Unexpected guests from Sweden


It is early morning and a quick look behind the blue curtains tells us that this is a perfect day for a tour. 
The sun sends its first warm beams to the landscape of Crete. There is still some snow on the peaks of Lefka Ori, no wind at all and the sea is like a mirror with some small dots here and there; the fishermen are early today. Having yoghurt from Vrisses and honey from Anopolis, a cup of tea and a sandwich on our balcony overlooking all this makes you feel good at heart and ready to explore.
To load the Vitara (Vitality would be a better name) with our stuff is easy and made very efficiently by my excellent co-driver and wife Sofia. A quick look into some maps, yes some maps, she wouldn't trust only one, because through the years she has become very experienced. Then the sign, the thumbs in the air and off we go.

We drive through Chania, the streets are almost empty and the air feels cold and clean. Close to the centre taxi-station we pass the place where men from Albania wait for someone to offer them work for a day or two. It is time for oranges and for building, painting, gardening and so on and the chances for a job is good. It is a crazy world sometimes!
No traffic on the high-road and we pass Aptera, the old town, Vrisses with the best yoghurt in western Crete and Georgioupoli, where the tourists always seems to be waiting for the buses to Rethymnon, in good speed. It is a beautiful road with the sea on our left and the hills dressed in green on the other.

After Rethymnon we turn right and head for Perama and the Melidoni cave, which unfortunately is closed. It is yet too early, the new season has only begun a couple of days ago, not enough tourists around.  What to do?

"Let's try to find little Eleni now when we are travelling by jeep".
My co-driver study the maps again.
"What was the name of that village again?"                                         
"Kateriana, I am sure!"                                                                                       

A couple of years ago we visited an almost deserted village, where we after a walk in the village, met a little very nice 5 year old girl by the name of Eleni. She was sitting, together with her grandmother and grandfather in front of a house, playing with a toy consisting of loose parts from a small bus.                                                                                                                  
"Kalimera sas, ti kaneis; I mera simera einai poli orea" (Good morning, how are you? Today is a very beautiful day")
"Nai poli, poli. Apo pou eisai;" ("Yes very, very, where are you from?)
A few words and the Cretan world are opened.

We were invited for a cup of coffee, Greek of course, metrios (medium coffee with a bit of sugar as opposed to sketos which has no sugar and glykos which is swimming with it). I tried to fix the bus and little Eleni looked at me with her dark big eyes; yes I really needed her full support. Unfortunately we were unable to get the bus to run properly again but we have tried our best, and we did it together. Before we left, she sang a little very nice song to us. I showed her the result in my video camera and she looked very proud.               We promised her to come back the next time we were going to visit Crete so now, here we are trying once more to find the village of Elenis. Actually we had tried once before when we brought the Volvo along but the roads were too bad to keep on searching.

"We have to go to Garazo and then turn left in Omala and drive onto Faratsi and finally reach Kateriana."  
She is very determined, my co-driver.
Garazo is easy and so is Omala but then the road becomes one of those millions of dirt roads you will find in Crete.
"Left or right?" ...
The road is very bad but the Vitara has a nice vitality for roads like this one, but is it the right road?  
"This cannot be right; do you think we'd better turn back ??"
The glasses on my co-drivers nose are very deep down into the maps now. "These da.. maps are not accurate"
 Whoops, where is my cool and calm co-driver now? We return to the cross and  turn right. Soon we recognise the very bad road and after 5 minutes of driving we reach the point and the houses, where we had to turn back last time we were trying to find the village.

In front of one of the three houses we can see some women, old and young, chatting and also a little girl playing. The place is very nice and peaceful with high trees, a lot of flowers all over and somewhere in background we can hear the sound of running water. Crete dressed in its spring-gown. Disturbing the peace though is a dog barking all the time and therefore we have to step out of the jeep to make us heard and understood.
We ask about the road and if it is ok to continue. The youngest woman with lipstick and almost dressed for a party answers;
"Yes I think it will ok"
A man in a blue shirt, black trousers, big glasses and under his nose a big black moustache is coming towards us with a big smile on his face.
"Geia sas, apo pou eisai" ("Hello, where are you from?").
We tell him, that we are from Sweden and again we ask if the road is ok?

"What are your names?" "Well my name is Lars Magnusson but in Crete it is Leonidas Manousakis and this is my co-d….. sorry my wife and her name is Birte but in Crete Sofia."
"Bravo, elate, come!"
We enter one of the houses and in front of us is a table covered with food, wine and fruit. Around the table are 6 men of different ages.
"Say hello to my good friends Leonidas and Sofia Manousakis from Sweden."
We are presented to Manolis, Georgos, Dimitris, Antonis, Jannis and Kostas and in seconds there are two more chairs around the table. They have already finished their meal but we of course have to eat. A plate, fork and knife, chicken, lamb chops, brizoles me patates, salad, kalitsonia, cheese and wine. Everybody look at us, waiting for what?
A wink to my wife and we grab one lamb chop each - with our hands - and start to eat. Laughter, cheers and applause;
”You are real Cretans! Bravo!"
They are all very curious and we have to tell them about Sweden, ex lain why we visit  Crete every year and so on in the Greek language…I think…at least some of it!!!
Georgos, the oldest, with a fantastic charisma, is telling stories from the old times and also from the war. He even shows us his old rifle, which is not so big but very heavy. When we empty our glasses, they are very quickly filled up again with a superb…..and strong local wine. Why all this food and wine, why this celebration, someone having his name day or what?
The answer from Georgos is very quick:
"No, no we celebrate our church Agios Ioannis today."
There are only two people living in Faratsi today; Georgos and his wife but they have many good friends visiting them, especially when it is time for celebrations like this one today. It is now a very festive atmosphere and the spirits are running higher and higher. My video camera is also running and they don't mind at all.
Sofia is placed next to Georgos and he looks deep into her eyes and here comes the mantinades (Cretan love songs in rhyming couplets), one after the other. He is just fantastic, 81 years old, and acts like a young boy.
A kiss on his cheek and he continues, everybody is smiling and joking and we have a great time together. Time is flying though and what about little Eleni and her village?
"Leave now, no, no you stay a little longer, Katriana is very close from here" It  It is now time for tsikoudia; Yamas, skål, si´gia, viva Manousakis, viva Georgos, viva Antonis, viva Sofia.
Suddenly a telephone-call. It is from Athens and Georgos tells all about the celebration and his guests from Sweden to his son.
Very politely we tell all our new friends, that now we have to leave. First I have to show the videotape to them, new laughter and smiling eyes.
"Leonidas kai (and) Sofia Manousakis you have to come back in September on the 26th again because then we will celebrate Agios Ioannis again. You are my friends and you are very welcome."
"Of course we will come back."
"Before you leave you must have something to take with you" He tells his wife, a very nice little woman dressed in black, to give us a bottle of his best wine.
Before we leave, we hand over some of the chocolate, we always have in the jeep when driving around, to the little girl and she is very happy.
"Yes, yes the road is ok for a jeep."
 Finally we got the answer to the question that we had put 4 hours earlier!
Well, well, well what to say? After a couple of hundred metres we have to stop and to look at each other. Can we continue? What about all that wine and tsikoudia? We emptied (behind some bushes) as much as possible and there was for sure no traffic on our road and the hairpin-bends were easier at this stage.
We cannot find Eleni in Katriana. It is not the right village and I do not recognise the nature in this area. We continue to Drosia and Theodora, where we met our ladies from last year's visit. This time we also meet all the youngsters from 2 to 6 years. We offer them some ice-cream and we have a good time together. The youngest does not get too much of his ice-cream into his mouth but all around it and all over his face.
Now it was time to look for a place to spend the night and we decide to go up to Anogia. On our way there the nature suddenly changes and I am sure, this is it, this is the area with the Elenis village. Ahead of us pointing to our left is a sign saying "Kamariotis."  We turn and there it is but this time without Eleni.
Anyway, we are very pleased because things have started to happen in the village. Some new houses but most of all some of the old houses are restored and we hope it will continue like that and maybe we will find Eleni next time.
Late that night, when I put my head on the pillow, I can hear my co-drivers silent laughing.
"Kalinichta Leonidas Manousakis"

Kriti stis kardies mas



                                             Georgi from Faratsi at Moni Arkadi





















































             Our dear friend Georgi from Faratsi at Moni Arkadi










             Our dear friend Georgi from Faratsi at Moni Arkadi

The local priest has arrived







Outside the small church in Faratsi








Dear friends and fantastic food



Jamas Sofia! The man in the deep blue shirt presented us as his good friends from Sweden








Friends of Georgi










"A kiss on his cheek and he continues"