Friday, July 24, 2009

Lake Kournas, Georgioupolis, and Vrysses

Wednesday morning I set out for a brief overnight excursion a little to the east, to visit the places mentioned in the title. My intent was to hit the lake first, then find accommodation in Georgioupolis in the early evening, but it turns out the two are so close to each other so I just found a room first, dumped my stuff, and headed for the lake. It was a really nice change of scenery for me; I love the beach and have become addicted to visiting it each afternoon, but the salt and wind have been wreaking havoc on my skin again, so the more placid climate at the lake was welcome. I set my towel down on some vegetation that looked reasonably soft, and soon realized that it was wild thyme on which I was laying; the scent was strong and quite nice. I ate a little picnic lunch I had brought with me, and then spent a few hours reading, sunbathing and swimming in the clear, cool water of the lake. It was fun to watch the dragonflies zip along the surface of the water. I definitely prefer them to bees, which were thankfully not too prolific here, and those that were were very calm and well-behaved.

After I'd had enough sun, I stopped for a Mythos at "Mark's Place" on my way out, a little taverna that sits at the top of one of the footpaths to the lake.

Then the two minute drive back to Georgioupolis for a nap and a shower before setting out to explore the town. I figured I'd give myself two hours to wander around and take pictures before finding some place to eat dinner. Except that the whole town is about the size of a strip mall, and my explorations were complete in about half an hour. I thought that maybe I could do some shopping, try to find some unique gift or article of clothing, but soon realized the shops all sold the same tourist crap so I decided just to have an early dinner, before the mosquitos got too bad. I had a pretty average meal of roasted red peppers, lamb in wine sauce, and red barrel wine at a place called Sirtaki. Although the meal wasn't memorable, the setting was very nice, with a view of the river letting out to the open sea. Not quite in the mood to return to my apartment yet, I stopped at a cafe and had a big fat ice cream sundae and a double Greek coffee. Now I was full and sleepy and went back to the room to flip through the TV channels. This was the first place I've stayed with a TV since I've been here, and I quickly found that I haven't been missing much.

The next morning I hit the same cafe around the corner as I had the previous evening, for a shot of caffeine before heading to Vrysses to meet up with Joanne, one of the expats I had met at the vet's office, who lives in Kefalas, a village not far from there. The bus that Betti and I took back from our Samaria Gorge hike had driven through Vrysses, and I recall thinking that it looked like quite a pleasant, shady village. I arrived about 45 mintues early for our meeting, so I had breakfast at one of the many tables in the shade overlooking the "river". In the spring this channel is flowing with rushing water, but by now there's just a few pools here and there with some ducks hanging out. At one point a wasp made herself at home in the honey that sat atop my yogurt, and I just let her have her fill. She eventually flew off, albeit clumsily due to being all sticky with honey. Joanne showed up shortly thereafter, and we had frappe (which is the primary coffee drink in Crete, it seems) and chatted for several hours about all sorts of stuff. She talked about India, where she's been several times, and stoked a bit of interest in me to maybe visit there some day. It's never been high on my list for some reason, maybe because I just don't know anything about it and it seems so huge to me, but she broke it down and suggested some possible itineraries. We had a really cute waiter named Manoli, and I would have liked to have got a picture of him for Merit (totally her "type") but discretion got the better of me.

Of the three places visited, I'd have to say the lake was the highlight for me as far as sheer aesthetics go. Vrysses seems like a great place to have a meal at any time of day, and I would definitely bring a visitor here with me. Georgioupolis, while pleasant enough, really left me a little underwhelmed, and I doubt I'd make this a stop on another itinerary. It does have a very large expanse of resort-like beach, and more than adequate accommodation and dining options, and I can see where it would make a good base for exploring other attractions in the area. I guess it just felt a little too "resort-y" for me. Note: Since originally publishing this post, I've been told by someone that you can rent paddle boats in which you can follow the river inland 3-4 kilometers. I've also read that there's a good deal of wildlife around the area, so perhaps I shortchanged Georgioupolis without having all the "facts".

Lake Kournas, Crete's only fresh-water lake according to the guidebook.

I don't know what this preoccupation with taking photos of my feet is all about...

Tried to zoom in a bit more on this fellow, but no luck. I really wanted to get a picture of one skimming across the water, but unfortunately neither my camera nor it's operator are quite that advanced.

My view from "Mark's Place." Kind of hard to tell from the picture, but you can see a bit of the lake from here.

My balcony at Mouragio Apartments in Georgiopoulis. I had a really nice, big, spacious room with bathtub, a/c, TV, and mini-kitchen. It sleeps three, is very centrally located with views of the sea, and normally goes for 70 euros per night but the proprietor let me have it for 50 since I was by myself.

A chapel out on the jetty...why not?

View of the beach from the jetty

Taken from the bridge that leads into the town, this is the river as it comes into the sea (if you turn around you have a view of the river letting out into the sea).

Plenty of chairs and umbrellas. Too many. I restrained myself from taking pictures of several tourists along the way who were passed out, sunburned and snoring away with their mouths wide open.

Me trying to kill time before going to dinner.

My dinner companion. She was pregant and already had two really cute kittens from a recent litter bouncing about, chasing flies and attacking each other and the feet of the diners at the restaurant. Everyone else was ooohing and ahhing over the kittens, but I ignored them and threw this one a few pieces of my lamb.

Dried up "river-bed" in Vrysses.

One of the many cafes set around the river. Nice, cool shady spot for breakfast. Seems like it would be charming in the evening, too.

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