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Remembering Our Easter Break

Posted by Kritsa Yvonne, 29 May 2008 · 1,299 views

21st April 08 was our first opportunity to try easyjet as we set off for a 3-week spring cleaning and get fit trip to Crete. We had no problems at all and as a bonus the sandwich bought mid flight was certainly more tasty that some of the in flight meals we have had on other airlines.

On arrival at Heraklion, we sped through the airport as we only had hand luggage and were outside before most of our fellow passengers had found passport control. We had seen on the internet that the weather was exceptionally hot for the time of year but we were still shocked when we left the air-conditioned terminal building.

When there was no one from our usual car hire company waiting for us we thought we had just been too fast but 20 minutes later, we did start to get concerned. Unfortunately, when we phoned their office they had no record of our booking but they did have a car available so we took a bus into Agios Nikolaos and went to their office. By the time we arrived they had found our booking and were very apologetic and when they took 50 euros off the bill we set off for Kritsa quite content.

On arrival at our house, we rushed excitedly up to the balcony to see the new small kitchen area built into a corner but it was swathed in plastic and obviously not finished. As we are now used to Cretan workmen we were disappointed but not surprised; we also guessed correctly that it would take several phone calls to get them to materialise as another project had obviously become more important to them.

We had left home at 3.30 a.m. so by 9.30 p.m. we were enjoying coffee and Metaxa on the balcony but could hardly keep our eyes open so we called it a day and went to bed.

By Thursday, the weather was on the change and we got back into the car 5 minutes after setting off for a walk on Katharo Plateau, we had not anticipated how cold it would be up there and we were not dressed appropriately. I didn’t mind too much as the drive up there had been wonderful and the mountains looked fantastic with snow still on the peaks and then we enjoyed a great walk lower down amongst ancient pine trees instead.

I had passed good wishes to our neighbour Georgiou thinking 24th April was his Name Day but due to Holy Week the celebrations were postponed to the following Monday. Georgiou has made a lot of progress doing up the house next to us in his very limited spare time but the signs are it will take ages to complete it. His dog certainly won’t mind how long it takes because he gets a great deal of enjoyment digging in the huge pile of gravel (destined to go in concrete) to make himself a comfy bed.

On Good Friday, the sad intonations of bells came from the three main churches in Kritsa throughout a day that proved cold and grey to match. In the evening, we wrapped up warmly and went to listen to the evening church service and watch the processions of flower laden biers pass through the village, the flower scent mixed with copious amounts of incense made a heady perfume. Small boys go ahead of the procession originating from each church and they were banging on small metal bars to make as much noise as they could. Next came the alter boys in beautiful gowns, then the bier carried by 4 strong men with the congregation, some in traditional dress, behind them. These men must have got severe arm ache because they had to hold the bier for ages and so many people jostled around them it must have made it quite difficult. Eventually all three processions met together to go up the main street; it was very moving to watch but there was no lingering once the procession was over as we rushed indoors for a hot drink to warm us up.

Easter Saturday was more like an Easter in the UK – very cold and only fit for decorating. Fortunately the evening warmed up and we enjoyed a stroll around Agios Nikolaos; it was already crowded when we arrived at 10.30 p.m. and there were firecrackers bouncing all around as the boys took pains to ensure everyone smelt of gunpowder. We had heard that in previous years, dynamite was thrown into the lake but the local authorities had understandably banned this. Obviously someone was not prepared to miss out on a big bang because a couple of depth chargers had been placed in the lake and the remote detonation had huge quantities of water shooting up and bits of dead fish were left floating to make easy pickings for the ducks, yuck!

As midnight drew near the crowds around the lake became tightly packed and the procession from the nearby churches made its way to the stage. Although fireworks had been going off all evening the cacophony at midnight was unbelievable and as each person lit the candle of the person next to them a tide of candlelight moved slowly out from the centre and along each side of the lake. In the centre of the lake the hanging effigy of Judas burst into flames and the evening reached it’s very dramatic climax.

As we walked back to the car we hatched a plan to rob a bank next year; boys were throwing firecrackers into the doorways of shops and banks and setting off all the burglar alarms so if we chose the right night we shouldn’t get caught!

Sunday morning in the village was cold again so we just got on with more decorating and we had a very welcome visit by a neighbour bringing us red Easter eggs and delicious cakes. I was pleased to welcome her in with “Christos Anesti”, because I had forgotten the correct response if she had said it first.

By 6.30 p.m. Sunday the rooftop vantage points had filled up and the roadsides thronged with the cars of people from nearby towns and villages because it was nearly time for the special Kritsa way of celebrating Easter with DYNAMITE.

The church bells were drowned out as the booming from the hillside above Kritsa echoed all around for at least 30 minutes. Later the party in the small church near to our house really got going with music, gunshots and fireworks into the small hours. Although we had intended to go we had got warm and cosy indoors and decided to give it a miss, after all, there will always be another time.


After Easter, the temperature improved and we had some great walks up in the hills or along breezy cliff top paths plus some gentle strolls at the seaside with leisurely coffees in the sunshine.

Our May Day walk became more adventurous than expected; after 3 hours strenuous walking (mostly uphill between Elounda and Plaka) the directions in the new book we were using bore no resemblance to the area we were standing in. Even though we went back to the last “good” instruction several times we just could not figure it out and nor could a couple of German men attempting the same walk but from a different book. Despite language difficulties we were able to agree on what the instruction was but could not see the landmark so as they set off in one direction we decided to use our intuition and head back to where we thought the car was.

All was OK until the path we were following simply petered out leaving us to either turn back (unthinkable) or walk across the steep hill side in the hope that another path could be found. The ground was so rough that in the end I had to drop the wild flowers I had picked, I was sorry about this because they had been destined to become my May Day garland to hang outside of the house until mid summer.

In this particular area there are many old walled donkey paths so we hoped that if we made it across to the next drystone wall we would find a path on the other side, wrong! Eventually we did find a path so I ignored the bloody scratches on my legs and starting picking flowers again. Argh! This path petered out too and this time the hillside was loose shale so we had to keep low to the ground and scramble across sideways to keep our footing loosing my second bunch of flowers in the process.

It is hard to explain just what a stupid predicament we had got ourselves into but eventually we managed to get onto the roof of a water pumping station and from there down onto the track that ran up the hill to get to it. This pumping station was to service a hotel complex and fortunately for us it was still pre season and so was deserted.

When we related our tale to Kritsa friends Hilary and Phil they laughed and said they had a similar problem with another walk in that particular book so in future we will be more cautious.

After couple more days decorating we were ready for another more strenuous walk this time on the hillside olive groves within sight of Kritsa; here we had an encounter with a lovely Alsatian and a very fierce lady! Apparently we had walked onto her land but the gates and fences were invisible so how were we to know?

Walking back towards the house we noticed a strange sight up on our balcony – two workmen, yippee! Now we had a kitchen area needing varnishing and painting but we were running out of time to get it completed before we set off home again.

We often drive past the Minoan site at Gournia but had not previously walked around it so we decided this would be a good use of a cool and cloudy last day. It is very easy to visualise what the large town would have been like – mmmmm like the oldest part of Kritsa really.

At the beginning of our 3 week break it had been a case of spot the tourist but now the roads were getting busy and sunbeds had started to arrive on the beaches. Returning to the UK was not so bad because I went back to a contract for at least 6 weeks work, I was much fitter than when we arrived and we already had tentative plans to return in the summer. biggrin.gif

Great to read your tales of Easter in Kritsa - only had time for a quick read as we're busy packing to leave. Sorry we're missing you this time, maybe later (we'll be out again late September)

All the best

Pam & Bob