I once spent a whole 5 month summer on the island of Crete. This was a decade ago, I was adventurous and I needed to see the sun.
The small, not-yet-that-touristy town where I stayed instantly felt welcoming, and before I knew it, I had gotten to know some of the friendly locals there. Only in Greece have I been offered a piece of cake by an elderly shopkeeper and his sister to celebrate the sister’s name day, when I just went in with the intention to buy water. I was traveling alone and I was enjoying myself.
That summer hurried by while I was developing my tan and engaging in interesting conversations with other travelers (many of those conversations were in French and – now this is completely logical – I actually managed to improve my French, in Greece!)
A local hotel had amazing fried calamari on Fridays and I ate olives and chocolate ice cream like it was my last day on earth. I also learned to make surprisingly delicious frappé from instant coffee.
But there’s one memory in particular that I have of sunbathing on the nearby beach one hot day.
It was siesta time and everything was closed. I had developed a daily habit of going to the same spot on the beach during that time. As I was relaxing there on my beach towel, with closed eyes and having almost fallen asleep, I suddenly felt a strange odor drifting towards me. It smelled like a farm animal.
I opened my eyes and saw a lonesome, random sheep hovering straight above me.
The animal was looking me in the eye with a curious expression, his face very close to mine. He had long, rasta-like pieces of dirty wool hanging from his face and he was unsheared. After a short and mutually startled stare contest, he ran off to the sea for a swim (I’m not sure which one of us won the contest).
All the usual locals were of course there, too, and they were staring at us – some of them laughing openly. As an outsider staying for a long time in a small town where everyone knew each other, I was used to being recognized and stared at – but this time there really was something to look at!
It was a very bizarre, short moment. Maybe it doesn’t sound like much, but I can assure you that things like this never seem to happen to me at home. As a city girl, my encounters with roaming sheep are sparse!
If travel memories were stored in old-fashioned photo albums in the brain, this story would be on the cover of my Crete album. This is what I always remember first. I have to dig a bit further for the other memories! (And the sheep would be an animated gif, running towards the sea)
Poor little lamb, he must have been boiling under all that wool on that hot summer day. After a refreshing swim, he just left. I always assumed he went back home, wherever that was (I never saw a farm nearby, though I know sheep were common on the island).
When the long, Greek summer finally ended, I flew home on a Friday. On Saturday, I repacked my bags from summer clothes to winter. On Sunday, I flew to Paris where I’d decided to live for a while (and where I quickly got into a nice rhythm of eating baguettes and nutella-and-grand-marnier crêpes… but more about that later!)