Thursday, April 18, 2013

On to Crete!

Something worth looking for   “Nothing to Athens, Rhodes, Mykonos, or Santorini. Everything’s booked,” said Danny H., a travel agent recommended to me by the owner of my B ‘n B. Danny reminded me that during Passover many Israelis take vacations. Since I was staying in Jerusalem, I listened carefully when Danny informed me that there weren’t many places that welcomed Jews that were close to Israel. I didn’t need a map to know that.

He checked Malta and Cyprus. “Nope,” Danny told me. Chances of my making good on a promise to take my younger daughter on an excursion were slim.

“What about Crete?” asked Danny. I asked to see a map.

Part of Greece, Crete is a large island cradled between the Mediterranean and the Cretan Seas. Less than two hours flight time made it attractive. I asked about packages.

Danny checked; they were available. “Here’s a four star hotel,” he said, “but I don’t know it.” He called someone who did.

As I waited, I thought about what I knew of Crete. I couldn’t think of a thing other than mythical King Minos and the Minotaur. (Encyclopedia of Greek Mythology: Crete
Large Aegean island; site of the Bronze Age high culture known as Minoan. In myth Crete was ruled by King Minos, who periodically demanded a tribute of young men and ... -) What I didn’t know was everything else!

“You don’t want that one,” Danny said, “but I do have another that comes with a high approval rating. Four stars, the Apollonion. Let me check it first,” he said. “Can you come back in an hour?”

I did. Both the package and the hotel had radiant reviews from a trusted friend of Danny’s.

“I’ll take it!” I said as Danny and I shook hands. I appreciated that he was concerned enough to do research the place. Of course, I wouldn’t know until we landed at the airport in Heraklion and trekked to the Apollonion whether it lived up to the rating Danny’s friend had given.

After collecting our bags, we were guided to a tour bus, a double decker, waiting for us. Of course, we rode on top. Minutes later, we left. Our driver, knowing that almost everyone on the bus had traveled from Israel, greeted us on the intercom…in Hebrew. I didn’t understand any of what he said.

Neither did my daughter.

But the woman who rode with her daughter in the seat next to ours did. She asked whether we’d like her to translate.
“Please do,” I said.

The daughter, who had been in Israel for 18 months, told us that the driver recommended a specific car rental agency, the Auto Club. “The others will rip you off,” she said, as she added the explanations the speaker had given.

We thanked her and asked where she and her mother were staying. Her mother told us that she’d made the arrangements with the help of her sister, site unseen. She’d been told it was a really great place. I mentioned Danny and the extra effort he’d given.

Just a few miles later, the driver announced her hotel.

“Oh, no!” she shrieked. “This isn’t what it looked like on the Net!” Nearly livid, she said a hasty goodbye and mentioned she’d get in touch with her sister as soon as she settled.

Nervous about our hotel after seeing hers, I sat quietly, hoping for the best. When we pulled off the main road, turned to the right, then right again onto a tree-lined driveway, I knew we had reached a very special place, a resort it seemed.

And it was. The rooms and the food and the view, all top notch. So was the landscaped area that led from the hotel to two outdoor pools and, finally, to a beautiful sandy beach. I made a note to contact Danny when I returned. I’d tell him this was a great place to spend a vacation. (please see: Apollonia Hotel, Apollonia Beach all inclusive resort & Spa Apollonia, Apolloniabeach, apollonia beach resort & spa, Golf in Crete courses ...

Until then, however, I had something I really wanted to explore. Near Hania, the Etz Hayyim synagogue, the only one that had survived on Crete.

But first, I had to contact the Auto Club. Our Crete adventure had begun!

                                                B.Koplen  4/18/13

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