By Kostandinos Papahatzis
I must have travelled to Crete a hundred times; I go more frequently nowadays. Eventually I started to believe strongly that people like myself who love the place, deserve to look for a more permanent residence to stay for longer periods of time. At least getting a quality holiday house in Crete has become so inexpensive that can hardly be considered as financial risk.
I still haven’t managed to see even half of Crete – it is a remarkable and complex combination of places, landscapes, people, customs, smells – what can I say? I have more than enough in me to share with others, and this is why I decided to write about it. All I ask from you is to keep an open mind, get a fully insured car, and decide to expand your eating and drinking habits (after all you will be visiting the World’s capital of what is known as ‘Mediterranean Diet’).
Firstly, think seriously before packing your bags: do you deserve a good holiday? If yes, then: one, switch off your blackberry; two, don’t sit next to a hotels swimming pool for two weeks pretending you are enjoying yourself with a drink in one hand and a paperback on the other. You didn’t work hard for a year to deserve just this.
After landing, unpacking and taking a good sleep, prepare to expose yourself to the place and get the most out of it. Remember: you are safe, locals can help you anytime, thieves are practically non-existent, and you are an arm’s length away from an English speaker.
Hit the road with your family on a daily basis leaving around 9am; make every day an excursion somewhere on the island, no matter where your location. Your hotel is for breakfast and sleep, for at least one week of your stay.
I recommend places like Vai in Sitia, Agia Fotia in Ierapetra, Ledas outside Heraklion, Falasserna outside Chania, Fodele and Panormo which are both close to Rethymno, and Skala village in Elounda. They all have beaches so take your umbrella, towels suntan lotions and plenty of water with you on every journey. Sunbathing on a beach is more effective than swimming pools: you get a glorious tan to keep for months to come. To be on the safe side, ask for the existence of jelly fish and wear plastic shoes when you walk inside the sea.
The other way of doing excursions is to join a safari group; ask your hotel for details. You will have a wonderful time, and you will be in a safer, more controlled environment with people guiding you, and people from your own group joining you. You will still see lots of places off the beaten track, and keep it all on a daily excursion mode.
You should eat at the local tavernas; aim for the one that attracts most of the crowd. Open yourself to local food: try Dakos (wet rusk) small dolmadakia, fresh fish, oven food (like stuffed tomatoes and peppers), local pastries, and meat on the barbeque. Always have a salad on your table; ask for the local specialty. And always try the local sweets with honey and white sugar.
Except excursions, try and mix with the locals getting the most out of your journey. The unbeatable way of doing this is by sneaking into a local wedding; the best weddings take place on Saturdays at nearby villages. If you don’t manage to get invited, just head for one uninvited in one evening of your first days, leaving it to pot luck. People will invite you on the spot, and it will be a unique opportunity to get acquainted, eat fantastic wedding food and get lots of tips for your stay. If you have thoughts about a more permanent stay, it will be good for you to start making contacts anyway; in Crete people are very social and you will soon discover the snowball effect that this will have on you.
Keep the last couple of days to ease off; it’s time for swimming pool rest with plenty of reading, drinking and socializing with people from your group. Try to compare your experiences with theirs and see what difference this will make. I can definitely guarantee you that when you go back home you will talk about your holiday for the rest of the year. And maybe think of coming to stay in Crete for longer periods of time.
About the Author: Kostandinos Papahatzis works full time
on real estate crete
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