Category Archives: Walking Guide Notes

Explore Kritsa, Crete

Explore-Kritsa_screen versionI’m proud to announce publication of my latest book on 27th July 2019, and this time its non-fiction.

The Kindle version is at a launch price of £1.99. via this link viewbook.at/ExploreKritsa If, like me, you prefer a ‘proper’ book this is the link: http://mybook.to/ExploreKritsa

This book reflects my love for Kritsa, a village on the Greek island of Crete where I’ve enjoyed a home since 2001. Since then I’ve enjoyed many varied experiences and walks that I’m happy to share. While researching for my novels, Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa and Rodanthe’s Gift I accumulated a range of information about Greece and Kritsa and the book includes some of this insight.

Presented in three parts, the book has a month by month guide to my view of Kritsa life, 15 local walks ranging from gentle strolls to strenuous hikes and useful information such as where to eat and drink.

Explore Kritsa is available in both paperback and Kindle versions via Amazon and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the book will soon be on sale in Eklektos Bookshop, Elounda and shops in Kritsa – I’ll update as and when I get more information.
Here’s the July chapter from the month by month guide to give you an idea of what to expect…

July, Brings Summer Festivals

Here we are in peak season, and high temperatures drain energy. Me? Well I spend part of most days at the beach. With Agios Nikolaos only a bus ride away it’s easy to access beaches, and if you’ve a car then you’ll discover a good variety within thirty minutes. You can choose a beach with full tourist facilities or a quieter retreat where it’s appropriate to take your own sunlounger and snacks.

July sees the start of the Meltemi season when winds blow from the north. A tip: if you find it too blustery on a north-facing beach, select one facing towards the east. Sad to say you’ll sometimes encounter a shore covered in plastic refuse brought in by wind and waves. If this happens, the best option is to choose a beach facing a different direction. On organised beaches there are often staff on litter-picking duties to resolve the issue. I’m not saying this to put you off the fabulous local beaches, but I’d hate you to see rubbish and think that it’s a permanent blight.

In this hot weather it’s good to explore Kritsa early morning, when shady kafenions beckon. Another excellent time to visit is late afternoon when the sun passes behind the mountains. I’ll confess to enjoying a room with air conditioning for two hours mid-afternoon. Then, with a long, warm evening ahead, we’ve energy for a stroll. Funny how we seldom make it home without stopping for a cold beer. There are so many great kafenions and tavernas, and we enjoy visiting them all as the summer progresses. Some places use fans to waft air around and I always hope they have another for the cook.

Keep your eyes open for posters advertising Μαγεροτσικαλιάσματα, Magerotsikaliasmata, one of Kritsa’s annual festivals. I recommend you arrive after 9.00 p.m. to enjoy local music, dancing and food. The venue is the schoolyard and you purchase tickets on the way in. Wine, beer and raki are available to buy on site. Look around the various cooking demonstrations to see food cooked over open fires. When you’re ready to eat, hand over your ticket and volunteer waiters will bring your meal. Once the music starts, people take to the dance floor. Other people have said it, but the way children dance makes you think it’s in their DNA. Cretan music and dance are customs handed down from one generation to the next. I’ve heard a local musician practising from the time he was a boy. At first, we winced as we passed; now we stand and listen to appreciate his incredible playing. If you fancy learning to dance, there are local classes with an open invitation to participate. Me? I prefer to watch. During these festivals the musicians play for as long as someone keeps dancing. I’ve been on our balcony at dawn and heard them – what stamina!

If you’re finding the excessive heat hard to cope with, try a trip to the Katharo Plateau where you’ll find it several degrees cooler than Kritsa. Blast out the car’s air conditioning or open windows wide for the 16 km trip up a twisting asphalt road. Once there you’ll find three tavernas serving rustic refreshments.

A good choice for a sundown stroll is the village of Kroustas, 4 km further on from Kritsa. Our walk starts with views towards the Thripti Mountains. Here you’ll have a fabulous, iconic view that captures attention as the reflected sunset turns the mountains a delicious pink. Hidden depths and contours stand out more than at any other time of day. As you watch, the shadow creeps upwards until it snuffs out the light.

In this heat I’m keeping my walking recommendations short and sweet:

Walk 2: Panagia Kera, the Famous Byzantine Church – 2.2 km. This is an ideal morning stroll through the shady olive groves, ending with opportunity for rest and refreshments.

Walk 4: Kroustas Views and Backstreets – 2.2 km. As mentioned above, this is ideal for late afternoon/early evening. Afterwards you can enjoy refreshments in Kroustas’ main street, where arches of shady mulberry trees keep the heat at bay.

The second part of the book has walking directions and sketch maps for 15 walks ranging from strolls to uphill hikes. There’s a walk for you if you’ve only a short time in Kritsa and want to know what you’re seeing as you stroll by. Then, if you’ve time and energy to spare you can choose walks to suit your fitness level and interests. As well as directions, the walking guide gives snippets of information about the churches, historical sites and views that you pass. One of my early readers thinks people with no intention of walking will also enjoy reading the directions/information to gain insight from the comfort of their armchair.

Although I make walk suggestions to suit the season and topical information, you can do more or less depending on the weather, your interest and fitness.

I used an app called Wikiloc to record the routes and give details of how to download information to help you stay on track. For an example Click here.

In the third section, Useful Information, I cover how to get to Kritsa, historical snippets including when there is free admission to local archaeological sites, places to stay in Kritsa and where to eat.

Whether you’re an armchair traveler, planning a visit, arrive for a brief tour, book accommodation or have a home in the village this book is for you – just Click Here.

Click here for more information and I hope you enjoy Explore Kritsa.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bright and Beautiful

As we are experiencing Siberian blasts of frigid wind and snow blizzards here in the UK, it seems a good day to review the warmest, sunniest January day on our recent trip to Crete.

DSCN2560Armed with our book, Circular Walks in East Crete we drove over the hills to the village of Kalamafka where our Three Church walk started.

Glorious sunshine had us striding up a well-defined path. After getting a glimpse of the first church the path teased us by turning away with a long, calf pulling uphill stretch.

DSCN2604How sad, well-intentioned internal repairs have ruined frescos.
An overgrown path led from this church to the next one. As the instructions said we’d need to retrace our steps, we decided not to risk falling down a gully, so this became a two church walk.

DSCN2609.jpgFrom here we looked across to the rock edifice topped with our destination church, yet another Timios Stavros, meaning Holy Cross. Alan spent ages with his binoculars trying to see the path to the top… he couldn’t so we set off again. We soon found ourselves enjoying a spell of easy walking along a gravel track. For the second time on this walk, the route took us away from our destination.

DSCN2621

On a steady incline we enjoyed seeing more of the scenery open up and guessed we’d soon see both the north and south coasts at the same time.

So beautiful, and without a breath of wind, people or distracting noises it felt very special.

After passing an agricultural area, we followed a hard to find down hill path. I nearly trod on these Sand Crocus. Stephen Lenton, an amateur botanist has a brilliant website and if you want to see the entry for this plant, or ID a plant yourself, Click Here.

Once on flatter ground, we enjoyed a breather before our climb up. Phew, it wasn’t a vertical climb all the way as the path zigzagged to the top.

At the top we enjoyed our picnic lunch feeling on top of the world looking down on the north and south coasts with the important wetlands of the Bramiana Dam and Lake too.  Ah, that’s given me a good idea for another walk…

What about you? Where do your thoughts go on a wintry day?

 

Windmill Walk

Good walking weather set us searching for our well used book, Circular Walks in East Crete. My annotation let me know it’s seven years since we did the walk, passing ruins of a cheese factory and many windmills. Even though this is a short walk, just under 2.5 miles be aware of overgrown paths, and a steep ending.

For driving directions from Elounda to the start Click Here 

To view the map of our walk, Click Here

We left Elounda, drove through Plaka and up hill to pass Vrouhas and Selles. DSCN2453.jpgThe next village is Kato Loumas where we parked near the first church. As we drove through Elounda we spotted Kritsa friends Hilary and Phil, so it wasn’t too surprising to hear them toot their car horn as they passed by while we were donning our walking boots.

The walk starts in the alley next to the church.

 

Turn right by the ruined mill, right fork at the V junction and along a walled track. Lets’s ignore the ominous clouds building up!

 

Turn right along a concrete track then follow the walled path downhill, the first part is very overgrown. At the bottom of the hill is the old cheese factory and church. While under Turk rule, locals saved themselves from extreme taxes by giving their land to the church. In return, the church charged a tithe for use of the fields. Goat and sheep milk was turned to cheese here as it was easier to transport cheese rather than liquid milk. After Turk rule, land was returned to the original owners.

We were happy to find a key to the church but couldn’t get in, the lock needs WD40!

 

Carry on along a clear path to a very large well, an excellent rest stop for a flask of coffee. The track continues beyond the well, now heading east. The flower is mandrake and, as all Harry Potter fans will know, is a key ingredient in a potion to restore a person from a petrification spell. DSCN2507.jpgAfter the mandrake I laughed at this gurning rock, surely a candidate for a dose of the magic potion.

On the skyline the wind turbines above Plaka were spinning in the freshening breeze. The many ruined windmills along our route show the same technology is still going strong.

 

I loved seeing inside of this windmill,  the wooden gearing is remarkably intact. We needed the pause as afterwards it was uphill all the way. Where the tarmac road winds up we followed the walled path to cut across it, making it a shorter, but steep climb. The windmill now being used to store agricultural equipment is the first we saw…turn left and the alley emerges at Kato Loumas.DSCN2538.jpg

Hilary and Phil must have completed their trip before us and passed by again. I knew it was Hilary, no one else I know would leave a chocolate biscuit tied to our car handle, yum!

We decided to enjoy our soup lunch in the car, and we knew the right spot above Plaka…

DSCN2539.jpg

Did the walk do you good? The weather forecast is getting better, I feel another walk coming on.