Tag Archives: Kritsotopoula

Visit Lato, a Dorian Gem

RICOH IMAGING
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.

DSC04024

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.

 

DSC04493

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.

Foreign Residents Association – INCO

No automatic alt text available.

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.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and outdoor

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!

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.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kazanis Lives On…

RICOH IMAGING
Captain Kazanis, by Nigel Ratcliffe

This beautiful new sculpture celebrating Captain Kazanis and his band of rebels, including, the female fighter, Kritsotopoula is sited high up above the Lassithi Plateau. Elsewhere in these pages you’ll see photos of the amazing Kritsotopoula sculpture sited just outside of Lato, near Kritsa commemorating the 1823 battle. Both these wonderful monuments were created by the British sculptor who lives in Kritsa, Nigel Ratcliffe.

Disappointed not to be in Crete during August when this sculpture was unveiled we set off to find it at the earliest opportunity.

First, Katharo

We left Kritsa on the road to the Katharo Plateau and passed the three cafes to take the main perimeter road running to the right. I should say that from this point a 4×4 vehicle is the best option!

Although we love the Katharo Plateau this was not a day for idling. However, I challenge anyone not to stop and admire the view on reaching the precipice above the Lassithi Plateau. The next stretch of downhill track is used regularly by jeep safari vehicles so it’s not as rough as you might imagine.

RICOH IMAGING
Feed me!

We soon realised we’d stopped in a regular goat feeding area. Goats came running from all directions, bells jangling, to surround us. They seemed most put out to find we didn’t have their food, and this cheeky one checked inside our car, just in case we were hiding something tasty.

Back in the car we followed the track down to a sharp bend where the main track descends to Lassithi. We took the rising track to the right.

Agios Ionnis at ΑΛΟΙΔΑ, Aloitha

We knew we needed to find a small stone church dedicated to Agios Ionnis (Saint John) and were pleased its surrounding  trees provided a shady place to park. Right away we saw the sculpture at the side of the track, next to a natural spring now harnessed via a tap and trough. This spring certainly provided a wonderful spot for the rebels to muster, hide and plan. When I saw a chair sheltered under a huge walnut tree I found it easy to imagine Kazanis sat there, planning his next raid while enjoying his pipe and raki, the strong Cretan spirit distilled from wine making leftovers.

Nigel has a studio in Kritsa where he created this monument in clay before casting it in a resin material. While I cheerfully admit to knowing nothing about sculpture I think the fact the ‘clay’ effect is retained really works in this rural setting. Once the main disc was complete it was taken to the site where volunteers built the surround and mount in one day. During this work a local farmer wandered by and stayed to entertain the workers with a recitation of the epic Kritsotopoula poem. No mean feat, as it has 1367 fifteen-syllable verses in rhyming pairs!

9781781322659-PerfectCoverFINAL.inddThis oral tradition is of course dying out, so it is wonderful that another Kritsa resident, Aimilios Massaros published a book of the poem in Greek. I used this version as the basis of my novel featuring Kazanis and Kritsotopoula. My rough translation of the poem gave me a good framework, but it is thanks to Nigel’s generosity in sharing his much finer translation that I gained greater detail.

I’m currently working on a sequel, Rodanthe’s Gift featuring the further adventures of Kazanis. You can imagine what a boost it gave me to visit this spot in the Lassithi mountains, not far from Marmaketo where Kazanis lived.

Always curious about what might lie around the next bend we donned our walking boots and set off up the track, bottles full of crystal spring water of course!

RICOH IMAGING
Kritsotopoula Raconteur

Delighted to meet a local, miles from visible habitation, I used my limited Greek to tell him our car was by the Kazanis sculpture. It was obvious he knew what I meant so I told him I knew Angelos (the name local people give Nigel) and that we also live in Kritsa. He told us if we kept walking we’d get to Tapes, so now we have a goal for another day. As he rode off I realised I reognised the man from Facebook photos Nigel had shared, he’d recited the Kritsotopoula.

After  our walk we descended to the Lassithi Plateau for a tasty lunch at Skapanis Taverna; we can certainly recommend their mousakka and stuffed cabbage leaves and the complimentary orange cake was delicious. You can click here  for a map showing Skapanis Taverna, and if you pan to the right you’ll see the location of Agios Ionnis.

Now I must go, I need to write a scene set in this location for my work in progress…

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’.

17-058

 

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:

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Rough and rugged Lassithi, Crete

Crete has many facets to appeal to diverse tastes, but the mountains have fewer visitors than the beaches, towns and villages with good reason! I live in the east of Crete in the area called Lassithi, named after the Lassithi Plateau in the Dikti Mountains. In fact there are seven plateaus linked by a range of roads that vary from well used tarmac surfaces to rock strewn tracks.

We have an intrepid amateur botanist friend, Steve Lenton who explores on a sturdy quad bike to catalogue the flowers and plants of the wider Lassithi area for his two great websites.

As the blistering heat of summer subsided Steve suggested we use our 4×4 Terios to follow him, and his pillion companion, Cindy around all seven plateaus in one day. Now that sounded like our sort of challenge!

PuppyWe met at the middle taverna on Katharo Plateau owned by Giannis, where I enjoyed meeting his adorable trainee guard dog.

Then we were off, heading south on Katharo’s perimeter road towards Males, overlooking the distant south coast.

Here is a high level view of our 107 km route. I can’t figure out how to make it interactive, so do contact me if you’d like the GPX file. x7

Starting on Katharo at 9.30 a.m. we were at Lapathos Plateau by 11.30 a.m., and Omalos Plateau at 12.30 p.m. some of the heights we reached were dizzying at over 4,000 ft, 1,200 m above sea level.

We took the road through Erganos Plateau without stopping to descend to Liminarko Plateau for lunch at 2.15 p.m. This amused me because on previous visits to that plateau it’s been via Lassithi, and its a long steep drive up to Liminarko from there, so it served to reinforce just how high up we’d been.

Descending to Lassithi on a concrete road seemed tame after the rough stuff! We then whizzed around the Lassithi perimeter on its tarmac road to the village of Tzermiado then up to Nisimos Plateau. From here there is a fantastic path up to the Karfi peak, but as this was a driving day we headed back down to Lassithi to join the dirt track for the ascent back to Katharo  by 5.00 p.m. for a welcome beer with Giannis.

Thank you Steve and Cindy, it was a fabulous day. However we zoomed past many places that are now on the ‘Must Visit’ list so that we can enjoy them in more detail.

Steve and Cindy are planning a new website to focus on what to see when ‘Exploring East Crete’ and this Seven Plateau trip will certainly feature along with other less arduous drives. I’ll let you know when it’s live.

Meanwhile, if you have any questions about this trip, would like more precise instructions, or the GPX  file, then you can use the contact form below.

Beryl Darby visits the Kritsa fused glass workshop

Beryl Darby, author of the successful family saga that starts with Yannis, set on the former leper island of Spinalonga, Crete, paid a return visit to me in Kritsa during September.

Beryl Darby with Rodanthe
Beryl Darby with Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa

Beryl paused for a photo next to the bust of Rodanthe, now known by the honorific title, Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa. What a coincidence, it’s the same as my novel’s title!

You can imagine how thrilled I was to learn that Beryl bought a copy of my book via Amazon, and carried it all the way to Kritsa for me to sign.

Fused Glass:

I know that Beryl is always interested in learning about crafts that she may refer to in her novels, so I asked George Perakis to demonstrate his glass fusing and pottery techniques to Beryl, and her friends, Lilian and Jane. Hover over the photo to see the text:

The fused glass is available in various outlets, so if you see a piece with branded Christin P, and a sticker declaring, ‘Made in Kritsa’ be assured that you have a unique piece hand-made by George. Even better, visit Kritsa and buy direct from George’s workshop, it’s at the back of the square, right where the bus drops off and picks up, so it’s easy to find. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the prices, and George is expert at packing so that your chosen piece will get home safe and sound.

Handmade Ceramics:

Find Out More:

To find out more about the fused glass you can Click Here to visit the Facebook page, or to visit George’s website Click Here.

Arisitidis Cafe

After thanking George for his interesting demonstrations we walked on up Kritsotopoula Street to Aristidis Cafe for lunch.

Beryl wouldn’t think her visit to Kritsa complete unless we had lunch at Aristidis Cafe, and as always, Aristidis made us very welcome.

Kritsotopoula Memorial:

Our last stop was the Kritsotopoula Memorial, created by the British sculptor based in Kritsa, Nigel Ratcliffe. The stone relief is at the site of the major battle where our heroine, Rodanthe fell from the dreadful wounds that exposed the female truth beneath her male disguise.

8-DSC06001

If you want to visit, it is 3k from Kritsa, just before the entrance to the Lato archaeological site.

This wonderful work is accessible to all free of charge.

Next Year?

Although we all said, ‘See you next year,’ it may well be that Beryl and I will be busy at a literary festival, in Elounda. As far as I know the date is not confirmed yet, but a Facebook page is ready so you can Click Here to learn more.

Traditional Cretan Wedding

The traditional Greek Wedding held in my home village of Kritsa, on the Greek island of Crete on 16th August 2015 was a wonderful celebration open to all. Few couples choose this public style of celebration, the last one was seven years ago, so imagine my delight that this one was while we were in Kritsa.

As events were due to start at 4.00 p.m. I wandered down Kritsotopoula Street, to the heart of the village, half an hour before this. The sheer quantity of traditional, predominantly red textiles that hung from almost every balcony transformed the village. The pong of moth balls was pervasive until the throng of bodies wafted it away. Now I understand the origin of the term, roll out the red carpet!

Traditional rucksack
Traditional rucksack

At first the village was eerily quiet, so I  made the most of a seat at Aristidis Cafe and watched him hang up a traditional rucksack, before he set out a table with a huge bowl of honey containing almonds and flasks of raki, a local spirit.

Shops prepare raki and nibbles for visitors
Shops prepare raki and nibbles for visitors

Next door, Kostas set out a table with delicious honeycomb from his own bees, and of course raki. Virtually every shop had similar tasty gifts ready to offer people as they passed by.

Groom collecting small boy as mascot
Groom collecting small boy as mascot

Then along came the Bridegroom on a small horse with a handful of friends. It was a wonderful close up scene as a grandpa lifted a small boy on the horse as a mascot. Aristidis fed everyone spoonfuls of honey and almonds, washed down with raki, and then they were off to the bridegroom’s traditionally furnished house that was open to the public all day.

Mini me!
Mini me!

A few more people in traditional dress walked by, and this pair made me smile!

After the Groom’s group had passed by, musicians set up in the middle of the street and stayed there for hours. Good job they had lots of raki to keep them going!

Rodanthe?
Rodanthe from Kritsotopoula?


How fabulous that this modern Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa, posed for a photo next to the wonderful statue by fellow British resident of Kritsa,  Nigel Ratcliffe.

To find details of a novel set in Kritsa just click here.

About 30 minutes later a distant clamour told me the event had really started to get into full swing.

Men carrying goods for the new home
Men carrying goods for the new home

The bridegroom and his men, followed by hundreds of costumed supporters, led the procession towards the couple’s new home. Men carried household items to furnish the house.

Did you notice the white bagpipe in the photo above? Something I’d not seen before.

Bride in white linen shift at the dressing ceremony
Bride in white cotton at the dressing ceremony

Meanwhile, round at the bride’s house, she stood in a white cotton shift, serenaded by musicians and singers.

Under the watchful eyes of a cheerful crush of people the bride was ceremoniously dressed in the many layers of clothing that make up the traditional dress.

Bride with her parents
Bride with her parents

Here’s the amazingly serene bride with her parents awaiting her groom.

Groom and his dad leading the procession to collect his bride
Groom and his dad leading the procession to collect his bride

The groom walked ahead of the procession to collect his bride, flanked by his parents and followed by a multitude.

Raki fuelled
Raki fuelled

After final ‘negotiations’ inside the bride’s house the happy pair led the procession to the church, followed by their very ‘merry’ retainers!

The crowd at the church was, understandably,  too dense for me to push through to take photos.

Marriage Bed
Marriage Bed

After the wedding, the new husband and wife led the procession back to their new home where they rested before the next stage in events.

Bride and Groom lead to the feast
Bride and Groom lead to the feast

Here’s the happy pair leading the final procession to the school yard for the wedding feast.

Dancing until dawn
Dancing until dawn

Feasting and dancing continued until dawn, I gave up long before that!

This youtube clip captures the day; editing is ‘artistic’ rather than chronological.


If you’d like a chronological insight then view this next film, it was a long day so it’s not surprising that you’ll need more than an hour to watch it.

This was a real wedding, not a staged event, and I’m delighted to have been part of it. Mmmm, I think my next novel might feature a Kritsa wedding!

Kritsa’s Famous Church and House

After travelling overnight to arrive ‘home’ in Kritsa circa 9.30 a.m. on 5th August  it wasn’t long before an early siesta became more attractive than cleaning up the wind-blown debris that had accumulated outside.

Urgent banging woke me, and in a very disheveled state, I opened the door to Peer, a friend who lives further down Kritsotopoula Street. He’d come to tell me that the small church of Afentis Christos (featured in Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa) was to  re-open that evening with a special service, and he correctly guessed that I’d be disappointed if I found out the following day.

Rodanthe's family home

Rodanthe, the heroine of my story eventually became known by the honorific title Kritsotopoula, meaning Girl of Kritsa. This was her home, and flags led the short distance from here to her father’s church, Afentis Christos.

Christos Afentis KritsaThe church has a protective coat of new plaster aimed at preserving the frescoes inside. Some parts of the church date from 13th C, like the famous Panagia Kera on the way to Kritsa.

Christos Afentis Celebration
Afentis Christos Celebration

Many of the congregation sat on a low wall around the church yard while others took along folding chairs.

Pappas addressing the congregation
Pappas addressing the congregation

In front of the external altar the aroma from baskets of rich, spicy bread mixed with heady incense.

All church photos by kind permission of Peer Moore-Friis.

Loukamathes, doughnut like cakes, dripping in honey featured among the tasty treats offered to those who’d attended the service. This photo is from Kouzina’s Kitchen, pay her a visit for many more delicious recipes.

Click photo for the recipe
Rodanthe's House in Kritsotopoula S
Rodanthe’s House in Kritsotopoula Street

The family home of Rodanthe has a distinctive cross above the door.

Nikos Massaros at the door of Kritsotopoula Museum
Nikos Massaros at the door of Kritsotopoula Museum

Here is Nikos Masseros, a descendent of Rodanthe’s family showing guests into the restored house that will soon open as a museum. People enjoyed the opportunity for an advance viewing.

Yvonne Payne inside the house of Kritsotopoula
Yvonne Payne inside the house of Kritsotopoula

I’m sitting on a sofa in the kitchen. In my story the sofa was also Rodanthe’s bed.

If you’re interested in a novel set in Kritsa visit Amazon to find out more:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kritsotopoula-Girl-Kritsa-Yvonne-Payne-ebook/dp/B00T31U7PA

 

Rodanthe’s Name Day

Today, 9th June is an important day for all Greek Orthodox women and girls called Rodanthe as it’s their name day. A name day celebration is similar to a birthday, bringing good wishes in the form of Chronia Polla, meaning Many Years, and often cake.

03-DSC06125As the young heroine in Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa is Rodanthe it seemed like a good reason to celebrate. So, thank you to Lynne McDonald from Eklektos Bookshop in Elounda who organised a coffee morning. Hospitable Lynne usually offers a tea or a coffee to visitors to aid their browsing, but today they also had cake!

Early bird, Tony Airey was already at the bookshop when I arrived so he had the first signed copy of the day. This was appropriate as Tony was one of the first people to make contact with me when I set up this blog.

07-DSC06132These cheerful holidaymakers are Bob and Patti, all the way from…Spain! Well that surprised me.

imageAll shop visitors during the morning had the opportunity to enter the free draw to win the second of two specially made Kritsotopoula book signing pens, or the equally rare Kritsotopoula key ring. Lynne gave the tickets a good mix.

08-DSC06133

This is Karen Harding, who won the pen and I’ll be posting the key ring to F. Robertson next week.

If you visit Elounda be sure to find this gem of a bookshop, Lynne stocks new and used books, and as well as dispensing cuppas, she is a font of local knowledge. Click here to go to the Eklektos Facebook page.

I wonder what my real life heroine, Rodanthe would say if she knew that nearly 200 years later people were still celebrating her name day? Chronia Polla, Rodanthe!

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.

2015-05-28 18.30.47

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!

2015-05-28 18.55.26

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