Tag Archives: Kritsotopoula

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.

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.

Plaka to Spinalonga Swim

Snow hit my part of the UK this week, and it looked beautiful. Even though traffic ground to a halt and untreated paths were hard to walk on safely, we couldn’t resist donning boots and going for a stomp.  Back indoors with a cup of tea and a mince pie, reminiscing on my summer photos once again became irresistible.

DSCN1021.jpgThis time I looked back to Sunday, 27th August when circa 80 brave swimmers raced from Plaka to Spinalonga in two groups. Those wearing white hats set off first to swim to Spinalonga and back. When they were nearly half way across the yellow hat group set off.  In previous years the second group swam right around the island before returning to Plaka.

DSCN1017_optimized.jpgThis year, the off shore wind was so fierce water spouts chased across the channel forcing the yellow hat group to swim to Spinalonga and back twice instead of around the island.

Many boats worked together to mark the correct channel, keep other vessels away and pick up those who found themselves in trouble.

Although it was gloriously sunny, the strong wind made watching uncomfortable, goodness knows what it did to swimming conditions. As this is the second time we’ve been spectators at this event, I guess it takes place every year. If you are in East Crete at the end of August look out for posters advertising the event, it makes a great spectacle.

Meanwhile, I look forward to my next trip to Plaka to enjoy the crystal clear waters close to shore.

New Shop In Sissi

Scenic Sissi, is a gem on Crete’s north coast, just east of Malia. Although we love to visit at any time of year, this village really comes alive when full of summer visitors.

4-DSC04509With a picturesque harbour, waterfront restaurants and a few streets of shops and bars, Sissi is popular with day trippers,  residents of local hotels, and those who arrive by boat each afternoon from Hersonnisos.  This pirate boat, The Black Rose makes its dramatic entry to music from Pirates of the Caribbean.

This year an attractive new shop, Dia Xeiros has opened in the heart of Sissi.

ShopInside you’ll meet the welcoming owner, Kalliopi, and perhaps her daughter, Agapi. This clever pair, along with Kalliopi’s husband, Yannis, hand crafted most of the products on display. A refreshing change from the usual tourist souvenirs and at affordable prices you can treat yourself…I have my eye on a hand painted bottle with small glasses. If you’d like a closer look at the product range click here, or to find Kalliopi on Facebook click here.

Chatting to Kalliopi I mentioned how I once watched The Black Rose in extreme difficulty, fighting to gain access to Sissi harbour.  Despite clear blue skies, a howling summer gale threatened to dash the boat on rocks. Winds in Crete are fickle, and an hour later only a light breeze ruffled the water. As we seemed to be getting on well I told Kalliopi how this scene inspired a key chapter my historical novel, Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa.

Kalliope

Kalliopi was intrigued by a story featuring Sissi, and I’m delighted to say you can buy a copy of Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa from her shop.

If Sissi is not on your itinerary, you can also buy a copy from Eklektos Bookshop, Elounda and Nikitakis Gift Shop in the centre of Kritsotopoula Street, Kritsa.

To learn more about the story, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kritsotopoula’s Kritsa Launch

5-DSC06051Aristidis Cafe, in the centre of Kritsa, is right opposite Nikitakis Gift shop where my historical adventure novel, Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa is on sale.

Although the location of Aristidis Cafe made it an obvious venue for a launch party, the main reasons I chose it are the hosts, Aristidis and his wife Irene, who go out of their way to welcome guests to Kritsa. Their comfortable seating and sun umbrellas make it a great relaxing point for visitors to the village, and of course, those umbrellas gave us good protection from the rain!

It gave me an extra thrill that despite the language issue, several local people came along to wish me well, including the Chair of the Kritsa Village Cultural Association, Νικος Κοκκινης and the Chair of the planned Kritsotopoula museum, Νικος Μασσαρος. Three local women, with excellent English language skills, also bought copies of the book so I await their feedback with a mix of nervous excitement!

2015-05-28 19.21.52This is me with Nikos, owner of Nikitakis gift shop. Even though he’d moved the book stand inside due to a rain shower, it didn’t dampen my spirits. I count myself lucky that Nikos chose to stock Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa right in the middle of Kritsotopoula Street.

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These traditional musicians added to the lively atmosphere, no one danced though, too busy chatting!

3-DSC06052Of course Nikos sold books during the evening,  and I felt like a celebrity as I signed copies. This is me signing the book bought by Steve Daniels, who writes one of my favourite blogs, Crete Nature.

Some guests even brought along books for me to sign that they’d previously purchased, either from Eklektos Bookshop in Elounda or via Amazon, shame I couldn’t sign the ebook versions!

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Just for fun we had a prize draw and winners now have an exclusive T Shirt, cap, key ring or pen, all sporting the image of the Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa book cover.

Here is the T Shirt winner, Jean Dugmore.

JessieJessie, the owner Elixirio, Kritsa’s quirky mezes cafe won the hat, and here she is modeling it beautifully. If you fancy an a relaxed evening, with a range of delicious home cooked mezes while you sip your drinks in a shady arbour, then I can recomend you pay a visit, you’ll find Jessie opposite Kritsa school.

My work in progress is a sequel called Rodanthe’s Gift which includes a mystery about the location of some hidden gold, so we had a free to enter game based on this. Thanks to my friend Ann, who managed to speak to virtually everyone during the evening, we gained many entries to find the hidden treasure. Arisitidis generously donated a meal voucher for the lucky winner, of the treasure hunt, Julie Pidsley.

DSCF6788Thank you to Crete Homes for supporting me via sponsorship for this launch event and for placing a link to my blog on their website. This is Hilary Dawson, from Crete Homes displaying Nigel Ratcliffe’s retelling of the legendary poem, Rhodanthe’s Song. I’m indebted to Nigel for generously sharing his translation of the early Greek poem, and for his wise feedback on my early drafts. Our collaboration will continue as Nigel and I have already discussed how I might use some of his work in my sequel, Rodanthe’s Gift. Meanwhile, I look forward to seeing both Rhodanthe’s Song and Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa next to each other in the planned Kritsotopoula museum.

Thank you to Robin Williams, editor of Crete Today Newsletter for allowing me to use this photo of me with Hilary. If you’d like this great monthly newsletter, please email Robin via mediaplus1941@gmail.com

Most other photos are courtesy of Cynthia Pay who gave me permission to use them. Thank you Cindy.

Sincere thanks to all of those people who came along despite the ‘iffy’ weather, and to those who couldn’t attend but still sent best wishes.

Finally, if you enjoy the book, please add a review to Amazon Reviews, they don’t mind if you bought it elsewhere, and it would mean a great deal to me. X

PS – a few days after the event, a report of the event appeared in the local daily newspaper, so thanks to the reporter, Leonidas Klontzas for attending during the event and for making such a full report. I have a cutting from the newspaper so that I can translate it. Meanwhile,  this link will take you to a shorter review on line and, if you can’t read Greek then Google translate will help you read it.

http://www.anatolh.com/lasithi-news/agios-nikolaos/item/102223-παρουσίαση-της-κριτσωτοπούλας