The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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12:20pm on Friday, 19th July, 2019:



If only we had signs like this in England.

Ours tend to involve chips.


7:33am on Friday, 19th July, 2019:

Cave of Zeus


Yesterday, we went to the Diktaean Cave, also known as the Cave of Zeus because Zeus was born there.

Actually, Zeus was born in several caves on Crete, but this is the most photogenic one.

My camera makes it look much more colourful than it does in reality.

Pretty well alone among the Ancient Greeks, the Cretans thought Zeus wasn't immortal. The general sentiment was that Zeus was immortal, hence the phrase "All Cretans are liars". Given that Zeus doesn't seem to be around any more, though, it looks as if the Ancient Cretans were right. The joke's on you, other Ancient Greeks!


5:35am on Thursday, 18th July, 2019:



Some of the mannequins in Cretian shop windows look as if they'd really rather be doing something else.


8:55am on Wednesday, 17th July, 2019:



Yesterday, I went on the first helicopter flight of my life — 20 minutes flying along the northern coast of eastern Crete. It was pretty damned good: modern helicopters seem to have much better stabilisers built into them and the intercom system meant you could talk to each other over the noise of the rotor blades.

Here's a video I took as we went over the island of Spinalonga, which domiinates the view from our hotel. You might want to turn the sound down before playing it...

The final second or so is to prove I am in a helicopter and it's not just a drone shot. It is not, repeat NOT, bad camerawork. Honest.

There we five passenger seats in the helicopter: one next to the pilot at the front and the other four in a line at the back. Those who sat in the middle seats at the back couldn't see as much as the others.

It was no coincidence that all the people who got the good views were male and all the people who got the bad views were female.


9:52am on Tuesday, 16th July, 2019:



We went on a boat trip yesterday in a glass-sided catamaran. Sitting in the hull beneath the water level was like looking into a vast acquarium: the sea is so clear around Crete that the view was completely uninterrupted.

Well, it was if you were facing outside the hulls. I was facig inside the hulls. All I got to see was the other hull and the occasional sunken tyre. The best photo I took was of fish going from port to starboard when the crew threw some bait in at that side for the fish to eat.

There were some barracudas that I missed, but I did get some glimpses of the sea turtle that swam around for several minutes. It's hard to see past people who are pressing their faces aand cameras close to or onto the glass.

The trip ended with half the passengers saying how wonderful it was and how they'd love to do it again, and the other half saying it was a bit of a dead loss really.

It was no coincidence that all the people who got the good views were female and all the people who got the bad views were male.


10:49am on Monday, 15th July, 2019:



At the birthday party last night, we were all given one of these.

It's a common symbol around the Aegean, meant to ward off the evil eye. Clearly doesn't work, though, because I was able to handle it just fine.

If that design isn't the roundel for the Greek air force, it ought to be.


2:53pm on Sunday, 14th July, 2019:



We're not the only people our friends invited to Crete — there are another 60 of them here (for a big birthday bash). We all know our hosts but don't all know each other, so everyone chats to everyone else.

Because of this, I've met some fascinating people — at least one author, lawyer, film-maker, photographer, journalist, brewer, hairdresser, Knight of the Order of Gregory the Great, pharmacist, actress, investment banker, academic, sailor, ... All of them are interesting, and there's probably a book to be written just from the anecdotes I've heard.

Nothing is perfect, however.

That's LOSE. -1 mark.


12:49pm on Saturday, 13th July, 2019:



We visited the local tourist trap, Elounda, today. We bought a wall decoration there of no particular interest, but it came with this free gift.

I think maybe I'll let my wife have all of that.


4:19pm on Friday, 12th July, 2019:



There are several shops in this part of Crete selling, well, see for yourself.

Given how hot it is here, I can't explain why there's any market for fur coats here whatsoever. Nevertheless, I saw three within a hundred metres of each other in Agios Nikolaos yesterday.


12:17pm on Friday, 12th July, 2019:



These cute little churches are dotted about Crete near the main road.

I don't know what their purpose is, but inside they all seem to have some kind of light source.

I hope the bottles contain oil lamp fuel and not urine.


12:24pm on Thursday, 11th July, 2019:

Saint Nicholas


We went to Agios Nikolaos today, a town of about 20,000 people some 15 miles away. It was quite pretty, centred on a small lake attached to the sea.

Never mind that, here's the Caesar's salad I had there for lunch.

Sweetcorn, olives, smoked ham and chicken are not traditional ingredients in a Caesar's salad. The dressing does not normally look and taste as if it's been made by Dulux, too.

This is typical of Cretan food: inexpensive, plentiful, and bearing only a passing resemblance to what you expected.

The ice cream shop we found selling 45 flavours was very good, though. It exceeded our expectations. Maybe they make the ice cream out of goat's milk or something.


10:45am on Wednesday, 10th July, 2019:



Today, we visited the island of Spinalonga, which lies invitingly out in the bay opposite our hotel.

It started out as a Venetian fort, then became an Ottoman fort, then became a Greek leper colony (which was shut down in 1957). There's a book about it called The Island which I probably ought to have read before I went but didn't.

Anyway, one of the features of Spinalonga is that most of the people who have lived there over the years were stuck on the island either as a garrison force or because they had leprosy. What did they used todo to while away the hours?

Well, they played games. These are some of the boards they made from pieces of flat stone.

I always find it somewhat saddening to see examples of games that people have been playing for centuries, because of all the time humanity has wasted not studying them over the years. We're only studying them today because (thanks to computers) they make money. Imagine how much progress we could have made if they'd received the same amount of attention as literature, or even drama.

Gee, thanks, academic snobbery.


6:38am on Tuesday, 9th July, 2019:



The hotel we stayed in yesterday (the Gatwick Hilton, which is like a Premier Inn but more expensive) had an interesting sink.

You might notice that there are flannels either side of the tap. This is because the tap only shoots water into the sink when it's on full blast. When you turn it on less than full blast, it either catches on the sink housing or doesn't even go in the sink at all. When you turn it off, unless you do it instantaneously you're almost guaranteed it's going to run on the housing.

We noticed this fairly quickly, on account of how there was a pool of water on the floor. How the designers of the room didn't notice is beyond explanation.

The breakfast was pretty good, though, I have to say.


11:36am on Monday, 8th July, 2019:



We're off on our annual holiday today — two weeks in Crete.

This is a bit of a different holiday for us, as we're staying with some family friends. They've arranged (and paid!) for everything, which explains why I'm typing this from the British Airways lounge at Gatwick instead of the usual benches populated by grumpy malcontents such as me.

Those of you who are planning to use this opportunity to break into our house and steal my collection of playing cards can forget it: I installed a bunch of security cameras before I left and, more usefully,we told the neighbours to watch out for your sneaky ways.


8:21am on Sunday, 7th July, 2019:



This mirror is in the same pub that the fireplace with gaps in its brickwork is.

Why is the outside edge made up of Kaiser Wilhelm II moustaches?


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Copyright © 2019 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).