Yesterday was a holiday here. I didn’t know that yet when I got out in the morning to take some pictures of the Clean Monday activities. When I got back I tried in vain to reach some telephone numbers of businesses that were looking for people for the coming tourist season. At about 10:30 Birthe, my upstairs neighbour knocked at the door. I was surprised to see her because she ususally works in the morning. That’s when she explained nobody was working today, they were all out to either the mountains or the beach for picknicks!
She was invited to a couple of those and she asked if I liked to join her. As I had hardly left the appartment in the last weeks except for job interviews and the periodic shopping, I accepted gladly.
We first drove westward into the mountains to Rogdia. It’s a popular area for the city dwellers of Iraklio to go to on free days. There is also a nice little monastery for nuns that is open to the public. The scenery is breathtaking when you drive up and around the bay of Iraklio. In the mountains the air was very clear, unfortunately down at sea level it was hazy, so none of the pictures I took are very clear. We visited the monastery — there were only a handful of people there when we got there, it was still early for Greek standards — and were allowed entry into the main chapel were the nuns were having a ceremony. Very nice chanting, but I always feel uneasy when I enter such places. I never know if my intruding is bothering them or not. We got out after only a minute or so and explored the rest of the monastery. Pictures coming real soon now (if only I could get this photo gallery to work like I want it to, d@$& it!).
On the way back we stopped in the village of Rogdia were we had a really nice meal, mezé style, naturally without any animal products. It’s amazing what the Greek cuisine can produce in variety without using any meat. As we were offered an additional bottle of wine by acquaintances of Birthe after we had hardly broken the one we ordered ourselves, we stayed and lingered in the restaurant for several hours, continuing to eat little bites of food (mostly cold in the meantime but still very tasty), drinking, smoking, talking, in short passing the time, just as everybody else was doing. It was perfect.
At around 3 o’clock we descended from the mountains and drove east of Iraklio to the beach of Karteros, where a former American military base serves as a center for all kinds of village activities. It was there that most people had gathered in small groups of friends and family, spread all over the grounds, set-up tables bulging under the food and drinks, and were just enjoying themselves the way only Greek people can do, again, eating, drinking, smoking, talking, playing, singing. Around 5 I was in dire need of strong coffee, most companies were breaking up anyway, gathering their offspring which is not an easy task, so we left and drove a bit more eastward to Hersonissos. Normally this place is loud and crowded with tourists in summer. Now it was quiet and calm, only local residents were having a drink on the small plateia. The sun was just setting in an opening between two building blocks at the west side of the plateia. We had some coffee, drunk it without saying too much, just enjoying the peace and quiet of this — one of the first since weeks — beautiful early spring day coming to an end.