Crete - East side and Rethymnon

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May 10th 2015
Published: May 14th 2015
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We stayed at the Cambridge Hotel in Horley the night before we flew as our flight was at 8.15am.

The flight was delayed by 2 hours as the windscreen wipers on the plane were broken and as it was drizzly rain in Gatwick, they couldn’t see to take off!! So after taxing down to the runway for take-off – we then had to taxi back to the stand where the little problem was fixed! We then had to wait for more fuel (due to all the taxing around!!) before waiting for another slot for take-off!!

Anyway, he made up time flying and we arrived in Crete about 3.00pm. An hour and a half transfer to Rethymnon and onto our Hotel Astali in the town. The hotel is run by a very friendly Mother with her two cheerful sons, that go out of their way to help you. We are about 5mins walk from the beach and although our room is quite small, we can see the sea!! Wifi is available in the room (always a bonus!!) and appears to be everywhere on Crete…including wifi on the beach!! Rethymnon is a fabulous place that we explored the next day – it’s got a lovely Venetian harbour adorned with wall to wall restaurants (bit of a rip off though, so not recommended to eat there!!) , an old Fort which is massive and loads of old streets with lovely little bars, restaurants, courtyards and squares. The food seems quite cheap and we tend to have a ‘Gyro’ for lunch, which is basically pork or chicken with chips and salad, wrapped in a pitta bread, and all for 2.50 euros!! We had some really good evening meals and some good fun with the waiters and excess grandmothers home made wine and raki!! (George at Vassalos Taverna in the old town!!) Highly recommended is Melody Garden in the Old Town! Excellent food and plenty of raki!

We did the Big Red Bus Tour the next day (12 Euros each) which went up to the Mili Gorge that we were keen to walk. It’s been named Mili after all the abandoned flour mills. It was a beautiful walk, that took about 3 ½ hrs to walk at a leisurely pace down to the bottom and back up again including our stop at the ‘Banana Canteen’ at the bottom before the little village. Unique experience, with the café being run by a couple of Ukranians, chickens running about, an outside fish tank – it was almost as though we were sat in their outside dining room with cabinets and shelves with ornaments!! Oh – and a lovely, friendly little dog aptly named Banana!! Had a ‘special’ omelette that was very yellow and very good value for 4 euros, and we were then treated to a pudding of greek yoghurt with honey! Delicious! We then took the big bus on to our next stop – one of the oldest nunneries in Crete, Agia Irini. Pretty gardens, with plenty of nuns floating about and to show us around. We had to don a yellow sari to cover ourselves (Chris chose a blue one and wore it as a skirt!!! Also, coincidentally, it was the Day of St Irene on the 5th May, so the Nuns had had a big celebration in the morning which is why the church was adorned in flowers! She also showed us the cave where a single monk lived in the 9thC AD before the Monastery was restored. After the obligatory shopping in their ‘All hand Made’ gift shop we walked back to the forgettable village of Roussospiti, where we had a wander around before getting the bus back to Rethymnon. We didn’t do the War Museum but spoke to people that had and who said it was very moving! Crete was invaded by the Germans in 1945 and it took just 10days for them to take over the island……..Mmmmm

The next day we had a trip planned to the East of the island (32 euros each) with a Local Travel Agent (Spiridon Tourist Travel near Tourist Information on sea front) who were due to pick us up at 7.35! 15mins late but, after picking up from other hotels we were on our way to our first stop at Heraklion! We didn’t actually want to do the archaeological museum, so we had a quick run around of the town, saw a 16th C fountain before going down to the working harbour and the 16thC Veniatian Fort Koules, completing our round trip via the old city walls and St Georges Gate! Ran around the museum for 10mins – lots of pots and old things!! All in all though, quite a nice place!

On to Agios Nickolaos, where we had an hour stop and another quick wander around the harbour and Lake Voulismeni, the bottomless lake where Athena is said to have bathed and the Germans dumped all their war instruments after the 2nd World War. Onto Elounda where we had to get the boat out to Spinalonga, an island with a fascinating history! First it was in Venetian possession, before the Muslinms settled on it in 1715 until 1903 when the Cretian State established and housed a leper colony on the island that was not closed until 1957. Hundreds of lepers, from all over Greece, were sent to the island and then forbidden to leave, so they were forced to try and live ordinary lives, getting married, having children and building a community. There are many remains of the derelict buildings and the whole island has quite a poignant feel to it. Walked right around the island and also climbed to the top for some amazing views. Our last stop was the Palace of Knossos dating back to 1900BC! It was the hub of Cretes Minoan Civilisation and where the fearsome Minotaur was said to lurk in the labrynth. Chris really wanted to go – I wasn’t too bothered! As it turned out, it was better than what I thought, it being just a vast extensive ruin. Parts of it had been renovated to show what the old Palace would have looked like in 657BC but as it had been renovated in the 17thC and the old original buildings had been incorporated into the renovations, it came across as a bit of a mish mash!! I still think it’s worth a visit – just don’t expect too much!!

Anyway, a long days sightseeing and we eventually got back to Rethymnon about 20.00pm.

On another day we caught the bus from the Bus Station (20 minute walk from or hotel) to Agia Galini passing through Spili! (6 euros each person each way). It took about 1hr 15mins but was a very pretty journey with snow capped mountains on the south coast, pretty villages and valleys. Agia Galini is also very pretty hugging the mountainside like an amphitheatre, adorned with masses of bouganvilla, and cats everywhere!! Plenty of restaurants and bars as well as a harbour and a beach to walk along the coast to. Had an excellent, enjoyable day there although I was a bit worried about the three kittens we discovered living in a box that hadn’t yet been weaned and no sign of the mother cat!! We left them some omelette and water but they really didn’t have a clue – just stumbled around on their wobbly legs meowing pitifully!

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