Friday, April 13, 2007

The People and the Place (Part II)

Due to its narrow width, the island of Crete has view rivers, which begin from its central, mountains region and end at the Libyan and the Cretan Seas. Most of them have little water during the winter months, and they dry up in the summer. The biggest rivers on the island are the Geropotamos and the Anapodiaris, in the Messara area, the Tyflos and the Kolenis in the valley of Chania, the Kilaris, the Mega Potamos and the Kourtaliotis, at the delta of which we find an area of exquisite beauty. The island does not have big lakes as well, except for some very small ones as well as the lake of Koyurna in the Apokoronou area. There also exists the small but picturesque harbour-side lake of Voulismeni, next to the port of Aghios Nikolaos.

A great variety of agricultural products is produced in the numerous valleys found on the island of Crete. The lowlands of the island spread along its north side, where we find the valleys of Kastellion Kisamou, of Kydonia, of Aghia, of Georgioupolis, of Rethymnon, of Chania, of Malia, of Ierapetra as well as the Mesara Valley, known since antiquity for the bounteous production of cereals. Due to the yielding climate of the island, agriculture is greatly developed and during the last few years big greenhouse cultivations were created here, from where all kinds of products are shipped to the rest of Greece. Among other products, Crete is famous for its olives - from which the high quality cretan oil is produced - the grape vines, the groceries, the oranges, lemons and other products of the kind, as well as for the production of "tropical" fruits, such as bananas, avocadoes and kiwi, as well as thwe famous cretan raisins, known by the name of Soultanina. In the mountains areas, there is bounteous production of of mountain tea, chestnuts, walnuts and other products. On the island there is also production - in great quantities - of high quality honey and cheeses, such as the cretan anthotyro, the mizithra and the graviera, while local fishermen sell all kinds of fish and sea food.
The climate in Crete can be described as typical Mediterranea. Summer is hot and dry with sparce clouds and lots of sunshine. Winter is mild, although in certain areas there may be snow and temperature may drop to unusually low levels.
Crete is known for the wide variety of its natural flora. It is estimated that the island is home to 2,000 different kinds of plants, many of which only grow on Cretan land, such as the famous evergreen, Platanus orientalis. Along the Cretan land spread green areas of unique natural beauty. One can admire beautiful wildflowers, anemones, daffodils, osiers and the wild ranunculus. On the mountain slopes grow cypress-, plane-, chestnut-, and oak-trees. The greatest variety of rare plants grows in the gorges, especially in the famous Samaria gorge, which is a known National Park. Here, one comes across rare plants, like the Ebenus cretica, Campanula pelviformis, Gladolius italicus, Linum arboreum, Staechelina arborea, Cyclamen creticum, Chrysanthemum coronarium, Cistus villosuscreticus and Petromarcula pinnata. In the rest of the island varieties such as Tulipa bakeri, Anchusa caespitosa, Erysinum raulinu, Dianthus juniperinus, Dianthus pulviniformis, Asperula idaea and Scabiosa minoana can be found. Finally, of singular natural beauty is the palm-forest of Vai, where Phoenix theophrastu grows, a variety unique to this part of Greece.
Crete is well known for the cretan goat, otherwise called "kri - kri" which is found mainly in the Gorge of Samaria. The archaeological excavations, which have brouth to light many a wall paintings of the "kri - kri", testify to the view that this animal was worshiped on the island during antiquity. Its rareness is one of the reasons that led to the Gorge of Samaria becoming a national park. However, "kri - kri" have been spotted in the nearby islands of Dia, Theodoros and Aghioi Pantes. From the Cretan countryside, there could not been absent animals less rare, which are found in many parts of Greece. Among them, the rabbit, the wild cat or fourogatos and a unique kind of mouse. Among the birds, in the Cretan mountains we distinguish the golden eagle and the eagle Gyps Fulvus, while there are many kinds of traveling birds which make a stop on the island as they travel to the south.