On one of our afternoons in Crete, we drove to visit some nearby Greek Orthodox monasteries. These are popular tourist attractions near the tiny base, as several of them are within a 30-minute radius. I wasn't sure what to expect, but we were all (including Lena) completely entranced by the afternoon's discoveries.
Both monasteries were self-sufficient communities of monks. They cared for themselves as well as dozens of tidily groomed little cats, much to Lena's delight.
Outside the walls of the monastery we discovered rolling vineyards and olive groves, which explains the abundance of wine and oil for sale inside.
The monks also kept about 100 rabbits (a nest full of babies pictured below!), sheep, goats, and so many chickens.
The next monastery we visited was known for a hiking trail down to a cave on the coast. According to legend, St. John spent the night in that cave thousands of years ago. The woman in the travel office on base said the hike would "take about 15 minutes," and so we immediately set off down the rocky trail.
Roaming local goats watched us warily as we passed by. Can you spot the black and white one on the wall in the photo above?
Unfortunately, after about 30 minutes of working our way quickly downhill, Lena was crying continually from hunger. We stopped to feed her and assessed the journey ahead. We could tell the woman in the travel office had never hiked the trail before, as it looked like we had at least 30-45 minutes more hiking ahead of us, about 1.5-2 hours of hiking on the return, and not enough daylight to enjoy the cave (it was already 7pm). Also, we had packed no water. I have never done this before in my marriage to a hiking/nature/outdoors aficionado of the highest caliber... but I asked to turn back. Such a sense of an uncompleted mission!
"Next time, honey," I promised, "we'll bring water."
And since Elliott has to fly to Crete every quarter, there seems a fairly good chance that I can make good on that promise. We all hope so!