The next day we go even further afield. Up into the mountains for a hike and a visit to a friend’s village.
But first, some morning pastries.
Likhnarakia (Λιχναράκια) – small pies filled with katiki (κατίκι), a variant of fresh anthotyro.
Perfect, simple, delicious.
The rain has fully passed and we’re left with nothing but clear sky for miles. We take a walk down to the fortress and breakwater while we wait for our bus. Very different from the last time.
Once in Archanes, we stop by our host’s friend’s house before heading up Mt. Juktas.
Paved roads take us to the edge of town; once the land starts to slop up they turn to dirt; and at a point, there is only a path through rows of olive trees, planted hexagonally. And then a rock wall. Up.
The slopes are a mix of shrubs, thorns, and bushes of wild herbs, parting wherever the rock juts up. It is a great full-body engagement. And some great bouldering ops.
At one peak, there is a weather station.
At another, our prime picnic spot, commanding a view of both valleys and the city and the sea beyond.
In between, after the scree slope from the station and before the path to the far peak, there is a small flat area and ancient Minoan ruins, unlabeled, ungoverned.
The foundations of a house, maybe, or a temple. A design similar to the palaces but on a much smaller scale; a central courtyard, small rooms around, a paved road to the east.
The soil is littered with shards of pottery. In places it almost composes much of the red earth.
After our lunch and a bit of relaxing on the sun-warmed rocks, the wind comes up and we head back up to the station and further along the ridge towards the valley. There are more ruins here, cut into the exposed stone, rooms and a few walls on a grid. There is a cave.
Further along the ridge and up again to the next peak, there is a chapel, a small white thing, the iconic Greek Orthdox shrine on the windswept rock, empty with signs of visitation, silent, sublime.
The small metal door opens. It is dark save for votives, upright in the sand beneath water and the drippings of hardened wax.
There is a sheer cliff, thousands of feet down into the other valley.
Many options to ponder mortality.
Down the leeward side, we find a path, more direct than the switchback roads, and more free and silent. And more of those mesmerising, geometrical thorns.
We dip below the light in the descent and watch as the line of the ridge extends itself out across the valley, house by house, pulling each into a shadow, yellow to blue, still diffusely lit in the day sky.
Back in the valley, a walk along the gorge, towering walls of sandstone shaped by the winds and the water.
And lavender, in immense quantities. Roadside shrubs.
The twilight comes and we come back to town. A favourite taverna, the table by the fire, and a diverse feast of a meal. It is early, and we are the only ones.