Off-Season Blues

Lighthouse at Chania's Old Habor

27 December 2011 village outside of Chania

I had a bit of the off-season blues during our stay in Crete.  We were here from the 23rd until the 27th, with four nights and about five days.  The only particularly touristy thing we planned to do was go to the Palace of Knossos (think the Minotaur).  Their three years out of date website said they were closed on Christmas Day and the day after Christmas.  Because it is three years out of date and the Palace is two and a half hours away, we called the morning of the 24th before we left.  A curt man informed us that it was closed, but when we asked he said they’d be open on the 26th.  On the morning of the 26th, we called before we left and someone who sounded very much like the same man said they were closed.

We chose Crete because we figured that even if everything was closed, there was enough natural beauty to entertain ourselves for a few days.  But we weren’t counting on pretty miserable weather – chilly and rainy – not the sort of weather one willingly goes out into for a trek.  It wasn’t silly of us to miscalculate on the weather, either – our hosts even commented that they hadn’t had such a miserable Christmas, weather wise, in the six years they lived there.
Our car tour through the hills, while  beautiful and worth it, was tempered by the fact that we couldn’t really see the views through the mists and it took going to six petrol stations to find one that was open.
That being said… it is a lovely place to get holed up in.  The orange orchard behind the guesthouse has provided us with fresh squeezed orange juice every morning of our stay.  I had a bit of fun in the kitchen – turns out I can do a lot with some fresh vegetables, good olive oil, and cheeses.  And I’ve caught up on my trash reading enough that I’m actually mentally ready to switch back to thinking of theory.  Or just thinking in general, really.
Chania and Crete are gorgeous.  Somewhere between the coast of Maine and Italy as far as geography goes.  I want to come back here and do some trekking, but I think it will be a bit before I get to it – Greece, like most of Europe, does not hold the financial appeal of India and Nepal and other parts of Asia for such things.
This was my first non-family Christmas and I am not sure how I feel about it (still).  It was probably more relaxing than any family time could be, though I did miss them.
I grew up with kind of ridiculous Christmases.  The Christmases of my childhood included stays at my grandparent’s farm house in rural Maine.  We traveled over the hills and through the woods to arrive at a white farm house built in 1801.  Its door was red, with a Christmas wreath on it, and every window had a candle in it.  Inside, there was a large Christmas tree and nativity scenes hidden in nineteenth century bread ovens.  There were three hills to sled down and a pond that could be cleared and skated on.  One year, a neighbor drove us around in a horse drawn sleigh – other years I just attached my grandparent’s black lab to a sled.
That was where Santa Claus visited.  I never realized just how Hallmark my holiday season was until then.  And it wasn’t perfect – I know the same family bickering went on, I know that I was probably an obnoxious little child (I distinctly remember a scolding my Grandmother gave me the day after Christmas when I was four – it stands out because she so infrequently raised her voice to me).  But that’s the holiday I grew up with.  And it’s shifted and changed quite a bit as we’ve grown, but a degree of magic leaves with Santa.  And then another degree of magic leaves when your family scatters to the four corners of a country, or passes away… you can carry the Christmas spirit all you want, and it makes a difference, but it never seems to meet the standard of your childhood.
Luke and I spent Christmas consuming the Greek Strata I improvised, mince pie and pudding, and mulled wine.  We watched The Muppet Christmas Carol, which remains my favorite holiday film of all time, and lots of Doctor Who.  We exchanged our gifts and nommed on a Lindt Santa Claus (there is something gratifying about biting the heads off of chocolate creatures).  It was quiet and low key and we never left our cute little apartment.
And we were in Crete, with each other, which was awesome.
But next year I want family and stockings and Christmas Dinner.

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