In the Easter holidays, i.e. the first 2 weeks of April 1998, Bill, Rory, Jens Peter and I spent 2 super weeks on Crete. Kim was originally going to come but would have missed getting into a course at university so Jens Peter came instead.
Bill, Kim and I first visited Crete in November 1978 when Kim was just 2 years old. Then we stayed in a big hotel complex, Creta Maris, in Chersonissos east of Heraklion. On that trip we concentrated on the eastern end of the island, visiting Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, the Lesithi plateau, Heraklion, Knossos, Gortys and Metala.
On this trip we decided to see the western half of Crete and to try to discover the real island, away from the big tourist hotels. So we rented a house in the small village of Neo Horia (New Town), south of Chania, in the foothills of the White Mountains. We were the only tourists in the village, the economy of which is based on farming olives and oranges. The house was a 200-year old, traditional Cretan house which had been beautifully renovated by the owners, Mrs. Fenareti and her husband. They now handle the bookings but we booked through a British company, Pure Crete, which helps the local people to renovate old houses as holiday homes and encourages and supports conservation programmes on Crete.
The first week, we depended on the bus and our hiking boots for getting around. Bill and I hiked to Kalives on the coast and back, about 8 km. We all hiked up into the hills to Ramni and saw farmers dumping tons of oranges down the hillside - the oranges were too large for EU standards! Another day we all hiked to Stilos, then along the Diktanos Gorge. Another walk took us to the towns of Nero Horia (Black Town) and Paidohori (Children's Town). We also took the bus into Chania, explored the market there, and had lunch in a restaurant on the harbour.
The second week we rented a car, which gave us a lot more freedom to travel farther afield. The bus system was too undependable. We drove to Hora Sfakion on the south coast and hiked west along the coast to Loutro, where we had lunch, then took the ferry back to Hora Sfakion. We drove south again to Imbros and hiked the Imbros Gorge (we were too early in the season to hike the Samaria Gorge; the danger of sudden floods is too high), then drove along the south coast eastwards to the Venetian fortress Frangokastello and on to the monastery Moni Preveli before turning northward for "home". Another day we drove to Knossos to visit the Minoan ruins, then south to Mt. Jouchtas to see the orchids and vultures. We visited the Minoan ruins at Phestos and Agia Triada, the Roman ruins at Gortys and the beach and caves at Metala, stopping at a Minoan necropolis near Rethymnon on the way back. Another trip took us to Kokkino Horio to see Roman-build wells, a Roman cemetery, a modern Cretan glassworks where the glass from old bottles was blown into lovely vases, decanters and glasses, and Aptera with its Minoan, Roman and Turkish ruins. We drove west from Chania to Kastelli, then inland to Sirikari where I dropped the fellows who hiked to the Minoan ruins at Polyrinia. Our last trip was around the Akrotiri peninsula north of Chania.
In springtime, Crete is covered by a carpet of flowers. Wildflowers bloom everywhere - along the roadsides, in the olive and orange groves, in the gorges and on the hillsides. Many flowers which grow wild on Crete are found elsewhere in gardens: gladioli, cyclamen, anemones, geraniums, grape hyacinths, iris and tulips, to name just a few. Then there are the wild orchids. There are several different types found on Crete: we found ophrys orchids which look like insects, serapias or long-lipped orchids, and many different members of the orchis family. I have made a sepaaarate orchid web site at http://orchids_crete.sherwoodonline.de. It is very difficult to identify the type of orchid since many are hybrids.
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November 19, 2013
©copyright 1998, 2004 Vicki Sherwood
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