Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Culture Corner: Crete

Crete, where’s that?  Upstate New York?  At least, that’s how I imagine the average American responding to the idea of someone visiting a place with such a name.  No!  Crete is one of the largest Mediterranean islands and happens to be under the jurisdiction of Greece.  But saying Crete is Greek is like calling America, British.  Yes, the majority of the culture can be traced back to certain roots, but there remains a large part of the lifestyle which does not pay homage to Zeus and the Acropolis.  A mix of Turkish, Italian, and other Middle Eastern influences along with the Greek, Crete proved an interesting place to visit for a week.  We laid on the warm, beautiful beaches, experienced the genuine kindness of the islanders, drove winding roads through unending mountains, hiked a gorge, tasted real feta, admired the moustaches of Cretan men, and drank our share of white wine.  And Minoan civilization once calling the island home, we of course visited some of the historical sites – which as good a point as any to start.
Estimated at 6,000 years old, Knossos (above) is one of the oldest, if not the oldest city, known to modern man.  I know it’s not much to look at in the photo (and is annoyingly in fact the archeologist's vision of the site rather than a true ruins), so you’ll have to visit and use your own imagination.
Blue skies, olive trees and vineyards abound, the Mediterranean climate is perfect for oil, wine, and hillside villages.  Tourists, too.
This is an action shot of the coral blue Fiat Panda we rented to tear through the mountains for the week.  (The lack of dust being kicked up gives you an idea of just how much “action” this car produced.)
Normally I don't pay much attention to flowers, but seemingly everywhere we looked in Crete there was one beyond unique.  Anyone identify this one?   
This is the capital of Crete, Heraklion, at night.  Nothing truly special about the city, it nonetheless was a relaxing place to spend an evening, walking around the quay and the old city fort.
We also visited the city of Xania, home to these two fishermen.  As can be seen by the minaret-esque tower in the back, the Turks occupied the city for a time.
This photo was taken 180 degrees from the two fishermen and shows the people I was traveling with.  (It seems they have something for khaki and white.) The church in the background the result of the Italians, Xania is yet another “Little Venice”.  (It seems every country has such a city…)
  And for those who haven’t seen me in a while, this is yours truly, still alive and kicking, this time in Xania.
Not only did we drive through the mountains, we also did some hiking, here at a place called Samaria Gorge.  More reminiscent of the American West than Greece, the five hour descent through the gorge to the sea was nonetheless a great way to spend a day, a nice swim in the Mediterranean a pleasant reward.
Not the place we hiked to, this is the northeast shore of Crete – the Mediterranean we imagine.  Straight from the camera, this photo is not doctored in any fashion, the turquoise as real as your eyes say it is.  Swimming in these waters is borderline spiritual.
A place called Vai, this was almost the last stop on our trip and a nice way to relax before heading back to the boredom of day jobs.
Unfortunately, I must get back to mine…  Hope you enjoyed!!

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