• Som’thin’s brewin’

    by  • 24 April, 2007 • General • 0 Comments

    Lefkogia is a small village with 239 inhabitants. Its name comes from the white (=lefko) and land (=gea) and obviously has to do with the color of the land of the area. To the east, both Preveli Palm Beach (Limni) as well as the monastery of Preveli can be accessed from the village. To the west there are several beaches, some of which can only be accessed by a dirt track. About 5 kilometers to the west is the quiet village of Plakias, with all amenities, hotels, taverns, restaurants, bars and water sports a tourist can wish. Lefkogia has become our summer’s hangout for the past couple of years.

    The drive from Iráklio to Lefkógia is never something I look particularly forward to. Especially the first part on the “highway” from Iráklio towards Réthymno until Balí is pretty strenuous, what with the constant climbing and descending of the sinuous road. After that – takes about half an hour – it gets easier. After one hour, at the main junction in Réthymno, a secondary road leads to the south towards Spíli and further to Agia Galíni. Before Spili you take a right turn towards Plakias, drive through the impressive Kourthaliótiko Gorge, through Asomatos with its weird Papas Michaelis museum (hordes of artefacts that reflect the history of the local society), where you turn left to Lefkógia. It took me one hour and three quarters of an hour in total to get there to the rendez-vous point.

    I was at least half an hour early for my appointment, so I sat in the local kafeníon to sip a frappé with the locals, mostly elder people who pretty much ignored me after mentally labelling me as a “xenos”, foreigner. Enjoying the early morning (which extends to beyond twelve o’clock in Greece) tranquility of a typical cretan pass-through village, I noticed one old guy further down the street where I had parked my car, systematically halting all cars that were driven by foreigners. He would speak to them shortly and then wave them on their way. Five minutes before twelve I got up and leisurely strolled towards my car where I was supposed to meet Alan, from the real estate agency. Thirty seconds later I spotted him at the other side of the road. After greeting him we were immediately joined by the little old Greek guy, who turned out to be the owner of the property for sale I had come to see.

    The owner’s name was Manolis and he was out of himself from joy that I spoke Greek. He didn’t stop complimenting me about this fact and kept assuring me that this was the absolute best pace in Crete, no Greece, with the most friendly people and the best food on the planet. Absolutely!

    Entry to the house from the street was through a small wooden door which opened up to an alley style courtyard of some twelve to fifteen meters long, about two meters wide at the beginning and widening at the end nearing the house proper. The house was old, very old, built with natural stone but plastered with cement. At various spots the cement had come off and the beauty of the stone was exposed. I liked what I saw. The cement would have to come of completely, that was for sure. The house was built on several levels and was big, very big even for a village house in these areas. Stone steps at the outside led to the first floor of the main building, which had two decent size interconnecting rooms on each floor. Attached to that was a lower building, also on two floors, about the same size, just lower than the main building. Entrance to that part was though yet another outbuilding, added later obviously in the available space of the courtyard, with only ground floor. Since the door of that part was blocked and since even the three of us together could not open it, I could only catch a glimpse of that part through some cracks in the door and through the windows. It all looked pretty dry and dusty, I could see wooden floors with extra-wide planks, a real gem if they would be in good condition. There were also wooden internal stairs leading to the first floor of the lower building. All the buildings had typical flat concrete roofs which could be used for sun terraces. In my mind, at least the one of the main building would have to give way for a proper tiled roof.

    The property was in the centre of the village, right next to the square with a couple of kafeníons, tavernas and a small supermarket. Apart from the entrance into the alley, which itself was lined with high walls in the same type of natural stone, only one face of the house was exposed (to the east). All the other walls where attached to neighbouring buildings, some higher some lower. That was the only troublesome aspect of this house: the rooms at the back didn’t get any direct light. This is not unusual for cretan houses of that era. People preferred to have their houses cool and dark to protect against the soaring summer heat and light. But it would be something that we needed to think about seriously if we would proceed with this project. Manolis assured me a thousand times that it would not be a problem, not a problem at all, really, it would be a piece of cake. I didn’t share his confidence.

    All in all, I liked the house. It would make a nice renovation project. We could do it slowly, while continuing to live and work in Iraklio. I also like the region, it’s quiet but not totally isolated (like so many other nice renovation projects we have seen). The next step will be to visit the place again with a building engineer, to assess the structural integrity (we’re living in an area with enough seismic activity), to check on the other aspects like sewerage, water, electricity, to make sure that the boundaries of the property are well defined and that the necessary permits for renovation can be acquired. Oh, and of course, there is that little detail of pitch dark back rooms to solve. I’ll keep you posted.

    [edit] I have an appointment with a building engineer to go and see the house again this Friday. When that works out fine, we need to get a lawyer to take care of the whole purchasing process. Buying property is a bit too complicated to handle ourselves.

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