Crete Diary

October 2007
Deutsche Version
Oct 14.
Flight from Stuttgart to Heraklion

We left in Simmozheim at 12:30 pm with the best sunny antumn weather and went by suburban train to Stuttgart airport. Checking in was as fast as never before, just throw the suitcases off and showing the identity cards, was dione in five minutes. The flight departed in time at 4:25 pm, and we had grad views of the Alps and the Croatian coast during the flight. When flying over Greece we got some clouds, but the sun had set anyway by then. We landed in Crete after 2 1/2 hours flight,... in the rain! We got our baggage early and then had to go to our rental rental car through the pouring rain. But we got a upgrade one class higher, a Toyota Auris. A very good car, very convenient and agile, good for the bad and narrow cretan roads. Then we drove to a hotel for the first night some 20 km through the rainy night, wasn't easy to find, but we finally did it! The hotel "Arolithos" was a very nice idea, designing a resort like a old greek village, but it had seen better days. Rain was seeping through the sealing (luckily not over the beds) and one bed wasn't "inhabitable" because of springs of the matress sticking up. So Sonja moved to another bed, fortunately there were four in the room.

The Alps
Our Room in " Arolithos"






Oct 15.
By Car from Heraklion to Melidoni

We haven't slept so well, because of the uncomfortable beds, the thunderstorm and the rain. Breakfast was nothing special, and so we packed our things and hit the road before 10 am. We drove on the "new road" west to Rethymno. In this city we tried to find a supermarket for buying supplies for the week. The first try failed in the street labyrinth of Rethymnos old town. So we turned back and made it somehow back to the main road. But on the next turnoff we saw the sign "Lidl" (a german supermarket chain) and they even had a proper car-park! So we finally got our supplies. Then back on the main road to the west. We had detailed directions how to find our holiday house, but the greek road signs (in greek font) were hard to read, so we noticed that we had gone too far only 2 turnoffs too late. But we turned and drove on the winding "old road" back to Agioi Pantes, and there we found a sign directing to Melidoni (in latin fonts!). We drove up a steep and winding mountain road and finally arrived at "Stratos Villas", our home for the next 2 weeks. Nikos already waited and showed us everything. He showed in the real meaning of the word, because he didn't speak anything else than greek, and our greek consisted of some 3 words: "thank you", "hello" and "i don't speak greek". The house is as we imagined it: a snugly quarrystone house with a breathtaking view. Everything is new and clean, and the beds are also good. After unpacking the car we had lunch, coffe and cake. It was still raining, so we took it easy. In the afternoon the rain stopped and we made a short walk through the near village. The village is so small, that we were back in half an hour. In the evening we cooked dinner: "Pasta alla casa", pasta with greenland prawns and tomato sauce. Not very greek, but at least the wine was a greek cabernet sauvignon syrah.

Very romantic, but had seen better days: Hotel Arolithos
Our holiday house in Melidoni: Kitchen / living room
Upstairs bedroom
The door lock is solid craftsmanship












Oct 16.


Ausflug nach Chania

We slept very well this night, it was very quiet, you could only hear sometimes a sheep's bell ring. The weather was a little bit overcast, but no rain. After breakfast we drove to Chania, 35km away. Its the second biggest city in Crete, with 53000 inhabitants and typical chaotic greek traffic: narrow streets, cars parking everywhere, also in second row, big trucks and buses coming against you, and scooters buzzing around everywhere. After getting lost and finding the way again we landed roughly in the area where we wanted to go to. We found a parking spot only 300m from the market hall, which is a amazing building from 1913. We strolled through the old town, where we bought post cards and a leather belt for Karl, then to the venetian harbour, and then back to the market hall. There we bought all the delicious local produce: olives, sheeps- and goats cheese, bread, nibblies, tomato, peppers, grapes and pears, also olive oil soap and a cutting board made of olive wood as souvenirs. We had lunch in one of the fish booths at the market: pilchards, squids and eggplants form the barbecue, very nice! Then we went, loaded with all our bags back to the car and drove by the same procedure (getting lost and finding the way again) back home. After having coffee we recovered from the hard day on the sunloungers at the pool (in jeans and fleece, it was quite cool) and enjoyed the view. In the evening i managed to light a fire with the hard olive wood. So we had it warm for a romantic dinner in front of the fireplace with all the goodies from the market, and also for writing some postcards afterwards.

The harbour of Chania
Market hall
Rabbits in Ugg boots
Creative shop front
Dinner at the fireplace
Our holiday house
View from the balcony
Sheep behind the house











Oct 17.


Trip to the beach at Georgioupoli

This morning we finally got blue sky! We drove on the old road with no hurry to Georgioupoli at the sea. At the town entrance is a wonderful gum tree alley, we felt like being in Australia! Georgioupoli is very touristy, but we had low season, there were not many guests there, so it wasn't too bad. We did a walk at the beach, which is very nice landscape, sand and water, you just have to overlook all the plastic garbage lying around (thats Greece, sorry!). After the walk we went swimming, the water had just the right temperature (24°C). For lunch we looked in town for a restaurant our guidebook recommends, and we found it after driving several times around the town, but it was already closed for the season. Now we had to use our instincts, we chose a tavern not with a view to the sea, but to the main crossroads of the town. At 1pm there were no other guests around (greek people have their lunch not before 2pm), but we took the risk! And we were lucky, we got good crete food: Karl had really nice gyros, not from minced meat, but from good fat pork slices. And Sonjas moussaka must have been in the oven since the morning and was very tasty and soft. After being stuffed like that for only 15 Euro, we drove back and enjoyed the sun and the peace at our pool. Karl even jumped into the water, but with only 19°C water temperature there was only energy for 2 rounds. It was a perfect day!

We forgot to tell how you buy wine in Crete: There is a big barrelwith local made wine in the supermarket, and a shelf with empty plastic bottles next to it. You fill the bottle by your own, and pay only 2.50 for it. Karl liked it, Sonja preferred the californian stuff.

Georgoupoli: Gumtree alley

The beach, with the white montains in the background
Great water
Greek dinner: bread, wine and cheese







Oct 18.


Trip to Falassarna

Today we did a trip to the far west. On the main road past Chania to Kissamos, then over a hill to Falassarna, where there should be ruins of an ancient harbour. We follow the signs on a gravel road, which got so bad after a time, that we turned back. We tried to reach the ruins by foot, but ended up on a rubbish dump. But we don't give in so early, we went on the gravel road again, and only 50 meters behind our last turning point was the car park of "Ancient Falassarna". Here was a important harbour 2400years ago. Today the harbour is dry, it was lifted up 6m by an earthquake and couldn't be used anymore. You could still see some remnants of walls and the ancient quarry, and the surrounding landscape is very beautiful.

Then we went to the beach, which is the most beautiful we saw on Crete, fine sand and clear, turquoise water. It wasn't windy and there was no surf, it was ideal for swimming! Then we got hungry and we drove back to Kissamos, looking for a fish tavern at the harbour, recommended by our guidebook. We ordered "mixed fish". What we got was one sort of fish, very bony, but it tasted alright. Later when we drove back through Kissamos, we saw that there is another harbour with more fish taverns, that must be the ones that our guidebook meant. Murphs law has hit again!

Falassarna bay
2400 years old ruins
The "caribbean beach"
The winding road to Melidoni
Chapel beside the road
View from Melidoni road











Oct 19.


Trip to Akrotiri peninsula,

Agia Triada monastery, hike to the sea

Today we visited the Akrotiri penisula near Chania. We found the way this time at first go and arrived before the first buses at our first destination, the Agia Triada monastery. So we had there a few minutes for ourselves to enjoy the tranquility. In the monastery shop we bought some bottles of the famous olive oil for us and as a gift. Then we drove further into the hills on a narrow and winding road to Gouverneto monastery. Thats the start for our hike. We went downhill on a steep pilgrim's path and stairway into a gorge. There is a cave and the ruins of the Katholiko monastery, which was abandoned 400 years ago. It was nobody there except us at this magical place, and the only sound was the singing of the birds. From there we went forther through a narrow gorge which opens after many bends to the sea. A ship far out at the sea is the only sign of civilisation, and we are only 20 km from the city of Chania at this quiet place. Only when we went back we mat some other hikers. The next stop after our hike was Stavros, a small village at the sea. It is famous because the movie "Zorba the Greek" was shot here in 1964 (we looked it again, when were back, a real great movie). After lunch in Stavros (nice view, average food) we drove back up to Melidoni.

The church in Agia Triada
Tranquility before the tourist storm
The pilgrim's path to Katholiko
and further through the gorge
to the sea
From this trees comes the famous olive oil of Agia Triada













Oct 20.


Shopping in Vrysses

Trip to Aptera

It rained all night long, but after breakfast it stopped. We drive to the next small town, Vrysses for saturday shopping: Goat's cheese, sheep yoghurt, real good bread and a sort of brioche at the bakery, and at the pastry shop next door some sweet temptations, and in the supermarket some vegies for dinner. Vrysses has lots of small shops for everything and at least five hairdressers.. In the taverns are already rabbits and chickens turning at the spits over the charcoals, at 10am! After bringing our shopping home, the weather was alright and so we made a trip to the ruins of a antique city nearby.

Aptera was founded on a hill with a great view over the Souda bay around 700 B.C. We saw impressive ruins from the time of the romans (app. 100 B.C.). The giant cisterns for the many bath houses were well preserved, and there are also parts of the once 4 km long city walls to see. Again rain was coming, so we left and spent the rest of the day at home, cooking and warming ourselves at fire .

Sweet temptation
The ruins of Aptera
Roman cistern
Ruins of the city gates







Oct 21.


Hiking in the White Mountains

Although it had still rained in the night, in the morning we had bright blue sky. We decided to hike in the mountains today. The start of the hike is the upper end of the famous Samaria gorge. It's only 21 km linear distance, but 70 km with the car to drive there. We drove past Chania to Fournas, and up through orange orchards to the pictoresque village of Lakki. Then the road winds in narrow hairpin bends up in the mountains, with beautiful views of land and sea. Finally we reached the 1050m high Omalos plains. To this place retreated the resistance fighters against the various occupying forces during Cretes changeful history, because it was so easy to defend. Then we reached the Xiloskalo-hut at end of the road at the Samaria gorge. But we didn't hike the gorge, it's 15 km and 1200m down one way, and the way back goes along the coast by boat and then in a 120km loop back to the car! So we took off on the path to the Gingilos peak (2080m). For the peak we were already a little late, our destination was a saddle at 1600m, where you could look south to the sea. The first part of the path were steep stony switchbacks, and the path was partly washed away, very strenuous! Further up it got better, and the weather was fantastic, we enjoyed unforgettable views to the samaria gorge and the white mountains. Bizar crippled pines and rock pillars can be seen in this wild landscape, and once the path goes under a natural bridge. Sonja is feeling not too well, so we stopped at 1500m, had some nibblies there and go back. That was a lucky decision, because 100m from the hut Sonja loses the sole of one of her shoes. We had lunch at the hut: Lamb chops from the charcoal barbecue and greek salad, very good! Then we headed off on the log drive home.

The road to the Omalos plains
Path to Gingilos
Crippled pine
View to the Samaria gorge
Wild mountains
Steep hairpin bends











Oct 22.


Ausflug nach Rethymno

In the night came a strom, Karl had to get up and close the banging wooden shutters, otherwise we couldn't even think of sleeping. In the morning the weather changed every ten minutes between sun and rain. Thats why we decided to visit Rethymno, a old city east of us. First we went to a shoe shop looking for replacement for Sonja's busted hiking boots, and we found some for only 50 Euro which were alright. Now well equipped again we strolled in the rain through the picturesque alleyways of Rethymo. You see a wild mixture of old and new, of decayed and beautifully renovated buildings. Very special are the venetian portals, gates and doors you could see all over the place. Then we visited the fortress, and the rain stops, so we had a nice view over the roofs of the old town. Now it was nearly 2pm and we were hungry. This time we had lunch in a higher class restaurant, th "Avli". We had cretan pastries, filled with goats cheese and herbs as a starter, goatling in tomato sauce and lamb skewers with vegies and pita bread as main course,and finally a strong greek coffee. Then we walked again through the alleys which were even more beautiful in the sun.

Narrow alleys
Fortress of Rethymno
How the bloody hell that car came on the roof?
Doors and portals in Rethymno












Oct 23.


Ausflug nach Chania

Tonight it rained too, and and it didn't look better after breakfast, so what could we do? Visit a museum! In Chania is a good archeologocal museum, so we drove to Chania again. The second time we made our way through the chaos of the traffic better than last time and found the right carpark at the harbour at first go. And when we hardly left the car, the sun came out and the rain jacket was getting too warm. We strolled along the harbour to the museum. That is really worth to see, there are findings from the Bronze age, the Minoan age, the Hellenic age to the romans: clay vessels, bronze tools, golden jewellery, marble statues, mosaics and much more. The findings are all from excavations in western Crete like Chania, Aptera and Lissos. We spent several hours in the museum. Then we had lunch at "Dino's" at the harbour. We tried another "mixed fish" dish and this time it was't a disappointment: Shrimps, squids, pilchards, tuna , swordfish and more sorts of fish are on the plate, and we had a good greek salad, bread and a local white wine with it. We worked through all this wonderful food under the watchful eyes of some five cats hanging around our table. But we don't feed the wildlife! After all that we weren't able for more activities, and so we drove home (without getting lost!). There we needed a schnapps (ouzo) and stayed the rest of the day on the sunlounges at the pool. The water had already 21°C, so Karl swam a few rounds more than last time.

It's still running !
Cat's paradise
Venetian harbour in Chania
In the archeological museum of Chania
with spectators

















Oct 24.


Tour to the south coast at Chora Sfakion, Frangokastello.

Hiking in the Imbros gorge

Although the weather was cloudy, we planned a tour to the south coast. On a well developed road we drove up to a high plain (800m) and then in many hairpins on less good roads down to the sea again. You had to watch out for rocks on the road or the grandmother of all potholes lurking behind the next bend. In Komitades, nearly down on sea level. we parked the car, and hiked the Imbros gorge. That's the little sister of the Samaria gorge, easier to access, not so deep and not so strenouos. Nevertheless very beautiful! We walked up half the way (app. 300 m in height), where we rested and had some nuts and crackers, watched by a nosy goat, who also wanted her share. After hiking back we drove the short distance to the harbour of Chora Sfakion. The boats from the lower end of the Samaria gorge arrive here and the people are then loaded on buses back to the north coast. But around noon it's very quiet. In a tavern at the sea we ate a local speciality: Warm pita bread filled with sheeps cream cheese, served with honey, very nice! Then we drove a short distance to the east, to Frangokastello. That is a old venetian fortress and was the site of a heroic combat against the turkish occupants. Actually we planned to swim at Frangokastello, but there was a strong wind, and the beach wasn't so inviting. So we hit the road, crossed the Island back again and Karl hopped into the pool instead. Slowly he got used to the temperature!

Hairpin bends down to the sea
Imbros gorge
Nosy goats
The narrowest part of the gorge
Chora Sfakion
Village near Frangokastello












Oct 25.


Round trip through the "Far West"

Today we had magnificient weather, so we explored the "wild west" of Crete. We drove on the maiin road nearly to Kissamos, there we tiurned off to the south into the mountains. On scenic roads it goes through orange and olive groves, through chestnut woods and villages with odd names like "Voulgaro", "Topolia", "Elos" and "Pappadiana". The nearer we came to the west coast, the more barren is the landscape. High over the coast the road turns to the north again and finally we came after numerous bends to Falassarna. Here, at our favorite beach, we stay for 2 hours, swimming and basking in the sun. The sunshade we brought from the house, is broken, so we had to be careful an moved on. In Kissamos we found this time the right harbour with the good fish taverns, and lunch was very tasty: pastries filled with herbs, grilled eggplant, deepfried squids and pilchards, and a local white wine with it. Then on the fast road back home. Today even Sonja hopped into the pool, despite it wasn't warmer than the days before, guess that's because of the wine!

Mountain village
West coast
Church with a view
The harbour of Kissamos











Oct 26.


Trip to the beach at Georgioupoli

Today we take it easy. We drive to Georgioupoli to the next beach. During the mandatory beach walk Karl noticed, that there were seakayaka for hire at one of the hotels. After swimming (today the water is wonderful clear, no wind no surf) he took one and paddled over the bay to the cliffs. Although it was quite deep you could see the ground all the time, so clean is the water. For lunch we went to the tavern at the crossroads again, they have really the world's best moussaka! No wonder: Mama Eleni is cooking there. The rest of the day we were lazy at the pool.


Oct 27.


To Georgioupoli and Vrysses

Saturday: In the morning the same agenda as yesterday: swimming and basking at the beach in Georgioupoli. But for lunch we drove to Vrysses. We had noticed already last weekend, that the barbecues are started early in the morning. we went to one of the restaurants at the bridge and sat very romantically under sycamore trees at the river. The entertainment program was a duck ballet on the river and a predatory cat's gang araund our table. The food was great again: Eggplant salad, pastries filled with herbs, chicken and pork from the charcoal barbecue. After red wine and raki (greek schnapps) with lunch, Karl was glad that he could take the back road home. We had a lazy afternoon at the pool, and in the evening we drove to cape Drapano, to see the sunset at the lighthouse.

Scorpion in the kitchen
Sunset at Cape Drapano







Oct 28.

From Melidoni via Festos to Heraklion

Flight back to Stuttgart

Departure day! Our flight left only at 9:15 pm, so we had the whole day for activities. Because of the daylight saving adjustment that day, we are already up at 7 am and ready to go at 9:30. In Rethymno we turned off towards the south coast. there was a deviation in Spili across a carpark, and lots of nicely dressed people around the place and only then it came to us, that today is the Greek national holiday. Our destination today are two important excavations of the minoan age: Agia Triada and Festos. First we visited Agia Triada. The road there is quite rough: first through a dry river crossing, then up a steep concrete ramp, and then a gravel road. As we finally arrived, we were pleased, that only a few people were there. There is a beautiful view from Agia Triada to the sea, there are hardly any fences, and you could roam around the ruins as you like. It was a great feeling walking over 3500 years old pavement and stairways. We had our lunch under giant old pines with a view to the ruins and the sea. Bread, cheese, water and wine, like the people 3500 years ago, only the plastic bottle for the wine and the chocolate bar don't fit in the image. After that we drove on a narrow bitumen road 3 km to Festos. Those were twin cities, Agia Triada the commercial centre with a orientation to the sea, and Festos the King's palace and religuios centre with orientation to the fertile Messara plains. It wasn't busy in Festos too, and admission was free because of the national holiday. Festos was even more spacious with wide plazas and broad stairways. We inspected everything closely, but when we're finished, it was still only 2 pm. So we decided to drive on to the coast to Matala. In the sandstone cliffs there are numerous caves, which have been settled from the stone age on. The romans used the caves as graves, and the last inhabitants have been hippies, who made themselves comfortable in the caves in the seventies. The village and the beach were surprisingly full, and you hear mainly the french language. Then we drove back to the north coast on well developed and scenic roads to Heraklion. We still had some time left, so we planned to visit the main excavation of Crete, Knossos, which is near Heraklion. But we missed the turnoff, because it was signed out only in greek fonts, when you come from the inland. So we were already at 5 pm at the airport, which was a bit early. We read and watched people until it was time for check in. The airport was badly organised, and everything went quite chaotic. Especially the queue in front of the security check was very long, it took us half an hour to come through. We could immediately hop on the bus to the aircraft after we arrived at the gate. The 3 hours flight back went well, and in Stuttgart waited at 11:30 pm our taxi to bring us safely home.

The excavation of Agia Triada
Antique lunch
Giant clay vessels
The caves of Matala
Chaos at the check-in in Heraklion