THE PLACE >

CRETE

A perpetual wanderer dropped in the sea. A travelling brig fighting waves for centuries now, ruling over its fate; Crete’s fate. A floating island. A schooner that, having Lasithi as a figure-head and Chandakas in its heart, travels through time playing with history and going far beyond it back to the time when Zeus was born and died in this land; back when king Minos ruled to lose his power in the end. Back when many other prestigious fighters lived.

Would you like to live a dream? Would you like to see Icarus and Daedalus flying or rather look far at the northern horizon to see the glorious wave approaching?

Here you are, a raw young man, a young woman whose breast is not but strong muscles and not tender dunes; fearless children who dash on the bulls’ saddle.

Famous is Cretan history, revealed in Erotokritos’ and young Aretousa’s heartbeats in the play in verse that a magic poet once wrote; in the angel colours of a painter anointed by God; in the tireless energy of a rebel, fighter and politician; in the fabulous pen of a mind that rooted in our hearts like a perennial tree, as he invited Zorbas to dance. “Let yourself dance”, we invite you now; but also  in the tenderness of a crazy and independed composer who gave this dance, life and grace.

How is it possible that so many dreams, ideas and minds landed on this land like a troop of actors?  It is as if Gods anointed it with their presence; as if they dressed Crete in culture and bound it to create, using a pen, a brush, the palm, the mind and words. Words…. Words act like Gods. Words are eternity and everything.

There it is, a troop of actors on a schooner, who get seasick and become fearless. They get seasick and they write. They compose and they fight, inspired by grapes and their dance. Indeed, by their dance on the saddle of life.

It is on this land that my heart hurt. A whole life homeless. A whole life rootless. Historically eunuch. I lost my history or maybe I never found it. Like my father and my grandfathers, uprooted. Like my mother’s roots that were violently cut to become blood and death. Here is the place that made me hurt like the first love of a thirteen years old boy.

It is on this ship that I got sick and all my travel experiences, the Xotaris’ experiences, turned into verses and songs. They turned into tears that fell and watered my feet; and these stroke roots, they could not move. Then I looked upon the sky and He told me:

“Can’t you see? You are an arrow thrown on this land. I know the reason and you will soon find it out, too. The time has come for you to fight. A fight ends when another starts and it starts when the previous has ended. Your fight will be given on this rock, the way you fought on another rock many years ago. On another rock, the place where Minos’ son, Folegandros, had landed many years ago. On the ship where all actors embarked and stroke roots. All these wanderers, all these Xotarides. You should know though, that this battle is temporary. Eternal is the war.”

I looked down again humbly, with fear. My feet down on earth and on my left, Giouchtas Mountain. It must have been some twenty years ago, in the 90’s. I was in the plain of Archanes.


Archanes

Two palms brought together
Two palms that have given off a sweet smell for centuries.
A magic plain.

As if some ancient god wanted to draw all the fragrances of this land bowing devoutly on it. He sowed it with blessings and anointed it with eternal spring.

Zeus, who slept here, is its guard; that is why gods gave to this granite mass his name. That is why they let free the winds who, like sculptors, carved his face on the mountain, a sleeping figure looking upon the sky.

A God mountain, Giouchtas; protector, proud, imposing and celestial. Perennial, full of secrets, sometimes revealed, others not. Hiding treasures ever since antiquity. Hard and tender since on its crests vineyards and olive trees have been producing their fruits for centuries; Fruits of the earth, wine and oil. Food and feast. Dizziness and completeness.

It was twenty years ago that this magic was revealed in front of me, as I was drinking tsikoudia on the square. Like a thunder, it crossed my mind and made me feel that if there was a land for a Xotaris to rest from his long trips, this would be the place.

Tired as he would be from his long wanderings, the Xotaris could not have found a better place to rest his soul and calm down. To contemplate, to remember. To write and teach. “But I am not tired yet”. The Xotaris had not asked for rest yet. Better, his body had not got tired yet, since his heart never gets old, never asks for peace. However, the Xotaris had found his oasis. He kept his secret deep in his heart, a secret that accompanied him for many years in his trips.

Archanes under the sun today.

Just a few changes. The two palms are still there united, creating this magic plain. Its fruits, vineyards and olive trees and, of course, people; welcoming, like ancient gods taught us to do; hard at the same time since they find the sun through mountains; and straight, since they are not afraid.

Archanes. A small town birthplace of intellectuals. But poets were also its builders. They built the stone as if celestial contractors had plans to make this plain more beautiful.

Archanes. A swarm of children. Loud voices, feasts and dances. Pain and labour. Pain that brings knowledge.

Archanes. A give-and-take. An oasis planted with stone castle houses, with walls and wine-presses, with cobbled roads.

Archanes. Here is where I found the peace I was looking for. The Xotaris inside me takes roots and waters them, he gets lost into his writings. Into his plans. Into sink and papers. Into his friends from Europe and Asia; from Bulgaria and Ukraine; from Czech Republic, Slovakia and Russia. This is where he tries to honour his brother from Sofia and Kiev; his young brother from Prague; from Diever, Bombay, Colombo.

Archanes. It is here that he asks his Argentinean brother’s blessing to rest. It is here that he makes new plans and brothers.


Note: On picture no 10 you can see a 2007 draft made by the Ukrainian engraver Sergey Ivanov, based on the Xotaris plan.

Links
Municipality of Archanes
Prefecture of Heraklion Crete
Ministry of Culture
Open University Archanes Crete


  • Zeus

    Zeus

  • Minos

    Minos

  • Tavrokatharpsia

    Tavrokatharpsia

  • Erotokritos

    Erotokritos

  • El Greco

    El Greco

  • Venizelos

    Venizelos

  • Kazantzakis

    Kazantzakis

  • Zorba

    Zorba

  • Mikis

    Mikis

  • Xotaris

    Xotaris




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