Indecipherable Crete

Nigel Gibbions

I first visited Crete in December 2002 for the wedding of my friends Keith and Maria, who are responsible for the Philhellenes website. I have loved the island ever since. This is a record of that first visit.

My plane lands at 5am: dark palm trees and red sky. The wedding is later today and I must rest.

pithos
about my height
picture me
inside it
peeping out

The day after, my arms ache from circle dancing. I walk to the centre of Heraklion.

The Morosini fountain in Heraklion
narrow pavement
hard to dodge
the butcher’s hare

On the way, there is a display of religious icons inside a small church.

graffiti
on the church wall
icons

A stained glass window

This Venetian Fortress (Koules) once protected the harbour.

The Venetian fortress in Heraklion

In the evening, I find a place to eat in the streets opposite Lion Square.

poppy seeds
on white linen
starry night

The Minoan civilisation flourished here 5000 years ago: what traces remain in the Cretan psyche?

At Knossos:

pine needles
between the stones
long ago

View of two kiosks from above

white bird
overhead
my shadow

Back in the present, I wait for a bus back to Heraklion.

A cat on a scooter

white sheets
dry on the line
souvenirs

Phaestos is the other major archaeological site on the island. The palace ruins sit high above the Messara Plain.

cool breeze
in my ear
a fertile plain

Cactus leaves against a blue sky

The meaning of the mysterious disk found at the site remains unknown.

The Phaestos disk

butterfly
in the ruins
I found your wings
indecipherable
before we married

One day, my hosts, the newlyweds, drive with me to the Lasithi Plateau.

high plain
two planes cross
high above us

An antenna against a blue sky

Another day, I head West to Chania.

lighthouse
a round window
full of sea

The lighthouse in Chania

Throughout my stay, I spend time at the harbour. You can walk a mile out to sea here.

View of Heraklion harbour

wind cools
my forehead
flawless
horizon

On the last day I stay at the harbour for hours…

The breakwater in Heraklion harbour

the white boat
leaves nothing
in its wake

A ship in Heraklion harbour

Weeks later, back in England, I get ready to go out:

crouching
to tie my laces
cretan dirt

Cranes in Heraklion harbour

τοῖς ἐγρηγορόσιν ἕνα καὶ κοινὸν κόσμον εἶναι, τῶν δὲ κοιμωμένων ἕκαστον εἰς ἴδιον ἀποστρέφεσθαι

The waking have one world in common; sleepers have each a private world of his own. [Heraclitus, Fragment 89, c. 500 BC]


Nigel Gibbions was born in 1965 in Chesterfield, England. He recently completed a degree in Theoretical Physics, after working as an IT consultant for many years. He is now studying for a PhD in Polymer Physics at the University of Sheffield. In his spare time he enjoys listening to music, and writing haiku.

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