Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Unlike our previous post appears to suggest, we did not only give ourselves over to gluttony and wine during our vacation on Crete. We saw quite a lot of the islands' northwest coast and also explored the surroundings extensively on foot. According to my WiiFit step-counter, we walked an average of 7 km each day. This might be an explanation of why this gluttonous breakout did not cause that much of a BMI disaster when we got back.

But more about our adventures on Crete...
Below I will detail more of our pursuits on foot; our visit to Chania; and the two trips we took on the tourist train.

We walked a lot in the surroundings area of the Chania suburb, Agia Marina, where our hotel was. This included the nice beaches with crystal clear water, a small hill with an awesome view of Thodorou island on the one side and the White Mountains on the other, and picturesque buildings, which is an interesting mix of old and new. Below are some photos with more info.

The view from our hotel room. The sea and Thodorou island. The island is uninhabited and no humans are allowed on the island. It was declared a nature reserve, where the endangered Kri-kri mountain goats can procreate and live undisturbed. A myth about the island is that it is the leftover of a sea monster that wanted to attack the small sea side village but was turned into a rock by the gods in answer to the prayers of the villagers. Today you can still see the open mouth of the monster - ready to engulf the village.
Nice beaches along the coast
Crystal clear water
Nice view of the sea and island from a small hill. (An olive orchard in the foreground)
The view of the White mountains on the other side of the hill
Interestingly, on Crete the bottom parts of many things are painted white, houses, streetlamps and  trees (note also the legs of the animal/s :). The white is supposed to keep things cool and protects the trees against a certain tree disease. This tree grew right in the middle of a road... 
Obviously we got a bit of sun on the beach ...
Everywhere in this coastal tourist town, one could see traces of a bygone era of a small harbor town

The third day on Crete we took the bus to Chania, the second largest city on Crete after the capital, Heraklion. The history of Chania stretches into the mists of time. It was already an important city in Minoan times (27 centuries BC) when it was called Kydonia. It has a beautiful historic harbor and old town.

Lighthouse of Chania harbor
The harbor water was exceptionally clean and one could see schools of fish swimming underneath the boats
The snow capped "White mountains" form the backdrop to the historic Chania harbor
Wall of an old fort in the harbor
Chania - a mix of old and new
Chania old town
Small streets with eateries
Always time to look for interesting ants. Ronnie on the historic Kasteli hill in Chania, which has been inhabited since Neolithic times
We also visited the Archeological museum in Chania, which hold artifacts from excavations in the region. The museum building itself is very old and acted as a Franciscan church in the past. The exact date of building is unknown, but it is mentioned to
 have survived the great earthquake of 1595. In this photo various artifacts from graves are featured, including toys from a child burial.
Apparently the idea of shot glasses is very old :)

We also took two very pleasant outings on the "The Little Fun Train". This small tourist train/tractor is an interesting concept, a small tractor with passenger wagons that go on tours of the surroundings. There are multiple trips you can choose from with around 2-4 hours duration. We took the "Orange Valley" tour into the mountains and the "Pleasures of Crete" tour along the west coast. The Orange valley tour took us through rolling valleys of orange orchards with small towns (each with its own beautiful Greek Orthodox church building). We approached the White Mountains through small ravines in which Maple Trees were growing that reached ages of hundreds of years. At the foot of the White Mountains we had a rest stop at the small village of Meskla, while we enjoyed a glass of freshly pressed orange juice. The village of Meskla has a very old church. According to legends, this old church was built from stones that came from the temple of Artemis, which was built at this same site in ancient times. The old church is not used anymore and a new church was built just behind the old building. Below are some photos from the "Orange Valley" tour.

The old historic church in front of the new church
A very old Maple tree at the tea garden where we had our rest stop
The Little Fun Train

The tour along the west coast was very nice as well and had awesome views, a visit to a monastery with real monks and a guided tour of an olive factory. The tour started out following the coastal road along the northwest coast, passing traditional fishing villages and climbing over the Spatha Penisula. We visited the 14th century monastery of Gonia, which is still active today and then winded further up the narrow roads of Spatha Penissula with magnifiscent views of the Aegaen Sea. Reaching the top of the mountainous peninsula, we drove more inland through the olive plantations and small towns. We stopped at an olive oil factory (see more in our previous post here). Below are some pictures of our west coast tour.

Driving along the west coast - these small churches are found all over Crete and are memorials on places where people either lost their lives, or were saved
Winding road on the Spatha peninsula and breathtaking views over the Aegean sea. Thodorou island on the horizon
Enjoying the sun at a rest stop
I wondered who lived in that house on top of the hill and if they knew that their everyday view is probably one of the best views in the world. In the middle of olive orchards, surrounded by views of the Aegean sea coast and the White Mountains
In the heart of the Spatha Peninsula - rolling hills of olive orchards

Something very beautiful, and a common theme on Crete, that I thought I should mention, are the vines. You see them everywhere, old mature vines growing as "trees" outside, on porches, inside houses along the inner roofs, and even on top of roofs. A very beautiful and unique feature I thought.

Overall, both of us had a wonderful vacation and a delightful breakaway - we would really not mind going back to this island of treasures

Loot brought back from Crete, including cheese, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and some small mementos

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