Rita, November, 2014
I saw the ‘Life’ magazine article before I left California for a year long European adventure (1969). After months of art museums, monuments, youth hostels, hitch-hiking, mountain climbing, daily rations of bread and cheese.
I needed a change and so did my traveling companions; a college friend and a Canadian. A few weeks exploring Athens and we hopped on a ship for an over night trip to Crete. The 2nd class beds were stacked 4 or 5 deep below decks. We decided to sleep on deck.
We arrived on the north side of the island and hitched on the back of a truck filled with gravel, walking the last of the journey and arriving Matala, late in the afternoon, too late to locate a cave, we slept under the deck of a small shed on the beach. The next morning we were advised of a cave that was recently vacated and we moved in! It had a burlap bag over the door and a small stove fashioned from corrugated metal.
We settled into the business of life; eating, drinking, and being merry!
The Mermaid Cafe has been a mystery to me. Joni sings about it in ‘Carey’, but I only remember Delphini’s, (best booze and music) Costa's (best salad), and Mama’s (best potato omelet) I heard the ‘White Album’ for the first time at Delphini’s, played on a battery powered turntable... things got a little tense when ever the batteries died, and there were none to replace them. There was no electricity in the village, so when the sun was gone, it was a very dangerous walk, returning to the caves and climbing the cliffs to get home. We all drank like fish; raki, ouzo, retsina. When tourist buses would appear at the edge of the beach, we would dance in the sand and the tourists would give us boat loads of money and we would buy giant glass jugs (5 gallons) of wine and spend the rest of the day drinking.
I remember Marni and Greg the Canadians, Alan the Aussie, Jon Claude the Frenchman (God dammit, get out of my garden) Peter my SF friend, Mike from San Diego (who was later arrested in Turkey) John the ‘rose’ gardener, and bits and pieces of many more.
While we were there, the Greek archeologists were digging out, cataloging, mapping and diagraming new discoveries in the caves. We thought it was so great to be at this site while they were working, until we observed the men smashing all the artifacts with shovels (2000 year old clay oil lamps, beautiful glass bottles, human bones) , they explained they had no resources or room to house the treasures, and to keep them from being possessed by anyone else, they were destroyed.
One day we collected hundreds of periwinkles from the rocks and made a sauce for pasta, crepes with sugar and lemon juice was another favorite on our little camp stove. We arrived a few weeks before Easter and the Greeks didn’t eat meat during Lent, Costa’s cafe had meat for the non-believers. A skinned lamb carcass hanging on the dining room wall ( the wall was thick masonry and very cool ) the body was not as alarming as it’s eyes looking down on me, as I ate! So many more stories, but I’m running out of space and time.
Marni, if you read this drop me a line,
Rita ( email@example.com )