Books and Good Reading
|American born author David MacNeil Doren and his Swedish wife Inga spent almost six years in Crete, 1960-66. This book is about two simultaneous love affairs - their meeting and growing love for each other and their joint love affair with the island of Crete. This is perhaps the original version of a couple who fall for the island and decide to live in
Crete. A classic. It tells you more about Crete in the first 50 pages than all subsequent titles combined. First published in 1974; Still the best.........
Title: Winds of Crete: Author: David MacNeil Doren.
Publisher: Efastathiadis Group SA. ISBN 960 226 092 0
Published 1974. Reprinted 1990. Price: Around £4 GB Pounds.
Source. Bookshops. Almost any shop in Crete selling books - including gift shops.
This book was first published in 1974 in England. Not until 1981 in Greece. It was last reprinted in Greece in 1990 more than twelve years ago. This book, the story of the Doren's hoped for "at best" one-year stay on the island, became a six-year journey through the life of the Crete they encountered. A journey through their own lives; their excitement and joys on making new discoveries; meeting
new friends; with Cretan Filoxenia. A journey though their realizations that some things were not all they seemed; that not everyone or everything was nice; through their misfortunes; ill health; sorrows and disasters. To the final realization that Crete was where they wanted, in the end, to remain. A wish that in the end was denied them by political circumstance. A journey which, although commenced more than 42
years ago, has been superceded by none of the later published, hopeful pretenders..........
The story is, like Crete itself, something of a contradiction in time and space. It becomes, in a mere 212 pages, (small enough to slip in a trouser pocket), a veritable epic. Capturing the very essence of the island; its magnificent geographical features; its climate; its people; its history; music; festivals; heroes. Their tremendous pride at being able to remain Crete in the face of adversity. Of being Cretan. Of
being Crete. Of freedom. Worth fighting for. Dying for. A contradiction in time and space in that much of what David Doren describes is still here. In the small villages which lie only a few kilometres away from the coastal resorts that many visitors mistakenly think of as Crete. The villages which are the real Crete are still here, alive and well. Almost within an impenetrable time capsule. It was the quest to live
in one that led David Doren and his wife Inga to seek their village, their freedom.
David Doren first met his wife Inga accidentally in 1960. On an old sailing ship which had become a youth hostel in Stockholm, Sweden. It was not until a few months later, after they had gone their separate ways, that they realised that they wanted to be with each other and that David proposed. They were, in fact, never officially married. Inga refused to marry because her serious heart condition prevented her from
having children, but she did say "I will not marry you, because the purpose of marriage is to have children, and I can't have any as long as my heart is like this. But I will live with you, if you want me to, and I will go wherever you want me to." Of which David said that "Those were the terms of our 'marriage' and the terms under which we are still living together. We have never gone through any
ceremony, public or private, yet we are as true and faithful to each other as it is possible to be. And I shall refer to her as my wife, as I do in conversation, and as I regard her in my own mind - the only wife I have had, or ever want to have."
They were driven in their quest to find happiness and perfection, Doren says, by a fear that they would not make it. An awareness that their passionate love might not last (because of Inga's heart condition) and that "she might be taken away at any time" that gave their quest such an intensity. This is a main underlying and recurrent theme throughout the book - one of seeking happiness and perfections which
when attained are of such intensity that they generate a feeling (often with good cause) that they cannot last. Many times in their story their fears are realized as they travel through their lives, and the life of Crete, seeking "their" village. As the story unfolds so do the often brilliant descriptions of Crete and its peoples. There is little if any padding in this book. Every page is crammed with
reality. A reality with which perhaps anyone with an interest in Crete will be faced, even today, if they seek to venture into the real Crete, to spend part of their lives here.
The Doren's first sought their happiness in Agios Nikolaos - 69 kilometres east of Heraklion in Nomos Lassithi, where they lodged with a Cretan family, occupying the top floor of a house with a balcony. It is here that their journey on Crete begins and that David Doren somehow manages, in only two pages, to describe a whole year in the passage of time and seasons on Crete. I could only think, whilst reading these
pages, of how real his descriptions of the changing seasons, of the lifestyle and of the winds of Crete are. Even all these years later so very real. The only differences I can find in my own experience are that whilst he viewed his terrace as the bridge of a space ship, I view my balcony as the bridge of a ship!! Especially at night under a starlit velvet blue sky, a warm gentle breeze and the coastal lights of the
bay of Chania riding far below, away to my right all the way down to Chania itself, before my bow with Chania dead ahead! Doren said of his ship "….. and we had the illusion that all humanity should feel at home anywhere from stem to stern of this reliable old vessel" (Crete). All I can say is that I do, and that his writing here, as in the rest of the book, is utterly real.
Whilst living in Agios Nikolaos the Doren's took (and the book describes) many trips around the area. The Mirabello villages; Kalo Chorio; Pachyio Ammos; Gournia; Elounda; Spinalonga; Olous (sunken city); Exo Lakona; Site of Lato; Kritsa; Panagia Kera; and longer outings to Ieraptera; The Lassithi Plateau; Neapoli. David also hiked the hills to the Katharo Plateau. Travelogue par Excellence!
Later, after they decide to continue looking for "their" village, they spent more time away from Agios Nikolaos visiting places such as Sitia; Malvesi; Messara; Gortyn; Mires; Phaestos; Lentas (Lendas); Kalo Limnes; Matala; Agia Gallini until at last they reach Rethymnon, where they decided that they still have not found their village and decide that they will pick it off the map with a pin! They did, and
the village turned out to be Georgioupolis…
Their story of renting the first house they saw - which had to be completed before they moved in and their subsequent life in the village makes very good reading. As in Agia Nikolaos, their excursions continued and the first hand descriptions of the many villages, people, places and happenings continue almost unabated. Spili; Amari; Yerakari; Kardaki; Apostoli; Samaria Gorge; Agia Roumeli; Koustouyerako. Hikes to the
sheepfold of Achlada; to the peak of Gigilos; from Anopolis to Therisso; to the Ravine of Aradaina; to Agia Ioannis and to Zarani; and outings to Loutro; Frangokestello; and Myriocephalo are packed with first rate descriptions of both places and the people they met and stayed with, including meeting Princess Marie of Greece when she visited Georgioupolis.
By the time the story reaches chapter 13 (P159) however, it becomes obvious that some cracks are appearing in their paradise. Doren says that the first reaction of their friend 'Doc Zographis' in Agia Nicolaos, upon his learning that the Dorens intended to move to Georgioupolis, had been right. The Doc's first "horrified" reaction had been "It (Georgioupolis) has the worst climate in Crete, damp and
cold………Malaria………If you don't die while you're there, you'll die later of something you caught while you were there!" Not only was the climate beginning to wear. A well described earthquake did not help; the Doren's toilet was infested by a "plague of scorpions"; and that they discovered the myth of there being nothing poisonous on Crete to be just that - that there was a poisonous snake (Oxendra)
and spider (Rogalida), in addition to a multitude of biting insects. To make matters worse it also turns out that the advice of an old lady "That it is the sting of people you must guard against" also appeared true. A difficulty with their landlady - Kyria Paraskevi - about whether the Doren's rent was paid in advance or arrears resulted in the police being called in. Cheating Cretan traders paying village
homeworkers in cheap plastic goods; encouraging them to go ever deeper into their debt, which the villagers apparently not only realised but accepted, because they agreed with the statement by a Cretan trader that "it is not possible to make a living if you don't cheat, is it?" By the end of the chapter David is suffering from Jaundice and the couple move to Chania where David is hospitalised in a private
clinic which, although he recovers slowly, leads to even greater disasters and health problems which force the Doren's to face the fact that life in Georgioupolis, after a year and half, had for them become untenable. Medical problems had finally driven them out of their paradise. They moved to the suberb of Halepa, Chania……
There are some interesting observations of Halepa - their new 10 roomed home being the residence of the former Swedish consul; of the nearby former homes of Prince George and Eleftherios Venezelos and of their favourite haunt in Chania, the 'voulis' a taverna on Hadjimichalis-Yannaris. This was also nicknamed "The British Embassy" because of the kindness of it's owners towards English people. Their stay in
Halepa was curtailed after a year when the house, which they had been able to rent because it was for sale, was finally sold and they moved eastwards a few kilometres to Agios Mathios, on the base of the Akrotiri peninsula. A short move because they felt that it was becoming increasingly cosmopolitan and moved to their final village, Plaka, only a few kilometres east, shortly afterwards.
If the first 14 chapters of this book are outstanding descriptions of Crete, the final two chapters, "Out of the Turkish Sleep" and paticularly the last, "The Whirlwind" are superb. Allowing the reader, who to this point has been living and learning about all aspects of life on Crete, to move closer to the Doren's as people - foreigners (Xenos) living here. Still seeking their paradise… In
"The Whirlwind, they eventually their perfection it in the village of Plaka'. High on the hillsides above Souda bay. Having their dream all but destroyed, as was a large part of the village, by a Tornado. David contracting Typhoid; their refusal to be beaten; the rebuilding of their lives and their rented home. Only, in the final moments, to have their rights to remain on Crete withdrawn by winds of political
The final paragraph of the epilogue is particularly poignant. As David and Inga, six years after their first arrivals in Iraklion (they arrived separately), stand on the deck of the ship that is to take them away from Crete in the harbour at Souda Bay.
"It was not until we stood on the deck of the ship that was to take us away from Crete that the reality of our departure hit home to us. As the ship moved away from the dock, Inga could not bear to look, and went down below decks to our cabin. But I wanted to see the retreating shoreline of the island that had seeped into our bloodstream, and become part of our flesh…………. I stood there long after
darkness fell, until I could no longer see Crete but could only feel it, and finally I went down and joined Inga in the cabin."
Winds of Crete is now becoming something of a rarity, appearing in the lists of some second-hand booksellers, although you really can buy it still, first-hand, in Crete. I wonder how many books of a similar vein last this long, and why? The reason is, I think, that the story of David MacNeil Doren and his wife Inga's six year sojourn in Crete, where they might have remained for the rest of their lives but for
circumstance, has slowly become a classic.....
This is story not just about two people on Crete, not just about the island, but about their six-year journey through life on Crete, through the life of the Crete they encountered. It is incomparable... If you really want to know about Crete, read this, By the end of the book you will have visited many parts of Crete; conversed with and made friends among the many people you will meet within.
Attended weddings; pilgrimages; feastings. You will have felt many of the changing winds of Crete, its joys and sorrows. Who knows, by the end you too may have been seduced by the 'Big Island.'