Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Yiamas! ( Cheers! ): A Greek Treat

We just came back from our spring vacation, but summer was just on the air in Greek island :-)

We flew to Greece, not to the Parthenon in Athens but to the Minoan island of Crete. Crete or Kreta is a big island in which we went to its western part, Agios Nikolaos. It took 1 hour and half from Heraklion. Agios Nikolaos is a coastal town on the Greek island of Crete. It is east of the island's capital Heraklion, north of the town of Ierapetra and west of the town of Sitia.

The clock tower located at the center of our resort. This rings every hour that gives a feeling of being in an ancient city.

Our resort, Candia park, is located in between of Elounda and Agios Nikolaos. Both towns are busy with tourists including the surrounding villages.

Just along the beachfront of the resort.

We actually had a nice time in this resort, Candia Park Village. A complete "holiday village" located on the exquisite gulf of Mirabello, only 3 kms from Agios Nikolaos, 5 kms from Elounda and 70 kms from the airport and town of Heraklion.

Normally, the local population of the town only counted about 25,000 inhabitants but during it's peak season (summer) become double due to influx of tourists.

Sitting under the sun :-( hehehe! I mean under the shade of umbrella :-)

Along the sea shore of the resort.

This is part of the Aqua Park of the resort, covering a total area of 2,000 square meters, which adds to the beautiful landscape.

The name Agios Nikolaos means Saint Nicholas. This city is a common place in Greece and Cyprus since Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors and of all of Greece.

The cobbled path going to our apartment.

We glanced around and saw wild olive trees, narcissi, chrysanthemum, cuclaminus, and wild orchids. The most common flowers are bogainvilleas, orleanders and geraniums.

Agios Nikolaos is probably best known as a tourist town that serves as a hub to the twenty or so small villages and farms that make up that part of the province Lassithi. Tourist attractions include the small lake Lake Voulismeni.

Right picture is the Lake Voulismeni. It's quite dark image, took from my mobilefon camera. (Obviously, we left our camera in the car which was parked pretty far).

The lake is its most charming feature. Legend suggests that Athena and Armetis bathed in its waters. This lake is connected to the sea by a straight channel, while its natural surroundings of red rock and trees attract the visitor magnetically. At a small open-air theatre by the lake, locals and visitors alike can enjoy interesting artistic and cultural presentations.

Agios Nikolaos was also became a chic hideaway of Walt Disney in early 1960's. So, I tried to check every edges of this picturesque lake, drawing out vibrant impressions with pleasant panoramic ambience.

Lots of small beaches in the town, tiny islands , archaeological museums, local musical concerts and numerous fairs. The lake features a small park with a trail, traditional fishing boats, ducks, pigeons, an amphitheatre and many caf├Ęs and restaurants. Bustling cafeterias, charming coffeehouses and taverns serving traditional Cretan delicacies or tidbits of local food.

Agios Nikolaos, with over forty years of experience in the tourism industry, is an international and cosmopolitan resort that welcomes thousands of visitors annually.

I had an enjoyable walk experience around the shops of Agios Nikolaos. In many stores, the visitor can find a wide selection of traditional Cretan artwork, copies of pieces from different archaeological museums, jewelry, and embroidery. There are also many examples of woven goods and Byzantine icons. I still tried to shop around, taking advantage while hubby was web browsing in the internet cafe enjoying some glass of Greek beers.

A panoramic view of Agios Nikolaos while we drove off to Elounda.

Being located in a strategic position on the road network of Crete, it is the ideal starting point for daily excursions in all directions of the island by car, bus or motorcycle. So, we did'nt miss not to rent car. We rented a car and from there, we had a nice road trip of the island.

It was just sad when hubby got a ticket due to overspeeding. We actually like to argue since we are pretty sure that we're just driving under and not above the limits. Well, tourists are targets of any problem like this...so just be nice and enjoy the rest of the ride. Just get ready to spare two digit fine at least.

Actually, it was my surprise when the chaotic traffic ways greeted me right in my nose from the time we arrived at the Heraklion airport. It reminded me of how motorways look in the Philippines. It's really the same. The undisciplined motorists are just on the way. No parking ways, and any minute a car might just be in your shoulder. Oh my gosh! It was really scary. Well, I already have enough of this high kind performances in the highway. Let's put it aside for now ...:-)

We drove to the town of Elounda and to the tip end of Mohlos going the east part of Crete. From east part going down to the southerly major town of Lerapetra.

This was a scary, air-breathing ride going to the village of Krista. A tiny road above the slope mountain ranges.We stopped here, and convinced hubby to go down...We had even difficulty to take the car on our wayback.

My dear was actually in this island part of Mohlos. He's no longer caught by my camera since this island is about 200meters offshore where I stand. Adriaan crossed the waters by showing his swimming expertise :-)

Lerapetra is Europe's most southernly major town where was the major port for the Romans in their conquest of Egypt. We even drove to the most narrow roads going to any villages we can find in our map :-). It was nerve breaking :-(

At the harbor in Lerapetra.

Some of the most memorable trips can be made on foot or by bicycle. A sunhat and sunglasses, the right shoes and some water are all that is needed to enjoy a walk in paradise.
I bought two hats and my dear shopped for four I think :-)

The area appears green even in wintertime because of the olive trees, and in springtime nature bursts through from the mountainsides to the coast filling the area with red poppies, white margaritas and other multi-coloured wild flowers.

This is in the dead point village of Andriaanos. A nice tiny village where olive farms are carefully cultivated.

Agios Nikolaos with its exceptional climatic conditions offers a temperate climate with a mild winter. That is why many holidaymakers visit the town for a long period or even make the town their second home. Agios Nikolaos with its natural landscape and mild weather is incomparably one of the most attractive areas of southeast Europe.

At the harbor of Elounda.

The port of Elounda, bask in the glorious sea as it opens up before them offering its beauty and charm.

This is a world renowned touristic area located to the north of Agios Nikolaos, having an indented coastline, shaded beaches, crystal clear seas, and a tranquil and heavenly environment. It is 10km distance from Aghios Nikolaos, and the cutting along the side of the road affords you the opportunity to admire the spectacular view of Mirambello Gulf and Korfos.

At the chapel of St. John or Agios Ioannis in the Acrotiri (the cape or peninsula) where you can have a nice view of the Mirabello gulf and the Elounda bay..

Elounda was used to be the favored place of legendary figures from Minoan Crete and of historical figures of our times. The four villages of Elounda are spread out along the lower slopes of the approach to the Massif. Pano and Kato Elounda, Mavrikiano and the new settlement of Skisma.

The divine creator, in joyous and happy time of inspiration and joviality, did not skimp here with the colors, the lines or the boldness of combinations, giving a magical impression to the landscape. Here, lovers of the art of cinema, of the graphic arts, of music and poetry find an exceptional sight.

Here is a view of the Spinalonga Island in the Elounda bay. The island is a fascinating place to explore by boat tours. It has an aura of both macabre and poignant. Here also lies the fortress of Kalidou.

The Elounda bay, as described by Mr. Anestis Makridakis, glows like a sapphire under the azure light of the sky, rose-hued in summer afternoons, silvered on moonlit nights. This peaceful sea was used as a stop-over and refueling point during the period between both world wars by the UK’s Imperial Hydroplane Service.

From ancient times, the people of the island have based their diet on local produce such as vegetables, greens, meat, fish, honey, cheese and wine, all combined in imaginative ways generating many interesting and unique flavours.

We are sitting in a Cafe in the capital city of Crete, Heraklion.

Speaking of Greek cuisines, it is obvious that I gained weight when I came back from vacation :-) We had a great time savoring and enjoying traditional tastes, the freshness and originality of the Cretan cuisine, absorbing the sweet aroma of local herbs as their gift from the ancient Gods :-)

Traditional Cretan cuisine is lean and easily prepared, and is based on the remarkable variety of local Cretan products. Never missing from the Cretan table is olive oil, the great Greek feta cheese and their local wine. Herbs too, feature distinctly here. Dairy products are given greater importance like cheese, milk and yoghurt. They are very proud of their simple dessert like yoghurt with honey. It was really good that I even brought a pack of Greek yoghurt :-)

We drove to Lasithi Plateau. The plateus were tucked in the Mt. Dikti ranges where Dikteon cave is located. The cave is where the legend that Zeus was born. This is 900m above sea level where we saw vast fields of pear, olives and apple orchards. Lasithi is the easthermost part of Crete.

Greece is a place-name that is easy to pronounce, but difficult to understand given their hard language. I learned few words :-), like efharisto (thanks), parakalo (welcome/please) and jaimas (cheers). But, I did'nt mind to give my attention to it...I even tried to speak few Dutch words where any corner of the world, there are Dutch tourists.

The mixed thoughts of pre-historic years of civilization and the legendary Greek mythology of Mt. Olympus happened here. Maybe, you can't help imagining yourself in your playful mind that you might be the goddess of love, Aphrodite, struck by the arrow of Cupid to fall in love, with your knight and shining armor Achilles :-) (this is not the story huh!) I'm just composing and be like Homer, the Greek epic writer.

However, given with majestic and ancient views like Crete island, it is a place that can only be experienced personally, to live forever thereafter with vast historic memory. It is a piece of land (not flat but mountainous) surrounded with the magical sea where the light and the blue sky infuse you gently but swiftly, having the power to touch you emotionally. To view it from further away is like dreaming with open eyes. Try to experience it by yourself !

Have a nice day!

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