Wandering Without The Cyclops

This blog entry about the events of Saturday, September 02, 2006 was originally posted on September 05, 2006.

DAY 9:  In Homer’s Greek epic The Odyssey, Odysseus wanders the Greek Isles for ten years, trying to get home to Ithaca from the Trojan War, getting into sticky, episodic situations along the way, like MacGyver.  (My Cliffs Notes dub this part of the book as “The Wanderings Of Odysseus.”)  In one of his earlier episodes, Odysseus encounters the one-eyed Cyclops, son of Poseidon, and defeats him in true MacGyver-style — by simply blinding his eye with a paper clip, a teabag, and some ammonia.  (That’s a joke in case you hadn’t read the Cliffs Notes.)

I had left mainland Greece and ventured off on a cruise ferry across the Aegean Sea to start my own aimless odyssey around the Greek Isles — “The Wanderings of Trinideus,” perhaps? — starting with the southernmost island, Crete.  To parallel Homer’s epic, I had made arrangements to start off with my own Cyclops, sort of.

My “Cyclops” would be a guy named Rich, who is only a Cyclops in the sense that he has one eye — one “i” — in his name.  It’s a huge literary stretch I know, but mind you, that accounts for his full name.  (By that rationale, I’m a creature with three “i"s.  Creepy.)  Rich was a friend of a friend I’d supposedly met once at a party but didn’t really remember, but that didn’t matter because I felt I could use the company.  He was in Crete for a business conference with Johnson & Johnson, and our times synced up; he had two days of leisure to spare on the island.

Rich The One-i’d Cyclops had been put up in a fancy five-star resort 45 minutes from where I was, in Crete’s capital city of Iraklion, and called my cell phone to arrange a meeting.  Long story short, he was advised by his concierge not to come into town because the cab ride was 50 euros, which wasn’t worth it because mostly everything in Iraklion was closed on Sunday.

And so, alone, I started my wanderings without the Cyclops.

CRETAN CIVILIZATION, known in ancient times as Minoan, actually pre-dates the greater Hellenic civilization, and has a long history which has made it today a blend of Greek, Egyptian, Phoenician, Turkish, and Venetian influences.  The most visually evident influence is of the Venetians since the Venetian Empire had used Crete as a commercial hub for trade in the 16th century.  To keep Turkish invaders at bay, the Venetians had built the arsenal and the Koules Fortress (picture above) to protect the harbor.  The latter was open that Sunday, for visitors to wander its insides and out.  Up the road in the main plaza was another remnant of the Venetian past, the Morosini fountain.

Rich The One-i’d Cyclops’ concierge was right; Iraklion was in fact, pretty dead on that Sunday.  The main drag that linked the water with the center of town was practically deserted, and the few places that were open were only open to attend to tourists like me wandering around.  However, at a seaside restaurant (where I had the local gilthead fish for lunch), most of the staff was fixated on the FIBA basketball game on TV: Greece vs. Spain.  Spain clobbered Greece, so much that some guys in the restaurant started jokingly cheering for the other team (“Espania!  Espania!”) in the fourth quarter.  However, that didn’t stop the faithful from draping themselves up in Greek flags and parading around the Plaza Eleftherias with their honking motorscooters after the game.

Deciphering the street signs in Greek letters (much like I did with the Cyrillic alphabet in Russia), I wandered around that afternoon, from the Venetian walls, to the maze of tiny residential alleyways, to the numerous churches.  While the Tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis, famed author of Zorba The Greek and The Last Temptation of Christ, was closed, the Archaeological Museum was open for tourists, and I checked its collection of Minoan figurines, vases, and sculptures, plus the famous Phaistos disc, bull-leaping fresco and Ring of Minos, found not too long ago.

With not that much going on that evening I just had a stuffed tomato (with rice) and a serving of ouzo (Greece’s licorice-y version of Jagermeister or Absinthe) before I retired back in my rented room.

The next morning, Rich The One-i’d Cyclops finally came into town to meet me, sporting two eyes.  For all intents and purposes of this blog entry I could have gotten rid of one, but I didn’t exactly have a paper clip, teabag, or ammonia handy.

Next entry: Speculations and Interpretations

Previous entry: Ruined

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Comments for “Wandering Without The Cyclops”

  • First? It’s such an honor! Now, on with my tour of Greece!

    Posted by Dan 3  on  09/05  at  04:19 PM

  • every dish is served with french fries. i love this country

    Posted by T  on  09/05  at  06:35 PM

  • Darn - I was behind and read the entries in order and missed my claim to
    first. smile The sky in Greece is so nice and blue! Maybe it is just my
    polluted Tokyo sky that I am using for comparison. Looks lovely though!

    What’s up with all the dog pics?

    Posted by Liz  on  09/05  at  06:54 PM

  • Go Macgyver!

    Posted by Anonymous  on  09/05  at  07:30 PM

  • now that was a real literary stretch with the cyclops angle…

    Posted by markyt  on  09/05  at  09:57 PM

  • Is the water at all polluted? It looks so pure and clean, but I cannot
    believe it’s so… just wondering.

    Posted by tallgirl

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This blog post is one of twenty-five travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: Tomatoes, Grease & Beer" (originally hosted by Blogger.com), which chronicled a trip to Spain's wild Tomatina festival, Greece's awe-inspiring islands, and Munich's world-renowned Oktoberfest in August/September 2006.

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