Axel, September 15, 2011
just came across your site about matala, so I thought to drop you a few lines of my story & thank you for your initiative! unfortunately, I do not have any pictures, though.
I went to matala in november 1976 & stayed there until march 1977. I was twenty & had hitch-hiked in late fall from austria via hungary/yugoslavia to athens & then taken the ferry to crete, where I met a guy, tristan, from lausanne, switzerland. tristan had heard of matala. after some time begging on the streets (quite successfully) in & picking olives near heraklion (I still relish the yoghurt served fresh from huge earthen bowls), we took a bus down to the south coast, where we first moved into one of the caves in the cliff. but soon we moved into a much bigger cave up in the hills right behind the village. the cave was quite spacious & obviously had been used as winter quarters for a shepherd & his numerous sheep.
we were about 8-10 people living together in this cave, baking potato/onion cakes on an oil drum lid over the open fire, sleeping on bundles of dry grass, we had collected in the hills. there was a constant scouring for dry wood to burn in the 'oven' & spent long days & nights talking about everything the 'deep' questions of life, spiritual quest, yoga, etc.
for shopping we went to mama's bakery. she did brown bread & sold big chunks of delicious yellow cake. there were the long-term and short-term visitors.
I remember a german, named axel, too, who lived further up in the valley in a small kutir. he read the I Ging, and was on a rather austere macrobiotic diet. his neighbour was a beautiful french girl, who did paintings & drawings. we celebrated christmas & new year's eve together, played music on the guitar, with delicious macrobiotic food & tea. thus, not everybody was into drinking wine & smoking pot.
matala served as a sort of stop-over for travellers between west & east.
I remember a french guy, who had travelled to india many times, using matala as a resting place on his way to & fro. he was a buddhist, a gentle old man. I am not so happy with this designation now & never really felt that I was a hippie at that time. but I felt I shared ideals & aspirations to live a life more meaningful than the one we had seen around us, while we grew up.
there was also a band of french hippies, women, children & men, who had dyed their hair with henna, wore afghan dress & jewellery (they spent polishing it with inexhaustible patience in between rolling joints) & went to town every once in while to beg for money.
at some point - because I needed money - I started working at a construction site, carrying a 20lb feta cheese container filled with 'laspi' (mortar) up to the masons on the first floor. as far as I remember, the building was the first hotel being built in matala at that time.
I never went back, though & do not think I ever will. It was an important time in my life, trying to live in a different way, in the caves, by the sea, under the stars. so I think most of those who were there are 'back' now in one way or the other. some might not have made it, as in the last days that I spent there, more & more people using hard drugs started to come to the place.
somehow we all knew that one day we will have to leave this kind of life. someone had left a graffiti in one of the caves saying 'you have to go back' under an AUM in devanagari.
I think that's exactly the point: utopia is a non-place & peace & freedom is not to be found permanently in the material world. but of course, there are places that may inspire us along the way. matala certainly was one of them & the journey is still on...
kind regards to you & everybody, axel