My poor, neglected blog. Despite what my lack of updates might imply, I am still alive. I've been so occupied with homework/visiting friends from Canada that I somehow allowed six whole weeks to go by without writing. Yowza! The fact that so many weeks slipped by without my noticing is an indication of how terrifyingly fast this year is rolling by. Slow down 2010, please slow down.
Before we head off on our next study trip in a week, I figured I had better fill you in on the last one! We spent a week on the island of Crete, staying on the outskirts of Rethymno and touring around each day to visit producers, learn about the Cretan Diet, gather wild foods, and of course, eat. That we did particularly well.
One of my favourite adventures was a trek high into the mountains to meet some shepherds. The rural villages we passed along the way were chock-a-block full of old folks, the men sitting and clicking their prayer beads while the women worked away on one thing or another. Unlike in the cities, these grandfathers and grandmothers were happy to see us and often waved as we passed by.
We arrived at our destination, climbed into trucks, and were driven down into the vast, crater-like valley where the sheep graze. The landscape is dramatic, with the green of the valley and blue of the sky raggedly separated by a rough and grey range of mountains. Driving across it and watching sheep scatter as the truck approached made me feel as though we were on some kind of tame African safari. I loved it. A girl used to spending her summers in the woods of northern BC comes to miss such vast open spaces.
We drove across the valley to a 120 year-old traditional round stone hut; this is where the cheese is made by the shepherds after they hand-milk each of the 300+ sheep in the morning. Our host, the man who performs this incredible daily feat, has the toughest looking paws I've ever seen. Not only would he kill at a game of thumb-wars, but after he realized he'd forgotten to bring the fire stoker he just used his hands to arrange the burning hot embers instead.
After nearly concussing myself on the low doorframe when entering the hut (OUCH), we sat and watched our host heat the raw sheep's milk in a pot, then press the separated curds into a basket mould. The whey was then mixed with fresh milk and re-boiled to make ricotta, which we ate hot and fresh amongst smoke still swirling from the fire and stinging our eyes. The pastoral nature of the whole experience was broken up nicely each time the shepherd's cell phone rang and he'd chat away in Greek while stirring his pot.
Aside from the sheep, another highlight of the trip was the last day when we were free to explore on our own. Seven of us took one of the rented vans and drove down through a gorge to the the town of Plakias on the southern shore of the island. This was where my brother and I stayed four years ago when we travelled together during my exchange year. I had such amazing memories of Plakias from that first trip, and it didn't disappoint on the second. My friends and I hiked up the same river that Mark and I did, coming across a tiny church built into a cliffside, an old Venetian mill and bridge, and some refreshing river pools that offered an escape from the heat. After hiking we found our way to Souda Beach where we swam, relaxed, and obsessed over some sea urchins unlucky enough to catch our attention while clambering over the rocks. This particular 'day at school' received a Six Credit rating from my friend Lauren. She came up with her academic accreditation system during one our study-trip feasts when she mused "I wonder how many credits we're eating right now...."
Six Credits? Crete, you're a keeper.
Thanks to my friend Yui for the last 3 photos
3 days ago