This series started on Oct. 15 and will continue every other Saturday. I’m taking a trip back in time to my 4-month backpacking rambles around Greece in the early 1980s, which planted the seed for my recent novel The Ariadne Connection. Now, as I work on the sequel, The Ariadne Disconnect, I’m reflecting on the ways a writer’s experience can be transformed into fiction. I hope you find the journey illuminating, or at least entertaining. Again, I apologize for the quality of the few photos I’ve been able to recover from storage.
Hello and Farewell to the fabulous, mythical, powerful island of Crete! Since Jim and I arrived and also departed on ferries at the port of historic Chania on the north coast, I’ll start with a few more photos I’ve just managed to salvage.
After an all-night ferry ride from the Athens harbor of Piraeus, sleeping on deck through a wild storm, we woke to calming deep-blue seas frothing in our wake to bright turquoise. To the south, distant mountain peaks rose, frosted with snow in the rugged landscape. From the port, we headed toward the historic center of old Chania, mostly revealing its Venetian influence from their occupation of around 1200-1700s A.D. We enjoyed threading the cobbled lanes between crumbling masonry buildings with tiled roofs and painted doors and window frames, greenery sprawled over the walls and in niches.
We found a grassy, deserted hill in its center, once a Venetian fortress and now populated by grazing goats. As we started to climb the narrow track winding up it, I spotted a mother in a dark dress and scarf running above us, a little girl in tow. As we neared the top, I looked up to see two pairs of inquisitive eyes peering over the edge at us – a goat and the little girl with shiny dark hair and a mischievous grin. She said, “Allo!” and we had a halting conversation with my few Greek phrases. I asked her name, and she told me, “Iris.” I dredged up the phrase, “Ti aurea onema!” (What a pretty name!), and she laughed in delight, then scampered off with the goats. As we sat to enjoy the view, swallows thronged over a courtyard among the maze of roofs below us, and bells in a church tower rang out.
If you’ve followed my previous posts about Crete, you know the journey took me south through the Gorge of Samaria and east along the coast, camping and exploring village life along the way. I’ve lost most of my photo slides through many moves and a couple of flooded basements, so won’t try to recreate my visit to Iraklion and the famous Minoan ruins of Knossos, home of the labyrinth inhabited by the Minotaur.
Our last campsite was at the hauntingly beautiful site of ancient Falassarna, at the time of my travels still undeveloped for tourism. We hiked in past a cove with typical small fishing boats and the “Kafenion Psari.” (Fish Café.)
This spot provided the setting for a bit of The Ariadne Connection, when Peter barters for a boat so he and Ariadne can escape pursuit:
“You think I’m crazy? The canvas is falling apart, and the hull’s crying for caulking and paint. No fishing permit, so what does the patrol think about a boat like this? Eh? You’re making pleasure trips?” Peter snorted.
The man scowled, flicking his plastic worry beads. He gripped them in his fist. “They would also ask what kind of trip it is you make in her.”
“True.” Peter shrugged. “So it’s better no one tips them off.”
The man flung out his hands. “You would take the bread from the mouth of my poor mother?” He gestured past the wooden boats which use trolling motor props to transmit power for motion in the cove, toward the side of the cinderblock building where early morning light picked out faded letters: Kafenion Psari. Fish Café. A woman shrouded in the standard-issue black sat in front at the water’s edge, impassively beating an octopus carcass on the rocks.
The boat owner checked Peter out again, gave a big sigh. “Okay. For gold certificate dollars, eight hundred, bottoms.” His gaze flicked uneasily over the empty decks of the fishing caiques.
“Sold. If you find a new sail by noon, when I get back.”
He started to protest, then rubbed a hand over his greasy black curls, raised martyr’s eyes heavenward, and nodded.
Peter counted out some bills. “The rest later.”
The man bit his lip, examining the illegal tender. He stuck the bills hastily in his pocket. “My cousin Costas, he will have a sail.”
“No talking to Costas either.”
“Hush hush, okay.” He hurried down the beach, bills probably burning a hole in his pocket already. He could get twice the Athens bank value on the black market, but he looked nervous enough to keep quiet for a while.
Peter turned to run an eye over the splintered hulk he was shelling out a sizable chunk of his emergency stash for. Moored next to the caiques with their electric motors and bright coats of primary color, the old sailing dinghy looked even more of a derelict. Nothing much but an open hull and a mast. He’d gone over it, should get them to the mainland. He wasn’t thrilled with the shallow draft, but it was beamy for its length and the centerboard was weighted for a little more stability. At least, sailing, they’d be relatively sonar silent….
Hiking on to our destination, we enjoyed the last of spring’s lovely crimson poppies, fading after Easter.
I couldn’t get enough of the beautiful beach and amazingly clear sea that felt like it was cleansing me from the inside out, frolicking in the buoyant, brisk water and flinging up drops to sparkle in the sunlight.
We explored the partially-excavated ruins of what might have been one of the fabled 99 cities of the ancient Minoans, and atop the steep cliffs overlooking the site found the narrow entrance to a cave, with pottery fragments.
In my previous post (#7) about the labyrinths of Crete, I described the haunting maze of ruins, like a city carved from the white stone, which found its way into my novel of a modern-day Ariadne.
It was hard to leave this beautiful place, with its whispers of the past, so on the last evening I lingered in a stone cave, looking out into the sunset as the silhouettes of two fishermen laid out nets from their small boat. Farewell, fabulous Crete, and thank you for your gifts of inspiration. Chairete! Rejoice!
Next time: The ancient healing center of Epidauros, dedicated to Asklepios.
You will find The Rambling Writer’s blog posts here on alternate Saturdays. Sara’s newest novel from Book View Cafe was recently released in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection. It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?” The novel has received the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction. Just for the rest of January: ebooks of Sara’s The Ariadne Connection and Islands are on special for 99 cents each if ordered here at bookviewcafe.com