Thursday, December 27, 2007

Zorba The Greek, the Greek Dance, and Greek Pride

If you think Zorba the Greek is a simple-minded homage to a man with a zest for life, then you haven't seen the movie. Basil (Alan Bates), a reticent British writer, comes to the Mediterranean island of Crete to revive a mine his father owned. On the way, he meets a Greek roustabout named Zorba (Anthony Quinn) and hires him to help, little suspecting that Zorba's exuberance will lead him to some dark and troubling places--frankly, if the last 30 minutes of Zorba the Greek are what it means to embrace life, some viewers will want to shut the door in life's face. But there's no denying the movie's ambitious scope and implacable force, even as it paints an alien and disturbing portrait of life in a Greek village. On top of that, gorgeous cinematography and one of the greatest film scores ever give this movie almost demonic energy.

Heraklion Prefecture - Crete - Greece

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dreaming Of Crete (2 from 2)

Now, staying in Crete won't be a problem since it offers up-to-date facilities for everyone. From the 5 star exclusive resorts by the sea to rooms to rent and organized camping sites. The choice is yours depending on your finances and the service is mostly good especially for foreigners. The majority of the locals can communicate in foreign languages such as English, German, French or Italian. There are a lot of rent-a-bike or rent-a-car agencies with reasonable prices. If you want to get to know Crete better, then you would proabably need a good 7 to 8 days to discover the beauties of Crete. I would suggest avoiding places like Hersonissos village near Heraklion which was developed for the sole entertainment of Western backpack tourists who live on beer and greek salad most of the time - instead go for the genuine character of the island, like visiting Samaria Canyon with the unique Kri-kri goats that live only in Crete, or the lake of Kournas hidden into the mountains in Rethymnon or the famous birthplace of Zeus, Mount Ida, or have a swim at the palmy beach of Vai in the south for instance.
Did you know that Heraklion was the birthplace of Domenicus Theotocopoulos - known to most of us as El Greco? Or that Nikos Kazantzakis, also Cretan, was the writer of the famous play "Zorba the Greek" which was based on a true story? Even Athens' international airport "Eleftherios Venizelos" was named after the late Prime Minister who was Cretan as well.

Ah, Crete is such a mesmerizing place to be! I always return with a desire to find out more of its unique character. How can you go to Crete? Easily, with a connecting flight through Athens' Intl' Airport (half an hour duration) or direct charter flights from Europe. Alternatively, there are frequent boat trips from the port of Pireus in Athens or Salonica to Rethymnon and Heraclion. The day trip lasts around 6 hours and the overnight trip lasts approximately 9 1/2 hours. The fleet is modern and spacious.

I hope I have given you an alluring idea about how to get to know Crete better! Now all you have to do is to set your mind on going to this very special island that is part of Greece.

By Marialena Lioulia

Dreaming Of Crete (1 from 2)

Regarding the "Escape from America" article about affordable vacation places, I was happy to see that Crete is considered one of them! The family of my mother stems from Crete and my grandma and aunts and cousins still live there, so I think I can tell you more about this beautiful island. First of all it is a very big place combining both steep mountain sides and a huge coast line from north to south. It is divided into four counties, which have four major cities as capitals, each one with a character of its own. The biggest city on the north is Heraclion (named after the famous Greek mythology hero Hercules) with all the pros and cons of a modern city, but do include in your itinerary visits to the other three major cities which are Chania, Rethymnon and Agios Nicolaos (St. Nicolas) all located on the north coast of the Aegean Sea. In the south the enviroment is more tropical, since the Libyan Sea is much hotter than the other waters that surround the island. The area is less populated but there are some interesting villages and towns you can go to such as Sitia, Ierapetra and Sfakia Coast.

Crete has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The visitor can discover primitive remains along with the very impressive up-to-date Minoan civilization (do you remember the mythical Minotaur that was said to live in the palace of King Minoas in Knossos?) which was affected by the eruption of the volcano in the Aegean Sea that is said to have destroyed Atlantis. Then it was colonized by mainland Greeks and was a significant trading post from mainland Greece to Eygpt. Apostle Paul visited the island during the early Christian era and then in the 1200's it was conquered by both Venetians (from Venice) and Catholic knights (Franks as we call them). Then, around 1600 Ottomans (Turks) came along and stayed until the late 1800's when Crete finally became a Greek province once again.

You can see influences of each era all around the island both in the architecture and in the names of places. You will be impressed by the numerous small churches that have been built across the island in the name sake of several saints Cretans are very religious people, the majority of them Orthodox Christians. Some mosques left from the Ottoman era can also be found in Heraclion, Rethymnon and the city of Chania and are now part of the cultural heritage of Crete.

The people are very hospitable, righteous, loud and have developed a strong sense of pride. Older people in the villages wear a characteristic uniform consisting of a black shirt and trousers, white boots and a scarf to cover their heads. They often grow mustaches as a sign of manhood and are competent in improvising verses when they want to dedicate a song to those around them (which is called mandinada in Greek and can only be heard in the villages of Crete).

They used to carry guns as a self protective means, but now this habit is much restricted to marriages or up in the mountains for the shepperds. The Cretans have developed over the centuries a characteristic pronunciation of the Greek language in which some consonants are more stressed than usual.

The local cuisine is based on olive oil and it includes special dried breads made of seeds like oats or barley. The cretan cheeses and wines are also very distinct and tasteful. There's is a famous bi-product of wine (not vinegar) which is called Raki in Crete. Have a sip during the mid-day siesta with olive oil, graviera cheese, cucumbers, octapus and anything else that might be handy at the time! You can find everything in Crete regarding Meditteranean food since these goods are in abundance on Crete.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Heraklion Prefecture - Crete - Greece

The Palace of King Minos at Knossos

Heraklion in history

Heraklion is close to the ruins of the palace of Knossos, which in Minoan times was the biggest centre of population on Crete. It is thus very likely that there was a port here as long ago as 2000 BC. There is, however, no archaeological evidence of the port.
The present city of Heraklion was founded in 824 AD by the Saracens (an Arabic Muslim people). They built a moat around the city for protection, and named the city خندق Ḫandaq, 'moat'. The Saracens allowed the port to be used as a safe haven for pirates, much to the annoyance of the nearby Byzantine Empire.
Byzantine Era
In 961, the Byzantines, under the command of Nikiforos Fokas, later to become Byzantine Emperor, attacked and defeated the city, slaughtered the Saracens, looted the city, and burned it to the ground. They remained in control of the rebuilt Khandak for the next 243 years.
Venetian Era
In 1204, the city was bought by the Republic of Venice as part of a complicated political deal which involved among other things, the Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade restoring the deposed Byzantine emperor Isaac II Angelus to his throne. The Venetians improved on the ditch by building enormous fortifications, most of which are still in place, including a giant wall, in places up to 40 m thick, with 7 bastions, and a fortress in the harbour. Khandak was renamed to Candia in Italian and became the seat of the Duke of Candia. As a result, the Venetian administrative district of Crete became known as "Regno di Candia" (Kingdom of Candia). The city retained the name of Candia for centuries and the same name was often used to refer to the whole island of Crete as well. To secure their rule, Venetians began in 1212 to resettle families from Venice on Crete. The coexistence of two different cultures and the influence of Italian Renaissance lead to a flourishing of letters and the arts in Candia and Crete in general, that is today known as the Cretan Renaissance.
Ottoman Era
After the Venetians came the Ottoman Empire. They besieged the city for 22 years in a bloody war in which 30,000 Cretans and 120,000 Ottoman soldiers died.[citation needed] The Venetians surrendered in 1669. Under the Ottomans, the city was known officially as Kandiye (again also applied to the whole island of Crete) but informally as Megalo Kastro 'Big Castle'. During the Ottoman period, the harbour silted up, so most shipping shifted to Hania in the west of the island.
Modern Era
In the period of autonomy under Great Power supervision (1898-1908), Candia was part of the British zone. With the rest of Crete, it became part of the Cretan State in 1908, and was incorporated into the Kingdom of Greece in 1913. Upon its union with Greece it was renamed "Heraklion", after the Roman port of Heracleum 'Heracles' city' whose exact location is unknown. The biggest monument of the city is the Venetian medieval fortress Rocca al Mare (also known as Koules) located at the port.


Knossos is located 5km southeast of Hraklio and the transition is done with public means of transportation.
It as been discovered from archeological researchers that Crete has been inhabited for the first time in Neolithic period in 6000-5000 b.c.
The people there are occupied with agriculture, they process the stone and the first time they use the potter to create pots.
Dotted in all over the island, they basically live in cages such as Zarko and Agia fotia and eastern Crete in Amniso to the mountains of Lasithio in central Crete and in Gaudo in western Crete. In parallel, the inhabitants start to build settlements where there have been discovered old cities in the deep stratums of Knoso and Faisto and isolated houses in Katsampa of Hraklio and in Makasa of Siteia.

Minoan Civilization
Around in 2600 b.c with the emigration of people from Mikra Asia and perhaps from Libya, in the village starts the famous Minoan civilization, which it is separated in 4 periods based to the first structure, disaster, reconstruction and the final destruction of the royal centers of the island.
The most important palaces have been discovered in the central and eastern Crete (Knosos, Faistos, Malia and Zakros) and to the western Crete the archeological research has started lately to bring the ruins to the light of a valueless center in Xania. Among these, Minoan ‘s palace has the first place in Knoso where the name to the mythic king was given from Evans in Minoan civilization.
The life in it has started in 1900 b.c in the beginning of the old time royal period when an unknown reason in all over the island, for example some royal families have assembled in their hands the authority and they have started to build palaces. Knoso’s palace has been built in a hill in 22000 s.m. Around it, it was built Knoso’s city where we can recognize her importance from her two ports.
The one was Katsampas in Kairato’s river, which flows to the south and to the east of Knoso’s hill. The other Amnisos eastern from Hraklio, and as Omiros has reported it was another Knoso’s port. The two ports presuppose the existence of a big city which by Evans it had 80000 people. Other researchers think that the people were 30000. Knoso’s king was named Minos analogous with the title of Farao king.

Palace in Knosso
In 1700 b.c Knoso’s palace was destroyed perhaps from an earthquake
The palace’s ruins after it’s final destruction have cured during time and nothing has been seen from the huge multi-storied group with the 150 rooms until Evan’s excavation.
After the palace’s excavation and the uncovering of the Minoan civilization, it appeared the real meaning of Labyrinth. The word comes from Labry the double axe, which is thought the most sanctum symbol of the Minoan religion. Labyrinth was the same palace as House of Labryon important sanctum of religion.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Monastery of Preveli

The Holy Stavropegiac and Patriarchal Preveli Monastery of Saint John the Theologian (Evangelist), known as the Monastery of Preveli is located at the south of Prefecture of Rethymnon and it is the most sacred part of the Holy Diocese of Lambis and Sfakion, in whose the spiritual jurisdiction belongs. The monastery is consisted of two main building complexes, the Lower (Kato) Monastery of Saint John the Baptist and the Rear (Pisso) Monastery of Saint John the Theologian which is in operation today. The Preveli Monastery and its dependencies cover a large estate land of the Phoenix Municipality towards the Libyan sea and along the Great River (Megalos Potamos), which ends at this point.

The Monastery has a glorious history due to the active and leading involvement of its fellow monks in all national endeavourers for freedom and education of our people. Thus, it merits specific recognition and respect throughout the island of Crete.

In our days, the Holy Monastery of Preveli with a new monastic Brotherhood and through the immemorial coenobitic capitulary of Monachism, wishes, endeavourers and minds to give with a dynamic spiritual and adorable attendance its own orthodox martyry of worship to the God and love to the people, by supporting them to find again their true being meaning through Jesus Christ life.

City of Rethymnon

Rethymnon is the capital of the Prefecture of the same name and it is built between two other large cities of Crete. In the east is Iraklion (80 km) and to the west is Hania (60 km).
It lies along the north coast, having to the east one of the largest sand beaches in Crete (12 km) and to the west a rocky coastline that ends up to another large sand beach after 10 km.
It is the administrative, communications and commercial center of the Prefecture with approximately 25.000 inhabitants.

There is direct connection all year round from the port of Rethymnon to Piraeus.Tours to Santorini are also organized during the summer.
Rethymnon does not have an airport but the city is served by the airports of Hania and Iraklion.
Public buses can be used for travelling to Hania, Iraklion and most of the towns and villages of the Prefecture of Rethymnon.

There are evidences that Rethymnon city is built on the site of ancient Rithymna that flourished during Mycenean times. In the 3rd century AD, for some unknown reason, it lost its importance, and is only mentioned as a large village. However, Rithymna retained its autonomy and independence, as is evidenced by the coins which, as a free city, it continued to mint. During the Byzantine period the town continued to be inhabited, and parts of Roman and Byzantine mosaics have been found.
Rethymnon became a city during the Venetian occupation. The Venetians needed an intermediary port for their operations for their ships travelling from Iraklion to Hania. They also needed an administrative center, so Rethymnon became the third bigger city in Crete and an important cultural center. Rethymnon was destroyed in 1567 when Algerian pirates conquered, robbed and burned it. The Turks took over Rethymnon at 1646.
During the period of Ottoman rule, Rethymnon fell into decline as did the other towns in Crete. During the difficult years of the struggle for independence, its inhabitants were actively involved and, as a result, many of its freedom – fighters were executed.
In 1897, the Russian army took Rethymnon and held it until 1909. In 1913, it became part of Greece, together with the rest of Crete.
During the German occupation, the Rethymniots took an active part in the resistance against fascism.
In the last 25 years, Rethymno has seen a significant growth, in economy by the development of tourism and in culture by the operation of the university.

The town still maintains its old aristocratic appearance, with its buildings dating from the 16th century, arched doorways, stone staircases, Byzantine and Hellenic-Roman remains, small Venetian harbor and narrow streets.
The Venetian Loggia, an elegant building of the 16th century, that used to be a Venetian gentlemens's club and today houses the information office of the ministry of culture and a sales point of the archaeological museum.
The Fortezza castle, at the top of a low hill named "Palaiokastro" dominates the town. It was built in 1590 to protect the city from the pirates raids and the Turks.
The name "Palaiokastro which means 'The old Castle" was in use even by the Venetians which demonstrates the existance of an even older castle at this place. - Probably the acropolis of the ancient town of Rithymna.
The interior of Fortezza accommodated the following basic buildings: the storeroom of the artillery, where canons and weapons were kept, the residence of the Councillors, where one of the city's two Venetian councillors lived, the residence of the Rector, which represented a luxurious, magnificent building in the central square of the fortress.
Today parts of those buildings, as well as of some others built later, can be seen. The view from up there is magnificent, especially at night.
The municipal theatre "Erofili" stands also at Fortezza's premises. It is an outdoor theatre that hosts almost all the performances during the Renaissance Festival.
Rimondi fountain with rich decoration is situated at Platanos square, the centre of the Venetian town. It was built in 1626, by A.Rimondi, in order to provide the citizens with drinkable water.
Neratzes mosque formerly the Holy Virgin church, was converted into a mosque by the Ottomans. Today it is used as a music conservatory. Outstanding elements of this building are the doorframe and the three domes. Next to the mosque there is the impressive minaret, built in 1890.
Kara Mousa Pasa Mosque also a venetian monastery that was turned into mosque by the Turks. Today it is the house of the Restoration Board.
Porta Guora the entrance to the Venetian town is the only remnant of the defensive wall.
Folklore & history museum (Vernardou 28-30. Open Monday to Friday 09.30-14.30. Closed Saturday and Sunday.) Housed in a restored Venetian building with an interior courtyard. Eight halls with collections that include textile and basket weaving, embroidery & lace, costumes, ceramics, historic photographs and maps, weapons and coins. Over 5.000 items dating from the 17th to the 20th century are displayed.
The Archaeological museum of Rethymno (8am to 3pm, closed on Monday), just opposite the entrance of the fortress, exhibits objects from the Neolithic to the Roman period, found at the prefecture of Rethymno (mainly Eleftherna, Monastiraki and Armeni). Clay figurines, funerary coffers, grave offerings, statues, grave steles, red-figure vases, bronze vessels, jewellery and glass vases, are some of the objects on display.
The municipal gardens are ideal for those in search of shade and tranquillity.
Throughout the year various activities are organized which draw a large crowd. The Wine Festival is held there annually at the beginning of July. Another festival is held on 7-8th of November, in memory of the destruction of Arkadi Monastery.
Rethimnon is a city that caters to the needs of the visitor.
There are a lot of places to stay ranging from luxury hotels to rent a room, bed and breakfast apartment buildings.
Night life can range from extremely intense on the pubs and bars around the harbor and inside the old city , to relaxed on small bars right on the beach.
There is always fresh fish to be found in the tavernas around the harbor and there are many other restaurants and tavernas outside the city in equally attractive surroundings.
Shopping could also be interesting at Rethimno. There are lots of small shops with attractive merchantise from souvenirs, cards, etc to the most rare kind of sponge.

Vai beach movie

Hiking and nature in Eastern Crete

Agios Georgios - Katofigi Cave

The point that you are to start trekking to the Katofigi cave, is about 200 m after the crossroads of Agios Georgios, on the national road Sitia – Ierapetra and 15 km from Sitia. This sign is on the national road. You will have to walk the first 300 m on a craggy path.
Pay attention to this point! You can easily get tangled and lose your way. The path leading to the cave, starts behind this fold (in the photo). As you pass the fold, you will immediately descry the path that climbs up the slope.
The time you need to reach the cave is about 30-40 minutes and about 25 minutes for the return. The landscape is wild and imposing as all Cretan countryside.
The first 10 minutes’ walking is a little bit tiring, because it’s singularly uphill. But when you reach the top, the magnificent view will expiate you.
On all the way to the Handras and Sitian Mounts you have unlimited view. Deeply in horizon you can also descry settlements as Pressos, Katsidoni and other smaller ones, which are well hidden in the valleys.
View to the north-east. On your left you can descry Sitian bay with its clear-blue waters. The top of the mount that you can see in the background, is Prinias with 805 m height.
The path is clear-sighted in all its route and you will meet no problems to the direction.
The most ideal season for this excursion is from November to June, when the hills are full of herbs and wild flowers. If you visit the region in October, you will have the opportunity to see flowers as that one in the photo.
The entrance of the cave with Sitian Mounts and the blue sky in the background. The height here is 450 m.
The entrance is behind those rocks. The red crosses on the rocks will make your search easier.

Vai in Sitia

Vai beaches are located 25 km from Sitia. The combination of a magnificent beach with a rare grove of palm trees makes Vai one of the absolute musts of Crete.
According to a legend, Arab pirates who came to Crete threw out the pips of the dates they were eating while they were here and that from these came this grove of 5000 palms. It is prohibited to camp overnight within the grove, which covers an area of 60 acres and is protected by fencing under the care of the Forestry Service. It is organised and has been awarded with the EU Blue Flag.
It is an exotic, tropical beach with fine sand and pebbles and crystal-clear blue sea. 6 km far from Palekastro.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Chania (Culture and Traditions)

Elounda Village

This is a world renowned tourism resort located to the north of Aghios Nikolaos, having an indented coastline, shaded beaches, crystal clear seas, and a tranquil and heavenly environment.
It is 10km distance from Aghios Nikolaos, and the cutting along the side of the road affords you the opportunity to admire the spectacular view of Mirambello Gulf and Korfos. The village is built on the southern coast of the Gulf of Elounda, 1km east of the ancient settlement of Olounda, from which it has taken its name. This used to be the favored place of legendary figures from Minoan Crete and of historical figures of our times.
The four villages of Elounda are spread out along the lower slopes of the approach to the Massif.
Pano and Kato Elounda, Mavrikiano and the new settlement of Skisma, the port of Elounda, bask in the glorious sea as it opens up before them offering its beauty and charm.
This sea, as described by Mr. Anestis Makridakis, glows like a sapphire under the azure light of the sky, rose-hued in summer afternoons, silvered on moonlit nights. It is a sea whose light infuses you gently but swiftly, having the power to touch you emotionally. To float in this sea, or to observe it from further away is like dreaming with open eyes.
This peaceful sea was used as a stop-over and refueling point during the period between both world wars by the UK’s Imperial Hydroplane Service The divine creator, in joyous and happy time of inspiration and joviality, did not skimp here with the colors, the lines or the boldness of combinations, giving a magical impression to the landscape. Here, lovers of the art of cinema, of the graphic arts, of music and poetry find an exceptional sight.
Elounda is a place-name that is easy to pronounce, but difficult to describe. It is a place that can only be experienced personally, to live forever thereafter in your dreams.

Venetian period
In 1210, the Venetians occupied the island. The first mention of the name Elounda is found on a document from 1376. The Venetians operated the salt mines, and under threat of danger from the Turks, rebuilt the fortress of Spinalonga in 1579.
Many churches were erected during the latter Venetian occupation: Analipsis, Aghios Georgios in Katevati, the church of The Virgin Mary in Druvalia, Aghios Paraskevi in Tsifliki and Aghios Marinas in Plaka.

Turkish domination
In 1669, the Turks captured the town of Handakas and became the rulers of Crete. Spinalonga would resist for 46 years more, until 1715 when the Turks took it. Here, revolutionaries found a refuge, and because of that event, the Turks forbade the expansion in the wider area of Spinalonga.
This prohibition, as well as fear of pirates, caused the inhabitants who stayed in the small cattle settlements there to be extremely cautious.
The habitation of the settlements of Pano and Kato Elounda, and Mavrikiano began to be regularized in the middle of the 18th century. We are informed by the traveler Pasley that in 1834, Elounda had 40 families, and that most of them came from Fouvni.
Elounda was burned down in 1823 by Hasan Pasha. The inhabitants played an active role in the revolt to overthrow the Turks, as did the cutting off of the fortress of Spinalonga. The contribution and sacrifices of the Eloundians for the liberation of Hirrus, Macedonia and Thrace were significant.

In Elounda today there are 2,200 inhabitants in six settlements, the majority of whom live in Skisma, and are involved in the tourism business. An event which played an important role in the promotion of Elounda was the filming there of the Disney film "The Fringes of the Moon", in 1964. It is from this time that tourism commenced, but at a gentle pace.
The major push in the development of the tourism industry began with the arrival of Eleni Nakou and the brothers Spiros and George Kokotos. In 1969, the construction of the luxury hotel, The Elounda Beach, started. This was followed by the building of the Asteras, The Elounda Mare, Porto Elounda, The Elounda Peninsula and The Elounda Rock hotels. These luxury hotels annually accommodate prominent representatives of the world’s social, economic and political life.

The people of Elounda, working in cooperation, have brought their athletic and cultural associations to the highest levels. The Development Association of Elounda has been in operation since 1975, and does valuable work on the promotion of the local culture of the area. There is a Cretan Dance and Musical Instrument School, and Eloundans successfully organize a Traditional Fish Festival that takes place in Pano Elounda, and since 1998, a concert in Spinalonga where popular Greek artists perform. Since 1992, the important promotional newspaper "Elounda" has been published.
The Athletic Association "Korfos Elounda" was founded in 1979 and plays a leading part in recent years in Lassithi football, gaining many distinctions.

Historical Museum of Crete

The Historical Museum of Crete presents a comprehensive view of Cretan history from early Christian times to the present day. It was founded in 1953 by the Society of Cretan Historical Studies, which had been established two years earlier. The museum is housed in a two-storey neoclassical building, which was constructed in 1903 on the site of an earlier mansion belonging to the Kalokerinos family. The second building, designed by K. Tsandirakis, was clearly influenced by morphological features of the earlier one, and was later listed as a historical monument. The new museum extension to the west constituted an attempt to combine traditional and modern architecture.

The original goal of those founding the Historical Museum of Crete was to collect and preserve valuable archaeological, ethnographic and historical material deriving from the medieval and modern periods in Cretan history. The process of enriching the collections, extending exhibition space and redefining the museum's aims has never ceased. Prolific research and publishing activity, the organisation of temporary exhibitions, educational programmes and the use of audiovisual media all form part of the modern educational role adopted by the Historical Museum of Crete over time. The same approach also includes the gradual re-organisation of the collections on display so as to appeal to a wider range of visitors, thus offering them the opportunity to understand the many facets of historical development on Crete from early Byzantine times to the present day.

Visitors begin their tour in the A.G. Kalokerinos Room, which presents an overview of Cretan history via representative exhibits from all the collections and chronological periods. The main exhibit is the 4 x 4 metre model of the city of Chandax (Heraklion) in the mid-17th century, at the peak of its power in Venetian times. Visitors can activate forty different spotlights picking out the most important monuments.

The Ceramics and Sculpture Collections, which follow, are organised in chronological order. Starting from the First Byzantine Period, the former ends in the Ottoman period and the latter in the Venetian period. Within this chronological layout there are individual thematic displays (locally-produced and imported ceramics; luxury and everyday ceramics; ecclesiastical and urban architecture; water supply etc.), which offer visitors additional information on the Cretan population's living conditions.

The Historical Museum's Numismatic Collection is particularly rich. Individual coin finds and hoards, banknotes, medals, lead seals, coin jewellery and relevant archive material chart all phases of Cretan economic history from the early Christian period to the 20th century.

In the Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Collection visitors can follow the development of art (via fresco fragments and portable icons) and thus come to realise the dynamic co-existence of the native Christian Orthodox population with the Ottoman and Venetian overlords. Piety and Christian worship are manifested in liturgical vessels and vestments, manuscripts, personal belongings and jewellery. The crowning exhibits in this section are two paintings by Domenicos Theotocopoulos (El Greco): The Baptism of Christ (1567) and View of Mt. Sinai and the Monastery of St. Catherine (1570), which are the only works by the artist on display on Crete.

Modern and contemporary Cretan history is divided into four chronological phases and permanent exhibitions, the first being Ottoman Rule, with emphasis on the Muslim presence on the island. This includes objects from secular and religious life (Ottoman wall paintings, inscriptions, architectural elements from Ottoman religious foundations, documents and minor objects). The second concerns the period of revolutionary upheaval in the 19th century, ending with the Union of Crete with Greece. Rich historical material traces revolutionary activity and everyday life at the time (flags, banners, weapons, documents, articles for everyday use, furniture, uniforms, maps, photographs). This section also includes a gallery of portraits of Cretan revolutionaries. The third exhibition relates to the Inter-War Years and the fourth to World War II (the war between Greece and Italy, the Battle of Crete and the National Resistance). Audiovisual material is used here in an attempt to recreate the environment during battles and bombardments. This section is supplemented by the study and library of Emmanouil Tsouderos, then Prime Minister of Greece.

The tour continues in the Nikos Kazantzakis Rooms, with the author's study and library from his house in Antibes, France. Personal mementoes, manuscripts and first editions of his works in many languages complete the picture of his life and creativity.

Ending their tour of Cretan history in the Ethnographic Collection, visitors are introduced to the notion of continuity in time, mainly in rural society, through the survival and repetition of productive processes (olive growing and viniculture, cereal cultivation, animal husbandry) and important milestones in life (birth, baptism, marriage). These human activities are closely bound up with the natural environment and space in which they take place (folk architecture - reconstructed interior of a Cretan agricultural house).

The Library at the Historical Museum of Crete contains rare editions, periodicals, a local newspaper archive, a rich collection of historical archives and photographic material. It is directed at the general public as well as researchers.

Historical Museum of Crete

House A. & M. Kalokerinos
27, Sofokli Venizelou Ave. /
7, Lysimachou Kalokerinou St.
71202 Heraklion, Crete, Greece
Tel: (++30) 2810 283219, 288708
Fax: (++30) 2810 283754
URL: www.historical-museum.g

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Chania (Hospitality)

New Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Open its doors in 2010.

Over 45,000 Greek and foreign visitors have been to the new exhibition at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum which opened to the public on 25 July. Meanwhile work is continuing rapidly on the modernisation and extension of the new museum complex, which is to house about 10,000 Minoan artefacts.

According to Museum Director Nota Dimopoulou, there are 800-1200 visitors a day. She told us: “These are mostly small groups and individual visitors who are particularly interested in archaeology and culture. There are no huge crowds and the tours take place smoothly, without problems. Unfortunately this new room is not suitable for mass tourist visits from cruise ships. There are compromises concerning visits to the museum, but don’t forget that Heraklion Archaeological Museum used to be the busiest museum in Greece.”
The new building of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Meanwhile work is continuing rapidly on the modernisation and extension of Heraklion Archaeological Museum, despite the delays caused by the discovery of the monastery of St Francis, changes to the plans, the withdrawal of the first consortium to undertake the work, etc.

The display area will cover an area of 3,000 square metres. About 10,000 of the 14,000 finds formerly on display will be exhibited in 25 rooms.

The building is expected to be ready in 2008, when the museological study should also have been completed. Circumstances permitting, the Heraklion Archaeological Museum will be ready to receive visitors in 2010. The budget is 21 million euros.

Chania (Historical Sites,Museums and Art)

Animal welfare in Chania

A new Animal Welfare and Cultural Association called “Animal Protection” (“Prostasia ton Zoon”) has been established in Chania by citizens wanting to promote the cause of animal welfare in the town. The Association has issued the following announcement:

"They say that hope always dies last. That is why we, a group of friends who love animals, hope that things will change. We have decided to unite hearts, minds and forces to do something for the cause of animal welfare in Chania, where local attitudes do little credit to the history and culture of our city.

The aim of our Association is the protection of animals by the following means:

a) Constant and insistent efforts for public information and awareness, starting at an early age, in order to educate children and adults. We will pay particular attention to this aim, as we believe that the cultivation of love for animals is the alpha and omega of animal welfare. We must learn
- Not to abandon animals in the street.
- Not to poison them.
- To love them.
- To neuter them.

b) Constant and insistent efforts to pressure city municipal and political authorities to assume their responsibilities under Law 3170/03 and implement an animal sterilisation programme, in order to limit the problem of desperate strays. Note that scientists say that sterilisation is also very good for the animal’s health. The authorities are also required to create an animal housing and adoption park according to EU regulations, with funding provided by the EU for the purpose, where animals can be happy until they are adopted.

c) Efforts to feed strays at specific points of our city and in the villages. We have already taken the first steps. Soon, in collaboration with the Directorate of Primary Education, to which we have written, we will start a series of presentations in schools, putting up posters and handing out leaflets about animals. Our members and volunteers are putting out food for strays at specific feeding points. Please do not put down poison there or anywhere else. It is a crime against life. It is also a criminal act and we will take any provable case of attempted or actual animal poisoning or ill-treatment to court.

We have already contacted the Municipality of Chania and other nearby Municipalities. We have sent an official letter to the Prefecture of Chania and the Municipalities of Chania, Platanias, Akrotiri, Nea Kydonia, with others to follow soon, as well as to the Local Union of Municipalities and Communities, local political authorities including Chania MP Mr Nikiforakis, and the Church. We ask that they assume their lawful responsibilities regarding stray animals. This is not a vague theoretical proposal. We have done extensive research on the subject and found municipalities with a very good record on animal welfare. The main argument of local municipalities, that there are no funds available, is false. Both the Ministry of Agricultural Development and the Ministry of the Interior have huge funds, mainly from the European Union, available to hand out to municipalities to use on stray animal sterilisation programmes and animal parks with ultra-modern facilities. All it takes is guts - otherwise known as political will.

Our local municipalities have shown absolutely no interest so far. We hope to rock the boat. We are ready and willing to help them in every way possible, but we are also prepared to take any legal action at both national and international level if they continue to ignore the issue.

Two other animal welfare associations, previously or currently run by German citizens, are active in Chania. We are not trying to supplant them in their work, which is mainly focussed on gathering strays and getting them adopted, mainly abroad. We will act in areas where these associations cannot.

We are open to offers of help from everyone working for the good of animals. Our hopes are many, our dreams wide, our needs enormous. If you can help us in any way, please contact us. We need material aid, voluntary contributions and, above all, moral support. We must stress, however, that we are not in a position to set up an animal treatment and adoption programme. This must be done through the municipalities and in collaboration with local vets.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tavli: This game is a part of the Cretan way of life!

In every Greek kafeneio you can see men playing the beloved Greek game of 'Tavli'. It looks a bit like the 'western' game of backgammon. Sometimes they play this very quietly, contemplatively, sometimes the situation is very hectic and noisy. It's played for fun and sometimes also for money or a gamble, another favorite sport of many Greeks.

The object of the game is for a player to move all of his checkers into his own home board and then bear them off. The first player to bear off all of his checkers wins the game. The starting positions are the master positions, called 'mana' in Greek.
To start the game, each player throws a single dice. This determines the player to go first. If equal numbers come up, then both players roll again until they roll different numbers. The player throwing the higher number now moves his checkers according to the numbers showing on both dice. After the first roll, the players throw two dice and alternate turns. The roll of the dice indicates how many points, or pips, the player is to move his checkers. The checkers are always moved forward. Please see the links at the bottom of this page for more details.

This game is one of the oldest games in existence, dating back almost 5000 years, and is believed to have been developed by the ancient Egyptians. Using 15 stones, two dice, one board and a winner's attitude, try to move your stones off the table before your opponent does.
The ancient Greeks played it. So did the Romans. The game we know today was refined in England in the seventeenth century, which is also when it acquired the name backgammon. One significant innovation of the twentieth century was the addition of the doubling cube in the 1920s. This is not introduced in Tavli.

Gaming boards of 3 x 10 squares have been found extensively in ancient Egyptian archaeological sites. The game was known to the ancient Egyptians as the Game of Thirty Squares or Senet (sometimes Senat). The exact rules are not known. Similar boards have also been found consisting of 3 x 12 squares, 3 x 6 squares and other patterns - it's not clear if these are different games or mere variants. A number of boards have been found which feature Senet on one side and another popular Egyptian game, the Game of Twenty Squares, on the other.

Backgammon-type games have been played for thousands of years in all parts of the world and certainly during the Egyptian, Greek and Roman eras. The Romans left a great deal of evidence of a game they called Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum, the game of the twelve lines. The game is possibly derived from the Egyptian Senat having a topological set of 3 x 12 points and being played with 3 x 6 sided dice but, again, the rules have never been fully ascertained. In the first century AD, Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum seems to have been replaced by a variant with only 2 rows of 12 points, a game which by the 6th century was called 'Alea'. Both these games and others were also referred to as 'Tabula', which was a generic game for 'boardgame' and in early mediaeval times was usually used to mean the most popular boardgame, Duodecim Scriptorum/Alea/Backgammon, in the same way that the generic term 'football' normally means 'soccer' in England today.

In Asia, the game of Nard appeared sometime prior to 800 AD, in South West Asia or in Persia depending upon which version of history one believes, and variants are played today throughout the continent. Chinese history gives that t'shu-p'u, the Chinese name for Nard was invented in Western India, arrived in China during the Wei dynasty (220 - 265 AD) and became popular from 479 to 1000 AD. In Japan the game was called Sugoroko and was declared illegal during the reign of Empress Jito (690 - 697 AD). Nard, in turn, seems to have been introduced into Europe via Italy or Spain following the Arab occupation of Sicily (902 AD).

The first mention of the game in English print was in The Codex Exoniensis published in 1025: "These two shall sit at Tables...". Tables was probably brought to England by men returning from the Crusades. Many of them stayed for a long time on Crete and Malta. Nard or Tables was played throughout Europe during the middle ages and became very popular in English Taverns, although Chess overtook it as the more popular game in the fifteenth century. By the end of the sixteenth century, Tables had, for some reason, become a generic term for any game played on a flat surface or table. Like many games played for money, it became unpopular with the authorities in England and, until the reign of Elizabeth I, laws prohibiting the playing of Tables in licensed establishments were in force. In the early seventeenth century, however, following some modifications to the rules, the game underwent a revival and it swept across Europe again under a variety of different names which have mostly stayed the same until today. Tavli and Tables are almost synonyms.

It is a subject of debate as to whether the term Backgammon is derived from the Welsh 'back' (little) and 'gammon' (battle) or from the Saxon 'bac' (back) 'gamen' (game).

Backgammon underwent another revival before the first World War but waned during the middle of the twentieth century only to recover again in the 1970s to become the popular game it is today. It is still widely played in the Middle East as Tric-trac.

There are a whole family of variants: Chouette (3 or 4 player version), Partnership backgammon, Sixey-Acey, Dutch Backgammon, Turkish Backgammon (Moultezim), Greek Backgammon (Tavli, Portes, Plakoto, Fevga), Gioul (from the Middle East), Acey Deucey (US Forces version of Dutch Backgammon), European Acey Deucey, Russian Backgammon, Tabard Backgammon and Icelandic Backgammon (Kotra).

TAVLI is a game consisting of three other individual games, called 'Portes' (means 'doors', two checkers together form a 'door'), 'Plakoto' (comes from the Greek verb 'plakono', which means to put something on top of something else ,in the game to put a checker on top of an opponent's checker) and 'Fevga' (pronounce: 'figa', means 'to run', and in the game reflects a fast and well positioned play in order to get to your home quarter).

Portes is the equivalent of Backgammon, with the exception of the doubling and winning with 3 points; usually this is 5 or 7 points. In Greece the exact equivalent of backgammon is called 'Vidos'. The Greeks use to play matches by alternating between the games Portes , Plakoto and Fevga.

The general differences between Greek and 'western style' Backgammon:

* No doubling cube is used
* Gammons and Backgammons count the same (2 points)
* Only one pair of dice is being used and it can be thrown in either side of the board. If a dice lands on a checker or does not lay correctly, both dice must be thrown again
* In the first game the beginner is the one, who throws the highest number. Then he rolls again and starts with these numbers (so it is possible to start with doubles). In all the following games the winner of the last game starts the new game
*A move is done when the opponent rolls the dice: This needs some further explanation I think (X against O, X on roll): Normally O picks up the dice while X makes his move. As long as X has a checker in his hand (or his finger on it), X may change the complete move. If X has finished his move, O may throw the dice and the move is over. If O throws the dice to early, it does not count and he has to throw them again. This way of making the moves allows fast and uncomplicated games

Sfakian Dialect

Much fanciful nonsense has been written suggesting that the distinctiveness of the Sfakian dialect of Greek is due to the preservation in the region of 'pure' Dorian Greek as this was brought to Crete 3000 years ago. It is certainly true that the dialect of the Sfakia region is in a number of ways different from the other dialects of Crete. But the reality is that its distinctiveness is due to the relative isolation of the area in much more recent times.

The best known of all Cretan dialect features is that the consonants k, g, x (ch) and gh are pronounced like English ch, j, sh and zh before the vowels i and e. For example, ke 'and' is che, anagi 'need' is anaji, maxeri 'knife' is masheri, and Giorgho is Zhorgho. You may well hear these pronunciations in Chora Sfakion, but it is a feature which is absent from many of the villages of the Sfakia region.

The most recognisable Sfakian feature, however, concerns the pronunciation of L. Before the vowels i and e this is pronounced more or less as in other varieties of Greek. Before the vowels a, o, and u, however, a very different sound occurs which is very similar indeed to the pronunciation of r in American English, so that kalá 'well' sounds like 'kará'. Interestingly, in the village of Chora Sfakion, this feature is now almost entirely confined to the speech of men.

Visitors to Sfakia who know some Greek may notice a number of words which are typical of the southern islands generally, or of Crete, or of western Crete, or of Sfakia itself. These include:
Sfakian English Greek
inda? = what? = ti?
jada? = why? = jatí?
etsá = thus = étsi
edhá = now = tóra
epá = here = edhó
ekiá = over there = ekí péra
práma = nothing = típota
kopéli = boy = aghóri
kopélia = boys
kopeliá = girl = korítsi
kopeliés = girls
trozós = crazy = trellós
opsés = yesterday = xtes
ghlakó = I run = tréxo
katéo = I know = kséro
thoró = I see = vlépo

A number of words have a rather different pronunciation from those you might have learned in phrase books:
oi = no = óxi
áne = if = án
oúla = everything = óla
ókso = outside = ékso
mikiós = small = mikrós
pothéno = I die = pethéno
símero = today = símera

There are some grammatical differences also. Past tense verb forms tend to have the e- prefix in all forms:
edhoúlepsa = I worked = dhoúlepsa

And it is possible to place a pronoun object after the verb rather than before it:
thoró se = I see you = se vlépo

All the Sfakia people who come into contact with tourists can switch very easily between Sfakian dialect and Standard Greek, as well as English and maybe German and French too. They remain, however, very proud of their local dialect.

An article written exclusively for
Prof. Peter Trudgill
Chair of English Linguistics
University of Fribourg

Winds of Crete

In winter there were the hard northern gales, when the sea turned grey, more like the North Atlantic than the Aegean, and the bitter chill came in through the cracks under the doors; and on the coldest days in the unheated room with the stone floor there was nothing to do but put on all your clothes at once -long underwear, sweaters and jackets and scarves- and then go to bed and pile on the blankets. Came spring, and Africa had its voice in our affairs: 'the Big Tongue' as the old women of Crete call the hot, dust-laden sorokos that comes howling up from Libya. We would see it coming through the gap in the mountains to the south -a distant finger of haze drifting into the still blue gulf of Merabello. Innocent it looked, but the fishermen knew it for the devil it was, and when they saw it coming they made for port at once. It arrived all in a rush, churning the sea to angry foam, blowing the salt spray right up on to our terrace, raising little tornadoes of dust all over town. The first day of a sorokos was bad enough; the second was even worse; and by the third you were ready to commit murder or suicide. The air became clogged with yellow dust, you felt restless and often had a headache, couldn't work, couldn't read, couldn't do anything. Tempers wore thin, quarrels flared, domestic peace was threatened. There are archaeologists who say that a south wind was blowing when Knossos burned about 1400 B.C; and to anyone who has lived in Crete there is nothing surprising about this, for it is easy to believe that all bad things happen during the southerly storms.

But the essence of the Cretan climate is the imminence of sudden change; and so the south wind would leave as quickly as it had come. and then for a few days peace and calm seas and blue skies were ours. But never for long -always another wind would come, and some of them, like the cool meltemia breezes that blew steadily from the northwest for forty days in summer, were most welcome.

First page of Winds of Crete, by David MacNeil Doren, 1974.

Let's look to the backgrounds of the Cretan winds. Where do they come from, how are they called and what are their characteristics?

The wind was not always in Greece. Here's how come:

Aeolus was king of the Aeolian Islands, and was appointed by Zeus to be the Ruler of the Winds, both to calm them and to arouse them. Having entertained Odysseus, who had come to him during his wanderings, Aeolus gave him a bag in which he had bound fast the winds. But when Odysseus' fleet, having left the Aeolian Islands was near Ithaca, his comrades, thinking that Odysseus carried gold in the bag, loosed it and let the winds go free, and they were driven back again to Aeolus's floating kingdom. But this time the Ruler of the Winds refused to granted them a fair breeze, driving them from the island.

The following winds can be distinguished in Crete. Looking at the many names it points out that winds play a significant role in daily Cretan life!

Vorias, Boreas, Tramontana: NORTH winds

Boreas is the Greek god of the North Wind who lived in Thrace. He is depicted as being winged, extremely strong, bearded and normally clad in a short pleated tunic. He is the son of Eos and Astraeus, and the brother of Zephyrus, Eurus and Notus. Boreas has two sons, two daughters and twelve mares which can race over the ground without destroying the grain. When the Persian navy of Xerxes threatened the city of Athens, the Athenians begged his assistance. The Great Wind of the Wintery North blew his anger at the Persians and 400 Persian ships sank immediately. Among other violent acts he abducted Oreithyia, the daughter of the king of Athens, when she was playing on the banks of the Ilissus. In Latin, he is called Aquilo.

The Vorias (northerly wind) is very fierce and may last many days on end. Locals say the Vorias in its most fierce of days whistles furiously day and night, tormenting the shepherds on the uplands and the farmers in the fields and ruining the gardens in the villages. Vorias also leaves a most noticeable mark on the trees of the villages, all of which grow slanting away from the wind.

Vorias is called Meltemi in summer.

Vorias Anatoliko, Gregorio, Grego: NORTHEAST winds

Vorias means The North, Anatoliko means The East. 'Gregorio' is Italian for Wind.

Anatolia may be defined in geographic terms as the area bounded to the north by the Black Sea, to the east and south by the Southeastern Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, and to the west by the Aegean Sea and Sea of Marmara; culturally the area also includes the islands of the eastern Aegean Sea.

Anatolikna, Levante, Ageliotes: EAST winds

Ageliotes means Eastern. Associated with beautiful weather in Crete.

Notios Anatolikos, Sirocco, Souroko, Euros: SOUTHEAST winds

Eurus was the child of Eos and Astraeus. Eurus is the Greek god of the East Wind, and his siblings, the other winds. The Greeks were not sure whether the winds were male or female, but they knew that they had wings. Eurus was the wind who brought warmth and rain from the east. A symbol showing this was a vase inverted, pouring out rain. Eurus was the unfavorable one. His Roman equivalent is Vulturnus.

Southeasterly winds commonly occur during the April to October period, but are more frequent during April/May and September/October. Strong episodes occur 3 to 4 times per year and last 1 to 2 days. The winds can be caused by different synoptic situations: low pressure areas south or north from Crete. North African lows develop over the desert region south of the Atlas Mountains.

The associated Sirocco conditions will spread progressively eastward along the northeast African coast. Sirocco conditions vary by season, with the most bothersome effects occurring during spring. Wintertime Sirocco conditions include relatively warm temperatures and stable conditions (low stratus, fog, and drizzle with reduced visibility) in the lower levels of the atmosphere.

An indicator of southeasterly winds is an east-west line of altostratus clouds parallel to the coasts west of Cape Drapanon, near Kokkino Horio and Kalives, and the city of Rethimnon. This indicator is considered to be very reliable and is highly regarded by local fishermen.

Increasing southeasterly winds at Souda Bay are an indication that a North African cyclone is moving toward Crete.

Notios Ostra: SOUTH winds

Notus is the god of the South Wind, which is a very warm and moist wind. He is the son of Eos and Astraeus. The Romans called him Auster.

Hot southern winds are called 'Kadhafi Wind' by some locals in Chora Sfakion. Everybody stays inside, since the normal temperature can already be near 40° C and the wind is even warmer, feeling like a hair dryer on your body.

Gale force winds are likely along the south coast of Crete during an Etesian (see below). Orographic wave clouds along the mountains of Crete are an indication of strong winds to the south.

Cold fronts that move southward through the Aegean Sea usually stall on reaching the latitude of Crete. On the north side of the island, winds are northerly and weather poor with low clouds and drizzle. On the south side of the island, however, winds are southerly with clear skies and warm temperatures. The occurrence of the stationary front along the mountains of Crete can persist up to a week.

Notios Ditikos, Garbis: SOUTHWEST winds

'Ditikos' means West in Greek. 'Garbis' means westerly or southerly wind in Greek. 'Pounento Garbis' is WSW wind.

Pounente, Ditikos, Zephyros: WEST winds

Zephyrus is the Greek god of the West Wind, believed to live in a cave on Thrace. He is the son of Eos and Astraeus, the brother of Boreas, Eurus and Notus. He abducted the goddess Chloris and gave her dominion over flowers. In Roman myth, he is Favonius, the protector of flowers and plants.

Any soft and gentle breeze nowadays is referred to as a zephyr. Theophrastus, a 4th century BC scholar who left us with a complete accounting of the winds of Greece, wrote: "Zephyros, the west wind, is the most gentle of all the winds and it blows in the afternoon and towards the land, and is cold".

'Pounento' and "Ditikos' mean West in Greek.

Vorias Ditikos, Maistro, Schiron: NORTHWEST winds

'Pounento Maistros' is WNW wind in Greek. Maistro is a NW 'beautiful weather wind', prevails in summer,like the Etesians, see below.

Etesians, Meltemi: NORTHERLY winds

The Meltemi (= Turkish word for Etesian) wind was known by the old Greek as the Etesian (etos = annual) northern winds.

Etesians are at their maximum strength during July and August. The pressure gradients necessary to drive the Etesian winds result from a combination of:

The monsoonal effect during the summer leads to a low pressure trough over Turkey. Etesian winds flow from a high pressure ridge over the Balkans toward the trough. During a strong Etesian, the trough may extend relatively far to the west and beyond Rhodes. It may also form a closed low, resulting in almost calm winds at Rhodes.

A jet-effect wind increase caused by channelling of the wind between islands and mountain valleys. These effects tend to render wind reports from certain locations unrepresentative. In the lee of Crete, katabatic flow off the mountains generates gusty winds similar to the Foehn of the Alps. The mountain valleys tend to channel the flow which increases the wind velocity. Strong or gale force winds are frequent along the southern coast of Crete during the Etesian season in areas where they are channelled.

At Souda Bay, Etesian winds are from the northwest quadrant. The northwest winds would likely reach the port area as west-northwesterly due to the higher terrain north and south of the bay, and the valley to the west. An occasional westerly gale may occur during the summer.

The surface flow is generally divergent in an Etesian situation, and the weather is generally thought to be dry with clear skies. However, this is mostly true only during July and August. During this peak Etesian period, scattered altocumulus appear a day before an Etesian, and the only other clouds are orographic types that may form on the lee side of islands in stronger Etesians. During the early and late months of the Etesian season, thunderstorms frequently occur both ahead of and behind the front over the Balkans, often in northern Greece, and sometimes as far south as Athens. The thunderstorms frequently precede the Etesian by one day and generally continue for an additional 24 hours.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Wedding Traditions

Before the Wedding ... Tradition in Greece is to have your “Bed” made before you actually sleep in it with your new spouse. During this ceremony, the bed is “made” with hand-knit linens and then adorned with Koufetta – almond candies, rose petals and, of course, money from friends and family for good luck. In many Greek villages, they gently roll babies on the bed to insure fertility. This ceremony is usually followed by a light meal and drinks. We can do this right in your hotel room the day before the ceremony, or during the morning of the ceremony, together with a lovely brunch. You can also purchase the handmade blanket used on your wedding night to have as a keepsake of this memorable ceremony.
When attending a Greek wedding, guests might wear a small “Eye” to ward off evil and keep the Bride and Groom protected from bad luck. You will see these for sale all over Greece.

Greek Brides often put a lump of sugar in their glove for a “sweet” marriage.
In Ancient Greece, Brides often carried Ivy at the weddings as a symbol of their never-ending love.
Traditionally, during medieval times, the bride was abducted from her home and village by force. To do this, a large expedition was formed, led by the groom, which attacked the bride's home so as to kidnap her. The reason for this was biologically based in theory. Since villages were remote from one another, and since each village was basically inhabited by one extended family, the incursion by an expedition from another village literally brought "new blood" to the gene pool, assuring stronger and healthier offspring. In more modern times, however, due to the establishment of large cities and towns, creating a more mobile society, only a farcial re-enactment of the expedition took place. In this case, musicians played the central role of the bride and groom, and the bride's relatives were "bribed" to let the bride go, rather than to have actually have been defeated in battle. The whole ceremony was accompanied by special music and songs specific to each individual community (marriage songs, "tragoudia tou gamou"). The best of these songs eventually managed to spread throughout Greece and are considered to be fine jewels in our rich cultural tradition.

Nowadays, after the wedding ceremony, guests are offered bombonieres. These delightful gifts of sugar-coated almonds are wrapped in net and attached to a small memento of your wedding. And, by the way, another hallmark of modern weddings is the wild and deafening loud concerto of automobile horns before and after a wedding ceremony. You can smile when you hear this, since you now know the tradition behind it ... the bride has been abducted!!

Samaria Gorge, Chania, 2 videos

Music and musicians in Crete

Cretan Cheese... yammy!

Anthotyros xeros
(dried anthotyros )
When anthotyros is dried you get anthotyros xeros.While drying it is heavily salted and therefore it is rather savoury.
It is a wonderful cheese, eaten plain as well as grated over pasta.It can also be turned into the delicious ladotyri ( cut in cubes and packed in olive oil )

It is made of either sheep or goat’s milk . It is a very tasty, soft, sweet, white cheese.Since it is not rich in fat, it is very healthy. It is eaten in the same way as myzithra.

Myzithra glykia
(sweet myzithra )
It is made of either sheep or goat's milk ( sometimes mixed as well ) .The best myzithra comes from goat's milk.It is delicious and light.

(sour myzithra )
It is made of either sheep or goat's milk (sometimes mixed as well ) .It is an ex-cellent kind of cheese, very tasty but rather rich in fat. Both cheeses are eaten in numerous ways, for examle ; plain, or with paximadi ( hard bread ) in salads or as a filling in kaltsounia ( traditional cheese pies) etc.

(gruyere )
It is made of sheep's milk or mixed with goat’s milk. We should say that it is not only famous locally but universally as well.

It is made from staka when it is processed and of cource it is equally as rich.See our recipe section about its use.

It is made exactly as graviera .The difference is that kephalograviera is aged more and therefore it is more savoury ( due to the larger quantity of salt it has absorded ) Of cource the quality remains the same.

Pheta/ feta
Typical cheese of sheep's or goat's milk or mixed .However it can not be classified as a traditional product of Western Crete since its production has started only recently.

Yaourti paradossiako
(Traditional Yogurt )
It is made of top quality sheep milk ( hour's fresh ).Due to its freshness, yaourti has a high consistency of fresh milk fat which makes it delicious.

Any cheese like graviera , kephalograviera or anthotyros xeros can be turned into ladotyri provided it is aged and dried for over a year.
It is then cut into cubes and packed in virgin olive oil.This very old process presumably originated in harsh times, when refridgeration facilities were not available.
Staka or Anthogalo
It is the cream of the milk, the first product of the milkprocess.
If it is beaten, we get fresh butter.
It obviously has a high consistency of fat.

Malaka or Tyromalaka
It is a fresh cheese (tyromaza) and is used as a filling in Kaltsounia.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ancient map of Crete

The Bearded Vulture

Pure Crete website, has funded thousands of leaflets in English to raise awareness and money to help to protect the Cretan Bearded Vulture. The Bearded Vulture, or Lammergeier, was once found in mountain regions across Europe, Asia and parts of Africa, but is now an endangered species and only survives in a few areas. One of these is Crete where 31 birds are left. The Bearded Vulture is the only bone-eating bird in the world - dropping bones from hundreds of feet to shatter them before descending to eat. `The bone breaker' has a wingspan of 2.8 metres and its narrow wings allow it to reach great altitudes to reign majestically and peacefully in the Cretan skies.

It has reddish yellow or white plumage on the head and breast with a grey black tail and wings. Its black forehead and beak forms the distinctive appearance of a beard.

The vulture reaches adulthood after 6 or 7 years, and lays two eggs between December and January, one of which will normally survive. Its natural lifespan is 40 years. The Lammergeier displays no predatory behaviour and has no natural predators but faces extinction due to man. Destruction of natural habitats, poisonous baits by shepherds, egg stealing by collectors, tourist disturbance and high voltage cables all take their toll.

That is why Pure Crete through the `Immediate Intervention for the Protection of Nature'* has acted to raise awareness and funds to protect the Bearded Vulture in Crete. We hope other companies will follow our lead.

* An EU charity working in partnership with the Greek government to intervene to protect endangered indigenous species.


Loggerhead Turtle in Crete

As visitors to Crete, we all have a responsibility to help to preserve the indigenous environment and species. That is why Pure Crete has pioneered schemes to help protect the endangered loggerhead turtle in Crete.
Turtles have existed since the dinosaurs - some 200 million years - but now face the threat of extinction unless stretches of beach where they lay their eggs are protected from disturbance. That is why Pure Crete funded a turtle hatchery, in Gerani on the north-west coast of Crete, through the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece.
Loggerhead turtles grow up to 100kg in weight and 90cm in length. Each population is genetically distinctive, and hatcheries enable the stretch of beach to which they habitually return to be protected.
The Loggerhead turtles around Crete nest from the end of May to mid-August. Each adult female lays eggs every 2 or 3 years, and may lay 120 eggs at a time, twice or three times in that season. If a turtle is disturbed by human activity when she comes ashore she will postpone her egg-laying and ultimately abort her eggs in the sea where they will be lost. In any case, only one in a thousand hatchlings entering the sea survive to adulthood due to predatory seabirds and fish and it then takes between fifteen and twenty years for a turtle to reach sexual maturity!
It is therefore important to protect the nesting habitat of the Loggerhead turtle and we hope that you support the work Pure Crete has done to ensure eggs are successfully laid and hatched.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Malia Heraklion Crete

Malia (Greek: Mάλλια) is a coastal town and a municipality on the island of Crete, in Greece, 34km west of Heraklion, the Cretan capital city. It is the seat of the municipality of Malia which also includes the villages Mohos, Krassi and the area of Stalis. The town is a tourist attraction, primarily for its prolific archeological site and nightlife. The Minoan town ruins lie 3 km east of the site and cover an area of approximately 1km². The original name for the town is not known but rumour has it that Emperor Pannos had called it Aegean Sky way back in 69 BC.

The palace of Malia, dating from the Middle Bronze Age, was destroyed by an earthquake during the Late Bronze Age; Knossos and other sites were also destroyed at that time. The palace was later rebuilt toward the end of the Late Bronze Age. Most of the ruins visible today date from this second period of construction. The palace features a giant central courtyard, 48m x 23m in size. On the south side are two sets of steps leading upwards and a maze of tiny rooms. Also here is a strange carved stone called a kernos stone, which looks like a millstone with a cup attached to the side of it. On the north side of the courtyard were storage rooms with giant earthenware pithos jars, up to two metres tall. These were presumably used for holding olive oil and other liquids; the floor of these rooms has a complicated drainage system for carrying away spilled liquids.

The palace of Malia was discovered in 1915 by Hadzidakis, a Greek archaeologist. It was fully excavated from 1922 onwards by the French School at Athens in collaboration with Greek scholars. Importantly, the palace was surrounded by a Minoan town which has only recently been uncovered. Excavation is still ongoing here. Important parts of the old and new excavations are covered by a series of large semi-transparent roofs, which protect them from the elements. In places tourists are allowed to wander among the ruins; in others, walkways allow them to walk above them. There are rooms which have been identified as metal workshops, ceramic workshops and meeting rooms.

Tourism and commerce are the main economic activities in the town. Modern day Malia is a seaside resort with plenty of gift shops, hotels, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. The prominence of Malia as one of the leading spots for nightlife in Europe is cemented by the attraction of big name DJs and events.

Pirate Barbarossa

Pirate Barbarossa and Captain Jack Sparrow...What has Johnny Depp got to do with Crete?

Whilst Geoffery Rush plays Captain Barbarossa in the films Pirates of the Caribbean, the real Barbarossa was infamous for violent attacks, pillaging and stealing treasures, ruining townships and generally wreaking havoc. Oh yes, that is what pirates do, isn’t it?

Barbarossa was in fact two men, brothers, both named after the older’s red hair and beard. They were unwelcome visitors to Crete in the late 16th century with attacks on Sitia, Chania, Kastelli-Kissamos, Paleohora and many other towns.

The Barbarossa brothers were Aruj and Khayrad'din, both born in Lesbos, and roamed the waters of the Mediterranean as corsairs. For centuries the kingdoms of Algeria, Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli engaged in a system of state-sponsored piracy, capturing ships in Mediterranean waters and attacking coastal European villages. They used the victims as slave labour in their home ports.

The Barbarossa brothers were infamous for their domination of the trading lines across the Mediterranean. They had ports all along the Barbary Coast in the north of Africa. In later life, they had ruling powers over Algeria with direct line to the sultan and part of Ottoman domination of the region.

Fighting against Christians and Christian corsairs, it is said that Aruj was captured by the Knights of St John and later killed by Spanish crusaders in 1518.

It is hard to say that these Barbarossa’s ever got anywhere near the Caribbean, but why let that get in the way of a good story?

Today there is a pirate boat moored in Rethymnon harbour with real-life pirates ready to take you for a day trip. You might just see some local turtles while you are there on the open sea. Lucky for us, these days there are no real pirates to attack while we are enjoying a cruise.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Cosmopolitan Cretan Towns

Chania with its picturesque Venetian harbour is a fascinating blend of the modern and historic patchwork of Cretan life. Built on an ancient site, the old town with its narrow twisting streets, art galleries and cafés is characteristic of Kriti’s wealth of culture.

surrounded by beaches and crowned by the ruins of a Venetian fortezza, Rethymnon also has a contrast of historic and modern architecture, with excellent restaurants and cafés. The University of Crete is based just outside of town.

is the capital of the island and one of the most wealthy cities in Greece. It is modern, upbeat and diverse. We are happy to share our knowledge of the town to those who might think to overlook it, there is plenty to see and do in Iraklion.

Agios Nikolaos
is a hilly town surrounding the beautiful Lake Voulismeni. Agios Nikolaos has its own charm and pulse. Come and have a peek at one of the Mediterranean’s prettiest harbours.

Kastelli Kissamos
on the north-west coast of Crete, is a small coastal town with an interesting history. Pirate Barbarossa was active here. Some of the most beautiful wild beaches of the island are nearby.

on the south-west coast of Crete, is where the mountains meet the sea. From here you can beach hop, hike in the Lefka Ori, or sail to Gavdos Island. Whales and dolphins can be seen in these clean turquoise waters.

in the Messara of Iraklion, in the centre of the island, is a busy market town. The Messara is a huge central valley rolling north to south in the middle of the island. It has been written about, fought over and appeared in mythology. Today Mires is a vibrant agricultural community, with a huge market every Saturday. It is close to the ancient sites of Phaistos and Gortys, and the village of Zaros.

(photo) in the east of Crete is not often visited by tourists, however travellers will find plenty of interest here in this solidly Greek town. As Lasithi has a vibrant agricultural activity, especially with the olive harvest, Sitia is wealthy town, over-looking beautiful Sitia Bay and surrounded by the wide open landscapes of Kriti.

Panigiria. Something that you have to live in Crete

To see the real people and customs of Crete, one must visit the villages of Crete. Typically, the more isolated the village, the more the local customs are preserved. The manifestations of the old traditions and customs are easy to observe in the local celebrations of the saints of each village, the panigiria, on the name day of the saint whose name was given to one of the churches of the village. The celebration varies from village to village, but typically, it involves long church liturgies attended by the people of the village. Many people who have moved away use this as an opportunity to visit their former villages and sometimes combine it with a baptism or wedding of their own. Music, dancing, and eating often take place in the center of the village the night before.

There are many local feast days, especially during the summer months, and it is easy to find one nearby to attend. Some of the celebrations are particularly interesting because they involve large groups of people hiking or taking small boats to a church or monastery in an isolated location.

On Agios Georgios Day (Saint George's Day) in Asigonia, Chania, the shepherds bring their goats and sheep from the high mountain pastures, (some taking 4 or 5 hours to reach Asigonia) to be blessed by the priest. In this celebration the animals are milked in front of the church, and the milk is boiled and served to the people. The Agios Georgios celebration is held before the Lenten season or on the day after Easter.

Beaches of Crete


Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Old Fishing Village of Panormos

Panormos is a small traditional Cretan fishing village with narrow cobbled streets, shops and an excellent choice of tavernas. It lies above the harbour and overlooks three beautiful little coves with lovely sandy beaches for sunbathing and calm waters for swimming. It is the ideal place to relax and enjoy the lazy atmosphere, go for long walks or just sit at the cafes/tavernas overlooking the harbour and enjoy the beautiful view and watch the world go by. It is also possible to rent fishing boats by the hour or day. There is a post office, chemist shop and doctor.

In Roman times Panormos was the old port of Axos, in the more recent days of steam travel it was an important harbour and a flourishing small town. Above the harbour you can see the remains of a mediaeval Genoan fort and behind the village the remains of the sixth century Christian basilica of Agia Sofia have been excavated. The basilica has three aisles; each aisle was separated from the other by four columns. Fragments of the capitals have been found. About 25 km south is the archaeological site of ELEFTHERNA

Panormos is an excellent geographical point to use as a base for excursions all over Crete. It is in the centre of the island, 22 kms east of Rethymnon. There is a regular bus service to Rethymnon (on average every 20 minutes) and to Heraklion.
It is just a short drive up to Anogia in the mountains, 740 metres up the north face of Mount Psiloritis, and from there to the stunning Nida Plateau and the Ideon cave where according to mythology was where Zeus grew up.

In the ancient days of steam travel it was an important harbour and a flourishing small town. About 25 km south to the mainland is the archaeological site of ELEFTHERNA. Today, Panormos is a protected area due to its beautiful and traditional narrow streets and buildings. Fine sandy beaches, several good restaurants, a wonderful sea view are just some of the pleasures a visitor can experience in Panormos. It is also an excellent geographical point to use as a base for excursions all over Crete.