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===History===
 
===History===
  
Crete was the center of the Minoan civilization, a sophisticated Bronze Age culture from 2600-1150 B.C.: the island bears witness to their achievements in the form of palaces, tombs and sacred sites. This civilization was so sophisticated that they even had a large navy.  The Minoans were likely affected significantly by tsunami waves from the eruption of a huge volcano in Santorini, Greece in 1450 B.C.  Towards the end of the Late Bronze Age, the Minoans were superseded by Mycenaeans from the Greek mainland.  Thereafter, Crete very much followed in the classical mainstream of Greece and - much later - Rome.
+
Crete was the center of the Minoan civilization, a sophisticated Bronze Age culture from 2600-1150 B.C.: the island bears witness to their achievements in the form of palaces, tombs and sacred sites. This civilization was so sophisticated that they even had a large navy.  The Minoan decline was likely initiated by a by tsunami waves from the eruption of a huge volcano in Santorini, Greece in 1450 B.C.  Towards the end of the Late Bronze Age, the Minoans were superseded by Mycenaeans from the Greek mainland.  Thereafter, Crete very much followed in the classical mainstream of Greece and - much later - Rome.
  
 
Crete was invaded by Romans from 69-330 A.C. and this period of time plus the Byzantine era actually brought much wealth to the Island.  The beauty and wealth of this time can still be seen today by mosaics and monuments around the island.   
 
Crete was invaded by Romans from 69-330 A.C. and this period of time plus the Byzantine era actually brought much wealth to the Island.  The beauty and wealth of this time can still be seen today by mosaics and monuments around the island.   

Revision as of 17:36, 29 November 2012

Crete (Κρήτη / Kriti, occasionally spelled "Krete" in English) is the largest of the Greek islands and is in the Mediterranean Sea between the Sea of Crete and the Libyan Sea, south of the Peloponnese. Crete is approximately 260 km long and 60 km wide. Crete consists of four prefectures: Chania, Rethimno, Heraklion and Lasithi. If there was a beauty contest for Greek islands, Crete would surely be among the favorites. Indeed, some say there is no place on earth like Crete. This view is strongly supported by those fortunate enough to have visited the island. Crete, with a population of approximately 650,000, is not just sun, sea and sand; it is a quite distinct place full of vitality, warmth, hospitality, culture and of course an excellent infrastructure. Crete is well known for its seas and beaches but it has a very contrasting landscape. The island goes from fertile coastal plains to rugged mountains and from busy metropolitan cities to very peaceful hillside homes. If you travel throughout Crete you can clearly see remnants of Roman and Turkish aqueducts and architecture from when these people invaded the island long ago.

Agios Pavlos, on Crete's southern coast




Contents

  • Drink
  • Sleep
  • Get out
  • Regions

    Crete is divided in four prefectures. From west to east:

    Cities

    • Heraklion (Iraklion or Candia) — the largest city with the archaeological highlight Knossos
    • Agios Nikolaos — the cute capital of Lasithi
    • Chania (Haniá) (— largest city of the western region
    • Chersonissos (Hersonissos) — blissful harbour town in winter, party capital of Crete in summer
    • Elounda — a small fishing town on the Elounda Bay with the abandoned Spinalonga Island
    • Hora Sfakion — tiny capital in the southwest with white houses and the ferry to and from the Samaria Gorge
    • Ierapetra — the southernmost city of Europe with some nice beaches
    • Malia — crowded tourist mecca popular mostly with young (especially British) travellers
    • Rethymno — this interesting town is mostly popular with families

    Other destinations

    Understand

    A chapel in Crete

    Tourism is the basis of the Cretan economy. The island is partly very green despite only having around 60 days of rain per year.


    There are many contrasts in this region, you can go from incredible beaches to impressive mountains, from big (and chaotic) cities to really small picturesque villages, from very dry, almost desert areas to very green zones like the springs in the center.

    History

    Crete was the center of the Minoan civilization, a sophisticated Bronze Age culture from 2600-1150 B.C.: the island bears witness to their achievements in the form of palaces, tombs and sacred sites. This civilization was so sophisticated that they even had a large navy. The Minoan decline was likely initiated by a by tsunami waves from the eruption of a huge volcano in Santorini, Greece in 1450 B.C. Towards the end of the Late Bronze Age, the Minoans were superseded by Mycenaeans from the Greek mainland. Thereafter, Crete very much followed in the classical mainstream of Greece and - much later - Rome.

    Crete was invaded by Romans from 69-330 A.C. and this period of time plus the Byzantine era actually brought much wealth to the Island. The beauty and wealth of this time can still be seen today by mosaics and monuments around the island.

    Crete was the site of an airborne invasion by German troops, and a spirited resistance by Allied (mainly British, New Zealand and Australian) troops and the people of Crete during the 1941 Nazi invasion of Greece. During this invasion many Cretans were executed for initially resisting the Germans and the cities of Chania and Heraklio were bombed so heavily that you may still see the destruction even today.

    Crete history is very much related to famous myths like when the King of Crete, Minos, refused to sacrifice a bull to the Greek gods. Poseidon in turn forced Minos's wife to fall in love with a bull which created the mythical beast, the Minotaur.

    Talk

    The language used in Crete is Greek, although in main cities and touristic areas people have no problem understanding English. Even in small villages you usually have no problem for basic things like shopping or eating.

    The spoken dialect of Greek in Crete is similar to the one of the mainland Greece but it might have some small differences [1].

    Although most people in Crete speak some form of Greek dialect, English is still spoken by a majority of the locals as well. Because tourism is so big in Crete, many of the people there understand and can speak the English language not as fast as Europeans, but still easily understood. If you stop to talk to one of the locals in Crete they will most likely respond in English and have a nice, long talk with foreigners.

    Get in

    By plane

    The island has three significant airports:

    • Nikos Kazantzakis at Heraklion. There are long term plans to replace Heraklion airport, which is too close to the city, by a new inland airport at Kasteli, southeast of Heraklion. It is a small airport located at the edge of Heraklion. Has basic facilities and a small parking lot.
    • the military airport Daskalogiannis at Chania. Chania airport is much smaller and far less busy than Heraklion airport. Located on the Northwestern part of the island and the airport is also known as the K. Daskalogiannis Airport.
    • a new public airport in Sitia. Sitia airport serves currently only a small number of domestic flights, mainly to/from Athens.

    There are daily flights from Athens airport by Olympic Air [2], Aegean Airlines [3] and Athens Airways (Which take about 45min.)[4] to Heraklion and Chania. Sky Express operates flights from Athens airport to Sitia. During the months of July and August Astra Airlines [5] flies from Thessaloniki to Heraklion and Chania.

    From April till early November charter airlines fly directly to [Heraklion] and [Chania] from many European airports.

    Flights going from Heraklion and Chania to Thessalaniki take about 1 and a half. The airport at Heraklion also has daily flights to Rhodes which takes 1 hr.

    By boat

    Ferry services from Piraeus to Heraklion, Rethimno and Chania and from Thessaloniki and the Cyclades to Heraklion.

    Get around

    By car

    Hiring a car is easy, as long as you have your driving license with you. Check, though, that the insurance is comprehensive, and make sure when you take the car that all previous marks on it are recorded so that you don't get charged for these! Insurance on hire cars doesn't usually cover the underside of the car, or damage to tires. Gas stations often close around 9PM, particularly in villages. Most gas stations expect you to pay cash - they serve you, so you can choose for them to fill the tank or put in gas to a cash value. On the National Highway, there are service stations, but they are often 30 miles or so apart - make sure you fill up with gas before bank holidays and Sundays when you may have more difficulty finding an open station. In Crete you will find most international car rental companies like

    and some local like

    • Rental Center (http://www.rental-center-crete.com), 1 Nidas Street,heraklion crete, 71307, Greece, +30 281 024 0120 (, fax: 0030 281 024 0120), [9]. 24hours. 18.
    • Just Rentals (http://www.justrentals.gr), 1 Gortynis Str Chersonissos 70014‎, +30 28970 23083 (, fax: 0030 2897 023197), [10]. 07:00-24:00. 19.
    • Go Rent a Car (http://www.gorentacar.gr), 34, 1770 Str Heraklion 71202‎, +30 2810 300865 (, fax: 0030 2810 3008667), [11]. 07:00-24:00. 20.

    Be careful when driving in Crete, as Cretans haven't got used yet as of driving in a more-than-one lane road (national roads were recently upgraded near Iraklion to two-lane roads) and will easily drive in the middle between the lanes, trespass the double-line or flash the headlights to drive you into safety lane for them to pass. Stop signs are rarely respected by locals, and the best way to avoid accidents is to reduce speed to the point that you could easily stop the car and avoid collision whenever you approach a crossroad. Stay on the safe side legally in order to maintain your rights in case of accident. Despite the fact that most roads are slippery, Cretans usually drive agressively. You certainly wouldn't have to follow their example.

    Taxi services are another great way to get around Crete because they are very cheap throughout Greece. They are a very accessible and easy way to get around large cities like Heraklion and Chania. Greek taxis all work under the Greek State and the Taxi driver must always charge by the meter price which he must turn on as soon as you get into the cab.

    There are 2 taxi tariffs in Greece: Tariff 1 is day hours ranging from 5:00am to midnight and Tariff 2 is night hours ranging from midnight to 5:00am.

    By bus

    Public transportation is fairly frequent and timetables [12] quite trustworthy. Bus drivers usually divert from their marked routes to enter little villages if asked to do so. Bus services along the north coast and towards the south coast are excellent, reliable, frequent and cheap.

    Most of these Bus services are run by Kino Tamio Eisproxeon Leoforon, KTEL, which are groups of families which individually run their own bus companies. This, in turn, creates a much more homely environment for Cretans and tourists and these families provide excellent service and show off their great deal of pride.

    Cretan buses stations are very simple for the most part except for in Heraklion which has two major Bus stations (one for buses going in town and one for KTEL run buses).

    By ferry

    Crete has many ferry connections for example: You can go from Pireaus to Heraklion with Minoan Lines[13], to Chania with ANEK Lines or Hellenic Seaways, to Ayios Nikolaos and Sitia with LANE Lines. LANE also operates routes from Ayios Nikolaos/Sitia to Rhodes and other greek islands. In the summer, there are daily catmarans (hydrofoils) from Heraklion to Santorini. The trip takes about 2.5 hours. Hellenic Seaways and SeaJets offer these sailings. You can also go to Crete by ferry from the Peloponnese (Gytheio) and Kythira island. This ferry lands on the west part of Crete, in Kissamos port.

    The main ports in Greece that ferries come into are in Heraklion, Chania, Rethymno, Sitia, and Kastelli-Kassamos. Since there are no roads along the southwest coast there is a ferry line,[14] with connections between Paleochora, Sougia, Agia Roumeli, Loutro and Hora Sfakion (Sfakia). There is also a connection with the islet of Gavdos, Europe's southernmost point (Cape Tripiti).

    See

    Samaria gorge
    • The ruins of the ancient Minoan civilization in Knossos, Phaistos and the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.
    • The variety of landscapes in a short distance: the wilderness and solitude of the Cretan mountains some hundred meters away from the coast.
    • The traditional cafes (kafeneia) of Crete.
    • The Gorge of Samaria
    • The southern coast of Rethimnon prefecture. There are some beautiful beaches, many accessible only on foot. The monastery at Prevelli is of particular historical interest as the site from where Abbot Agathagelos Lagouvardos sheltered and assisted the evacuation of Allied troops during WWII. There are also several museums and an ancient Minoan cemetary.
    • Crete Avril Mona Mountain is a historical place in Western Crete popular with tourists.
    • The Lasithi Plateau. A large plateau located in the mountains where due to its altitude of a few thousands feet is cooler than the coast. Its a flat area full of irrigated fields and a road runs round the perimeter. Here you can find the "Zeus Cave" (Ideon Andron) where according to greek Mythology the infant god Zeus was hidden as a child from his father.
    • The palm tree lined beach of Vai. The east coast of Crete a few kilometres from Sitea has a valley containing europes only native growing wild palm trees. This tree lined valley terminates in a fabulous sandy beach and bay and is possibly the most scenic beach on the island. To the south (right) of this over a small cliff is another large beach that due to having no road access is often completely deserted.
    • Zakros Gorge - south of Sitea and Vai lies the Zakros Gorge (also known as the "valley of the dead" due to the ancient neolithic tombs in the valley wall). This gorge runs several kilometres down towards the sea and ancient palace ruins of Zakros and can be walked comfortably there and back in a few hours unlike is larger cousin the Samara gorge.
    • Spinalonga - a small island containing an old leper colony located near Elounda and next to the quiet village of Plaka. This island achieved fame in the novel "The Island" by Victoria Hislop and there are many boat trips running from Agios Nikolaos, Elounda and Plaka to this island.
    • Gramvousa - an inhabited island, reachable by boat (plenty organized excursions), you can see there a splendid old fortress and a lovely beach.
    • Every year in May the local Cretans commemorate the great Battle of Crete which was a battle against invading paratroopers
    • See the vast ancient city of Gortyna: has many ancient Roman ruins, Byzantine Cathedrals, and a tree where supposedly Zeus and Europa first made love
    • Go to Lasithi which has ancient caves, sacred sites, and is the location of a forming leper colony. This place also has many small ports, ruins of a Minoan Palace, and old windmills
    • Elounda Lagoon- Clear turquoise lagoon that conceals the sunken city of Olous. There is also a ancient Greek myth that mermaids live here
    Ierapetra, on Crete's southern coast
    • Myrtos. An agicultural traditional village 8k west of Ierapetra, few tourists, endless empty beaches. Archaeological sites and donkey tracks to hill villages. Warm all year round, warm sea until late January. Good bus service, local butcher, baker etc.
    • Agia Roumeli. A coastal village near the Samaria Gorge.
    • The Minoan archaeological sites of Knossos, Phaistos, Gournia and Mallia
    • Spinalonga Island - information and history
    • The Roman archaeological site of Gortys
    • Byzantine churches
    • Monasteries (Arkadi, Triada, Preveli) with interesting histories
    • Lasithi Plateau
    • Palekastro area in Eastern Crete
    • The White Mountains ('Lefka Ori'), Crete's largest mountain massif, with over 100 gorges, and peaks of over 2,500 metres
    • Paleochora Located on the South coast of Western Crete and is a large village. The village itself is not pretty but the beaches are beautiful and there is an abundance of restaurants, bars, hotels, and rooms
    • Bali village close to Sises
    • Plakias is a small, quiet resort on the South coast of Crete. It has a magnificent beach and is backdropped by stunning mountainous scenery that offers good walking.
    • Elafonisi is a small beach on the southwestern tip of Crete. It only has two places to stay and is an excellent location to spend the day at the beach.
    • The Beaches West of Chania Long stretch of sandy beaches that has now made this area a huge tourist attraction. Also has many hotels, apartments, bars, and tourist shops
    • Georgioupolis 9Km. long of sandy beaches on the Northern end of Crete. Many new hotels are being built on the island to sustain the growing tourist population
    • Falasarna Located on the Western part of Crete, has many nice beaches and the water their was voted second cleanest water in all of Greece
    • Gramvoussa Located on the westernmost peninsula of Crete. Used to be very secluded only accessible by private boat but the turquoise lagoon and white beach now has to deal with tar on rocks and frequent rubbish on the beach but it is still a beautiful site.
    • Sougia 1200 meter long pebble beaches located in a very small village where it is never crowded. The landscape and waters are beautiful and nuditiy on the beaches is acceptable

    Do

    • Visit the Archaeological Site of Knossos - and its famous palace, major city of the Minoan civilization 4,000 years ago.
    • Check more sites of interest to visit by consulting the Hellenic Minister of Culture web-site [15]
    • Listen to traditional Cretan music: Lýra is the dominant folk instrument on the island; it is a three-stringed fiddle, direct descendant of the ancient Lyre, which is held vertically, resting on the thighs of the player and is played with a bow like a violin. It is often accompanied by the Cretian lute (laoúto), which is similar to both an oud and a mandolin. The film Zorba the Greek helped to expand the audience for Cretan folk music; popularity peaked from about the middle of the 1970s to the middle of the 1980s.
    • Complete the walk down the Samaria Gorge from the Omalos plateau to Agia Roumeli on the Libyan Sea, at which point tourists sail to the nearby village of Hora Sfakion and catch a coach back to Hania. The walk takes between four and seven hours and can be strenuous, especially in high summer.
    • Avoid overcrowded and touristic places as they are ugly and don't offer any of the qualities of Crete. In general, the North coast is much more busy and touristic than the South coast.
    • Go walking in the mountains.
    • Yakinthia Festival-this is an anual festival of music and dance, which also features presentations on Greek mythology
    • Excellent beaches: Balos Lagoon, Kissamos/ Red Sand Beach, Matala/ Palm Beach, Plakias/ and Elafonissi Beach, Elafonissi
    • Visit museums: Historical Museum of Crete, Heraklion/ Museum of Cretan Ethnology, Heraklion/ and the famous Lychnostatis Open Air Museum, Hersonissos
    • Shopping Centers: Idolio, Hersonissos (specialty museum shop) and Faestos, Hersonissos
    • The night life is great too; Bars: Ya Bar, Farbrica, and the White Lion which are all located in Hersonissos. Along with bars there are Dance/Disco Club: Camelot, Enigma, and Amnesia clubs all in Hersonissos

    Eat

    Crete is famous for its tasty and healthy cuisine. The Cretan Diet was the subject of study that revealed its great health benefits and nutritional value. Studies have actually shown that Cretan peoples' diets are so nutricious that it has prevented the population from having heart attacks and some cancers which are caused by unhealthy eating habits.

    A good tip is to join any of the hundreds of traditional fiestas in villages which offer great food, wine and live folk music.

    Cheese

    Unlike in most regions in Greece, Feta is not produced and is not very popular in Crete. However you will find a very good variety of delicious locally produced Cretan cheeses, such as:

    • Graviera: (Greek: Γραβιέρα) The standard hard cheese; there are many types and tastes. Taste before buying, as early cheese (cut before mature) will have a spicy taste, when a mature one will be salty and milk-sweet.
    • Myzitra: (Greek: Μυζίθρα) A fresh cheese made of ewe's milk. It is sometimes made of goat's milk (in which case it is called "katsikisia") or mixed milk. A good goat's one will taste like these expensive French "chèvre frais".
    • Anthotiros: (Greek: Ανθότυρος) from the words "anthos" (flower) and "tiros" (cheese) it is a very mild, soft spring cheese made when the sheep pastures are still full of flowers. The closest popular cheese is the Italian mascarpone as they are both high in fat and are both creamy in texture (unlike mozzarella which is high in protein and chewy in texture).

    Meat

    Snails cooked in various ways (one of the most traditional dishes of Crete), Smoked ham (apaki) and smoked sausages (loukaniko), traditional mountain goat or lamb cooked in various ways, cretan pilaf (chicken and lamb risotto served with goat's butter), souvlaki (pork meat, lamb, chicken or fish on skewers).

    Side dishes

    • Dips and sauces
    • Salads and Vegetables:

    Dakos (Greek: Ντάκος - Cretan rusk with tomato, feta cheese, olives, oregano and olive oil), Horta vrasta (boiled greens with olive oil and lemon juice). Xoriatiki Known as the Greek Salad, Sheperd's Salad Salad with a east style twist, Salata Marouli Romaine Lettuce Salad, and Lahano Salata A traditionally tart cabbage salad are other types of Cretan salads.

    • Soups:

    Kotosoupa A chicken based soup with a lemon sauce Fakkes Tomato soup in a lintel base Fasolatha A hearty been soup in a tomato base Nisiotiki A hearty seafood soup

    Restaurants

    The Cretans themselves eat out late, after 10 or 11 PM, and often in a group. They prefer dinner in a good taverna, a small local restaurant offering the local cuisine. Most dishes are fresh from that day. The menu is only for tourists, Cretans ask the waiter for specialties, and have a look in the kitchen or in a 'vitrine', glass display case. Dinner is usually outside.

    Fresh fish becomes more and more rare, and is expensive, priced by its weight. Restaurants and tavernas by law have to display if the fish that they offer is fresh or frozen. Thus, always ask your waiter to show you the fish and weight it in front of you before you order.

    • Common Appetizers:

    Tsatziki Famous cucumber dip that can go well with almost anything Taramosalata Cod roe-based dip Kalamari Deep fried squid Skorthalia Greek garlic mashed potatoes Gigantes Lima beans in a tomato sauce (can be spicy or not)

    • Common Entrees:

    Bifteki Greek hamburger patties Souvlaki Sticks of meat served in or without a pita bread Fricasse Lamb and garden beans in a creamy lemon sauce Pilafi Greek style rice Psari A way to prepare Black Grouper or other types of fish Moussaka Famous eggplant casserole Greek people seldom have breakfast. They do enjoy a copious lunch.

    There are options of cheap Greek fast food Called "gyropitta" by Cretans (mainland Greeks call it "giros pitta" as two separate words, and their definition is somewhat different as a single mainland Greece "giros pitta" is usually too small to replace a decent meal, instead of Cretan Giropitta which is bigger by far, having almost a serving of french fries added and with bigger pitta). As always, there are tourist-traps among those. Prefer those that locals do.

    Drink

    Tsikoudia is the predominant alcohol drink produced and consumed by the locals. This drink is also known as Raki and is made from the left over distilled wine. Tsikoudia alcohol precentage varies a bit, usual average is 20%-45%. It has a grapey taste and is usually served with some "meze" (accompaniments) like hard cheese, olives, cucumber or cold cuts.

    Tsikoudia usually is a "goodbye gift" from many restaurants, that serve it along with dessert or fruit right after you ask for the bill. Not every restaurant follows this tradition, but the trend tends to expand.

    Twikoudia production is strictly controlled by alcohol taxing laws, who permit production for a single 48-hour period each year, for which authorities issue licenses for distilleries operation.

    If you happen to fall within the period (August - September - October) and you are into local fiestas, try to visit a "rakokazano" which is local a tsikoudia distillery. This could be an experience to remember. Arrange for returning to hotel beforehand. Usually "rakokazano"'s are located away from tourist vacances, deep into the mainland near vineyards. Due to the nature of the event, tsikoudia production escalates to a fiesta, where freshly produced raki is tested, between feasts of unpeeled oven potatoes with oliveoil or lemon and salt, lamb meat and wine. You are not expected to be sober after visiting one of those, but usually a local has to invite you along (and drive you home afterwards).

    Although not as popular as in the mainland or the North Aegean islands Cretans also enjoy drinking Ouzo which is an alcoholic drink made by distillation of grapes. It looks milky when water is poured in and mixed with, but it doesn't contain milk or derivates of milk! During the distilling process it is made with ginger, cinamon, aromatic seeds, plants, and fruits which give it a distinct taste.


    Apart from local spirits, a great variety of wines are produced locally and sometimes from local ancient grape cultivars, and can escort supper or dinner. Most restaurants would serve varieties of local wines or even resaurant's owners own production as "barrel wine".

    Youth can enjoy their booze at dancing bars, which are open till late along the coast line near tourist places, like in Malia and Hersonissos (30km from Iraklion) or Platanias (25km from Chania)

    Sleep

    Many package holidays in Crete are available, especially from the UK, but many visitors prefer to travel on their own, as the beauty of Crete is located at small hidden villages and not in the crowded/touristic places. Most package tours cater for those who want to go to Eastern Crete, which is very lively. One or two cater for Western Crete (much quieter) and Southern Crete (eg Paleochora).

    There are many holiday specials for villas in Crete.

    • Gouves Park Holiday Resort, Kato Gouves Pediados, +30 28970 43300, [16]. checkin: 14.00; checkout: 12.00. Gouves Park holiday resort is a 4 star hotel located in Gouves village of Heraklion prefecture, Crete. It consists of 263 rooms and it is an ideal choice for family holidays.2
    • Castello Apartments & Studios, Plakias (Rethymno, Crete), +30 28320 31112. checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. Castello Apartments is located in Plakias village, on the south coast of Crete, surrounded by wild mountains and splendid beaches. Its hotel amenities and well-tended garden offer an accommodation worth to remember. Ideal for couples and families.


    Get out


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