Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sightseeing Trip in Crete - Therisso Gorge

Therisso Road from MourniesDuring our Greek Villa Holiday in Crete in October 2006 (Greek Villa | Crete Villa Holiday), we decided to have a sightseeing day out around the Therisso Gorge in the mountains just south of Chania. The scenery turned out to be fantastic and we had a lovely surprise when we visited the church at Meskla - a small village between Therisso and Fournes.

The scenic route we took was from Mournies to Therisso to Meskla to Fournes to Episkopi. We travelled from our villa along the "main road" towards Chania and turned off near Mournies along the scenic route through the mountains to Therisso. We were immediately struck by the green countryside, characterised by an abundance of Chestnut trees (a change from the more typical Olive trees) and meandering riverbeds. These were surprisingly dry considering the heavy rains that occurred the week before, although it was easy to see the 'high water marks' and debris that is clearly swept down when the water flows down from the mountains.

A delightful path for walkers

There were many lovely paths that, had we had more time, we would have loved to walk.
The drive through the gorge was fantastic - the road is relatively narrow, with the river flowing right beside - sometimes on the right and then flowing under the road and appearing again on the left, with vertical cliffs rising up in many places with fascinating often multi-coloured brown and orange strata. Goats were often to be seen in the usual 'impossible' places! As we wound our way towards Therisso, we came across a large flock of sheep on the road.

Sheep on the road

While we drove gingerly forward, we were surprised to see coming up fast behind us a 'road train' taking holiday-makers on the way to Therisso - this soon had the sheep parting down the middle and making a narrow path for us to 'overtake' them.

Trains on the road

Therisso Gorge

Eleftherios Venizelos memorial

Therisso is the hometown of the mother of Eleftherios Venizelos who became leader of the Liberal Party in Crete, took a prominent role in 1896 in the Cretan rising against Turkish rule and in 1905 became the island's first independent prime minister. There is a memorial to him in the village square near the church. Across from the church is a massive Platan (Plane) tree - must have been there for years to get a trunk this size! (We understand that the local area of Platanias derives its name from the Platan tree species). There is also a small war museum on the road up to the village although this was closed when we visited.

An old chestnut tree at therisso

The road from Therisso to Meskla provides oustanding views across the mountains and valleys of this beautiful part of Crete. We stopped by the side of the road near a vineyard for a picnic and watched Cretan buzzards circling for food.

Scenic view of the mountains and valleys

At Meskla itself, we stopped to look in the church and spoke to Vengalis (or should we call him Michael Angelo ?) who was painting the interior. He has been painting for 7 years (with two years to go before he's finished!!) - and what beautiful paintings he has created. Our photos scarcely do them justice, but perhaps this one provides a hint of his craftsmanship and may encourage you to visit to see for yourself.

Inside the church at Meskla

On the way back, we decided to give the ford across the river a miss - although two local lads in a 4 x 4 made it through while we looked on expecting them to get stuck at any time! Still, it looked very pretty - reminding us in fact of parts of England. We decided instead to take the 'high road' further back in the village to Fournes and Episkopi where we stopped for a delicious glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.

The ford at Meskla

We then headed back to the villa, to be treated to yet another lovely sunset after a really enjoyable scenic day trip in this lovely green and mountainous part of Crete.

Sunset from Villa Kalithea

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Holiday in Crete - spotlight on the village of Spili

On our recent villa holiday (www.ourgreekvilla.com) in Crete, we visited the delightful village of Spili which is located approximately 30km due south of Rethymno and almost dead centre between the north and south coasts of Crete. It's a great place to stop if you're en-route to the south coast and a lovely base in its own right if you want to stay in a more traditional inland Crete village. Mount Vorizi provides a stunning backdrop to the village which has a variety of interesting little shops (where we purchased some lovely cushions with 'Crete scenes' on them at a very reasonable price).

In the centre of the village is a Venetian fountain with a long row of 19 stone lions heads splashing cool water into the trough below - a great place to have a quick 'slurp' of cold clean water or to top up the water bottles. We noticed on our recent visit that the whole area has been refurbished and now looks very smart.

Spili seems to be ideally located to provide cooler breezes in the heat of the summer and an ideal place to sit and relax comfortably for an hour or so over a snack and a drink (or two!). Equally, when we visited previously it seemed to be sheltered compared to the rather windy day we spent on the south coast.

Spili will appeal to artists / painters and photographers and all those who admire the natural beauty of the rugged countryside of Crete. It is also a good base for seeing the natural flora and fauna of Crete in the Spring.

On a practical front, there is now a hole in the wall (ATM) in Spili for those short of cash.

In short, we would thoroughly recommend that you pay a visit to Spili when you want to explore this part of Crete - you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Kalyves to Hora Sfakion - a local perspective (part 1)

This post has been kindly provided by friends who have lived for 18 months in Crete and focuses on the shops, places and eateries that they have found on their local travels. Please email me if you have similar articles that you would like posted.

"Today we will start from Kalyves and head out towards Neo Chorio(New Village).
After "Papyrus" on your right, there is a comprehensive lending library and you will see the freezer shop on the right before the INKA supermarket. The freezer shop imports the best frozen Fillet steak that we have found. It's from Brazil - they have Bacon, Veal, Venison and sometimes Duck, all at good prices and always tasty.

Further up on the left you will pass Maria’s Tile shop. Maria is always helpful and if she does not have what you want in stock (which she normally does) she will order it for you. Tiles, Bathroom suites, Tools Fixtures and fitting Paints etc.

Next on the right is Tassos electrical shop. Good English is spoken here and the staff are always helpful. Electrical Goods, Heating Boilers, Lighting, Electric Hardware etc.

"Piscines Ideal" is next on the left. Dimitri and Andreas are a pleasure to deal with. Dimitri is from Evia and Andreas boasts the fact that he is a 'Cypriot Brummy'. Can't understand why he would boast about that!! Pools, chemicals, Jaccuzi Spa tubs, outside furniture, barbeque equipment - you name it they sell it.

Pass under the National Road to Neo Chorio and you will see beautiful garden furniture and wooden sheds etc. on the left. The owner speaks little Engish but his daughter will always interpret or take a drawing if you want something special. Prices are good.

A good bakery can be found further along on the right.

Armenoi is the next village with a great local butcher opposite the village kafenion and one of our favourite Tavernas is on the right by the stream opposite the regal church. A rare sight of a 'local' mounted on a donkey can often be seen here or the donkey tethered to an old tractor or a tree.

Vrisses is one of our favourite villages a little further on. It is a bustling village and in early season the river flows strongly through the village making a cool and pleasant place to sit and have a lazy lunch. Especially good is the fresh spit-roast chicken on the taverna behind the kiosk before you cross the river, the one we had came with 3 legs.....all yummy.

An Internet café is now open over the bridge on the right. The village shops here are very well stocked with stuff you never thought you needed and vegetable plants abound at the correct time of year.

If you take the road to the left as you are half way down the village it goes to same really fantastic scenery and drives, but that will be another route, another day".

Monday, May 22, 2006

Crete Holiday - Minoan ship in Chania

While on our most recent trip to Crete this May, we ventured upon a small exhibition at the end of the harbour in Chania (near to the site of the outdoor market) depicting the reconstruction of an old Minoan sailing / rowing ship. This exhibition is well worth visiting; not only can you see the reconstructed ship, but there are numerous photos and explanations of its construction.

Unfortunately, we weren't in Crete when the ship was put through its trials in Chania harbour, nor when it was rowed / sailed all the way to Piraeus - what an achievement! So, we had to content ourselves with a photo of a photo of the event.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Sightseeing Trip to Athens

My wife and I have just returned from a few days sightseeing trip to Athens. We stayed in the Arion hotel in Monastiraki near the Plaka area of Athens. We can thoroughly recommend this hotel - very well located for sightseeing, clean and comfortable, friendly staff and good value.

Here's an interesting statuette we found near the Parliament Building in Athens:

There are so many fantastic archeological treasures to be found within easy walking distance. We visited (of course) the Acropolis and the museums are just full of wonderful artefacts. These are the Caryatids (maidens) at the Erechtion which is on the north side of the Acropolis:

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Favourite Recipes

Does anyone have any special Greek / Cretan recipes they would like to share ? Please comment. It would be interesting to hear of unusual or particularly good recipes or perhaps tips on making the good recipes outstanding ones.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Fun books on Greece to read

Some friends of mine bought me Brian Church's book "Always on a Sunday" (ISBN 960-86395-2-2). It's a great book to read and full of little 'easy to visualise' satirical descriptions such as the one on the back cover: "Going home on the late-night bus, it slowly dawned on me that there were in fact two people sitting in the driver's seat". Brian Church is the author of 'Learn Greek in 25 Years'. Can thoroughly recommend it for a light-hearted view of life and to brighten up your day.