Travel Talk – Crete 2017

This is my Dad, my Mum, and my brother. In June, we went on ‘the last family holiday’.

Every time I say that phrase, it sounds very morbid. None of us are dying or are off to war or have sworn a familial hatred. I personally think this title of ‘the last family holiday’ is an abbreviation. From my parent’s view, it was ‘the last family holiday when both of the kids are sort of kids, well they aren’t kids anymore, but the last one before university and full time employment ‘, and for Joseph and I it was ‘the last family holiday where we both don’t have to pay for anything’. So, let’s just call it ‘the last family holiday’.

Crete sunset

We went to Crete to spend time together, but also to celebrate my brother’s belated eighteenth birthday, and my twenty-first. My twenty-first birthday landed right in the middle of the holiday. I’ll be honest; there was nowhere I’d rather be on my twenty-first than RUNNING AROUND PRETENDING TO BE NATHAN DRAKE IN UNCHARTED 4. (For those of you who have not played the PS4 games Uncharted 4, Nathan Drake basically drives around some hills in a warm country and climbs small, run down towers looking for treasure. I know, I make the most cultural parallels).

I will be honest; Crete has the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen (and I grew up in hilly South Wales). It is naturally untamed, flowers bursting through old stone buildings. Dusty rock faces that crumble into the sea. Twisty roads that climb into the mountains. It’s just like if the Scottish Highlands and Dubai had a baby. Goats and shrubbery and hills; Scotland. Dust and sea and heat; Dubai.

As a child, I wanted to be an archaeologist. I was in love with Ancient History; the Romans, The Incas, the Greeks. When I found we were going to Crete, I was so happy; ‘think of all the crumbling old pillars I can see! The walls! The foundations…’ I was a little disappointed when I researched the area of Crete we would be staying in, and found almost zero remains of Ancient Greek history. I was in Greece and I couldn’t even learn about the Greek Gods.  What a first world problem. Of course, I was wrong. Crete was bursting all areas of history, including hidden Greek history.

On one of our first days, we visited the ancient city of Aptera. Aptera was a Roman built city, then take over by the Greeks, until it was destroyed by an earth quake in the seventh century. A monastery of St John Theologos was built on there by the twelfth century and only shut within the last fifty years. Considering most of the city is a thousand years old and was ruined by an earthquake, much of it still stands. Nature had begun to take its course and would have definitely taken over if not for the occasional care of the Crete government. We walked through shrubbery and rocks to explore the still standing cisterns, and the caved in temples. The theatre obsessed side of me was very happy to discover they had an intact Roman theatre with usable seating bank. I imagine we would have stayed much longer if the heat hadn’t been forty-two degrees without a breeze. (Also, when researching for this post, I discovered Aptera was actually a very important place for Greek mythology! Well, sort of. The Muses and the Sirens once had a riff off there.)

Skipping forward a few hundred (quite a few hundred) years, we visited the populous Chania Old Town, and the historic Fortezza of Rethymno, both built by the Republic of Venice in their mid-millennia take over. Both places were subsequently taken over by the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century, but hey, let’s look at that in a good light; more history for us to see! Chania Old Town is made of dusty orange brick work, and is famous for the Venetian lighthouse that stands in the harbour. It is as typical as you would think of a large tourist town in Crete. Winding alleyways, open doors into homes, dogs and cats roaming the streets. Sellers trying to flog you jewellery, the warm smell of fresh bread, desolate houses next to luxury villas.

Fortezza of Rethymno was a historic sight as opposed to a historic town. We walked around, admiring the old buildings that populated the inside of the fort; the chapels, a mosque, store rooms, a random contemporary art gallery that scared me a little bit. I would advise wearing walking shoes when visiting the Fortezza; the Venetians did not cater for a sprained ankle and sandals.

I was surprised to find that the island had a strong historical presence from World War 2. The German Army attempted to invade Crete by air, but the Allied and Greek troops defended the island. All that is now left of the war are abandoned pill boxes and War Cemeteries. At the end of the holiday, we visited the Souda Bay War Cemetery, where hundreds of Allied soldiers are buried, many of them unnamed. It was a simple, beautiful, and moving place. A memorial in the centre, white gravestones fanning out across the green grass, flowers perfectly kept. It was a place of stillness.

On this ‘last family holiday’, we did more than just sightseeing. After the first two days of blistering heat, it settled to a gorgeous thirty-four degrees at midday; perfect weather for the beach. We tanned on the sand, read under the sun, and swam in the sea.

Oh, the sea. The sea in Crete was a beautiful azure colour; it looked like someone had taken the entire sea and put a saturation heavy Instagram filter on it.

When I go abroad, I like to be a cuisine connoisseur. What I mean by that is I love food and want to try and eat all of it. When it comes to food, Crete truly holds my heart. My birthday cake was a traditional Crete sweet cream pastry from a traditional street vendor. My birthday dinner consisted of wine, chicken, and the ultimate food; rice stuffed vine leave. Oh my. I felt like I had died and gone to foody heaven.

raPmxN1y

As you can tell, I love Crete. I love its beauty, its food, its history. But there was one thing that I became particularly enamoured with, that I would request we pull over on the side of the road for.

Shrines.

On every road, there would be a small open-able box on the side. There were more on the mountains and on the winding roads. Some were made of metal and were rusting away, others of stone with their door hinges falling off. Some were small and made of marble; some so large they took your breath away. In each little box, there were remnants, memories of someone. There would always be a candle and a picture of a saint within, but the contents would vary beyond that. A perfume bottle, cigarette from two years ago, a medallion, a baby photo. I found out that each of these shrines are dedicated to someone who died in a crash, either on the certain part of the road, or nearby. The shrines are put up to remember those who lost their lives, the contents linked to the person and their families. Some of the shrines were much newer than others; glass doors, no dust, fresh flowers. Some were older but still cared for; you could tell this by the lit candle within.  Some were fifty, sixty, seventy years old, derelict and untouched, apart from the curious tourists. Some of the older ones had been reclaimed by nature; we opened one to find it was now a wasp’s nest, another to find that a rat had made the shrine its home. I found all of them curious and fascinating, but the one marking the entry to a small town was incomparable. There was a stone monument with steps up to the centre, where there must have been at least eight separate shrines. At the bottom of the monument there were even more. Despite my attempts at researching, I can’t find out why such a large monument is there. However, it has stayed with me as pure fascination and admiration.

It may be ‘the last family holiday’ (although I highly doubt it; we’ll always have family holidays), but I only have fond memories of my time in Crete. I turned twenty-one in our rented villa. I found out I was graduating with a 2:1 sat by the pool. I spent time with my family, something I miss now I live in Winchester and them in Wales. I learnt about the country and its history, and lots about the food and wine.

Crete is a damn beautiful island and I had a very special time there.

me

Why We Need DCEU’s ‘Wonder Woman’

This is a *no spoiler* blog post, so those of you who haven’t seen ‘Wonder Woman’ or don’t want to can still enjoy.

            The perks of working in a cinema? The occasional free ticket to any film you want to see. It’s especially great as you don’t feel you’ve wasted money on a particularly naff film (here’s looking at you Pirates of The Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge). However, there is one film this year that I would have gladly spent my money on, and I certainly will when the film comes out on DVD. That film, is DCEU’s ‘Wonder Woman’.  I’m a big, ol’ comic book movie fan, so of course I was excited to see this. As a big, ol’ feminist comic book movie fan, the excitement was doubled and met with trepidation. After watching it,  I can safely say I was right to be excited regarding this movie. It was fast-paced and meaningful and dramatic and everything you would want a good comic book movie to be.  Nevertheless, I left the cinema feeling more than entertained. I left the cinema saying ‘gosh darn, I needed that movie.’ It’s true, I did need that movie. But I also felt it wasn’t just me who needed that movie. It was the film industry and the comic book industry and the world that we live in that I felt and still feel that need this movie.

Let me tell you why I think we need DC’s ‘Wonder Woman’.

            Firstly, ‘Wonder Woman’ made it happened. The big thing. The long, overdue haul. The thing the majority of us have been waiting for. We now have a solo female superhero. Oh, do you know how good that makes me feel to write that? In the early to mid noughties, Marvel and DC started their cinematic universes and it’s taken over ten years to give us, their audience, a solo female superhero (even though 46% of comic fans identify as female[1]). Alright, I know what some of you are thinking; ‘what about DC’s ‘Catwoman’ in 2004?’ There are thirteen years in-between ‘Catwoman’ and ‘Wonder Woman’; a whole different generation has sprouted since then, the world has changed drastically. That’s two solo female superheroes across thirteen years, as opposed to about one hundred male based solo superhero movies we’ve been given. I am also very aware that there are female superheroes in the movies, such as Marvel’s Scarlet Witch and Black Widow, but they are not the stars of their own movies. They are supporting characters at most. ‘Wonder Woman’ gives the female audience what they so desperately need; a female counterpart, an equal counterpart that’s not just the romantic lead. This is the first female solo feature length superhero movie in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far and in the last decade of DC’s movies. That’s why ‘Wonder Woman’ and Diana Prince are so important, so needed. Wonder Woman certainly doesn’t solve that gender gap in comic book movies, not by a long stretch. It’s as Michelle Wolf from ‘The Daily Show[2]’ says; ‘You know when we’ll feel like women are equal at the box office? When we get to make a bad superhero movie an then immediately make another one. Men get chance after chance to make superhero movies.’ ‘Wonder Woman’ doesn’t instantly fix that inequality issue, nor will it make the box office equal in any way, shape, or form. However, ‘Wonder Woman’ is a well needed step in the right direction, into having not just male superheroes. That’s why it’s important.

            Another reason why ‘Wonder Woman’ is so needed? The sexualisation of women is almost non-existent. That’s a damn breath of fresh air, I tell you. For a start, Diana’s armour, is actually armour. When playing video games or watching movies, I spend a large amount of time saying things such as ‘that’s not armour, that’s lingerie’, ‘her boobs would definitely pop out of that chest guard’, and ‘bless her, that just looks uncomfortable’. During the film, I found my inner grandmother coming out, thinking ‘she must be cold in that outfit’, but I never once did think ‘gosh, her midriff is out, that’s not suitable for battle’. Diana’s Wonder Woman outfit, you know the famous one, is short but is moveable and protective and badass. Gal Gadot certainly rocked the metal breastplate and leather skirt, but it was amazing to see a costume designer actually think of the practicalities of a fighting outfit, not just ‘does this cover the naughty bits but accentuate the rounder bits’. Not only that, the romance in the movie isn’t sexualised. Can you believe that? I couldn’t, at first. Still no spoilers, no worries. I thought there must be a useless sex scene amongst the flirting and nuances, but no. Both characters involved with the romance were treated with the same, utmost respect. I’m still a little bit frazzled by that. A man and a woman, in a superhero movie, not participating in sex in which there is a gender bias? Unfeasible (Yes, that was sarcasm, thank you very much). During the movie, I didn’t once feel uncomfortable regarding over-sexualisation; this rarely happens to me in box office action movies. I am sure I’m not the only person who finds over sexualisation reductive and outdated. ‘Wonder Woman’ shows that you can have a wildly successful superhero movie without the sexualisation of women; that’s why ‘Wonder Woman’ is so needed.

            Another reason why ‘Wonder Woman’ is a needed, boss-ass movie? Representation my dear friends. A strong female lead who is intelligent, strong, and powerful? Check. A large number of women in the cast with speaking roles? Check. A little Rosie fact – when I saw all of the women in Themyscira, Diana’s homeland, I started to cry. I had genuinely, never seen that amount of women treated neutrally or positively on screen before. I think I may have wept every time I saw Diana too, but let’s not tell anyone about that. A racially diverse cast? Check. Well, it may not be as diverse as it should be, but it certainly is a step in the right direction. I was prepared for a completely white-washed main cast, but when I saw a large amount of women of colour in Themyscira, I punched my partner’s arm in happiness. Two of the main male characters are Moroccan and Native American respectively. Again, I wasn’t expecting this at all. The box office is no way near as racially diverse as it should be, but ‘Wonder Woman’s small step in the right direction shows how important a diverse and fair film industry is. A female director? Check. A lead actor who is a good role model for younger audiences? Check. Not only that, Gal Gadot is Israeli, smashing that white-washing, and she also doesn’t fall into the Hollywood trope of slight, breakable women; have you seen the muscles on that woman? She’s strong and fit, and is not afraid to show that. ‘Wonder Woman’ is needed because it offers what we need; we need that representation.

            I came out of the screen with my ears ringing with the message of the last thirty minutes of the film. The message is simple; hatred and fear is not going to help anything, love and hope are what we need to believe in. This message is seriously needed right now. Trump is pushing hatred, Trident is dealing in fear, terrorists are trying to break us. It’s so simple, but that message in ‘Wonder Woman’ grounded me, it reminded me that love and hope are good, and we shouldn’t buy into the fear and hatred that is pushed upon us. I didn’t expect to be so deeply affect by a superhero movie about a magical rope.

‘Wonder Woman’ is certainly not a perfect movie. It’s a good movie, a fair movie, but it has its flaws. However, it is a damn good push in the right direction. That’s why we need ‘Wonder Woman’.

*

If you’ve seen ‘Wonder Woman’, let me know what you think of the movie and if you agree with what I’ve got to say. I love I good conversation. Thanks for reading!

[1] https://graphicpolicy.com/2014/02/01/facebook-fandom-spotlight-who-are-the-us-comic-fans-5/

[2] http://www.cc.com/video-clips/pikmtf/the-daily-show-with-trevor-noah–wonder-woman–breaks-the-invisible-ceiling

 

(Originally posted on June 3rd 2017 @ https://rosiealewis.wixsite.com/home/single-post/2017/06/03/Why-We-Need-DCEUs-Wonder-Woman)