Chapter 2 Sitia, Cycle Tour
Chapter 3 Lasithi Plane
Chapter 4 Festos and Matala
Chapter 5 Ag. Nikolaos, Spinalonga

Holidays at Crete

Translated Mar 2001


Who of us got the idea to go to Crete - I don't know, may be it was the catalogue of Neckermann Reisen. And because we know nothing of this largest island of Greece but have seen Mallorca twice and Rhodos once we choose Crete for this year. A glance at the catalogue states the target more precisely: don't go to the north coast, there are the touristic places like pearls on a string. In the south we find a town with the odd name Ierapetra, you can find out moreover, that this is the most southern town of Europe!

Coriva Beach

Near Ierapetra a small Hotel named Coriva Beach is offered and the pictures look promising. No problems at the travel agency, we got the accommodation and the flight, so I can learn by heart the shape of the mountain behind the hotel from the catalogue picture. Moreover we learn striking phrases like Knossos, Festos, Samaria Gorge, Lasithi Plane etc.

Another funny story: two friends of us (Heidi and Peter) get to know from us and we from them that they just have booked for the same period and the same flight for Crete. Another couple of our friends will spend their vacancies there just some time later, so a  later Evening a'la Crete is in sight.


Let us start. Because we are four persons it is conveniant to hire a taxi to the airport. The flight starts at 6 am, the arrival is 10 am, the clock must be set to one hour later. We discuss, calculate and finally come to an agreement, that the flight will last three hours. This time I get a nice seat at the window, though the view towards east against the sun is not so good. The Danube winds its way far down, we see the Lake of Balaton, where we once were by bike and had to spend more time to get there than today. Later we pass Albania, one of the poorest countries in Europe. You see deserted mountain land, pathes winding through the hills like strings, a lake with the reflecting sun now and then. No glance of the name of those geopgraphic places below, but then a snow covered mountain comes up and this is the Olymp. Atheen looks like a desert filled with stones. The highlight is the view on Santorin, the fragment of a volcano catastrophe 3000 years ago, which had consequences for Crete as well as for the complete Mediterranian region. At Crete there was a gigantic wave of 200 m height which destroyed the Minoan culture.

Meanwhile we approach the snow covered Crete mountains and before the landing permission is given the plane passes the outer island Dia some times. In the hall of the airport in Herakleon it's now up to the newcomer to get some Greek currency. There is a counter of a bank were one can change money by an Eurocheque. To make things easier they have glued a sample cheque to the window and written the amount of money: DRS 5.000 and Fourtyfivethousand is to be filled out. Fortunately they have not written a name and the date, for someone could be misleaded to copy these too.

We say farewell to Heidi and Peter who go off into the other direction (west). We go to our bus, change some warm clothing to looser fittings and soon the service maid from Neckermann appears. She says:

"Imagine fresh pressed orange juice,
the oranges ripen all over the island just now,
you have choosen the most beautiful period for your journey,
welcome at our Island of the Sun!"

Let us argue, at what time she would not speak of the most beautiful period and let us argue if you would find an Island of the Sun anywhere else in the Mediterranian Sea...

The bus starts into the bright sunshine, we will have two hours to ride and hope to see this and that on the transfer. At first the landscape does not look so fine, it looks rather deserted and dry. There are no woods, for these were removed by the Venice and Turk periods in former times. But the sea is deep blue and various hotel arrangements take their advantage from this fact. The guests gradually diminish. The route turns inland through the mountains and a tunnel near Neapolis. The oleander bushes start to bloom, moreover we are able to distinguish between pine-, olive-, tonsil-, fig, or even eukalyptus-trees. And we get to be astonished more and more. e.g. by the rotten ruins of some wind wheels, which formerly were used to rise the waters from wells and cisterns. Today the pumps are engine driven and the romantic has gone. Sometimes you see a wind wheel at a restaurant, but then this is mere decoration.

We reach the town Agios Nikolaos at the Gulf of Mirabello. This area really looks nice and another bunch of guests swarms off towards their hotels. And from now on we enjoy one of the most picturesque parts of Crete at the coast of the Bay of Mirabello. Ahead one can see the Sitia mountains. Not far from the junction towards Ierapetra there is a labyrinth of antic base walls at the slope - let us see later, what's about this.

At this part Crete has the smallest distance between north- and south-coast, about 15 km. We pass olive groves and at the left we see a jagged gorge as if an axe has been driven into the rocks. Let us see later again.

At Ierapetra the last guests leave the bus at the Club Petramare. This is surrounded by big walls to prevent onlookers from peeping into the "All-Inclusive" madness. Finally an older couple of Hannover and we remain in the bus.

As we come around the last bend of the coastal road I recognize the mountain of the catalogue, and there we are: Coriva Beach. And really, we fall into happiness as we see our room with a terrace. All of the furniture is made by stone walls, so the sperated beds - and they cannot be moved together (the only disadvantage)...

Soon we have unpacked and changed to summer cloths to start the first walk. The Coriva Beach is built of small apartment houses with wrinkled paths and pretty flowers, rubber trees and cypresses for shadow. There is a meadow under olive trees and the path to the beach is bordered by deep red blooming oleander bushes. The "beach" is made of grey gravel. There are roofs of straw for shadow and beneath the coffee-brown guests roll on their diwans.

The Beach

We stay apart not to be outed as newcomers with our milky coloured skin. But we make a fatal mistake as we head to the sea bare-footed. After some steps we increase our speed, there is a hellish burning under the bottoms of the feet and we breath out as we reach the water. Of course the coffee-brown guests have watched our jumpings with amusement. At once you see, that everyone uses sandals to walk over the hot gravel. But we have left them up above at the path, so we must jump back again, but with wet feet it is not quite as hard. (And guess, what we will do in the future: observe newcomers hurrying barefoot over the gravel...).

In the beach-restaurant we sit down for a snack. Heidi orders some usual Hamburgers and I dare to purchase a fishplate "Saehrr guttt!" as the host declares. And the plate contains 4 different kinds of fish, which I even do not know, I just try: yellow gurnard (roter knurrhahn), sardines, barbel, shrimps and calamares. Except the fish bones nothing is left.

We have a rest then at the meadow under the olive trees. They did not mow the meadow, so it is pretty green of weeds (Unkraut) as stinging-nettle, trefoil or sonchus but mallows too. A big bumble-bee sums around but can be hold on distance by the sun-oil from the supermarket at home.

We find two local supermarkets near the hotel, so the consumption of a bottle of Cretan vine in the evening at the terrace is ensured. But there is the evening buffet before and we are very content. It is not always clear, what kind of dish is offered, but of course we do not want to consume our usual food like at home.

After dinner it soon gets dark and this very fast because we are so far at the south (the sun runs steep). We end at our terrace and watch two lizards at the wall, a larger and smaller one, "mother and child"  as Heidi says.

Coastal Landscape at Koutsunari

Market Scenes at Ierapetra

Market Day at Ierapetra

The breakfast buffet is not so impressive (as usual in Greek). The poor variety of sausage and cheese must be completed by some tomatoes and olives. We then want to go to Ierapetra by bus. At this opportunity we learn the name of the village where we are: Koutsounari. The bus punctually departs 10 minutes too early and is jammed. At the next station a couple piles in - he is corpulent, she is fat, and we hardly succeed to queeze a free place. We now come to know that there is market day at Ierapetra, and this the cause why the bus is so crowded.

The bus station at Ierapetra looks somewhat oriental (this is to be read in any travel guide). This impression must come from the dust, the confusion in the office, the dented cardboard tied by strings waiting for transport.

We look for the market area, which is not in the center of the town, but at the end of the row of shopping-bag bearing people. One man only bears baskets, a walking basket-shop. In a cage at the pavement young chickens beep. Women clothed in black clothes sell and buy vegetables and food. A fish seller fawns for the flies with his bare hands. His fish is placed on the loading floor of his pickup. The atmosphere is very natural and not yet influenced by tourism. The local folks come from the smaller villages around and buy their supplies for the next week.

We buy a big bag of oranges, very cheap. They even offer bananas which come from Crete. Moreover you can have (my dictionary runs hot):
Lemons, apples, pears, cheese, onions, garlic, allium, spices, potatoes, tomatoes, olives, mispelfruits, artichokes, pistachios, peanuts, roasted chickpeas, products which we do not know at all.

At the upper end of the market-lane the products change to textile and leather products (the dictionary runs hotter):
Shoes, handbags, belts, bath-towels, manual work as crochet table cloths, carpets, heading cloths, neck kerchiefs, bosom cloths, plastic flowers etc.
A highlight are the the law boards of the ten requirements made of plastic. We buy a pair of  sandals for Heidi, so that she can get her way on the hot gravel beach.

The people are easy to differentiate to tourists and inhabitants. It is not the baseball cap, which is worn by the locals as well, but shorts, bermudas, coloured shirts and painfully wedged bellies. Can someone tell us, why the local women are mainly closed in black as well as in other hot regions in spite of the heat?

From the market we turn to the promenade at the seaside. At the upper end of the promenade there is the harbour. Along the esplanade many restaurants under canvas with comfortable chairs invite to have a look to the island of Krissi in the Lybian Sea. And if you hesitate, soon an advertising guy will come close to you: "Hello, give me your hand, where are you from, come in for a moment" or more polyglott: "Une Cafe, one Espresso, bitteschön, no Problem". So you often have to ignore this and turn away.

At the harbour there is a Venecian castell. The fisher boats look nice with their yellow nets. Nearby we find the wrinkled old town quarter. And finally come back to the bus station.


In the afternoon we relax, use our sandals on the hot gravel and swim in the sea - and what is this? Yes, the holidays have begun. Later in the afternoon the usual receiption date is stated. A couple of slightly burnt guests assemble at the hotel hall. This time the first sentence of the service maid is: "You soon will get something to drink". And what do we drink ? Sure, fresh pressed orange juice! Or is it the dull stuff from the tap? So now we hear about the highlights of Crete as there are: Knossos, Lasithi, Eastern Crete, Spinalonga, Samaria Gorge, Jeepsafari and Santorini Cruise. But the tours are expensive and we will better plan on our own.

In the evening we hear as somenone tells about the Samaria-tour. The Samaria with its 16 km length is the longest gorge in Europe. The begin is high up in the white mountains of the Chania district. To get there they had to start at midnight. And you are back the next midnight. The real walk lasts 4 hours. The rest is transport time. On the other hand the visitors of the Samaria somehow have an inner glow in their eyes. May be its really fascinating. But may be we return to a better location of Crete in our later life - and then let's think about it.

Some other tours are cheaper to be made by bus or hired car, as we will see. And the Jeep Safari? - I have my own ideas...


Let's have a lazy day, the sky is blue and the sun is hot, so we enjoy to lie in the shadow and to swim. At some time we remember that it is Whitsun (Pfingsten) today. Highlight of the afternoon is an unidentifyable flying object which runs an attack on Heidi. It is a insect long as a cigar and an entanglement of legs hanging down during the flight. But within seconds the insect disappears again and now we can argue about this miracle.
We agree to the title "Stabzikade". (And if you inquire with a search engine for "Stabzikade" you will find one single document, and that is this).

In the evening we walk to the two super markets, where on can buy not only vine but newspapers, postcards, and books. We have enough books with us, but now we detect three booklets which will be a very interesting lecture during the next days. The first book - of course - is Nikos Kazantzakis, Alexis Sorbas. The movie of this novel is best known worldwide, but did anyone read the book? And here you can lie under your sun shelter, read and peer to the coast, where the real action takes place.

The second book is Hans Einsle, Die Nachtbäume von Kreta (in German). A story is told of a German archaeologist who spends 6 months at Crete, but he had shared in the battle of Crete at 1941 and now he will be confronted with the past.

The third book is David MacNeil Doren, Winds of Crete. It tells the story of a young couple which lived at Crete for 6 years during the 60s. May be you will not find everything of those days today, for the tourism has changed so much. But you may dream of an original Crete...

The next theme is mobility. A car can be hired at every corner. To hire a bike is more difficult. We have heard how the bike excursions at the "All-Inclusive_Clubs" are performed: they drive up the mountains with a jeep and load off the bikes there, and then the sportive cyclists can run a speedy downhill. Two houses from our hotel I detect 4 moutainbikes leaning at a wall, 2000 Drms the day.

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