Sean and Mittie | Mediterranean Secret: The Island of Crete 14

Mediterranean Secret: The Island of Crete

Mainland Greece and all of the Cycladian Islands are simply stunning. With crystalline turquoise waters lapping a variety of terrain, from the red pebbled shores of Akroiteri to the sheer cliffs of Sounoin, this is not an area of the world lacking in natural beauty. But, when it comes down to my humble opinion, the little-talked-about isle of Crete is the best. Often the least mentioned places are the most worthwhile.

I arrived on an overnight ferry from the port city of Pirreaus at five in the morning. After throwing my bags in the first taxi I saw, I gave the driver the address to the hotel I’d found in my guidebook. “Oh no,” he said, “You don’t want to stay there.” I assumed he was pulling the usual cabbie move, but he threw out an offer that was hard to pass up: twenty bucks a night at a hotel on the beach. At that hour I suppose I’m easy to convince, but this guy was no ordinary tour guide.

Sean and Mittie | Mediterranean Secret: The Island of Crete 15

Johannes’ promises were always exceeded by their fulfillment. Even his speechless Grecian wife was more striking than he said. Whether it was cave framed sunsets over the green bay in Matala where Zeus stole Europa as a bull, or eating head-on redfish and watching the noonday sun over the abandoned leper colony on Spiralongia, he always had a story to tell. “Matala,” he said, sucking the open fish eyes from their delicate sockets. “It is Sodom and Gomorrah for the British.” His wife nodded before slamming a shot. Crete was more interesting than I could have ever imagined.

Pretty soon, they had adopted me as one of their own. I walked out of Phaestos, the famous Minoan ruins, to find Johannes parked outside. “Where’s Penelope?” I asked. He pointed off the side of a sheer precipice. Moments later a cloth sack swung over the ledge and up climbed Penelope without even an extended hand from her husband. She smoothed her hair before showing me her prize: snails for dinner.  At their house, Johannes and I debated philosophy in his sea-side garden, eating cucumbers straight out of the ground and drinking warm homemade Raki in the a humid breeze. We dug the fatty grey creatures from their shells with enormous forks. They introduced me to their daughter, who (after dancing me dead at four in the morning) left me on high speed ferry headed for Santorini with the most beastly hangover known to man. I raise my glass to Cretan hospitality!

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 21:34h, 09 May

    Being Greek I’ve been to the islands a couple of times. Not as often as I would like, but a couple. I love Crete and if you have time I strongly recommend going to Santorini.

    The Cretian people are considered the healthiest people in the world. They eat a lot of fresh seafood, vegetables and fruit. But they also have a wonderful drink if your up for it. Raki, or Iraki. It is basically Grape Shine. It’s distilled from the the second pressing of the grapes. You mentioned this in your post, but it bears more than a mention as it is the islands national drink.

    The last time I was on the island I was having dessert at a little cafe. I ordered straight Ouzo to go with my dessert. The waiter came back out to tell me that the owner wanted to meet the American who drank his Ouzo straight. I went back to the bar to meet the owner who invited me to have a drink. Instead of Ouzo the bartender pulled an unmarked bottle of clear liquid out from under the bar. I spent the next hour drinking Iraki with them and discussing the differences between our countries.

    What a wonderful way to be introduced to Crete’s national drink.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 21:54h, 09 May

    Now that I think about it, there was a lot of experiences on Crete that are lifetime memories. But here is another I’ll never forget.

    We rented a car, grabbed a map and hit the road. 3 hours later we drove into a little town with a beautiful central fountain. I’m pretty sure there were still people getting their drinking water from that fountain.

    The town was full of little shops that were owned and run by families. I’m awful at learning languages and despite trying, just couldn’t learn Greek, but I always found that I could almost always find people who spoke English. With the exception of a restaurant in Athens at the foot of the Acropolis. I think they were a little foo full of themselves to speak English.

    At any rate, i walked into a beautiful embroidery shop where everything was hand embroidered white linen. The Yia Yia who was working in the shop didn’t speak English. Her grand daughter came out of the back and was too shy to speak to me. She did offer me a strawberry on a napkin. It is common in small Greek shops for the owner to offer you a small sweet or a shot when you walk into the shop. Everything in the shop was white, I was terrified to eat it!

    A few minutes later the Yia Yia’s daughter came out and she did speak English. She smiled and encouraged me to enjoy the strawberry and not worry about staining something. I ended up buying several gifts for family before I left the shop.

    When you’re exploring the Greek islands rent a car and drive. Remember, you’re on an island. How lost can you get. 😉

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