Thursday, June 19, 2014

Crete: Hiking through History

From those iconic whitewashed buildings in the Cycladic Islands of Greece we told you about last week, we move south to the southern coast of Crete. The area is laced with hiking trails that wind up stark hillsides and through lush gorges – leading through the island’s ages-old history.

DSCF1275Many of those trails begin or end in Loutro, the small village where we stayed on Crete’s southwestern coast.

Some are what we consider  ‘soft hikes’ – those that don’t require hiking boots or other equipment and could be considered more ‘stroll’ than ‘hike’.

One of our favorite such stroll/hikes snakes along the hill – a backdrop to the village – and leads back more than a century ago; a time of Turkish occupation of this area. . .











The trail in April was lined with spring wildflowers and the hillside carpeted in greens.

DSCF1274
Up, up, up the hillside, we left the village and its crescent-shaped harbor far below. For those in moderately good physical condition – the pathway with an easy grade (a hiking pole would be nice, but not required). Trail markers like those below are posted on rocks and signs along the route..

PicMonkey Collage

We’ve visited this area three times in recent years and the setting has remained as enchanting as the first time we saw it.

DSCF1297

As you crest the hill you step back into a time of Turkish occupation – a time when the koule, or small castle, dominated the hill top. Back then this fortress was probably a hub of activity while nowadays only goats laze and graze among its ruins.

PicMonkey Collage

Sometimes we’d pass another hiker or two and we’d nod a greeting – no one wants to break the silence that envelops you here. . . it’s broken only by the hollow clang of the goats’ bells,the buzz of the bees and the rustle of leaves.

DSCF1285


DSCF1295
Phoenix
The remains of the Turkish koule are unattended – it isn’t a tourist attraction that requires security or entrance fees. Only those who hike between Loutro and Phoenix, as the neighboring harbor is called, are even likely to know it is there.










DSCF1282
DSCF1286
DSCF1288

This area was once the base for Saracen pirates who were driven out by the Venetians and later the Turks drove out the Venetians.

DSCF1292

The solitude here is so enveloping that just a short visit can refresh the soul and clear the mind.  I chuckle though each time I see this modern-day addition: a labyrinth. . .I guess it’s for those who need a kick-start in absorbing the solitude.

DSCF1291

Hope you enjoyed our stroll through history – as always, your time is much appreciated. Hope to see you back here again soon!

Map picture
IF YOU GO:  Crete’s northern cities, Heraklion and Chania, have ferry connections to Athens and other Greek ports and airplane connections from Athens and other European airports. Buses, taxis or rental cars could be used to reach the southern shore.  Loutro, however, is accessed only by boat (there is a local ferry) or on foot.

Hiking: The trail we wrote about is part of the European long-distance path, the E4, a network of some 11 long-distance paths that stretch across countries in Western Europe and were developed by the European Ramblers Association (made up of walking groups throughout Europe). In Greece, it stretches across the Peloponnese and then takes up on this island. The Hellenic Federation of Mountaineering and Climbing established and maintains the trails. They also produce a multi-language pamphlet with information about the trails. 

Map picture

Linking up:
Travel Photo Thursday
Weekend Travel Inspiration
Travel Photo Monday

29 comments:

  1. Hello Jackie and Joel:

    This looks and sounds to be utterly idyllic. What marvellous scenery and what joy to be almost alone in such a superb landscape which is, as you point out, steeped in history. In writing and putting together posts such as this one, you must yearn to be once more on that hillside.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Lance and Jane, we could return again and again to this wonderful spot. It is simply a bit of magic brought to life each time we walk through those ruins. Thanks so much for your visit!

      Delete
  2. Replies
    1. It really was a magical spot. Thanks for stopping by Lilli!

      Delete
  3. Great looking hike Jackie and one I would like to do. Your photos make me feel like I'm there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think of you, Leigh, every time we do this stretch and think how much you would enjoy it (and of the wonderful photos you would take). Thanks for the visit!

      Delete
  4. Replies
    1. Brittany, thanks so much for taking time to comment. It was a beautiful countryside. . .everywhere had something to see even if it was the most stark hillside imaginable!

      Delete
  5. Lovely tour, looks like a great place to explore and soak in all the nature and gorgeous vistas

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Noel, I can only imagine the fabulous photos you could take here. You'd love this area! Thanks much for the visit!

      Delete
  6. That looks like a lovely trail. Crete will be our next Greek destination, I hope.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Michael and Marlys, this trail has your names on it. Of course then there is the Samaria Gorge, and Imbros. . . .plan a week or two here. You'll want to walk them all! Thanks for stopping by today.

      Delete
  7. So beautiful!! I love soft hikes like this. :-) Those wildflowers are sheer magic. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Krista, you would have found such wonderful photo possibilities here, it would be fun to read a post you had written about this very spot! Thanks for the visit. xx Jackie

      Delete
  8. How gorgeous, Jackie! I can understand not wanting to break the silence. Those are the happiest looking goats I have seen in a long time :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Nancie, they were content goats. I had been a bit worried about disturbing them but they didn't give me a second glance. It was a lovely place to spend a Sunday morning!

      Delete
  9. Gorgeous! Crete is such a magical place, isn't it? We loved getting off the road and discovering Minoan villa ruins. Everything is scenic in Crete, I believe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh how nice to see a comment from you Vera Marie. I know you and I share a passion for all things Greece, Crete included. And I agree with you totally: everything is scenic on this wonderful island!

      Delete
  10. That is my kind of hike. It is funny that we have been in Turkey where there are lots of Greek ruins and you have been doing the opposite :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jan, I hadn't thought of it that way but yes you and I have been doing just a flip flop of travel back through history haven't we!? Take care and thanks for the visit~

      Delete
  11. Great looking hike, especially the nature and beautiful scenery.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a spectacular hike - and not at all a 'difficult' one. It is worth going to Loutro for the hike alone! Thanks much Rachel for your visit ~ hope to see you back again soon.

      Delete
  12. Beautiful photos and love the history lesson!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the note you two. . .I am learning much about the South Pacific from your posts. . .so keep 'em coming!

      Delete
  13. This is the type of hike I'd like to go on, Jackie. Wonderful scenery and all that history.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Such a beautiful post, Jackie. I love this sentence: "The area is laced with hiking trails that wind up stark hillsides and through lush gorges – leading through the island’s ages-old history."
    It sounds idyllic, the silence especially. Thanks for taking us along.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Jackie and Joel. Love it, because I guess I'm more of a stroll-er instead of a hike-r. And who doesn't love a stroll that has goats! Thanks for once again linking up with Weekend Travel Inspiration!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Yes,I thoroughly enjoyed this hike through history. I can easily understand why you were enchanted with this area of Crete. So much to capture the attention while getting some good exercise.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Jackie,

    I loved this post!! You so eloquently describe the serenity and tranquility of hiking in the wild, Cretan countryside, a countryside that happens to be right on the cliffs above such clear blue waters; it really is a magical place, this island that has entranced me! Thank you for describing it with such sensitivity and keen observation. I am among honey bees and tinkering bells, high, high above the world!

    Hope you got your birthday wish!!

    XOXO
    Poppy

    ReplyDelete

So happy to see you took the time to comment. We read them all - and each is much appreciated. We hope you will be a regular here and comment often!

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...