|The Ballards - Greece Crete|
In April 2000 we holidayed
in Rethymnon, Northern Crete.
But outside Rethymnon, you can touch Greece.
Actually, Rethymnon is not so bad down by the harbour. Here the trade is mixed fishing and tourist activities, the harbour having been done up, doubtless with EC money.
We left the city as quickly as possible and visited markets
and gorges, monasteries and villages, fuelled by Greek salads and Ouzo,
fresh fruit and curiosity.
The hills are remote and peaceful, with goats and monasteries dotted across the hills.
The monasteries are quiet: too quiet.
Much of Crete is built on limestone and we are always
suckers for limestone caves so we visited the Melidoni cave for a cool
refreshing afternoon's bat-guano and Alien-like accretion viewing.
Crete played a bit part in World War II, when it was
considered strategic, like Malta.
We hired a boat from Bali. This is the most fun you can
have on the water: get right away from anyone else and do your own thing.
We found a deserted bay inaccessible from the land side
and just chilled out all afternoon in the sun.
We visited several ruined and abandoned villages: now the tourists and the money are on the coasts many of the traditional villages up in the hills have been abandoned, which is a shame. Wouldn't it be fun to buy one, do it up and live in it?
Endless winding paths, maintained as much by the passage of goats as by people, wind up and down the hills and everywhere is so quiet, just the absence of noise is restful.
We visited the Irini Gorge, a remote spot on the tourist
map. Every year in the late winter and early spring this gorge is scoured
by runoff from the melting snow on the mountains above. For the rest of
the year it is remote, quiet and pleasant. The high cliffs protect you
and the flora and fauna from the direct sunlight for much of the day,
giving a cooler, more pleasant experience than out in the open countryside.
Further on down the walls close in and someone has gone
to a great deal of effort to ensure the path continues, by adding wooden
walkways and dynamiting tricky sections.
Heading for the South coast you get a better idea of why the Germans couldn't hold the island against roving partisan bands. The hills turn in to mountains that even now do not have navigable roads exploring many of them.
Ravines many hundreds of feet deep open up next to the road and often the bottom is invisible, quite apart from being inaccessible.
The roads wind up and up until suddenly you pass through a col and there is the whole South coast dropping down to the sea. On this remote coast many more monasteries are to be found, and interestingly Venetian bridges still exist (I didn't know the Venetians ever had an empire: I hought they were always too busy bailing out their cellars...)
On our way to Chania we passed Souda cemetery where many
hundred of WWII Allied dead are buried.
Chania is like Rethymnon: a modern, dirty, Greek city
with a nicely restored and largely non-functional harbour.
So we'll have to go back.