Monday, July 26, 2010

Sarakina Gorge

Sarakina Gorge - Entrance

If you are the adventurous type, consider taking a day trip to Sarakina Gorge, which is on the south side of the island, near Ierapetra.

Prepare to take your shoes off to walk through pools of water.
The hike through Sarakina Gorge is difficult at times- it requires climbing over many boulders, and at one point, using a leather strap as a rope swing to propel yourself across a small cliff.

To get to Sarakina Gorge from Hersonissos, take the National Road east, past Agios Nikolaos. Follow this road until you see the signs for Ierapetra. The road to Ierapetra is hard to miss- it is the only main road heading south from that area. Once you reach Ierapetra, follow the signs pointing toward Myrtos, which is three or four villages to the west of Ierapetra. Once in Myrtos, you will take the first main road to the right toward Mithi. After a few minutes you will see a road off to the right with a sign pointing you toward Mithi. Just past the center of the village, you will take a right (there may not be a sign for Sarakina Gorge clearly visible here, but Mithi is tiny, and there is only one road that you can turn right on). From here you will follow the road downhill until you get to a bridge- on the left side of the bridge there is a water treatment plant and a paved parking area. This is the start of Sarakina Gorge. (There is also a small taverna here, but when we visited in June, 2010, it was not open.)

The hike through Sarakina Gorge is difficult at times- it requires climbing over many boulders.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Manolis' Workshop

Today we visited Dad's friend Manolis at his workshop. Manolis makes high quality brass cast sculptures, and my dad is one of his wholesale customers.

Mr. Manolis and his wife welcomed us with great cheer, and I quickly saw that this is a man who loves his work. When he found out that I have a degree in sculpture, he proudly showed me around the shop and explained the casting process. From what I understood (my Greek is still limited) it's as follows:

First, a prototype is commissioned, carved from soapstone; this piece is very detailed, but it is fragile if dropped!
The prototype is laid into a bed of sand, removed, and the molten brass is poured into the depression. This is done for both front and back, and then the two pieces are joined. Then, the edges have to be cleaned and the piece gets sanded and polished. This first casting then becomes the working prototype, and the stone version is put safely away.

Every step of this process is handled with great care-- casting is really not a process to try to undertake unless you are meticulous-- and there is a lot of work involved even after the casting step is complete.

While I've made molds out of plaster and latex, I've never seen one made of sand, and I was grateful to see the process. The amount of detail retained by the sand impression is amazing, and the cast sculptures are beautiful, even more so after Manolis finishes them with an acid oxidation process, adding mottled green and black and brown tones, and finishing with a wax process to make the piece smooth like glass.

After showing me the process, Manolis threw one of the statues on the concrete floor and I startled, but he laughed saying that they never break once cast in brass-- if you burried one today you could dig it up a thousand years from now and it'd be the same. The same for the patina; the color is fast.

Of course, I can't help but entertain the idea of immortalizing one of my own sculptures in bronze... and I am grinning because Manolis has promised to demonstrate casting on one of our next visits!

Here is Manolis at his workbench, buffing away the patina on this sculpture so that the shiny brass surface shows through.


Two large brass helmets with a black patina; they will have more work done to the patina and then they will be polished with wax.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Home at Last

A week ago today I was frantically trying to get to my home town in Ohio, from a wedding three hours away in Michigan, after my car broke down on the way. I had a flight the next day, you see, and I was already going to be getting very little sleep, even without car troubles.
Let's say, hilarity ensued. I got where I needed to get, didn't I? Let's leave it at that and forget it all. Because right now I am sitting with my dad on our porch in Hersonissos, Crete-- my real home town-- and enjoying the clean dry air, and the smell of good food from the restaurant below us, and a glass of Cretan Raki.
I'm going to have a lot to write-- already the things I could tell you! But right now, I just want to relax, and enjoy being home for the first time in six years.

Monday, February 22, 2010

About Hersonissos

Prior to 1975 Hersonissos was a tiny village populated by a handful of fishermen and farmers. Today Hersonissos and the nearby villages of Koutouloufari, Piskopiano and Old Hersonissos are the most sought after vacation destinations of the island of Crete.

Hersonissos (Greek for Peninsula) is also called Limani or Limin Hersonissou to distinguish it from the village of Old (or Upper) Hersonissos, which is just a couple of miles away. Limani (or Limin) means harbor, and the name refers to the small harbor that used to shelter local fishing boats and boats that were used to transport local produce to other cities.

During the off-season, Hersonissos has a population of approximately 3000; however, the population increases greatly during the tourist season, when seasonal workers come to work at hotels and other local businesses.
Because of its location in the middle of the Island, about 25 kilometers east of Heraklion and about the same distance west of Aghios Nikolaos, Hersonissos is the ideal place to use as a base to explore the island.

How to get to Hersonissos
If you take the Ferry from Piraeus to Heraklion you can reach Hersonissos by bus. The bus station is about a 5 minute walk from the pier, and there is a bus every 15 minutes during the summer. In the wintertime the busses run less frequently. You can buy your ticket at the bus station or on the bus. The ride is about 30 to 45 minutes long depending on the rout and the stops.
Alternately you can hire a cab or rent a car. The majority of the taxi drivers are honest, hard working people but ask the driver what the fare is going to be so you know what you are going to be paying beforehand.
Another option is to rent a car. Inside the bus terminal there is a tourist information center where you can get information on car rentals.
If you arrive in Heraklion by plane, there is a bus stop just outside the airport. You don’t need to worry about buying a ticket beforehand, as you can buy one on the bus.
Again, you can also take a cab or rent a car from one of the booths at the airport. It's easy to find your way to Hersonissos, and the rent-a-car office will provide you with a map and directions.