A Travellerspoint blog

Friday 17th April (Greek Orthodox Good Friday)

Good Friday (Greek Orthodox time) - set out to go to a small village on the south coast which the owner of the house we are staying in recommended. Some of the scenery along the north coast is breathtaking. Mountains coming, seemingly, straight from the very blue sea; small bays and islands. We have avoided the bigger tourist resorts and the smaller resort areas are, in the main, not too terrible – and the views!! Stopped at a small village on the south coast that we had considered staying at – very pleased we didn’t because apart from the beach (grey sand and pebbles) there didn’t seem to be much to do and quite inaccessible to much of the rest of Crete. Allowed the Tom Tom to take us to the recommended village which was not the most direct way but on a winding road through steep and quite spectacular mountains – and wild flowers are out everywhere (including orchids to Dave’s delight – pity no children in tow to make them appreciate the flora). The seaside village we ended up in was very small with a couple of tavernas overlooking the beach (still grey sand and pebbles although very pretty pebbles) and water. And we ended up in one of the tavernas for lunch (which is around 2 – 3pm in Greece). Very pleasant.

The south (at least the part we visited) is much drier and more barren – but it appears to be where much of the vegetables for the island are grown – in plastic hot houses. These completely ugly hot houses are everywhere and what might be a delightful view is ruined by plastic hothouses. In the hothouses you can see growing tomatoes, beans and bananas. Presumably there are other vegetables growing but it was hard to see.

Ate at home listening for the sound of chanting and singing so we could go and see the pier carried through the streets to the main church. The only thing we heard was fire crackers going off – many outside our cottage. At about 10 o’clock at night we decided to go for a walk to see if we could see any action. We found people out and about but no ‘action’. Walked past the church to see the decorated pier in its place of honour in the church – we obviously missed anything that was going on.

Nikos and the calendar. In our last email contact with Jonathon who owns the cottage here in Latsida he asked us to bring an Aussie calendar to give to Nikos from the better of the two local tavernas. We bought one at Tullamarine and dutifully carried it all the way hoping it wouldn’t get damaged on the long trip. It survived OK. We then went to Nikos’s taverna for dinner on our first night here, and after being welcomed warmly by a friendly chap (our Greek was non-existent this first night – we now have a few words) we ate some great, simple Greek fare – the essential Greek salad, calamari and tzatziki (bloody amazing) and we tried a goat stew. All washed down with the standard 500 ml (or as they call it ½ kilo) of local red wine. We asked our host if he was Nikos, and yes, he was. We said we had a calendar for him from Australia and he was so delighted. His English is OK, and we got a long story about Maria who lives in the village who has a brother who lives in Australia (who we now know from our second visit runs a fish and chip shop in Sydney), but we’re still not sure why he asked for an Aussie calendar? He was so excited that he could talk to Jonathon (Yani) the owner of our cottage one day and just a few days later these foreigners arrive bringing him a gift all the way from Australia. We took the calendar to dinner on our second night (how could we not go back?). It’s now on the wall along with the nice brown paper bag it came in that says “Australian Way” on it. We had more good food and again given fresh fruit (just OK) and free Raki (the Cretan local spirit) to drink to finish off the night. It was very busy the second night (it’s a popular local eating place it seems) and he didn’t get to talk to us much and when we left he was a bit concerned we may not be back again – we assured him we would be! It’s a fun place with good food – and the free raki’s not bad either.

Posted by Jan_n_Dave 13:39 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Thursday 16th April - Lato & Gournia

We ventured out to visit one of the famous ancient Minoan sites, Gournia and another ancient (Dorian) site (only C 8th – 2nd BC – so quite recent!!), Lato. Gournia was a town with a small palace, believed to be the residence of the local big guy. They have excavated a small part of the town and you can see the remains of the walls of many of the residences, some up to 2 m high and walk along paths of the town that the Minoans would have walked along (pretty cool). And the position! Overlooking the coast (and of course the amazing blue sea) and mountains.

It was only the second day with the car and we had a ‘car incident’. On advice from a few people we decided to get a GPS to help us navigate through Greece. But hiring one with the car was going to cost nearly double the cost of buying one, so we bought one in Oz. Turned it on in Iraklion and were delighted that it knew where it (and us) was. Decided to use it to help us get to Gournia and Lato. It (called a Tom Tom with a male voice telling you in a steady, unemotional tone where to go) first tried to take us the most direct way to Lato, which meant going down a number of very small roads. Luckily we had a map too and we made some decisions and it had to ‘catch up’ with us (which it tended to do very well).

We then set it for Gournia. Did really great and warned us that we needed to turn right soon - just as we passed a very official looking sign to Gournia. And then we passed another nearly as official looking sign and then it took us up a small dirt road. OK, we thought, maybe this is the back entrance. So we drove up the road for about 750m and decided that even if ‘it’ wanted us to keep going it wasn’t a good idea in a hire car. Stopped the car at a place where we could turn the car – an even smaller track. Backed the car down the other track and drove forward – only we couldn’t get up the very slight incline – sure it was a little rocky but really. The front wheel just spun on a very reasonable looking rock, and when it made it over the rock, spun on the dirt. A number of options were tried, backing at a different angle – but too many bushes and would have had to do some serious forestry work for that to succeed. Ended up Jan drove, Dave pushed and chocked the back wheel and put brush and other pieces of wood under the offending wheel and bit by bit we made it up the very slight slope. Some time later, all was well – although the car could do with a wash before we return it.

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Posted by Jan_n_Dave 13:30 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Tuesday 14th April - Iraklion

Spent the day in Iraklion, a pleasant but not highly exciting city.
Highlight was dinner – sitting outside (cool but pleasant), eating good Greek food (small fish, octopus stew, Greek salad) with the chanting from the church broadcast over a loudspeaker next to the taverna.

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Posted by Jan_n_Dave 12:38 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Wednesday 15th April - Iraklion to Latsida

Morning spent in Iraklion and then took charge of the hire car to drive to Latsida.

Disappointment was that the Archaeological museum with all the ‘stuff’ from the Minoan (and other) sites around Crete is being refurbished and only have one room open – but with some of the most famous objects. It still took us 1 ½ hours to see the 1 room so maybe just as well it wasn’t all open.

Got the hire car, drove out of Iraklion (no arguments between driver and expert navigator) and managed to get to the village we are staying which is in the eastern part of the island, mid way between the coast and the inland. Instructions to find the house were ‘odd’ and if it hadn’t been for a local sitting at the taverna who could speak some English, we wouldn’t have made it. ‘Hire house?” Ahh – follow me’ – which we literally did.
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This is the smallest and least touristy village we have ever stayed in. Still it has 2 tavernas, a kafeneio and 3 small churches/chapels (21 April – no 4 small churches) and one large one. Priorities!! As I write, the bells of the (big) church are ringing. Not sure if this is because it is Good Friday or because they tend to do so on the hour (or on some hours).

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Posted by Jan_n_Dave 12:38 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Monday 13th April

Iraklion


View The BIG Greek trip on Jan_n_Dave's travel map.

Arrive Iraklion (Crete) absolutely buggered after who knows how many hours. Over 30 (including a slightly longer stop in Athens than expected).

Posted by Jan_n_Dave 12:28 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

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