2008 Trip

Mt Psiloritis

On July 18 I will be walking with some friends guided by a very friendly, interesting Greek man, to the top of Crete's tallest mountain, in the light of the full moon to reach the summit at sunrise.

Want to join us?

From The Rough Guide to Crete:
"Lambros Papoutsakis conducts guided treks from Thronos to the peak of Mount Psiloritis. It's not a difficult climb, but you'll need sturdy footwear and a sleeping bag. The group starts out by Landrover in the early evening on the full moon to reach the starting point on the mountain. After a meal cooked in the open and ashort nap, the ascent begins in bright moonlight. The summit is reached at around dawn, and the sunrise is always spectacular: on clear days the mountain offers a breathtaking view of the whole island and its four seas spreading in all directions. The summit is marked by a shelter and the chapel of Timios Stavros, inside which Nikos Kazantzakis (Zorba the Greek author) famously claimed to have lost his virginity.

On the route down the hike takes in a visit to a goatherd's mitato (stone mountain hut) where you see and sample delicious cheese made on the spot.

If you want to stay in Thronos, go to Room Aravanes (0030 28330 22760). Its balconies have the best view in the village. The rooms are pleasant, there's a taverna on the ground floor and the outside yard is pressed into use for periodic big bouzouki gettogethers, with dozens of tables put out and fires lit for barbequing; keep an eye out for the posters, as these are well worth attending. Rooms Aravanes owner, Lambros, is a man of diverse-talents: besides constructing lyras, he is quite a player too, and also organizes herb-collecting rambles in the mountains (on which he's an expert), finds fossils and distils his own raki; in October the raki distilling season begins and you can make visits to the local stills to see the farmers brewing their potent firewater, as well as trying it out. In the first half of September, it's possible to take part in the village's grape harvest. The Arvanes has recently added a small school to its complex of buildings and this is used for classes in lyra, lauto and Cretan dance, as well as stone sculpture and Greek language classes. The classes are taught by local experts and cost around 10 per hour.

Thronos is in the Amari valley. Amari is one of those areas which features prominently in almost everything written about Crete - especially wartime resistance - yet which is hardly explored at all by modern visitors. Isolated hamlets subsist on the ubiquitous olive, with the occasional luxury of an orchard of cherries (especially around Yerakari), pears or figs, and throughout there are a startling number of richly frescoed churches. It's an environment conducive to slow exploration, with a climate noticeably cooler than the coast. In midsummer the trees, flowers and general greenery here make a stunning contrast to the rest of the island. In July and August especially, you may be lucky enough to stumble on a village festival in honour of the local saint, the harvest or some obscure historical event. Beginning in a distorted cacophony of overamplified Cretan music, lyra and lauto to the fore, the celebrations continue until the participants are sufficiently gorged on roast lamb and enlived by wine to egt down to the real business of dancing. Cretan dancing at an event such as this is an extraordinary display of athleticism and, as often as not, endurance - and if the party really takes off, locals will dig out their old guns and rattle off a few rounds into the sky to celebrate."

More Information

The Amari Valley
. Views from the Top of the Mountain:
  • Looking West from the Chapel
  • White Mountains
  • Kouloukonas Range with Dia Island

    Cronus sired several children by Rhea: Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon, but swallowed them all as soon as they were born, since he had learned from Gaia and Uranus that he was destined to be overcome by his own son as he had overthrown his own father- an oracle that Zeus was to hear and avert. But when Zeus was about to be born, Rhea sought Gaia to devise a plan to save him, so that Cronus would get his retribution for his acts against Uranus and his own children. Rhea gave birth to Zeus in Crete, handing Cronus a rock wrapped in swaddling clothes, which he promptly swallowed. Rhea hid Zeus in a cave on Mount Psiloritis in Crete.

    2005 - First Trip

    I'm going to Crete!

    Leaving Seattle makes me blue

    No frills flight:
    Better bring some marionberry cheesecake for breakfast.
    Oops. I left it in my fridge. A tiny packet of airplane pretzels would have to do.

    Quick stop in a modern impersonal JFK terminal before the overnight flight. Turns out NY was more impersonal than expected. I lost my favorite hat there and the airport personnel could care less. Fortunately, I cared about the same for NY. Time to go to Greece!!
    Athens knows the right way to improve an airport

    Airport to Ferry Port: Just five trains (so I can see the Acropolis)

    OK, so I spent more time at the Acropolis then planned so I took only 2 trains. Sue me.

    Good luck trying in Greece. This small boy and his dad were climbing up a very slick, steep hill at the Acropolis that had a simple warning sign about its nature. This was not fenced off by lawyers and insurance companies. Typically Greek. The Freedom to risk living life fully.

    Time to have a bite to eat at a sidewalk restaurant next to the ferry dock. No hurry getting your check. Greece means relaxed, like this restaurant owner.

    No man's an island.
    But Crete is. Guess I'll have to take the Ferry.

    Try to figure out the name of the Ferry company. Hint, it's not Vodofone. Perhaps Greek Ferry companies like NASCAR.

    Arriving in Crete