Do you remember that song "All That She Wants Is Another Baby" by Ace of Base? When Viktoria and I went to Crete, Greece, all that Viktoria wanted was not necessarily a baby, but she did want something, something unique to her needs. My theory, proven by facts, is that most women want exactly the same thing. But let me explain in an orderly manner…
We arrived in Chania, Crete in the late evening, from LAX – a convenient flight that took us straight into the wonders of Greece. The airport of Chania is rather small, and as soon as we walked outside, we easily found the rental car facility. Our rental, however, was barely equipped to get us around, as we usually don't invest in fancy transportation when we travel abroad.
We spent the first day walking around the Old Venetian Harbor, the Firka Fortress and explored the Old Town, where we had the famous (and rightly so) "bougatsa," a traditional Greek breakfast pastry consisting of either sweet semolina custard or cheese, between layers of phyllo, topped with honey and cinnamon. Our favorite shop was called Bougatsa Chania, and the experience of eating this pastry was so mind-blowing that we have a separate blog to describe it (coming out soon).
It was in between a bougatsa and a gyro that Viktoria made a big announcement for our second day in Crete: "Let's explore Balos Beach and Lagoon." Viktoria had a point in visiting this beach, as it is considered one of the ten most spectacular beaches in the world. Missing this destination would not make sense as Chania is just 32 miles from Balos Beach.
However, the inconsistent information and directions to get there made things complicated. Indeed, my first issue was mathematical: how could 32 miles require an hour and a half drive? The Greeks must be very prudent drivers, I thought to myself.
The first part of the journey to Balos begins innocuously enough, as one follows a relatively smooth asphalted highway for several miles. Then abruptly, we came across a station, where we had to pay one euro for each passenger to continue on the road. Looking back, this would have been an excellent spot to place a "Best of Luck" sign.
The route continued onto a gravel and dirt road that winded along the scenic coast for six miles. At times, there was only room for one car to drive. Luckily, we left early in the morning, and nobody was around. While Viktoria was taking pictures and commenting on the beauty of the view, I was preoccupied with potholes and holding onto my seat as I was driving zig-zag up the rocky dirt road. I refused to look further than what was right in front of me. I suffer from vertigo, and the road had a steep cliff on the right side, with no guard rail for protection. I said my prayers and continued to drive in the hopes that the road would get smoother soon. I had no such luck.
After 20 minutes of bouncing around and praying for protection from the saint of desperate drivers, all hope was lost. We were only half-way there, but I hung tight. Finally, we arrived at the parking lot on top of the hill. Instead of expected mind-blowing views, we were welcomed by wild goats. One of them jumped on top of the car and didn't move for the rest of the day. I was sweating and fuming, but I was glad to finally have landed on what looked like a crater of the moon.
I was also glad to have found a parking spot. In a few minutes later, the parking lot would fill up, and the alternative was parking on the edge of the cliff, between the earth and sky. Meanwhile, there was no sign of Balos Beach. The parking lot was not the destination I had envisioned. To get to the beach, we had to hike down the hill for about a mile. A task that took an endless hour as we had to stop every five seconds to take one picture after another. Indeed, this is what Viktoria wanted: a million pictures in front of Balos Beach and Lagoon. I was not alone. I was surrounded by a procession of guys doing the exact same thing: taking pictures of their woman, in every possible pose, and retaking the picture until it was perfect.
All that "pain and suffering" aside, I must say, it was worth it, and you can judge for yourself from our photos. Balos beach is a place where three seas collide: the Mediterranean, the Aegean, and the Ionian. It was breathtaking, and we spent the next few hours soaking up the sun, swimming and yes, more picture taking.
After I bribed my new friend, the goat, with some leftover bougatsa, he reluctantly climbed down from the top of our car, and we were on our way back. Now, driving down the winding dirt road toward Chania, my Italian driving skills were truly tested. The view was no longer mesmerizing for the scenic panorama, but rather for the countless cars that were coming toward the packed parking lot, and the crusade of men that had no other choice than to give their women "all that she wants."
What better way to conclude then with the lyrics of Ace of Base's song?
"When she woke up late in the morning light
And the day had just begun
She opened up her eyes and thought
Oh, what a morning
It's not a day for work
It's a day for catching sun
Just laying on the beach and having fun"
Isn't that what life, after all, is all about? Having fun and making happy memories? And if she is happy, we (men) are happy. 😊
~ Written by: Viktoria Rusnakova & Samuele Bagnai, authors of Enthusiastic All the Way & Tuscan Who Sold His Fiat to the Pope, respectively.
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