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Posted by Kritsa Yvonne, 22 April 2014 - - - - - - · 18,763 views

Hi, I'm still blogging, but these days on http://kritsayvonne.com/
Love to see you there...

Six Weeks, Three Seasons

Posted by Kritsa Yvonne, 24 March 2011 - - - - - - · 6,314 views

I’d like to say we have been enjoying a warm and sunny spring in Crete, but that is not completely true!

We arrived in heavy rain Thursday 24th Feb and with a few notable exceptions the days have been cloudy with considerable rain and even snow meaning we have spent a lot of time indoors with a cosy log fire.

The feral cats don’t like this weather a...

Rural Crete Goes “green”

Posted by Kritsa Yvonne, 31 October 2010 - - - - - - · 10,906 views

Many people enjoy trips to the Lassithi Plateau but when we drive to Crete in our 4x4, we enjoy opportunities to explore beyond the tarmac road that runs the 15 miles around the plateau. A good example is a trip where we combined going “off road” in the car with a walk in early October.

We stopped to read a convenient “tourist map” sited in the village of Avrakondes to double check we were about to take the right track towards Mount Dikti. Within seconds, an old man materialised keen to know if we were English or German, a very common question up high on the plateau where people have very long memories of wartime atrocities.

Once our origins were established and applauded, the man wanted to know where we were going. We explained we were going to walk to the Limnakaro Plateau below Mount Dikti; he obviously found this puzzling and told us there was a perfectly good road for our car. My Greek was not good enough to explain that we were to drive up the rough track a short way to find part of the E4 Hiking route to take us up to Limnakaro Plateau. (The full path crosses many countries and runs from Zakros on the far eastern point of Crete across to the west coast and eventually across Europe to Gibraltar)

The old man asked if we wanted a drink and we realised the tourist map was directly outside of his tiny taverna, no wonder he was keen to engage in conversation! We could have anything we liked as long as it was beer, wine, or lemonade. We chose lemonade as it was far too early for alcohol but when the complimentary Raki arrived, we thought it would be good fuel to rocket us up the steep bits! With a bill of only 2 Euros, we enjoyed the best value refreshments in Crete.

It was a tough hike at times and the path frequently crossed the road the man had advised us to drive up, but our way was more fun. Cresting the top of the last hill showed the small Limnakaro Plateau, it was dry and parched brown but full of goats and fruit trees; it would be a fabulous sight in the spring, green meadows and trees full of blossom below a snow topped Mount Dikti – this is now on our to do list! After walking down to visit a Byzantine chapel in the middle of the plateau we walked back to the car using the vehicle track, this gave us opportunity to look around without watching our footing all the time. From this road, we had a great view of the Lassithi Plateau and noticed that some farmers had given their plots over to banks of solar panels to generate electricity to sell into the national grid. Similar panels have sprung up in many parts of eastern Crete including Kritsa.

There is a reservoir on the plateau to capture winter rains but now it was virtually empty. A second reservoir more than twice the size of the original, is nearing completion right next to the existing one. Add the reservoir and solar panels to the long established wind farms and the new recycling bins and it seems that Crete is taking a big “green” step forward.

In mid October, there were six of us keen to walk so we used two cars to get us to Agia Fotia on the south east coast and then we all piled into our car for the uphill trip to Agios Ioannis. Everyone was being very polite and trying not to be too assertive when finding the right route, needless to say, without one leader we got very lost. Eventually backtracking and setting of in a new direction we reached the place where we intended to have lunch. Each couple had taken some food to share so we all had some nice surprises before setting off again. By the time we reached the coast at Agia Fotia, four of us were pleased to have a swim whilst the two drivers set of to fetch the car left at the start of our walk.

The next weekend, four of us set off from Kavousi on the north east coast below the Thripti Mountains to drive up to the village of Thripti and on over the mountains to for another swim on the south coast. All four of us are good walkers but using our car allowed us to share views that the other two had not previously seen. There is a more direct route up to Thripti but since it is now tarmac all the way it does not have the same sense of adventure!

There is a substantial archaeological site not far from Kavousi, called Azoria with remains from the Dorian period, the same era the large site of Lato near to Kritsa. Our friend had previously collated information and brought the site “alive” for us using maps, pictures and explanations; he was puzzled that he could not locate a 70 cm slab of limestone that was a feature of one particular area so thought he might return another time to search again.

Onwards and upwards, enjoying breathtaking views but trying not to look down the sheer drops we were driving along we soon came to Melises, a pretty hamlet in a fertile area. As we left Melises, we stopped to look at a small church with far reaching views back across the Mirabello Bay to Agios Nikolaos with its backdrop of the Dikti Mountains. The site was obviously a very old church that had benefited from some tasteful modernisation with an Alter made from a 70 cm slab of limestone! Another slab, used as a shelf for icons, was obviously part of an intricately carved pillar, an archelogical "find" and this heightened our suspicions that the Alter was the missing stone from Azoria. Oh well, more people will enjoy them where there are now!

Driving up on some very rough tracks, we eventually came to a long deserted village called Tsamantis it is built in a cleft of the hillside with evidence of some very clever water reservoirs and ducting. Feeling adventurous, we clambered down to explore and when we turned to climb back up we were surprised to find a painted red dot, a modern method of way marking ancient walking paths. Back at the road, we stood discussing where the walking path might start when to our amazement two people walked into sight and up the hill side - and we thought we were in a remote place! These were a Swiss couple who had walked up from Kavousi and they said the way markers were quite clear and they were going on up to Thripti, they even challenged us to a race! After looking at our maps, we all agreed that another time we would walk. The walking route must be direct because as we rounded the bend into Thripti we saw the Swiss couple again; they cheerfully claimed their victory as we passed.

On the trip down towards the south coast, we stopped for a picnic lunch in the very pretty village of Orino. To make this lunch memorable my friend produced a birthday cake for me complete with candles; it is not hard to guess what I wished for as I blew the flames out.

As we had enjoyed two consecutive Sundays with these friends we suggested they might like to make it three in a row but they declined when they realised we would be spending the next Sunday cleaning up the house prior to our departure.

The heavy rains in mid October had given the ground a real soaking so whilst enjoying our last few walks in the week before we returned home we saw the start of Crete’s second spring. In addition to fast growing grass and weeds there were tiny crocuses, cyclamen and bright shoots on the bushy herb pillows, once again rural Crete was turning green.


Posted by Kritsa Yvonne, 03 October 2010 - - - - - - · 4,199 views

We love the opportunity to share “our” Crete with visitors and this year Alan’s brother and sister in law spent a week with us at the end of September. Their visit coincided with various Tourism Day activities; on Friday evening, we enjoyed seeing a busy Kritsa high street with local produce available for sampling but, despite the advertisements, there was no demonstration of Raki distillation. The following evening we sat in a lakeside bar in Agios Nikolaos relaxing over a drink watching Greek dancing on the stage across the water from where we sat. This gave us the advantage of seeing and hearing what was going on without being in the midst of the crowd. The lake always looks fabulous whether by day or night and we returned several times during the week for a coffee, stroll or meal.

During the week, our visitors were able to sample almost every kind of weather. We had clear blue skies with blazing sun, low clouds hugging Kritsa, strong hot winds that blasted us like a hair dryer, and rain showers leaving a liberal coating of orange dust from the Sahara – sometimes all in one day! Luckily, any rain showers came at “convenient” times and did not stop us from going out and all but one meal was enjoyed al fresco. On a visit to Irapetra, huge waves drenched the promenade and saturated the atmosphere so that it felt like we were walking in a sauna.

One afternoon we took the road up the mountain to the Kathero Plateau and the temperature recorded on the car thermometer dropped steadily as we climbed from 27c in Kritsa to 20c at the top; we sat in Katarina’s cantina feeling decidedly chilly. One of our neighbours, a colourful character called Manolis had been noticeable by his absence (lack of pickup trucks, assorted strange “bric-a-brac” and loud barking dogs) so it was good to see him sat with his mother, Katarina. He gave us a warm welcome, and explained how he had recently had a bad accident in his tractor whilst transporting a heavy load of water; he had ended up off road with a dislocated shoulder, several broken ribs and a punctured lung. Luckily, a passerby investigated why the back end of a trailer was in such a strange position and called the rescue services.

Throughout the week local cats brought interest and amusement to our visitors, all based soundly on “cupboard love”; I give the cats titbits to keep them interested but not enough that they will starve when we are back in the UK. One old fellow nick named “Scaredy cat” has been visiting us for 6 years; it is probably his timidness in the face of other cats that has helped him last so long. This cat used to sit on a rooftop level with our balcony but he moved across the alley to the roof of a neighbour’s house when “Bright eyes” decided to take up residence. Occasionally “Scaredy cat” moves down a level to the flat space between our house and our neighbours where they keep discarded pots of paint and old furniture; an eyesore to us but the cat likes the shade they provide. Down in the alley the tabby, “Mummy cat” has been bringing up her single black and white kitten that Alan’s brother named “Felix” after the star of a UK cat food advert. Occasionally the black and white “Big daddy” strolls arrogantly past; all the local kittens look like him regardless of their mother’s colouring.

On the Sunday after our visitors had returned to the UK we were enjoying a quiet Sunday morning on the balcony (well as quiet at the loudspeakers relaying the church service allows) when we heard a commotion out on the flat space, a screech of feline indignation, a strange bumping noise and urgent scrabbling. Investigation showed that Big daddy had caused Scaredy cat to jump down to the flat space landing on a paint pot. Years in full sun had obviously made the pot lid brittle and it disintegrated as the cat landed resulting in all four paws and the tail having a liberal coating of thick white emulsion. Scaredy cat ran from one side of the flat space to the other in panic before scrabbling up to the roof and escaping; based on a wonderful abstract pattern of cat footprints we are renaming him Purrcasso...

Our Road Trip "home" September 2010

Posted by Kritsa Yvonne, 12 September 2010 - - - - - - · 3,689 views

As everyone in the UK was getting ready for August Bank holiday, we set off on the Friday for a road trip to Crete, although “old hands” at this now we were still very excited.

As usual, we made a dash through France and then took our favourite scenic route over the Alps via the St Gottard Pass; the lush green pastures on the mountainsides are “dotted” with large wooden chalets and herds of pretty cows often looking like a scene right off the pages of Joanna Spry’s “Heidi”. When the Pass is open, most drivers opt for the “sensible route” on a road where the best engineering skills have reduced the angle of the bends where possible and all are equipped with modern crash barriers. However, Alan is of the opinion that a trip over the Alps should be leisurely when there is time to do so; which is how we came to be on the very windy cobbled “old road” most often used by motorcycle enthusiasts; where a crash barrier did exist it was usually only a low wall. Exhilarating and great fun but my clenched up toes ached by the time we reached Italy on the other side!

Once in Italy, the slog on the motorway to the Adriatic coast was thankfully uneventful. Every year as we near Ancona, we pass signs for The Republic of San Marino; this year we decided not to pass by but have two nights there giving us a whole day off from driving. We had pre booked our stay at a posh hotel with excellent road access, secure parking and only 10 minutes from the cable car up to the city of San Marino that perches on a high “crag”; what more could we ask? Well dinner would have been nice! As soon as we arrived, Alan felt that he deserved a chilled beer or two so by the time we found the hotel no longer operated a restaurant driving to find supper was out of the question. Even though cheese and crackers was not what we had envisaged we were grateful of our habit of always having some food with us!

After (a larger than usual) breakfast we set off to explore San Marino and can thoroughly recommend it as a great stop over for anyone else mad enough to drive to Crete. There was free parking close to the cable car so it was obvious that driving on up was not encouraged. Once at the top we enjoyed 360-degree bird’s eye views of the surrounding countryside and could see Ancona in the distance. This tiny State uses the euro as currency but it is not in the EU, making it a popular destination for people to buy duty free products. The “city” capitalises on tourists effectively with many shops selling weird and wonderful spirits in odd shaped bottles, handbags, and jewellery but the real attractions are the three cliff edge castles that have helped the tiny republic stay independent over the centuries.

Following the 22-hour “cruise” to Patras in Greece, we drove towards Piraeus for the overnight boat to Crete. When we were nearing the Corinth Canal area we both felt the need of some exercise so we drove up to the nearby hill top archaeological site of old Corinth. This was a fantastic experience, just the ruins, a handful of tourists, a scrawny cat and us enjoying more 360 degree views but this time over to Central Greece, and down on Corinth and the Peloponnese.
There was no entrance fee (probably to save paying staff) but there were signs in Greek and English to explain what we were seeing. The site has been important to the ancient Greeks, early Christians, Venetians and Turks and each group added more walls and more fortifications but the exposed and windy position makes it surprising that so many remains survive for visitors to enjoy. What a contrast to the careful and effective restorations we had seen in the hill top city of San Marino and not even a mobile cantina in sight!

This unplanned but very welcome break set us off for the last few mile to Piraeus where we arrived with so much time to spare we congratulated ourselves on such a trouble free and fun journey and wondered if we should go for a coffee before checking in. We opted for check in and then coffee, thank goodness..............at the check in desk the lady behind the glass said, “Computer says no”! Panic set in but the time in the UK was 5.45 p.m. and the UK booking office was open until 6.00 p.m. Equipped with a new reference number we joined the queue again and this time the computer said yes. Back in the car, we checked the tickets only to see the outward/inward bound journeys were the wrong way around; argh the UK office had closed! Back at check in, the clerk just stated it was not her problem it must be the fault of the booking company so contact them. I then asked what turned out to be the pivotal question, “CAN you change them?” this lady could not lie, so very reluctantly and laboriously she changed over the tickets, phew.

The next morning in Crete we drove to Kritsa as the dawn gave us a very rosy reception. Full of energy we unloaded the car and did all the chores necessary after the house has been empty for a while. As usual, every external surface had a covering of sandy dust so there was much sweeping and washing down required before the outside street area looked tidy, windows and doors were clean and the balcony was in a state to set up patio chairs etc. After a siesta and a very long refreshing shower, I felt ready to walk into the village for supper. Unfortunately we were unaware that it was the turn of our part of the village to have the water switched off to save power/money so all the time we had been using gallons of water the tank had not been refilled – Alan had to wash in the small bowl of water he managed to wring out of the system! Yep, we love the vagaries of village life and Alan really appreciated his shower the next afternoon when the water pressure had returned to normal.

A "proper" Holiday

Posted by Kritsa Yvonne, 07 July 2010 - - - - - - · 4,035 views

We arrived back in the UK at 7.00 p.m. yesterday after a 2 week break in our favourite village. I was back to work today and already the 25c sea water, hot days and warm evenings seem an age ago!

Our friends who are also fans of Kritsa joined us and mid way through they took a trip to Santorini to attend a family wedding - what a fabulous location to choose. There was a hiccough caused by a strike but they still managed to get to the church on time......just.

It was a shame to see that tourist numbers are so noticeably reduced; some knock on effects are a reduction in the number of ferries between islands, buses deleted from the time tables and an increase in "deserted" holiday accommodation. That said, it made driving more pleasant.

Kritsa high street looks fabulous with its new paving and at night the cliffs are now illuminated creating a very spectacular view. A new cultural centre is being built in the old mechanical olive press and we look forward to that opening - well we did first hear about it 9 years ago. Can't believe that is how long we have owned our little bit of paradise (OK so we have good imagination but the view from the balcony is fantastic).

The pagan ceremony to celebrate mid summer held in the church yard of the large church on the main street into Kritsa presented a strange paradox - May day garlands were burnt complete with ritual flame leaping and when the flames subsided there was feasting and dancing. We sat in the bar across the road to watch events and were amazed to see one enterprising group set up a BBQ in the street so that they could enjoy chops with thier supper. Cretan hospitality led to excess cakes being shared with onlookers, very yummy!

The next important thing to agree at work is a contract end date so that Alan can start planning our next road trip - meanwhile I am off to slap on some after sun cream in an attempt to keep the tan for at least a week.

Gorgeous Crete

Posted by Kritsa Yvonne, 10 April 2010 - - - - - - · 3,869 views

More fantastic walks, a mini holiday in Rethymnon, the Easter celebrations and a very special Gorge walk ended our fantastic spring break on a high.

During every walk, I kept my eyes open for more varieties of orchids to “pic”; I have added a couple of the more showy blooms to the photo gallery.

Forum friends Old Viking (and Mrs Viking) arrived in Krit...

Sounds Different!

Posted by Kritsa Yvonne, 29 March 2010 - - - - - - · 4,529 views

We had a couple of weeks of cooler weather but very little rain; this gave Alan just the excuse he needed to light the log burner. The sound of Alan sawing wood and scraping out the ashes was a novelty for a few days but when I had to sit on the front door step to cool down we realised perhaps a fire was not really necessary.

The cooler weather was idea...

Blooming Marvelous

Posted by Kritsa Yvonne, 14 March 2010 - - - - - - · 2,560 views

Most mornings have started warm and sunny allowing breakfast and/or lunch al fresco. Day time temperatures are averaging 18/22 degrees and feels nice and warm to us cold blooded English; however many locals are still wrapped up in thick jumpers and/or coats.
This is fantastic walking weather and we have been up and down ravines, mountains and along the s...

Blown Away

Posted by Kritsa Yvonne, 05 March 2010 - - - - - - · 2,366 views

We have been back in Kritsa since Monday morning. Flying overnight with Aegean Air, fully aware that there would be a 5 hour wait in Athens airport seemed like a good idea when we booked it! We thought arriving in Heraklion at 7.00 a.m. in the morning would give us a day to sort ourselves out "just in case" there was anything wrong at the ho...