Friday, July 14, 2006

Γραμβούσα -- Gramvousa Island

What a fabulous day! Lots of photos to share. We got up early today (just before 8—hey, we’re on holiday!) and went into town for some snacks for the afternoon. Then we took a cab to the port and got on our boat for Γραμβούσα island. This is a place sort of like Spinalonga. The Venetians built a fortress there, so we had to hike it.

Some people think the Gramvousa islands (there are several that go by that name) are what Homer called the Korrykies, or Aeolus from The Odyssey. In any case, the fortress was built from 1579-84, is triangular in shape, with each side being about 1000 meters long (3000 feet for those who can’t convert metric). When the Turks took over Crete, Gramvousa, like Spinalonga, were hold outs. Around 3000 people stayed on the island and managed to keep the Turks at bay. However, the island is small and can’t grow enough food for that many people, so they resorted to piracy, and that’s why the island is often referred to as Pirate Island. (Not that there’s any buried treasure there…)

We had a rather rough hike up to the fortress. No wonder they were able to keep the Turks away. It was hot with little wind and no toilets (so too many people resorted to doing their business in places around the fortress, include one guy doing is as we walked by!). How do they expect over 600 tourists to scour the island and not have to go? Anyway, the other problems on the hike included Terry running off ahead like he usually does. He forgets that he has a fat wife and a six-year old daughter. Plus, he had the water while I had the video camera. I won’t make that mistake again. Then about three quarters of the way up, Teagan slipped and scraped her shin and her knee. So there I was, no water to wash the wound, child crying, me sweating…I shouted to Terry and waved for him to come back down, but instead he just stopped. He could see me carrying Teagan—yes, carrying her—up the steps. Ugh. I was spent! Check out the trail:

Then we got to the top. What wonderful views.

I can’t imagine what it was like living there over 400 years ago. Besides the fortress, there were other ruins lower down the island. It’s funny but once the boats docked, a ton of the tourists jumped off the boat and headed straight for the beach. They didn’t want to have anything to do with the Venetians. From up here, they look like ants.

After the hike up and down, the kids were bored stiff. So we went to the boat for a swim. The boat has an inflatable slide off the side, so we went down from the top into the cool waters. Even Teagan took the slide. I thought she’d see the three to four-foot drop off the end and decide not to do it, so when she said she wanted to go, I went first and waited for her in the water below. Whoosh, she flew down, here eyes wide and mouth open, then splash! I caught her, but I didn’t really need to. She weighs nothing and doesn’t get more than a foot under. I lifted her up and asked, “are you all right?” “Yeah,” she says. “That was awesome! I wanna do it again.” So she did it over and over.

At 1:30 the boat left Gramvousa for a lagoon not too far away. It was funny because they had a few warnings about swimming to shore, making sure you were a fit swimmer—when in Greece have we ever had a warning about anything? It was the easiest swim. Terry and I took Teagan to the shore while Devin and Erin stuck with the slide. Teagan likes to snorkel now, but she wants to hold on to someone, so Terry and I took turns carrying her. Then we checked out the lagoon, but the water was warm and stale and smelly, probably from too many tourists peeing in it. The funny part was that it’s in the high 80s or low 90s and Teagan was shivering after the swim. The poor kid has absolutely no fat on her. After a brief warming up in the sand (and running in the ankle-deep water), we headed back to the cooler water, but this time I got to carry Teagan all on my own. She does best when she’s holding on to my shoulders while I swim. I pointed out some flat fish at the bottom. I don’t know if they were baby fish of some kind, but they looked like 4” halibut. I saw one that had very dark markings with the “odd” eyeball migrating from its left side. Maybe someone reading this can identify the species.

Once we swam back to the boat, Teagan took a rest and Terry and I snorkeled into the deeper water. There wasn’t much to see. Some rainbow wrasse, tiny fish that look like tetras of some kind. I did see some odd-looking siphonophores. You could easily miss them, they were so small and translucent. Terry managed to find some goggles.

All I can say is that it was fantastic swimming in the clear blue waters, something calming and serene. I just wish the Med had more life.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the slides (but I do have video). I wanted to take our waterproof camera into the water, but Terry’s too afraid that it’ll leak. I reminded him that we have two cameras plus a camcorder, so next time I’ll take it in. On the boat ride back, we had a great chat with a couple from Scotland. They were in CA four years ago, so they told us how much they loved that trip.

We’re back now, it’s nearly dinner time (7:30), and we’re all ready to eat and then pass out. I think I’ll sleep well tonight no matter how loud the drunks are.

Oh, and happy Bastille day. I forgot the words to the Marseilles, but I remember the tune.

P.S. On the walk up the hill to post this, I saw a police van outside writing a ticket for a motorcyclist. Ha! And then Terry said he saw the police van come down the hill, hit the building in front of ours, then do the back-and-forth jimmy to get the van to turn down the other road. Ha. Even the police can't drive here!


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