Bridge the Travel Gap

Athens, Crete and my mad mate Rabbit

Athens, Crete and my mad mate Rabbit

When I was working for the Holland House Youth Hostel in London in 1989 a few of us decided to go to Greece. The hostel is now privately owned and called Safestay Holland Park. Below is a photo of my boss and another of a few of us in the staff room.

Our friends Julia and Alistair were already in Greece and we met them in Athens. It was still the time of the drachma and the queues to museums and sites were short. My mate Peter Aka Rabbit and myself flew out to meet them. In a previous post I talked about how I had a wee too much to drink the night before the flight and was not a well puppy. In contrast, Rabbit was showered, shaved and as clean as a whistle. I could only be described as hideous and it was not helped when we got on the wrong train and then when we changed to the correct train I dry heaved most of the way to Heathrow. Happily, the flight was not full and the kind stewardess took pity on me and gave me a row of seats where I slept most of the four hours.

On arrival at Athens, even with my dishevelled unshaven appearance I was welcomed with open arms into Greece. Rabbit on the other hand was thoroughly searched. We then met Julia and Al at Omonia square in Athens and went to a nearby pension and polished off a bottle of Retsina or pine Dettol to the uninitiated. We then spent a lovely few days exploring Athens, the Acropolis, the National Archaeology Museum and had a particularly lovely meal at the rooftop Eden Restaurant. I found a photo of us eating a fish that was first put on fire in front of us much to the delight of Julia as can be seen in the photo and yes she was swearing.

Eden restaurant in Athens with flaming fish

Eden restaurant in Athens with flaming fish


Our next stop was Crete by a ferry called bizarrely The Festus. 12 hours later we were in Crete in the capital Heraklion. We visited Kinossos rebuilt by a mad Englishman using concrete. Rabbit picked up a piece of concrete here and as far as I know he still has it in Australia. I am not sure why he wanted a 100 year old piece of concrete.

We stayed a few days in the lovely city of Heraklion which has a lovely waterfront to stroll along and you can see the castle. Down the road a bit at the city of Rethymnon (thanks Julia my memory is not as good as it was) we had a bit wee much to drink one night and I ended up leaving my passport and wallet at the bar we were drinking. Happily Peter was in the bar till the bitter end saw my jacket as he was leaving and grabbed it. He staggered home and used my jacket to throw and hit the window to awaken us to let him in. I slept through all this but awoke thinking where is my money and passport and there it was on the chair beside me. While I was having a shower Rabbit decided that he needed to use the toilet which was above the shower, to give the ouzo from the night before a new home. Not a pretty sight. I am so glad I was wearing jandals. He then decided he wanted to dye his hair black or he may have done that in London according to his memory but then again we are both getting older and the memory does play tricks.

Rabbit being artistic

Rabbit being artistic

After a few days of enjoying the nightlife and sights of Heraklion we decided to go to Matala.

Matala is a small coastal town on the south of the island and it was deserted as we were there in November. I enjoyed the peacefulness of it after being on reception at Holland House for several months. Back then Matala was a small quaint town now it is still quite small and not as over developed as the bigger resorts. We were literally the only tourists there apart from a few other people and there was only one restaurant open. It became our regular along with a bakery in the mornings where I developed a life time love for spanakopita. There were some amusing incidents in Matala. One stood out. Myself and Al one night were feeling particular energetic and decided to climb the hill to get a better look of the town and surrounding scenery. I do recall an amazing blood red sunset and then we heard a swearing Australian accent and the silence broken by bells and sounds of goats bleating. Suddenly over a hill came a herd of running goats with Rabbit behind them like a shepherd from the past.

After a week or so we said adieu to Al and Julia as they continued on their return to New Zealand via Egypt and we returned to Holland House in London.


0 thoughts on “Athens, Crete and my mad mate Rabbit

  1. Peter Oakley

    Now one of us may have damaged memory cells, or the sequence of events may have changed slightly (I’m hoping said memory defect isn’t mine, but I’m sure said hair color was manipulated in London)
    I do remember that horrific flaming fish though, it was 9 parts salt and 1 part fish and with four maniacal tourists descending on it like seagulls on a chip only to all simultaneously recoil in shock; tongues protruding and looking for something wet to wash our mouths out with (not the pine detol though) also 100 year old concrete may just have been slightly older stone like fragments (allegedly) taken from the Pathenon or some suchlike pile of rubble.

    1. John

      It was a quarter of a century ago so the sequence of events may be blurred. I banned Retsina from our Greek wedding. Ouzo I can enjoy but a drink derived from a pine tree is just wrong. Greece does have some of the best rubble in the world.

  2. Julia Bishop

    The retsina was so foul we had to go in search of 7up to try to make it drinkable. Sadly it almost tasted worst. Not sure if we ever got to the end of that bottle. We all swore we were neverrrrrrrr going to drink it again. There was a rubbish strike on when we were in Athens which had got pretty bad when we returned after a month in Turkey (couldn’t get to Eygpt cos the ferry from Rhodes had stopped for the season!). That night when you “lost” the wallet in the bar which was in Rethymno not Heraklion…. Al stayed home that night due to not being able to keep up with us. It was the 2nd bar of the night and the barman called Adonis (not a good looking man sadly) took a liking to Pete and started lining up shots. I walked home first and was promptly very ill. You followed after about an hour and were also very ill. Pete followed later and was fine. However next morning you were in the shower and Pete woke up feeling shall we say slightly nauseous. It was a tiny bathroom with the shower over the loo… and you were in the shower and in the way and Pete could wait ….anyway Pete vomitted on your jandals which you always insisted on wearing in the shower ??? And for the rest of the trip you were all “Pete vomited on my jandies” and we were “they are just jandals and you were in the shower so they were washed anyway…”. Good times x

    1. John

      I remember the shower and yes it was Rethymno, my memory is not as young as yours. I still get nervous around Rabbit wearing jandals! Indeed good times.

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