All posts by kritsayvonne

Living a dual life between the UK and Kritsa, a village in Crete that provided the inspiration for my historical novel Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa. Happy to share knowledge and experience about living in East Crete, I'll answer your questions and/or guest blog.

Come to my Book Signing in Elounda, Crete

screen version rodanthe's giftI’m proud to say my latest novel, Rodanthe’s Gift, is now on sale in Eklektos Book Shop, Elounda, Crete.

To celebrate, the owner of the shop, Lynne McDonald invites you to join us for a glass of wine on Saturday, 1 June 11.00 a.m–2.00 p.m. Of course, I’ll be delighted to sign a copy of the book for you.

The atrocities in Milatos Caves and the terrible siege of Messolonghi on mainland Greece are woven into this historical novel. Although the book follows on from Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa, it is a stand alone story.

Milatos Caves, now house a chapel to remember those who were massacred.

The Garden of Heroes, in Messolonghi on mainland Greece is now a haven of peace within the city walls. The stacked caskets represent the kegs of gunpowder a brave man used to blow up the old and infirm rather than allow them to be captured by the besieging Turk and Egyptian force.

I hope to see you in Elounda, but if this is impossible you can buy the book via Amazon as a paperback or ebook. Here are three of the early reviews on Amazon.

Mr. R. Clark 5.0 out of 5 stars Rip-roaring historical adventure

 

Suzi Stembridge 5.0 out of 5 stars Ever imagined how it must be to be caught up in war or massacre?

The Lost Lyra

This is a very special post today as I’m joined by Richard Clark a best-selling author of books set in the Greek Islands including my favourite, Crete. Richard is a generous supporter of my novels and I’m proud to have a mention in his book ‘Eastern Crete – A Notebook’.

41lMoDjmFGLThank you for making time to chat today, Richard. Let me start by offering congratulations as I’ve seen your new novel, ‘The Lost Lyra’ has already earned a coveted number one spot on Amazon. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and will soon add my five-star review on Amazon.

This novel joins the ranks of your travel guides set in Greek islands. Of these my favourite is Eastern Crete – A Notebook. Yep, that’s my bias shining bright!

How do you describe The Lost Lyra?

I suppose in the broadest sense it is a contemporary romance with roots in recent history and drawing on the experience I have gained writing so many travelogues about Crete and its magnificent landscape.

Where did you gain your inspiration for The Lost Lyra?

Strangely the story came to me almost fully formed. I love lyra music and the idea that it connects the past with the present. For me the music embodies the extraordinary landscapes of the island of its birth and becomes a central character in the book. Through its own story in the book the instrument provided me with a link between the experiences of a British soldier and a Cretan Resistance fighter during the Second World War and the present day. I was introduced to the instrument by the maestro Ross Daly when I lived in Crete in the early 1980s, I have a house in Crete and have spent many years writing about the island so had a reasonable knowledge of its landscape, people and culture. My father fought in North Africa and Europe during the war so I drew on that for some of the historical detail.

How different was the process of writing a novel compared to your guidebooks?

I loved the liberation of being able to create characters and tell their story. Not being constrained by facts gave me a great sense of freedom but it was exacting to ensure the characters and their actions were realistic.

Now you are acclaimed for both non-fiction and fiction, what will you write next?

I’ll probably return to non-fiction with another in the ‘Notebook’ series which I have already planned out, this time about Central Crete. If I can manage to plan out a plot I am happy with, I would love to then write another novel. I have a couple of ideas fermenting away.

I don’t know Central Crete, Richard so I’ll look forward to that. Another novel will also go down well. Luckily for us books set in Greece seem to have become a genre.

rob and sully (2)I understand you have brilliant canine assistants. How do they help?

Robinson the 5-year-old labrador/retriever cross and Sullivan our ‘puppy’ retriever/poodle cross are my constant companions when I am writing, they chew my manuscripts and lie on my reference books. I get many of my best ideas when out walking with them. They are part of the family and an immense joy, so in that respect they are a great help and in their own way brilliant!

You mentioned you drew on your father’s war-time experiences. I understand he was also an author, so he’d certainly approve of The Lost Lyre. What sort of books did he write?

My father was a prolific crime writer in the Sixties, Seventies and early Eighties he also created several plays for BBC Radio. He wrote 32 novels translated into numerous languages. Unfortunately, he died relatively young. He was a great inspiration to me.

Thirty-two, wow! Are your father’s novels still available?

A publisher recently approached his agent to secure the eBook rights and one-by-one they are being released again. I think ten are already available on Amazon.

Sounds like my husband will love to investigate those. I only seem to read Greek-based books these days. Let’s talk about our shared love of Crete. What first attracted you to Crete?

It was an accident really. In 1982 I answered an advertisement in The Guardian for a job as an English teacher in Heraklion. At the time my degree in English Literature was enough to qualify me for the post and following an interview in the UK, to my surprise, I got the job. I arrived on the island with just a holdall, with nowhere to live, not knowing anyone or anything about the island, the language or the job. From the moment I disembarked the ferry from Piraeus, I was made to feel so welcome. I fell in love with the island. After returning to the UK to resume my career as a journalist, I have returned regularly ever since.

That must have such an adventure. I bet such an opportunity wouldn’t arise nowadays. Where is your favourite place on Crete?

HouseThat is a difficult one as there is so much of the island I adore. I suppose I have to say the village of Pano Elounda where we have our house. It is peaceful and friendly and close enough to the sea at Elounda and Plaka where we have lots of friends. But I also love the isolated parts of the island and the cities of Rethymnon and Chania and of course my old home Heraklion.

OK, I’ll forgive you for not mentioning Kritsa! I know you split your time between Crete and the UK. Are you considering a permanent move to Crete?

At the moment I think we have the best of both worlds. For some strange reason I find it much easier working when I am back at home in the UK and as I earn part of my living from that work I do need to spend time in England. We also have children and grandchildren who live near us in Kent and being able to see them regularly is very important to me. I am aware that I am very lucky not to have to make the choice if I did it would be very difficult.

Ah, same as us. It is great splitting time between the two different countries. Like you, I’ve chosen the independent route to publishing. What are the positives and negatives of this process?

When I set out to write my first travelogue all those years ago, my aim was just to see if I could actually finish writing a book. As a journalist, I had already been published in many national newspapers and magazines and had had some TV shows optioned, to some extent the thrill of recognition had diminished over the years. At the time it was the start of the Indie revolution in music production as well as publishing. I was so lucky to have contacts in the publishing business through my position as a magazine editor. So I tapped into these editing and design skills to do a professional job and just put the book out there via Amazon. I was perhaps naïve and luck must have played a part, but that first book struck a chord and found modest success. Encouraged, I continued to write and the books have gone from strength to strength. The Lost Lyra is my 11th book and the readership is building all the time. As I write it has just gained a Bestseller flag on Amazon, ahead of Stephen Fry and Gerald Durrell, which excites me. I like being in control of what I can write and when the books are released, and the production side is fun too. The only negative for me is the marketing, I am naturally shy, so putting myself out there to publicise my books is a challenge.

DeskI’m curious about your writing process. Are you a writer with a well thought out plot or does the story surprise you as it evolves?

A bit of both really, I am quite organised and start off with a strong plan, but I am never afraid to go off piste if that is where the book takes me.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what tactics do you use to regain momentum?

Sometimes the going gets slow, but having been a journalist for 40 years, the tyranny of the deadline is a great motivator, having to write on demand daily is great training for an author. I always try to write something every day. If I get stuck, I write what I can without worrying about the quality of the words, often just doing this unlocks an idea. I also try to finish my day’s work knowing what will come next, so when I sit down to write the next day, I know where to start.

Mmm, I’m not so disciplined. I think I should try that. What other advice can you share with aspiring writers?

Write every day. Be prepared to take criticism. The more you work the better you get. Get a great editor and good designers so your work is always professional. Enjoy it.

Most importantly, where can people buy your books?

All my books are available as paperbacks or Kindle eBooks via all Amazon stores worldwide. They are also available in some bookstores notably the Hellenic Bookservice in London, Eklektos Books in Elounda and The Art Café Elounda.

How can people keep up to date with your work?

The easiest is my facebook page www.facebook.com/richardclarkbooks/ or my website https://notesfromgreece.com/

Thank you for chatting today, Richard. Here’s a final link to The Lost Lyra.   

 

Minoan Heights – Kastro

dscn7000The first February weekend in Crete saw the weather turn from snowy wet winter to spring. For us this meant one thing, head to the mountains. Our friend and walking guide, Phil is very keen on Minoan history and he chose a fabulous hike ending at the ancient site of Kastro. This was an especially interesting route for us as we can see these mountains from our balcony in Kritsa.

We started from the village of Kavousi where there are notice boards to direct you to an ancient olive tree and three different Minoan sites.

This little church dedicated to Agia Paraskevi, Saint Friday, made an interesting stop. The notice board explained it was once a monastery for nuns. Our path continued behind the where there were outbuildings, possible the monastery accommodation.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

dscn7052At the top of the path we crossed a ‘saddle’ to look down the other side of the mountain where we saw many other tempting paths. This time we headed left to Kastro. Unlike many Minoan sites we’ve visited this one has good signage to explain the remains and provide insight to the lifestyle.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In the hazy distance you can just see our scorpion shaped village, Kritsa. Most of the white covering the mountains is cloud but you can just see a smudge of snow top right.

dscn7060-1

If you have a smartphone you can download Wikiloc, free of charge and use the route I uploaded to do the same walk.

https://www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/spatialArtifacts.do?event=view&id=32732274&measures=on&title=on&near=on&images=on&maptype=HPowered by Wikiloc

Elounda seen from Mount Oxa

2019-01-19_10-27-21January in Crete has been much wetter than in previous visits at this time of year. As soon as we see a brighter day forecast we plan a walk, never knowing when we’ll get the next opportunity. This fabulous walk was in the company of good friends, Hilary and Phil and as he is a walking guide we benefited from a lesser known start to this famous walk. For road directions from Kritsa CLICK HERE

For full walking direction with a Wikiloc map you can download CLICK HERE.

From start to finish the 15k walk took us six and a half hours although Wikiloc says we were only moving for just under three hours. We filled the ‘gap’ with stops to take photos, eat a picnic, explore Minoan ruins and catch our breath on some of the very steep paths.

The more popular walking route to climb Mount Oxa starts in the centre of Elounda and if you visit Eklektos Bookshop you will find walking guides for the area.

Our day proved warmer than we expected and our hats, scarves and gloves were soon consigned to our rucksacks.

2019-01-19_11-49-57Here Phil ponders whether to take us on a shorter or longer route. Of course the longer option suited us all. If you would like a personal guide for walks or excursions in the Lassithi area contact me via the form below and I’ll pass the information on.

I am writing a guide to walks in the Kritsa area and I’ll share details about this in due course.

Meanwhile, here are some of the photos of our walk to Mount Oxa so you can enjoy a virtual tour.

After walking through flat countryside we saw Mount Oxa ahead and could just see the church at the top. There is a very clear sign at the start of the path up.

The first glimpse of Elounda and Spinalonga below us was a Wow moment. We enjoyed the view over Agios Nikolaos while we ate and then more of Elounda when we walked around the headland to explore the Minoan remains. There are also remains of a church that predates the current one dedicated to Timios Stavros, the Holy Cross. According to Phil’s research there were at least 100 cisterns to serve the peak community with water and we saw several remains among tumble-down walls. Alas, we didn’t find the one reputed to have a stash of gold.

DSCN6717This photo shows the distant snowy tops of the Dikti Mountains. How lucky we are to have the health to climb to such wonderful places.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Reads Set in Greece

Short days and cold nights make it an ideal time to snuggle up with a book, and a mug of hot chocolate. My crystal ball tells me there are some great new books heading for publication in 2019. How do I know? Well, I was proud to act as a beta reader for some authors I admire and I’ll give details in due course. Meanwhile, I thought I’d share information about the books I’m most looking forward to reading in January.

Before I do this, I’ll mention  my first novel, Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa has a revised cover. Thanks to advice from Nikos, my favourite bookseller at Nikitakis Gift Shop in the centre of Kritsa, the fonts are now easier to read. I hope some customers in Aristidis Cafe across the road spot it while enjoying their refreshments. 

Kritsotopoula screen versionRodanthe, the feisty daughter of Kritsa’s pappas (priest), spent her childhood longing for her father’s approval without appreciating his efforts to keep her safe under Ottoman oppression.

Years later, the ruling Pasha orders Rodanthe’s kidnap intent on making her his wife. Determined not to yield, Rodanthe tricks the Pasha and then flees to the mountains dressed as a young man.

After joining rebels as Spanomanolis (Beardless Manolis), she draws on her unusual experiences and rare education to maintain her disguise throughout daring raids.

The crisper Greek meander design matches the one on  Rodanthe’s Gift to make the link between them more obvious.

Screen version Rodanthe's GiftFour mourners stand over the shrouded body of the exceptional female rebel, Rodanthe. Each suffers the loss of a daughter, friend, lost love or valued ally. Her injured papa, Mathaios, kneels at her graveside, begging forgiveness for his sinful decision to keep her baptismal gold a secret. He later bequests the remaining coins to her young friend Petros. A gift with consequences beyond imagination. Kostas loved Rodanthe, but only realised this truth moments before her death. Now dependent on others for his mobility, he resolves to play a significant role in the continuing conflict.When rebel leader Captain Kazanis leaves the graveyard, his focus is on leading the local fight for freedom. However, betrayal and grief take him far beyond his beloved Crete.

Right, that’s my update and here are the books I’m looking forward to reading:

carpetI loved Kathryn’s The Embroiderer and I’ve high expectations of The Carpet Weaver of Usak.

Set amidst the timeless landscape and remote villages of Anatolia, The Carpet Weaver of Uşak is the haunting and unforgettable story of a deep friendship between two women, one Greek Orthodox, the other a Muslim Turk: a friendship that transcends an atmosphere of mistrust, fear and ultimate collapse, long after the wars end. 


saintMarjory McGinn’s travel memoirs are first class and this one, A Saint for the Summer is her first novel. 

Journalist Bronte McKnight visits a hillside village in the beautiful Mani region of Greece to help her estranged expat father Angus with a medical problem. She soon discovers that Angus, has lured her to solve a mystery from the Second World War, when a family member disappeared. 


phaedraI’ve admired Beryl Darby since I first read Yannis, her epic novel set on Spinalonga, Crete’s leper island. (Yes, other novel’s set here are available, but Yannis IMHO is best.) Beryl keeps her readers hooked and book 23 is Phaedra

Phaedra is born a healthy girl and followed eighteen months later by an equally healthy boy. Although there is bad feeling between Eleni and Maria, their enmity comes to a head when Maria’s daughter is found to have leprosy and transported to Spinalonga, giving rise to tragic occurrences.

storm

Effrosyni Moschoudi has created her own genre of spooky Greek reads. I have read the first two books in The Lady Of The Pier Trilogy and I’m looking forward to book three, The Storm.

When Sofia falls in love, a mourning spirit haunts her. The Storm is the concluding part of the trilogy that merges the stories of Sofia and Laura into one. 


These will keep me busy for a while, and if I enjoy a book I will of course add a review on Amazon. It only takes a few minutes and I know only too well how important it is for an author to have feedback.

Help me decide what to read next, what can you recommend?

New Book, Rodanthe’s Gift

rodanthes-gift_cover_finalI always thought Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa was a one-off book, but it seems I have the bug!! I’m delighted to announce Rodanthe’s Gift is now available via Amazon in paperback and ebook.

Imagine my delight when Richard Clark, acclaimed author of Eastern Crete – A Notebook and other Greek travel guides kindly read the story and said:-

‘Yvonne Payne has managed to weave many of the major events in the battle for Greek independence into this rip-roaring historical adventure. Her novel reaches epic proportions as the struggle for freedom shifts between the island of Crete and mainland Greece. The author is a great storyteller, and this, in harness with her great attention to historical detail, makes Rodanthe’s Gift a terrific read.’

This is a universal link to your ‘local’ Amazon:-viewbook.at/Rodanthe

Kritsotopoula screen versionNow let’s skip back to Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa. I used a long-established, orally handed down, folk poem as the basis of my story. I managed to cover most of the key information provided by the poem except I didn’t address why a rich Russian Pappas, (priest) was in Kritsa on the day Rodanthe the story’s heroine was born. I did mention the fact this pappas gave Rodanthe a very generous one hundred gold napoleon coins as a baptismal gift. However, the poem gives no clues as to why this baby important to him. I wondered about this until I woke up one day with a very clear explanation to act as the catalyst for the new novel. If you want to read the first story first, this is the universal link:-viewbook.at/Kritsotopoula

During the research for Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa I ended up with far more ‘stuff’ than could squeeze into one book. When I discovered that Captain Kazanis, a real life hero from the first novel, fought in the dreadful siege of Missolonghi on mainland Greece it set my brain racing. How did he get there? What was his role?  Did he meet Lord Byron? I knew he died on the island of Naxos in 1846, so how did he manage to be one of the very few survivors of the siege?

One of my favourite ways to generate ideas is to find the gaps in facts, ask questions and then, if I can’t find the answer, my imagination takes over. The result of all these questions and answers is Rodanthe’s Gift.

Once a book is published it’s agony waiting for the first review so a BIG thank you goes to Ann Green who posted this on Amazon:-

5.0 out of 5 stars You have to read these books!!    22 October 2018

Yvonne you did it again! Fantastic book full of historical information and I love how it continued from where Kritsotopoulou (sic) left off and not a few years later like some follow up books do. You really bring things to life with your style of writing. At times I almost felt as though I were there in the thick of it. Especially in Kritsa where I could picture myself in the narrow streets and ally’s. It’s hard to comprehend what they went through at the hands of the Ottomans but you really give a great insight into it. I just hope there’s a 3rd book!!!!! Pretty please 😉😉                                                                                          

Did you know Amazon now insist people spend a specified amount in the previous year before leaving a review? Some of my readers have contacted me to say this makes them ineligible and one of these was fellow author Beryl Darby. I love getting feedback and I hope Amazon’s policy won’t stop readers finding a way to let me know their thoughts. You can use the comment facility below or email me via kritsayvonne@talktalk.net. I’m pleased to say Beryl added her review to my previous blog post about our visit to the Kritsotopoula museum in September. This is the lovely review from Beryl Darby:

I have just finished reading ‘Rodanthe’s Gift’ and thoroughly enjoyed it. Yvonne’s meticulous attention to historical detail and authenticity makes her book compelling reading. War scenes are described in all their horror, but between the citizens you can feel the loyalty and concern the Greek people have for each other.

Kritsotopoula Museum in Good Hands

dscn5767Rodanthe, now known as Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa is the heroine of Kritsa. She lived and fought disguised as a young man until the fateful battle against a combined Turk and Arab force in 1823, when her dreadful injuries led to the discovery he was in fact a she. All these years later, Rodanthe and her fellow rebels are remembered at an annual memorial service, and the main road through the village is called Kritsotopoula Street in her honour. Eventually the street becomes an alley and at the far end you will find the Kritsotopoula museum. Open Monday to Saturday, 10 to 3.00 the museum is managed by Maria, whose family tree runs back to Rodanthe’s family. Maria loves the opportunity to chat to visitors and, if she’s not too busy, you’ll be offered a coffee. This private museum depends on donations so I do hope you’ll leave an expression of your thanks in the basket provided.

143725467Popular novelist, Beryl Darby, author of Yannis and over twenty other novels set in and around Elounda, recently paid her now annual visit to Kritsa. You can click on the book image, left, to learn more about this excellent set of books. Once again we visited the museum, this time with a group of friends. Despite our visit coinciding by a large group who had arrived in Kritsa via the little blue train from Agios Nikolaos  Maria made us very welcome, offering refreshments and giving us access to a lovely courtyard.

dscn5761Among our group was Lin Lucioni an ardent fan of Beryl’s books. As Lin, and her husband, Paul were celebrating a wedding anniversary it gave me a great excuse to bake a cake.

 

After thanking Maria for her time and the very welcome drinks we moved on to continue our Kritsa visit.

If you would like to see more about this lovely museum you can visit the Facebook page by clicking here.

 

Freedom Fighter Honoured in Latsida

Many people have an avid interest in the war-time history of Crete, much is documented, and novels based on the heroic resistance efforts are very popular. Less known is the dreadful civil war that engulfed Greece between right and left-wing factions. As in any civil war persecutions, fighting and tortuous deaths tore communities and families apart and left a huge scar that time slowly heals.

During the Nazi occupation of East Crete a brave lady, Maria Lioudaki who lived in the small village of Latsida played an important role supporting the resistance. Before the war she taught local children, loved folklore and collected matinades the two-line, fifteen syllable poems created as a spontaneous response to events. Sadly, Maria met a horrible death during the civil war.dscn5723All these years later, her local community decided they wanted a fitting memorial to such a brave lady. British Kritsa sculptor, Nigel Ratcliffe created this beautiful marble relief, unveiled to the public on 10th September 2018. During the speeches one eminent local stated,  ‘She left her name indelibly written in the “book” of those who gave their own lives for the next generations to live free.’

We visited the village a couple of days later to admire Maria in situ and as a bonus enjoyed the best chip omelette ever from the taverna next door.

Latsida is a village we’d only driven through previously so it was lovely to have a reason to explore. Next time you’re passing stop for a stroll…but not at 1.00 p.m. the village was full of quad bikes as people enjoying a fun safari stopped in one of the village tavernas for lunch.

There must be so many unsung tales of resistance and bravery from the war time in Crete. If you know of any snippets, probably not recorded elsewhere then I’d love you to share them via comments.  Best wishes, Yvonne

 

Patsos, Home of Cretan Heroes

I belong to INCO, the International Community Association of Agios Nikolaos and the wider Lassithi Region, a Not For Profit Organisation providing the legal framework to support social, cultural, charitable and community activities. On 1st/2nd September I joined a group of fourteen INCO members for a weekend in Patsos, in the centre of the Rethymno prefecture, Crete.

dscn5593Our host was Vasilis of the Patsos Taverna, an ex paratrooper who is passionate about local Patsos history and environment. Vasilis ensured we all had accommodation in Patsos, provided wonderful food courtesy of his mama, Mrs Maria, and guided us for local excursions. 

Ill metPrior to the trip I re-read Ill Met By Moonlight, by W Stanley Moss, about a hazardous war-time mission in Nazi-occupied Crete.  A young British officer, Major Patrick Leigh Fermor, led the kidnap of General Kreipe, Commander of the Sevastopool Division, and narrowly escaped a German manhunt, to get the prisoner off the island – a major coup for British intelligence.

The reason behind my reading was our visit to the hideout where heroic Patsos folk kept the group fed and hidden for two days despite pressure from Nazis. The photo of our guide, Vasilis (above) shows him sitting in exactly the same spot as a photo of General Kriepe taken by W Stanley Moss and included in his book. A plaque on the cliff wall commemorates the event. Somehow the single red poppy left by the family of an AnZac soldier was more poignant.

During the early evening we explored the village before meeting up to chat the evening away…would you believe it, the evening ended with me as the raki waitress!!

The ruined church in Patsos has the remains of wonderful icons. They have been removed for restoration and will be returned to the village in due course. The small olive tree was recently planted as a memorial to the wartime efforts of Patsos villagers who maintained essential secrecy.

The next morning we visited a church dedicated to Saint Anthony nestling in the rock face. This church is reached by an easy path at the top of Patsos Gorge – then the hiking trail starts.

After a photo call on the bridge we enjoyed a downhill walk at a pace that allowed everyone time to enjoy the beauty of the rock formations, cliffs, river bed with a still tinkling stream and wonderful trees.

dscn5698After about 1.5 k we had a breather and then walked back up to the church. In theory we could have carried on walking until the gorge bottomed out at a reservoir. Instead we drove near to the reservoir to walk along a gentle path next to bubbling springs. The time and energy saved by the drive provided opportunity to visit a new local enterprise, a winery in its second year.

Yep, you’ve guessed it, not only did we follow the grapes journey from delivery to wine bottle we had a wine tasting lesson too. At present they make white and rose wine – mm, hard to choose, so I bought both.

Ooops, we spent rather too long over our wine tasting and Vasilis had a phone call from his mama asking where we were as lunch was waiting – the tastiest stuffed tomatoes ever. Also on the menu was a fab aubergine dip we’d enjoyed the previous day. Thankfully, Mrs Maria was not one of those cooks who keeps her recipes secret – I’ve made some since getting back to Kritsa.

After a very leisurely lunch some of the group stayed over for another night in Patsos, some headed home and others headed off to holiday in other parts of Crete. I shall certainly return to Patsos as I’d like to walk more of the gorge, and in a year’s time the winery will start selling red wine too, and I need to taste that for completeness.

If you spend time in East Crete and would like to learn more about INCO, you can use the contact form below.

To find out more about Patsos, the opportunity for accommodation guided tours you can visit Vasilis’ great website – https://patsosescape.com

And finally, here is the Aubergine Dip recipe…

Ingredients:

Two Aubergine together weighting 500g

1 large clove of garlic

40 ml mayonnaise – I used low calorie

Half a small lemon – juiced

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon wine vinegar

I tablespoon chopped parsley

Method:

Set oven to 200c

Prick aubergines all over and place in hot oven for 45 mins – turn over halfway through.

Let aubergines cool, then cut in half and scoop flesh into a food processor.

Add chopped garlic and lemon juice

Blend in 10 second bursts until there is a smooth paste – Tip, put a large handful of parsley leaves in with the final burst and then there is no need to chop it.

Scoop puree into a bowl

Add mayonnaise, olive oil and vinegar and stir briskly.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cover the dish of dip with cling film and let it rest in fridge overnight.

ENJOY

 

Eastern Crete – A Notebook

517D17qjCKL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_ One of my favourite travel writers, Richard Clark has a new book out focusing on my favourite region of Crete. Well, I live there so I cheerfully admit my bias. Richard has a knack of taking you on a journey through his eyes that either makes you nod in appreciation with a ‘Yep, that’s what I thought/saw about that place’ or ‘Mmm, I must visit there.’

Many guidebooks about Crete are unfortunately out of date and only skim the places they mention. Richard brings a fresh approach, and gives more detail while encouraging your own exploration. I’m proud to say I was able to make a small contribution to the book and thoroughly recommend it.

To learn more about the book Click Here.

The photo on the book cover was taken in Elounda and I’m looking forward to standing right there to soak in the view. Congratulations, Richard for capturing ‘my’ end of Crete so well.

When I visited the Amazon site to copy Richard’s book cover photo I noticed the price of my novel Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa has a limited price reduction on the Kindle version so it is an excellent time to buy if you want to add to your summer reading – Click Here.

Happy summer reading. X

 

 

 

 

Kritsotopoula Memorial Day

The second Sunday in May is one of my favourite events, held near Kritsa, Crete. Villagers hold this annual memorial to celebrate how Rodanthe, now known as Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa and her fellow rebels fought against a combined Turk and Arab force back in 1823.

DSCN4250.jpgWhen we first came to Kritsa the only memorial to this significant battle was the date, 1823, daubed on a piece of pipe at the roadside. It is still there, but now a magnificent sculpture by British Kritsa resident, Nigel Ratcliffe provides the centrepiece for the memorial service.

 

DSCN4182Local children, and other key participants in the event, were transported the 3k from Kritsa to the battle site near Lato in the popular Little Blue Train.  Once there, smiling teachers had a task, similar to herding cats, as they organised the youngest ones for flag carrying duty.   They looked so proud as they led the procession and then stood patiently beside the memorial during the service and wreath laying.

DSCN4180I’d not even switched my camera on when I saw this tot. At least I caught enough of a photo to show how tiny she was. To me it was as if she’d stepped out of the pages of my novel, Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa. She looked just how I describe young Rodanthe the Christmas she received her first and only complete set of new clothes.

Ceremony over, participants and audience enjoyed a lunch of local foods, while Kritsotopoula enjoyed her solitude once more.

DSCN4245

If you’d like to read my novel, based on the true story of this remarkable Kritsa woman Click Here.

Hamorprina to Krassi Hike

Although we left Kritsa in sunshine, there was a cool wind and we thought it would be a good day to do a hike that has languished on our ‘must do’ list for a long time. If you take the road from Malia towards the Lassithi Plateau and drive uphill for 4.5k you will reach this layby/picnic area. DSCN3482.jpgThere is a clear sign showing you are in Hamorprina, and there is room to leave two or three cars off the road. From here we could see it was still sunny down at the coast, but clouds were gathering over the mountains. With hindsight, it would have been best to put the hike of until another day as the breeze was chill and the overcast views disappointing.

DSCN3485.jpgThe clearly marked path was a doddle. The difficulty came from the steepness of the first two kilometres. When we stopped for a coffee, I checked my Wikiloc route tracker and my husband said it wasn’t working as it had barely recorded 2k. In fact, it was working well and our total walk in the day was 10.6k. To view the map and details on Wikiloc Click Here.

 

As we neared the bottom of a peak loose dogs made me nervous. I had no need to worry, the owner of the smallholding watched us approach and kept the dogs under control.

After this, we enjoyed a stroll to the village of Krassi, famous for huge platanos trees, Venetian water cisterns, and an atmospheric scene in Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa when Christian rebels enjoyed a night of revelry.

 

The high spot of the day was in Krassi – yummy coffee with cinnamon cheese pies, drenched in honey. Well, we needed the energy burst!

The thought of walking back over the mountain, and down very steep scree, was not attractive. We decided to walk along and down the main road – not something I’d recommend in the tourist season when roads are busy.

This hike is back on the ‘must do’ list. Next time we will team up with friends to leave one car in Krassi, and then we can all go down to the start at Hamorprina. As long as we choose a bright, cool, and windless day we’ll have fun exploring further up the mountains and skip the road walk down.

Agios Nikolaos Myths Debunked

Stand by for shock revelations…. the gem of Agios Nikolaos, Lake Voulismeni is NOT bottomless, and it has no link to the volcano in Santorini. DSCN3417.jpg

How do I know this?

I joined a dozen other members of INCO, (the local International Community association) for a walking tour of Agios Nikolaos, led by one of our fellow members, Tony Cross a keen geologist. Throughout our 5k walk Tony kept interest levels high pointing out the geological evidence to explain how the town is built on limestone, the exposed remains of underwater landslides, shaped by fault lines and water erosion.

DSCN3370.jpg

Our group met in a cafe by the marina and hadn’t walked far before Tony pointed out the first evidence of underwater landslides.

Lucy the dog enjoyed her walk but showed no interest in the rock formations.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So, in summary, and I hope I listened carefully, the nearly 50m deep lake is not a volcanic crater as many suppose. It was once an underground cave, formed when water from a spring created mist to dissolve the rock above. When the cave roof collapsed it left a sinkhole. The tall cliff  at the rear of the lake is the scarp slope of a fault line. Although once a freshwater lake, it became stagnant when an earthquake cut off the water supply and blocked the outlet.  During the 1860s French forces stationed in the town dug the canal making it a saltwater lake.

INCO logoIf you spend time in and around the Agios Nikolaos area and would like to know more about INCO, the local International Community organisation you can use the contact form below to request details.

I thoroughly enjoyed the morning looking at Agios Nikolaos through different eyes, thank you Tony.

A Climb Up Roza Gorge – Crete

DSCN3244.jpgGreek Orthodox, Easter Monday in Crete was a perfect hiking day. With Kritsa friends Hilary and Phil and my husband, Alan we set of in two cars for the Roza Gorge. This gorge is 50km southeast of Heraklion, in a wooded area of ​​North Dikti Range, next to the road leading to the Plateau of Lassithi. This walk is 3.5 km with a climb of 300 m.

After leaving our car at the top of the gorge, above Kera village we piled into Phil’s car to drive down to this start point, easily accessible from the village of Gonies – as we found out after driving down the scary way!

DSCN3279These stone slabs made an excellent place to stop for a drink. Over the years many people must have enjoyed a rest in this spot and I’ve an inkling a character in my third novel might just pass by this spot. What third novel? Well, I don’t know yet…

Anyway, no time for idle thoughts, onwards and upwards.

DSCN3281After a winter of low rainfall it wasn’t a surprise to find this waterfall dry. It certainly made this part of our climb easy. Good job as the toughest part came next. Although it was very steep, the route was clear, with a few patches of loose scree to scramble over.

We were intrigued by the odd snails, next to a pointing finger in a photo above. I’m fortunate to have a friend who is a keen amateur naturalist and he says thay are called Door Snails as they seal themselves up with a little door inside their shells when conditions get too dry.  Steve writes an excellent blog about Cretan Nature CLICK HERE and I’ll whisk you over to his 2016 post mentioning Door Snails.

Back in the Rosa Gorge – Near the top we needed to walk along a narrow ledge where metal posts and a wire fence provided some reassurance as we watched Griffon vultures, a buzzard, and crows.

What a delight to find this lovely look out point near the end. It certainly made a fabulous picnic spot. It is reasonably accessible from the road near the village of Kera so we can revisit to share the view with people who are unable to climb the gorge.

DSCN3350

I’d always thought the name Roza Gorge was due to the pinkish colour of the rock faces. However, one of my favourite Crete based websites, Cretan Beaches explains how the gorge once served as a place for disposing of sterile animals. In light of this, local people referred to the place as “Stira Za” meaning sterile animals, and this was later paraphrased to “Sti Roza”. Anyway, however it got its name the Roza Gorge is a fabulous place, and I thank you for joining me. X

Experiencing Life On Mars

viewAfter an overnight flight to Crete we landed with an almighty bump as the pilot of our plane battled against gale force winds. On reaching home, an hour later, this is the view we hoped to see from our balcony. Instead it was overcast, warmer than expected and the wind had dropped. After a cuppa we went for a sleep before tackling ‘set up the house’ jobs.

29496678_10156366475368324_4775952282523009024_nOn waking, we were blanketed in a warm orange cloud laden with sand from the Sahara. We have experienced this phenomenon before, but never this bad.

Later in the afternoon the sun seemed to get through the gloom and the sky took on a bright orange colour.

The two photos below are courtesy of Linda Lucioni and Paul Abernethy.

Facebook was soon full of photos from all over Crete with comments that the annual dust storm hadn’t been this bad for five years. The next morning everything had a dusty orange coat…good job we hadn’t had time to clean up.

I’ll end with a photo courtesy of Samantha Anderson that proves the sand cloud was not a natural phenomenon after-all, but a cunning plan by Martians to cloak their arrival!

29573227_1634879616596673_1076719283429231381_n