I Heart Indies

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Getting Lost in Crete

People who know me will wonder how much longer I could forebear before posting another blog on the topic of getting lost, but this time, I swear it's not my fault.
Nancy and I rented a motorcar to get around Crete (For some reason, on Crete, I always thought of it as a motorcar.)  On the major roads we were fine. The phrase "hunky-dory" springs to the lips.  But on the local streets -!  It's a good job we hadn't bought one of those ornamental knives for sale in Crete, or I'm not sure I could have answered for our safe return.
To start with, the roads in Crete are laid out in a manner that is, in the truest and deepest sense of the word, Cretinous.  Hania, where we stayed, is filled with quaint alleys and narrow crooked lanes of picturesque charm. Except when driving, you don't want quaint, charming, or picturesque. You want clearly posted directions and a reasonable degree of width. Hania was built in the 17th Century by Venetians. That should tell you something right there. Do they even have roads in Venice? I thought it was all canals. And these Venetians were 17th Century Venetians. My glass of ouzo shakes at the thought.
Secondly, the street signs, what there are of them, are posted for the convenience of pedestrians not motorists.  Even craning the head out of a window so far that passing trucks threaten to take it off, it's impossible to make out the 48-point white lettering on a blue sign affixed to the side of a buiding.
As if the maze of zig-zagging, unnamed, one-way streets weren't bad enough, the folks who helpfully transliterated the Greek names into English felt a happy freedom from any need to arrive at a consensus, so that Hania, to give one example, is sometimes rendered Chania, Cania, Kania, and Xania. Confound this by a Greek alphabet in which the "R" sound is represented by "P," and "S" by something that looks like an "E" and you'll have some idea of what we were up against.
Finally, having escaped the environs of Hania, Nancy and I arrived on a major road, where, as I have told you, we were fine. We were on our way to Knossos on the eastern side of the island. As we drove that beautiful landscape, the green mountain rising on one shoulder, and on the other, the hills sloping down to the seashore dotted with Mediterranean villas, I regaled Nancy with the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, the original basis of which, was the palace of Knossos itself.  As you will recall, the Minotaur was really the lesser of the two perils Theseus faced, a garden-variety composite monster, easily dispatched with quick reflexes and a sword. The greater peril - and here a shudder of recognition passed over me - was the twists and turns, winding nameless passages and dead ends, of the labyrinth.

No comments:

Post a Comment