3.Why go to Crete? Walk and Cycle in Crete

Why go to Crete? Walk and Cycle in Crete

Crete is one of the few places in Europe where you can walk along paths that take you over carpets of flowers through the day, swim in a warm sea on your return at the end of the afternoon and enjoy a good meal in a taverna in the evening. All in peace, tranquillity and complete safety.

Often as you walk you cannot avoid treading on the flowers that carpet the ground so thickly. Orchids and iris grow in profusion in natural rock gardens that would win the gold medal if they could be transported to the Chelsea Flower Show. You can cycle along small paved roads or mountain tracks all day without meeting another vehicle.

The Lamergeir, or bearded vulture, may be rare but we have frequently seen it soaring over the mountain ridges. One day we sat by a cliff edge eating our lunch and five bearded vultures drifted past in procession. We were so enthralled by their closeness that we did not move to photograph them. The sea eagle has flapped heavily past below us several times as we walked on the sea cliffs.

Golden Orioles add a splash of colour to the olive groves and often the only sound is bird song. Frogs and toads keep up a chorus where springs bubble out of the rocks and the flocks of sheep and goats take their own carillon music with them.

As you walk you stumble over ruins that may be 2000 years old, disturb pottery fragments under foot that may be 5000 years old and not a 'keep out' sign anywhere. Venetian arches and doorways are a feature of many of the mountain villages. Churches may be ancient Greek shrines or display the skill of Byzantine architects or the 20th century craftsman.

The Cretan people are friendly and although many are poor by western standards are proud of their independence and their traditions. Many of the walks have been made memorable by the hospitality offered us. I hope you will find the same but please do not abuse their generosity and do not outstay your welcome. An elderly villager who offers the walker a glass of wine and a cake would be offended if anything were offered in return other than gratitude and a little conversation.

Try to learn a little Greek before you go as this greatly increases the pleasure of such meetings.

It has always been a rewarding experience to walk or cycle in Crete. Your visit means prosperity for the Cretans as well as enjoyment for yourself. Please look after Crete. It is such a special island. Help keep it that way for its own children.

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