Little light fare here on the blog today - some facts about Crete, gleaned in the six weeks since we moved here. All sorts and sizes, something for everyone (you're welcome). I'll intersperse the historical stuff with the "daily living" stuff, just to keep you on your toes.
1. The famous 16th and 17th century artist "El Greco" was a born and bred Cretan. You remember the guy from art history 101? (I had to look him up myself). His full name was Domenicos Theotokopoulos, far too long and complicated for most people on mainland Europe to remember, so they shortened it to El Greco, and the rest is history. Literally. But his career started on Crete, and the Cretans are rightfully very proud of him. I'm told that every major city in Crete has a Theotokopoulos St in his honour. Here's ours in Chania:
2. In its history Crete has been controlled by a number of different peoples, but two of the longest-running occupiers were the Italians (specifically the Venetians) from 1205 to 1669, and the Turks from 1669-1898. In terms of culture Venetians and Turks are, as you likely know, not exactly birds of a feather. When the Turks took over they adjusted and adapted things in Crete, including the architecture. He's a photo of adjacent buildings - incidentally on "El Greco" St - with vastly different balconies. The Turks didn't like their women to be seen or even out, so they boarded up the Venetian balconies. See?
3. Parking in Crete is... different. At least sometimes it is. There are paid parking lots and garages that function the same as what we have in the US, and there's parallel parking on curbs too - paid and unpaid. <Incidentally when you parallel parking here, you put your hazards on.> But there are a lot of other varieties of parking too. Such as half on-curb, half-off. Pulled up on a sidewalk area. Or parked in a dirt lot, where you cross your fingers you'll have egress out when you're ready to leave. For example my car was parked in this dirt lot in downtown Chania (there are two well-known ones) when the historical photos from our first and second fun facts of the post were being taken. The good news: when I returned I wasn't blocked in!
4. You can get antibiotics in pharmacies without a prescription, and you can also get homeopathics in the pharmacy. The ENT doc I'm seeing told me some folks who have ear nerve damage resulting in hearing loss (one of my two forms) regain some level of nerve repair and hearing improvement after taking hypericum. Hypericum, Google informed me, turns out to be another name for St. John's Wort. She wrote me a note detailing how much she wanted me to take, I took it to my local pharmacist, and I walked out with it in hand. No naturopath, no Vitamin Shoppe or Vitacost, no nothing. Pretty cool.
5. There are dogs and cats hanging around on every street corner in Crete. Some are seemingly pets -collars and all- that simply roam free, and some are strays. You kind of get used to seeing them, sharing the sidewalks and the roads with them, everywhere you go. (Our landlord took the one who was living outside our house, "Persian," to a home of family friends a couple weeks back.)
6. Most people don't drink the water here, including us. That's kind of a first for me as it's theoretically clean and I'm generally pretty cavalier about that kind of thing. But our first few days here when we I had a sore tummy, and our son actually threw up. Who knows if it was from the water...? But either way we joined the masses who buy and drink bottled water for a while until we bought the World's Greatest Water Filter, the Burkey, and now we just use that. (While I'm on water, the not flushing toilet paper in Crete - or generally in Greece - is a fun fact all its own, but that topic's been well covered in another post so I'll leave it out for now.)
7. The garbage removal system here consists of residents depositing their trash in any of the scores of dumpsters stationed around the island, where they're picked up by waste removal guys. It's pretty darn effective.... In practice everyone just kind of adopts and daily utilises their neighbourhood dumpster. Some are nicer than others in appearance, but regardless they seem to get emptied very regularly. (Read: when I'm ready to put the next load of empty Amazon Prime boxes into ours, its been emptied of the ones I put in 48 hours prior.) Here's one of our neighbourhood usuals:
8. Pretty much all the houses have solar power panels on their roofs to provide the house with hot water. (Even our local monastery has one, sitting atop one of the side buildings!) It works incredibly well - plenty of very hot water... on days when there's sun. You ask: what about in the morning before the sun's had a chance to do its thing, or on rainy days? Then your options are a) turn on the electric hot water heater and wait 15 or so minutes for it to work, or b) take a quick camp-style cool shower. More than once when Option A would have been my ideal plan, time constraints and lack of planning have forced me to Option B. As we move into the colder, rainy season, I'll have to acclimate myself better to Option A.
9. A significant holiday in Greece is Oxi Day, literally translated "No" Day. On October 28 1940, Mussolini issued Greece an ultimatum demanding entry into Greece and access to strategic locations... or face war. Greek prime minister Metaxas said "Oxi!" - and war commenced. The Greek counterattack against Axis powers took them by surprise, and Greece's courageous resistance served to delay Hitler's attack on Russia... ultimately assisting in the eventual victory of the Allies. We went to the Oxi Day parade yesterday: like American parades in terms of in crowds, cotton candy, balloons, and cheering. Unlike America: no floats, no bands, no candy throwing, great emphasis on lined marching in proper form, and extensive participation by school children from virtually every school in Chania. Which was cool.. and also made for a longer parade than we're used to. The best part was the traditional Greek costumes (see post header photo), of which there were plenty near the beginning. Oxi Day was uncharacteristically rainy, but we enjoyed it and even had a rare lunch out afterwards.
10. Not too many pumpkins here, but the ones we've seen are green. We picked one up at a local fruit store... And ta da, our first ever green jack-o-lantern! (The three orange ones are from the commissary on base where they import them from the US.) Isn't that cool?