Travels with Nico Secunda


Every year, Nico travels to the island of Crete, Greece, where his father teaches seminars.  In this piece, Nico describes his journey from the Heraklion airport to the southern side of the island. 



Looking Forward to the Past

My journey back to Crete, Greece

    The light of the city fades behind as Yanis, the taxi driver, winds his grey Mercedes along the road that twists through the mountain villages.  Looking through the window of the well-worn car, I reflect on the many times I have visited this Mediterranean island.  Crete is considered the birthplace of western civilization and even though westernization was born thousands of years of ago, every where you look, reminisces of the island’s ancient past lingers. 

    I doze off with the swaying of the car as it rounds the bends in the road, only to be awoken again and again by my suitcase, which continues to topple over on to me.  Even while squished between my mom to my left and the luggage that wouldn’t fit in the trunk to my right and my dad carrying on with Janis, I manage to drift to sleep for a few short moments during the drive.  It is amazing how well you are able to ignore discomfort after a transatlantic flight.  A backseat that under usual circumstances may have seemed unbearable, suddenly feels like a first class seat.

    Smack!  Again, my suitcase provides a rude awakening.  The smell of the sea is now poignant and as I look through the glass, the familiar cliff faces jut upward from the bottom of the river gorge though which we are passing.  The towering walls create a funnel for the ever-blowing winds of the island to playfully pass from north to south and back again.  The road widens and the walls part.  In the distance the quiet, waveless sea awaits.

    We pull into Nikos and Annas Taverna.  Jorgos, Nikos’ son, is the first to greet us.  And then Nikos, standing up from the couch by the television, comes out and hugs us and kisses us on our cheeks.  After shlepping all our luggage up the stairs, to our room, we head back downstairs to the kitchen to research our late dinner menu.  Though in most of the cities in Greece, restaurants have menus, in the less touristy villages, it is customary to walk into the kitchen and allow the cooks to lift the lids of the pots, while they explain each dish.  My parents and I choose lentil soup.  The soup is drenched with fresh olive oil, pressed from olives grown in olive groves behind the Taverna.  Crete is the real Olive Garden if you ask me. 

    After we finish our meal, all our plates remain on the table, since in the Cretan culture it is rude to clear the table before one’s guests have left.  The gentle ocean breeze wisps through the mulberry tress, with their freshly budding leaves just learning to sway freely.  The tall rock formations stand in dark contrast to the luminescent western night sky.  Tomorrow the rock faces will reflect bright red rays from the sunrise, but for now they remain hidden, peacefully framing the stars above.

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