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interkriti:the E4 and other Mythical Trails-by Stelios Jackson
A diary of events of the trials and tribulations
of a lone walker, in his attempt to cross Crete
from Kato Zakros to Kissamos...
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Chapter Nine: Aghios Georgios to Archanes (two days)


Thursday the 22nd of May
Long Goodbyes
I would have liked to have stayed in the Lassithi plateau, for a few more days. I have never really explored this area as much as I would have liked, though, if truth be told, I can say the same for practically every area of Crete, I have visited. The plateau's villages are linked by roads and paths, and are easily accessible to each other. The foot and mule paths are far more exciting than the road that runs round the plateau's periphery, which was a stroke of luck, seeing that I was rather challenged in the car stakes. My grand plan for this morning, was to head for Aghios Georgios' folk museum. At least that had been the grand plan last night. Then, I had drunk enough for a small army, and had felt culturally inclined. Now, in the tepid light of the morning, armed with hangover, and having showered, dressed and ruminated for a while, I just wanted to be on my way. Before leaving, however, I fancied a quick coffee, and I needed to pay Ka. Niki for the accommodation and the wonderful feast of last night, and decided that I could combine these two things. I am male; I can't 'multi-task'! I walked down the stairs from my room, which led straight into the kitchen area, and an encounter with the seemingly, forever-smiling, Ka. Niki. I explained my need for a coffee, which she understood as a request for breakfast! For the second morning in a row, the table at which I sat, was instantly weighed down with breads and preserves, cheese and olives and, after a short while, by a Greek coffee. I translated, as best I could, the piece on the hotel from the 'Rough Guide', for my hostess, and promised to send her a copy, once I arrived back England. I was to learn from this mistake. Firstly, I could, and should, have torn out the relevant page from the book; secondly, and more importantly: never try to outdo a Greek in the generosity stakes! I mean this most sincerely! In response to my promise to send her a copy of the book, Ka. Niki gave me a lace tablecloth! I was just wondering which particular item I'd brought with me, I could outdo her generosity with, when it occurred to me, that I couldn't - outdo her that is; that she had a hotel full of knick-knacks and, I if weren't careful, I could end up carrying half of them away with me! I just didn't have the space in my rucksack! I accepted the good lady's offer and paid what I owed. This was the princely sum of €25.00. For everything! Over the past three days, I had managed to spend under €70.00 inclusive. Granted, I had spent the night under the stars in Prina, but I had eaten well, and the past two days had been a gastronomic and cultural delight. I left Ka. Niki, but before I could make a getaway, was spotted by Ka. Harikleia at the kafeneion over the road. I waved at her and she motioned for me to come over and see her, sometime, in the next five seconds! This I did. She planted a kiss upon my cheek and the fruit of a small walnut tree in my hands. I grinned inanely, which I am good at, and said my last "yiasas'", which I am utterly useless at. Holding back the tears of grief, at having to leave a couple of ladies whom I'd  met just 16 hours previously, I shuffled out of town.



Kastelli Bound
The road from leading to Psychro, takes a westerly direction, and at 9.30 AM, it had a Tsaksonakis on it. Once there, I would head north and then west again. Psychro, as mentioned before, is the base for the trip to the "Dikteian cave". Guides to the cave - replete with mules - can be hired from here. It matters not, whether the cave is the actual place where the God Zeus was alleged to have been born. It's worth the trip regardless. I found my north (right) turn, - soon after leaving the village - and an elderly lady - sitting astride and equally elderly donkey - exchanged pleasantries with me, for a while. Passing the village of Aghios Haralambos, to my left (west), I found myself back on the road, which skirts the Lassithi plateau, at Kato Metochi, before coming off the road entirely, at a sign directing me towards the pilgrimage of Aghios Georgios (I could be wrong with the name, but somebody pilgimed around here). From here, the only way is up. And up I went. This is another of those "roads less travelled". After around 15 minutes of winding and climbing, I came across the first of my beloved E4 signs, by a road sign which told me that if I continued on this road, it would take me to Kastamonitsa. That would do nicely.

An eagle-eye view. Picture: ©Stelios Jackson/Interkriti 2003/04.


Road Kill
The E4 sign was pointing away from the road, and suggesting that I should come off it, and take the path to my right (North). I don't trust these signs at all, but it was only 10.30AM, so I decided to give it a go. Depositing my bag, close to the road - and a chained puppy who looked like it had already been kicked too often to raise the strength to bark at anything with two legs - I followed the path for five minutes or so. Now, I should have learned from my experience on the way to Selakano, but I hadn't. The path appeared to peter-out, but looking back, this must have been the E4 trail. For sure, the road that I returned to, was not! Not that there was anything wrong with this route. On the contrary, it was a joy to walk. The somewhat grainy picture was taken, somewhere along its length (the reason I took this picture, is because somewhere in its half a million pixels, there is an eagle. A glass of raki to anyone who can spot it; a pair of glasses for me, who can't!).  During the three hours I trod its bendy route, I saw two cars and a couple of dozen birds of prey (what I would have done to have my Nikon Coolpix 5700 back in its case, instead of the various maps that now filled the case's space). The first of these cars was travelling in the opposite direction from me, and appeared just after the road sign to Kastamonitsa, mentioned above. The second of these cars, I saw twice. Well, that's not strictly true; I had been following its progress for the past half an hour, as it slowly caught up with me, from whence I had come. A bright yellow jeep with Swedish number plates, eventually caught up with me, as I was approaching the end of the long and winding road. Just as I was wondering whether the couple on board might be Lars and his "co-driver" Sophia - a couple with great experience of driving around Crete, and great stories to tell - and wondering whether I should have asked, the yellow jeep returned, this time travelling in the opposite direction! They stopped beside me, confirming at once that they were not Lars and Sophia, as they spoke neither English or Greek. My Swedish is not what it should be either, but with a mixture of semaphore and mime, I was left in no doubt that the road I was currently on, did not continue to exist around the corner that lay ahead of me. I motioned with my fingers that I was walking and that the problems they had encountered whilst driving, wouldn't affect me...would they? This is where our communication problems came to the fore; unable to answer, and with a couple of sets of raised eyebrows and cheery waves my Swedish friends drove off, leaving me somewhat anxious about what lay ahead, around the corner!
Rocking and Rolling
The road couldn't just finish. What would be the point of that? Besides, I had stayed on this road since seeing the sign informing me that this was the way to Kastamonitsa.. As I turned the corner, my worst suspicions of what the problem may be, were confirmed. The road had collapsed. Instead of a steep bend, there was nothing other than a sheer drop to where the road recommenced some 100 metres below; a road now covered with the remains of the missing bits that I had wanted to walk. I did what I do best, and panicked! It had taken three hours to get here from Lassithi. I could have got a lift from the Swedes had I known this was to happen; now I had but two choices: walk back to Lassithi, or attempt to descend to where the road recommenced, below. There was little chance of another car coming from the way I had just come, and, of course, absolutely no possibility of one coming from the direction I wished to travel in. I sipped at my water and cracked open a couple of walnuts, and hoped for divine inspiration. None was forthcoming. I couldn't face the thought of returning, but the drop beneath me, reminded me of the one I had foolishly attempted on the Klados gorge, on my aborted first trip to Soughia. Once again, my rucksack was a problem. If I were to attempt to bridge the gap between the two roads, it would be like a tightrope walk. Balance would be essential, and as I looked down, I wobbled in both mind and body. I decided to give it a go. There were three or four ledges beneath me, before a small gorge, which the erstwhile road had been designed to circumvent. If I could get to that gorge, I might be able to slither the rest of the way down. As I looked beyond the gorge, I tried to ignore the fact that the drop, from there, looked even more severe. Gingerly, I descended, with the balance and grace of Fred Astaire...at the age of two. Each rock had to be trodden on with exteme caution. More often than not, I sat down and decended bump by bump, on my bottom!  Just when I thought I had done the hard part, I encountered a scree slope. How I love these little rocks. They make descending so much fun. There is precisely no way of avoiding sliding down, and so I slid down. Biting the bullet, I allowed my rucksack to go on a reconnoitre mission, by pushing it in front of me. Oh, the joy of it all. It took 10 minutes of painful scraping before I reached the recommencement of my road. I could have done it quicker, but I would not be here to type to you if I had. Any slower and I'd probably still be there to this day! I had a few scrapes and bruises to show my experience had been less straightforward than it might have been, but other than that, everything was intact.
Please sir, may I have a Euro?
I took a picture of the boulders, once again using my hat and, this time, my water-bottle for scale (on top of the large rock in the foreground) It took some time to leap and bound these boulders, before I emerged at a point I could call a road again. The village here is called Toichos, and a pleasant little place it is too, notwithstanding its somewhat isolated position, due to its access to Lassithi being cut-off. I decided to take the less obvious route into Kastelli, one which would take me via the ancient site of Lyttos. According to the Rough Guide to Crete, this will become one of the island's most important archaeological sites, once excavation starts; an unnamed Venetian source, had discovered Crete's "largest theatre" here, though it has since vanished!  The walk to Lyttos (Ancient), was a delight. A very pleasant, winding road, pops one out at the main road, and from there, it's plain sailing, though not particularly pleasant walking, into Kastelli, via the modern village of Lyttos, also known as 'Xidas'.

It was 4PM when I finally found myself in Kastelli Pediados; the 'Kastelli' of the town's name refers to one of the ubiquious castles on Crete - this one built by the Venetians - and the 'Pediados' to the flatness of the land, and, supposedly, to differentiate it from the Kissamos variety of 'Kastelli' in the north-west of Crete. A straight road takes you into this small town, and taking this and passing and noting a hotel ('Rooms Eleni') on the way, I found myself at its centre. The hotel where I fancied staying, is called the 'Kalliopi' and was tucked somewhere in the town'w backstreets. Before attempting to find it, I decided to rest my weary legs at a cafe opposite the bus station. I ordered a lemonita, and allowed myelf the luxury of a moment or two's reflection. Looking at my map, it suddenly occured to me that I had crossed a 'nomos' (district). I was now in the district of Herakleion, whereas this morning, I had been in that of Lassithi. I'd drink to that! A beer was ordered! A small boy, of about six or seven years old, came within arm's reach and stared at me. I smiled at him and he continued to stare. With great concentration he asked me a question. "To onoma sas;" (what's your name?). I pointed at my bag, where in Roman and Greek lettering lay the legend "Stelios Jackson, E4 KPHTH, 2003". "Den poro na to diavazo" (I can't read that), said the boy. "Stelios, kai to diko sou onoma;" (Stelios, and your name?), I said. My money was on Georgios, with an each-way side-bet on Michaelis! "Georgios", said Georgios. "Hairo poli, Georgio" (nice to meet you, Georgio), I replied. I wasn't entirely sure which direction this conversation was taking; Georgios looked as though he wanted to sit on my knee, so I hurredly placed my rucksack there. I am a great fan of children, but the difference between England, where you can receive a glare from a parent, for merely looking at their offspring, and Greece, where kids approach you and strike up conversations, couldn't be more stark, and can, at times, make me feel a little uncomfortable. I sipped my newly arrived beer and Georgios wandered off, only to reappear a few seconds later. "Doste mou ena evro" (give me a euro), demanded Georgios. "Yiati;" (why?),  I asked. Georgios wanted to buy himself a drink, with my money. Once, on a trip with my father, to his native Scotland (my father's that is, not Georgios'!), we had been accosted by a begger, demanding "10 pence for a cup of tea", which my father refused to hand over. This was a persistent beggar, however, and upon his third request, my father rather forcibly told him, that he only had a ten pound note on him. "I'll give you change", said the beggar; needless to say, he got his 10p, and we got an anectode. I wondered if I should offer Georgios a €20 note, and see if he came up with €19 change. I decided against this course of action, as Georgios looked quite capable of outrunning my old pair of legs, and dug a Euro out of my bag. In a flash, the boy was gone, never to be seen again; well, not by me at any length.
Food, glorious food
I found the wonderful hotel Kalliopi tucked in a quiet backstreet and was offered a huge room, which slept four, for €25.00. They had no single rooms, so I was offered these palatial quarters for a quarter of the palace price. A balcony at the rear looked over a swimming pool. Cloud had been gathering for the past couple of hours and it would be dark in a short while, so as tempting as it was to have a quick dip, I decided against the idea and instead got myself wet in the shower. I had read good things about a pizza joint in this town, and feeling fresh and raring to go, I set out to find it. The Rough Guide has the tavena 'Irida'  in the south of the town. It's not; it's on the road leading west out of Kastelli. Before eating I had a beer in a rather nice bar, diametrically opposite my chosen restaurant. It is a fine place to eat. Options include tables, inside, outside and on the other side of the road, in a wonderful neoclassical building. Takeaways are another option, and it was obviously the night for the good people of Kastelli to eat in, by ordering out. The place was a veritable whirr of activity, as motorbikes and cars delivered to Kastelli and environs, and I sat entirely alone, outside, eating in. I ate well, enjoying a bottle of that wonderful Siteian red, which I am rather partial to. Arriving back at the hotel, I sat on my balcony and gazed at the swimming pool. I rather wished that I had chosen to spend two days here, rather than in Archanes, tomorrow. I could, of course, always change my mind, but if I did, I felt that I might regret it, once I arrived at Archanes. I wanted to visit the museum there, and Archanes' multifarious archaeological sites (more of these in the next chapter); and so it was decided that I would get an early start tomorrow, and head west, once more.
Friday the 23rd of May
Close Encounters
I left the town of Kastelli, before 10AM. On hoof  again, I knew that the E4 took a parallel and, no doubt, peculiar route, to the road I was on, and I decided to completely ignore it. This was a mixed blessing. I didn't get lost, but I almost got run-over! A couple of likely lads in a van, decided to attempt to force me off the road. This was quite deliberate. Aiming the van directly at me, they expected me to have the sense to hurl myself into the ditch which ran alongside the road. I am far too proud to do such things, preferring to collide with two ton of metal, rather than suffer such indignities. A game of "dare" followed in the couple of seconds that their van was aimed at me. Thankfully the lads weren't as stupid as they looked or acted - I wish I could say the same of myself - and swerved to avoid me, just as a collision seemed inevitable. I could see them laugh before the van carried on up the road; I made a point of stopping and pretended to make a note of the license plate. The acceleration of the van, suggested that this might have scared them, but I doubt if it did. They were probably contemplating a U-turn and a rematch with the boy Tsaksonakis.
Close Encounters of a Similar Kind
The road was quite a pleasure to walk, vans and lads, notwithstanding. I was enjoying myself and getting a glimpse of life in the hinterland of Herakleion. I have never hitch-hiked, but I suspect that it would be pretty straightforward on this island. The road had the ocassional passing car on it, and twice I was offered a lift. I turned down these kind offers. It was hardly the quietest road that I had travelled, but the scenery more than made up for that, as I am sure you'll agree from the picture. The last village I came to was Aghies Paraskies. Well, at least the last village that I care to remember. A pretty place, with smiling people, and a mere 1KM from the main road(s) which take the driver from Heraklion to the South. Once at this main road, everything changed. The smiling people and pretty villages were replaced by snarling truckers and a blighted landscape. This I hated. The cloud that I had seen yesterday evening had followed me, and now to proceded to spit at me. The length of the main road to my point of disembarkation from it, was no further than 4 Kms, but it was a busy, nasty, road. A truck driver honked his horn at me, gesticulating at me as he came into view; suggesting that I had no right to walk upon his road. I had no choice other than to walk upon his road. It was not through any great desire to do so. There were no pavements, so I was on a collision course with whomever wished to run me over. Thankfully, I saw no vans, driven by homicidal lads. As another gesticulating, articulated lorry driver neared, I mouthed the  words "cough" and "fur" - not in that order - no idea why; what I do know, is that for the three quarters of an hour, I was on this road, I was not a happy bunny. If I am making out that the road had nothing going for it, that is not entirely true. There are, at least a couple of wine factories along here, open to the public, and I took the opportunity of visiting one. A number of coaches stood outside one of these wine factories (there are a number of good wines in this region, including that of Vangelis Lidakis). Tourists from all corners of Germany, had taken the opportunity of avoiding the ever-worsening weather to put on their glad-rags and get a free(ish) tasting. I tagged myself onto one of these groups and enjoyed a glass of wine, at their lack of expense. Frankly, I must have stood out like a sore thumb. The tracksuit bottoms I had on, had seen better days, before I'd packed them in England. Now, they were damp, dirty and no-doubt a bit whiffy too! Back on the road, and a further KM or so beyond the wineries, a left turn after the village of Zagousianoi (which is not at all a bad place) takes you through extremely ugly territory, into the village of Katalagari. Here, everything reverts to the Cretan norm. This is a pretty village, close enough to Herakleion and the town of Archanes to allow for a couple of kafenions and ice-cream parlours. Two things happened at this point, my 'phone rang, and the drizzle turned to rain. The call was from my mother, and I was pleased to hear from her. It would stop raining soon; wouldn't it? Would it hell.
Georgios' will be Georgios'
A few winding turns later and I could see the town of Archanes (pic), nestled beneath me, in a valley. Despite the weather, the town looked extremely pleasant from up here. Passing a couple of rather nice looking holiday villas (rented out on a weekly basis), I decended down into Archanes. That stretch of road between Aghies Paraskies and Zagousianoi, had taken it out of me. I felt positively polluted by the diesel fuel of the lorries, I had passed, and this feeling was nor diluted with the rain, that had grown progressively harder over the past half hour. Perhaps the half bottle of wine I had purloined, hadn't helped either, but what the hell, I was on holiday. I like Archanes. It had been 14 years since my last visit here, and I wondered whether I would find accommodation. It looked extremely likely that I would. This is a rather large town and a very pretty one too. Three archaeological sites and a great museum attract the tourists; some of which, surely, spend a night or two, too. I arrived at the main square, via the town school. No sign of an hotel. I decided to zig-zag through the back streets, to see whether I could find somewhere to stay. A group of young boys, probably all called Georgios, followed me back up the hill. One, definitely named Georgios, mocked my bent-over walking style, and asked me my name. I removed my rucksack and placing it on his back, answed his question, with my honourary Cretan monicker. "Stelios Tsaksonakis, kai diko sou;" (and yours?). "Georgios", said Georgios, just as the weight of my rucksack took affect on his dimunative frame. OK, I shouldn't have done this to poor Georgios, but with a bag weighing in at close to 20 Kilos, and the lad weighing-in at no more than twice that weight, he keeled over backwards. I caught his fall, but as he lay on the ground like a flipped tortoise, I believe he may have suddenly realised why the Tsaksonakis had been somewhat less than vertical, in his walking style The lads couldn't believe that I had walked with this burden all the way from Kastelli, and were further impressed when I told them that I hasd started last week in Zakros, though most of them had little idea where Zakros was! I needed their disbelief and  perceived adoration as they took it in turns to try my rucksack on for size. Thankfully, most of them were more braced for the backward flip than Georgios had been, but none of them could walk with the bag on their back. They were, after all, barely nine years old, but I felt positively Herakleian all of a sudden.
Square Routes
A complete wander round Archanes, deposited me back at the square. I decided on a beer, at a large and the rather nice kafeneion 'Spitimo', on the main square. As I did so, the rain turned into a torrent. There I sat. Beer in hand. Damp through, all dressed down and with nowehere to go! The Rough Guide to Crete, was not helpful, preferring not to mention accommodation, rather than to mention that there wasn't any (The 'Lonely Planet Guide says there is no accommodation options here!). I wondered when the buses ran to Herakleion. I would have no trouble resting my head there, and seeing as I was having a day-off the walking tomorrow, I could come back the day after on the first bus. I wanted to stay here,

"All Cretans Are Liars"

You have probably heard this expression, and may well know at least one of its sources; there are in fact, at least,  three. The reason that I place this box here, is because the second of these assertions, concerns Zeus' burial on Mount Juktas, which towers above the town of Archanes. The following are in reverse chronological order:

1) Paul (St) 1st century AD:

     The most oft-quoted source of this phrase, is that of Paul (St) of Tarsus, in his epistle to Titus - later bishop of Crete, and based at Gortyns -  and dates to around the middle of the first century AD. In these epistles, Paul (St) makes mention of "filthy lucre", before getting down to the business of repeating the age-old "paradox" (see number 3, below) in chapter one, verse 12. of the epistle: 'One of them a prophet of their own, said: "The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, slothful bellies"', and by way of confirmation, in the following verse: 'This testimony is true. Wherefore, rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith:' Always the forgiving kind, was Paul (St).

2) Callimachus (poet) 3rd C. BC:

     The second of these sources, was written by Callimachus in his 'Hymn to Zeus', in the third century BC, and here we get to Mount Juktas, slightly west of Archanes, which was believed, by the Cretans, to be the tomb of Zeus. From a distance, the face of the mountain, does appear to take on the look of a man's (or god's) profile. Callimachus wasn't having with this. Gods don't die, they are immortal, so "all Cretans are liars".

3)Epimenides (Smart Alec) 6th Century BC:

     If you thought that the Cretans were having their names taken in vain, they only have themselves to blame! With an ironic twist, that would  have been wasted on Paul (St), we have the earliest source of this expression. Epimenides 'Cretan Paradox', was written in the 6th century BC, and has even been used in an episode of Star Trek (first series). to confuse the chips out of a malign robot! Described as a "mathematical riddle", it's more of a contradiction in terms. "All Cretans are liars", said the Cretan Epimenides; if this is true, then Epimenides is not lying, and therefore not all Cretans are liars; however, if Epimenides is a liar, then by saying that "all Cretans are liars", he is in turn issuing a false statement, so not all Cretans are liars, only some, including him! For further mind-boggling thoughts on the "paradox", visit Steven Blatt's page.
Stelios Jackson 2004
however. I really wanted to stay here. I ordered another beer from a charming young woman, and took the opportunity to ask her whether there was anywhere to stay in Archanes. "Yia poses nichtes" (for how many nights?), she asked. "Dio"(two), I replied. "Mia Stigmi"  (just a mo), she said and went to make a 'phone call. "Eghine!" (sorted!), she said upon her return, and sure enough, 15 minutes later, a lady accompanied by her "I really don't want to be here" grandson, approached my table. With the pair of them hovering over me, I hurredly finished the dregs of my beer, and prepared to follow. My prospective landlady was not the fleetest of foot. To compensate for this, she kept giving me directions as to where her place lay. I would get to the point where she'd say "dexia" (right) and then have to wait for her to catch up, as Archanes is a veritable labyrinth of backstreets.
I Rest Here
The rooms 'Orestes' were comfortable enough, and I was mighty glad to have found my own particular small part of this large house's interior. A break in the rain, allowed me time to go into town and buy a couple of t-shirts and a pair of tracksuit bottoms, so that I could at least look semi-presentable, if I were to go out tonight; and I had every intention of going out tonight. The clothes I was wearing, could have virtually stood up on their own, once removed, and the contents of my bag, were wet through. I took a shower, and realised that my little bathroom had its own washing machine. I asked my landlady whether I could use it. She decided that being a male of the species, I couldn't, but asked me to leave anything out and she'd do them for me, tomorrow. What a woman! I am male, and whilst I am pretty handy with an automatic washing-machine, I didn't like to argue; that would have been to much like multi-tasking; so I didn't protest. I should have, but I didn't. That evening I ate well. Tucked round the back of the main square, to its south-west side, lies a little alleyway, that I had spotted whilst wandering the town in search of accommodation, this afternoon. Within this little alleyway, lies one of the best and most atmospheric restaurants I have ever eaten in, called the 'Diktamos'. With book in hand, I sat at a table and enjoyed a procession of fabulous food for a couple of hours. I wanted to read, but one of the waiters wished to sit at my table and talk to me. It was 7PM; too early for the Greeks to be out, and far too early for the promised Bazouki music which was on the menu for later. Instead, my new friend and I talked for a couple of hours. He was a fabulous chap, named Miros, and he wanted to know all about my walk. All in all, I had a splendid meal, in equally splendid company. I made an earlyish exit, and decided to have a last beer at the Spitimo kafeneion. The lady who'd helped me out this afternoon, served me again, and I almost proposed. Only the fear of rejection stopped me making a complete ass of myself. I was in a cheery frame of mind, as I arrived back at the 'Orestes'  at 10PM, and after an hour or so reading, and looking forward to a day off the walking, I said "goodnight" to the world.

Stelios Jackson's sponsor :
The Hellenic Bookservice - Britain's Greek (and Latin) bookshop. Est. 1966
© Stelios Jackson & interkriti

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