Cavo Sidero

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Cavo Sidero is the Northeastern tip of Crete.  The place is wild and beautiful.  The coast is lined by dramatic, rugged wind-swept cliffs with boisterous waves.  At the tip of the thin peninsula, there is a French-built lighthouse.  The area is also known as Agios Isidoros after the dedication of a church once built here by a monk who had battled the waves in a perilous journey.  The church was his gift of gratitude, having survived after being adrift for many days.

There are also the remains of an ancient temple to goddess Athena, which was destroyed by an ancient tsunami that followed a volcanic eruption in Santorini.  Testament to the trecherous sea on this side of Crete, there are the sunken remains of several shipwrecks, which can be seen from time to time and seem like beached whales.

On the hills and mountains, the land is rather barren mostly due to the winds. But precisely because of the harsh conditions, there are some wonderful rare plants.  The area is protected by the Natura 2000 programme.  Even if the land is arid, it is dotted with bushes of aromatic herbs like thyme, sage and marjoram.  There are also olive trees (now still full of darkening olives).    In this area, there are eagles, vultures and falcons to be seen if you are a keen and patient watcher.

In the east, there is a palm grove beach, Vai, which is very popular with tourists.  The palm trees in this area (Phoenix theophrastii) are native to Crete, and found mainly in Vai and Preveli (see The Palm Beach of Preveli, earlier in this blog).  Sadly, the palms in Vai are suffering from an invasion of red palm weevils, an insect plague which is munching them away.   Notwithstanding the plague, the beach at Vai is beautiful and at particular times of year, there are migratory birds to be seen here.  Even flamingoes, I’m told, but I’ve missed them this time…

The area is close to the airport in Sitia, and it is likely that it won’t remain virgin territory anymore.  A court has awarded a development company the right to build up the area.  There will be resorts and golf courses, and apparently a commitment to manage the area sustainably so as not to lose its biodiversity.

If you are keen on visiting this beautiful area and admiring its natural beauty, come quickly!  Contact Karma Travel to organise your trip.  They’ll sort out your transportation and tell you about the most beautiful spots for birdwatching. If you come in the spring, there will be wild and beautiful flowers to be seen.  A local guide will be most useful, and Karma Travel can find one for you.

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Milia and a Chestnut Festival

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I thought that perhaps a new experience was in order. Somewhere without TV’s and gloomy news that make me conscious of living in ‘interesting times’. I thought a few days perhaps even without Internet access could do me good.  Mind you, giving up my Internet connection seems like being deprived of human contact, almost like becoming a modern-day anchorite.

So what is really essential for living?  What or how much can you give up?  I thought for these considerations alone, it was worth going to Milia.

Milia is a 17th century mountain settlement nestled in the Lefka Ori (white mountains) which has been transformed to accommodate tourists -mostly hikers- in its stone houses.  These have been restored to provide simple and basic yet very hospitable accommodation.  There are wood burning stoves for heating, and the furniture in the bedrooms is rustic. Solar panels generate enough electricity to meet the very basic needs, but there is no access to media or the Internet.  The houses have simple bedrooms, bathroom and a dining room.  Stream water is piped into the houses.  The experience is not about locking yourself up in one of the houses, though -there is a spacious communal dining room, where you can enjoy home-grown organic food lovingly prepared by Giorgos and Tassos.  Their delightful stifado with chestnuts, baby onions and potatoes in red wine sauce will stay in my memory.  I really enjoyed my stay and did not want to leave!  Indeed, it is possible to give up technology and embrace a simpler life without so much as a hiccup.

Then again, here I am, back in ‘civilisation’ and blogging.

From Milia, you can rent a bike or hike to visit the surrounding little towns, called the Innaxorion (‘nine villages’) dispersed in this mountain area, where time seems to be elastic and go slowly.  I found a few gems, such as a 15th century basilica dedicated to Agia Varvara (near Latsiana) and a church dedicated to Agios Nikolaos (near Mouri) which contains beautiful frescoes.  There is also the Topolia Gorge nearby, which makes for a most enjoyable hike.

Elos is the largest of the Innaxorion.  It is a pretty village surrounded by a chestnut forest and several natural springs,  and boasting  a few well-preserved Venetian buildings, such as a governor’s house and a fortress.  There are also fragments of Roman mosaics to admire.

The speciality of Elos are chestnuts.  I arrived in time for the annual Chestnut Festival, which this year was held on Sunday 4 November.   The festival sees everyone in the village get involved.  There was food, wine, music and dancing. A particular form of raki typical of this region was on offer (‘koumaroraki’). Small children had prepared ‘mantinades’ (poems) about chestnuts. Or at least this is what I was reliably informed that they were reciting!   Huge, sweet and juicy chestnuts were on offer, and you could also try them in a variety of dishes, sweet and savoury.  Then, in the climax of the event, the chestnuts are roasted.  What a pleasure!

If you would like more information about Milia or want expert advise to include local festivities in your travel plans, which will make for an unforgettable stay in Crete, contact Karma Travel!  Their expert advisors will help with accommodation, transportation and offer knowledgeable tips to make your travel a true delight.

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