When I think Crete, I think early civilization. When I think early civilization, I think Mrs. Lewis’ middle school social studies class learning about Mesopotamia and the civilizations that grew out of it. It all seemed so dry…dry as in sandy and hot. I think, to me, it seemed extra dry and hot because in the old movies that we watched in class like Ben Hur and Laurence of Arabia (obviously, I lumped all early civilizations together…Greece, Jerusalem, Rome…and they say students in the US don’t properly learn world geography….), everyone was always so sweaty and dirty. When S and I decided to go to Crete for a long weekend in July, all I could think of was a hot and dry, rocky, dusty island. And, of course, the Minotaur. Trapped in a labyrinth, being chased by a half-man-half-bull, while great exercise, did not sound like my ideal vacation.
Luckily, pictures on the internet consistently contradicted my middle school imagination’s portrait of the island, and so we went. It turns out the internet was right and my middle school self had seen too many old movies filmed in the deserts of California, proclaiming to be Greece or some other home to some other early civilization that I associated with Greece.
Now I can say from experience that Crete is beautiful. It is hot, and some parts are dry and dusty, but it’s also covered in stunning mountains which are in turn covered in greenery (and a sometimes overwhelming number of goats). Small towns dot the coastline with quaint restaurants and beach bars. The interior is dotted with even smaller towns, olive groves, farms, and many of the ever mysterious church-in-the-middle-of-nowhere.
We got to know the island first through the proprietor of our small B&B in Agia Marina, Manilos. Upon arriving at the B&B, he welcomed us to a large table on the patio. We were thinking it would be nice to plop our stuff down in our room and nap on the beach, but Manilos, a short, old, tan, loud, and jovial native of Crete, looking and sounding very much like my Sicilian-American grandfather, thought that it would be a better idea for us to sit and talk with him and try his homemade raki. And his homemade wine. And his version of Greek salad, which included avocados and was delicious!
After giving us a pretty good buzz and full bellies, Manilos convinced us that Crete was the best island in all of Greece. That, in fact, Santorini was the “hot and dry” island and the only reason to go there was for a honeymoon and he hated it. He also pointed us to two beaches on the west coast of the island: Elafonissi and Falassarna. The next day, after our friends C and O — the ones who we love but consistently beat in Monopoly and Flapjacks and Sasquatches, almost so much that it’s not even fun, but kind of sad for them (I wish that were true) — ferried over from Santorini, we drove out to the west coast to explore. We immediately realized that our hours of drinking with Manilos the day before had been well worth it. These were two of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen and with a cool breeze and a local beer, they were paradise. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Somewhere along the North-West coastline.
Pretty typical to see goats in the road. And on small rocks. And on large rocks. And pretty much everywhere when driving across Crete.
Back to Agia Marina.