A tale or two : Crete

The beach at Georgiopoulos

The beach at Georgiopoulos

So here it is- the final instalment!  I have so enjoyed sharing these memories with you, but I’m sure I’ve been wearing my rose tinted spectacles.

I remember vividly going into work on returning from Crete.  “How was it?  Did you see the rats?  We daren’t tell you before you went, in case it spoiled your holiday.”  I didn’t (thankfully), but was treated to lurid tales of them being rampant in Rethymnon harbour, and running over somebody’s foot!  I didn’t see a one, and neither did my normally very observant partner. (I hope!)

Rethymnon harbour and lighthouse

Rethymnon harbour and lighthouse

In spite of loving the Greek Islands, it had taken us a while to return.  You see, I’m fickle and the love affair with Italy had begun. Our small person loved pasta and Del Piero (a footballer with Juventus), and those were the days when he delighted in cheap copies of his hero’s shirt- now long gone!  But that’s a tale for another series.  Well, maybe.

Still, I hadn’t gotten Greece entirely out of my system (to this day!) and the Summer of 2000 saw us back there.  I had thought long and hard about our base, and was more than happy with Rethymnon.  The old town was almost entirely built by the Venetians, as was the Fortezza, one of the best preserved castles on Crete.  There was so much character, and the atmosphere in the harbour was wonderful, especially by night.

My favourite harbourside cafe

My favourite harbourside cafe

Cafe Soldini, or Spiro’s place as we tended to know it, was a favoured spot.  The waiters were attentive but joked among themselves, constantly having fun, even in the considerable heat.  Who knows if it’s there still!

With just two weeks, I had a full itinerary.  Holidays with me are never purely restful.  So, off we went, bus hopping to Chania, a lovely mix of Venetian and Ottoman influences.  Well, yes, touristy, but so pretty, that you could see why.  The discovery that you could still buy cheap footie shirts in Chania made the place barely just tolerable by James’ standards.  Oh, and the mega chocolate icecream sundaes in the harbourside cafes!

Did you ever see a more elegant creature?

Did you ever see a more elegant creature?

The lovely harbour at Chania

The lovely harbour at Chania

A coach trip next, to view some of the superb Cretan landscape.  It being the largest of the Greek Islands, I knew I could only skim the surface.  Perhaps climb the heights is a better description because Crete has no shortage of mountains.  Heading west to Vryses (meaning fountains) it was up and over the green plateau, skirting the Imbros Gorge.  Wildflowers speckled the green carpet, while overhead hawks and eagles patrolled the skies.

Dropping slowly down to the coast, Frangokastello awaited.  A ruined castle, solid and square in yellow stone, sat almost upon the beach.  Beyond lay the pearliest of blues, shallow water, and I had my first ever paddle in the Libyan Sea.  Never have I been so reluctant to return to a coach, but it was on to nearby Sfakia and the “restored” castle in miniature.

Refreshments at Sfakia

Refreshments at Sfakia

When we alighted at Plakias I wanted to do a Shirley Valentine.  Michael had an urgent mission to find batteries for the camera, so I daydreamed a while.

Plakias looks across a lovely bay

Plakias looks across a lovely bay

The way home took us through the Clapping Gorge, named for the sound of the wind echoing through it.  Not many people left the coach to descend the endless steps to the chapel and springs, but… well, you know I just had to.  And the following day when the boys opted to laze by the pool, I signed up to join a walking tour.

A morning stroll, I described it to Michael.  Wrong!  It turned out to be a 2 hour hike, lunch in a taverna, then back again, via a monastery.  I had dressed in trousers, determined not to be inappropriately dressed again, and I was soon melting.  Shade, some water and a Greek coffee were much appreciated, served by smiling nuns, whose home was still being restored.  I had little money with me, but bought a small paperweight to contribute to the building fund.

The path continued beneath beautiful cliffs, alight with yellow gorse.  I didn’t have a mobile phone, so couldn’t let Michael know that my stroll was in fact a day out!  Despite a mild sense of guilt I was enjoying myself enormously.  Our guide, Raoul, was highly informative, and the wine flowed when we stopped for lunch.  Raoul looked every inch the proud Cretan, but I’d got that wrong too.  When he couldn’t remember the Greek word for cucumber, it transpired that he was in fact a German ex-pat.

Eventually I arrived back at the pool, more than happy to flop into the water.  Michael got his own back because that evening we were Greek dancing.

Oh, my aching feet!

Oh, my aching feet!

The one thing we absolutely had to do on our trip to Crete was to visit the palace of Knossos, archaelogical site of the Minoan civilisation.  The legend of the Minotaur and the fact that the Minoans were decimated by the volcanic eruption of Santorini in 1420 I found fascinating.  There are many details in my link to Wikipedia.

Reconstructed palace remains at Knossos

Reconstructed palace remains at Knossos

The frescoes

The frescoes

Such lovely colours

Such lovely colours

The other “must” was to walk the Samaria Gorge.  James was old enough to quite enjoy the challenge, and it felt quite an exciting thing to do.  An early start took us across the island to Sfakia on the south coast to embark.

Boarding for the Samaria Gorge

Boarding for the Samaria Gorge

The approach to the gorge

The approach to the gorge

Landing!

Landing!

Through the Gorge

Through the mighty Gorge

The River Tara running along the bottom of the Gorge makes it a magical place.  Frequently you hop across the river on wooden log bridges, or strategically placed stones. Drinking lots of water is a must.  Despite the people passing through, nature is fully in control in this gorge.

Can't go to Greece without meeting a goat or two

Can’t go to Greece without meeting a goat or two

Or a reminder of the hard battles fought here

Or a reminder of the hard battles fought here

I didn’t realise when I started this post how long it would be.  I did say it was a big island, and I did my best to cover some ground.  I haven’t yet told you about lovely Georgiopoulos, the lead photo right back where we began.  Maybe I don’t need to.  I hope that it’s unspoilt and beautiful still.

We had a wonderful holiday, with charming people.  I hope I have not bored you with my rambles.  I’ll say goodbye to Greece properly with one last sunset.

Rethymnon beach at sundown.

Rethymnon beach at sundown.

Maybe, just one more!  Goodbye Greece.

Maybe, just one more! Goodbye Greece.

89 comments

  1. A great post Jo. We have been to Crete many times and will surely go again. The first time we went, it was to Plakias and we hired a motorbike to get around. We were nearly blown off on a number of occasions as we rounded corners into one of the ‘gorges’. It is a great island.

    1. Thank you! That south side of the island looked amazing, though we didn’t see too much. I could happily have been left behind in Plakias or Frankocastello. 🙂

  2. What an interesting post evoking memories from this big island. We stayed in Agios Nikolaos and from there we rode the scooter around the island many years ago. Did You walk thru the Samaria Gorge, we did not?

  3. The Greek islands used to be one of my favourite spots for vacations. But just like for you I got lost in other places or lost for time. Crete is definitely a lovely island. After seeing your wonderfully pictures I want to go back again. Maybe I should take a month and just go island jumping with my kids before they are too old to want to go with me any more.

    1. That’s a good idea! Part of our reason to buy a home in Portugal was that our son no longer wished to tail around the world with us. (or not to the places we wanted to go) Many thanks for your kind comments. 🙂

  4. Living in England its so much easier for you to hop over to Europe for a few days. From the west coast of the US its a very long plane trip to Europe so we don’t get there as often. We take weekend jaunts to San Fran or the desert…

    Your trip sounds wonderful. How fun that you joined a walk that turned out to be a full day’s hike with wine for lunch – that’s the magic and charm of Greece What a the lovely photo of you with the long legs! woohoo!

    1. Thanks, Rosie! There are acres and acres of Asia and America that I will never see except through blogs and my lovely online friends. I struggle to accept that, but it’s a fact. I would love to travel more but I have a very reluctant partner and financial constraints, so the local walks and the memory trips feed me between travels. 🙂

  5. I am mesmerized by each and every photo.. A place of many dreams and adventures. Love it all! I hope one day I got to see something similar and be a part of its beautiful tale. Thanks.

    1. It’s only when I look back like this that I see what lovely times I’ve had in my life. As with yours, much of it is mundane, but don’t we love to make memories? Many thanks for your encouragement.(and the much appreciated tweet) 🙂

  6. Ah that brings back some 30-year-old memories, Chania, Rethymnon, Knosses and Heraklion. We went in December and it seemed to rain which left us holed up in a quiet hotel on the north coast drinking bottles of red wine in the room.

    Christmas Eve we spent in Heraklion and our Christmas meal was a tin of spam!

    The sleazy owner of the cheapo place hit on us and took us out, but when he got no joy from us he moved on to a couple of American women.

    Always wanted to do the Samaria Gorge but never got round to it, so well done you.

  7. There’s something very special about digging out old holiday pics and reminiscing 🙂
    What is that goat wearing? surely it wasn’t tethered by its feet?
    The only island I’ve been to was Corfu, a last minute booking to a unknown destination LOL. The villa was amazing, but the location certainly wasn’t my cup of tea, though it did suit my two teenage (then) daughters.
    We escaped to the north of the island most days.

    1. What the well-dressed Cretan goat wore in those days, Vicky? Looks like a knapsack, and yes it was tethered by it’s back legs. They do have a tendency to get everywhere so the owner must’ve got sick of it eating everything. It looked well enough cared for though. 🙂

    1. I thought the rats thing must be a joke, Ruth, but I believe they were serious. It was a good while ago so maybe they’ve adressed any problem, but I definitely didn’t see them. Phew!
      Apart from Athens, which we didn’t do justice because of the lost handbag, I don’t think I’d go back, Ruth. Memories are special things, but aside from that there are over 150 inhabited Greek Islands so I should be able to find one or two I’ve not been to. Poros, Hydra and Spetses near the mainland appeal and Milos and Folegandros which are harder to get to. Our money is tied up these days so it’s not so likely. Poland and Portugal in the next month. 🙂
      P. S. sorry- too many details!

      1. Oh, I loved Portugal! Can’t wait to read your posts from there. Poland is also on my list…maybe next year or the year after. I’m thinking of a train trip that also includes Lithuania so that I can visit the homelands of both of my parents.

        So many Greek islands, so little time. 😉

      2. The train trip sounds a great idea! My Polish trip will be all about family.
        My personal A-Z Of Portugal series has quite a few posts in already, Ruth, but there’s always room for more. 🙂

  8. Lovely to go back through the travel memories and hear about some of your past trips, I would love to see more of Greece sometime, I’ve only done a trip to Rhodes and there is so much to see out there.

    1. Are you back from the States, Lucy? Can’t be 3 weeks up already! So much everywhere to see, hon, but you’re doing your very best. Don’t go telling me about that honeymoon trip again! 🙂

    1. Many thanks for your time, Scott. Yes, it’s an island of great contrasts. Lots of opportunities for your camera. I brought back some stunning postcards in case the photos didn’t come out. 🙂

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