17 April 2024

Back in Rethymnon
for five days after
an absence of
almost three years

The Hotel Brascos in the centre of Rethymnon is beside the Municipal Gardens and a few steps from the Porto Guora

Patrick Comerford

It has been an early but busy Easter, but Greeks are still in Lent, and Easter Day here is not until 5 May. I am back again in Rethymnon on the Greek island of Crete for a short, five-day visit on my own.

Today’s journey has been a long one, leaving Stony Stratford and Milton Keynes at 1 am in the depth of the night to catch an early morning flight at 6 amfrom Luton to Chania, and then taking a 90-minute bus from Chania Airport along the coast by Souda Bay and through Vryses and Georgioupoli to Rethymnon, arriving here in the early afternoon.

I have missed Greece, I have missed Crete and I have missed Rethymnon over these past two or three years. I have not been back since I spent about 10 days in Tsesmes in September 2021: a stroke six months later, my retirement from parish ministry, the move from Askeaton to Stony Stratford and some difficult personal problems put paid to all those plans to catch up on the visits to Greece that were cancelled during the Covid pandemic.

In the intervening time, I have co-authored a book in Greek on the Philhellenes that was published in Thessaloniki, and I have written the introduction to another book on Greek folk songs about to be published this year, also in Thessaloniki. But this is the longest period I have been away from Greece in almost 40 years.

Seeing the dome of the Fortezza aa I arrive back in Rethymnon is almost like a feeling of being back home again. I have been a constant visitor to Rethymnon since the mid-1980s, and I have lost count of the number of times I have been back here, staying in apartments or hotels in this old charming town or in suburbs such as Platanes and Tsesmes, 7 km to the east. I have missed the smells, the sounds, the colours and the very look of the people, the buildings and the shopfronts, the blue sea and skies, the olive trees, and the rocky indents on the coastline.

This time I am staying for five days in the Hotel Brascos in the centre of Rethymnon, next to the Municipal Gardens and a few steps from the Porto Guora or old gate leading into the old Venetian town, with its labyrinthine network of narrow cobbled streets and squares. In addition, in the past, I have stayed in the hilltop villages of Piskopiano and Koutouloufari above Hersonissos, in Iraklion, in Georgioupoli half-way between Rethymon and Chania, in Kolymvari west of Chania, and in Paleochora on the south coast.

I stayed once before in the Hotel Brascos in Rethymnon for a week 10 years ago (2014). The hotel stands on the corner of Moatsou and Daskalaki Streets (Μοάτσου και Δασκαλάκη), and this time my room has a balcony overlooking busy Moatsou Street. The old Venetian port is only 350 metres from the hotel, and the beach – the longest sandy beach on the island – is a mere five-minute walk away.

All the rooms in the hotel have balconies. Sadly, the roof garden and bar are closed this month. They offer panoramic and dramatic views over the old town with its Turkish minarets, Byzantine towers and Venetian fortezza, and out across the harbour. In addition, the small swimming pool has been drained and is being refurbshed.

After checking in, I strolled through some of my favourite streets and side lanes of the old town, and had lunch in Sarlo, a favourite haunt on Paleologou street, between the Venetian loggia and the Rimondi fountain. Some of my favourite places over the years are no longer on the map: the colourful peripteron or kiosk on Tsouderon Street has disappeared without a trace; the medical centre around the corner that one treated refugees and migrants seems to have moved elsewhere; and Avkri, a much-loved taverna in a laneway off Souliou Street that I have known since the 1980s, has not yet opened but (hopefully) has not closed.

Over the next few days, I am looking forward to more walks through the old town or around the harbour, swimming in the sea at Pavlos Beach in Platanes, and watching the sunsets from the balcony of my room or at a nice taverna I know beneath the walls of the Fortezza.

Hopefully, there may be exhibitions in the Fortezza or venues like the Kara Mousa Pasa Mosque on Agnostou Square in the Old Town. There may even be time to visit a monastery I know in the hills above Rethymnon, or perhaps to visit Chania or Iraklion, and perhaps even lunch or dinner with some old friends in Platanes and Tsesmes, or even in Iraklion and Hersonissos.

After that early start this morning and such a long journey, I plan to take things easy this evening, with dinner in the old town, and perhaps a drink near the Fortezza, enjoying the view of the domes, bell towers and minarets of the old town and across the harbour.

The roof garden in the Hotel Brascos offers panoramic views across the old town and out to the Venetian harbour … sadly, it is closed this month (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Daily prayer in Easter 2024:
18, 17 April 2024

‘I am the Bread of Life’ (John 6: 35) … an image from Saint Luke’s Episcopal Cathedral, Orlando, Florida (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Easter is a 50-day season that continues until the Day of Pentecost. The week began yesterday with the Third Sunday of Easter (Easter III). Throughout this Season of Easter, my morning reflections each day include the daily Gospel reading, the prayer in the USPG prayer diary, and the prayers in the Collects and Post-Communion Prayer of the day.

It is early morning, and I am in Luton Airport waiting to catch an EasyJet flight at 6 am to Chania in Crete, and looking forward to a five-day stay in Rethymnon after an absence of more than 2½ years.

I caught a coach from Milton Keynes to Luton Airport a few hours ago, and as I was waiting to board flight, I took some quiet time to give thanks, for reflection, prayer and reading in these ways:

1, today’s Gospel reading;

2, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary;

3, the Collects and Post-Communion prayer of the day.

‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’ (John 6: 35) … fresh bread in the window of Hindley’s Bakery in Tamworth Street, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 6: 35-40 (NRSVA):

35 Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; 38 for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.’

Twelve loaves of bread depicted in a fresco in the 17th century Kupa Synagogue in the old Jewish quarter of Kazimierz in Kraków (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayers (Wednesday 17 April 2024):

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘The effect of Climate Change in the Solomon Islands.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by the Revd Kate Komepwaisiho, Trustee of the Melanesian Mission.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (17 April 2024) invites us to pray:

Let us give thanks for religious communities, and the people who devote their lives to worship. May they have strength and peace in all they do.

The Collect:

Almighty Father,
who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples
with the sight of the risen Lord:
give us such knowledge of his presence with us,
that we may be strengthened and sustained by his risen life
and serve you continually in righteousness and truth;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion Prayer:

Living God,
your Son made himself known to his disciples
in the breaking of bread:
open the eyes of our faith,
that we may see him in all his redeeming work;
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.

Additional Collect:

Risen Christ,
you filled your disciples with boldness and fresh hope:
strengthen us to proclaim your risen life
and fill us with your peace,
to the glory of God the Father.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued Tomorrow

‘Bread is still the staff of life’ … the façade of Frank O’Connor’s former bakery on North Main Street, Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org