Monday, May 30, 2011
Road Babe Dispatch From Cycladian Islands
Often, the least-mentioned places are most worthwhile. As Machu Picchu slides off the mountain from the thousands of tourists bused to the top daily, the Cretan coast relaxes in silence. It’s not only the absence of tourists that makes this array of colorful beaches so delightful. It’s also the presence of vivacious locals who know the meaning of hospitality.
Johannes’ promises were always exceeded by their fulfillment. Even his speechless Grecian wife was more striking than he had described. Whether it was cave-framed sunsets over the green bay in Matala where Zeus stole Europa as a bull, or eating head-on redfish and watching the noonday sun over the abandoned leper colony on Spiralongia, he always had a story to tell. “Matala,” he said sucking the fish eyes from their delicate sockets, “is Sodom and Gomorrah to the British.” His wife nodded before slamming a shot.
Pretty soon, they had adopted me as one of their own. I walked out of Phaestos, the famous Minoan ruins, to find Johannes parked outside. “Where’s Penelope?” I asked. He pointed off the side of a sheer precipice. Moments later, a cloth sack swung over the ledge and up climbed Penelope without even an extended hand from her husband. She smoothed her hair before showing me her prize: snails for dinner.
At their house, Johannes and I debated philosophy in his sea-side garden, eating cucumbers straight out of the ground and drinking warm homemade Raki in a humid breeze. We dug the fatty grey creatures from their shells with enormous forks. They introduced me to their daughter, who (after dancing me dead at four in the morning) left me at a high speed ferry headed for Santorini with the most beastly hangover possible. I raise my glass to Cretan hospitality!
Mittie Babette Roger is from Louisiana but lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. She received an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Naropa University and authored the book It's Better to Visit the Shaman Without Questions to Ask. She travels the world volunteering to help disadvantaged children and promoting Blue Iguana Tequila to empower serious drinkers.