Saturday had been a reasonably nice day. It was dry for a change and the temperature had risen to 15 degrees. I thought it would be good idea for me to go to Kastelli Kissamou on Sunday. Sunday morning greeted me with a grey sky, the type that disappears unnoticed into the equally grey sea. I took a gamble and left anyway, hoping that the weather would improve as I drove along the north coast. It didn’t. I should have known.
I took the new road west in the direction of Rethimno.
My grandma has told me for as long as I can remember that I should become a school teacher. A “master” it was called in her days. So for a brief interludium I will be a teacher. Pay attention please to the spelling of the word Rethimno. It’s not that difficult, but most people seem to find it very hard to pronounce. It is just RETH-IM-NO. Not Remithon, Rethimon, Rethimion or anything like that. Plain RETH-IM-NO. With the accent on the first syllable. Easy. You can do it. Réth-im-no. Réth-im-no. Réth-im-no. See, now you got it.
Okay. During the drive to Rethimno it rained. Continuously. That was alright though, since during the monotonous ride I got many ideas about topics I would write about when I would be back home. I’m back home now and I forgot all of them. I should really get one of these small tape recorders so that I can make a “voice note”. I have one at home in Belgium, but that’s no use, now is it, with me being her in Crete? I must make a mental note to bring that over the next time.
Ah, one of my ideas just came back. It’s about men and cars. A lot has been written about men and cars, but I’d like to give you the Cretan angle. Cretan men exhibit all the published characteristics when driving cars, especially young Cretan men. But that’s pretty universal. If you’re a man and you don’t know what I’m talking about, ask your wife or your girlfriend. What’s far more interesting is something that I’ve only observed here in Crete. It might occur in other Greek regions but I don’t know about that.
It goes like this: on a busy pass-through road the car in front of me suddenly stops, without any signaling, and then pulls to the left of the road, blocking all traffic coming from the opposite side. The driver opens the window and throws a waste bag into the waste container. From his seat. Then he pulls to the right of the road again and continues his journey. Nobody even blinks. We all continue.
Another example: in the area where I live, which is more like a village in the town rather than a part of the town, there is a crossroads in the “center”. There is a litlle “plateia” with a periptero, six pubs, a playground for children, the bus stop and all those things are just before a bend which limits visibility to maybe 30 meters. A guy drives up to the plateia in his car, sees a friend in the pub on the left, pulls his car leisurely to the left side of the road and starts having a chat with the other guy from within his car. Because there are already a gazillion other cars parked at both sides of the road, nobody can pass anymore. Those who can see the scene apparently understand and wait patiently. Someone further down the waiting line who doesn’t know what’s going on, gets impatient and uses his horn to show it. The guy in the car suddenly is confronted with the world around him and tries to make room for the traffic. That in itself takes a lot of manoeuvring, because in the meantime every inch of place is taken up by cars waiting from all sides. Eventually the stop gap dissolves.
It took me quite a while to understand this. I’m still not sure if I do, but I have a theory. On the surface it looks like totally a-social behaviour. But is it? To start with, these people seem to be totally unaware of the effect of their action. Witness the surprise of the guy in the second example when he “discovers” that all traffic is jammed because of his doings. There is no arrogance there. No “je m’en fou”tisme. He is genuinely taken by surprise.
The basis of my theory is “pace”, as in leisurely pace, mediterranean pace, coupled with the fact that cars are still a relatively novel thing in these areas, my guess is 2 generations only. So, there has not been a whole set of rules developed for the use of cars yet. In their abscence, let’s use the old rules. The old rules however where based on people strolling. On foot. A human body takes less room than a car, so a little deviating here and a little slaloming there doesn’t cause to much inconvenience. For the Cretan the car is just a mechanical extension of the human body. Wherever he used to steer his body to, he now steers his car to. It’s that simple. Anyway, that’s my theory, you can come up with a better one, I’m sure.
Back to my trip to Kastelli Kissamou. It’s in the far west of Crete, not the Far West, and it’s located very cosily in the Kissamou Gulf, with a nice sandy beach and usually (not this time though) a calm sea protected by two peninsulas that surround it. Yvonne and I have been there twice in the previous years. We stayed at the same place each time, and we got friendly with those people. I once even tried to help them with their internet hosting. They eventually solved it fine without me. I wanted to see some friendly faces, maybe have a few drinks and then drive back. It took me about two hours and a half to get there, only to find out that they weren’t there. It was raining all the time. I had a meal in the centre of the town, in the only place that was open at this hour (most Greeks eat lunch past 2 o’clock, but I was hungry at 12 already), which wasn’t too good. I went back one more time after lunch to the house of our friends, but there was still no sign of live. I decided to give it a try at a later date and started the journey back. It was still raining.
On the way back I pulled off the motorway a little past Rethimno to visit a place called Margarites, as I had just gotten an email from Frans in Belgium who mentioned that place. It’s a small village that specializes in ceramics. So does Frans. He knows a local artist there. At about 3 in the afternoon I drove down the main street. In the rain. Nobody was out on the street. I saw many pottery shops, all closed. The thing that struck me most was the very strange blue color that some of the houses were painted in. At first sight it’s not what I would call a “nice” blue color, like you see on many Greek islands. It has something violent in it. The blue paint is not evenly spread over the surface, there seem to be patches of white and even green mixed with the blue. It certainly has a strange effect. Anyway, with no living soul in sight and the rain still pouring, I left Margarites without even taking pictures.
At around six in the afternoon I got back home. It was still raining. Just another dreary day