One of the best ways to really appreciate where you live is to play host to friends who come to visit your “neighborhood.” Such was the case last October when our friends from Colorado made the long trek across “The Pond” to see what was so special about Crete that we would still be here after 4 years. Truth be told – we’re still here because the ongoing shenanigans in the US government make finding employment stateside very difficult. But for now, we are grateful to have a job and the longer we’re here the more attached we have become to this unusual island that hums with the hybrid intensity of modern-day tourism and ancient traditions.
Scott and Gail arrived on a Saturday and we hit the ground running. There was a “cooking class” for the local women (and men) in the village near us where we learned how to make the delicious traditional Sfakiapita. Originally from the Sfakia region of Crete, these Greek pies filled with sweet mizithra cheese, hot off the griddle and drizzled with honey are a delicious treat reminiscent of Mexican sopapillas.
A day spent roaming the old Venetian city of Hania always makes me smile. The old stone buildings and little alleyways tucked back into the shadows of the old fortress walls create a maze of cobbled walkways perfect for inspiring a writer’s imagination or a photographer’s trigger finger.
And if you really want to be inspired, just take a road trip outside up into the hills where you will see the “real Crete” and things beyond your imagination.
We took off for a few days to do one of our favorite road trip loops heading to the south coast. We stayed our first night at Stephanos Village Apartments in the high village of Mirthios. The hotel is one of our favorites not only because of the warm hospitality or the delicious Greek meals or the comfortable, quiet rooms. The view over the Libyan Sea is an ever-changing, jaw-dropping buffet of color and intensity.
We managed to tear ourselves away from poolside the next day to play in the surf at the expansive Damnoni Beach as well as a visit to the nearby Moni Preveli – a picturesque monastery with a riveting history (search “Moni Preveli” to read previous blog posts.) As we walked the hushed corridors and courtyards of the monastery grounds, we felt as if we had stepped back in time. That is, until one of the monks, cheerfully grabbed Gail’s ipod and began giving a tutorial (in English!) on apps that he was particularly fond of. Totally blew my image of the monastic lifestyle. But as savvy as he was on technology, he still wouldn’t let me take his photo.
Looping north we arrived at our next destination, another favorite B&B – Villa Kerasia – otherwise known as Babis’ Place. As always we were warmly greeted by Babis and the peace that oozes from this perfect Cretan gem in the mountains just outside of Heraklion (search “Villa Kerasia” to read previous blog posts.) A visit to the local winery, a hike to a chapel perched high on a cliff and a delicious meal prepared by Georgia finished off a perfect three-day getaway before heading back to Hania and home. Scott and Gail were a blast to be with and I know they enjoyed their visit as much as we enjoyed having them here. The tearful goodbyes for the girls were tempered only by the fact that when we finally do return to Colorado, they will be there and we’ll have lots of catching up to do in their neighborhood as they help us rediscover Denver!