Friday, October 2, 2009

Hora Sfakia - on the Libyan Sea

It seems longer ago than day before yesterday that we wound our way through the Lefka Ori mountain range to the southern side of Crete and ended up in this small town Hora Sfakia, also Sfakion (ho-ra sfah-kee-on) perhaps, because we've had an easy transition into the slow pace of this village as compared to the hustle of Hania.

This small town -- with a handful of lodging establishments; many atop street-level eateries-- is built on a small cove on the Libyan Sea. With a population today of some 350 residents, and despite its small size, it played a prominent role in the Cretan history as thousands of Allied troops were evacuated from the island fom this small port following the Battle of Crete. [Many weren't so lucky as we also visited the 1,500+ graves in the Allied War Cemetary on Souda Bay, near Hania before heading this direction. Many gravestones were marked without names, only an inspcription, "Known only to God."]

For centuries, we are told, the people here fished and tended sheep and lamb herds. The sheer height of the mountains and difficulty in getting over them meant that you pretty much were born and died here. Then tourism joined as one of the local industries as hikers made it a jumping off point for the breathtaking gorges that cut through the mountain ranges.

We've yet to meet another American with our fellow guests all being from Germany, England, Holland and other European locales. The ferry (the size of a small car ferry in Washington State) is pretty much the big excitement here three times a day. It travels between Loutros a smaller village west of us with no access other than ferry and also to Agios Roumeli where the hikers arrive from Samaria Gorge. They come here on the ferry and then catch large tourist buses taking them back to the northern side towns of Hania and Rethymno.
The afternoons are quiet; I am sitting alone in the Hotel Stavros lobby writing this entry. I overlook the cafe tables along the small narrow street (one of two in the harbor area) that passes the hotel. A cat walked past. An owner of the hotel sits at one of the tables, there is no reception desk. You simply look at the room, if you like it, you are handed the key (in exchange for your passport, that is). There are two cash machines in town; no one takes credit cards. There are a few cell phones in use, and of course there is wireless access.

We taken outings in our rental car in the mornings and afternoons are nap and play in the sea times. Then it is time to sip a Mythos beer on our deck watching the ferry arrive at 6:30 p.m. and the sun set at 7 p.m. Then it is off to dinner.

We've convinced ourselves that we must stay here a bit longer; the desire to get to Rhoades is fading. . .

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