Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Quick Guide to Crete Greece

Crete is the largest of the Greek islands at 3220 sq. miles and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean Sea. It is located at approximately 35° N 24° E. Crete is a popular tourist destination; its attractions include the Minoan sites of Knossos and Phaistos, the classical site of Gortys, the Venetian castle in Rethymno, and the Samaria Gorge, as well as many other natural sites, monuments, and beaches. Crete was the center of the Minoan civilization (ca. 2600–1400 BCE), the oldest civilization in Europe. Crete is one of the 13 regions into which Greece is divided. It is the largest island in Greece and the second largest (after Cyprus) of the East Mediterranean. Crete has an elongated shape - 260 km from east to west and 60 km at its widest, although the island is narrower at certain points, such as in the region close to Ierapetra where it has a width of only 12 km. It covers an area of 8,336 km² and has a coastline of 1046 km. To the north Crete borders with the Sea of Crete (Greek: Κρητικό Πέλαγος), to the south it is bordered by the Libyan Sea (Greek: Λιβυκό Πέλαγος), to the west the Myrtoon Sea, to the east the Karpathion Sea. Its population is 650,000 people (as of 2005). The island lies approximately 160 km south of the Greek mainland.

Source: http://www.gradpula.com/guides/crete/

General info and tips when visiting Crete

We recommend that you take some Euros on holiday with you although you will find many places to change cash and travellers cheques in the main tourist areas. Banks are open Monday to Friday until 2 pm only.

There are OTE offices in most of the main towns from where you can telephone to anywhere in the world. Increasingly, Hotels and Apartments have telephones in the accommodation, linked to computers that calculate the cost of any calls. Street kiosks sometimes have card phones and you can buy telephone cards at kiosks, mini-markets and post offices for use with public phones.

The voltage is 220 volts which is compatible with the UK but you will need a two pin adapter to use your own equipment. Electricity is expensive in Crete so please do be considerate in the way you use it. Occasionally there are power cuts due to high demands.

Drinking Water
The spring water from the mountains of Crete is perfectly safe to drink but bottled water is available in most restaurants and shops. There are shortages in the long hot summer and care should be taken that water is not wasted.

Pests & Others
Due to the warm climate of the southern Mediterranean, the rural background of Cretan life, and the location of certain properties, pests are really unavoidable. It is particularly important not to leave food sitting out, or uncovered. Flies, wasps and bees are naturally attracted to tavernas, and in no way suggests unsanitary conditions. Many of our houses and villas are situated in the countryside and you may therefore be awoken by a cockerel or disturbed by goats or sheep, or the barking of a guard dog. This is all part of the Mediterranean island life and as such a little understanding goes a long way.

Time Zones
All of Greece is within the same time zone as Eastern Europe, which is two hours ahead of the UK. They also change for Summer Time, by an hour, and since 1997 the changes are made on the same dates as the rest of Europe. Therefore there should be a consistent difference of 2 hours.

Medical Services
The medical services in Greece are generally good. However, we do advise you to take a form E 111 with you. This form, along with a personal identity document will ensure that you receive medical assistance and can reclaim any costs you incur upon your return. We do of course strongly advise everyone to have full Travel Insurance cover including repatriation for medical emergencies, when traveling abroad.

Restaurants and tavernas are mostly open from 7 pm and many stay open to 2 am the next morning. The choice of cuisine is very varied, based mostly on vegetables, meat, fish, cheese and wines in a vast array of combinations. In some tavernas guests are welcome, before they order, to have a look at what is available in the kitchen or what is in the saucepans and baking trays. The taverna waiters should advise any specialties for that day.
A good restaurant is usually pretty full of local people, although Greeks like to eat much later than we do in the UK, perhaps around 9 pm or 10 pm. House wine, from the barrel, is served by the carafe in most tavernas and is very inexpensive. Food is cooked fresh every day, starting early in the morning. In the afternoon there is usually a siesta time roughly between 2 pm and 5 pm, and the main meal of the day is in the evening.

Technical Problems
It is not always as easy or as fast to get problems solved as one might hope. Most equipment is imported and spare parts are not always readily available. The Greek way of life does not lend itself to necessarily giving priority to blocked drains or water shortages. However, problems are resolved while retaining the laid back charm which is an essential ingredient of a Cretan holiday.

The many beautiful and varied beaches of Crete are naturally open to everyone to use and are generally very safe for swimming. However, often there are no lifeguards on the beaches and no life saving amenities available. The island winds, which are most refreshing in the summer heat, may of course at times roughen up the seas and naturally seaweed and driftwood may alter the look of the beaches. There are now many spacious yet well organised beaches with sun beds and sun umbrellas, snack bars with a wide choice of water sports, from canoes, pedal boats to wind surfing, jet skis, water skiing, and para gliding. So you can very much choose what suits you best, whether it be tiny secluded coves or mile long beaches.

The change in quarantine laws allow English residents now to have the choice to bring their pets on holiday, and for anyone resident in mainland Europe it is possible to bring pets into Greece. However, you should check first if it is suitable to have pets in the accommodation, which you are booking. Prior to travel you will need to procure and bring along, on behalf of your pet, a certificate of health from a registered Veterinary Surgeon, and check with the airline that they will carry your pet.

Building Works
There always seems to be new buildings going up in most Cretan towns and so you will need to be prepared to see building sites here and there. However this does not automatically mean that you will be confronted with building noise, because mostly Cretans build in stages. They build as far as their money allows and then stop until they make enough money to complete the project. Also, in the summer months work on buildings frequently stops entirely, due to the heat. We naturally make every effort to be advised of any building work, which might possibly affect our holiday accommodation.

The Cretan breakfast, similar to other Mediterranean countries, is a very simple meal. Over the last few years, however, due to numbers of foreign visitors, you can now find a varied and more substantial choice of breakfast in most tavernas and cafes.

Cost of Living
Although it is still very inexpensive to eat out in Greece, it is true to say that the cost of food and drink has increased a bit over the years. Naturally the further away from tourist areas you are, the cheaper the cost of food.

In restaurant bills there is a service charge of between 10-15 % already built in. However it is usual to leave a small tip for the waiters. It is also usual to tip taxi drivers, hairdressers, porters and chambermaids.

Sleeping Habits
For Cretans, the evening meal begins no earlier than 9.00 p.m. Also no one will think anything of it if you telephone at 10.00 p.m. in the evening. However, 'siesta' time, between 3.00 p.m. and 5 p.m. is held as sacred. During the siesta it is just as unpopular to disturb someone, as it is to 'Go German'!!