<XMP><body> </xmp> Newsletter The Greek Islands November 2009

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Back from a lovely holiday in Crete...

Hello lovers of the Greek islands, here is the update of my website The Greek Islands. If you have received this newsletter by mistake or if you want to unsubscribe please reply to this email and write "unsubscribe" in the subjectmatter.

Kreta landschap, Crete landscape. Nomikiana. Kreta landschap, Crete landscape. Kreta landschap, Crete landscape, Frangokastelo. Kreta landschap, Crete landscape.

Apologies, apologies...

Sorry it took such a long time before this newsletter came in. I've been back in Amsterdam for almost 4 weeks now, but haven't found the time to write earlier. I've been so busy on updating the website. The new Crete pages are all about ready, I now just have to connect them all to the website.

The first day at Crete

We arrived late in the evening at the airport of Heraklion, at around half past 10 in the evening. Harry from Just Car Rentals was waiting for us together with a collegue (they had a couple of cars that were rented out that evening), and since we were the first out of the plane (only hand luggage as usual) it didn't take us long before we were on our way. First stop was our beloved Agia Pelagia where we stayed at Zorbas Apartments. We can find this one with our eyes closed so it was easy. We were only staying here for one day. The owner had kept a very neat apartment for us in the front of the building with a large balcony that overlooked the street and the sea. He had also left some pistachios and raki on our table. We were so happy to be back. In Agia Pelagia it always feels like coming home to us. We did some quick shopping at the supermarket oposite Zorbas and than sat down at the balcony for a bit and enjoyed a raki and a couple of cigarettes (especially after the non smoking hours on the plane, sorry people: I am hooked). After that we had a reunion with our friend Stella at the Mouragio Restaurant at the beach of Agia Pelagia for a nice late dinner, a couple more raki's and some staring at the sea. It is always magic. Finished up the evening with yet another rakin on our balcony and then had lovely dreams.

The next morning we were supposed to have breakfast with Yorgis (also from Zorbas) but I guess we were up early and he went to bed late, so we missed him, and we bought some fresh bread, cheese and other things in the supermarket and had a breakfast on our balcony instead. I made a little walk along the beach of Agia Pelagia and after that we packed and left for the Apokoronas.

Agia Pelagia Beach, Kreta, Crete Agia Pelagia Beach, Kreta, Crete Almyrida, Frankie and Molly her dog in Café Francoise in Almyrida, Crete, Kreta Almyrida, Almirida Beach, Kreta, Crete Sophia's House, Villa in Crete, Almirida, Almyrida, Kreta

Four days in the Apokoronas in Sophia's House

We met with our friend Frankie Miles (the best travel agent in the Apokoronas!!) in the seaside resort of Almyrida. It's a lovely village with a couple of beaches and plenty of nice tavernas. We had lunch here with Frankie and then headed for our destination: Sophia's House. It's a lovely villa on a hill in a small village some 1.5 kilometer from the beach. We love this place. This was our second visit and it was wonderful to be back, see my bed again, my kitchen, my sofa, my pool and my views :)! In Almyrida we did some shopping in the supermarket and we decided to lock ourselves up for the rest of the day and enjoy the sunshine. In the evening I made the first of (a row) of home made dinners. No need to explain we celebrated with a couple of ouzo's after this dinner, and that we both slept like little babies.

The days that followed we mainly spent exploring some of the nearby villages and as so we visited the Venetian sources in Gavalochori, Lake Kournas and the Church of the Koimesis with his murals in the village Alikambos. We also spent an entire afternoon trying to find the Lidl supermarket in Chania again, after which on the way back home we also missed the exit to Kalives and to Sophia's House. It's not that easy if you want to have toast with salmon for breakfast, ahah. The rest of the time we relaxed at Sophia's House. With the beautiful views there and everything else we find it difficult to leave.

Kastania Lodge, Kastelli Kissamos, Kreta Heart shaped ice cubes, hartvormige ijsblokjes. Deliana, Agios Ioannis Church, Kreta, Crete. Rotonda Church, Kreta, Crete. Falassarna Beach, Kreta, Crete

Three days in Kissamos (west of Crete) in Kastania Lodge

After the Apokoronas we left to go to Kastania Lodge in the west of Crete. It's a beautiful and quiet place just above the town. It is run by two of our friends, Arianne and Raymond. We spent the afternoon at their pool chatting with the two of them, and making a dip in the pool from time to time. Arianne had made special dishes, including her world famous Russian salad. After a refreshing shower in our lovely apartment we had dinner with them in a small village a little outside the town of Kissamos. In the evening we had an ouzo with heart shaped ice cubes. It was a very funny evening and it became very late very quickly. Everybody had some difficulties getting up the next morning.

The (now) only two days that we had left here we drove around looking at interesting old churches in the area, like the church in Deliana with its beautiful frescoes (some of the best in the whole of Crete according to me) and the Byzantine Rotonda Church with its rare 5 concentric ring stepped dome. This used to be the seat of the Bishop of Kissamos and different parts date from different times, starting from the 5th century A.D. A short visit to the beach of Falassarna was also on the list.

Villa Atlantis, Plaka, Almyrida Beach, Apokoronas, Kreta, Crete Villa Atlantis, Plaka, Almyrida Beach, Apokoronas, Kreta, Crete Villa Atlantis view, Plaka, Almyrida Beach, Apokoronas, Kreta, Crete Kokkino Chorio, Kreta, Crete. Kokkino Chorio, Kreta, Crete.

Back to the Apokoronas

For the rest of our holiday the green Apokoronas was to be our base. We stayed in two houses and made some excursions to the south of Crete and explored some more sights. So we left Kastania Lodge and went to the village of Plaka, which is just above the coastal village of Almyrida. It is a quiet and not too large village, yet with most of the facilities, like a choice in tavernes and a very good supermarket. The village has plenty of old houses, some done up, some still falling apart, and there are wonderful views over the Bay of Souda and the Akrotiri Peninsula. We stayed two days in a beautifully renovated stone house in the old part of the village. Set in a quiet street, yet still accessible by car, it had a beautiful sunny garden with a wall around it, giving it the feeling of seclusion and privacy. You could park your car behind these walls as well, so there was no parking problem. It was an old stone house with an arch seperating the kitchen / diner from the living room.

This house was called Atlantis House and it has two bedrooms (suitable for 5 people). The master bedroom has a wonderful view over the bay of Almyrida. There were three different terraces with table and chairs giving you the opportunity to pick one for the sun or for the shade. The garden was a little sun trap and had a lovely pool in it and sunbeds, a parasol and a table and chairs.

In these two days we visited some of the local villages in the Apokoronas to take a better look at them. On the list were Kokino Chorio and Drapanos. We had lunch in a very good taverna in Gavolochori with Frankie (the travel agent) again and she showed us where our next accommodation would be. The dinner that me and my friend had later that evening in the village of Plaka in Taverna "Grill House Souvlaki of Plaka" was less successful. It started with someting that tasted like luke warm paint stripper (instead of white wine) and it took an hour before the first of the three simple dishes that we ordered arrived at the table. The rocket salad with parmezan cheese looked like a bowl of chopped grass. To make it short: after two hours and all the wrong dishes we could finally go home. This taverna is in the race for the title "worst restaurant in Greece", but it could also be that the people in Crete are now laughing at us because there was a hidden camera over the table and they were pulling a joke on us.

Villa Ti Amo, Plaka, Almyrida Beach, Apokoronas, Kreta, Crete Villa Ti Amo, Plaka, Almyrida Beach, Apokoronas, Kreta, Crete Villa Ti Amo, Plaka, Almyrida Beach, Apokoronas, Kreta, Crete Villa Ti Amo, Plaka, Almyrida Beach, Apokoronas, Kreta, Crete Villa Ti Amo, Plaka, Almyrida Beach, Apokoronas, Kreta, Crete

Villa Ti Amo - the pearle in the crown of Plaka and Almyrida

The rest of the holiday we stayed in what is probably one of the nicest villa's in the whole Apokoronas: Villa Ti Amo. It is set on a hill, has all the privacy you could wish for, and it has views that can compete with a view over the caldera in Santorini. The villa had three bedrooms (suitable for 6 people), a large veranda, a large terrace with amazing views, and a couple of balconies. From the pool and from the upstairs terrace there were views over Karga island and Souda island, the villages Almyrida and Kalives, the white mountains, the bay of Souda and the Akrotiri peninsula. The views were different on different days and they were different every time of the day as well. The sunsets were especially nice, but also the evenings when the lights in the villages and on the oposite Akrotiri peninsula went on.

Okay, so it was hard to leave this one, and there were days that we stayed at Ti Amo and just relaxed with a book and did a little bit of swimming or "floating on the airbed". There were no cars driving on the road and anybody that would have walked past the gate (never happened) wouldn't have had a view of the pool, so no textiles for us, it was skinny dipping into the pool. The days that we locked ourselves up usually ended with a home cooked meal and then a few drinks while staring over the sea, the islands and the peninsula. But off course we did not stay in 12 days long, we also made a couple of trips, did some sight seeing and we even stayed overnight one day in the south of Crete.

Chora Sfakion, Crete, Kreta Aradena Kloof, Kreta, Aradena Gorge, Crete Aradena Kloof, Kreta, Aradena Gorge, Crete Ilingas Beach, Chora Sfakion, Crete, Kreta Ilingas Beach, Chora Sfakion, Crete, Kreta

Chora Sfakion - Aradena Gorge - Ilingas Beach

Most of the days so far it had been sunny but we also had a couple of days (about two I think) that a big cloud was stuck to the White mountains casting its shadow on Souda Bay and hanging over our villa. On these days we just decided to head for the south of the island (this takes about one and a half hour) in the hope we would find more sun there (and yes, we did). In the beginning we took the wrong exit in Vrisses (a village which is spelled in 101 ways, and a place where you can easily lose direction if you do not pay attention at the signs and you hold your map of Crete upside down at the same time) and drove towards another village, Vafes, instead of to Chora Sfakion. We took a look at an interesting 15th century Venetian church though, the Agioi Asomatoi which is built on an older 6th, 7th century church and surrounded by other buildings / ruins from that same period. A particular feature of the church is the decoration of its interior. Instead of the usual scenes of the life of Christ and representations of saints, the entire interior of the church is covered with geometrical patterns. When we got the direction right the first trip finally went down south and it took us past the Imbros Gorge to the village of Chora Sfakion, where we had a nice lunch before heading to the next destination, the imposing Aradena Gorge with its iron bridge and deserted village with the beautiful 14th century Archangel Michael church. We ended this first day in the south with a visit and a swim at a beach just outside Chora Sfakion, the very quiet and picturesque Illingas Beach - no clothes needed here.

Frangokastello, Frangokastelo, Crete, Kreta. Frangokastello, Frangokastelo, Crete, Kreta. Koutelos Beach, Crete, Kreta. Lakki Beach, Frangokastelo, Crete, Kreta Rodakino Beach, Crete, Kreta.

Koutelos Beach - Frangokastello - Lakki Beach - Rodakino Beach - Armeni

The second trip to the south took us over the same road, but instead of turning right to Chora Sfakion we now went left to Frangokastelo. The village Frangokastelo has a very interesting and often bloody history and there is a large and well-preserved fortress. In and around the village are a variety of beautiful beaches and just outside the village you can also see the remains of the Agias Nikitas chapel with large floor mosaics dating from the second half of the 6th century. The small chapel dates from the 13th century and it is built on the ruins of the Christian Basilica of Agios Nikitas (6th century). The stones of the basilica were used by the Venetians to help build the fortress. In Frangokastelo we had a look the fort and we made a stop for a cup of coffee.

Near Frangokastelo are a large number of beaches, which are generally very quiet (or even completely abandoned). On two of them, Koutelos Beach and Lakki Beach we took a swim in the sea. Both beaches were deserted but on Koutelos Beach the owner of the local tavern didn't have anything to do, so he annoyed us with telling us we had to put swimswear on, so for us: exit - next beach please. Lakki Beach was bigger and better. It was divided into pieces and bays and there was nobody here as well. After a swim we drove further looking for a nice taverna to have lunch. We accidentally ended up in a "discovery", a collection of beautiful beaches south of the village Rodakino. It was a cozy place with some beautiful and quiet beaches and a couple of small accommodations. It seemed an attractive place and a village to return to on another trip. In Rodakino we had something to eat and then decided it was about time to head back home again. On the way back home we made one final stop to take a took at the Minoan Necropolis in Armeni. It is situated just south of Rethymnon.The tombs are placed in a field under the shade of the trees. There are around 200 of them and they date from 1300 - 1050 B.C. These tombs are carved out of the rocks and steps take you down where you can have a look at them.

Agios Pavlos, Crete, Kreta Agios Pavlos, Crete, Kreta Agios Pavlos, Crete, Kreta Uitzicht vanaf / view from Kavos Melissa in Agios Pavlos op Kreta / Crete Uitzicht vanaf / view from Kavos Melissa in Agios Pavlos op Kreta / Crete

A day in Agios Pavlos

The last journey south that we made was to one of my absolute favorite beaches in Crete. It is called Agios Pavlos Beach. There are two village beaches (clothing) and there are several large and wide sandy beaches around the corner. The naturist beach(es) is a bit of a climb down (and up again) but after that you will have your reward. When you have reached the large sandy beach of Agios Pavlos - the beach with the naturist section - you can walk past the big rock on the right (on your right hand side as you walk down). Behind this rock is a smaller beach. I would call it a small sand/pebble beach, and it is less easy to get into the water here, because there are pebbles, stones and rocks on the seabed. But you can find a nice place to lie in the shadow of the rock though here in case it is very hot, and there is sand to put your towel on. Behind this beach are a number of other beaches. For the large sandy beach you have to make a short walk through the water (approximately up to your waist). You walk through the entrance of the next rock into the water and right around the corner is the next beautiful sandy beach. Here it is very quiet. People who lie here are generally naturist and only few people have swimwear on. This second beach in Agios Pavlos is beautiful and very long. It is a wonderful place to stroll about. Occasionally you see strange rocks or stones or and the end of the beach is some kind of a lake with reeds and some vegetation around it. It is probably the end of a river. on top the hill behind the river you can see a nice little white church. You can continue walking along the beach. It is now rocky and you actually walk on a path. Here and there are small pieces of sand where you could possibly also lie down. The rocks here are beautiful, and are both in the sea and on the beach. After several minutes on this path along the rocks you will see the next big, beautiful sandy beach. Again it is very quiet.

There is not much accommodation in Agios Pavlos. We stayed in one of the apartments at the Kavos Melissa, with a bedroom with a double bed and two beds in the other room. Kavos Melissa is situated on the hill behind the Agios Pavlos Hotel (I estimate at about 200 to 250 meters distance) and it offers wonderful views from the balconies over the sea and the two Paximadia islands that lie in front of it. In the evenings you get to see the sunsets. On the other hand: we could not decide which view was better, because the balcony on the other side offered the most stunning views of the White Mountains we have ever had. The accommodation is simple yet functional, with plenty of chairs, a bench, wardrobes, good beds, a basic kitchen with 2 cooking rings, a refridgerator, pots and pans, cuttlery, glasses and china. The bathroom is excellent with a good and modern type of shower, hot water and all you expect from a wet room. It's all very quiet, you can see the stars in the sky at night and our neighbours (also from Holland) liked it so much it was their second visit to Kavos Melissa in the same year: they just couldn't wait.

Kissamos Archeological Museum, Kreta, Crete Polyrrinia, Polirinia, Polyrrhenia, Polirrinia, Crete, Kreta. Tsichliano Gorge, Crete, Tsichliano kloof, Kreta. Lake Agia, Lake Agias, Crete, Kreta. Kera Beach, Kreta, Crete

Other interesting excursions that we have made

We've seen so many things over the three weeks we have been in Crete, it would be too much to talk about all of them, so I will mention just a few of them. One very interesting day consisted of a visit to the museum in Kissamos, a visit to the ancient town of Polyrrinia and taking a glimpse at the Tsichliano Gorge. The museum in Kissamos has two very large, colorful and complete mosaic floors: the most beautiful I have ever seen and really interesting. To Polyrrinia we went with our friend Arianne from Kastania Lodge. Most of the antiquities here are still burried below the ground and have not been excavated here, but you will get an idea of what it was like. There are remains of Hellenistic and Roman buildings and walls, and the views here on top of the hill are fantastic. We were there on one of those days that the sun was having a break, so being on top of the hill made it feel a bit cold: too cold to walk up to the Acropolis and the fortress that were situated even higher. We didn't bring a sweater or anything, so maybe next time... The village of Polyrrinia itself is almost abandoned and it is interesting to walk over its narrow cobbled streets.

We visited some other nearby places as well, like Lake Agia, a man made water reservoir with plenty of wildlife. Personally I thought it was more interesting or "nicer" than Lake Kournas, because it is not as commercial as Lake Kournas and so it is more quiet. It also seems to have more different kinds of birds (and turtles).

Another day that made quite an impact was our visit to the area of Maleme and Vlacheronitissa where much of the battle of World War II took place. In Vlacheronitissa there is a large and well preserved Minoan tomb and a war cemetary for the German soldiers that died during the beginning of the invasion (over 4000). There is also a small war museum in the taverna next door and there is an information stand.

The last thing I am going to mention for now is the nice beach of Kera that we finally visited on the day before we had to go back home. It is a beach in between Almyrida and Kalives, and it is quite different from the beaches in these two villages. There are no facilities at all and it is quiet. We thought it was quite a discovery and I was actually thinking about keeping it a secret, ahah...well: too late now.

My website, mijn website Kritinet as Agia Pelagia Travel Agent My website, mijn website Kritinet as Esterio Travel

If you have no imagination you just steal - about Travel Agent Kritinet in Agia Pelagia

Something completely different now, but something that has been going on for about a year. Many of my texts and some of my pictures have been stolen on the internet, and a lot of the times I don't really care. Sometimes it's texts that talk about history or they just say nice things about the places where I have been, like the Porta Bar on Mykonos or about Kastania Lodge. It has even happened that people send me my own pictures to use on my website. Obviously I am good, ahah.... Last year October though after returning from Crete I was on Google trying to find out more about Agia Pelagia. I ran into this website and started reading and though "well, this is a nice story, I recognize the feeling". Than I found out that I was reading my own story, only it was published on this other website and the people that made it had put their "copyright, all rights reserved" under it. I wrote them to ask for an explanation how it was possible to find my own story copied word by word with their copyright underneath it. I just got a big mouth back. I never wrote them again. I did write another website though that had the same story in Dutch on their pages. It was send in by that same Travel Agent from Agia Pelagia and also had their copyright underneath. To me this was something quite different because it was a very personal story about a walk that I made through the village. These people actually live in that same village so for me it was unexplainable why they could not write a story themselves. This Travel Agent is called Kritinet, and since they moved to Agia Pelagia I have received a lot of complaints from the people in Agia Pelagia about the way they work.

I wouldn't have written all of this if not almost a year later they were in my mailbox again with a new website of Estero Travel (they had given themselves a new name and were moving to Germany because they were expanding they wrote, but it could also be because they haven't made that many friends in their village). Again they had copied my texts - although this time it looked asif the person that had been typing had been on magic mushrooms because of all the errors- and when I wrote them again they said that they didn't find the time yet to put something else on. Sounded strange to me that they did find the time to make a whole new website but they did not find a half an hour somewhere to write an original little story about the village they live in.

My tip to Kritinet: if all is going so well you need to expand, it's wise to rent a larger office and attract more employees and stay in the place where your business is: Agia Pelagia. My tip to my readers: don't have anything to do with this agency, they are so busy they probably don't have time for you ;). It is not my style to make other poor people look bad and I'm not a hateful person so I've been thinking about putting this story on the internet for a long time. Except this small matter with me, they also had fights with other agencies because they don't want to give anything to anybody else. I can also safely say that they are not sympathetic people. I hope I never feel urged again in this way about a company that I have to write a story like this, and I'd prefer that it would have been resolved in another way, but it is just not like that ...

What else is new...

Lots of things ... Besides all the pages of Crete that I did not mention yet, I am slowly working on changing the whole website to make it easier to read and more clearly. I have already changed the pages of Samos and they look better now, eand there is also some more information. A lot of pictures will also soon be added to these Samos pages. Many other things have also changed. If you have time and it is a rainy day than have a look at the website on a rainy. I'm always interested in your information, experiences and photos to brighten up my website. Talk to you soon in the next newsletter. I will try to contact the owners of the hotels to see if they have a special deal for my website and I will put the the results in the next newsletter.
Kind regards, Hans

Hans Huisman www.angelfire.com/super2/greece 2009