All my friends from America have asked me the question, “Why Crete?” Since we moved here for good the “reasons” have piled even higher after experiencing more about this amazing island. Another chance encounter yesterday helped me provide you with another piece of this “why” puzzle. Here’s a story about the mystery of Crete – partly BIG and partly “small” gods who have lived here.
For the Love in Crete
Anna Karfaki owns a taverna a few kilometers from our apartment in Heraklion. Located in a section of town known as Amourdara, Taverna Mitato is at once touristy and pure traditional Cretan love welded together. On the main road from Heraklion, the eatery stands out for the floral-rustic Crete storefront Anna chose to present her establishment in. From the outside the place is a beautiful little thing in the midst of a few local eyesores. Well, some of Heraklion’s run down buildings do appear like that to new visitors, though we’ve come to love the 70s unpainted vibe ourselves. Anyhow, imagine color, lively plants, Cretan antiques, rainbow seat cushions, and a ton of museum-like collectibles stuffed into an airy-lively restaurant where an energetic bird named “Mitoo” (sp) hops in tune to “Play Bouzouki” – Then imagine a pretty senior lady with great shoes dancing in front of the tavern with you and the bird.
I could go on and on, but it’s better to just let you know that this is Crete. And yes, if you like the tune from Zorba the Greek like I do, Anna will play it all night long while summoning passers by in to sing and dance too. The taverna, like that run by our friends at Aravanes, my buddy Chef Grigoris’ Little Olive Tree (Το μουρέλο του Λαδωμένου) in Galatas, Taverna Giasemi (Jasmine) in Fodele, is another Crete treasure made lustrous by the love of the owners.
Love. I suppose love is what compels the best people anywhere to create art or a livelihood, or to build pyramids. On Crete, though, the concentration and close spiral of hospitality and creativity is tighter somehow. Anna Karfaki helped me understand why this “is” yesterday, with something she said.
An Oracle in Amoudara
Born in 1959 in the tiny village of Makres beneath the mountain where the Greek god Zeus is supposed to have played as a child, Anna moved with her parents to Germany when she was five. When we asked her about the taverna and how she got back to Crete after so many years, Anna told us she moved back in 2000, and started the taverna a few years later. Sitting at the table with her, listening to traditional Greek songs, at this point I was curious as to Anna’s “why” for being back on Crete.
When she told Mihaela and I she returned because she wanted to finish out here days here, my “why” puzzle became more complete. But what this energetic and fascinating lady told us next assured me I’d one day be able to explain Crete to every traveler or person interested. As I looked over a amazing collection of copper pots reflecting off 500 traditional Cretan furnishings, heirlooms, and a veritable musuem of interesting objects in her dining room – I was jarred back into the “now” by what Anna and Mihaela were talking about. The pleasures, wonders, and sheer joy this island provokes, and how lucky we all feel to be here – this was the conversation I had zoomed out of.
“We are so blessed by God to be here,” Mihaela told Anna. “Every day I thank him for transporting us to a place of such majestic beauty and to a place where people are still kind and loving,” she continued. I interjected the thought, “God lives here, and the people are just normal in their heads.” Anna looked at me with kind, piercing blue eyes:
“We are all small gods here Phil.”
Why can’t an oracle wear loud designer sandals and dance in front of her taverna? What would you think if I told you there was a Minoan princess name Kallia who hides pieces of antiquity for you to find? What if I revealed to you the name of the king of the Minoans today is Minas, and not Minos? I have friends from Russia who proclaim a tavern at Thronos in Amara the most memorable place on the island. My heart doctor, Manolis Kanoupakis is certainly the reincarnation of the surgeon who trained the Atlantians. As for me, I am a sMALL gOD of Crete by the BIG GOD’s proclamation. Like Lazarus, Jesus restored me through the magic of this island and its people.
The sMALL gODS of Crete Island
Now I know, though I suspected before, the reason there are thousands of churches and chapels, peak sanctuaries and holy places on Crete. While I still do not have all the proof this was once Eden, and even though I have not found the portal to Elysium (yeah, the are studies), but that’s probably here too. And even if all the myths and rumors are nothing but delightful imaginings, the people and wonders of Crete are still fit for big or little gods.
So there’s reason #1 to move to Crete forever. The people who find they belong here, they walk the path to being godlike. The book will be out next year.