Tips About Crete

The scenery is constantly changing. In one place harsh and barren, in another wooded and gentle. Its villages smothered in greenery. Olive trees, orange groves, vineyards, early vegetable market gardens. Old stone farmhouses, monasteries and villages perched on mountain ridges, castles and chapels forgotten on steep slopes. Shores lined with forbidding rocks, often inaccessible, but also lots of endless sandy or pebbly beaches.

Crete is renowned for the variety of its vegetation and the wildlife in its chestnut, oak and cypress forests. Not to mention its palm forests (at Vai and Preveli) and its cedar forests (at Gavdos and Hrissi). Medicinal herbs and fragrant shrubs - laudanum, dittany, marjoram and thyme - grow in rocky areas and the mountain tops are home to the "kri-kri" or Cretan goat.

The main cities-ports on Crete - ChaniaRethymnonHeraklionAgios NikolaosSitia - all grew up on the north side, which is more benign topographically. Ierapetra is the only port on the south coast, on the shores of the Libyan Sea, facing Africa.

Although its huge history and important references to past periods, nowadays, the island continues to live fully and to develop, its cities particularly changing in appearance from one day to the next, in contrast to the many unchanging villages where life goes on in the same rhythm it has for centuries.

There are hundreds of cafes where one can sit in the shade of a spreading plane, oak or mulberry tree and sip a "sweat" or "medium" coffee, or a glass of "tsikoudia" (raki) while playing a game of cards or "tavli" (backgammon).

There are dozens of tavernas and ouzeries serving some tasty "meze", a specialty of the area. Yogurt and honey, sweet tarts (kaltsounia), pies made of wild greens flavored with fennel, fried cheese (staka), rabbit stew, cheese pie from Hora Sfakion, cockles, boiled goat. In the city of Chania, at Malaxa, at Vrisses, and other villages in the area, in Rethymnon, in Heraklion and its villages, and in the whole district of Lassithi. Fish, sea urchins, octopus and cuttlefish cooked on charcoal and fried squid to be tasted at seaside tavernas.