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Crete getaway

August 4, 2015
Typical Greek Taverna. Hersonissos, Crete.

When you are working and working and working, especially in a country like Germany, at some point you feel that you need to get away, take a break in a completely different environment. This summer we decided to explore Greece, namely Crete. Crete is the biggest island of Greece, which carries very long and rich history. Already around 2500 BC thousand years ago Crete was inhabited by Minoan civilization. Minoans are known for their ancient scripts (writings), art of pottery and monumental buildings like Knossos Palace. This is the most famous palace and the one that remained in the bes condition in comparison to the others. To be honest, there is not much of it left, but according to the archives and archaeologists’ suggestions it was an outstanding building much ahead of it’s time. The myth tells about the Minotavr – a creature with the body of a man and a head of a bull. He used to leave in the labyrinths of Knossos and kill people that were trapped in these there. But a brave and savvy Theseus managed to trick Minotavr and kill him, hereby was released from the labyrinth.

Ruins of Knossos Palace, Crete.

During this era Crete was conquered by Romans, then Turks and only in 1898 the independent Cretan State was founded. Invaders left a mark on the history and culture of Greeks. Especially Romans introduced many inventions and novelties. Until now there is a strong connection between Greeks and Italians that is inferred in the quote: “Una faccia Una razza” (one face one race).

We spend 9 days on these beautiful island and managed to travel from the west to the east and from the north to the south. The itinerary shows the road map. The island is relatively small and the roads are relatively developed that gives a decent chance to drive around.

Crete has a lot to offer at least for a 10 days’ vacation.

We started from the western part. The first city was Chania. It is one of the oldest settlements and one of the biggest cities on the island. The Old Centre with its small and cosy streets, thousands of stores and restaurants has a lot to offer. If you stay in Chania it gives you an amazing opportunity to visit breath-taking beaches of Elafonisi and Balos and also go for a day hike in Samaria Gorge. The hike begins in Omalos, where you start to descend towards the South and in about 5-6 hours you reach a remote village – Agia Roumeli. In summer this small village receives thousands of exhausted tourists daily. They have lunch in the restaurants, relax on the beach in the afternoon and around 6 p.m. most of them take the ferry back. However if you want to feel yourself on an uninhibited island, stay over a night and in the morning you will enjoy an empty beach and a crystal-clear sea.

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Amazing view on Balos Lagoon, Western Crete.

The 4th hour of hiking in Samaria Gorge, Crete.

After this we started to move to the East. Having one night in the village called Bali (famous for the cleanest sea on Crete), we continued to Ag.Nikolaus. This town cannot brag about its beaches or historical sights, but it has a convenient location from where it is easy to drive to the south or to the east. Half an hour drive to Ierapetra and 1 hour boat trip from there brings you to paradise! Chrissi island is a little paradise, too bad that so many tourists want to visit it every day..

Blue horizon of Chrissi island, Crete.

One peculiar thing that we noticed – the west of the island is filled with Danish people. All the restaurants have Danish menus and you can hear the funny language around. Whereas the eastern Crete is crowded with Russians. I would say that 70% of all the people we saw there are Russian-speakers.

Speaking about the food, regardless of the part of the island, the food is delicious. Olive oil is, of course, a core of everything. I have never seen so many olive trees in my life! All of the traditional meals are made with olive oil. It was a bit of a challenge to choose a good olive oil to bring home. Also because there are so many types that it is easy to get confused. Fortunately, there are many food stores where you can get an advice of a specialist and try what you like. Moreover usually before the main meal in the restaurant they serve bread with oil. This is the second opportunity to discover a good oil!

Food choice was simple – we decided to stick to the seafood – every day we enjoyed grilled octopus, squid or other fish. In my opinion grilled is the best option, but you can always get fried seafood as well. One of the local recipes is octopus stewed in the red-vine sauce with grilled potatoes. Real jam!

Grilled Squid, Agia Roumeli, Crete.

Grilled Squid, Agia Roumeli, Crete.

Grilled Shrimps, Kissamos, Crete.

Grilled Shrimps, Kissamos, Crete.

Grilled octopus, Kissamos, Crete.

Grilled octopus, Kissamos, Crete.

On the other hand Greeks also eat meet. They have some tradition lamb meals – considering the number of goats on the island it is no surprise. There are recipes of baked lamb with honey, meals with chicken and once I even tried a rabbit. Another famous local meal is Musaka – this is a kind of Lasagna but with potatoes, aubergine and without pasta plates.

Musaka, Crete.

Musaka, Crete.

After food they always bring you some refreshment. It could be a watermelon or a small sweet desert, but always accompanied by Raki (local spirit). The hospitality is on the highest level and it is not too annoying – it is just right. I wish to come back to Greece again – there are so many island to explore.

Sunset in the mountains, Crete.