On a mountain-cradled beach, we set up on a rock under some tamarisks, or salt cedar, evergreen with scale-like leaves often encrusted with salt it secretes, golden-haloed in the sunshine. Surrounding us is an endangered species: pancratium maritimum, aka white sand lily, sea daffodil, amaryllis, or lily of Knossos. It sways in the breeze, glowing, as if lit from within. The flower's delicate scent is only apparent on "still, windless summer nights". The Libyan Sea is warm, and we rise and wobble to shore like merpeople unaccustomed to human legs.
The return drive to Rethymno takes us through mountainous country, small villages clinging to hillsides, vertiginous drops everywhere. Solar farms and olive groves, lone white or terracotta houses. Livestock warning signs and chickens scratching in small yards. Shrines along the roadside, tiny churches set up on posts, each devoted to higher powers. The landscape is umber and sienna, brushed with broad olive strokes. An aromatically holy land.
Graffiti in Old Town: Burn the Airbnb, Refugees Welcome, Tourists Go Home, Airbnb strangles the city. In the picturesque streets teeming with flowers and mopeds and little cats, I note all the signs for luxury or exclusive apartments. According to our receptionist who has lived here for 30 years, an apartment can go for €500k. One should ask: Where do the workers, omnipresent and facilitating the leisure of others, sleep? A city should exist for its people first.