Continuing from my previous post..
After my five glorious days in Paris, we flew to Crete, Greece for the next two weeks to finish off the month of July. My father is Greek and grew up in a small town in the mountains called Kasteli on the island of Crete. Crete is an island of many landscapes, plant life, and beautiful vistas. The history of the island goes all the way back to ancient times and was conquered by many because of the island’s strategic location in the Mediterranean.
We have a house in Kasteli that my father grew up in and we stay there anytime we come to Greece. The village is situated between the mountains, including the Cave of Zeus (look up mythological story of Zeus). I am basically related to a quarter, or more, of the town. There is not much to do in Kasteli, except spend time with family, my father’s old friends, and eat delicious gelato ice cream from the best bakery ever – Zaxarias [pronounciation: zaha-re-as].
My dad has a cousin that owns a family-run restaurant called Xerocamades and it is located on the road to Kasteli from Hersonissos. All of his food is grown in his garden right next to the restaurant, or it is from his farm, and it is all organic, whole foods. Possibly the best Greek food ever.
My great, great-uncle, who speaks little English, was with us the majority of the time. He is the most hilarious person ever, with the most outrageous personality that never fails to make you smile. He has the cutest little house and garden that over looks the mountains and surrounding villages. He made us dinner two nights before we left and my tummy was so full of good food, I thought I was going to explode. In a good way!
When we stay in Crete, we usually like to go on excursions around the island and spend a few days somewhere, or spend a week in the islands to the north of Crete, like Santorini, etc. which we did in July 2012.
But this year, we dediced to visit Loutro, a very small port-town on the southern coast, situation in a mountainous cove that is only reached by boat from Chora Sfakía [pronounciation: hor- ra sfa-cha]. This enchanting little town had the nicest people, the best seafood, honey, bread, and loukoumades (a desert made of fried dough drowned in honey-SO GOOD).
We stayed at the Faros Hotel for four days and ate at the Ilios Restaurant every single night. During the day, we visited some remote beaches in different coves by boat. Marmara Beach was the best. Only ten minutes by small boat, this rocky beach is named after the abundant marble that surrounds the cove. The beach is also the final destination of many people who hike through the Samaria Gorge by foot. The most amazing thing about Marmara is the crystal clear water. You can stare at it for hours! We ate the little tavern that overlooks the beach – I recommend it! Agia Roumeli was another town about forty minutes by boat that was nestled in another gorge. This beach was hot and exhausting, but the waters were full of fish to swim with.
On our way back from Loutro, we took the scenic route through Frangokastello, a town that is famous for the 1300s Venetian Castle. It was only 1.50€ to go inside the ruins of the castle. There is a sandy beach and a taverna right behind the castle on the shore, we didn’t get to stop by, but it looked relaxing.
Aside from going to Loutro, we spent just about every day on the beach. It was either Aleko’s Beach (we used to know the owner, but he was not there when we vacationed) or Creta Maris Beach in Herssonisos. The waters are clear and are definitely warmer than southern Crete. The waves are definitely much larger here. But where ever there is sea, I am attracted to it.
The day before we left, we visited the high-end, tourist-y side of Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, where many celebs and rich people vacay in expensive resorts. It was a day trip and we spent a big chunk of the day on the island of Spinalonga. A colony of Venetians inhabited the island, then Turks took over later, and then it was known as a leper colony until about the 1950s. It is a twenty minute boat ride from Elounda, or a five minute boat ride from Plaka.
Every time I leave Greece, or Europe in general, I am extremely nostalgic for a long period of time and it is very difficult for me to adapt back to life in the states. Every thing is so different in Europe; the food is better, the lifestyle is better, the vistas are better. The only thing I really, really, really missed was my bed and my Papou (my grandfather). It’s very expensive to live, or move to Europe, but I want to do it some day.
But as for now, I will reminisce my experiences. That’s all for now, until next Fall 2016 when I study abroad in Italy. I vacationed in Italy in 2013 and fell in love! I am excited to go back. Hopefully, I will revisit Paris and Greece, and explore more parts of Europe.
Until next time Europe! Au revoir! À bientôt! Yassas!
All photos taken by Sophia Kountakis