|Alex Kavvadis & Psarantonis x Billy Zed, The Return, 2011|
Forget everything you’ve ever heard about the Greek islands. Crete is a whole different story. Tropical enough to provide the rest of the country with a steady supply of bright bananas and buttery avocados, it’s home to wild wedding traditions, feisty unconquered villages and the mythical Psarantonis clan, whose members have been evangelizing Cretan music for generations. Local eating habits have been the subject of countless nutritional studies praising the merits of the macrobiotic diet, based on local produce, slow cooking methods and ungodly amounts of extra virgin olive oil. Not especially surprising, considering olive trees are said to outnumber the Cretan population by 500 to one!
The former capital city of Heraklion is robust and urbanized, and functions as a gateway to the rest of the Cretan wonderland. On the west, the crumbling Venetian harbour of Chania is bound to give you heart palpitations, as its tumultuous history is barely contained inside the Old Town, brimming with continental charms. Dotted with bijou hotels, practically chiselled into the Venetian fortification walls, it can either be your final destination or an essential stop along the way.
On the other side of Heraklion lies the coastal town of Agios Nikolaos, that’s home to a very different set of thrills. I only have one word for you: Spinalonga! Once a leper-colony (think early 20th century), it is now the island’s only claim to Hollywood fame. OK, maybe not quite Hollywood, but Spinalonga (only a boat-ride away) does happen to be the location of the smouldering romance in the forefront of Victoria Hislop’s multi-award winning historical novel “The Island”, published in 2007. Since then, it has been turned into the most expensive series in Greek television history - and a raging success at that - and has been broadcast over numerous international TV networks.
The storied isle might be too small to provide accommodation, but it does have beautiful pebbly beaches and shallow waters, making it the perfect place for a relaxing beach day. Once you’ve had your fill of sea & sun, you might want to venture out to some of the local archaeological sites, equally distributed across the island (Knossos and Phaestos palaces are not to be missed) to learn all about the Minoans, the Cretans’ proud ancestors, who bequeathed the island with a rich tradition in pottery and some fascinating myths that have rocked kids to sleep for generations. What’s your bedtime story going to be?
Take Me There
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