The weather, the whole weather and nothing but the weather. It has been one heck of a month, weather wise. To start with, we had massive leaks in the sky, throwing a wet curtain all over the island for days on end. When it wasn’t raining, a fierce and cold wind from the north would blow through every seam in your clothes, up to the bones in your body. While the whole world was discussing a possible war with Irak, the Cretans had far more serious concerns: the first signs of deterioration of the road network was already beginning to show half way through the month. With no dry end in sight, the effect of this on the upcoming tourism season (here simply called “the season”) would not be beautiful, that was for sure, everybody knew that, and everybody made sure everybody else knew that they knew. It was, as they say the talk of the town, if ever there was one. The newspapers had nothing else to report on their front pages but more bad news about the weather. It was depressing.
Around the last weekend of the month the damage done to the roads had been inventorized and wi(l)dely publicized. Estmated costs around €5 million. Added to that we got snow all over the island just before that weekend. Now, generally snow is a welcome climatological phenomenon here. People enjoy it, everybody packs up and goes to areas where they think the snow will last for more than one hour. Usually that’s in the mountains. This time they could go wherever they wanted, snow was everywhere. Last Thursday I made a trip to the south, more specifically to the west of the Messará valley, around Matala, Mires and Timbuktu. To get there you drive south from Iraklio to Agii Deka (the Ten Saints) and then west in the direction of Mires. In the immediate surroundings of Iraklio the snow had already disappeared. Approximately halfway that road to Agii Deka the road climbs into mountainous area. And sure enough, there it was, beautifully laid out over the grape vines and the olive orchards: thick white snow. Although the road itself was clear, the borders were still heaped with snow. I had never seen oranges hanging from a tree directly over a pile of snow. Passing through Agia Varvara, which must be the highest point, I could still see cars parked in the streets completely covered with snow, although it was now rapidly melting.
From Agia Varvara the road starts to descend, and again I was completely surprised at the change of weather on the south slope of the Psiloritis. This was how Crete is supposed to look. The thermometer in my car climbed one degree with every kilometer that I advanced. When I had left Iraklio in the morning it was at about 4 degrees centigrade. By the time I got to Mires, it indicated 16 degrees. This area of Crete is known for its micro climate. Exposed to a warm stream from the Lybian sea and protected from the north by the Psoliritis ridge it usually is 5 degrees warmer here than in the rest of the island.
Which brings me to my next topic…