Tag Archives: INCO

Zaros, a scenic gem

Zaros collageIf you’ve been to Crete, there’s a very good chance you’ve taken a drink of prize winning Zaros bottled water. It comes from underground springs in the village of Zaros, nestling beneath Mount Idi in the Psiloritis range of mountains.

It is a stunning area and the small lake provides a tranquil oasis for a stroll. From platforms around the lake edge you can view fish, terrapins, dragonflies and waterfowl. There is also a taverna to relax and enjoy the view.

We have visited Zaros and the lake several times when driving between Heraklion and the south coast. I’d previously noticed the tempting sign pointing towards the Rouvas Gorge but it had never been the right weather or circumstances to hike.

INCO logoAt last I’ve walked the gorge along with some fellow members of INCO, the International Community Association of Agios Nikolaos Region, (and surrounding areas). As well as being an informative and supportive group we also enjoy a range of clubs and activities.

In the middle of October our group of eleven people stayed for two nights in the amazing Idi Hotel, situated midway between Zaros village and the lake.

Prices are competitive for bright and well appointed rooms. Breakfast had a good choice and we enjoyed an evening meal in the taverna/fish farm alongside the hotel.

DSCN0770Some members had a relaxing stroll and/or sunbathing in mind while seven of us set off to walk circa 6 km each way in the gorge.

This sign made it clear parts of our route would be tricky! Our most petite member found the steps cut in the rocks too steep and returned to the lake. Another person returned a while later leaving five of us to continue up.

Sometimes, long sloping stretches gave us a chance to catch our breath before the path zig-zagged up again. The forestry commission has made sturdy bridges and ramps to cross the most difficult drops and these were in excellent condition.  Although the effects of water gushing down the gorge are clear to see, the gorge was dry at the end of summer. Right at the top there was a boggy patch to prove how the water drains from the forested slopes around the church dedicated to Agios Ioannis. This shady area had welcome picnic benches to use while we ate our lunch. We were about ready to start our walk down when a large group arrived with a guide – this signaled we’d have to share the path on the way down. That said, we only passed about a dozen people.

Here is a slideshow of the scenery enjoyed on our hike.

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dscn0866Have to say, the last 1 km downhill was accomplished at great speed – some keen to get back to the hotel for a swim and others wanting a cold beer by the lake.

On our second evening we walked down to Zaros village to eat a wide variety of food at the Vegera restaurant where the exuberant, Vivi made us very welcome.

Zaros water bottling plantOn the final morning, before we all went our separate ways, we enjoyed a pre-arranged tour of the Zaros water bottling plant. The local community and employees own the factory and, as water is a free resource, this felt absolutely right.

Perhaps it’s not something you’d think of adding to your holiday itinerary, but all agreed it made a fitting and interesting end to our Zaros break.

If you live in the Lassithi prefecture of Crete and would like to know more about INCO, you can either email incocrete@yahoo.com or fill in the contact form below.

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I think I’ll make a large print of this photo for my home in Kritsa, it will remind me of a fabulous break.

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

 

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.

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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.

 

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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.

Visit Eklektos, Elounda’s Bookshop

Beryl Darby chatting to INCO members
Beryl Darby chatting to INCO members

On the way to the centre of Elounda, Crete, just by the post office is Eklektos, a gem of a bookshop. The owner, Lynne McDonald is a font of local knowledge and acts as an unofficial tourist information centre.

From personal experience, I know Lynne loves to support authors of books set locally and I’m proud to say you can find Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa on her shelves. After a busy day out (click here to read Beryl Darby meets Kazanis) Beryl Darby and I were pleased to spend the next day participating in Lynne’s first ABC event – Authors, Books & Conversation. Held in September, the bookshop gave several author’s the opportunity to meet readers over drinks and nibbles.

In addition to local advertising, INCO – the international residents association, supported the event by sending details to their members. The shop and shady veranda buzzed with chat and laughter from the outset, and I know Lynne was delighted so many people came to meet the authors.

 

An invitation to participate in a Flash Fiction competition brought excellent entries. The one hundred word story could be about anything as long as it included the word, Bookshop. Clever writers covered a wide gamut of topics, funny, sad, eerie, mythological, and romantic. To read the winning entry by Vanessa Westwell, on the Eklektos website, CLICK HERE. As a prize, best selling author, Patricia Wilson presented Vanessa with a copy of her novel,  Island of Secrets in audio form. Some people commented afterwards they’d have liked the opportunity to read the entries on the day. Perhaps this is something Lynne will build in if the event it repeated in 2018.

At the end of the afternoon an accordion player made an unexpected, but delightful appearance to round off the event. Here author Richard Stevens dances with his better half, Kay. Writing under the pen name Argy Stevens, Richard’s book is called Discrete Reversal and it’s on my ‘must read’ pile for Summer 2018.

As well as providing a great venue for a chat, a cuppa and local knowledge, Lynne also runs a webpage called Bookshop in Crete and a fun Facebook page, Eklektos Books. If you feel you’re missing out as Elounda is too far away for you to drop in, Lynne will send books by post – just visit her blog and select the tag labelled SHOP.

INCO logoPreviously in this post I mentioned INCO, the Foreign Residents Association for Agios Nikolaos and East Crete. This Not For Profit Organisation supports social, cultural, charitable and community activities. Some members enjoy the gardening club, camera club, gentle walking, weekly coffee and natter sessions, ad hoc days out, quizzes, and fund raising among other activities. Each member participates in as much or as little as they wish. If you are unfortunate enough to need time in hospital then the INCO network can answer questions and allay fears. Members don’t need to live full time in Crete.

JOIN INCO – for a subscription of just €10 per year you get a warm welcome with lots of contact information and emailed activity updates. There are members to take your details and subscription in many places including Elounda, Limnes, Kritsa and Agios Nikolaos. If you’d like to know more you can email incocrete@yahoo.com or ask Lynne in Eklektos bookshop.

I’m well aware this has been a tough year for Lynne, and as well as thanking her for supporting me as an author, I like to take the opportunity of wishing her and the fabulous Eklektos Bookshop a great season in 2018.

Perhaps this is a good time to draw up my must read list in 2018 – easier to stick to than resolutions! In no particular order my list includes Monica – Beryl Darby, Discrete Reversal – Argy Stevens, Seraphina’s Song – Kathryn Gauci, Villa of Secrets – Patrica Wilson, The Ariadne Objective – Wes Davis. I’ll add another two books when John Manuel publishes his next novel and Richard Clark publishes his guide to East Crete. Oh what a surprise… my ‘to read’ list is full of books set in Crete. What about you? What’s on your must read in 2018 list?

Finally, Happy New Year!