gross racism.  I was wrong.  Stereotypes are stereotypes.  Here I was with a lovely GERMAN man who contradicted most everything I had come to believe as true about Germans.  And this discussion taught me a lot moving ahead.

Hitting the Town with Max

We find our room and change.  I nap while he investigates the town.  We decide dinner is in order and I put on the high heels I bought in Oban, Scotland (where I felt like the invisible woman).  Still I am a foot shorter than Max.

Being with Max is somewhat like being with a celebrity.  Initially because of his size, and then because of his friendly demeanor, people stare, smile, walk up to him to talk, and it feels somewhat like he is parting the seas while walking down the street.  He has a gift and in my observation he uses it wisely.

We go out to dinner at what later becomes “our favorite place”, sharing wine, bread and baked feta in a rich tomato sauce while Greek men sit looking bored, smoking cigarettes beside us.   The night unfolds with us going to the “Rock Bar” where classic rock bands play loudly indulging Max’s passion for Heavy Metal and my passion for Aerosmith.  At one point, having told Max the story of my experience on the Camino with Femi, he requests “She’s got the Jack” by AC/DC and hearing it, a rush of ecstasy washes over me.  Or maybe that was the alcohol.  In any case, it was painfully fun.  We continue on like a natural force going from taverna to taverna and ending the night at 4 am.

After so many months of solo travel and protecting myself, I can say that it is highly pleasant to be accompanied by the largest man in town who has an accompanying charisma which made for friends and fun wherever we went.  And I discovered he could dance.  He can dance!  So much for rest.  And drawing.  And writing.  Let the eyebrow be raised.  Let the good times roll.

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