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Crete, Greece: Matala: Days 5,6 & 7

Matala, Crete

The days melt into each other easily in Matala.

Lazy Days in Matala

On a wall at the edge of Matala’s beach there is a mural that says:

“Today is life.  Tomorrow never comes.”

That summarizes how it feels to be here.  These days with Max have a dreamlike quality to them where one day bleeds into the next with no marker of time except the evening sunset.

On this and on following days, Max leaves the hotel early, eager to get to the beach.  I wake up a few hours later, sometimes at noon, sloppily pull myself together, hunt for food and water and set off to find Max which is easy given the size of Matala.  Today, he is on a restaurant’s terrace overlooking the ocean.  He attempts again to teach me backgammon and I hate it because I don’t get it.  With every move, Max explains my options and often moves the pieces for me.  Essentially, he is playing both sides but I am still thrilled when I win and don’t hesitate to boast.

Something has changed between Max and myself.  The honeymoon is over.  The energy has shifted in an unclear way.  Four days together feels like four years with all the ups and downs of a relationship concentrated into a tiny pocket of time.  And yet, there is a friendship and we agree that we will watch out for each other and support each other in whatever.  No holding anyone back.  Perfect.

We laze about on the terrace and wine appears again to drench the afternoon in a fluid, dreamy softness which makes way for easy smiles and easy conversation.  The night comes quickly and leads us to tavernas where raki is presented again and again.  One bar features a dance floor and one by one Max and I dance alone and with strangers.  A young Greek man does his best to seduce me, a flattery that I willingly embrace.  It’s all laughable and Max and I delight in the music and the company.  The party travels to another taverna and dawn is just around the bend now.  At 4 AM, I remove my high heels and walk back barefoot to the hotel with Max who removes his shoes in a show of solidarity.

Max and Hans.

Max and Hans at sunset in Matala.

Meeting Hans

The next day I am in the hotel room while destiny intervenes in Max’s life.  While sitting at a oceanview table in the sun reading, a man walks over and asks to share the table so he too can enjoy the sunny spot.  This man is Hans, from Austria, and the two quickly begin chatting.  By the time I arrive there is such energy in their conversation that sparks are flying.  Both love to travel and both like to spin a tale. It turns out that Hans hitchhiked from Plakias the day before without any trouble.  Max and I burst into laughter.  Amateurs we are.

Hans started traveling in 1968 and hasn’t stopped since, working odd jobs along the way.  He has traveled extensively in 164 countries, and by “traveled extensively” I mean basically walked across 164 countries.  He’s written three travel books that unfortunately are only available in German.  He is like Chuck Norris, Yoda, Darth Vader, Buddha, and Jesse James all in one.  The Master.  His online album (which he says needs a lot of updating) shows his routes as he carries a GPS when he is traveling (mostly walking).  This man is incredible.

We spend hours together and watch the sun go down, Hans explaining how he watches the position of the sun’s descent everyday.  “When the sun reaches that rock, I leave this place.”

This tradition of meeting with Hans to watch the sun go down continues for the next three evenings.  And Hans’ stories just get better and better.  Thrilling tales, sordid tales, hobo tales, hitchhiking tales, money-making tales, you name it.  He’s lived through it.  I feel lucky to be the interloper in this conversational romance between Max and Hans. I listen quietly.  I am learning.  Quietly.

One of the joys of traveling is meeting people like Hans.  For the most part, the people I meet on the road inspire me, teach me, push me.  Although Hans is exceptional in his courageousness,  I meet people all the time that defy the American paradigm that travel is a “luxury” reserved only for those with loads of extra money.  Many people commit to making travel their lifestyle and then the answers about the how follow.  What an awesome gift to have met Hans.  I can’t wait for more.

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