Crete, an ideal place to live

TOPICS » THE COMPLICATED CHARM OF CRETE

Author: Michael Ntanikas

From the Minoan civilization up to today's reality that seems to be desperately seeking for a place in Cretan tradition, from El Greco to Kazantzakis and from mystic landscapes to cosmopolitan saltgrits there is only one undoubted truth; in a glimpse of an eye, the island of Crete will manage to grab your attention.

Boats in the harbor of Heraclion city
Boats in the harbor of Heraclion city

Placed in the very south of Europe, this little island gave birth to the first European civilization. And, though the world of King Minos has vanished a long time ago, its glamour was left untouched through the ages, in a way that it seems to have bewitched the many nations that tried to conquer the Cretan island throughout history. Romans, Byzantines, Saracens, Veneti and Ottomans, each one of them has added a unique style and character to the island. Crete seems like having traveled to the lands of its conquerors and having returned with countless souvenirs, leaving you nowadays uncertain of whether this is an Eastern European piece of land, a semitropical exotic paradise or simply a picturesque Greek island.

Hidden cove near Elafonisi in Southwest Crete
Hidden cove near Elafonisi in Southwest Crete

But the multicultural attitude of the island will not even close impress you as much as the countless alternations of scenery. At first sight, the land seems to be dying of thirst for water. After taking a closer look, countless woody gorges springing from between the rocky hillsides will unveil the fact that water gushes from every cleft of the island. The Cretan mountains, alleged to be the native soil of Zeus, are covered by snow until the end of spring, watering the island and distinguishing it among the others of the Aegean by its timbered environment. Starting from the roots of the mountains and down to the ocean, Crete bristles with olive groves which,

An exceptional piece of Cretan architecture in Polyrrinia, Kissamos
An exceptional piece of Cretan architecture in Polyrrinia, Kissamos

under the bright summer sunshine, give the illusion that the island is made of pure gold, placed on the deep blue Mediterranean canvas. And before these colors lull you to sleep, the essence of thyme and oregano awakens you and challenges you to explore the untrodden beaches, the mysterious caves and the villages hidden amidst mountain peaks. The beach of Elafonisos, the gorge of Samaria, the cobblestone pavements of Rethymnon. The places are countless and each one of them is a unique experience.

The man of Crete
The man of Crete

What if the complex shore environment mazed Byzantines and Romans? Crete has many more hidden treasures which you should discover by yourself. There are melodies, fragrances and flavors that resemble nothing like sterilized super market products. And if you manage to look under the seeming gruffness that people acquired due to years of struggle to defend their island, you will discover an infinite kindness, a culture and an enviable way of living. This is a unique place on earth where, in some tiny village forgotten by time in the middle of nowhere, in a small traditional coffee shop with frail walls or under a 300 year old plane tree, if you chat with people you will find the reason why, if you ask anyone to describe Crete, he will probably mention, not to history and landscapes, but to hospitality, to large feasts and to people's integrity. But the bizarre thing of this case is that you will find these same people, not only in tiny villages, as well as in the city blocks of Heraclion, in the modern cafés of Chania and in some of the biggest night clubs of the Balkans. You will find these people balancing between past and present and you can only find them here, on this blessed little island.

Sun sets over the mystic beach of Domata, near Sfakia
Sun sets over the mystic beach of Domata, near Sfakia

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