I was startled to see the Venetian castle ruins ahead as we approached the village on our fifteen minute ride from Sfakia. As Loutro's buildings finally came into view on that warm evening in September, 1991, I instantly felt that my wandering soul had found a sanctuary in this tiny village clinging to the rocky coast of southern Crete.

Twenty five years ago on September 11, 1991, Rob and Bob arrived in Loutro for the first time. There is no other single event that has changed my life more than my arrival in Loutro, Crete! That’s where I go in my mind when I want to find peace and spirit. That’s where I go in my mind when I remember happiness, contentment, love and a sense of community. That where I go to remember the last unspoiled paradise, the last place where it was possible to clearly see the connection to our past in an unspoiled environment. That’s the place I dream of going back to just one more time before I die!  

photo by Joel Christian Cook

The silhouetted ruins of the castle on the hill were like a constant beacon, pulling us ever closer. Soon we made our first pilgrimage. The grounds were cloaked in an utter and age-old silence. All around us were silvery olive groves clinging to the rugged mountain terrain. Not a single person, neither sight nor sound of modern civilization, marred this unchanged landscape. It was a typically hot September day, so Rob and I decided to lie down and rest in the shadow of an olive tree.

As my back came into contact with the earth I was plunged into a timeless place where the separation between dreams and reality united under the incandescent Cretan sun. I was awakened by the gentle sound of goat bells from the distant hillside. The sun was now repositioned behind the western mountains. A gentle breeze encouraged us to rise and continue on our journey with a newfound sense of strength and perception as we, like so many other wayfarers before us, traced the ancient mountain path back to Loutro.

Georgios and Pandalitza

Pandalitza's room number 8 became home to Rob and Bob

We very quickly began to feel we were part of the village. We never really felt like outsiders. We felt like part of a large family. Loutro became home in both our hearts. It became the place we always went back to in our minds when we felt homesick. And our adopted family there will always be family!

  

When Rob was in hospital in London, all he talked about was Loutro. When Rob left this world, I took him home. And my Greek family gave me the kind of support and love you would expect from a family!

Still, 25 years later, when I want to feel the kind of peace and security that makes my heart sing, I imagine I'm on Pandalitza's balcony, of room number 8, with Rob by my side.

One day, if at all possible, I will return for one last visit before I die. But if that is not possible, I will return anyway. Because I do believe that is where I belong!

 

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Comment by koshersalaami on September 10, 2016 at 10:25pm

Beautiful.
Oddly, the only time I've been in Greece, in my case in Santorini, was a year later. 

The community sounds wonderful. 

Comment by Zanelle on September 10, 2016 at 10:48pm

What wonderful photographs!  I loved this writing and want to delve into it deeper.  It sounds like a movie that stretches beyond this life.  Amazing.  Thank you so much!!!!!!

Comment by Myriad on September 11, 2016 at 5:13pm

What a sad/sweet post.  Never been to Crete, but to Delos&Mykonos - loved the islands, but my heart place would be Delphi...  Also, my friend left some of his lover's ashes there, up on the hill past the arena.

Comment by Penny Ringsleben on February 11, 2019 at 2:52pm

My name is Penny, I am a first cousin of Robert Starkey.  He is in the hospital right now very, very ill in California.  I want to comment on this post because like Bob I came to Greece, Corfu.  I fell in love with Corfu in 2006 and moved here after retiring in 2012.  11 years ago I had lung cancer and had the left side of my lung removed.  I believe with all my heart Corfu, Kerkyra, has kept me alive.  This beautiful place with it's amazing people have made my life a paradise.  We have a close tie with our love for Greece.  I wish with all my heart he could return to Loutro.  I will make sure I will go there for him and give Rob his love.  I will keep updating.  Please keep him in your prayers and thoughts. <3

Comment by Penny Ringsleben on February 11, 2019 at 2:53pm

If anyone is interested in taking a look at my beautiful Kerkyra, I have 7 pages with over 15,000 pictures on Facebook.  Penny Ringsleben

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