Why Crete and Santorini?

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Because it is intriguing and affordable for almost everyone.

Kalimera (good morning) 🙂

The first idea of holidays was Iran, yet I didn’t fancy staying far from my partner on a bus or sleeping out of his room in case he hadn’t introduced me as his wife. I didn’t have much time for rest last summer, because I was establishing my first own internet magazine- WHY STORY.

Finally we went for one week holidays to Greece, where we had a good rest and we visited amazing places. First we visited Santorini, a place put by UNESCO on the list of world heritage and given the name of the most beautiful island. Regretfully, I was able to admire it only with one eye as the sun, the salty sea water and sand irritated my eye (as for that I recommend using sunglasses and swimming glasses whenever applicable. Besides this temporary inability, one eye was enough to discover amazing charm of this volcanic island.

zdjecie oko

Most of the time we spent on Crete– the biggest of Greek islands in the Mediterranean Sea. It is the southernmost place in Europe. It is the cradle of the European civilization- the place of birth of the Minoan culture , which had flourished long time before the classic Greek culture. The island was ruled by the Greeks, the Roman empire, the Byzantines, the Venetians and the Turks, and these multiple influences can be noticed until/still today. /and an experienced tourist can spot the multiple cultures.

I admit that the island is a perfect holiday destination as it has many places to visit. This time we managed to visit only some of them: Heraklion (the main town), Knossos, which is full of monuments, turquoise lagoon Ballos at the end of Gramvousa peninsula in north-west Crete, a splendid beach Matala as well as Santorini- the picturesque island in the Cyclades Archipelago. I am pretty sure we will come back there one day.

Matala

I encourage to visit the local tourist agencies as they offer much cheaper trips than those available at hotels or through other intermediaries. For instance – we paid for two tickets to Santorini, our most expensive trip at all, 200 euro, while the price in our hotel was 280 euro. The only disadvantage in that case was no Polish guide available. There is only one tour operator with a concession to bring tourists to Santorini, he is one of the wealthiest in Greece.

We arrived in Santorini with a catamaran, it took us around 3 hours. Next, we travelled by bus to its most beautiful towns- Fira and Ola. Our guide, first addressing our group in English and French, appeared to be Polish. She revealed to us many mysteries of the island as well as she described the difficulties of the inhabitants due to the economic crisis which was becoming more and more severe then, the people lived under stress especially because of unemployment reaching up to 60% in some parts of the island. Tourists, however, could enjoy their holiday mood.

santorini

The island is known of its characteristic architecture, often it is called the island of white town, because of its white houses with blue copulas (many of them are sacral sites). They are often clung to the cliff of the biggest caldera (a volcanic crater) in the world, which adorns splendidly the coast. It is one of the most recognisable landscapes in the world.

We finished our trip at the volcanic beach with crystalline clear water and amazingly black sand, afterwards we went to the port, where we were sipping Greek vodka ouzo of anise flavour, while waiting for the catamaran.

plaza santorini

Already the next day, after having a short sunbath and swimming at the hotel, we went to the main town of Crete Heraklion, which is the biggest town of the island, (140 thousand of inhabitants) and it is the fourth biggest town in Greece. It has an cosmopolitan atmosphere as it has plenty of shops, restaurants, museums and art galleries. It’s best viewed is from the seaside as one can see then the 12-th century fortress that used to defend this port town. I recommend to the visitors a lunch break there because the charm of the waves hitting the sea- shore near the boulevard at the seaside.

Heraklion

The main attraction is the archaeological museum, it is recommendable to buy a ticket, which allows to enter the palace in Knossos located only 7 km from the centre of Heraklion. It is the most interesting museum on the Greek islands, the second interesting one after the museum in Athens. It has a unique collection from the Minoan period- the time when Greeks conquered Crete. Its collection includes wall paintings from the Minoan period, jewellery, stone plates.

One can find here the most mysterious and famous object found in Crete – a disc of Fajtos discovered in 1903. It is worth to visit the local bazaar where one find local ingredients – cheese, herbs, olives and seasonal fruit and vegetables.

The following day we decided to rent a car, a small convertible, just to feel wind in the hair. We went to the south of the island in four persons, so we shared the cost per two couples. First we went to Knossos, then to Matala.

Knossos – one say no tourist leaves the island without visiting this ancient town. One has to visit the remaining and reconstructed fragments of the palace of king Minos. This Minoan building was a great achievement of that civilisation. It comprised of 1 500 rooms on probably five levels.

There are many myths connected to that place, for instance the one about the wife of Minos who gave birth to a monster with a human body and the head of Taurus called Minotaur, who was imprisoned in the labyrinth constructed by Dedalus.

Knossos

Later on we hit the road, a narrow and winding one (no highways there), just ideal for a travel by a convertibleand we could admire changing landscapes, fields and olive plantations. After two hours, including breaks for taking photos and admiring the landscapes, we arrived at last in Matala- a lovely beach situated in a bay with an incredibly clean beach. This beach is dominated by the rock, where caves had been excavated for burials in the Roman period. The hippies lived there in the 60s and 70s. You can still meet them at the beach – we bought from them colourful, subtly-woven bracelets.

On the way back we visited a fisher town Agia Galini, also called ”the little Santorini” because of similar colours and architectural style.. It is one of the most popular resorts on the island. One can find there the statue of Dedalus near the statue of Ikar on a rocky hill. It was exactly there, where those ancient heroes tried to fly. This place offers a superb view of the port and of the Messara bay.

Agia Galini

The following day we spent on a sunny beach, playing with foamy waves, shallow water a few kilometres from the coast. We wanted to have a rest before the planned trip to the island of Gramvousa. At 6 am we started to travel by bus, which brought us to Kisamos, a port in north- western Crete, we went on a ship cruise, during which I strongly recommend to taste a delicious multicolour coctail called Balos, not completely alcohol free, which protects from a sea sickness,

Once we have arrived in the island, we climbed up the Venetian fortress. As it was 40 Celsius degree, it caused some fatigue. It was the effort for the magnificent view from the top of the fortress. Afterwards, we went down to get cooled in the salty sea. Then we washed away the rests of salt with a shower which we found by the entrance to the ship. Then We flew to the Balos lagoon. We were astonished by all the shades of blue and green and the beach with pink sand resembling the Caribbean beaches. During our return cruise we ate ice cream sold with a high discount as announced by megaphones.

Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to visit the Samaria gorge because of the knee injury of the journey companion. This trip would be truly forceful and wold require a multi hour walk, which couldn’t be disrupted (16km one way). This gorge is very narrow (3 up to 40 meters) and the ground is uneven and rocky, cars cannot pass there. Those who fall weak during this endeavour may come back riding a donkey.

Samaria is the biggest and most beautiful gorge in Europe situated in the mass of White mountains. Many peaks exceed 2000 meters above sea level. Our journey finished in Agia Roumeli, where one can refresh after a long walk having a bath in the Libyan sea.

During your Greek holidays I recommend also taking part in a Greek evening in order to find out tastes of delicious dishes and local wine, for example “raki”, which is often served for free with every dinner ordered Well, the Greek hospitality has no limits, besides homemade liquors they serve very often homemade sweets as well as fruits, for free. It is a good idea to order a traditional dish in a Greek tavern, not only a Greek salad, but also, for instance “gemista”- stuffed tomatoes and pepper, “moussaka”- eggplants baked with meat or “souvlaki”- pita with meat and vegetables. Music, songs and dances are inseparable from a Greeks feast. The group of professional dancers in regional dresses perform Cretan dances with bouzouki (a yanked strings’ music instrument) and liras (a string instrument with quadrilateral resonator).

We had a rest/relaxed in the Cretan climate, we marvelled at a friendly disposition/hospitality of Greeks and at the beauty of nature and architecture. We only regretted we didn’t visit a few places more, yet we hope we will manage to visit all the remaining places in not so distant future. / yet we hope to catch up with it soon.

Adia (see you) in Crete!

Beata Sekuła

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