Friday, July 8, 2011

Kourtaliotiko Faraggi and Preveli Faraggi (Gorge)

Κουρταλιώτικο φαράγγι

The entrance to the gorge is Gorge is located on the south side of Crete, in the Rethymnon Prefecture. The lower part of the gorge is also know as the Preveli Gorge because it ends at the Preveli palm forest and beach. south of Koxare, which is about 23 kilometers south of Rethymnon. There are steps leading down to a small church situated within the gorge. There is a paved path that you can walk on and enjoy the view of the river and the small waterfalls, but the paved path does not continue through the entire gorge.

Crossing the gorge is not recommended without a group, or at least without an experienced guide. Most of the trek is through the river, and at times the water can reach your shoulders. When the river is high, some parts are too dangerous to cross and an experienced guide will know which spots need to be avoided, and where to take a detour. Also, crossing this gorge requires a great deal of teamwork, especially in the lower section. In addition, there is no bus or taxi service from any entrance or exit point of the gorge, and you can’t just walk back up the way you came- the river will push you the other way. A tour group will have a bus waiting at the other end to pick you up.

If you are going to cross the gorge, keep the following in mind:

You are going to become completely soaked. I purchased a dry sack before the trip, and it was invaluable! I stuck it inside of my backpack, which of course was dripping wet at the end, and everything inside stayed completely dry.

Wear good hiking or tennis shoes, but keep in mind that these will be soaked by the end of your trip.

Also, if you are going to bring a camera (which you should) it MUST be a waterproof one- and you should make sure that it is on a cord that you can wear around your neck because you will need both hands free throughout most of your journey. Some things that should go inside your dry sack include a change of clothes and shoes, a beach towel (for the beach afterward), a bathing suit (if you are not already wearing one), sunscreen, and some snacks.

You should also make sure to have a bottle of water with you- while you are in a river, I’m not sure the water is safe to drink.

Another option for visiting the gorge (without having to wade through the river) is to take a boat from Plakia or Agia Galini to Preveli Beach. From the beach you can walk through the palm forest and into the lower part of the gorge on the path beside the river. The river winds through the beach and ends up in the Libyan Sea. Make sure you come prepared with plenty of sunscreen and a beach umbrella since you will most likely spend the entire day there. Typically the boats drop visitors off in the morning and then return around 5:00 P.M. to pick them up. There is a small snack bar on the beach if you choose not to bring a lunch.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Richtis Gorge

Richtis Gorge is located between Agios Nikolaos and Sitia in northeast Crete. The landscape inside the gorge is so diverse- it feels as though you are walking through a mix of coniferous forest, deciduous forest, and jungle! The highlight of this gorge is the 15 meter waterfall. If you decide to cross the gorge, you will need to wear shoes with good treads- waterproof hiking shoes would be ideal because you will be walking through some streams, but we walked in our tennis shoes and did just fine, although our shoes were completely soaked. You will also need a bathing suit and towel if you are going to swim beneath the waterfall.

You can access the gorge through the top entrance which is just east of Exo Mouliana, or through the entrance at Richtis Beach. Whichever way you go, keep in mind that you will have to hike back the same way you came. There is no public transportation or taxi service to and from the beach entrance.

The top entrance is easy to find- Just after you exit Exo Mouliana, going east toward Sitia, you will see a sign on your left and a parking area. You can park here, but it is quite a walk to the entrance of the gorge. The small paved road that starts at the parking area goes all the way to the entrance. Follow it all the way down, and when you get to the fork in the road take the one on the left. Eventually you will get to an old stone bridge, and there is a clearing to the left of it where you can park your car.

The trail is fairly easy, but there are a few tricky spots where you have to climb over some large boulders. You will also be walking through some streams filled with tadpoles, and over some rocks covered with frogs, so take care not to step on them! The hike to the waterfall from the top entrance of the gorge takes at least one and a half hours.

The hike to the waterfall from the beach entrance takes only about half an hour. The path is just as beautiful, but the drive down to the beach is quite scary if you are afraid of heights. The road to Richtis Beach starts in Exo Mouliana. You will see a sign pointing to the road as you drive through. If you get from one end of the village to the other without seeing it, you have missed the road, so just turn back around. The road down to the beach is very long- I have no idea how many kilometers, you will wind through olive tree farms for quite a while before driving along the cliffs which go down to the beach. Be very careful as you drive on the road here, and honk your horn as you go around turns so cars coming the other way can see you- the road is very narrow and there are no guard rails. As you near the beach you will see the clearly marked bottom entrance of the gorge. You can park your car here and then follow the path. This walk is not only shorter, but it is much easier, with no boulders to maneuver around.

Once you reach the waterfall you can take a swim, and there is a picnic table where you can eat and rest.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Milonas Gorge

The Gorge of Milonas is located east of Ierapetra, north of the village of Ferma. It is not a very well-know gorge, and it is tricky to find. The few websites that describe the gorge do not give very accurate information on how to access the gorge.

When we set out for our excursion, we figured that once we got close to the gorge, we would be able to ask one of the locals for exact directions. We stopped at the very first supermarket inside of Ferma and asked for directions. The owners told us that they had no idea, but they knew that the path had been cleared the day before, and they offered to call someone who might know. The woman who they called did not know, but then she offered to call someone else for us and then call us back! When she called back, she told us that the president and vice president of the local cultural association were actually taking a couple of photographers from a travel magazine through the gorge, and would take us with them!

They sent us down the road to the president’s mother’s café to wait. She treated us to drinks while we waited, and then Manolis, the president, came along and picked us up. From there we went just west of the village, and took the first dirt road on the right. After driving up the road for a few miles we came to a spot where you can turn off and park your car instead of continuing up the mountain. From there we could see the beginning of the path into the gorge.

The path is relatively easy to walk, although there are some slippery parts, especially where the dirt is loose. After about 10-15 minutes of walking on the dirt path, we came to some stone water ditches that were built in the 1960’s to carry water from the waterfall. Walking along these was easy, except for a couple spots where small cliffs jutted out. Manolis brought a small ladder so that we could climb down, around, and back up onto the path.

From the start of the path, it took less than 30 minutes to get to the waterfall. Once we arrived, Nikos, the vice-president brought out tsikouthia, orange juice, and fruit and we relaxed and chatted beside the waterfall.

The waterfall forms a small pool which is perfect for taking a dip on a hot day.

Afterward, we returned to the café- I believe it was called Katerina’s. There we were treated to coffee, more tsikouthia, and very tasty cheese pies with honey. I highly recommend stopping here for a bite to eat- in addition to having delicious food, the owners were so warm and friendly and made us feel so welcome!

Manolis and Nikos are working to make the gorge and waterfall more accessible to visitors. They plan to post signs marking the entrance to the gorge. It is a very pleasant walk and the waterfall is absolutely beautiful. If you are ever down in the Ierapetra or Markigialos area, it is definitely worth it to visit Milonas Gorge.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sarakina Gorge

Sarakina Gorge - Entrance

If you are the adventurous type, consider taking a day trip to Sarakina Gorge, which is on the south side of the island, near Ierapetra.

Prepare to take your shoes off to walk through pools of water.
The hike through Sarakina Gorge is difficult at times- it requires climbing over many boulders, and at one point, using a leather strap as a rope swing to propel yourself across a small cliff.

To get to Sarakina Gorge from Hersonissos, take the National Road east, past Agios Nikolaos. Follow this road until you see the signs for Ierapetra. The road to Ierapetra is hard to miss- it is the only main road heading south from that area. Once you reach Ierapetra, follow the signs pointing toward Myrtos, which is three or four villages to the west of Ierapetra. Once in Myrtos, you will take the first main road to the right toward Mithi. After a few minutes you will see a road off to the right with a sign pointing you toward Mithi. Just past the center of the village, you will take a right (there may not be a sign for Sarakina Gorge clearly visible here, but Mithi is tiny, and there is only one road that you can turn right on). From here you will follow the road downhill until you get to a bridge- on the left side of the bridge there is a water treatment plant and a paved parking area. This is the start of Sarakina Gorge. (There is also a small taverna here, but when we visited in June, 2010, it was not open.)

The hike through Sarakina Gorge is difficult at times- it requires climbing over many boulders.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Manolis' Workshop

Today we visited Dad's friend Manolis at his workshop. Manolis makes high quality brass cast sculptures, and my dad is one of his wholesale customers.

Mr. Manolis and his wife welcomed us with great cheer, and I quickly saw that this is a man who loves his work. When he found out that I have a degree in sculpture, he proudly showed me around the shop and explained the casting process. From what I understood (my Greek is still limited) it's as follows:

First, a prototype is commissioned, carved from soapstone; this piece is very detailed, but it is fragile if dropped!
The prototype is laid into a bed of sand, removed, and the molten brass is poured into the depression. This is done for both front and back, and then the two pieces are joined. Then, the edges have to be cleaned and the piece gets sanded and polished. This first casting then becomes the working prototype, and the stone version is put safely away.

Every step of this process is handled with great care-- casting is really not a process to try to undertake unless you are meticulous-- and there is a lot of work involved even after the casting step is complete.

While I've made molds out of plaster and latex, I've never seen one made of sand, and I was grateful to see the process. The amount of detail retained by the sand impression is amazing, and the cast sculptures are beautiful, even more so after Manolis finishes them with an acid oxidation process, adding mottled green and black and brown tones, and finishing with a wax process to make the piece smooth like glass.

After showing me the process, Manolis threw one of the statues on the concrete floor and I startled, but he laughed saying that they never break once cast in brass-- if you burried one today you could dig it up a thousand years from now and it'd be the same. The same for the patina; the color is fast.

Of course, I can't help but entertain the idea of immortalizing one of my own sculptures in bronze... and I am grinning because Manolis has promised to demonstrate casting on one of our next visits!

Here is Manolis at his workbench, buffing away the patina on this sculpture so that the shiny brass surface shows through.


Two large brass helmets with a black patina; they will have more work done to the patina and then they will be polished with wax.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Home at Last

A week ago today I was frantically trying to get to my home town in Ohio, from a wedding three hours away in Michigan, after my car broke down on the way. I had a flight the next day, you see, and I was already going to be getting very little sleep, even without car troubles.
Let's say, hilarity ensued. I got where I needed to get, didn't I? Let's leave it at that and forget it all. Because right now I am sitting with my dad on our porch in Hersonissos, Crete-- my real home town-- and enjoying the clean dry air, and the smell of good food from the restaurant below us, and a glass of Cretan Raki.
I'm going to have a lot to write-- already the things I could tell you! But right now, I just want to relax, and enjoy being home for the first time in six years.

Monday, February 22, 2010

About Hersonissos

Prior to 1975 Hersonissos was a tiny village populated by a handful of fishermen and farmers. Today Hersonissos and the nearby villages of Koutouloufari, Piskopiano and Old Hersonissos are the most sought after vacation destinations of the island of Crete.

Hersonissos (Greek for Peninsula) is also called Limani or Limin Hersonissou to distinguish it from the village of Old (or Upper) Hersonissos, which is just a couple of miles away. Limani (or Limin) means harbor, and the name refers to the small harbor that used to shelter local fishing boats and boats that were used to transport local produce to other cities.

During the off-season, Hersonissos has a population of approximately 3000; however, the population increases greatly during the tourist season, when seasonal workers come to work at hotels and other local businesses.
Because of its location in the middle of the Island, about 25 kilometers east of Heraklion and about the same distance west of Aghios Nikolaos, Hersonissos is the ideal place to use as a base to explore the island.

How to get to Hersonissos
If you take the Ferry from Piraeus to Heraklion you can reach Hersonissos by bus. The bus station is about a 5 minute walk from the pier, and there is a bus every 15 minutes during the summer. In the wintertime the busses run less frequently. You can buy your ticket at the bus station or on the bus. The ride is about 30 to 45 minutes long depending on the rout and the stops.
Alternately you can hire a cab or rent a car. The majority of the taxi drivers are honest, hard working people but ask the driver what the fare is going to be so you know what you are going to be paying beforehand.
Another option is to rent a car. Inside the bus terminal there is a tourist information center where you can get information on car rentals.
If you arrive in Heraklion by plane, there is a bus stop just outside the airport. You don’t need to worry about buying a ticket beforehand, as you can buy one on the bus.
Again, you can also take a cab or rent a car from one of the booths at the airport. It's easy to find your way to Hersonissos, and the rent-a-car office will provide you with a map and directions.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A visit to Milatos Cave

About 15 kilometers from Hersonissos, in the Kastellos Mountain, is the historical cave of Milatos, a site known best for the tragic events that took place there during the Turkish occupation.

On the third of February, 1823, over 2,000 villagers (some sources say there were as many as 3,500 villagers), only

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Walking Imbross Gorge

Crete is home to many gorges, most of which can be hiked. Samaria Gorge, the longest in Europe (16 km) is no doubt the most challenging gorge to walk. A shorter, less challenging alternative is Imbros Gorge, which runs parallel to Samaria. Following the Battle of Crete during World War II, thousands of Allied troops walked through Imbros gorge to reach Hora Sfakion, where they were evacuated to Egypt.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Trip to Agia Galini and Agio Pavlo

The village of Agia Galini, located on Crete's south coast can be reached in about 2 hours by car from Hersonissos. It is from a cave in this seaside village that, according to Greek Mythology, Icarus and Daedalus took flight to escape from King Minos.