Showing posts with label Hora Sfakia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hora Sfakia. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hora Sfakia: An Afternoon at Despina’s

Some of the best travel memories are those made from life’s simplest pleasures ~ like that afternoon at Despina’s on the waterfront in Hora Sfakia, Crete.

Hora Sfakia - Crete
Hora Sfakia, as I’ve told you in earlier posts, was a hub of activity in World War II, (click here for that post). These days this small quiet village on Crete’s southern shore is a stopping off place for hikers heading to or from the three nearby gorges: Samaria, Imbrios or Aradena. There are some people like us, who don’t hike, but simply adore the town and think a trip to Crete is incomplete without a visit here.

Because April's visit was our fourth here, we were looking forward to seeing folks we’ve gotten to know – or at least recognize – from our earlier visits.  Most of the shop keepers and restaurateurs call out greetings both to new-comers and ‘regulars’ like ourselves from their entryways in this pedestrian-friendly area of town.

One of the most welcoming is Despina the owner and operator of a small cafĂ© and patisserie along the waterfront here. . . she’s also the creator of those wonderful goodies in the display cases pictured above and below.

Despina’s has been open year-round here for 15 years..  In the high season (summer) she opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 11 p.m. then she goes to work making the new creations that will fill her shelves the following morning. (She admitted that often times she gets but a couple hours sleep each night during the height of the tourist season.)


The temptations that fill the refrigerated shelves usually include the likes of her cheese cakes and apple pie, chocolate souffle, tiramisu cheesecake, mocha amaretto and traditional Kataifi, a pastry that looks like shredded wheat, stuffed with nuts and drenched in honey.  During our recent visit, however, it was a lemon cake in an incredible lemon sauce – both made from fresh lemons that kept calling out each time we passed.


In past visits our will power has steered us past her cafe, with just a tingle of the sweet tooth. Sometimes we’ve had coffee there or a raki the local 'fire water' or two to end our evening’s pleasures. We’ve managed to resist the Sweet Siren.


Like many of the restaurants that line the waterfront in this small town, the kitchen and inside seating is separated from the ‘deck’ seating by a walkway/driveway.  While not many cars pass by, when they do, they are close – but that just adds to the ambiance of the experience.


But this time that lemon cake was too much to resist.  I’d like to have shown you how big a piece it was that we shared, but I barely remembered to pull out the camera before we had wolfed it away completely. . .


That is our  Foodie Tuesday tale this week for our linkup at Inside Journeys.  Hope you’ll join us Thursday when we “Target Tinos”. (Yep, you have to come back to figure that one out.) Thanks for the time you spent with us today~as always, it is appreciated.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Crete: A Road Trip to Remember

We’ve left our little ‘red wagon’ at the Athens airport, flown to Crete and picked up our new wheels. . .another teeny, tiny car, which, we’ve decided, is the best in which to travel the rural roads of Greece.  (And with gasoline nearly $8 a gallon – these teeny, tiny cars get great mileage.)

horasfakia2014 006

Our teeny tiny car came in handy today as we took one of our favorite road trips high up into the mountains behind the port town of  Chora Sfakia, where we are staying on Crete’s southern shore. We were headed to Anopoli, another small town, and then on to Aradena, a virtually abandoned township a couple of kilometers beyond it.  Come along for the ride, but buckle up – this isn’t for white knucklers:

horasfakia2014 029 

I took this photo at about midpoint of our journey, that’s our little town of Chora Sfakia towards the right side of the photo.  Because The Scout is also The Driver here (manual shift cars)  I had time to count the 38 turns, a mix of sharp hairpin spinners and to take photos of the animals that like to rest on those curves.

horasfakia2014 007

We were heading into the south coast’s rugged and beautiful interior country; a haven for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.

horasfakia2014 010

We limited our ‘hiking’ to a stroll through the olive groves that surround Anopoli,  – once such a bustling place that it minted its own coins – today, it  is a starting point for a number of hiking trips.  Two kilometers further down the narrow road we crossed the Vardinogiannis Bridge, a single span of wooden beams and steel frame some 138 meters, or 455 feet above the Aradena Gorge. Just wide enough for our teeny, tiny car!

horasfakia2014 015

Cars cross the bridge slowly, almost hesitantly, the majority are driven by tourists who venture here – either sightseeing or en route to do some hiking  into the gorge. The noise that reverberates throughout the area when a car crosses those beams sounds similar to a series of explosions re-echoing through the gorge.

horasfakia2014 016

The gorge is not only popular with hikers, but the bridge – according to the guidebooks – is a popular bungie jumping point – and holds the distinction of being the highest such point in Greece. (No thank you!)

horasfakia2014 019

Those two highlighted spots on the  right of the photo above are parts of the trail that leads into the gorge. I have to admit that once again we wish we had packed shoes suitable for hiking. . .as these gorges are far too inviting. (And for you ‘boomer’ travelers out there: a majority of the hikers we’ve seen here sport varying shades of gray or white hair so there really are no excuses for not hitting the trail!)

horasfakia2014 025

There’s a lone cafe to the side of the bridge and on its menu was “mountain tea with honey’. We’ve seen that in rural areas and finally gave in to curiosity. . .and now are hooked on this magnificent tea made from plants/herbs/flowers gathered from the upper reaches of the area’s White Mountains or Lefka Ori, It is served with a hearty dollop of locally made honey.

horasfakia2014 011
Crete's White Mountains

We’ll head a bit further west on this southern coast of Crete, overlooking the Libyan Sea when we hop the ferry on Friday to Loutro for Easter weekend. Sorry we’ve not had the time to tell you more about the places we’ve been but we are trying to keep you along in real time and we’ve been on the move for the last week.  I’ll fill in some of the gaps when we are back home and basking in the afterglow of the trip.

Hope you’ll stay with us as we move on after Easter to . . . well, we don’t know where we are going after the weekend.

horasfakia2014 012 
We’ve considered staying in Crete a bit longer, or heading to Thessoloniki in the north of Greece, or returning to The Mani or to Poros Island or perhaps Mykonos and Santorini. . . or perhaps, Egypt. No joke.  We are ‘sort of’ in the neighborhood . . .and we’d still have time for a few nights in Istanbul.

We don’t know where we are going.  If you are up for the suspense of traveling where the winds blow us, stay with us!

Map picture
Linking up today with Budget Travelers Sandbox, Travel Photo Thursday.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Travel: It is not about ‘What you saw. . .’

January is that time of year when travel bloggers tend to write of their previous year’s journeys and start verbalizing their plans for upcoming adventures. 

It is a time for us to put into words the daydreams that will ultimately lead to new travel plans. Yet, moving to the next adventure can’t really be done without a backward glance or two. . . and a bit of introspection. 

This last year we were again reminded that travel isn’t so much about ‘what you saw’ but ‘how you’ve changed’ as a result of your experiences. 

Solstice2013BFuji 180
Musician in Pape'eti, Tahiti with traditional Maori body tattoos
Travel can rock your established, comfortable – albeit, routine – world, just by the smallest unforgettable glimpse of a new culture or land as did our brief series of stops in French Polynesia.

Solstice2013BFuji 267
A dining experience not to miss in Pape'ete, Tahiti

Once you’ve experienced the ‘different’ - smells, colors, people, food, music, religion, culture – you find that upon your return home you are different as well . . .

You’ve been reminded of  your insignificance as you sail across vast stretches of ocean. . .

Solstice2013BFuji 116
Setting Sail from Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Your mind has been exercised.  Stretching just a bit further each time you travel keeps the brain questing for even more adventure and stimulation. . .

Sfakia2Amster2013 029
A view of Chora Sfakia, Crete
Your soul has basked in the beauty of remoteness.  . .

Solstice2013BFuji 245
Tahiti, French Polynesia

You’ve experienced worlds that once you had only imagined. . .

NZeaAustLF2013 003
Auckland, New Zealand
And after you’ve been home a few days that unmistakable restlessness starts prickling your senses.  You no longer question whether you travel too much and you know it is time to start putting those daydreams into action. . .

Solstice2013BFuji 237
Tahiti's Black Sand Beaches 

Where will your adventures take you this year?  How has travel changed you?  We look forward to reading your thoughts and plans. Tell us by adding a comment below or send us an email! 

Our wishes for Happy Travels and Happy New Year!

We are linking up with:
Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday
The Tablescrapers’ Oh The Places I have Been

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Crete: A Tiny ‘Ferry” Tale About A Sunday Sail

The Place: The Libyan Sea. . .
The Backdrop: . . .blue sky . . .blue sea. . .
The Time: . . .a laid-back Sunday afternoon. . .

That’s the setting for this week’s Greek ‘ferry’ tale - the tale of a trip from one of the tiniest villages on the southern coast of Crete to another tiniest of villages . . .

Sfakia2Amster2013 151

Both of the villages we traveled between in this ‘ferry’ tale are accessible by boat or on foot. We opted for the easier option and traveled on the sea.

The Libyan Sea, as a matter of fact, is the sea on which we sailed. It is the rather exotic sounding  portion of the Mediterranean Sea, that lies north of the African coast (eastern Libya and western Egypt) and the southern coast of Crete.

It is the same sea that St. Paul is believed to have sailed (landing somewhere in between the two villages – a place still marked by a small chapel and spring.)

Sfakia2Amster2013 063

Our trip between two tiny villages was aboard one of the tiniest of Greek ferries, the Neptune.

We left Loutro on a warm spring Sunday afternoon. It was that time just after mid-day when the intensity of the heat has slowed the pace to near standstill. The only things stirring are the ferries that serve the villages and those who, like us, were waiting to board them.

Sfakia2Amster2013 149

On this small ferry we shared deck space with the supplies and every seat guaranteed a non-obstructed view.

Sfakia2Amster2013 155

Our journey of an hour and a half took us along a section of Crete’s rugged, uninhabited southern coast.

Sfakia2Amster2013 154

Sfakia2Amster2013 207

It also allowed us to look back on a route we’ve walked so many times that links Loutro to Phoenix, an even smaller hamlet on the coast. How interesting it was to see our pathway from the sea and the little chapel where we’ve so often stopped to rest – a quiet place disturbed only by the sound of distant goat bells.

Sfakia2Amster2013 204

For miles the coastline entertained us with its peaks and valleys and then off in the distance we caught a glimpse of our destination:

Sfakia2Amster2013 200

We docked next to the larger ferry that alternates with our small boat, serving the small towns on this route and we set out to explore.  Where had we landed?

Sfakia2Amster2013 163

Well, you’ll just have to come back next Thursday and we’ll give you a walking tour of Agia Roumeli and part of Crete’s famous Samaria Gorge.

If You Go: 

Loutro and Agia Roumeli are on Crete's southwestern coast.  We traveled by car to Hora Sfakia, parking there and catching the ferry to explore these villages.

Map picture

That’s it for Travel Photo Thursday, so head over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for a bit more armchair travel! If you’ve not signed up to receive our posts regularly or haven’t added your photo to the Google friend section (both on the right hand column) we hope you’ll do so today. Happy Travels ~

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Heaven ‘Scent’: Our Greek Orange Odyssey

Sometimes it was soft;  a feather tickling our noses with a hint of sweetness. . .
illusive and fleeting. . .
Sometimes the air was thick with the heavenly scent of 
~ orange blossoms ~

GreecePt12013 072

When we planned our Greek travels we didn’t realize that both  our destinations - the Peloponnese and Crete -- are two of the country’s major orange producing areas.  Greece, in fact,  is the European Union’s third largest orange producer, just behind Spain and Italy, respectively, and just above Portugal and Cyprus.

GreecePt12013 049Our Orange Odyssey began with the first whiff of the tiny, but pungent, blossoms on the island of Poros, a stone’s throw from the  Peloponnese. 

The Odyssey sent all our our senses into overdrive.  We saw, smelled, touched, and tasted oranges; from those tiny little white blossoms to the end product. (We drank orange juice by the gallons it seemed, sometimes each glass seemed gallon sized.)

GreecePt12013 065

Born and raised in Pacific Northwest agricultural areas, we are conditioned to think of fruit harvest as taking place in the fall.  In Greece, we learned, Valencia, the thin-skinned ‘summer orange’  is harvested between February and October with peak harvest falling in May – July. 

GreecePt12013 134While in Nafplion, that Venetian-style city in the Peloponnese, we bought a bag – filled with a dozen oranges for one euro ($1.30US) – from the display pictured below – one of many at the city’s  street market.

GreecePt12013 139

As we wound our way up and down, over and under the Peloponnese hillsides, we  traveled through the Laconia prefecture’s Evrotas River valley – one of the largest citrus growing regions in Greece.  Here we rolled down the car windows so we could enjoy the area’s aromatherapy.

PicMonkey Collage

Pt1Crete2013 083We continued our Orange Odyssey in Crete, where we restocked our citrus supply from this selection at Elounda’s street market.

Pt1Crete2013 149Elounda, on Crete’s northeastern shore, is where we spent several days revisiting favorite places. We ‘deck dined’  at our studio apartment feasting on breakfasts of Greek honey, fresh strawberries, home-canned cherries and, of course, oranges.

Pt1Crete2013 125

Sfakia2Amster2013 010In Hora Sfakia, on Crete’s southwestern coast, we watched the orange vendor as he parked his truck, announcing his arrival and product for sale using the horn mounted  on the cab.

Sfakia2Amster2013 011

His oranges were likely the ones that the owners of nearby Delfini’s Restaurant used in their display to lure tourists and visiting hikers – it worked on us each day of our stay.

Sfakia2Amster2013 047

That is our contribution to Travel Photo Thursday, an armchair travel event hosted by Budget Traveler’s Sandbox each week.  Head over there and take a few more trips  today. GreecePt12013 072 

Nancie McKinnon, a Canadian, who created both the BTS blog and the weekly photo event, lives and works in South Korea. . .she’s heading home to Halifax next week for a visit.

And guess what? 

She and I will meet for the first time ‘out of the blogosphere’ on Monday and you’ll never guess where. . .come back next week and I'll tell you!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

That Easter in Greece ~

We may never experience another Easter like the one in Greece. . .

Sfakia2Amster2013 046Greek Orthodox Easter is considered more important there than Christmas. We were fortunate this year to be in Crete and experience first-hand Easter Sunday, May 5th.

As with any holiday, decorations and preparations were the prelude to the event. This Easter wreath decorated a restaurant entry in Chora Sfakia, the small harbor town on Crete’s southwestern coast where we spent part of Easter Week.

Holy Thursday – Megali Pempti

Sfakia2Amster2013 040

In the early evening, as we walked past our favorite bakery, run by our friend Niki and her husband, in Chora Sfakia, she invited us in to see the production of Kalitsounia, the special cheese pies made for Easter. 

Sfakia2Amster2013 044
Her mom, pictured with her above, was taking the lead on the baking. Her sister, on the right, was also called into duty.

Sfakia2Amster2013 060We were honored by getting to sample some from the first batch out of the oven.

(I must tell you – this was one of the highlights of the trip!)

Holy Friday – Megali Parskievi

In the early afternoon, not long after we disembarked the ferry that  - in 30 minutes - had taken us further west along the coast to the small village of Loutro ; the place we would celebrate Easter, we couldn't help but notice that ‘Judas’ had been strung up on the beach awaiting his Saturday night fate.

Sfakia2Amster2013 066

As we sipped a libation late Friday night at one of the waterfront cafes, the sound of chanting alerted us to an approaching  processional.

Sfakia2Amster2013 084

Led by the priest, along Loutro’s ‘main street’, (a sidewalk bisecting  the waterfront businesses and cafes), a flower covered  Kouvouklion, representing Christ’s tomb, was carried to the ferry landing where additional prayers were said before it was carried back to the church.

Among the Easter traditions. . .

Sfakia2Amster2013 167Easter eggs are dyed a deep rich red, signifying the blood of Christ, most are plain but this basket’s eggs had religious images on them).
They weren’t made of chocolate nor were they hidden as part of a children’s game – they were eaten as part of the traditional Easter feasts on Saturday night and Sunday.

Holy Saturday – Megali Savato

The traditional Easter feast features roast lamb. And by late afternoon  Saturday the air was thick throughout the village with the smell of wild thyme and oregano-scented roasting meat being prepared for the late night feasting that would take place at every restaurant. (The front skewer is filled with pork, peppers and onions.)

Sfakia2Amster2013 119

Sfakia2Amster2013 111Judas was hanging not far from the church, where the Saturday‘midnight’ (actual time 9:15 p.m.) service was held.

At the conclusion of the service, the bell clanged repeatedly as its rope was pulled, announcing the Priest’s proclamation: “CHRISTOS ANESTI!” (Christ is Risen!).

Then, in a scene much like a New Year’s Eve, the jubilant people filling the church and its courtyard began hugging and kissing, fireworks echoed across the bay, and candles were lit for the processional to the beach.

And then Judas burned.

Sfakia2Amster2013 137

Flames shot high in the sky and the crowd fell back as embers, like fireworks began falling.

Sfakia2Amster2013 140

We stood spellbound watching until the flames died and it was time to feast.

You might think this Easter story ended there. Ah, but, not so fast. . .


En route home, we spent a day and a half in Athens. Last Friday morning during a short walk near our hotel we happened upon a picturesque old church.

Sfakia2Amster2013 476Entering, we found ourselves with three priests and another gentleman, (a church deacon or senior warden type, perhaps.)

It quickly became apparent that he had been asked to take the priests’ photo. Even more quickly, it became apparent that he wasn’t quite sure how to use the digital camera he’d been handed. 

So, I did what any shutter bug would do: I offered to take the photos. 

By then, their camera battery needed to be changed and while we waited, the younger of the three clergy, who spoke perfect English, explained to us that the week following Easter was still considered Easter Week – the Easter service was performed each day from Easter Sunday until the following Saturday. 

He told us about the church and its history – its murals dating back to 1100.  Then ‘the photo shoot’ began;  I took group shots and individual shots.  I took a quick one with my camera as well:

Sfakia2Amster2013 479

“Thank you,” the young priest said as we finished.  Then, as we were leaving, he called out,

“God Bless You! Christ has Risen!”

Yes, as I said, we may never experience an Easter like that one in Greece. . .

Map picture

This is our contribution to Budget Traveler’s Sandbox, Travel Photo Thursday.  Head over there for more photos and come back to TravelnWrite for a few more Greek tales. . .


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...