Frangokastello and the dawn of mystery…

Do you enjoy stories about valiant warriors and spirits restlessly wandering through the night? You do?? Then, you can’t skip this tale..

We set off in the morning, we cross the White Mountains (or Lefkà Ori) and we run along the well-known Imbros Gorge to reach once again the south coast, wild and isolated. At about 10 miles east of Hòra Sfakìon (or Sfakià), which we already mentioned before, you can find the beach and the castle of Frangokàstello, our destination. Once we get there, we decide to visit the charming Venetian fortress, dating back to the second part of the 14th century, which in English could translate as the Castle of the Franks. Castello ridThe majestic walls are still in excellent conditions, as well as the big south-west tower, which you can climb to the top to enjoy the view. While visiting it, we can’t help but thinking about the grisly battles that went on there and the fantasy stories we heard about this enchanted place..

Castello 2 ridAs a matter of fact, on the 17th May 1828, this place was once again the setting of another fierce conflict, led by the Cretan rebels (or Sfakians) and by their commander C. Daliànis, against the Turkish oppressors. The gruelling battle ended with hundreds of casualties, on both sides. According to a popular belief, at dawn on 18th May, you can still see the spirits of the deceased Sfakians parading in front of the castle, and they are called „drussolites“ in Greek, which means „those who live in the morning dew“. As you know, we absolutely love the folk tales of Crete, but this particular one struck us for the air of mystery and supernatural. The fact that these „visions“ have been attempted a scientific explanation won’t discourage us to go and peek the next dawn of the unknown! Basically, it is assumed that, in good weather and sea conditions, the so called „Fata Morgana“ is taking place, that is an optical phenomena attributable to a sort of mirage. Castello 3 ridThis would ensure that the profiles of the warriors marching on the nearby Libyan coasts would reflect on the Frangokastello’s shores, which is insane if you think about it! Therefore, how can you not check in person? If you want to join us, be informed that Ryanair flies to Crete from the end of March :).

Spiaggia 1 ridWe momentarily leave behind the stories of ghosts and warriors, and we head to the adjacent beach named after the same castle. If you like tranquillity and wide spaces, this is certainly the perfect place. The sandy coast is big and often half-empty, despite the meagre gatherings of beach umbrellas. The water is beautiful and crystal blue as always, with the sea floor slowly fading, making it welcoming for anyone to swim, both for the water temperature and the easy access.  Spiaggia 2 ridWe stayed there a long time; this beach has proved to be authentic, relaxing and far from the mass tourism, and yet unknowingly surrounded by an unusual melancholy. The reason might be the importance upon it of this ͞controlling figure͟ that is the fortress, or maybe the wild vegetation that surrounds it… Either way, this is a place where you can totally relax!

Kali KardiaIn addition to that, a little distant from the beach, you can find some typical taverns, tucked away among the hills. We opt for the pretty „Kalì Kardià“ („Good heart“), a small white and blue building, with a terrace sheltered by a canopy made of vines and completed by the intense singing of the cicadas, ever-present in the hot Cretan summer. The white moustached host smiles at us and invites us to sit, and then he brings delicious traditional dishes: Cretan salad (with his own personal touches), baked potatoes filled with goat cheese, and the typical half-moon shapes of filo pastry stuffed with tasty local herbs, the „kalitsounia“.

Spiaggia+Castello RidAfter lunch, we let the breeze coming from the Libyan sea caress us a little longer, and we slowly head home, once again enriched with ancient stories and traditions, and with new nuances and sensations.

 

 

Marathi and Loutraki: two little gems in eastern Akrotiri

Once again we are here to talk about Akrotiri, that is the rugged and isolated peninsula where Chania airport is located. As already mentioned in the past, the first time we came to Crete we gave the cold shoulder to this area, to all appearances rough, barren and uninteresting. As time passes, we actually found out new gems showing us this steep tip of the island in all its beauty, a really magical area…

In this post, we will talk about two lovely little beaches, very close to Chanià and located in the south-east coast of Akrotiri peninsula: Maràthi and Loutràki.

Being a few kilometres distant from each other, we decided to visit them both on the same day. In the morning, we sunbathed in the peaceful Marathi, divided into two sandy bays by a small marina. Like most of Cretan beaches, this one has also an area with full facilities and a free one, as well as cafes and taverns with sea view.  Being quite secluded, it’s ideal for those who don’t want to put up with the tantrums of the popular Meltemi, the cold and dry wind coming from the north and that it often blows in summer in Crete (luckily, we would say!). Here, the uniquely clear water is shallow for many metres and often calm: ideal to have long relaxing swims, let the children play and, why not, snorkel…. Not to mention the beautiful view you can enjoy from the shore! The rough peaks and cliffs of Akrotiri stand out just before you and make you feel cuddled by Mother Nature.

The morning in Marathi moved lazy and relaxing, and after a quick sandwich, we decided to reach the arms of its little sister, Loutraki. The name itself, “Loutraki”, (“small bath”) predicts what we will find. A tiny piece of heaven, surrounded by two promontories and scattered by cluster pines whose branches provide some refuge from the heat. Here as well, the colour and clearness of the water makes an impression. The shades of blue alternate gradually as the sea gets deeper, and walking few metres towards the horizon you can clearly spot a few hermit crabs, all with different shells, running frantically back and forth on the clear and sandy seabed. The actual beach is completely free. If you want lounger and umbrella, on the right side of the beach, there is a grassy area provided with facilities and shared also by a hotel and a café. The latter offers to all bathers the chance to use the loungers in exchange of a purchase. After few swims, a chilled Mithos beer and a lot of sunbathing, we headed home and we decided to end this relaxing day with a bang…

We had heard about a joint in Chania where they serve fresh fish in a casual environment…we had to try it! The tavern is located in one the main streets of the town, Daskalogianni, in the neighbourhood of Splantzià, very much loved by Chania residents. It’s called “To Maridaki ”and itis now one of the restaurants that we recommend to our guests! 20150613_120015The place is cosy, decorated in a “maritime”style and features something we appreciate a lot: an open-plan kitchen. Even though, surprisingly, the fish is not a speciality of this island, since historically inhabited by big lamb and pork meat eaters, at“To Maridaki”, asin few other taverns in town, you can always find freshly caught fish masterfully cooked on the barbecue, steamed or fried, according to your liking. The peculiarity of this place is that the waiter, before giving the menu, will take the guest to see the window next to the kitchen and choose any kind of vegetables, pulses, first courses prepared on the day by two smiling women.IMG-20150613-WA0001 But the best part is that they will take you in front of the refrigerated section to choose whatever catch of the day you prefer! Once chosen, he will weigh it, tell you the price and ask you if it’s ok. Then, you just need to decide how you want it cooked and, finally, you can enjoy it! Prices are definitely fair, as always in Crete. A lovely grilled fish accompanied by a side of grilled vegetables, a generous portion of steamed octopus with a spicy tomato sauce and local vegetables, black-eyed peas with peppers and cooked Cretan herbs, half litre of white wine, toasted bread with olive oil and oregano: 37 euros for two! And obviously, we couldn’t say no to dessert and raki (the local grappa) offered by the hosts at the end of the meal…wonderful! There’s no much to add… perfect ending to a perfect day!

Are we making your mouth watering? It’s just few hours by plane, think about it ;-)…

Glyka Nera, Loutro and Finikas: the rough and poetical South

Those who follow us on Facebook have already been able to look at some pictures anticipating this post, because, as you already know, we love to arouse your curiosity and keep you in suspense!

We had thought long and hard about this trip and we finally decided to take it! Starting from the north-west where we live, we embarked on a trip to the opposite coast, the south-west, after travelling for about an hour and a half in the rough and charming mountainous hinterland that opens up under Chania.

The first village we reached was Hòra Sfakìon (or Sfakià), where we parked the car for the whole day, since it wasn’t needed any longer…

Sure enough, this coastal area of Crete boasts some of the wildest, most secluded and difficult to access beaches in the island, featured by an unquestioned and unspoilt beauty!

The first one we arrived to was Glykà Nerà, beautiful and much praised bay, accessible only by sea or by foot. From Sfakia, we took the 10.15am boat to Loutro, following the directions of the boatman himself, an attractive and authentic Greek man, with a ponytail, pitch black beard and a vest too tight to be able to contain the culinary habits of an obvious good eater!

DSCN2491Unfortunately, the sea was quite rough that morning, so much that it made those 10 minutes crossing to get to Glyka Nera quite wet… well, it didn’t really matter since we would have soon gone swimming anyway!

In any case, getting close to that wonder and enjoying the spectacle of the nature helped us forgot the salt shower of a minute before. A high and impressive rocky side of Lefka Ori (White Mountains) is the background to a narrow strip of pebbles that ends in blue and emerald and unbelievably clear waters!DSCN2499

We didn’t think it twice and, after descending to the tiny pier/floating boat, we laid down our towels and enjoyed an amazing swim! The environment was very relaxing and the people hanging out there were certainly eccentric and colourful. We saw youngsters with tents pitched on the sand and laundry hanging out under the sun, hikers in their bathing suits coming down from the mountain wearing their trekking shoes and huge backpacks, and, of course, there were naturists! Everything was very exciting! We would have stayed there all day people-watching!  DSCN2529

But back to us, as we haven’t told you a very important thing, that is why this place is called Glyka Nera, which means “sweet waters”. Well, the name comes from the fresh sweet waters that, straight from an underground spring, flow among the pebbles of the beach and end into the sea! Strolling around, you can actually notice these puddles among the stones, and in the middle you can see the gush of totally drinkable water spurting out from the ground. It is for this reason that it’s been installed a shower, working thanks to a solar panel, which gives to the bathers the precious liquid for drinking or simply rinsing the sea salt away.  DSCN2522

After a relaxing couple of hours and a last gaze to this little heaven, we left Glyka Nera. Jumping on the famous Delfini boat, we reached the village of Loutro in about 10 minutes.

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What’s the best way to describe the poetry and the magic surrounding this marina isolated from the rest of the world? It’s not easy, as it needs to be seen in order to be understood. Located on a half-moon shaped bay, the village consists of no more than 20 or 30 buildings, including houses, old community centres and small hotels. The view is amazing, as you can see all these small houses, identical to each other, all white, with the flat roof and the sea-coloured balconies! Do you want to know what Loutro reminds us of? A nativity scene!DSCN2562 You know at Christmas, when you set up the village behind the grotto? It’s exactly the same! And in this case as well, there is a reason behind the name Loutro, which means “bath”, and the key role is played by the many springs found in this area, whose water was able to reach as far as the nearby village of Anopolis.

After a delicious lunch in one of the many seafront taverns (13 € for 2 people…itnever ceases to amaze us!), we decided to get to a last destination: Fìnikas (or Finix, or Phoenix).

This time, however, we told ourselves: “Saddle up and go! We walk!”.Clearly a bit nervous and proud, we then took the E4, one of the 11 European long-distancepaths. We had heard about it many times and read many stories, and even today we dream of covering the Cretan route, 500 km from east to west (and sooner or later, we will do it!). For now, we can proudly say to have stepped on it for few kilometres! From Loutro, we passed by the first beach of Finikas (reached in about half an hour) and we arrived at the second one, in another 15 minutes: very rough beach, with rocks and pebbles, a small hotel and a couple of taverns, perfect setting for those who love a wild environment and total isolation (if you don’t mind the goats to keep you company!). DSCN2577
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On our way back, definitely in need of a restoring swim, we stopped at the first bay: small, stony, very pretty, with a few white and blue hotels as a backdrop. Despite the freezing water, we swam for few minutes, and then packed our stuff and climbed up the mountain again. Passing once again by the scant but suggestive ruins of the ancient town of Finikas, we slowly headed towards Loutro. Close to the town, we enjoyed for the last time the view from the top and filled ourselves with beauty, before taking the boat to Hora Sfakion and to our car.

How amazing is the south, guys! DSCN2582

Hopefully, we didn’t bore you to death with this long story… but also we hope we have managed to deliver a taste of this charm and a bit of Cretan sun to your houses and offices!

See you soon!

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Stavros and Kalathas: Akrotiri’s beaches

It’s not the first time we talk about the peninsula of Akrotiri on our blog. For example, the time we were at the Seitan Limani beach or “Devil’s harbor”, the beautiful zigzag inlet… do you remember? Or during our trip to the three wonderful monasteries of AgiaTriada, Gouverneto and Katholikò. Well, we have to admit it: the area we considered important only because of the airport has revealed itself to be an unlimited source of beautiful surprises!

A couple of days ago, we explored another couple of lovely coves that this rugged Cretan spike offers: the beaches of Kalathàs and Stavròs.

DSCN2380 Let’s start from Kalathàs: you can easily reach it in less than half an hour driving from Chanià. A gold sandy shore, crystal waters with wonderful blue shades, and beach equally divided into a free area and an equipped one… a definitely enchanting place! To be more precise, there are two beaches: a very small one and another larger one, provided with bars and beach umbrellas. The water of Kalathàs is very shallow, and it’s possible to reach the islet in front of it with only a few strokes. So, we spent our Monday morning in this quiet spot of Akrotiri… the week started slightly differently than it used to when we lived in Vicenza ;-)!

DSCN2401Around lunchtime, we hopped on our car and headed north, to Stavròs. It’s a short journey, about 10 minutes, completely immersed in olive trees and the typical mini grapevines of Crete. We knew that there were two beaches here as well, both very beautiful. Considering that it was really hot that day, we decided to spend the afternoon in the one that we heard to be the windiest. Besides, we had heard about an “alternative” tavern in this bay and we decided to try it out for lunch.

DSCN2405The sign said: “Ηλιοβασὶλεμα– Sunset: Greek, French and Arabic cuisine”. Anxious to try this place, we arrived there, parked our car and first of all we admired the view of this gem called Stavròs. Very few people, an absolute peace, clear and grainy sand which becomes stones on the foreshore, a wild landscape and a turquoise sea constantly caressed by the breeze…stunning!

In the middle of the beach there was the Sunset tavern, a wood cabin with the roof made of palm leaves and, listen here people!, the kitchen was set up in an old and wonderful caravan! Oh, we go nuts for this kind of things! The atmosphere of the place was very hippie, like its eclectic owner Malika, a French lady with curly hair and always barefoot! We really liked the place, therefore we took a seat and asked to order food. DSCN2402Malika brought us the menu, one of the highlights of this place: two small, rectangular blackboards written by hand with chalk, bound together by two zips! In this way they created an original menu, which is also ecological and updatable all the time…respect, guys! The content of the menu met our expectations too: together with the classic Greek and Cretan specialties like dakos (barley donuts with fresh tomato, feta, onion and oregano), baked eggplants andfresh fish, the menu that day offered also a delicious hummus (a middle-eastern dip made of blended chickpeas, tahini sauce and garlic), vegetables couscous and oriental rice… a nice mix, we were in for a treat!

After the pleasant lunch we spent the afternoon chilling at Stavròs beach, enjoying the hot sun of July and the refreshing, transparent waters of this rugged, silent rocky bay… what a dream!

And also this day was over, leaving us with sweet memories… And if you enjoyed our Monday in Akrotiri, leave us a comment!

Talk soon!

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