Monday, 9 November 2015

Walking round in circles

Woke to a bright warm Cretian November morning and it stayed like that all day.  No photographs of breakfast today, but otherwise I can report that the Greek yoghurt drizzled with local honey was just perfect.

Today's walk was a circular walk around the Monastry of Gouverneto

and here I am already on the go.  No, that's not a sword I am carrying but one of my walking poles!

One of the unforeseen pleasures of autumnal walking in Crete is watching the landscape come alive again.  As in the desert, once the rains start to fall the earth and her treasures wake up from their summer hibernation so there are delightfully miniscual crocus 

delicate narcissi,

the fascinating Serpent Head,

and, what I bet turns out to be a Cretian dandelion, but is never the less a brilliant yellow star of the footpath.

Nature has a habit of clinging on to life at every opportunity, even when conditions are tough.  So it's a delight to see how little is needed to survive sometimes - even the most barren rock can be called home as long as you have a storehouse to draw upon!

The first twenty minutes or so we're walked in silence so we could settle into the landscape and become aware of nature herself.  The familiar buzz of the summertime chicada has been replaced by sweet bird song, thrush and blue tit and as we tread gently we come across this Jack Snipe, doing what it does best, sitting stock still and blending into the terrain in the hope we will walk by,

which we did once we had admired its beauty and grace.

Not everything has an obvious beauty and grace, this 'chicken wire' shrub being a case in point.

Although the star like patterns formed by is low growing plant are beautiful and to the point!

Whilst this is the original 'scratch'n'sniff' - an aromatic thyme which releases its heady scent as we brush by.

Of course, the ancient low growing olive trees have the most amazing bark structures. Even without counting the rings, you just know this is so very old.

Littering the mountain sides are small churches and chapel caves, like this one.

This strange roof is formed by the water seeping through the limestone ceiling to form stalligtites.  Countless fires light by those seeking refuge over the centuries have blackened their surface to leave an earie roofscape.

Walking in the late autumnal sunshine is quite delightful, our group stringing out in a long line with Jonathan occasionally nipping up and down the line like a Collie to ensure none of us have strayed.

Poles are helpful and

a little sit down welcome.

A small church dedicated to St. John the hermit was a point of attraction and an occasion for another of Jonathan's welcomed biscuit breaks.

Despite the seeming remoteness of these small chapels they are still consecrated, with occasional services, christenings and even weddings taking place.

The going underfoot was sometimes uneven, 

but helpful markers ( this tiny diamond is one of Jonathan's ) lead the way.  This one looks as though someone wearing bright red lipstick has planted a kiss on this ancient olive tree!

Once banded by the invading Turks the Cretians buried their bells to keep them safe and now these bells are still used today to call Christians to prayer; 

but we didn't stay long here because lunch was ready and waiting further along the way.  The Greek airforce even put on an arial display for our entertainment...

Lower down is the Agia Triada Monastry.  But it wasn't the ostentatious display of wealth in the chapel that captured my attention, but the humbler structure of the building itself:

Door handles,

Inscriptions above the doorways,

the plaster walls,

carved stone decorations,

the still life around each corner and 

the locals, who were very friendly

if quite laid back.

And some just liked to make you feel quite at home!

Autumn is also the time of the orange harvest,

so everywhere we go we see trees ladend with fruit.

But the sun is starting to go down and so in the final warmth of the rays it's time to let the toes feel sand beneath them 

and to take a quick dip.

The water is still warm enough and with the promise of a hot cup of coffee to follow, why wait?

By the look of that sky, it should be another good day tomorrow too.

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