The island of Crete
Crete is the largest island of Greece, and because of its size and the
fact that it is far away from the mainland, it is quite different from
the rest of the country. The people speak a very distinctive dialect,
have many customs nowhere else to be found, and often refer to
themselves as Cretan, not Greek. In Greece, the Cretan people are known
to be the toughest. Family vendettas still occur, and authorities are
desperately trying to stop the custom to fire guns at weddings.
Crete has everything: beaches, hidden villages, big cities, snow-clad mountains, archaeological sites, medieval fortresses, museums and beautiful surroundings.
The archaeological site of Knossos is one of the most famous ancient sites of Greece, and the island has the longest summer season because of its position. The summers on Crete usually get extremely hot, so be prepared.
Depending on where you stay, you can either end up in a commercialized town, a completely original village where tourists are rare, or something in between. As a rule, Chania is the most touristy place, but is also very comfortable since you can get almost anything here: international food, foreign books and newspapers as well as banks and big hotels. Malia, Hersonissos and Stalida (Stalis) are also full of holidaymakers.
According to Mythology, Crete was the place where Zeus grew up. He was
especially worshipped on the island, and king Minos was considered his
son.The island has many myths surrounding it: here, the Minotaur was
defeated by Theseus,
Icarus worked here,
The first great civilization of Greece started on Crete. It is called the Minoan, after its most famous king, Minos. There is a theory that Minos actually was several kings. The Minoan period started sometime around the 3rd Millennium BC and ended in the 15th century, probably because of natural disasters like earthquakes.
Until this day, we do not know if Knossos was the palace of the kings or the sacred place for the priesthood. What is certain, though, is that the Minoans ruled the seas. Findings from the Minoan civilizations has been found all over Greece, in Egypt, today's Turkey, Italy and there are even theories about the Bahamas. When the Minoan civilization ended, the people emigrated to other islands. Scopelos people, for example, take pride in having Minoan origins.
In 67BC Crete became a Roman province, and stayed so for over 400 years. It was then incorporated into the Byzantine empire. Later on Arabs, Venetians and Turks were to rule the island.
In 1913 the island was liberated and took part in the Balcan Wars, the two world wars, and during the second world war it was occupied by the Germans.
Famous people of Crete :Crete is the motherland of many famous Greeks, among them the famous painter Dominicos Theotocopoulos known as El Greco. Many writers like the medieval Vincenzos Kornaros author of Erotokritos, Nikos Kazandjakis the author of Zorba the Greek ,the Last Temptation of Christ, Odyssey ,Captain Michalis and others ,Pandelis Prevelakis author of The Cretan ,In the Hands of the Living God and others. Music composers like Mikis Theodorakis (Zorba's Dance , soundtrack of the film Z , Canto General and others) .Great politicians like Eleftherios Venizelos one of the Greatest political leaders of modern Greece.
What to See
is a must for those interested in ancient history. This was the center of
the Minoan Civilization, the court of
and where the
was kept in the famous labyrinth. Knossos is usually called a palace, but
the truth is that we still do not know if it was a palace or some sort of
center for the high priests.
In Chania you can visit the archaeological museum, the market and a mosque from the Turkish rule.
Gortinos used to be Crete's capital during the Roman times.
Kodikas tis Gortynas (Gortynas code) is a place for sightseeing, as well as the Basilica of Agios Titos and Matala.
Lasithi is a beautiful village worth a visit, and Elounda is a well known summer resort. If you rent a car you should go to the villages in the Amari valley. You'll get a breathtaking view at the 2500m high mountain Psiloritis.
Iraklio (Heraclion) if the capital of the island with much to see, even though the town itself is not exactly pretty. There is an archaeological museum and Knossos is situated just outside the town.
Rethymnon is the second largest town, and is very graphic with its Venetian and Turkish architecture, wooden balconies and Venetian Castle La Fortezza. There is a museum dedicated to the blood bath of 1866. There are many fish taverns here since many fishermen live and work here. The abandoned monastery Arkadi holds a tragic history. Many Cretan families sought refuge here during the Turkish rule, but died when the ammunition hidden in the monastery exploded.
Ag Nikolaos is considered the most beautiful town of the island. Whether you rent a vehicle or take the bus, you should definitely try to visit the mountain villages.
What to Do
Crete is definitely a place to rent a car or a bike in order to get
around a lot. It is also an excellent place for trekking: a popular walk
Samaria Gorge which
is the deepest valley in Europe. If you are lucky you'll spot owls or
vultures. The nature consists of pine forest and wild flowers.
All over the island there are also excellent beaches where you can do all kinds of water sports. In all the larger places there are cinemas as well - films are not dubbed in Greece.
The best beach on Crete is Elafonisos according to many people. It is good for families with children and the surroundings are beautiful. Matala used to be a hippie resort and is a beach with many caves, and is not recommended for families., Xerokambos and Frangokastello are quiet beaches. In general you should watch out for sea urchins and jelly fish, especially in September and October
In all the bigger towns and summer resort there is a wide variety of bars and clubs.
A Cretan specialty is Stifado Salingariko - snail stew, and Chirino Kritiko - pork chops. One of the many local cheeses is Myzithra and Anthotiro ,you must try also the Graviera Kritis (Cretan Gruyere). The Cretan olive oil is one of the best in Greece .Other traditional products of Crtete is the Cretan Paximadia (Crisps). Apart from the many Greek taverns all over the island, you'll also find many international restaurants in the bigger summer resorts and the cities.
You'll find shops all over the island. If you go to the more secluded villages, you'll be able to find locally handmade ceramics, textiles and much more.
There are many buses connecting the many towns and villages on the island. Because it is so huge, it is very good to rent your own vehicle if you want to travel around.
Crete has its own airport. You can either get a plane from home or go via Athens. There are many ferryboats departing from Piraeus daily , the Cretan Greek ferry companies MINOAN , ANEK and others have brand new huge super fast ferries that make the trip to Crete in 6-7 hours Crete is also connected by ferryboats to almost all Greek islands as well as by plane to islands with airports.
Facts about Crete*
Size: 8259 sq. km
International code: 0030
Population: about 500 000
Local code: Heraklion:2810 Chania: 28210, Rethymno:28310
Cash machines: Yes (in all big towns)
Hospitals: Heraklion: 269111, 237502
Port Police: Rethymno: 22276
Highest Mountain: Psiloritis
Tourist Information: Heraklion: 222487
Airport: 3 airports in Heraklion, Chania and Sitia
Bus company: Heraklion: 245017
Tourist Police: Her: 283190 Cha:73333, R:28156
Ferries: Heraklion: 244603, Chania:27500
Airport: Heraklion: 245644, Chania: 63264
For information about Crete in French visit :www.crete.fr