Thursday, May 5, 2011

How Not To See Crete...

...or The Importance of a Mobile Phone (and a Kindle):

On Wednesday, I decided I'd already spent two days walking around Chania's Old Quarter, so it was time to get out of town. I determined the village of Vamos would be a good option since both of my guidebooks described it in glowing terms. Here is a direct quote from the Crete, A Complete Travel Guide by Explorer: "A particularly picturesque village is that of Vamos, where traditional architecture has been carefully preserved..." The Lonely Planet guide goes on to describe how villagers banded together in the 1990s to get a European Union grant for preservation of the buildings and financing to maintain traditional ways of life. The books also noted that the town can be crowded with tour buses. I was expecting something like Disneyland Greece. Here is the only interesting thing I found in Vamos:
There is one intersection in town, which holds about three eateries. I walked in all four directions and found nothing. Except in the fourth direction, I found the local bus I'd taken to the town, still there idling. I quickly decided to get back on it and go back to a cuter town we'd passed through, Gavalohori. I'd noticed signs in it's main square pointing the way to things like Venetian Arches, Byzantine Wells, Roman Tombs, Museum. Seemed like plenty to do. Down the mountain we went, and as I got off the bus, I confirmed with the bus driver the where and when of the next bus out of town. I had two hours, and made my first stop the one taverna in town. With a staff that spoke only Greek and a guidebook with no good translations, the meal was difficult to order and pay for, and finding the bathroom was yet another difficulty, but all was finally accomplished. After wandering into the local Women's Co-op to view their traditional, handmade linens and rugs for sale, I was off to see the town's sites. I walked up and up and up, passing several gorgeous villas along the way...and never found anything that remotely resembled Venetian Arches, Byzantine Wells, or Roman Tombs. I was excited for a moment that I might find a Hermit, as this sign clearly indicated, but he (or she?) also proved elusive.

At 2:30, with half an hour to go before the bus out of town, I settled with my Kindle in the town square. Three o'clock came and went, I finished my book, I stretched my legs, I called Nathan to alert him to my possible stranding, and then settled back down with another book. I had an official bus schedule and knew a bus was leaving Vamos at 4:30, so I thought I'd end up having to take that bus. I wish. When that bus didn't show up either, I was able to call Nathan and have him come pick me up in his rental car. He arrived at almost 6:00pm, three and a half hours after I'd sat down to await the bus. Thank you, EU cell phone companies, for selling unlocked iPhones with interchangeable, country specific SIM cards. Thank you, Kindle, for ensuring I always have a book to read. Boo on you, mean Crete bus driver, for laughing all the way down the mountain when you dropped me off in a town with no way home.
The one bright spot of the day was visiting the Women's Co-op.


  1. Perhaps the bus driver's English was a little rusty, too? Maybe what he was trying to say was that you needed to call your husband at about 3:00 because the 4:30 bus might not make it.

  2. That's a pretty good hypothesis - I'll go with that one.