Charma Cretan Brewery: quality and passion in a great beer

Today we want to talk you about a special place, the result of its creator’s big love for the island and the beer: the Cretan Brewery of Charma Beer (in Greek: Χἀρμα).

We left home in a warm day and we arrived in about 30 minutes at the village of Zounaki, where the brewery is located. It occupies about 2000m2., surrounded by orange and olive trees. The day before the visit we booked on line (www.cretanbeer.gr) a brewery tour with beer tasting for 7€/person. It’s not necessary the reservation, but It’s better to do it if you have the possibility.

Next to the brewery, there is an area with a kitchen and a bar and a beautiful, large terrace where you can eat, drink, taste or only enjoy a moment of relax with an amazing view on the orange trees. During the brief guided tour, we learned a lot about the production of this cretan nectar. Above all, we have been struck by the brewing process that is as natural and as eco-friendly as possible.

The raw materials, for example, are of very very high quality and they often come from the local territory. The water for the production of the beer comes from the crystal springs of the Cretan White Mountains. The barley is largely greek. The beer that is produced is fresh, that is unfiltered and unpasteurized. For this reason, it retains all the nutrients from its raw materials as well as it has a very savory taste.

About the brewing process, it is environmentally conscious. For their heating needs, they use solar panels and burning olive pits, both great sustainable energy resources. For the cooling needs, they have installed a geothermal cooling system.

Thanks to the installation of brand-new, up-to-date equipment in 2015, they have optimized the water consumption necessary for the production of the beer, halving it respect to the traditional breweries. Actually, we have been amazed by this small and innovative business, we must say. The attention to detail, to the environment, to the quality and the customer are their distinguishing features.

At the end of the tour, we relaxed on the amazing terrace and we started our beer tasting: 4 fresh beer samples of 300ml each, accompanied with local Cretan mezedes (appetizers). The first tasting was the Charma Lager blonde beer, with its fruity and floral flavours… delicious!!! The second one was called Grape Ale or Wine Beer, because it is fermented with grapes from a neighbouring vineyard…really original! For the third tasting they served us the Pale Ale, an amber beer: the bitter beer lovers will be crazy about it! The last one beer that we tasted was a dark one, the Dunkel. Brewed in the perfect style of Munich, this beer revealed notes of chocolate and coffee.

So, this was our experience at the cretan brewery… did you like it? We think that this could be an “alternative” and funny way to spend a couple of hours during your holidays ;-).

Keep in touch!!

Imbros Gorge and surroundings: amazing discoveries and surprises

MONTAZ 04 HRAKLEIO.cdrOur dear friends Elena and Fernando, together with little Asia and grandma Stella, came to visit us again this year! Last Wednesday, we decided to explore a new gorge, south of Chania, considered the “younger sister” of Samarià: Imbros Gorge (in Greek “ΦαράγγιΊμπρου”).

DSCN5202We decided to set off early from Chania, at about 8am, to get at around 9am to the entrance of the canyon, just at Imbros village. We parked the car in one of the several free parking along the road, and we entered the first part of the path. After about 15 minutes walking, we found the ticket counter, with a sign saying: “City of Sfakia, Imbros Gorge – Length: 8 km – Tickets – Entrance – Have a nice walk!”. We paid 2 euros each and we started the real excursion, which was all downhill. DSCN5210 The day was super clear, but the mountain air was still crispy at that time. So, we walked swiftly this first part of the route, quite wide and well-marked with medium-size rocks, and surrounded by not too high walls and strangely shaped trees. We barely saw any people for almost one hour of walking, so we fully enjoyed the nature owning this gorge, which reveals itself in different forms just for us, with its pleasant silence and its moss and resin smells that were around us for the whole time.We then started to take the very first stretches of the canyon, with impressive rocky walls, from where some trees (possibly oaks) miraculously spurt out and they seemed to be about to fall over our heads!  DSCN5214Little by little, we entered this landscape getting diverse, with huge logs blocking our way, more or less narrow passages, and cascades of sharp rocks running along the path. All led us to a beautiful S-shaped tunnel, the most suggestive spot of the canyon, with very high and smooth walls, almost resembling a slide in a water park! Foto doppia canaloneHere, we crossed the narrowest point of the canyon, wide just 1.60 mt. After overcoming the hardest obstacles, we went ahead until we reached a very unique bivouac, where we stopped for a snack. It was a wooden canopy with a small table, some benches, stools made of logs and every kind of hanging knick-knacks: Greek flags of all sizes, pictures of excursionists and weird moustached characters, old rusted rifles, a rear-view car mirror, banknotes from all over the world, and even two skulls of billy goat wearing sunglasses! What a bizarre place!DSCN5232 After a brief pit stop, we walked towards the last stretch of the canyon, simple and straight, that after a 2 hours walk led us to the final ticket control. From here, we continued for 5 minutes to reach the village of Komitàdes, where a Cretan guy all in black (beard and rosary included!) offered to drop us back to our car in Imbros on board of his pickup truck, at the price of 5 euros each.

The mountain experience left us totally satisfied, the canyon was enchanting and peculiar as many had told us, and above all it was suitable for anyone, since not very long and easy to cover wearing good shoes. But after that lovely walk, how could we say no to a restoring swim? We picked up our car and took the road to Sfakià, where we decided to lose ourselves in the twists and turns of the souther wild coast, that never stops to amaze us. We soon realized that even this time it wouldn’t have disappointed us!

DSCN5271We accidentally reached a small cove, between Ammoùdi and the nudist beach of Filàki, and we immediately fell in love with it! After realising that this small and beautiful corner would have been reserved exclusively for us, once again we were amazed by the different shades of blue that the Cretan sea may have accordingly to the sand, the shore, the sea bottom or the surrounding landscape. We stayed here, cuddled by a priceless solitude and the fresh and light blue water of the “No name beach”, as we nicknamed it that day (*please see footnote)! We wondered about how many remote coves, similar to this one, would exist here in Crete, and this was a comfort for us because it meant that this island, in its countless corners, is preserving its beauty unspoiled by the mass tourism.  DSCN5279Still not satisfied by the many wonders seen by that time, we agreed to set a last stop on our way back, which is the “Winery Dourakis”. The story of this winery started in 1986, when Andreas Dourakis came back fromSaloniccoto his hometown in Crete, Alikampos, where besides taking over his father’s vineyards, he started to grow more in the nearby lands.
DSCN5295 He was driven by his knowledge of the subject, coming from his oenology studies in Germany and from his extensive experience working in local wineries and abroad, as well as by the very advantageous land and climate of this part of Crete. All of this has helped the fortune of this beautiful business, which is now possible to visit with guided tours, celebrate wedding receptions and, obviously, taste and purchase different and exquisite local wines. Once there, we were already fascinated by the outside property: a stone building, similar to a country farm, with a glowing garden and an outside patio and tables. IMG_20150923_174431100_HDRWe went inside and we were welcomed by Sofia, a very nice and knowledgeable young woman, who took us to their shop to taste, to our delight, an extensive variety of their nectars! Eventually, we couldn’t help but purchase 6 different bottles of wine in view of the coming dinners at Villa Anastasia!! Needless to say, we strongly recommend this place to experience a different aspect of the island rather than the typical beach or the archaeological site.

Once again, we had it all, even the company of our dearest friends, to live these wonderful experiences in Crete!

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*NOTES:

Actually, the « No name beach » is called Agios Charalambos or Agios Haralabos Beach.

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..

MONTAZ 04 HRAKLEIO.cdrWe 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…

Foto con sito 3In 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. Foto con sito 1 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….Foto con sito 2 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. Foto con sito 3A 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.Foto con sito 1 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 ;-)…

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Phaistos: the most unknown Minoan Crete

DSCN4408We all know the story and legend of the Minoan palace of Knossos, King Minos and Minotaur trapped in the maze. For many, including us, this is and has been one of the first things we visited here in Crete, as it is only right! But today, we want to talk about Palace of Knossos’“little brother”, the perennial runner-up that nobody remembers, but that is going to blow you away once you get to know it! We are referring to the Palace of Phaistos, Φαιστός (Faistos) in Greek.

DSCN4410Situated at 60 km south from Heraklion and 140km from our house, this palace represented the second most important palatial city of Minoan Crete, ruled, according to legend, by Rhadamanthus, son of Zeus and brother to Minos. The structure of the palace (or what is left of it) is very similar to the one of Knossos, but what makes it unique and unmissable is its authenticity and its mysterious ambience. In fact, contrary to its older brother, Phaistos has been brought to light without any restoration work, and for this we are proud to give credit to the Italian School of Archaeology ;-). The excavations, led by the archaeologists Luigi Pernier and Federico Halbherr, started in June of 1900 and dug out the ruins of several palaces that have been protagonists of the area for centuries. As a matter of fact, the first palace dates back to 2000 BC. Two collapses and two restorations followed to this, due to earthquakes and other natural disasters. Since 1450 BC, for centuries, the city of Phaistos represented the nerve centre of southern Messara Plain. The last palace lasted until the 2nd century BC, when the city was defeated by the Roman Gortyn.

DSCN4422The fact that it’s not as known as Knossos, not surrounded by extraordinary legends and without any restoration, makes it more appealing to us, as it stimulates the imagination; besides, it is never too crowded. We really enjoyed the magical atmosphere you will find yourself immersed in once you open the doors of the palace. For instance, let’s think about the Central Courtyard, today a huge and vague open space, once the throbbing heart of the city and centre of any politic, religious, social and economic activity. When you are in the middle of this courtyard and you are surrounded only by an unreal silence and the few ruins of a magnificent and bygone age, it’s quite exciting to imagine that 4000 years ago that same land swarmed with people, performances, voices, merchants, rites, and that all around there were colonnades, porticos, balconies packed with people watching the daily routine.DSCN4412 Carrying on our visit, it was fun to imagine the king and queen washing themselves, combing their hair or having an argument in the Royal Apartments, or the crowd attending a play on the steps of what it’s said to be the first Theatre ever built in the world. DSCN4449All of this is fostered by the surrounding landscape: on one side the immense Messara Plain, with its olive trees, flowers of every species and fields of crops, on the other side the majestic and still snow-capped Mount Psiloritis (or Mount Ida), the highest mountain on Crete (2.456mt).

As if this was not enough to make this place special, there are also some legends around the famous Phaistos Disc, dug out by the archaeologists inside the palace’s storage rooms, and now stored in the Heraklion Museum. This disc of fired clay, carved on both sides with a spiral of 241 symbols similar to hieroglyphics, remains incomprehensible to this day and it is surrounded by mystery. Some assumed it was related to religious and magical rites, others even say it is a fake; the certain thing is that its interpretation is still disputed. timthumb

Besides the palace, it is worth to visit the wild beach of Kommos, which is 15 minutes by car from there, and where there are few remains of what it was likely to be one of the oldest ports of Phaistos.

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DSCN4473At that moment, we headed home, and for lunch (at 3.30 pm, like real Cretan people!) we stopped at this picturesque inland village, at the foot of the mountains, named Spili. In the pretty historic centre, surrounded by majestic plane trees, narrow alleys and fabled houses, stands the beautiful Venetian fountain, refurbished, with 19 lion heads that spurt a water considered by many the best of the island (we can confirm!). The simple and relaxed tavern where we stopped is called Stratidakis: a pretty terrace overlooking the valley, simple and very tasty meals, cooked and served by the elderly melancholic-looking owner. Approved :-)!!

And also today we can definitely say “Super day!”. As always, Crete hasn’t disappointed us…See you next time!!

Mappa Festo

 

 

Lissos and Sougia: where history and landscape come together

We are back, as promised, two weeks late but hey! Better late than never. Today we are going to talk about our last excursion with our mates Laura and Carlo. Crete, end of October, and still warm and sunny. No wonder why we choose Crete as our new home!!

DSCN3520We decided to explore the south west coast of the island. Firstly, we reached Sougia by car and then we followed the stunningly beautiful European E4 path, scattered with mountains, starting from Ai Kyrkos gorge. The trail going from Sougia to Lissòs remains one of our favourite routes here in Crete, the secret of its beauty lying in the diversity of its landscape, which encompasses rills, caves, a small and stony path scattered with pines and shrubs. Its planes summon to memory images of lunar landscapes. Our hike lasted about one hour and a half and then we finally reached Lissòs and the unforgettable bay of Ai Kyrkos. And when on top, you can’t help asking yourself: « What an amazing place is this? ».

But let’s focus on the Temple of Asclepio, the crown jewel of the archaeological ruins of Lissòs. The beautiful mosaic on its floor is the centrepiece of it all; it dates back to the first century and it reproduces geometrical shapes and a big quail. Then, you realize you are in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by rock-walls, carob and centuries-old olive trees, facing this human masterpiece. In over 1000 years this complex has faced and survived so many challenges! And there is so much more to come…the entire necropolis lays further in silence, scattered with dozens of arcosolium tombs. Death seems to dominate everything and the deafening silence instills respect for the place we are visiting. But we did not forget to visit Ai Kyrkos chapel and, west of the beach, the incredible church of Panagia (Holy Mary), whose marble rocks belonged to an ancient sarcophagus. There you can find a fine representation of Medusa’s head, the Gorgon monsters beheaded by Perseus.

Last but not least, a well-deserved rest, we finally arrived at the beach! Emerald colour, smooth and sanded pebbles, a surreal transparency…This place will never stop to impress us, no DSCN3635wonder it is so loved by the Cretans. A perfect conclusion of this memorable trip, and was a satisfaction looking back on our steps! After some hours spent sunbathing, and one last swim, at 4.30 pm we caught a ten minutes boat ride back to Soùgia. It was such a wonderful day, and we would like to conclude by thanking our mates Carlo and Laura, who already came to visit twice and that are our favourite kind of travellers, the ones that never say no!

Thanks, mates!

 

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Click on the map to see where all these spots are

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Samaria Gorge: the giant of Crete

After livening up your summer with some of the best beaches of the island, today we want to tell you about our last amazing adventure, exploring the other side of Crete: the mountain.

DSCN2920Have you ever heard about Samarià Gorge? Probably you have, since it’s the longest gorge in Europe and one of the greatest natural wonders of this part of the world. Last Saturday, together with our friend Fernando, we embarked in one of the most exciting experiences of our life!

DSCN2925We left Chania at 7.45 with a bus to Omalos, but it actually continues till Xyloskalo, where the actual excursion starts from. After having paid the 5 euro entrance for the Samaria National Park (founded in 1962), equipped with water, sandwiches and a lot of energy, we were ready to start! The excursion of this gorge is not for everyone: 16 km long, it takes about 6 hours walking, counting the stops for eating, drinking and using the toilet. The road is almost all downhill: you start from a 1200 mt height (from Xyloskalo) and then you arrive at the southern coast of the island, at Agia Roumeli. Every 2-3 km, you can find fresh water springs, toilets and rest areas with tables and benches where you can have a packed lunch and restore your energy.

DSCN2926Our walk started with a steep and marked path that tried our strength straight away. We took about one hour to descend to the bed of the gorge, surrounded by centennial pine trees and breath-taking views over the valley. Going on, the road was a bit more “diverse”, as it was dug in a riverbed that in the winter fills with water. Huge rocks, strangely shaped trees, mountain walls more or less smoothed by the wind, and small brooks to cross. But the most memorable encounter of those first few kilometres was definitely with one of the inhabitants of this gorge and these mountains: the legendary feral goat Kri-Kri, endemic species of Crete.
DSCN2969The examples of the area, most likely used to the amount of daily visitors, are easy to approach: they look like small ibices and their cubs are the cutest in the world!

DSCN3007 Halfway through, we arrived at the old village of Samarià where its inhabitants lived until the opening of the park in 1962. To think that people could live there is really unbelievable! Taking advantage of the service area equipped with toilets and tables in the shade, we had our sandwich and relaxed our tired legs that after 2 hours walking were starting to give up…

DSCN3054Bold and determined to reach the sea as early as possible, we resumed our journey after 30 minutes’ break. The surrounding landscape was changing repeatedly, and this made the walk varied and exciting. DSCN3066

Walking through rocky walls high hundredths of meters and centennial trees that incredibly grow from that rock, we felt very small. In that place and in that moment, we were facing the absolute superiority of Nature over man. Suffice it to say, that Samaria Gorge, together with the Mount Olympus National Park, are the only preserved areas in Greece to be included in the MAB Network, which is the Unesco programme “Man and Biosphere”. This must be the reason why here live nearly 500 species of plants and animals, of which about 70 are endemic of Crete.

DSCN3074After about 5 hours’ trek, we finally reached the most famous spot of this gorge, the “Iron Gates” (Σιδερόπορτες). This passage is known to be the narrowest of the canyon. After kilometres of very wide spaces (up to 150 mt wide), here the sides of the gorge close in to a width of only 3 metres, and the sides soar up to a height of 600 metres…it’s breath-taking!

DSCN3121After the gates, the worst was over! Once at the end of the route, we stopped at a kiosk where we were asked to show our entrance tickets, and we walked the last very sunny stretch of cobblestone separating us from the sea. After about 20 minutes, we finally spotted a mirage at the horizon, our “oasis in the desert”: the Lybian Sea!! Despite our exhaustion and the sore calves, we sped up our pace and in a jiffy we were swimming in the fresh and clear water of AgiaRoumeli, incredulous to finally be there! And in this place of unreal beauty, with volcanic sand and pitch-black pebbles, we spent two hours of well-deserved relax.

DSCN3124At 5:30 pm, we took the last ferry to Hora Sfakion, where at 6:30 pm there was the last bus to Chania. Even in the hour spent on the ferry, Crete has given us some pieces of paradise, with its unbelievably blue sea water and the magnificent White Mountains (Λεφκά Όρι) as a backdrop.

What can we say more about this adventure… the pictures are quite self-explanatory, don’t you think?

Anyone of good will, strong legs and love for the nature should go for this experience. Rest assured, you will never forget it!

Bye, everyone!

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Click on the map to see our path

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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!

ItinerarioWe 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!

MONTAZ 04 HRAKLEIO.cdrA 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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Wonders of Falasarna

At just 50 km from our house, the varied western coast of the island provides us with another wonderful area, the area of Falasarna (or Falassarna or Phalasarna), with its sharp-coloured beaches and the archaeological ruins of its ancient city. It was one of DSCN2264the main Cretan cities during the Hellenistic age, and it reached its period of resplendence between the middle of the 4th century BC and 67 BC, when the Romans decided to destroy it and lock its doors in order to eliminate piracy! But it became famous thanks to its natural harbour, the only one in the whole western coast of Crete. Sure enough, in the Hellenistic era, this city, whose name came after the homonym local nymph, was one of the most important maritime forts of the island.

DSCN2268The best preserved ruins are certainly the following: the round-based harbour tower (4th century BC). It’s the only visible one of the original four, and it’s divided internally by two cross-shaped walls; the small tanks, initially used in the public thermaeand then to wash the clay in the artisan workshops; the harbour quay, with still signs of the bollards; the fortified walls,and a throne carved in the rock, probably dedicated to the god of the sea, Poseidon.  DSCN2272

The site is not very big, you can visit it with a short walk and, despite the hot weather, this area is often windy, therefore we managed to fully enjoy the tour of these ancient ruins. It’s always amusing to imagine how the life here was in those days or how those people could be able to conceive certain architectonic features, according to us very modern! Ancient Romans and Greeks certainly knew what they were talking about!

DSCN2269This is another place that we recommend, especially if you stay here at Villa Anastasia or around Chania, since it’s really close and easy to reach. Besides, the entrance price is only 2 euros! The opening times are: from Tuesday to Friday, from 9am to 3pm.

After stocking up in culture, we couldn’t help but dedicate ourselves to one of our most favourite activities, basking in the sun in one of the beautiful Falasarna beaches, with light-coloured and coarse-grained sand. This windy and lovely bay was once awarded the best in Crete, and one of the top 10 beaches in Europe. It includes 5 beaches, one next to the other. The main one is known as Pacheia Ammos, and it is 1 km long.

DSCN2285It’s easy to fall in love with the exotic colours of the sea in this protected area! Yes, you are right, we say that about every beach we visited so far, but it’s the simple truth! In regard to beauties, here in Crete you will be spoilt for choice! Moreover, if you love beach parties, we’ve been told that there are many in Falasarna during the summer, to be precise on the first Saturday of every month…a must see for us as well!!!

See you soon!

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Click on the map to see where these spots are

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