Thursday, June 23, 2011

Island of Spirits

Crete is a mountainous land and the usually dormant volcanoes of this island have carved a treacherous terrain for the motorist, even if the goats thrive. Obviously, the roads must go over the top to get to the other side, and if you want to travel to anywhere else from the beach it generally means climbing to the top of the peaks. I took one such journey from Chania on the northwest coast to Fragocastello on the southern edge of the island, where a magnificent rocky shore, with its coral reefs and undersea wrecks awaits adventurous swimmers and divers.

It was an eventful drive but well worth the effort. Although I loved being in Chania, having made friends with some of the locals (even those who had come from France or Sweden) and enjoyed the stunning ancient town with its magnificent harbour, I wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. I couldn’t have chosen a better place, as I reached a peaceful oasis of calm that was so far removed from the highlife of the more touristic towns in the north that even the short time there soothed the spirit in a splendid sea of tranquillity.

Fragocastello is haunted. Legend has it that the dead roam these parts on a schedule. Every year on May 17th the spirits of the soldiers who were slaughtered defending this outcrop against the Turks over a hundred years ago, come up out of the sea and make their way to the castle in ghostly procession that is anticipated by the locals with flowers and prayers of remembrance. I didn’t get to see the phantoms approach, but there are plenty of other spirits around to keep everyone entertained throughout the long night’s wait for the spectres of the past to rise.

The sunsets and sunrises are amazing and unlike in the UK you actually get to see them both happen with regularity. Many of the buildings, like my place in Turkey, are solar powered – that’s a welcome source of renewable energy that makes one feel okay about plugging in the pc while having the lights on.

If you get the opportunity, try visiting Crete. If your spirit needs a boost and you have an interest in history and culture as well as the obvious sun, sea and sand and simply desire a ‘get away’ from the routine, it’s like discovering light at the end of the tunnel. 

There’s a lot to do and see (I’ll feature a few of the sights here soon), the people are welcoming and friendly, the nightlife is superb and let’s face it, their economy could do with a boost. Oh, when you see Corrine and Maria, tell them I sent you.

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