Thursday, August 31, 2006

Cretan sheep and cucumbers

Crete used to be a place that was well-known for its textiles, but, unfortunately, like everywhere else, it has some mass produced linen stuff for sale everywhere. However, it's very pretty stuff. I was able to resist it by imagining red wine and barbeque sauce stains, and I turned away from these linens immediately. Wow. At least I am now in touch with my inner slob!
Since I wanted to see some handmade things, we went to Moni Kaliviani, to see the nuns' handiwork.
This is a spotlessly clean convent, filled with flowers, an orphanage, and a small church that happens to have 14th century frescoes. Pretty cool stuff. The little church smelled dank, like a cave, and it was all closed up to the sunlight, but when we opened the door, we could walk right in and the nuns' amazing embroidery skills were evident even in the dark chapel. They also have a shop, which is filled with pulled thread, crochet, knitting, embroidery, cross-stitch and every other kind of textile you could imagine. The prices were high--that means, actually, fair--but the shop was, for the most part, real, not mass produced. (OK, I think the icon key chains were mass produced.)

My favorite part? There was an older Greek Orthodox nun in the corner of the shop. Her habit looked a little like a chador, which shows the Muslim influence in Crete again, all these years later. She was knitting, casting on with mustard colored wool on dark wooden needles. I pulled out my sock knitting from my bag, and we shared a big smile. Knitting=the international language!

On the way out, we visited with some sheep. The Cretan sheep seemed to be some sort of primitive breed and they reminded me a lot of Icelandic, Jacobs, or Shetland sheep. I suspect they have a dual coat, some had horns, some didn't, and some were spotted or dark colored. Genetic diversity for you--on an island which probably hasn't seen many sheep importations. I'd love to know more about these sheep. Oh yeah, they also taste very good. Can anyone help? Know anything about these sheep?

Finally, I should mention the fresh and amazing Cretan salads and produce. We ate a version of Middle Eastern salad nearly every day, interspersed with Greek salad. Basically, lunch and dinner every day, we ate some salad, which is a lot like our diet at home in the summer time. When we got back to our garden at home, I discovered we were in the middle of a cucumber explosion. Luckily, I haven't had to break my salad kick, although the tomatoes aren't quite as plentiful as these cucumbers. (or maybe, I can just eat more of the 'maters without getting sick?) Here's one of our homegrown cukes. Impressive, huh?

Drop me a line and let me know if you're enjoying this..drawn-out...vacation thing. I'm still trying to pretend I haven't come home, perhaps?


Blogger vanessa said...

what a lovely trip! and yes, i'm enjoying your travelogue.

August 31, 2006 at 5:33 PM  
Anonymous Kerry said...

I love the descriptions and photos! It's somewhere I would love to go, but most likely never will, so it's fun to live it vicariously.

August 31, 2006 at 7:03 PM  

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