Réthymno Gallery 2—Friday, September 30

  • Venetian door #1
    Venetian door #1
    Like many of the houses we saw in Old Town, this one is no longer a mansion, but the old sculpted doorway survives from the Renaissance era. The house next door has a “Turkish balcony,” seen more fully in the next picture.

    To leave this gallery...

  • Turkish balcony #1
    Turkish balcony #1
    The standard definitions of balcony describe an overhanging open platform surrounded by railings, but the Turks built overhanging structures that were fully enclosed, and simply extended the dimensions of an upper-story room beyond those of the ground floor room below. (Domestic privacy was always an important value in Turkish—and generally in Islamic—culture.)

    The lower stories of the houses farther down this street seem to slant outwards as if the walls were built thicker at the bottom. The slant ends precisely where the second story begins, so I don't think it can be an unintended effect of deterioration. Perhaps it’s a way to reinforce the structure against earthquakes, or just a cultural tradition, or both—or perhaps it’s something utterly different. Your guess is as good as mine.

    To leave this gallery...

  • Turkish balcony #2
    Turkish balcony #2
    This building’s location on a corner enabled it to be equipped with two Turkish balconies, each overhanging a different street. (As the sign indicates, it’s now a tavérna.)

    To leave this gallery...

  • Venetian door #2—a virtuous house
    Venetian door #2—a virtuous house
    This doorway now graces a typically unpretentious Old Town building. This information would probably displease the original owner, who had his coat of arms carved at the top, over what may have been the family motto (in Latin: ‘A house shining with virtue’) and the date of building or dedication: “MDCIX KALs IVNII”—‘1609, first [calends] of June’). The next picture focuses on these carvings.

    To leave this gallery...

  • Venetian door #2—closer look
    Venetian door #2—closer look
    The stone carver’s elegant and graceful work has been fairly well preserved, which is our age’s good luck.

    Although the entire inscription doesn’t fit in this picture, you can see details like ornamental curlicues and bullets, and the tiny superscript S that marks the abbreviation of kalends.

    To leave this gallery...

  • Skinny street scene #1
    Skinny street scene #1
    This street, narrow enough to be almost blocked by one very small car, has balconies of the kind we’re more familiar with. It also has some flora that looked pretty exotic to me.

    To leave this gallery...

  • Venetian door #3
    Venetian door #3
    This door, in a low wall, seems to give immediate entry to a garden or forecourt, rather than a building. But the building must be there, and it must be fairly capacious, to judge by the number of doorbells here on the street.

    To leave this gallery...

  • Skinny street scene #2
    Skinny street scene #2
    This street scene amply illustrates the sort of vehicle most at home in these narrow ways. It also proves that the citizens of Réthymno appreciate urban flora as much as anyone. Compared with the Chaniots, fewer of them are in the tourist business and therefore perhaps don’t have as strong an economic incentive for greening the place up, but they do it anyway.

    To leave this gallery...

  • Venetian door #4—in danger
    Venetian door #4—in danger
    As its formal ornateness and grand proportions make clear, this door belongs to a building that had some public importance back in the day. I think, though I’m not certain, that it’s now a school or part of one. In any event, it’s still public, and that has caused its walls to attract a riotous gallery of overlapping graffiti. Someone has even made the first mark on the Venetian doorpost, at the lower left. I hope the rest will continue to restrain their urge for self-expression sufficiently to respect this part of their local heritage.

    To leave this gallery...

  • Adjusted arch
    Adjusted arch
    The large Venetian gate in this wall must have been too high or too wide for the purposes of a later age, and the only way to shrink it was to build a smaller gate inside, with its own proportioned arch. This left an awkward space between the two arches, which has been filled in a vernacular style very different from that of the Renaissance. The grape motif is consistent with the Muslim taboo against animal subjects. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the stone carver was a Turk, but whoever paid the bill probably was.

    I used the term Turk as it was used in Crete and elsewhere in the Ottoman empire up to the 20th century: it meant simply ‘Muslim,’ not necessarily one who was descended from Muslims or spoke Turkish. By the 19th century most of the “Turks” in Crete spoke Greek, and were of Greek descent.

    To leave this gallery...

  • Folky, funky grape carving
    Folky, funky grape carving
    As promised, here's the close-up. As you can see, the carving, compared to the best Venetian examples, is crude and naive. Painting the stone does’t help with this.

    To leave this gallery...

  • Mosque on the square
    Mosque on the square
    The gate in the previous pictures led into a paved area—plateía in Greek—that is labeled on the tourist map our hotel gave us “New Old Town Sq.” (It makes perfect sense if you group the words correctly.) Over across the square was the large Nerantzes Mosque, with its big minaret that has been under reconstruction for several years now. A music school occupies the building.

    To leave this gallery...

  • History and Folk Art Museum #1
    History and Folk Art Museum #1
    We didn't see any other restorations in Réthymno as complete or attractive as this museum, which occupies a Venetian mansion. This is the outside, on Emmanuel Bernard street (Ódos Emmanouil Bernárdou)—I couldn’t find out who he was.

    To leave this gallery...

  • History and Folk Art Museum #2
    History and Folk Art Museum #2
    Through this arch, you enter a quiet, parklike courtyard. The stairs lead to the museum’s entrance.

    To leave this gallery...

  • History and Folk Art Museum #3
    History and Folk Art Museum #3
    Here's how it looks as you come in. The museum building is on the left.

    To leave this gallery...

  • History and Folk Art Museum #4
    History and Folk Art Museum #4
    Cretans seldom waste an opportunity to grow flowers. In that climate, as compared to ours, the rewards for their efforts are lavish.

    To leave this gallery...

  • History and Folk Art Museum #5
    History and Folk Art Museum #5
    The courtyard was a good place to sit, and we rested there for a while before going inside the museum.

    To leave this gallery...

  • History and Folk Art Museum #6
    History and Folk Art Museum #6
    The most impressive exhibit we saw in the museum was this room, entirely finished with the handiwork (weaving, embroidery, tatting, and so on) of one woman. I didn’t record her name at the time and have been unable to find it since, but she was a well-to-do local matron who, back in the 19th century, took on the project of preserving (and if necessary reviving) traditional Cretan textile crafts. Since these were almost invariably the work of women, she was making a contribution—whether she knew it or not—to women’s history as well as Cretan cultural history.

    To leave this gallery...

  • History and Folk Art Museum #7
    History and Folk Art Museum #7
    Some may find this profusion a little overwhelming. Speaking for myself, I take pleasure in strong reds like this, and I loved being dazzled by the display.

    To leave this gallery...

  • A table in the wind
    A table in the wind
    We ate lunch at the Fanári taverna. The wind was still strong, and this table outside the sheltered dining area didn't attract any diners..

    To leave this gallery...

  • Contented customer
    Contented customer
    Dorothea captured me waiting for our order, and feeling at peace with the world.

    To leave this gallery...