I backpacked across Europe in my twenties. One of my adventures included my one and only experience with hitchhiking.
I was nearing the end of my travels. I had worked my way across the continent and made it to the Greek isles to laze on the beaches. The last stop before traveling back to the States was to Crete. My traveling buddy, Leslie and I heard it was beautiful, affordable; full of beaches to soak up the sun and it was famous for hiking with its mountains and gorges. After six months of travel, my bank account had dwindled; so free things like sunning and hiking sounded like a great way to end this adventure.
Crete is a very large island, with few large towns. It is full of beautiful, wild scenery dotted with small villages. One fishing village was known among savvy travelers for its great beaches and being somewhat off the beaten track. Leslie and I stepped off the bus and walked to the closest tiny Inn with its attached open-air restaurant. It looked like a nice place to stay and over a meal we visited with the owner. She offered us a job on the spot. We just had to wait tables for lunch and dinner and could stay for free.
This was a traditional Greek fishing village that earned some money off the tourists. The European tourists were use to the topless beaches elsewhere and felt free to bare-all despite frowning from the local babushka-wearing women. No one seemed to mind the local men peering out from the bushes at the edge of the beach, except perhaps the local women. For the record, I was the only woman in a one-piece bathing suit—but that’s a story for another day.
We met a New Yorker one day at the beach. He was visiting his grandmother who had never left the island. We made plans to hike the Samaria Gorge the next day.
We stopped by to get him early the next morning and his grandmother chased us away with a broom. She wanted to keep those wild wanton American hussies away from her grandson. He escaped her watchful eye and the hike was spectacular. The only thing wild about the hike was the scenery.
Over the days we were there, we settled into a comfortable routine. Sunning in the morning and afternoon, waiting tables at lunch and dinner, and sitting and visiting with the Innkeeper and family in the evenings. At some point we needed to go into town and went to wait for the bus. We waited and waited and waited. We saw the Innkeeper waving her thumb in the air. We got the message, we stuck our thumbs out and in a few moments a small Greek man in a tiny pick up truck pulled over to give us a ride.
He didn’t speak English and our Greek was pretty nonexistent. There was lots of smiling and nodding and he understood the name of the town we wanted to go to which was about 10 miles away. He drove very slowly. I sat next to the door and was just admiring the scenery. I noticed he pulled a notebook out from under his seat and was showing it to Leslie who was sitting snug up next to him and almost straddling the stick shift. I glance at it and thought he was showing her his English lessons.
Then I felt her body stiffen and sit up straight. She said in a loud hissing whisper, “did you look at this??!!!” So I took a closer look. It was indeed his language book. It had handwritten pages in French, in Italian, in Spanish and in English with the Greek translation beside it. On each page and in each language it said.
Hello. How are
You are very pretty.
Are you having a nice visit on Crete?
Would you like a cup of coffee?
Would you like to fuck?
Our reaction quickly told him that someone had misinformed him about those wanton American hussies. He stepped on the gas and we were in town in no time.
As I think back I wonder if he ever got lucky. As we say in the South, “bless his heart.”
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