Crete Stories & Photos

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Greece and Crete are favorite vacation places. The many advantages include: the climate, relatively inexpensive, relatively safe, friendly, accessible, ... .

I did not include my experiences with the (new to me) travel agent. In summary,

I try a GPS unit
Fun calculating fuel on a 747
Olympic Airways
Introduction to Athens
A Favorite Story, about language
The Ferry to Crete
First Day in Hania
Finding the NAMFI Range
Driving in Crete
Leaving Crete

I try a GPS unit

(GPS is short for Global Positioning System, a U.S. Defense department system of satellites which provides signals which can be converted into location near the earth's surface. Non-defense department people can get location accuracy to about 100 feet. The GPS must be able to have line of sight to at least 4 of the 26 GPS satellites. You need a clear view of almost half the sky, toward the equator is best.)

A friend has been using GPS for travel (mostly auto) for a year, and recommends it for fun and utility. So - I bought a Garmin 48 which seemed to give my desired compromise between price and features:
- 12 channels for faster location
- ability to handle speeds greater than 100 knots
- nice maps and way point capability
He had little experience in airplanes with the units. He strongly recommended that I practice with it a lot for at least a week or two before using it seriously. (There are many features - and trying to remember/blunder-into the menu sequence to enable/disable some feature can be a frustrating exercise. Excellent advice - seriously.

One of many examples, I remembered that there was a method to keep the LCD back light on for a selectable number of seconds. One dark night on the ferry, I wanted to keep the back light on continuously. There was no option to keep the light on continuously on that list of options. The "on continuously mode" is selected a different way. Took me 15 minutes to find it. Trivial when you know it, a real frustration when you don't.

Notes on usage in an airplane:
- get a window seat on the south side of the aircraft
- the deeply recessed windows of a 747 give a very limited view
of the sky, works about 50% of the time
- air crews are currently quite interested in the thing
- air crews want it turned off during take-offs and landings

The only time I really used it was when coming back to Hania, Crete at night. I needed to get from the highway that goes by the town to my hotel. The street signs did not help me. I had set my hotel in as a "way point" and used the navigational abilities of the GPS unit to guide me. The unit knows which direction you are traveling (two points and the time difference do it) and you tell is where you want to go, and it helps keep you pointed in the correct direction. You can get into a "dead end" path, but you can work around that.

Even though I did not gets its full price back on this one 2 week trip, I am glad I had it. It gives you more confidence that you can get back to some known point.

And you can have fun on a long plane ride. (The unit can show the "great circle" [shortest] route as a reference and tell you where you are in relation to that shortest route.) Coming back from Athens to London, I noticed that we went about 100 km west before turning to the north west. We missed Albania by about 4 km. I mentioned this to a flight attendant who then said "Oh, we rarely fly over Albania". I imagine the Korean 747 shot down by 2 Soviet jets a few years ago leaves a lasting impression.

I got to the San Francisco airport about 3 hours before flight time, as I was advised by British Airways that was the best way to get a window seat (for the GPS). Nope, settled for a seat 2nd from the window. Bother. The window was on the north side of the plane during the flight, and did not give one GPS position reading on the flight over to London.

Fun calculating fuel on a 747

Lots of time to wait at the airport. Got tired of reading the travel guide to Crete (again) when a 747 rolls up to the gate. Soon two trucks were loading jet fuel onto the aircraft. Each truck that an engine driven pump which seemed to feed fuel through two large hoses. into the wings. Looked impressive. I start asking does anyone know how much fuel. Soon someone volunteers that they had heard someone ... say a 747 burns one gallon a second.

Hmmm - could that be? One gallon of jet fuel weights about 6.5 pounds (as per J.P. Moore. 6.5 pounds a second is almost 400 pounds a minute equals one English (now American) ton per 5 minutes. Our flight is 11 hours? about (660 minutes) / (5 minutes) equals about 132 American tons. Hmmm.

On the way back I asked the pilot (really!) and he said that he took off with 140 (metric) tons (154 American tons) and that we had at that point consumed 74 tons of fuel. Hmmmm - sounds like maybe about correct.

Olympic Airways

I did notice that the sun did not set during our flight. At the time of local midnight, we were over the land of the midnight sun. When we land at London, it is 11:00 A.M. their time. We land at Heathrow. It is very large, the airplane driver drives us for a long time - now I know why they call it "taxi".

Hustle, hustle, metal detectors, heck I am arriving - OK, don't want to miss this connection - bus - hustle, Ah - There it is gate 12 in the correct terminal.

A lovely red headed lass named O'Doyle in a green costume issues a boarding pass - and I just have to kid around. I complement her on her excellent English and that very few Greeks have lovely red hair. She mentions (with a world class smile) that {Ire/Gaelic?} airlines also does ground services for Olympic airlines.

I ask for a window seat - No, sorry - how about the next seat? - what can I say? I get on the plane, take my seat and it looks like they are closing the door - I slip over into the window seat - success at last. Suddenly the door opens again and a large group of young people flood on board. One little chap sits next to me, pulls his hat over his eyes - and does not seem interested in this world. I feel guilt about taking his window seat - but not guilty enough to switch.

The Olympic airlines Airbus leaves one hour late - no ground hold excuse here. I worry that my possible connection to the ferry to Crete is in jeopardy. We were supposed to land at 6:00 PM and the ferry leaves at 8:00 - going to be close.

The GPS does not work in this plane either! I am on the north side of the plane. I remember that the Russian GPS system has its satellites swinging further from the equator than the Americans, which the Russians feel give them an advantage in the polar regions. (And the Russian Glossnos (spelling?) system does not bedevil its users with the US style of "Selective Availability" (read - we (DoD) screw up your readings by an average of usually no more than 100 feet. Why? because we can. Makes us smile when you bitch.)

After we have been in the air for an hour, the guy whose seat I had taken wakes. We chat - he is from Montreal, Canada and is part of a youth orchestra going to Greece to perform. I mention that he speaks very good English - but he says that he does not get enough practice. Occasionally he checks with his companions, in French, for a suitable word.

He says that he plays the cello. I mention that I used to play the clarinet - not very well as I never got promoted from worst. He says that one of their pieces is the Mozart clarinet concerto K266 - and introduces me to the guy who will play the solo part. I can only hang my head in shame :-)

We view the Adriatic Sea. It looks so small on the maps and is so wide out the window, and sooo long -

Introduction to Athens

I arrived at Athens from London's Heathrow airport. One gets used to a rather coolly efficient British Airways and the very helpful atmosphere of the giant Heathrow. Then you land in Athens. Very different -

The arriving air travelers go to "Customs". No one was there. The long benches, the stands for the officials, all empty. We hurry through.

I see a sign "Currency Control". As I was carrying a more than adequate amount of "Travelers Checks" I though I maybe should check in. Just hate to spend a night in jail for missing a simple step. I wait a few minutes in the queue, some little old lady is trying to tell some kind of story. The official looks over to me, ask how much I'm bringing in, I say, he waves me off - not enough to bother with.

I wanted to get to Crete as fast as practical. So I found the line for Greek Airlines to ask if any seats had become available. The ropes constraining the queue were placed 3 or 4 people wide. Not a good plan as this made for competitive actions in the queue, then they fanned out to feed into the various agents and things got worse. I was just about to talk to an agent when a very harried young lady tried to pop in the queue in front of me. "Ah - the queue begins back there." I suggested.

"Oh please, I've been through this line. Ordered my ticket, then had to wait in that long line over there to pay for the ticket - now I have to come back here to pick up my ticket. Oh please, I've been here since 9:00 this morning and my plane is about to leave. Please" --The ticket payment line was at least as long as this one. Well Ok, mumble mumble.

Just then the ticket agent recognized the young lady, reached way out to hand her the ticket, the young lady got the ticket and disappeared. I don't mean that she hurried away, she disappeared - puff - like magic.

My turn - seats to Crete still sold out - go with the ferry.

The luggage did not arrive any faster than at any other airport. No attempt to verify ownership.

How to get to town? Things get really confusing (my Greek language skill does not exist). Bus - to where? - none of the signs make any sense to me. Where is the taxi area?? I want to get to the ferry area as quickly as possible to try to catch the 8:30 P.M. ferry to Crete.

Wander about a bit. Ah - there it is. A long (about 30 meters) queue of people, a long queue of taxis (about 30 meters) and where they join, only one taxi is loading at a time. There seem to be people to assure that only one taxi at a time will be loading passengers, baggage, and finding out where to go. It looks very slow.

It is hot (heat wave), I have been up for 36 hours, smell like a goat (or worse), and want to get out of here in the worst way.

I approach an empty taxi coming to join the end of the line. I say I want to go to the ferry area. He points to a place about 30 meters beyond the place where one taxi at a time is being loaded. I hurry to the place, hoping that I understood correctly (what have I got to lose?) I get 30 meters beyond the rest of the people and the taxi rolls up (and has two passengers - a couple). I swear it was empty when I talked last. Anyway I hop in, and away we go - thankfully.

The guy of the couple states he wants to go to the ferry area, and how much will the fare be? The taxi driver smiles and says 10,000 British pounds. I notice the driver has not started the metering device. The other guy says to start the metering device, the driver says "No, I've already driven you a little way". He is very pleasant, but we realize that haste is going to cost money - but maybe it is worth it. We do indeed wind up paying about 30% more that we should have.

The driver hurries us to our destination - just like a New York taxi - sneaking up all the turn only lanes then back into the main lanes. Intense traffic, but WE are moving right along. No one yells at him, flips him off or wants to start a fight - the Greeks seem nice to each other.

We get to the ferry area, the couple pops out and the driver wants 5,000 drachmas - "NO WAY" - and an argument starts. I have visions of police arriving and worry a lot. It is the taxi cab's territory. They settle on 3000 drachmas.

The other people head for their ferry - but where is mine?? The taxi driver says that it leaves at 7:30 PM and it is now 8:00 PM - no ferry. Just 36 hours ago, I had checked with Greek travel people in New York, and was clearly told that the ferry leaves at 8:30. (Travel books warn that trying to get correct departure times in Greece is difficult - even the posted times at the ticket sellers may have been out of date for some months - must talk to an involved human - and hope they are up to date.) OK, the taxi driver recommends a hotel just around the corner, and drives me there. He goes in with me and introduces me to the clerk. The taxi driver seems strangely pleased, but I have a room with bed and shower.

The taxi driver seemed strangely happy after being talked way down in his requested price. The hotel he delivered me to was definitely "working class" down by the ferry terminals in Parinas near Athens. Nothing fancy, but had a private shower and a bed. It is dark and certainly time to sleep. I am quoted 14,000 drachmas for a room, I remember being quoted 16,000 drachmas for a room in a nice hotel in central Athens. I am crushed, tired, defeated, hungry, thirsty, in a strange land, and at a place that is not on my map, with people who speak mostly Greek. OK - no more fight - here is the money. I hit the bed, and fall asleep with out dinner or shower.

Up at 7 AM local time - and the streets are jammed! Very few horns, but every turn of the street lights (stop signs) seems to let about one bus or 4 autos through. I start to walk about. Seems I was the last one up. I find a restaurant with some customers and point to what someone else is eating - the waiter brings my order (a kind of shiskabob) which is different for breakfast - but does the job. I order coffee, need to wake up/ It is already hot, I get a coke also.

Maybe time to call the wife in California. Back to the hotel, no, I cannot telephone from here, I must go to a kiosk around the corner on the busy street. No - I want to call California. No - you must go there. I can't believe it. Go to the kiosk - oh, that other one. How are you supposed to call from a kiosk? It does not even seem to have wires. I walk up to the kiosk and say I want to call the USA. Lady says "OK" and hands me a phone. Ah - er - what do I do now? She has enough "Basic English" to explain, writes the digits to access the international service and the USA country code, and then 10 question marks for the 10 digits of my USA phone number. (I do not feel very sophisticated right now!) OK - soon the wife is on the phone, she was about to go to bed and was a little worried about me. She does not want me to be "dry cleaned" - robbed by a prostitute. I tell her that I have more character than Clinton.

The phone lady says the call costs 3,000 drachmas (about $10 US). I don't have that many drachmas, and offer a $20 US bill. No - get drachmas - you go down that way a block and a half is a change place. No - no security, just go get drachmas. I am back in 10 minutes, she takes the drachmas just like she expected me to return.

A Favorite Story, about language

I need a coke (it is hot) so back to the restaurant I go. Sitting inside the restaurant, I see some Greek men sitting at a sidewalk table of the restaurant. They look happy and comfortable as they hail friends and eye the ladies. They look relatively prosperous and very at home. I wish that I could be like that. I wish I could talk with them.

I walk out and one hails me saying that they have seen me walking about a lot, am I from England? - I'm from America - have a chair. I sit and we start to talk. Some do not do English well so there is a great deal of explaining. Seems that one run the hotel on this corner, and another owns the hotel on that corner. They ask where I am staying - OH - not so good. How much are you paying - NO!!, you are getting cheated. When you come back from Crete you stay at my hotel, ask for Mike - much better, and half the price.

One of them has a 1 liter plastic bottle which he says is home made wine, have some, good eh (yes, just fine). We talk about Greece, and the various occupations. The Turks controlled Greece until about 150 ago. Crete has been free of Turks for almost 100 years. And of course the Germans -- .

I apologized for not having any Greek words and said that they did very well in English. The one that spoke the most easily said that he had worked in Chicago, U.S.A. for five years, and then returned to Greece to raise a family. They said why should anyone else bother to learn Greek. Not very many Greeks and it is just a small poor county.

I started to apologize about English being such a mixed up language - the Germanic invasions, the French invasions, the Norwegian invasions, and then we collect words from all over, Japanese, Chinese, .... and then I live in California and we have lots of Mexican/Spanish words.

But the shop owners stopped me. They claimed that Greek was even more mixed up than English. They had been conquered by more people, more often, and over a longer period. They claimed that even Greeks did not understand each other. They all agreed on that! They were providing me free homemade wine, so I did not argue. ;-))

They mention that I should take a ride on the Metro - the station is only 4 blocks away, and where to get off to see the Acropolis.

Every one has a little more. After a bit I am no longer the center of attention and figure I better not overstay my welcome. We bid a fond farewell. I buy some postcards and international stamps, and go back to the restaurant. The table is empty, they have gone about their business. A nice adventure. A really nice adventure.

On to the Metro. My informants say that I do not have to buy a ticket, that I can pay for the ride on the train. I get on the train, ride to the correct stop, get off, and hope that no one gets mad that I do not know how to pay. I visit the Acropolis.
Temple to Nike, Acropolis 62 K Bytes

I have not pointed out that the Greeks have been under Turkish rule until about 150 years ago. Turkish "rule" is apparently as brutal as the current Chinese rule of Tibet. So while Western Europe was going through the industrial revolution, the Greeks were fighting slavery, boys abducted to be "re-educated" as Janissares [elite troops for the Sultan], girls abducted for harms, etc.

The Ferry to Crete

Later that afternoon I buy a ferry ticket on the ANEK ferry line the good ship LOTO to Hania, Chania, or what ever in Crete. The ferry starts loading about 5:00 and leaves about 7:30 PM, arriving at about 5:30 AM. For about $30 I get the ride and get to sleep in a 4 bed cabin (with 3 others). Damn it is hot - I decide to go to the ferry, it is supposed to be air conditioned. About 40 of us are wilting in the sun and heat. We creep (sneak??) about 30 minutes early, onto the auto deck of the ferry hoping that "they" will not throw us off, it is SO COOL in the boat. We are silent - we really do not want to be thrown off. The wonderful COOL air streams down an escalator. Soon an officer in white sees us, picks up the phone, the escalator starts, and we are beckoned into the main part of the vessel - into Heaven from the Hell outside. Just Wonderful. (Greece is in the middle of one of it's worst heat waves.)

There is almost no one else on the vessel - more workers than passengers. There are about 40 passengers and 10 cars. I feel sad that such a nice ship is so under-utilized and probably going broke.

I am shown to "my" cabin, pick a bunk. I hurry after the (bell hop?) that has shown me the room and ask for a key - he shrugs and hurries off. I go back to my room and bunk and go to sleep. I wake. The engines are running! The other 3 bunks contain sleeping men! I go out, there are people all over the place. Kids in the arcades playing video games, many people on the floor (deck) in sleeping bags, blankets, or just their street clothes. Lots of people snoozing in the TV theater like place. I find that I slept through the dinner period. They have removed the food and are just finishing cleaning the cafeteria. The vehicle hold seems completely full of autos, vans, and large trucks. Good, the large beautiful ship is full of people.

I get out the GPS, go to a forward deck just below the bridge, and play with it some more. We are almost half way to Hania, traveling towards it at 21.8 knots. It is a stunningly beautiful night, ideal temperature, slight breeze, no city lights, dark skies, a world full of stars.

We are off the ferry at dawn at Souda, the working port of Hania. Many people are getting of buses marked Xania - is that Hania or Chania - Yes - pay 320 drachmas (about $1.10) for the ride. We are moving, I am standing in the full bus. I want to see everything. I bend down to see more of the hills. A guy offers me his seat - what me? - I am embarrassed but thankful. I see a lot. In a little while I offer him his seat back. No, no - just fine.

First Day in Hania

Hania, like all of Crete, is historic. It was a thriving town before the "Golden Age" of the Greeks, it was old when the Macedonian "Alexander the Great" conquered the known civilized world (he did not seem to know about the Orient?). It has had so many conquerors that you need queue cards to keep them in order. The Creteans seem to gave given all of their conquerors fits (all except the Romans, no body seems to know why that relationship was peaceful.) The most recent were the Venitians and the Turks (the Germans recently were there for only about 4 years, a mere blink of the eye). Bloody times, terror and abduction to try to suppress the Creteans, terror and abduction right back at the captors.

An "update" from Rolf Dieter Görigk

The bus let most of us out at the center of Hania, a 1 square block park with lots of trees. It is named "1866 Park" after a particularly bloody go-around with the Turks in that year. I head for the Old Harbor, really lovely, and see a sign "Rooms for Rent". OK, I need a room. The offered room is on the second floor with a lovely view of harbor. It is a lovely morning, a lovely restful view, and the price seems very reasonable. I take it.

It is a very plain room. The only light is a night light sized bulb over the bed headboard. Fine - was not planning on doing much reading anyway. The toilets and showers are toward the back of the building. OK, This might have been a room for some VIP 400 years ago, just substituting the night light for a candle.

Want to phone some people to find NAMFI and get a pass. Go out into the tourist filled street and find a phone - does not take coins - need to have a phone card. OK, buy a phone card - about $3 in drachmas. Start calling, it is Sunday, and not many people home. How can they call be back?? The limits of the historic lovely room become evident. I cannot communicate by phone, and that appears to be a very important thing to be able to do while here in town.

I get a hotel room with the usual facilities, and a switchboard with operator. Very nice, but no soul, no view. As the day gets hotter and hotter (record breaking temperatures) it appreciate the air conditioner. I never sleep in the romantic hotel.

Over a period of days, I frequently visit a bar with a great guitar player playing Greek music, visit the Hania Naval Museum twice - nice job, and many of the other touristy things. I go past the east harbor area where the Venetians and Turks built and overhauled and protected their vessels in large stone arched barns. Interesting stuff. The last day I want to go on a glass bottomed boat and see the "sea". I am told it is too stormy. Hardly - this would be called a fine day for fishing out of San Francisco - OK, some of the people would have gotten sick. Maybe fisher people are more willing to risk that than tourists.

Finding the NAMFI Range

I like to drive - but I was a little worried about driving in a "2nd world" country. I am used to the regimentation of the United States. You see a red stop sign, you stop, you wait, even if there are no cars as far as the eye can see - you wait - because the cops finds it easier and safer to hide and wait for you to sneak through that red light than to chase dangerous people.

There seems to be a different attitude in 2nd and 3rd world countries (what ever those numbers may mean). First, their is not enough money to put a stop light on every corner, so they have to cooperate a little. Second, stop lights work even more poorly in poor countries since a higher percentage of the traffic is motor scooters, bicycles, motor cycles, etc. which do not interact with stop light sensors reliably.

In any case, traffic flows more continuously in China and Crete than in the U.S.

So Sunday I rented a motor scooter to do initial searching for NAMFI locations. Oddly, It is almost 2/3 the price of a car. How to get to the airport - to start the search? I have not gotten the knack of finding street names in Hania. Street names are painted on the sides of buildings instead of being placed on signs on steel posts as in the U.S. I do not find any likely road, so I head in the general direction of northeast, up there on the high peninsula.

Up and up, round and round, there are no straight streets, just roads placed where old goat paths must have been. Past many houses. At the top of a hill, I find a straight road and a sign pointing to Aero something - OK - and "Away we go". The little motor scooter goes a brisk 55 km/hr - and the cars go by much faster. After about 8 km I find a NAMFI Kontainment (housing area). The guards are friendly and helpful. But they don't know where the NAMFI range is. They telephone for me to many places to try to get instructions. "Down the hill from Sternes."
one of many helpful guards 48 K Bytes

At the crest of a hill facing east going down to the water, I find a NAMFI Officers Club. There are people having a nice time there - I do not intrude. Up and down the hills, did I miss any little side road. Another phone call - no - can't be there - only naval base gates and a public beach on the east side. No - there is a military airport on that side of the civilian airport, I talked with those guys, they don't know either. I see lots of olive groves - the cicadas are making a lot of noise. Finally I see a radar, way up there, how to get there - up and up the little motor scooter goes - through a rock quarry - up and up and here it must be. The guards suggest that I am lost - I smile and say that I am found. [They must think I have been in the sun too long.]

On Monday morning, I make telephone contact with the correct security office. The correct person is not there. They will have him call me when he gets in. I wait, and wait. Do not want to get too pushy. About 4:30 I call again, I need to supply my automobile license plate information. OH, OK, I will get that for you tomorrow. Off to rent a car. I go the friendly scooter place and get a price for a car for two days. The lady says her husband will be opening the store at 8:00 AM and I can get a car then.

At 8:00 I am sitting at the door of the friendly scooter/car rental place, it is not open. At 8:15 I go to the friendly car rental place next door that IS open and get a slightly better deal for the same car - a Fiat Panda (a plain but serviceable sub-compact). Off to the NAMFI Kontainment guard gate to get instructions to the correct security office.

Again I head northeast, up and up, round and round, and again eventually find the correct road to the Aero something. (I do feel safer with 4 wheels and wrapped in steel.) The friendly guards point to the road to the airport, and say that I should take the first road to the left after that. I do - Well, it is not THAT first road to the left, it is that other first road to the left. Ok, I find that I am at an AirForce guard gate. Oh Really? Oh Yes, - I finally remember being told that the AirForce runs the radar and control part and the Army runs the launcher part of a Greek Nike site. That must be interesting.

Dear friends - do not ever work in a security office. It must not be fun. I follow an American speaker from the parking lot into the security office. He sits down in the guest chair - he looks very at home there, he must have been there many times before. A very harried (enlisted?) man is trying to handle the security desk. It must have been his first day. I will give mercy to all by not describing what went on.

In any case, I am informed that I will only be allowed on the NAMFI site for only one hour, even though the shooting time is from 9:00 AM to 12:00. If no Nikes are fired during the time I choose, that will be too bad. I will have to leave anyway. The American speaker in the guest chair suggests that I show up at about 10:30 AM as things tend to drag a bit.

I am given a clip-on pass, which, together with the letter from the general, should get me in the front gate of the NAMFI Range tomorrow. I ask if I can visit the radars - the clerk's eyes almost cross - this is not his morning.

The American speaker explains that the General is really clamping down on the usually casual Greeks. He hears that civilian visitors to firings will be allowed only once a year.

I find out from another person that all able bodied Greek males serve in the military. The length of time varies inversely with the unpleasantness or danger of the position. [A guy getting a soft pleasant job stays in longer. Submariners stay in only 12 months.] The pay is about 400 drachmas a month ($1.30). I express surprise - I am told the parents or relatives are supposed to supply more cash to keep the young person going.

Hey - it is before noon - almost a whole day waits for me - what to do? I will go to the Knossos archeological site at Iraklio about 131 km (70 miles) to the east! Yes indeed, but must move right along.

Driving in Crete

Down from the high peninsula to the port of Souda, grope for the main highway linking all of the cities on the north side of the island, fill the little gas tank of the Fiat Panda, and away I go.

This is a nice road - 2 wide lanes with nice wide shoulders. Slower traffic use the nice wide shoulders. I am tempted, I dream I am a Gran Prix driver. How fast can I go and not likely kill myself or someone else? Come on - I'm old enough to be a grand father, reactions not as quick and sure as in the past.

It is a beautiful day, good light and excellent seeing conditions. By now I have a feel for the Cretean way of driving - how they handle the mix of farm wagons, bicycles, motor scooters, motor cycles, autos, trucks, and buses on 2 wide lanes with wide shoulders.

They do not do it the American way which is:

  1. do not drive on the shoulder or you will get a ticket
  2. this is my lane and I drive in the center of it
  3. never cross the double center line [no passing zone] or you will get a ticket.
All of the above "rules" are gracefully violated on Crete - and maybe most of the rest of the world:
  1. slow traffic better drive on the wide shoulder
  2. a car better keep its right wheel on the line dividing the main lane and the wide shoulder - this gives greater flexibility for
    * dodging cars that are passing over the center line
    * dodging slow traffic possibly passing on the wide shoulder
  3. it is not friendly to have the center line of your car over the double line [no passing zone]
Anyway I had a ball. I had a liter of coke and a liter of water and I was ROLLING. I was passing everything on the road except a Mercedes and a BMW which had much higher power and speed than I did (150 km/hr or 90 miles/hour). Most corners were marked by squealing tires.

Then, about 15 km from my destination, I mis-judged a corner and did something like a 4 wheel drift much wider than anticipated. OK, Let's cool down and live to drive another day. I started following the local drivers who have driven there a long time. [On the way back, it was dark, I was not feeling sharp and I behaved myself.]

I got to the ruins of Knossos in plenty of time. There was plenty of parking. I paid the entrance fee and "hung out" watching people. Soon I found an English speaking guide leading a group that did not seem in a hurry. He seemed to know more than the tour book. I lurked about listening. Soon the group moved to a different spot. I asked the guide if I could join the group - the guide seemed relieved that he would not have an embarrassing lurker and happy at the prospect of another fee. The fee was twice the entrance fee - but seemed well worth it. We spent about 2.5 hours strolling about, talking comfortably, letting faster groups go through us. We had lots of questions, comments, and comparisons. There are not answers for all of the questions. I thought we got a wonderful tour. Most of us gave the guide generous tips.
[I then went to the car and drank a liter of water.]

I took some beautiful photos of Knossos. Great color, great detail, of 3,500 year old room paintings. I decided not to put them on this site as they are rather large (200 K bytes for low resolution .jpg) and not in the charter of this site. I suggest a trip to your local library for books that can provide much more that I can offer.

About 3 miles due north, in the town proper, is the museum where many of the recovered objects are displayed. It seemed a great museum, much reconstructed art, much explanation. Unfortunately, after about an hour, it was getting dusk and I had had a full day, and was getting concerned about the return trip. I left before being pushed out.

Crete (NAMFI Nike Firings) Trip Report why I was in Crete in the first place :-))

Leaving Crete

I spent a few more days in Crete, listening to Greek/Crete guitar music in a restaurant, sampling OUZO and METAXA, Hania Naval Museum - twice, walking about, watching the World Cup with REALLY interested fans, in general enjoying the good life.

I really felt safe, much safer than in my middle class suburban neighborhood. The Greeks complain about the illegal Albanian and Turks, but I did not feel threatened in the least. Everybody seemed attached to the world, everybody seemed to see you on the street, you could look anybody in the eye. The police presence seemed minimal, mostly to "show the flag". Their cars did not have the light show from outer space, just a little blue blinking light. (The guide book says don't mess with the police, they have wide and flexible authority.) Admittedly this was a town with a big tourist population, but women walked about in the evening with seemingly very little care. (These did not look like "ladies of the evening".) No one walked with a big dog. If I thought that I could learn Greek, and if they had a fast Internet access ... - I would be very tempted to stay a season or two to see how it went. (The major heat wave was leaving.)

Time to leave this near paradise. I had committed to a meeting in Athens on Monday. I bought a ticket to Athens on the Sunday night ferry (oddly, it costs about $3 more to leave Crete than to go to Crete). I took a bus to Souda arriving about 4 hours before the ferry departure time. I wanted to see how Crete life was in a less touristy situation. A small dusty town with more people and kids than work. A big naval dockyard and base takes up the east end of the town, but any sailors did not seem visible in the Sunday evening city square scene. I checked many of the gates of the naval facilities, but since I did not have a mission nor a letter, the guards were not interested in me nor I in them. Back to the town square and a dinner. The older residents taking the evening air at the outside restaurant tables, viewed me with some suspicion and distrust. I unsettled them. They were not out to sell things to tourists, this was their city - I was a definite outsider.

After an hour, more and more people came through the town square to the nearby ferry area. There was no "ferry terminal". The area was part of the navel base. A large faded sign that said to "Keep out", "Subject to Search" was totally ignored. I was sitting at "my" outdoor dinner table under trees about 75 meters away. I was feeling very self satisfied with arriving early and being comfortable watching others standing in the sun. But there was no ferry boat, and the boat should be leaving in a mere 45 minutes, then 30 minutes, then 15 minutes - there seemed to be a problem.

The evening turned into night. About an hour after the scheduled leave time, a large ferry boat came and docked. There seemed to be a great deal of pushing and shoving at the front of the crowd. The cars and truck that were to get out were struggling to get through the people struggling to get onto the vessel. I noticed that this ship did not have the separate passenger loading ramp that the LOTTO had. And this ship was not the LOTTO that was on my ticket.

In the words of U.S. space flight "Houston, We may have a problem here." I quickly leave my comfortable superior chair, and with suitcase wheeling behind, hustle to the dock area. There is a rough shack with a guy sitting in it. I ask is this the ferry to Athens. "Yes - but a different ship, the other one had an acc - ah, had a problem." OK - no problem. I stand back from the struggling crowd - still feeling very superior. I notice a group that appears to be Ethiopians. They also are standing back from the struggling crowd observing quietly. Soon I ask myself "Why the struggle?" and ask the guy in the shack. He says that this ship is much smaller than the LOTTO and there might not be room for the Sunday night crowd. OH OH and I throw myself into the struggling crowd, all feelings of separate superiority suddenly departed.

It was madness. "Women and children first" may have been the motto for the Titanic, but not here. We struggled up the auto loading ramp. It had been a hot day out side, and it was definitely hotter in here. Once on the vehicle deck, our troubles were not over, just beginning. Auto fumes were everywhere, choking. We were all trying to get through that little door way over there. All these people through that little door - you gotta be kidding. After about 15-25-35 minutes, who is counting, I get through the little door. A new scene of madness greet me. This is the reception area. It is jammed with people trying to reach the only person on the ship that can make room assignments. They are all waving their 5" by 7" tickets at him trying to get him to take their ticket and give a room assignment. Another officer starts through the surging crowd and collects tickets. (These guys should get hazardous duty pay!)

The associate has my ticket. Any pretense of civilized behavior leaves me. I must not loose track of that ticket. It may be delivered to the room assignor at any time. I crash-through/fall-over a girl in violet, I sortof apologize without taking my eye off of the associate. (Thinking back she may have been on a similar mission, but I outweighed her by 60 pounds.) One of my suspenders pops loose, my glasses are steaming, I am careless of the welfare of others, I could have had my pocket picked a hundred times and not known it, I have no shame, and I am one of many others doing the same thing, we are a mob.

The assignor has my ticket! He looks up something, scribbles on my ticket, and hands my ticket to a room guide. We fight our way out of the reception area. People want the area that I was standing in and push me back into the space I am trying to leave. I fall over my suitcase but stay vertical - there is no place to fall. I gather my feet under me and pretend I am playing American football. Slowly the guide and I struggle our way out of the reception area.

The guide is not sure what is written on the ticket. I could be room 107 or 109. In fact there are other good possibilities. My guide confers with other guides returning to the reception area - they shug - pick one. I am led to 109. Which bunk? The guide thinks the ticket says "a", the guy in bunk "a" convinces the guide that the "a" is a "b". There is a guy in "b", I take bunk "d". I have a bed! I don't have to sleep on the floor!

Later I go out to take a look. The ship is peaceful. No one is sleeping on the floor. The vehicle deck is full of cars, tightly packed. All is quiet. The ship has successfully absorbed all of those struggling sweating people.

It is morning. I have an 11 A.M. appointment with an Internet journalist friend. The ship is going to dock at about 11 A.M. I must call him and delay the appointment. The movies show ship to shore phones, all the important people do it. Me to! I go to the reception area and ask. They call the radio room, and say to come back at 9:00. At 9:00 I present myself and am taken into the area marked "CREW ONLY". Hey, this is OK. We go up to the bridge deck and just behind the bridge is the radio room. The radio operator is making the phone connection for a frantic lady. There is a long frantic conversation. Finally the lady seems relieved and "hangs up" by releasing a switch on the hand set. The radio operator makes another phone call to get the charges and charges the lady ??? drachmas. My turn. I write the phone number and the radio operator pushes some buttons on the keypad, then enters the number I gave him. He explains that I must keep the switch on the hand set depressed until the phone conversation is done. My friend answers, we start to talk and a loud buzzing noise starts, and the connection is broken. The radio operator makes a call and apparently tells of the broken connection. Then he dials my friend again. This time the connection holds, and we defer the appointment till 2:00 P.M. I release the switch. The radio operator makes the call to get the charges and asks for 210 drachmas.

I had really wanted to complain that they should give free calls for those inconvenienced. I start to say something like that and see that this concept was not part of the culture. So I pay the roughly $0.71 with a smile. Then the light dawns - they "owe me" a trip to the bridge! "Sure - No problem, right this way". A quick inquiry, and onto the bridge I step. This is the life! Lots of space, great windows, great view - there is quite a bit of equipment but there is a lot of walking space between everything. (I am used to rather tight Nike trailers.) I ask about the gyro compass. It is in the pedestal that also has the wheel. I ask if I can listen to it - I put my ear against the metal and hear of the little gyro whine, and smile. (My first job after the Army was working on gyros for Minneapolis Honeywell.) I am shown 2 radars, the engine controls, the navigators table, and have a good (but silent) time. (The bridge apparently is not the place for a social gathering.)
Bridge of Ferry 58 K bytes

I totally forget to ask to look at the engines!

I leave "Officer Country". I eventually talk with a guy who installs communication gear, such as cell phone base stations, all over the east Mediterranean area, even into Poland. He installs equipment made by a company I never heard of located 50 miles from my house in California. We talk of many things. He speaks Greek and English, no other languages, he travels a lot and gets by OK. He has a GPS also, he uses it to locate existing and potential sites for the communication gear. He has taken his car from Athens to Crete for the weekend while seeing his girl friend in Crete. He explains that there is no frequency assignment in Greece - the paperwork is too lengthy - people find an unused sounding frequency and use it. Some times the government goes to a hill top and takes all of the equipment. If you are well connected, you can get the equipment back - otherwise you just buy some more - and install it again. Does not seem to be a big problem.

The guy offers to take me in his car to my hotel. That sounds like a lot, but he says that it is on his way to his work place. We go into the bottom deck of the vehicle area - way below the water line. This deck is quite narrow, 3 cars wide on each side of the center ramp. There are two deck of cars and trucks above us. The vehicles are tightly packet in. The guy is worried that a careless driver might damage his car as it is turning around in the narrow space in front of the ramp. Soon the motorcycles have room to leave up the ramp.

Fortunately a ship employee shows up to restrain any careless behavior that might start. Cars start making the difficult turn in front of the ramp and going up the ramp. The guy goes back to his car. He will pick me up after he makes the trick turn. He wants me to help protect his car from danger. He makes the turn, going back and forth in a short distance while turning 180 degrees. Up the ramp we go. Out into the sunshine and fresh air. We are late arriving, he was expected about 2 hours earlier. He calls his boss on his cell phone - no one answers - he thinks that is a good sign. The boss is stuck somewhere also.

We start out towards Athens (ferries land in the port city of Piraes) I turn on my GPS unit and we have fun watching the erratic course trying to bypass the morning rush hour traffic to and through Athens. There are many little short cuts that he hopes will speed the trip. Soon we are at the President Hotel. He wishes me well, and goes off to work.

If you have comments or suggestions, Send e-mail to Ed Thelen

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Updated August 20, 1998