Incredible Crete


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March 26th 2011
Published: March 26th 2011
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Thu 17....A rather dull and overcast day. Before moving on from our overnight spot by the beach at Makrigialos, we strolled along the seafront into what was actually quite a pleasant little area of fish tavernas and small shops. From there to the large town of Ierapetra which was heaving with people and traffic. We had hoped to hook up to electricity on the harbour again but in fact we drove in, drove round and drove out!

We carried on to Myrtos, which turned out to be a very pleasant, unspoilt little seaside village and cadged Internet from a Dutch owned B & B......friendly people who encouraged us to watch their excellent Greek video (www.mertiza.com......click on video, in two parts). Then off to explore the weird, deserted village of Kalami. Apparently in the 1980’s the villagers all had to move out because a dam/reservoir was to be built.....it never was and the rather spooky village remains as it was the day they moved out, save for 10 elderly people who refused to go...we saw 4 of them...all very friendly.

At Pygros we left the main road and drove through a series of lovely Greek villages, finally pulling up just outside of Dionissi for our overnight stop.

Fri 18.... Another dull day which had spatterings of rain now and again. Not a worry but a shame when the scenery is so good. We carried on tootling through the little villages to Festos (Phaistos-depending on which map you read), a magnificent hill top location with amazing views, being the site of a palace dating back to 2000 BC!!!! One could tell from the carpark that tour busses are catered for....but we had the place completely to ourselves. It was amazing to wander amid the ruins and try and visualize how life had been.

From there we drove on to Matala – famous in the 60’s for the cave-dwelling hippies, including Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens! Yes, a magnificent beach with the caves evident in the surrounding cliffs but being a very commercialised place with only two tourists (us!) the empty bars/restaurants felt rather gloomy in the overcast weather.

We found an open taverna for a fish lunch and on our stroll afterwards were accosted by Spiros (and two friends). Spiros owns one of the original bars on the cliff overlooking the beach. He persuaded us to join him in his cave/bar/home where we spent about 3 hours! Spiros is a musician and played us rock songs on his electric guitar made from a giant turtle shell, with a dodgy amp and speaker! We were strongly urged to partake in serious Raki drinking and share his fish lunch (heated in the microwave!). He also had a guitar on which J belted out a couple of Bob Dylan numbers to which everyone sang along.

We finally moved on....not far....to an isolated beach around the corner (Kommos) where we parked up for the night beside the beach. In strolling around before dark, we found another site of BC ruins only 20 yards away.

Sat 19....A fabulous bright blue day. We started by exploring another deserted archaeological site....Agia Triada (Minoan Summer Palace) re-built in 1,450BC!! We wandered around the Royal apartments overlooking the sea, the reception rooms and the attached village with its large town square, bordered by shops. There’s also a Byzantine chapel decorated with religious frescos....all amazing.

At about 1pm we eventually got to Agia Galini at the foot of a valley with the buildings stacked up on the hillside, leading down through narrow streets to the fishing harbour. Apparently this place is heaving in the season but for us it was pleasantly buzzing with locals. We parked up on the harbour and hooked up to the quayside electricity.

We explored the town after lunch and later had a wonderful dinner out, on a roof top terrace overlooking the bay. At the end of the evening we were invited to join a foursome of Scottish diners and knocked back far too many shots of Raki (won’t mention the singing of Scottish songs and dancing!)

Sun 20....Another glorious morning, only slightly marred by big arguments with the Coastguard officials about supposedly illegally parking overnight and using the electricity. A truce was reached and by mid-day we were on our way.

Negotiating some pretty hairy back roads, we found a deserted beach for a picnic lunch and an afternoon of sunbathing. We finally headed onwards and inland to the pleasant country town of Spili, where we have parked up (legally) for the night.

Mon 21....What changeable weather; overcast, cool and drizzly. We didn’t hurry, in the hope it would improve...it didn’t, so we had a wet walk around Spili, mooching around their supermarkets both to drool over certain products and turn our noses up at others. Fruit, veg and fresh meat are reasonably priced but otherwise it’s fairly expensive. Don’t think we’ve mentioned the price of fuel, which has shot up in the last couple of weeks, as it must have done in the UK. Libya is only just across the water from us ....maybe we should pop across and give Gadafi a piece of our minds but we can’t spare any! Also, English newspapers are extremely rare, so we’re well out of touch with the news. If a foreign newspaper is sold, it’s likely to be German as Crete is a favoured destination for them.

After lunch with the weather slightly brighter we headed for Moni Preveli, a lovely monastery, still inhabited by monks and set atop a hill with superb views. This monastery played a big part in helping allied forces escape the Germans in the war. It’s surprising how hospitable the Greeks are to the Germans nowadays, as they were particularly cruel to local Greeks, shooting 10 Cretans for every German soldier killed.

Anyway.......Our route to get there took us through the Kourfaliotika gorge with its monstrously steep sides, riddled with large caves and a river at the bottom. The number of rock-falls is a bit disconcerting but you just cross your fingers that a rock won’t smash the windscreen and swerve around the bigger chunks and boulders!

Having got there, we spent a couple of hours reading in the van...again waiting for better weather. There was not a soul around and eventually we explored this lovely monastery and would have walked down to the palm forested Preveli beach if it hadn’t been windy/drizzley.

Instead we carried on again along scenic zig-zaggy roads finally turning the corner to see the town of Plakias below in the bay....a bit of blue skies & sunshine would have greatly improved the view. This town, with its long stretch of sandy beach is apparently another popular tourist spot. Most of the bars are closed with a few owners painting and tidying up for the season.

The weather worsened and we took refuge in a cosy, enclosed waterfront bar and spent a couple of hours Internetting and drinking. By the time we headed back to the van the wind was howling and continued to do so all night!

Tue 22....It may have been a bright blue day in one direction but in the other (the mountains behind us), the skies were dark and misty and the extremely strong wind continued to blow. Since the wind rocks the van alarmingly at this level, we were not willing to risk driving back into the mountains, so stayed put for the day, taking one windy walk around the town. It’s really been quite pleasant in Hymie as the sun has shone all day and we have plenty of past-times to keep us amused. However as I write this at 8pm, there is no let up from the wind ...who knows about tomorrow!

Wed 23....Although the wind was still fearsome, the skies were much clearer and we decided to move on taking a windy, twisty scenic route around the base of the mountains, with many an interesting encounter through little villages with narrow, twisting streets, often made even less negotiable by Greek parking....Just pull up anywhere!

On the way we stopped at Frangokastello to admire the 12th century Venetian fort, a fabulous beach though not much of a town.....and onwards to Hora Sfakion. This is a great little place built around a pretty harbour....not much open but Niko’s, with a lovely sunny balcony overlooking the harbour served us a delicious lunch.

To walk it off we climbed up the steep path to a little shrine/chapel built into a mountain cave, where, being sheltered from the wind and with a magnificent view, we sunbathed for a while. Then another exploration to some Venetian castle hilltop ruins (they’re everywhere!), before moving Hymie into the boat harbour and, once we felt we were unobserved, hooked up to the electricity ‘til bedtime...........enjoying an episode of Shameless.

Thu 24....Today we crossed the island from south to north as there are no more roads to the west due to the huge mountain range. We started off with the Imbros Gorge and continued all the way through the mountains, passing through the lovely towns of Vrisses and then Vamos to end up on the northern coast at Kalives. The weather, certainly to begin with was reasonably clear and sunny. The scenery was terrific and whilst there were a few in-takings of breath at particularly strong gusts of wind, or exceptionally sharp bends with precipitous edges or dodging rock-falls and the odd herd of sheep/goats on the road......it was a great drive!

We have parked up by the beach, have taken a long walk around the town and have settled in for the night.

Fri 25....A bright blue day and sunny for our drive along the northern coast, skirting the main town of Chania, then back onto on ‘old’ road. Not hugely impressed though still interesting. The road takes you through a series of towns (resorts) with little or no space in between. The glimpses of the beach looked good and sandy but when we reached Maleme, a potential spot to slob on the beach for the day, with the weather being so good, the beach was pebble and the sea front was a string of closed tavernas. Today was a national holiday celebrating Greek independence......so hoping to find somewhere with a bit of real Greek life, we headed away from the beaches and inland on another road that links the north with the south.

Sure enough, at the first village of any size (Voukolies) the locals were out en masse. In the village square were crowds of people watching and listening to a group of mainly young men in traditional dress, with a couple of elderly priests with long beards.... singing robust Greek and presumably nationalist songs. Then the duo of musicians began to play and the dancing began. The young men were joined by the girls, also in traditional dress, performing a number of varied dances. We spotted a spare taverna table, with a good view and sat in the glorious sunshine drinking, watching and enjoying .....and eventually eating a delicious lunch of Gyros in pitta bread....just what we wanted!

We finally moved on heading south, passing through the pleasant town of Kandanos to Paleochora This charming place, also full of genuine Greek locals, is on a tiny peninsular with a pebble beach one side and a long stretch of sandy beach the other. We spent 2-3 hours on a long walk seeing all there was to see (including the inevitable ancient ruins of a castle) before moving the van to the deserted tip of the peninsular and settling in. If it’s a good day tomorrow, we plan to spend the day on the sandy beach......and, if it’s as warm as it was today, maybe venture into the sea!

Our Route (overnight stops in capital letters)
Since on MAKRIGIALOS on Wed 16 March......Ierapetra; Myrtos; Kalami; Ano Viannos; Pygros; DIONISSI
Perio; Pombia; Festos; Pitsidia; Matala; KOMMOS BEACH
Kamilari; Agio Triado; Festos; Timbaki; AGIA GALINI
Agios Georgios; Akournia; SPILI
Mixorouma; Kourfaliotika gorge; Kato Preveli; Moni Preveli; Lefkogia; PLAKIAS x 2
Sillia; Rodakino; Skaloti; Frangokestello; Vraskas; HORA SFAKION
Imbros; Petres; Vrisses; Vamos; KALIVES
Kalami; Vamvakopoulo; Gerani; Maleme; Voukolies; Floria; Kantanos; PALEOCHORA



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28th March 2011

It does indeed look fantastic
Hi Jane and Barry - glad to hear from you and the photos look great!
7th April 2011

like it!
l

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