Tag Archives: Kritsa

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?

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.

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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?

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

 

 

 

 

Visit Lato, a Dorian Gem

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Turn right for Lato

Just four Kilometres from Kritsa you can explore the wonderful Dorian archaeological site of Lato. Take the main road to Kritsa, and turn right just as the road starts to ascend. Ooops, if you pass Argyro rent rooms you’ve missed the turn and need to drive around the one way system. The road passes the football club and the entrance to Kritsa Gorge, before winding upwards.

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At a Y shaped junction with the magnificent sculpture of Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa you need the right fork. Hopefully you’ll have time to visit the Kritsotopoula first. The small gate is to keep wandering goats and sheep out, not welcome visitors.

A short way after this, on the left, there is a yellow marker to denote the stepped path downhill to Laconia. The battle of Kritsa, commemorated by the Kritsotopoula carving, tried to prevent Turk forces from gaining access to this valuable path. Of course, these steps were used back in Dorian times when the descending path led to the tiny port now called Agios Nikolaos.

DSCN1485.jpgAnd speaking of Dorians…. a few metres further on, you’ll find the parking place to visit the Lato site. Open every day except Monday between 8.00 a.m and 3.00 p.m.

Some August evening’s, atmospheric musical events are held at Lato, often free of charge. I loved it the times I’ve attended, but confess to surprise at women wearing sparkly high heels. Truth to tell they probably don’t think much of my walking boots, although I think they’re better suited to the rough uneven terrain.

DSCN1495.jpgA day time visit to Lato is an unhurried affair. With no anxious guides to hurry you around, there is time to stroll, climb, and sit among houses, workshops, fortifications, market place, and the prytaneum – central hearth of sacred fire kept alight via careful tending by the king and his family. DSCN1498_optimized.jpgAs you stroll through the theatre, temples, public buildings, and cisterns you can ponder on those who lived here in some splendour. To read more via one of my favourite Crete information sites CLICK HERE.

DSCN1502_optimized.jpgIn October 2017, I was ‘hit’ by a Dorian story line prompted by a passing thought about sewage and waste removal. By the time I left I knew where two protagonists lived, what they could see, and how one of them died.  These photos are prompt enough to get me started…one day. Luckily, Lato is a short walk or drive from my Kritsa home, so I can pop back any time I need inspiration.

DSCN1509.jpgThis distant boat, Eclipse seen between hill clefts was moored off Agios Nikolaos for several weeks September/October 2017. It is the super yacht owned by Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich. The local rumour mill was in overdrive and the local paper concluded there is a large property deal in the offing. Whatever he does, whatever he spends, I bet it is not still welcoming visitors after 2,500 years like Lato does.

DSCN1545_optimized.jpgI was intrigued in this corner of a temple… is that a window or a missing stone block?

Whatever the answer, I enjoyed gazing through the square gap.

 

Beryl Darby Meets Kazanis

STOP PRESS: Less than one hour before scheduled publication of this post I was shocked and saddened to learn Nikos Massaros, a generous man to the people of Kritsa, died today. My first instinct was to delete this post as it features a meeting with him. I decided to continue with it as a personal thank you to a special man. May your memory be eternal, Nikos. You will certainly be missed. X

wp-1448437265394.jpegAs Christmas is almost here, I wanted to write a special post. It is ten years since I’ve been in Kritsa for Christmas, and although I love this village nativity scene, I’ve used it before.  In the end, I steered away from traditional Christmas greetings to share the warmth of a fabulous day spent with Beryl Darby, author of Yannis, a novel set in Crete on the leper island of Spinalonga.

143725467Over the past few years, Beryl and I have enjoyed a day out in and around Kritsa. As a prolific writer of novels set in Crete, Beryl is always keen to absorb local folklore, and visit  places that might be useful in a future novel.

First stop with Beryl was a visit to the house where Rodanthe, (heroine of my novel Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa) lived in the early 1800’s. Now the house is a museum I’ve a sneaky feeling a future character of Beryl’s will pay a visit to this iconic corner of Kritsa.

If you want to visit the museum take the main road through Kritsa, it is called Kritsotopoula Street, follow this until it becomes a pedestrian alley, then continue to the end to reach the museum.

 

 

Nikos Massaros, a descendent of Rodanthe’s family, led a group of dedicated people to bring the museum to life, and this was our lucky day as he was inside to answer questions. Close to this house is the small church of Afentis Christos where Rodanthe’s father used to be the pappas (priest). The church doesn’t look much from the outside, but the new roof and plaster protect wonderful remains of frescos.

DSCN1303.jpgIn this photo, Nikos and Beryl view the information board placed outside of the church. To see the frescos you’ll need to attend one of only two church services per year on the evening of 5th October, or the morning of 6th October...perhaps I’ll see you there. To read about my first visit to the church in 2015, post renovations CLICK HERE.

 

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Beryl is a keen admirer of our local sculptor, Nigel Ratcliffe, and on a previous visit enjoyed seeing his amazing carving of Kritstsotopoula. Nigel now has another exquisite piece of work showing Captain Kazanis and his rebels, including ‘my’ Rodanthe situated high in the mountains. If you’d like more details, CLICK HERE. Meanwhile, my husband kindly drove Beryl and I up to the mountains.

After the Katharo Plateau we stopped to admire the hazy view of Lassithi below, and soon had the company of many inquisitive goats.

 

 

Parking near Nigel’s fabulous sculpture I was mesmerised by two men sat under a nearby walnut tree. I had written a similar scene in my draft novel, Rodanthe’s Gift.

 

Petros, my fictional son of Captain Kazanis, sat in this very spot with his special friend:

Leaving their donkey to graze, the youngsters rested against the skeletal remains of a walnut tree.
‘Did Turks burn this tree, Petros?’
‘No, it was a lightning strike.’
Did nothing last? He remembered the thick trunk, with long guns resting against it, while Pa lolled in welcome shade with his men, all guffawing as they drank raki, plotted and schemed. A lump in his throat prompted him to change the subject. ‘Today we’ll reach my home and I can’t wait to see Zacharias.’

DSCN1343.jpgBack in the present day… The men under the tree beckoned us to join them and proffered plastic cups of raki. Well, it would be rude not to!  This photo shows one of our hosts lobbing a rock at walnuts to provide a fresh snack to nibble with the raki – delicious and thought provoking. As a result my novel now has the following scene.

 

‘What are you doing, Petros?’
‘It’s a walnut. I’m planting it in the ground.’
‘You’re crying. Why are you sad?’
‘Kazanis Spring must have a walnut tree. It will be a memorial for Pa.’ He dabbed his wet cheeks, chuckling at a sudden memory. ‘I almost killed him once when I lobbed a rock to bring walnuts down. I missed the nuts and hit his head.’ He gave his backside a subconscious pat at the memory of a thrashing. ‘Such a long time ago. I’ll just water this before we leave.’

DSCN1349.jpgHere’s Beryl mingling with Kazanis, Rodanthe in disguise, and the rest of the rebels. Beryl’s mind was racing too as she made a mental note of a story line where a visitor’s car broke down at this remote spot.

Next we drove further along the dirt track as there was another key scene in my story I wanted to share with Beryl.

A magnificent weather sculptured head looks out across a ravine towards Zinia. Through a gap in trees you can glimpse the church where Rodanthe cut off her hair to improve her disguise as a young man. I found out about this head too late to mention it in Kritstopoula, Girl of Kritsa, but it is in the sequel. While looking around, sharp eyed Beryl noticed another ‘face’ on the back of the rock. I was more interested in watching one of the hunters we’d seen earlier descend a path to the ravine. Now I knew how Petros could get from the church at Zinia to this rock head. I love it when story lines fall in place.

 

Christmas is always such a rush, so I hope reading this blog post has given you a short break. Whatever you do to celebrate the season, have fun.  I shall use spare time to continue tidying up Rodanthe’s Gift ready for publication in 2018. If you’d like me to let you know the date of publication send me your details via the contact form below.

 

Finally, thank you for visiting my blog, it means so much.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, 2018.

Up and Over Thripti Mountains

Across Kritsa olive groves to Thripti

From my balcony in Kritsa, Crete we gaze out across olive groves to the sea with the Thripti Mountains providing a wonderful backdrop. Such a wide expanse means we always have an amazing view no matter what the weather, but perhaps it’s no surprise that a blue sky is my favourite. During the early part of the day the mountains look one-dimensional. Drama begins in the afternoon when the setting sun sends angled rays to bring the mountains to sharp relief.

After enjoying many lazy August beach days we wanted a change of scene, so welcomed the drive up and over the mountains to the south coast. The road to the village of Thripti is tarmac/concrete all the way and suitable for any car driven by someone who doesn’t mind the road sometimes going close to a sheer drop or needing a tight move to pass a vehicle going in the opposite direction. However, to go beyond Thripti, a 4×4 vehicle is best.

A trip to Thripti is a great experience in its own right, and the village taverna does great mezes, small dishes of food to accompany your drinks.

 

 

To pass over the mountains, the dusty road winds between towering cliffs and then bumps down to the beautiful village of Orino at the head of a gorge that runs to the sea.

 

You can also access Orino from Koutsouras on the south-east coast via a winding, safe tarmac road and is certainly worth a visit if you want to see a thriving community well away from the trappings of tourism. There are two tavernas where you can enjoy a drink and mezes local style.

There is a lovely communal theatre area and on previous visits we’ve seen people busy cleaning up after festivals. Our tradition is to take a packed lunch to enjoy on the shady steps. Sometimes a delightful lady has delivered fruit and raki to finish our lunch. A surprise visitor, she appears from nowhere, and then dashes away, she must just love giving in true Cretan style.

We’ve not walked the gorge…yet. If you’d like guidance from people who have walked the gorge CLICK HERE

Meanwhile, here’s a set of photos from Orinio, full of blooms despite August heat.

 

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Down on the south coast the sea looked so inviting, and thanks to Steve of the fabulous blog Crete Nature we knew a hidden rock pool for a lovely swim.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a ‘dip’ in my summer photos.

 

 

Over the hills to Mirtos

Sat in a near dark lounge at only 3.00 p.m. on a November afternoon I’ve enjoyed looking back over bright and sunny photos taken in Crete during August. If like me, you’re in need of sunshine and warmth I hope you enjoy this series of posts looking back on warmer days… when I think I may have complained I was too hot!

Once or twice a year we enjoy a trip to the south coast village of Mirtos or Myrtos depending on which map you’re using. However you spell it, there are many fine tavernas along a beach side promenade. If you enjoy relaxing on sunbeds, it is worth knowing they are free to customers buying refreshments from the tavernas.

From Kritsa, we could go down to Agios Nikolaos, take the new road to the right, and head for Ierapetra and then drive west along the coast. Our preference is to go up and over the hills for dramatic scenery changes.

After leaving Kritsa we drove uphill, through the next village of Kroustas, to Pines where pine clad hills deliver dramatic sea views over Istron to the left. Next we headed for the lovely village of Anatolh (I’ll blog about the village sooner or later) before heading downhill alongside the Sarakina Gorge to the south coast road where a west turn leads to Mirtos.

This scenic drive is on tarmac or concrete roads all the way and apart from one ‘hairy bend’ between Kroustas and Pines is a pleasant drive remarkable for its lack of traffic.

Coffee time photos:

 

One of our favourite spots to stop for a flask of iced coffee gives incredible views to the sea in the south, and the bare tops of Lassithi mountains. Snow often remains on these peaks beyond April/May. Heat caused the haziness of these photos -note to self… return for crisp clean shots in the winter.

Arriving in Mirtos for the first time can be daunting due to narrow streets and thronging cars. The proper car park is at the end of the village after snaking your way through. However, just after you turn left for the village, the road has several large rubbish bins, and often nose to tail cars. Look for a scrubby car park on the left and then you will enjoy an easy exit from the town. Walk through the car park, and pass a small house where the owner has made delightful, fun mosaics.

Next you walk through the grounds of a small holiday complex to turn right along the promenade to weigh up the benefits of the different tavernas before you choose ‘your’ spot. Our habit is to walk to the far end, make up our mind and then return.

Isn’t funny, despite the wide choice of spots to lie this puss wanted to get closer than I deemed polite!

Mirtos offers walking, archaeology, boat trips, cooking lessons, and lovely accommodation. To find out more about Mirtos CLICK HERE.

Just seeing the blue sky images and imagining the crunch of shingle before splashing in the water has brightened my afternoon, and I hope you enjoyed your Mirtos ‘dip’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Holiday Blues?

That sad feeling you get at the end of a holiday didn’t hit us at the end of our wonderful week in mainland Greece.

We’d started out at Magical Meteora  and saw a Bear Trail in the Pindus Mountains.

We were overcome by the sacrifices of Missolonghi Heroes  and wowed by the generosity of Dimitris, the curator of the museum who added so much value to my book research.

Throughout our journey we found Greek Gems and our wonderful week culminated with a visit to Delphi, I’m sure I heard the Oracle whisper ‘You’ll be back’.

Driving on the Minoan Lines ferry from Piraeus to Heraklion was the start of something not the end. That’s why we had no post holiday blues …we were privileged to return to our home in Crete for a few weeks.

After an overnight trip we arrived back in Heraklion, Crete.

This was the view that greeted us from the balcony of our house in the back streets of Kritsa.  OK, it’s not always like that – some times those pesky clouds go away!!!!

Of course, all good things do come to an end and we headed off to the UK.

 

 

 

This photo, taken a few days after our return, is from The Ridgeway in Wiltshire.

We have to make compromises, but for the time being at least we continue to think we’re living a dream come true.

What is your retirement dream ?

 

 

 

 

 

Foreign Residents Association – INCO

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INCO is the Foreign Residents Association of Agios Nikolaos and surrounding area, with members across East Crete. This ‘Not For Profit Organisation’ supports social, cultural, charitable and community activities. INCO also acts as the ‘umbrella group’ for a variety of clubs. The gardening club and camera club are two of the most active groups all year round. Some, like the gentle walking group or pantomime production, are seasonal. As the thought of needing emergency help and/or time in hospital worries many people it’s good to know the INCO membership answers questions to allay fears… members even produced blood donations for another member needing a knee replacement.

Talking of hospitals, if you’ve visited Agios Nikolaos hospital recently I hope you noticed spruced up areas where INCO volunteers have worked.

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INCO is member run and although there is an elected committee anyone can volunteer to organise events. With this in mind I invited INCO members to join me at the Kritsotopoula Memorial event followed by a walk around Kritsa. Click Here to see how an on-line newspaper reported our visit.

Gentle Walk

The last gentle walk before the temperatures soared was in and around Limnes, a village I usually whiz past on the main road. It proved a village worth exploring, and not just because our walk ended at a village taverna for a fabulous lunch.

During gentle walks this spring I met German members from Ierapetra, Dutch and British members from Milatos, plus British members from Limnes, Elounda and Agios Nikolaos. I even met two people who live in Kritsa!

I took these photos during the Limnes Walk.

If you spend time in East Crete you’ll be very welcome as a member of INCO. The subscription is €10 per year. Use the contact form below to tell me where you’re based in Crete and I’ll let you know how to join.

If you’d like more insight to recent activities you can visit the INCO Member’s Group on Face book. Hope to meet you soon!

Crete Easter blossoms and blasts, without BOOMS!

We’ve enjoyed a fabulous Easter in Crete, let me share some of our highlights.

On Good Friday, known as Black Friday in Greece, we visited the three main churches in Kritsa to admire the flower-decked Epitaphs representing the bier of Christ.

As the evening services drew to a close the congregations followed their Epitaph in a procession through the village until they all met up in the main street. The floral scents mixed with frankincense made a heady combination.

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Psst! Don’t tell anyone, but my husband has just turned 70. He was adamant he didn’t want a present or any fuss. Instead of getting him a gift I booked us a room overlooking the lake in nearby Agios Nikolaos on Easter Saturday.

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Three friends joined us to share the experience, and after a picnic supper, with pizza and posh wine, we moved to the balcony to watch the swelling crowd.

This gave us a fabulous view of the evening church procession, midnight candles, burning of Judas, and plenty of fireworks.

The clip below shows midnight , welcoming the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. At the start focus on Judas in the middle of the lake and keep looking….

Back in Kritsa on Sunday evening we expected to see and hear the unique celebrations of dynamite thrown from the cliffs above the village. Certainly it’s an activity that divides opinion, reckless and unnecessary or brilliant tradition. (I’m in the second set)

Here is a dynamite clip I took back in 2008

Of course, it’s an illegal practice and last year arrested men received  substantial fines. Although Kritsa folk resented this action they reluctantly decided to hold a peaceful protest this year. They hope to find a way to resume the tradition within the law.

 

If you’d like more background on Greek Easter customs you can click on this link Olive Feta and Ouzo.

Whatever you did, I hope you had a good Easter.

 

Greek Independence Day

I’d love to be in Crete today, 25th March as it’s a religious and public holiday, celebrated with processions, pomp and ceremony.

In the Greek Orthodox calendar, today celebrates the annunciation by the angel to the Virgin Mary. Imagine being told you were going to provide life to the Son of God, the Savior of the world! The Greeks refer to this as Evaggelismos, it comes from the Greek word Evaggelia = Good message, and from this the names Vangelis’s and Evangelia. So, Chronia Polla (Many years) to all those celebrating their name day today. I bet their friends are jealous that they always have a holiday for their name day.

After suffering 400 years of Turkish rule, Bishop Germanos raised the flag of the Greek revolution in Patras on 25th March 1821. It took many years and horrendous bloodshed until much of Greece finally won independence. Of course, with poor communication it took months to rally forces to start an effective rebellion. Here is an excerpt from Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa where my heroine, Rodanthe looks back on how she heard of the rebellion…

9781781322659-PerfectCoverFINAL.inddVirtually a year ago, on 25 March 1821, following a series of abominations against church leaders and congregations, the bishop of Patras raised the Greek flag to declare revolution.
Rebels adopted the rally cry ‘Freedom, or death’. We were ignorant of these facts until May, when persistent knocks at our door woke us in the dead of night. Nothing good comes
to the door during curfew, so Papa was at my side in seconds. He whispered, ‘Sit with Mama. Bolt the bedroom door.’
If I hadn’t been scared, I’d have enjoyed being snug with Mama as we murmured our speculation to each other. Mama concluded it wasn’t an emergency, or Papa would have rushed out. Sounds from the kitchen told us he served his visitor raki and cold mezes. Soon a scraping noise indicated Papa had moved the kitchen table, so I guessed he took something out of his floor safe. I’m sure coins clinked.

When Papa was alone, I went to the kitchen where he sat with a raki glass in one hand and his head in the other. He called Mama to join us, and then explained that our nocturnal visitor had been Mardati Yannis, who was too excited to wait until morning to share amazing news from the mainland. He’d come to seek Papa’s blessing before taking his men to join the rebels. From his demeanor, it was obvious that Papa was wrestling with his conscience. Mama voiced my concern. ‘Will you join them?’

To find out what happened next you can Click Here.

Meanwhile, back in the present day, this is a proud national holiday. This clip, reposted from YouTube (under their guidelines) shows the parade through Kritsa in 2014. I’ve had fun spotting faces in the crowd. Were you there?

Even if it wasn’t a Saturday, schools and most businesses would close. Even the smallest villages celebrate with parades, speeches and patriotic poems. In larger towns and cities the parades are supplemented by organised groups and members of the Greek Armed Forces.

Perhaps I’ll be watching the Kritsa parade next year.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dissapearing Donkeys

We have enjoyed our home in Kritsa, Crete since 2001, and people often ask us what changes we have seen. The answer is not a village by-pass to make the high street safer, new paving in the main street, less tablecloth shops, less ‘corner shops’,  less old folk near my house, or more pick up trucks. No, my answer to sum up the creeping change in lifestyle and aspirations is disappearing donkeys.

13-DSC00124This was Dora, our next door neighbour for many years. The owner, an old lady, visited several times a day and always took the donkey out to graze. On their return the donkey was piled high with vegetation to eat through the night. When the owner was no longer able to walk up and down the steep Kritsa paths she’d sit in the shade chattering to Dora while she ate her own snack. Sadly, they died within months of each other

At that time, the dawn chorus included braying from donkeys in fields and stables throughout Kritsa. Fifteen years later I can’t think of one donkey actively working in our area. I guess teenagers stopped dreaming of the day they’d own their own donkey.

PictureAn Englishman in Kritsa had a beautiful donkey called Willow that he’d walk through the village, resplendent in a dark red, woven blanket under the wooden saddle. I loved seeing Willow tied up outside a taverna where anyone else would park their motorbike. The sanctuary Walk With Donkeys provided Willow with a ‘forever home’ when the man’s circumstances changed and he needed to leave Crete. This photo, reproduced by kind permission of Walk With Donkeys, shows Willow with his pals Zak and Sid.

I gave Willow a lead role in my novel, Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa, although I changed his name to Dove. This is how my heroine remembers her childhood with the donkey and her cousin, Manos:

“Manos and I were like twins. Despite our very different natures, we were inseparable – well, except when we were on different sides of the donkey!

Dove was a beautiful grey beast, with long, soft ears that wriggled and twitched to show how much he enjoyed us giving the patch between them a good scratch. On top of a once colourful handwoven woollen rug sat a hard wooden saddle that Great Grandma never rode. Hung from either side of the saddle, tied on with stout ropes, were two long panniers almost touching the ground. Grandpa had made these huge baskets the way his pa had taught him, using strong, young olive sticks for the frame, woven with whip like branches of mulberry.

Every morning, Great Grandma brought Dove down the narrow street, just wide enough for him and his panniers. She’d tap on the grille of the unglazed window of the house next door, and then repeat the action at our house, calling, ‘Free rides to Rabbitsville.’ Then we’d rush out of our respective doors, each wiping a milk moustache from our top lip with the back of our hand as we ran, vying to be the first to get a kiss as she swung us high into a pannier. What a way to view our world.”

Of course, keeping old donkeys safe and well takes an enormous amount of time, energy and money. Walk With Donkeys always appreciates donations. You can click on the link to find out more. They also have an interesting money raiser allowing you to buy Amazon products via a link on the Walk With Donkeys website. Products bought this way will not cost you any more, but a small commission goes to Walk With Donkeys. Why not click here then type in the word Kritsotopoula to see for yourself!

1-DSC03706This photo shows Alan and I on holiday in Plakias, South Crete, researching donkey transport. I admit to being disappointed not to go side-saddle as that is how working donkeys are ridden. If you want to ride horses or donkeys contact the Plakias Horse Riding Center .

A key learning point was how donkeys need frequent rest stops, especially after going uphill. I made sure donkeys in my novel got their rest when they were with the ‘good guys’.

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Although donkeys are scarce in Kritsa enough were found for the traditional wedding celebration in August 2015.

 

 

 

 

Here are some of the donkeys we’ve met over the years:

 

 

Walk Rodanthe’s Kritsa

9781781322659-PerfectCoverFINAL.inddI had a lovely message from Katie in Cumbria, who’d enjoyed Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa.  As Katie plans to visit Kritsa she asked for directions to Rodanthe’s family home. I started making notes, and then thought I’d share them here, along with some of the landmarks that inspired scenes in the story. However, if you’ve not read the book, perhaps this village tour will whet your appetite for my novel about Rodanthe, a girl from Kritsa who fought so bravely against Ottoman oppression.

Kritsotopoula Memorial:

Before you start the village tour,  I suggest a visit to the Kritsotopoula sculpture by British sculptor, Nigel Ratcliffe. This commemorates the battle where Rodanthe fought disguised as a young man.

RICOH IMAGINGAs you enter the one way system of Kritsa you round a bend and drive uphill. Look for a turning right, signposts for Lato Archaeological site.

Take this right turn.

Continue on this road, pass the football stadium, cross a small bridge (Kritsa Gorge is to your left at this point), and follow the road as it rises up and around a steep bend.

8-DSC06001Continue along until you reach the memorial, you can’t miss it! This marks the area defended so fiercely by the Cretan rebels. They were desperate to prevent the Turks reaching the fertile Lakonia  plain below.

Local people hold a memorial service in front of this sculpture every May. If you visit the monument, I’d love you to post a photo on my Facebook page.

Meanwhile…back to the village, and turn right to pick up the directions below.

Village Walk:

Most people arrive by car or coach, so I’ll start in the main car park. Turn right just after the lovely Argyro Hotel.

 

 

Kritsa from the car parkIf you look to the right of the car park, you’ll see the imposing church, Agios Georgios. In my story this rocky edifice is ‘Church Rock’.

Now look again, just to the left of the clock tower… there is a smaller church. This is the church of Afentis Christos (Transfiguration), where Rodanthe’s father was the pappas (priest). That’s where we’ll head for…

Co-operative bakery of Kritsa womenLeave the car park via an uphill slope with a handy cafe on the left.  To the right is the wonderful Co-operative bakery of Kritsa women, their biscuits are certainly a tasty souvenir, if you can keep them that long!

 

Kritsa Cultural HallFollow the road up and around the bend. You’ll pass the hall of the Kritsa Cultural Association, housed in a renovated building that was the first mechanical olive press in Kritsa.

 

Bust of RodantheOn the corner is the Lato Cafe and opposite this is the main village square. Here you can see the bust of Rodanthe, the first memorial to Kritsa’s famous daughter.

Now it’s uphill all the way, so take your time. The large six-domed church of Panagia Odigitria is often open to visitors.

RICOH IMAGING

At the top of the hill is a junction, turn right into the main street named for our heroine, Kritsotopoula Street. This will eventually lead you to her house.

Look out on your left for a cafe on a triangle beneath a huge platanos tree. A very old and generous woman used to own this kafenion, and her main clientele were the old men of the village who made a single coffee last all morning. Although I relocated the kafenion further up the village, it was the inspiration for the kafenion run by Spanos . I often sat here with a beer and a huge plate of mezes (small portions of tasty food),  and as I listened to heated debates and laughter I pulled my notebook out to capture the moment.

In my mind, this area was home to the main market place. Look up above the larger Platanos Taverna next door. Can you ‘see’ the harem women peeking out of window grilles? Left down this lane will eventually take you to Kavousi Fountains and the Church of Agios Georgios by Kavousi, but for this walk we’ll continue up the main street.

Here is another masterpiece from Nigel Ratcliffe, in the middle of Kritsotopoula Street. I reflect this scene in my story while Rodanthe was at school.

 

 

The next landmark from the story is Argadiko Taverna housed in a long low, grey building. Argadiko means Aga’s house and this is where the Turk ruler of the village lived. Can you ‘see’ the ornately robed guards outside? No! Oh well, Yannis and his team will serve you a cold drink or tasty meal.

As the shops end you need the left hand fork, yes you’ve guessed it…uphill.

On the sharp bend is a fountain. Try the fresh mountain water, we call it Kritsa champagne.

KatarinaNow you need to walk down the alley, still called Kritsotopoula Street. If old Katarina is outside her house, she’ll be pleased if you spare a few euro to buy the nuts she has picked and cracked.Quite likely, they’ll be in small bits of plastic bag she has sewn herself, the inspiration for ‘my’ Great Grandma’s tiny cloth bags for nutmegs.

Stekis Bar KritsaAt the small kafenion called Stekis continue along the alley, still Kritsotopoula street.

 

 

Kritsotopoula's HouseAlmost at the end of the alley, on the left is the refurbished home of Rodanthe. The cross etched in the lintel will confirm you’ve found the right one. Inside is a private museum, open on a few occasions per year. If this changes to public opening, I will of course share information.

Kritsa shadeJust to the left is a shady square, a nice place to sit if locals haven’t used it for motor bikes! This area is where I sat Rodanthe’s extended family to eat on Christmas Day.

 

Path to Afentis ChristosNow look to the right, a few paces down this narrow alley takes you to the recently restored church of Afentis Christos.

 

 

This church is used for a services on 5th and 6th August and is likely to be locked at other times. However, just inside the gate is a notice board describing the ‘finds’ during recent renovations.

 

If you’d like to read more about Rodanthe’s house and the church click here.

Whatever way you wander back it is downhill with lots of cafes to choose from and shops to browse.

If you want to buy a copy of Kritsotopoula while you are in Kritsa then visit Nikos in the Nikitakis Gift shop opposite Aristidis Cafe. It is also available from Eklektos Bookshop, Elounda. If you’d like an eBook then visit Amazon or other on line retailers.

I hope this brief guide adds ‘something’ to your Kritsa visit. X

 

Walk below Kroustas

According to legend, Crete has circa fourteen days of ‘mini summer’ in January, to allow the halcyon (the bird we know as a kingfisher) to safely lay her eggs. Hence the term halcyon days.

All I can say is, time is running out! We’ve been in Crete two weeks now, and although the first three days were lovely, we’ve had lots of rain, sleet and very cold winds.

DSC06861A couple of days ago the morning brightened up, allowing us to take a  walk close to home, just below the neighbouring village of Kroustas.

 

From Kritsa it takes less than 10 minutes to drive up the hill to Kroustas. We hoped we’d complete the walk between showers and guessed the walk would take less than two hours, including a picnic lunch.

Well, we didn’t need our waterproofs and there was enough sunshine for a halcyon to lay some eggs!

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It turned cold by mid afternoon though. Time for tea and cake in front of the wood burner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get fit in Crete

Well here we are, at home in Crete. For all sorts of reasons we prefer the overnight flight from Heathrow to Crete via Athens. Although we have to accept a night without sleep we like the way it allows us to use public transport to get to the airport and then arrive in Kritsa before 9.00 a.m.

viewIt was so lovely the next morning we ate breakfast on the balcony. It wasn’t long before meowing ally cats called for their breakfast. They’ve an uncanny knack of knowing when we’re back?

That evening we went the nearby town of Agios Nikolaos for a quiz, and our our team won bottles of wine. (That’s a first!) We’ll save our share for a while as  I’m having an alcohol free January. It’s part of my get fit in Crete campaign, along with plans for lots of walking and healthy food.

Why not join me on this virtual walk to see there is more to Crete than beaches. Here we go…

Did it do you any good? If so I’ll be pleased to show you another route. It might be a while though, the weather forecast here is for gales and rain.