A Month of Contrasts

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was a beautiful, sunny day last Sunday, as well as being Easter In Greece.  John and I went for a cycle ride from Kavousi

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand found a beautiful beach. I paddled in the sea

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand John lay down in the sun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe flowers were beautiful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut when you look at the picture below of the beach, you can also see snow on the hills which appeared two or three days before.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd this sums up the contrasting weather that we have experienced in the previous month.

The weather has not been bad all of the time, but there have been spells of unsettled weather for this part of the world. There is a day or two of sunny weather and you think that spring has arrived and then there are days of the cold, windy and rainy stuff.

The expectations are that by April, it will not snow, that there will be higher temperatures and that it will be bright, not grey. It has been a bit of a shock to the system. During the last month it seems to have affected people’s state of mind. This is undoubtedly true for people who were brought up in Northern Europe. Part (and only part) of the attraction of living here is waking up to blue skies, feeling warm and generally not having to think much about the weather. Our Greek class is held in a community hall which is absolutely fine as long as the temperature is hot. In fact over the last month, we would have been better having the class outside, it was so cold inside! And for the first time ever, I heard the word ‘depression’ and a general feeling of people being out of sorts.

In the village, there has been much more comment about the weather than I heard last year and with good reason. We have joined them in their approach in coping with it – stay inside, put on the wood burning stove and watch TV. Life could be worse!

On the positive side the result has been that there is no shortage of water. The flowers look good,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA everything is very green,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand the landscapes can be pretty dramatic.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI heard from friends and family in the UK that the weather was really good there! I did find the words in Greek to tell Katerina in the supermarket, that the weather was better in Scotland than here. She came back very quickly with the comment that in Crete, the weather is bad only for a week. True!!! On Holy Friday, my neighbour, Maria, wished me Happy Christmas, instead of Happy Easter, indicating a nice sense of humour on a very serious day. And it was very cold and miserable!

During this time, we have friends to stay.  Mary, who lives in Huntly,  came in March, had never been to Crete before and was keen to find out as much as possible but was happy to adapt to whatever weather was offered.

005She and I had a wonderful time at Gournia.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe light was beautiful and we both felt at one with the world as we wandered about the excavations in this very peaceful and quiet place

We then went to Agios Nikolos museum to see some of the Minoan treasures. I know it is not open on a Monday but this was a Tuesday and it was closed!  In my Greek class we have been given exercises about writing letters of complaint. I have got a little bored of doing this because I never thought I would actually want to complain about anything because I love it here so much. But I did feel a bit pissed off with this. I still haven’t written a letter though! However instead, we had a coffee, visited the Byzantine Church at Kritsa (Κριτσά) and then onto Lato (Λατώ) with which I am always impressed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMary’s hugely positive experience in Gournia (Γουρνιά) left her feeling it came a poor second. There was always time for some relaxation, though away from the sights!

007We walked tp the ancient Olive tree twice which is always a treat, particularly when you see cyclamen growing at the bottom.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith John we went by car down the Richtis (Ρίχτης) Gorge which was a new jaunt for me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI think for Mary though, the road was a little too scary (she had said firmly at the beginning of the holiday that heights were not her thing). But I will go back and walk some of it soon, I hope.

Phil, who I always call as our ‘goat friend’ because we got to know her through keeping goats in Aberdeenshire, spent a couple of days in Kavousi with us. One of the highlights of her trip was seeing loads of  goats and sheep come down the gorge, visible from our house.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey were then herded underneatη the main road and onto where, I don’t know.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut I don’t think it is a very good time for these animals. There was a great smell of barbecued lamb (or was it goat?) as we cycled through Kavousi on Easter Sunday! We also enjoyed a relaxed visit to Mochlos.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen we went ‘on holiday’ to the small town of Paleochora (Παλαιόχωρα) for a few days. Thιs pretty town is situated on a small peninsula on the very south west of the island, about an hour and a half from Hania (Χανιά).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABelow is the very sandy beach of the town

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbut if the wind is too great you can walk quickly over to the other side and the sea may be calmer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand the same beautiful colour as in the east of the island.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stayed in an apartment in the middle of the town and enjoyed cheap, friendly tavernas, a couple of them recommended by the Lonely Planet.

We went to the beach of Elafonisi (Ελαφονήσι) which is rightly regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches of Crete. It did take longer than expected to get there as we took the scenic route.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe saw a donkey which is always a treat

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand it’s rare now to see one in Crete. The route, recommended by Lonely Planet, deteriorated into a dirt road. Our car is not suitable for this so we went back down the twisty road and onto the longer but easier route which we should have taken in the first place. We then got diverted because of road works but on the way back we discovered that all the locals were just ignoring the signs and driving on the new, half made road! But in the end it was all worth it – beautiful white and pink sands and a turquoise, shimmering sea.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJohn swam in the sea three times and that is a record, especially for April! The sea seemed relatively warm and the air temperature was high.

Another highlight was a circular walk through olive trees to Anydri (Ανύδροι), admired a bee orchid

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsaw a goat

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand then walked down a beautiful gorge walk beside a river

007down to the sea with a piece of scrambling which was a bit of a test (but we were motivated to deal with it as going back would have meant walking back up the gorge), a sandwich lunch on the beach and a walk back along beside the sea. We had a quick diversion at Olive Tree Cottages

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwhere we had stayed with Graham and Rosie 20 years ago.

We also had a day in Hania and on the way we passed the Agia Irini Gorge down to Sougia (Σούγια) and I thought, another time I would like to walk it.  We went to Omalos (Ομαλός) and had a look at the Samarian Gorge (το φαράγγι της Σαμαάριας). It was not open for walkers and we were definitely not tempted by it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was a lot of snow about, it was foggy, cold, it looked rather scary and we were the only people there! But, by way of contrast in Hania, the sun shone, it was warm and we enjoyed the ambience and the completely outstanding water front.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe dropped Phil at the airport on the way home and reflected that when we started out thinking about coming to Crete for the winter in 2010, there was a choice of a rented house in Ferma and one in Paleochora. We chose Ferma because the person who owned it was very helpful and afterwards we moved to Kavousi in the same area. We think that we made the right choice as we contrasted the two options now. Paleochora is a lovely place in a great setting but it is a tourist town and it is more isolated from a big town, (we are only 20 minutes from Ierapetra and Agios Nikolos). But we love it as a holiday destination.

We joined our friends, Maria and Nikos, for the Saturday night, Easter service. We went back to their house and enjoyed being with their family, drinking some wine and eating traditional soup ‘σούπα’. Today we were back at our Greek class and found that we were the only two there, due to illness, travel etc.  Life begins to return to normal.

Sheila

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6 thoughts on “A Month of Contrasts

  1. pondbug

    Thanks for the tour of Crete. Even the the cacti are happy. It would be good to see a picture of the ancient olive tree sometime (I could well have forgotten about a previous post)

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  2. Marsali

    What a wonderful post Sheila. Beautiful photographs of all sorts of things! Thank you for a slice of Crete.

    The sun is finally out in Kirkcudbright (car thermometer says 14 degrees) and the yellow gorse are starting to bloom so their coconut scent will soon be wafting on the breeze. Surrey made it to 25 today apparently.

    Particularly love your floral pictures – that bee orchid is very striking!

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  3. Mairi Marlborough

    Lovely post Sheila -like the look of Elafonsi beach – I have your calendar of Cretan beaches over here in Elie – the beach here is hard to beat but a bit lacking in the heat stakes!! Crete definitely has the edge there!

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  4. John Turner

    Sheila,

    I can always tell when you’ve written a post within the first few lines as there is no reference to alcohol !

    John

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  5. Mary Scott

    Hi Sheila, Lovely post and particularly lovely pictures of the flowers and the wonderful sea colours. I’m pleased lots of goats arrived for Phil’s visit ! Glad the weather is getting better for you sun lovers. I hope the banana tree has perked up now.

    Mary x

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