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Abroad thoughts from home

May 29, 2013

Since returning from holiday a week ago, I have been reflecting on the three weeks we spent in Crete. The fishing village that has been our chosen destination for many years is in an idyllic setting. Overlooking the Libyan Sea, surrounded by mountains, with no roads, no cars, no night-life, no hubbub other than the gentle hum of conversation, it is tempting to believe that it is the peace and tranquillity that ensures we return time after time, but that isn’t the reason, or even a large part of it.

Nor can out attachment be put down to the sun, the heat or the excellent food, although these are all welcome. In truth, it is a different sort of warmth that acts as a magnet, drawing us back, year after year. We feel the pull of that magnet as soon as we leave, and its power strengthens the longer we remain away.

Simply getting there is by no means straightforward. After a four hour flight, there is a taxi ride of one and a half hours over the mountains, giving us chance to take in the rugged grandeur of the scenery, and finally a short ferry crossing from the nearest village, before we disembark. Before reaching the taverna where Pavlos, the owner who has become our friend will be waiting, we have to walk round the bay. This should take no more than five minutes, but as we stop to exchange greetings with the villagers, this stretches the journey, and by the time we get to see Pavlos, the ferry boat has long since disappeared around the headland, and our luggage has already been taken to our room.

This is when our holiday truly commences, and we soon feel that different sort of warmth I mentioned earlier.

Apart from the Cretans, who have made philoxenia (hospitality and kindness to strangers) an art form, there are the friends we meet with whenever we visit what has become our second home. For such a tiny village, the gathering is truly cosmopolitan. During our recent stay, we met up with old friends and made new ones. We ate and drank, talked and laughed together. They came to the village from (in no particular order) Holland, Germany, Belgium, USA, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and Britain. It is the warmth of their friendship and company that we cherish far more even than the warmth of the sun.

And perhaps there is a message in there for politicians and those of contrasting views. Meet together, talk together, exchange views and perhaps you will gain more understanding and tolerance. Just don’t pick our village to gather in.

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