Sunday, October 22, 2006

Last Day at Home

Last day to pack the bags, pet the pups, and come to grips with all the things that we have put off until the last day. Of course those are mostly the problem things, the things that don't work right and those that just don't want to work. The hardest of all is the last walk with the doggies. They don't really know we're leaving yet.

For us, a new task is to get the new laptop ready to go. This is the first post from it.

NOTE: Pictures on the blog will enlarge if double-clicked.


© John Womack, 2006. All rights reserved.
Photos made with Canon Elura 70 on SD card.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


A quick run up the road through North Carolina and beautiful Virginia takes us through cities, past great universities, in and out of forests, cotton fields, and finally through swampland.

After a night in the Navy Lodge we wait to be manifested at the great air terminal in Norfolk.


© John Womack, 2006. All rights reserved.
Photos by Canon Elura 70 on SD card.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Take off from Norfolk at noon, local time. Long run across the Atlantic. Down at Lajes Field in the Azores, 4hours and 45 minutes later at 9pm local time, for about 3 hours, Then airborne again, at midnight local, headed for Naples, Italy.

On the ground in Naples at 0620 local, about 4 hours and 40 minutes later. As the sun rises, we crank up the laptop for its second ever contact on Wi-Fi. It works!!


© John Womack, 2006. All rights reserved.
Photos with Canon Elura 70 on SD card.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Amoudara, Crete

First day on Crete we were briefed on the base rules (photography is prohibited on the base, was one of them). Got a room at Minoan Suites, went off base to rent a car, then crashed in the room to try to recover from the trip.

Next morning we were off for Iraklio to see some of the ruins, museums, and the island in general, and also to find our rooms for the next two days. We would be staying just east of Iraklion at a hotel on the beach (almost) in the Iraklion suburb of Amaudara.

Hotel Petousis is also called Netpovi and is known by one or two other names, but is always located at 35°20.151’N, 25°04.115’E. We found it to be a lovely hotel with easy access to the city and the beach.
We did walk on the beach in the evening an enjoyed our meals of pasta and gyros and kebobs, and also delighted in the parrots.

Evening meals were served late and became great family affairs with old folks and children scattered among the families that clustered around long tables. We were amazed after our first evening meal to be served a small blue bottle of Ozou along with the check. We definitely knew we were somewhere other than home.


© John Womack, 2006. All rights reserved.
Photos made with Canon Elura 70 using SD card.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Perhaps Knossos is the real birthplace of civilization, religion, philosophy, agriculture and human social order. This is the ancient land of the fabled Labyrinth and the home of the mythical Minotaur.

Knossos appears to have been a working city of some 22,000 square meters and was triving during the Neolithic Period, some 6,000 years B.C. It was the heart of the Minoan civilization and perhaps the model from which the great mysteries of Egypt and Greece were later developed.

We visited it on a rainy and windy day, our third day in Crete. and were thrilled by its mystery and wondered if its real message has yet been found.

Like most people, I have always wished I had become an archeologist - never having been involved such a thing before, it
looks wonderful, fascinating, delightful. At any rate, Knossos is a site long in process of evacuation, and it will be for a long time to come.

There is a museum on the edge of the grounds which has some of the artifacts and a number of replicias.

The Snake Lady is much more than a topless gal with a couple of snakes and a cat on her head. Her name was Potnia, and she may have been the one for whom the entire island of Crete was named. Women ruled this civilization and were the leaders of the people. The word Crete comes from the Greek “Ruling Goddess”, and the Snake Lady was apparently the feminine of Poseiden who much later became sort of the “patron god” of Crete.

Zeus himself was born on Crete and grew up here, probably right here at Knossos. Zeus and the Phoenician princess Europa had a child, known as Minos, and Zeus installed him as the King of Crete.
When the people revolted, Poseidon sent a bull that walked up out of the sea for Minos to sacrifice to prove that he (Minos) was indeed chosen as king by the gods. But Poseidon’s bull was so beautiful that Minos kept it and sacrificed one of his own bulls. Poseidon was neither fooled nor amused by this and he made King Minos’s wife fall in love with the beautiful bull and eventually she bore the bull’s child - a creature that was half man and half bull - the Minotaur! Well the Minotaur was then put in a labyrinth built to contain him, and from which no one could ever escape - until Dadedalus and his son Icarus made their great flight out of the Labyrinth, wherin Icarus got so close to the sun that the heat melted his wings of wax and he fell into the Icarean Sea. Finally, Ariadne brought her thread and magical sword to Thesus and then - well, you shouldn’t expect an American to be able to explain anything this complicated, especially a mere man, so you really ought to go to Knossos and see all this for yourself.

Perhaps the entire story of Crete and maybe even the mystery of life itself is contained here in this secret plate called the Phaestos. No one has yet interpreted it.


© John Womack, 2006. All rights reserved
Photos made with Canon Elura 70 using SD card.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Iraklion, Archannes, Rethimno and Horafakia.

Iraklio or Iraklion or Heraklion is clearly a frontier town. Actually a frontier city. The only thing it is missing is an obvious frontier. It is on the coast though, and probably is a rough and ready place that is admirably suitable for moving lots of cargo and making a lot of things happen. It is also on the edge of Knossos, so it has always been perched on the very edge of the very beginning ever since it began. Iaklion was also bombed into obliteration by the Nazis in 1941, and attacked again and again. It was the site of the world's first airbornel invasion, and the last one ever tried by the Nazis. They had not expected such fierce resistance from civilians.

We went to the great archeological museum in downtown Iraklion. Not easy to find even though it is in the middle of town. Iraklion is not the easiest town to drive in. More than one tourist has remarked that the city streets are actually the ancient labyrinth of Knossos! Yeah well, drive there and you will see. The museum is well worth the effort. We ate downtown and that wasn't as easy as it should have been either. There is also an amazing fort/harbor built by the Venetians. We did not get to visit it but have seen pictures and will be sure to make up for it next trip.

Archannes is about 16 km south of Kraklion. It has been selected by some group as having the second most beautiful town center of all of Europe!

We had coffee there - JoAnn had a cafe latte, I had real Greek coffee. I found out why the Greeks refer to it as "mud". It starts out like a small cup of expresso but after a couple of sips you really do have mud in your tiny little cup. We also visited a museum on the outskirts of Archanes which is largely devoted to World War II.

Rethimno is back on the coast about half way between Iraklio and Chania. It features a great harbor built by the Venitians and is topped by an ancient fort called the Fortezza. We toured the fortress and ate lunch at a great cafe high in the sky while listening to Greek music, which included a lot from the sound track of Zorba.

Finally we were back in Chania where we turned our rental car in and called a taxi to take us to the ferry. I must say a word about the car rental place. I have rented cars all around the world and have always been disapointed and always had a series of problems with them all. But not Horafakia! They will come and deliver the car to you and later pick it up if you wish. They went out of their way to make us feel at home and take care of us. They talked with us, and advised us on several issues. If you go to Crete, I recommend them highly. Horafakia-Akrotira-Chania. Tel. (28210)39411, Fax (28210) 39234, mobile 6974 427795. They also have a great map of Crete.


© John Womack, 2006. All rights reserved.
All photos made with Canon Elura 70 on SD card.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Ferry from Crete to Piraeus

It’s a nine-hour run across the Mirtoon Sea from Souda to Piraeus. We left at 9:00 P.M. and arrived at 6:00 the next morning. Turns out that it was a good night’s sleep.

We boarded at 7:00 P.M. and then went back into Souda to a place a block up from the ferry dock and got a couple of gyros and some large Mythos Greek beers.

Back on board we ate up on the deck about three stories above the dock and watched the crowd below wave as we departed.

Then the lights of Crete slowly faded into the dark sea and we finally went below to our room.

I do recall an occasional feeling of rocking from time to time but never really woke up. We had set our alarms to go off about 5:30 A.M. and were up in time to watch our landing in Piraeus.


© John Womack, 2006. All rights reserved.
photos made with Canon Elura 70 using SD card

Sunday, October 15, 2006


On top of the Acropolis the ancient Parthenon stands high above Athens. I was hoping to find some sense of wonder, expecting to feel radiations of secrets from a place of great mystery. But I came away with the feeling that the Parthenon had really been dominated by the men who walked on its floors while talking of things no one ever talks about anymore.

The Parthenon was the hatchery of Ideas. Here Plato strolled, talking collegially with the great men of the world who came to Athens to exchange their Ideas with each other and climb the great heights of new knowledge. Plato also wrote extensively of a New Republic and established a great Academy here. He walked here with his own mentor, Socrates. the great Gadfly of Humanity who called himself a midwife who helped men give birth to Ideas. The great men of the world came here to the Parthenon to meet and talk with each other, and too often  they met up with Socrates who professed to know only his own self ignorance and could only ask simple questions of the great philosophers. But those were questions that left them auguring with themselves - not so much with each other - but mumbling each to themselves.

Plato’s student, Aristotle, also walked here and blinded the world with his brilliance. And Aristotle's student, Alexander, called The Great, left the Parthenon to conquer the known world. But the glory that had been Greece was already gone – truthfully – about the time Socrates was born.

The Parthenon, I sense is patient. Perhaps it will still be waiting when humanity enters another Age of Ideas. Then it will certainly smile and shine again. Perhaps it will last long enough to be a bridge between human epochs. Then again, maybe it is simply a “barometer” of sorts that constantly displays how important Ideas are to mankind.


© John Womack, 2006. All rights reserved.
photo by Canon Elura 70 with SD card

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Acropolis

There’s more on top of the Acropolis than the Parthenon. A great view of Athens, for one thing, in fact a lot of great views of the city of 3,000,000 souls.

There is a fine museum up here too, and since it is out of the blazing sun and/or wild and wicked wind and/or the blasting rain and /or the piercing cold, it is often a place of refuge for more than just statutes and vases.

You can photograph to your heart’s content, just no flash, and no pictures can be made with your friends standing in front of or beside the artifacts. Apparently there have been too many instances of people acting “inappropriately” in front of the great masterpieces of the ages. Never mind that it is difficult to make any picture of the displays without 10 or more people also involved in the frame!

There are 10 or more other sturctures on top of the Acropolis also. Hard to really count them because so many are in a serious state of reconstruction.


© John Womack, 2006. All rights reserved.
All photos made with Canon Elura 70 on SD card.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Streets of Athens

Far and away, Athens was the easiest large city I have ever been in to find my way around. That includes Europe, Asia and the United States. There is a lot to see there, the food is good and the music is not only great to hear, but it is different from most other places I have been. We stayed at the Hotel Electra (37°58.539N 23°43.987E). The man who received us and checked us into the hotel and took care of our every need wore a name tag that read: Aggelos. He's good.

They change the Guard a couple of times a day, but the two soldiers who fulfill that duty are active almost all the time. Seems like they stand rigid for about 5 minutes, then begin their impressive march around to the far corners of their space, then join together to touch their festooned toes and return to their original location.

The great Archeological Museum is filled with familiar sights I have seen all my life - in books - and film - but suddenly they

stand in front of you only a foot or two away. They seem very different now, and always will be from now on because they seem to convey a strange sense of personality when seen from that close range.

The Agora is the old commercial district - a farmer’s market of 3,000 years ago. Here socrates and Plato often strolled, discussing the most simple thoughts anyone ever thought. No matter how complicated they eventually turned out to be.

Politics is not always just local - or maybe "local" has a greater reach than it used to have. Great Britain has never been popular here, but the United States used to be trusted. No more. The American War in Iraq seems to have turned most of Europe against us. But I did find a lot of Greeks to be kind and sympathetic when it came to the New American Problem.


© John Womack, 2006. All rights reserved.
Photos by Canon Elura 70 with SD card

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Colors of the Parthenon

Artists wax eloquently about the colors of the Parthenon. They point out how the marble used in the columns reflect different colors in different weather and in different light. They point out how the colors tend to be “pearly” in the early morning and how they gleam brightly in midday, and then in the evening they take on an erie glow and so on and so forth.

What a shock to find out these columns were not intended to be naked marble, but dressed in vibrant colors, wild beyond belief. How could that have been? Was that the way they looked when Socrates and Plato were walking among them?

And they were apparently not just colored, but decorated in outlandish colors. Here is one artist’s rendition of how they once looked:

Well, the last time I saw the Parthanon was on a ragged day. the wind was up and grit was hitting our camera lenses and faces. The people gathered around the great structure were grimicing trying to see it but it was towering up above us, a creature more of the great clouds than of the earth. It appeared perhaps that we had all come, pilgrims from afar, to watch it launch. Wow! What a sight that was. It didn't go!

It was still there when we left.


© John Womack, 2006. All rights reserved.
Photos made with Canon Elura 70 on SD card.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Return to Crete

Our return trip to Crete was delayed some 12 hours due to strong winds. We left Piraeus about 1:30 A.M. and arrived back in Crete about 10:30 A.M.

Why didn’t we fly? 1) The cost of the flight would be about $130 for each of us, and we were carrying about 80 pounds total between the two of us, so that would have been a very hefty excess baggage cost. 2) We would have had to spend the nights we spent on the Ferry in a hotel for something close to $200. The total costs to fly from Athens to Crete therefore would probably been about $500 to $600 counting lodging. The night in the best stateroom they had was $91. That $91 covered both the night’s rest and transportation.

The ferry, which was named "Lissos", had a lounge, restaurant and bar. There was an attractive young lady who played a keyboard and provided music for the passengers. There was even a three story high forest of bamboo in the center. The main problem was the hideous, incredible, overwhelming and catastrophic amount of cigarette smoke that permeated the place. Fortunately, our stateroom had no hint of the smoke or gasses from the cigarettes.

The crossing was filled with rain and winds across the night sea, but we were generally unaware except for an occasional swirl and weave or two, not as bad as what we normally experience while flying.

We caught a taxi from Souda to Chania. The hotel we stayed in was a 400 year old mansion built by the Venitians and named Palazzo and is located about 25°31.113N 24°00.890E. Could not get a fix in front of the hotel because of narrow streets, but this position is about 100 meters down the street toward the beach. Our servers were Anastasia and her mother, Christina. Wonderful service. We had an excellent stay there and the location is impossible to beat. Would I recommend it? Yes. Yes. Yes!

When we arrived in Chania, we were too early to check in to our hotel. So we left our bags there and went across the street to eat. Even though our hotel does serve breakfast we were about 2 hours too late to eat there today. At the restaurant I ordered an omelet with cheese, sausage, onion & peppers. I was amazed to see what they brought me. At first I thought it was a pizza! I enjoyed it so much that I have tried to copy it after our return home. Here is a picture of one I made. First I scramble two eggs, and cook in a tad of Greek olive oil until it begins to firm, then toss it over and add the additions. The onion and pepper slices and tomatoes have been sautéed first. Mushrooms and cheese fits perfectly. My first 40 or so attempts have been pretty good, but I have not yet perfected it. I will have to cook a very large number of these things before I get it down pat. I call it a Chania Omelet. I’ll fix you one when you come visit. Y’all come, y’here?

Now, were am I? Oh yes of course, we’re off to see the city of Chania!


© John Womack, 2006. All rights reserved.
Photos made with Canon Elura 70 on SD card.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Chania - the city.

Chania is pronounced like "Shoun-yuh" or maybe "Chan-yuh" with a slight accent on the first syllable. It is spelled Hania, Xania, Nania, Chania and several other ways. No matter. It has become a place for tourists to wander in joy, for photographers to fill up their SD cards or exhaust their film supply, for artists to frown and smile and to be happy because they have found a wonderful new home and also to be miserable because it took them so long, and for writers to wonder why the builders went into so much tiny detail. It makes art seem too much like writing.
Every building you see and every turn in the alleyway trails shows an almost needlessly exquisite decoration or thoughtfully artistic swirl that seems to reek of some final trimuph. Much of this beauty appears to have been the work of someone's lifetime.
This is the old part of town of course. Some people refer to it by the name of Kasteli. The newer the construction becomes the more "normal" the small city becomes. That's fine because working people have to live and work, and Chania is really home to some 70,000 inhabitants. But the tourists hang out in Kasteli.

I am a tourist. Yea. I tried to hide that obvious fact for many years, but Old Chania has convinced me that tourists have a real purpose in life. So, if any tourists should happen to read these words, they should immediately plan to come to Chania.

If this seems to speak to you, just remember Chania needs you and you need it. It has been my great pleasure and privilege to introduce you to each other.


© John Womack, 2006. All rights reserved.
All photos with Canon Elura 70 on SD card.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Chania Harbor

Chania is one of my favorite towns. Of course I’m talking about Old Chania, the part built by the Venetians, and loved by the tourists ever since.

It has a dainty little harbor, complete with close-in lighthouse, and it is surrounded by seafood eateries.

Old churches and mosques are on the banks of the bay, in with the restaurants, and minarets rise farther back above the city.

Fishermen can usually be found at the water’s edge, and there are always tourists at the lighthouse.

And see if you can possibly find a better place to watch the sun go down than at one of the fine restaurants on the harbor in Chania Bay.

© John Womack, 2006. All rights reserved
all photos made with Canon Elura 70 on SD card.