Towns and Villages, Crete Island
Our minds sated with sufficient pictures, we pushed on to Gerakari and stopped for lunch after having our photo taken with some locals.
Gerakari is famous for cherries and they do things with them, like put them in bottles in all manner of ways.
I had visions of village fare in a rustic setting with local tastes to tempt the palate served by some smiling Greek mama regaling us with tales of her relatives in Australia. I got parts of it right.
It was rustic and we were served by a Greek mama but, sadly, as one of her Greek mama friends called around she burst into tears as they sat down at a table, something we felt like doing when we saw the food she’d served up. It tasted even worse than it looked, as if that were possible, and when she later served up our free pastry cheese roll we clearly understood why she had decided not to charge for the last bit. It was simply the worst dessert either of us could remember, palatable was not a word you could ever use with the tough pastry (with a hint of leather) and sodden cheese (so called).
Thoughts of a better meal by the pool at our excellent resort then haunted us all day as we continued to circumnavigate the Amari Valley, probably highlighted by the constant views of Mount Idi, at over 8,000ft, the highest in Crete, and still with patchy snow up top.
Anogeia has a history that is powerful and tragic; if it wasn’t enough that it had been burned twice by the Turks, the Germans then came along and did the same thing, as well as shooting all the males they could find. The latter came about because of an audacious plot by an English author and scholar, Patrick Fermor. Another Englishman, Billy Moss, accompanied by some Cretans including Manolis Paterakis and George Tyrakis, were secretly landed on the south of the island. They blatantly abducted the commander of Crete, General Kreipe, in his own car (Kreipe in the boot, Fermor posing as him) and went through 22 road blocks before leaving the car a few kms south of Anogeia. After 18 days hiking through the mountains they spirited him away to Egypt in a submarine.
There’s a statue of Manolis Skoulas, a Cretan hero who it is believed fired the shot that blew up an arsenal in the Arkadi Monastery in 1866 where 259 warriors and 750 women and children were housed. Several hundred Cretans chose death with him and they took a few hundred Turks with them in a massive explosion. Today the refurbished Arkadi Monastery stands on the actual site.
The statue stands across from where we choose to eat some goat, freshly cooked. Our amiable host informs us that it was very young goat, only about 8 kg, and that sort of put a damper on the meal as neither of us could stop thinking about the poor little animal as we chomped on its remains.
Old Anogeia, such as it is, is in the lower part, set around an inviting square where locals graze (on everything except small goats). Lorraine had a wow of a time with the lace sellers here, once going through a portal about 20 cms lower than her frame into a dimly lit interior. The old mamas in their traditional outfits (black will never go out of fashion here) sit on well worn chairs and cushions, many hand knitting as they do so. Up a side lane was a cute 8 kg little furry goat tied to a vase. This cuddly animal did nothing to calm my stomach.
However, the air is mountain-fresh, the local Raki and food genuinely good and usually made with local ingredients. We get offered some cake, something like a cross between a vanilla slice and a custard tart. It’s freshly baked and we sit in the atmospheric square of Agios Georgios (St. George to you), watched by the locals, and down a square of this delicious warm delicacy during the next 45 minutes.
Then it came time to leave and as I shut the door on the VW Polo, perhaps an omen as our side rear window fell out of its mounting and smashed on the cobbles, then, as we tried to manoeuvre out of the plaza a local decided to reverse park on top of us. With me beeping the horn and Lorraine in hysterics he continued with his pock marked ute until, and neither of us can believe this, he actually missed us.
There’s a picture in our guide book of a lady in front of a lace stall in a village called Anogeia that claims to be the most Cretan of all villages. Today we head there, Lorraine kindly pointing out there’s (yet another) ruin at Tylisos en route. I’m allowed to stop there, after being misplaced up an unimaginably narrow one way street, and we alight to view the ruins of three ancient Minoan mansions and watch archaeologists actually working on the site. You’re not allowed to photograph any area where they are working or about to work, something we got chipped about at Delos as well. We haven’t had any logical explanation for this as yet.
It’s an average site with several points of interest and the ticket lady, obviously concerned we don’t transgress the photography ban, hovers around us and that turns out to be a bonus because we get to ask her questions, like why a seemingly narrow room has no entry. She clearly doesn’t know but tries to suggest it’s a stairway. Not long after we leave and wind our way higher in the hill country.
Travel from Ag Nik towards Sitia - about 20 minutes on you come to a village called Kavousi, go through Kavousi up the big hill (still on main road) at the top you come to "Panoramic View taverna" stop for a coffee and see the greatest view on Crete. Then travel further on (about 2 minutes) til you come to a sign saying MOCHLOS - drive down to Mochlos ( a small horseshoe bay, with 5 Tavernas, small beach. Use Dimitris Taverna,(Kafe Meze) next to the minimarket - he is superb and gives that personal touch. He also rents lovely rooms. You will not be disappointed. Tell him Irish John recommended him.
For years I wanted to visit this village. We set off from Rethimno and followed the sign posts, a beautiful new road, what more could you want. SHOCK! road is under repair, I kid you not, on the worst hairpin bend I have ever come across. As we crawled along on the rough surface of the road around a 1,000 feet below us the Imbros gorge. A coach would have to be coming the opposite way. My long suffering husband does not understand my fear of heights,all I can say is I was glad when it was over. Our return journey we took a much less drastic route which I would have been terrified of a few years back, It just goes to show when you have faced your worst fearsyou can face anything. Would I take that road again? NO. Now the village, we stayed above a Fish taverna right at the front, Unfortunately the weather turned bad and we did not get much exploring done. However very picturesque and traditional, I would return for a longervisitnexttime.
Well just a slight exageration maybe, we took off for the hills and drove peacefully through lots of little villages on our way to Anogia. On the way we drove past 3 police blockades, and noticed quite a lot of signposts with bullet holes in them. On arrival in Anogia we were quite delighted with the village and were made very welcome by all we met. The usual tourist wares were hanging in doorways and small shops selling oil,raki,and woven goods. The kafenion in the square was a delight and the locals were not impressed by a convoy of jeeps driving through and blasting horns. A village worth a visit and the drive up is very scenic. Oh and incidently the police presence is down to last year the village was raided and a large amount of marahuana siezed, but not before a gun battle had taken place between the villagers and the police!
Loutro, a small village located on the South side of Crete. No cars allowed. No streets. Just a pedestrian sidewalk stretching from the ferry debarkation point to the opposite side of the bay. Loutro, quiet star filled nights with the sound and smell of the ocean just outside your hotel window/balcony. There are several tavernas and hotels to chose from. To get there, you must pick up the ferry in either Chora Sfaki (Sfakia) or Paliohora. Or you can reach it by hiking the E4 trail.
Sitia is not really 'off the beaten track'. And it even has its own airport now (flights from mainland Greece) It is only that it is a less well known destination for tourists, which makes it amore interesting place to visit. Sitia makes a great base for the east side of the Island, and is an interesting destination in itself. The town falls down the hill to the bay and working harbour - very pretty and charming.
Places to visit/things to do: tthere's a venetain fort (now an open-air theatre), a good small archaeological museum, shopping in a warren of streets (a place to buy souvenirs both conventional and more unusual + groceries), have a shave with a cut-throat razor (my husband did, I didn't). There's beach though I haven't swum here. then you can feed the town's pelican - he hangs out at the harbour, of course. I hope he is still going strong - has been a few years since we visited!
And a great place to have a raki and mezehdes near the harbour and watch the volta. There's a big tourist - and local - restaurant called Zorba's right at the harbour - the food is good and there's sometimes local musicians playing inside. Thre is a huge choice of places both here and in the town itself and a nice Gyros place near the harbour for a snack.
Some really excellent 'rooms' places in Kondhilaki - I recommend Pension Venus
To see some lovely pictures of the town and read more about it, go to Natassa and Gianni's page (they live in Sitia - lucky people!)
The Jewish presence in Crete dates back to the 4th century BC.
While in Chania you can visit the Etz Hayyim Synagogue, a small piece of architecture and a huge piece of local history. It's a quiet place at Odos Kondylaki, very close to Halidon (sort of local Broadway huh).
Margarites, a small village very well know as its nice pottery.
Walking around we were thinking there were only pottery firms there.
The tourists come there every morning so the best time is in my opinion in the afternoon. During our trip there were no many people there so we could do nice pottery shopping in calm.
We have bought nice pieces of pottery in very good prices.
The people there were very nice. We stopped by the small shop where the old woman was a shop assistant. We have bought nice tea mugs and as a free gift we have got a nice pig-shaped salt cellar from this nice woman.
The whole village looks very nice as there are a lot of pieces of pottery on the houses' walls and it makes nice view.
Each and every Cretean town has its narrow passages. I could walk those streets endlessly. They all have that special atmosphere you won't find anywhere else. And believe me, the houses do not seem to be falling apart.
Kastelli Kissamos : a town that makes a good base for exploring the far north west of Crete. There is plenty for tourists to do, but little aimed obviously at tourists - that is the charm of the place. It has its own life and own pace.
There are a couple of good places to eat on, or near, the small central square including a very friendly kafenion. Wherever you go, try the delicious local red ('kokino') wine.
Shops, OTE and banks are all near the square.
Things to do:
1) take a peaceful walk from the town to an old harbour, passing rocks, shrines, little bays and wildflowers,
2) swim from the good sandy beach: not too crowded,
3) visit some wonderful Roman Mosaics, recently excavated,
4) make an excursion to the classical ruins at Polyrinia - a good walk or a bus ride away, or take longer trip to the beach at Falarsarna or up into the mountains.
5) shop : there were some interesting local shops selling olive wood bowls and utensils + an old fashioned shop that sold local produce including mountain herbs
The interkriti website below links to more information and the "Rough Guide" coverage (the book or the website) is good for food and accommodation tips. I always recommend the Rough Guide : it also has a good clear map of the town marking some of the places mentioned above.
Hora Sfakion is a coastal village located on the Southwestern coast of Crete, 70 km from the city of Chania and 150 km from Iraklion.
In its picturesque, enclosed harbor, the small boats from Agia Roumeli dock in the summer, bringing the hikers from the Samaria Gorge. Visitors can enjoy the quiet and calm of the village , on the seaside cafes and tavernas.
The 500 inhabitants are occupied mostly with fishing and sheep and goat raising, producing excellent cheese such as Anthotyros, mizithra, etc.
There are few hotels and rooms to rent, taverns with local food (local cheese pies "sfakianes pites" are recommended ) and bars.
Apart from the outstanding natural beauty of the indented rocky shoreline, Hora Sfakion is also worth visiting for the small Venetian fortress built there in 1526 as part of a defensive system of towers and fortresses later taken over by the Turks.
Traditional, rich-in-history mountain village, true Crete hospitality, good food, lively kafeneio-lined square, great base for Mount Psiloritis and Nida plateau.
The air is mountain-fresh, the local Raki and food genuinely good and usually made with local ingredients. If lamb is to your liking, the savoury aroma of it cooking at the tavernas in the lower part of the village, is tempting indeed. The square of Agios Georgios is a splendid exhibition of local life and a good place to stop for coffee, buy local cheese and visit the small church of the same name.
To appreciate Anogia, give it some time, walk, stop for coffee or drink, eat and allow any kindness or generosity that might be offered you, to quench the thirst for offering hospitality that is a hallmark of Crete and has its source it often seems, in Anogia.
Zakros is a village on the East coast of Crete: 800 habitants, aa good beach, a seaside lined with restaurants. It's also the finishing point to the hike of the Canyon of Zakros, of which we just caught a glimpse sice it was late in the afternoon and we had no time to back-hike through it. There's also a MInoan settlement - but you really need a lot of imagination to see what's all about - all the findings have been taken to the museum in Iraklio. Past this settlement, however, there's a nice stroll heading up to a tiny white church from which you can catch a glimpse of the beuatiful beach