For this blog post, we’re trying something different to commemorate the week we spent with our dear friends, the Bankiers. This post is written by four people: Jonah, Miles, Oliver, and Julian. We found our two guest authors, Oliver and Julian, on Mars. No, that’s a joke. We actually found them on Crete, where we stayed together for one week. We all lived together in one big stone house and we had a lot of adventures. We wanted to write together about our experience and we thought the easiest way would be to share some lists about things we noticed on the amazing Greek island of Crete.
To get started, here are ten of the best things about Crete, according to Oliver and Jonah, age 8, and in no particular order:
- The reunion of Jonah and Oliver. This was so much fun because we haven’t seen each other in almost half a year and at home we see each other pretty much every day!
- Playing on the different beaches. We loved going to the beaches and building a stone fort and a small island with cool sand animals on it. We also pretended to be Vikings fighting the waves. At another beach, Jonah and Oliver both were sand fish buried in the sand. The beaches in Crete were beautiful — the water was really clear bright blue and we could see fish.
- Buying food from local food sellers. In our little village there were no shops. Instead, each day a different truck would come to deliver something to the villagers — one morning it was a fishmonger, another day a baker, and one day there was even an ice cream truck! It was fun to hear the dogs next door barking as the truck arrived and we would sprint outside to try to see what they were selling.
- Going to the cave where Zeus was born. The cave was really dark, mossy and wet, with tons of stalactites hanging from the ceiling and stalagmites coming from the floor. There was a big bridge going over some water, and Julian tossed a coin into it and made a prayer to Zeus. Supposedly Zeus was born in this cave because his mom Rhea was fleeing from his dad Cronos, because Cronos liked to eat his babies! So Rhea gave birth in the Diktion Cave and hid the baby, and a goat and forest nymphs cared for him in the cave. In the cave, it felt ancient and misty and it was easy to imagine that some magical things had happened there.
- Swimming in the pool at our house. Every day we jumped into the pool with gusto! We made up a bunch of games: we would hide spoons and one person would try to find them, and we would swim in between plastic chairs in the pool. This was really fun.
- Visiting the Palace of Knossos. The Palace of Knossos is a ruin from the Minoan civilization, which lasted from 3650 to 1400 BC. In the Palace, we had a guide who told us some interesting things. For instance, there was a room with dolphin paintings, in the Queen’s quarters, and we learned that dolphins represented the joy of life and music. We also learned that they had really good water pipes, in some ways better than we do today in Greece — we got to see the pipes and they were from about 3000 years ago. They used engineering to bring the water down from the mountains to the palace, so they had running water 24 hours a day.
- Eating all kinds of great food: We ate stuffed vine leaves, which are like a Greek burrito filled with rice and vegetables, dried papaya which was delicious, all kinds of olives and olive oil with nice warm bread, and in one restaurant they even brought us free ice cream for dessert — and they actually brought us seconds!
- Getting to know Skinny the Cat: This cat was sitting near our dinner table when Jonah’s family arrived. The owner of the house told us she was a nice cat but she was wild. But when we got to know her, she was very friendly and loved to play. We even fed her leftover fish from the grill. The grownups were not as fond of Skinny the Cat as we were.
- Visiting the Venetian fortress in Rethymno. This place had awesome cannons and Jonah and Oliver found a room with stones that you could sit on. It was probably a watchtower in the olden days. The Venetians needed to build these fortresses in the 1500s to protect themselves from pirates and Turks (the Ottoman empire), and when we visited we pretended to be pirates and raid the fortress ourselves.
- Visiting the town of Chania. We went to Chania in the late evening and it was really cozy. We could walk all the way out to a lighthouse with a sea wall to protect the ships in the harbor from strong waves. We could see all different kinds of buildings, including a mosque and church bells. After walking around the harbor, we looked in the shops and we bought fedoras. As we walked back to the car, we sang “Soul Man” and “Uptown Funk” and danced with our fedoras.
Overall, our week in Crete was awesome. We loved so many things. Most of all, we just loved relaxing in the sun with each other! We will definitely remember this week forever!
Julian and Miles (age 12) also had a great time in Crete, and would like to share some surprising facts about the island that you might not already know.
The Truth of the Minotaur: You’ve heard of the minotaur in Greek mythology — but did you know that the minotaur story comes from Crete? The mythical minotaur supposedly lived in a labyrinth built under the ancient Palace of Knossos. In fact, there is no labyrinth you can visit now, though, and our guide explained that the minotaur wasn’t real. Instead, the idea of the minotaur developed because young Cretans played a ritual game where youths would jump over horned wild bulls — as you can imagine, accidents would often occur. And the labyrinth wasn’t real either: the guide explained that labyrinth was a set of complex chambers that made up the castle. Somehow, over time, these two things got embellished to make up the story of the minotaur.
Different Rulers Through History: Did you know that Crete wasn’t always part of Greece? Lots of different nations have ruled Crete, starting with the Minoans, and through history including the Byzantine empire, Turks, and Venetians, and each one has left their mark on the islands. While the Venetians ruled, they built lots of fortresses, but while the Turks ruled they built mosques, sometimes even inside the Venetian fortresses. It was interesting that sometimes you could stand in one place and see evidence of multiple different civilizations that were there.
A Peaceful Nation: Under Minoan rule, there were supposedly about 500 years of peace, as the Minoans traded with all the other nations around Europe and Asia Minor for metals and other necessary items. They supposedly didn’t leave behind a single fort or weaponry, as they were so peaceful.
Changing Geography: Crete is very dry and rocky, but it wasn’t always that way. We were really surprised to learn that the water level used to be five miles further inland than it is now, and that it rained on average 3.5 feet more every year. We were also surprised by the geography of the island: it is very narrow but very, very long — it took maybe one hour to drive from north to south, but probably about 8 hours to drive from west to east. In addition, the different beaches have really different geology — some are rocky, others are sandy, and most surprisingly, one even had “pink sand” made from tiny bits of pink shell and maybe coral mixed in with the regular sand.
Real Life Mythology: We were excited to visit the birthplace of Zeus, and it was even cooler than we’d expected — it was surprisingly huge, with a whole walkway to get through it, and we were surprised to see plants growing far into the cave.
The Rule of Hospitality: We hiked down the Imbros gorge, and we were surprised that, just as we had learned when we read The Odyssey, the rule of hospitality is still really important in Greece — when Miles finished the hike early, some Greek people at the end of the trail gave him water and fruit and let us play with their puppies. And another time, at a restaurant, they brought us all ice cream for free, and when Julian asked for seconds they even said sure.
Overall, Crete was great and we had a very fun time. Sadly, we soon met a fork in the road, when Julian and Oliver flew to Barcelona, and Miles and Jonah continued on to Israel where we will go back to being four, instead of eight, in the world. We can’t wait to get together when we are all back home in August. We will always remember Skinny the Cat, our beautiful stone house, pink sand beaches and the feeling of being together on the lovely island of Crete.