On the trail of the Cretan Runner
May 21st, 2018 7:32 pm     A+ | a-
The Cretan Runner is the title of a best selling WWII book written by George Psychoundakis published by Penguin Books in 1955, with extensive foreward by Patrick Leigh Fermor. The work tells the tale or tales of the adventures of this brave passionate young Cretan mountain man, who from 1941-1945 worked tirelessly in extremely dangerous situations conveying messages to and from the British S.O.E. His aim to rid his homeland of the scourge of the Nazi German occupation. With this thought in mind having read the Cretan Runner on many occassions i decided to seek out the fearless 21 year old of WWII, nicknamed "The Changebug" by Xan Fielding his Commanding Officer, who for his legendary exploits was awarded the British Empire Medal.   
We approached Asi Gonia his birth and last resting place via Asfendou were we stopped to eat at the excellent Asfendou Taverna frequented by many walkers and bikers. I bought a plastic bottle of local Asfendou raki as i am sure Billy Moss would have approved. We drove through Kalikratis a village with many tales to tell of Nazi atrocities in 1943. Psychoundakis would know Kalikratis well he hid in a cave above the village in 1942 being fed by the local people. Dropping into Asi Gonia village square from the South. Swallows were swooping at street level chasing insects by us without a care in the world. The only person we could see was a 12 year old who had just driven a battered old vehicle parking next to us in the hot deserted village square. We viewed the various statues which included a couple of former Greek prime ministers and Kapetan Petrakas 1941-1945 resistance leader. Then headed for the church cemetery, the church and cemetery were very well kept as all Cretan holy places are with an abundance of flowering roses red yellow pink. We asked an old lady who was cleaning the church where we would find George Psychoundakis, with great difficulty we discovered she had no idea in fact didn't know of him at all.
Not at all disheartend we started a systemmatic search eventually finding the Psychoundakis family plot/grave. It appeared sadly neglected in comparison with the others. We paid our respect in silent tribute then departed this most peaceful of places. Asi Gonia has hardly noticed the passing of years since WWII.       .  
 We resumed our journey heading to Argyroupoli on our way through the Gipari gorge, running parallel was the river bed mentioned by Patrick Leigh Fermor who travelled this way to Asi Gonia on a donkey soon after the war. He states in the foreword of The Cretan Runner "We followed the river bed for an hour or so picking our way among the boulders under the plane trees". The road didn't exist until much later, in fact Psychoundakis worked as a labourer on its construction again living in a cave ( made of sterner stuff ).    

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