A true old story (By the travel designer)
I first visited Crete in the mid-1970s, starting a new job, selling books from house to house. It was a popular job for the university students of the time and sometimes profitable. I formed my own group consisting of some friends who were quite educated, a little bit marginal though, equipped more with a musical talent rather than commercial. Especially the eldest of the company with a big, dense, oriental style mustache which had given him the nickname “Hodja”, was a phenomenon. Intelligent, intellectual, philosopher, story teller, he had taken with him all the musical instruments he used. Bouzouki, baglamadaki, flute.
The huge ship “King Minos” started at 8 pm. Since we didn’t have cabins, we sat on the deck bar and caught up with some Cretan passengers. We were repeatedly given raki, the famous Cretan drink they had with them, and soon came the fun, the music and the songs. “Hodza” started playing bouzouki and then “baglamadaki” singing “rebetika” songs, while my other companion Davelis (another nickname for those who have a tendency towards small illegalities), the teacher (he was a graduate of the Academy and later worked as a teacher), it went very well with his flute or his guitar.
I will remember what followed as long as I live. The deck bar was filled with people, Cretans and tourists, dancing to the rhythm of “Hodja”, this amazing man with the great mental powers that could create a Dionysian, ecstatic mood. Some Cretans, drunk and ecstatic, were banging their heads on a deck pillar!
We arrived in Heraklion at 7 in the morning, without sleeping.
It was my first visit to this great island, but I already knew enough about its rich history, studying the Greek history and having read most of the books by Nikos Kazantzakis, Pantelis Prevelakis and Ioannis Kondylakis, important representatives of modern Cretan literature and, of course, “Erotokritos », the popular Cretan epic of the late Renaissance, and, also, able to “feel” Cretan music and the impressive Cretan dances.
As soon as I set foot in Crete, I felt like I were in another, mythical country, a feeling that remained in my next three or four visits to Crete.
The hospitality of the Cretan households was impressive. Sometimes it could be annoying, forcing us to eat and drink too much
The result was that the young company got drunk every night for about twenty days, either in houses in the villages or in the cities. Then we went to Cretan tavernas with live local music, the “Lyradika” and we continued the fun until late. Two or three times we found ourselves almost dawn to recite poems at the tomb of Nicko Kazantzakis in «Megalo Kastro”.
For the record, the financial result of my youth trip to Crete was a failure. I just managed to pay for the team’s hotel with some customer bills.
“Hodja” did not contribute financially to the trip, as he did not sell a single book, but he soon learned to play the Cretan lyre and sing Cretan songs with his own exciting way.
Some forty… years later I will try to recapture and share with you the feeling of my first visit to incredible Crete!