Crete is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean
Sea, and as most lands and nations of the world, there many idiosyncrasies
and differences between different areas. Crete is no exception.
west is a mountainous region, with deep gorges and forests which have snow
in the winter. The most notable cities are Xania and Rethymno, which are
both located next to the sea in the northern side of the island.
To the east the terrain is more rocky and wild.
Cliffs and high buffs are abundant, as well as high mountains and caves.
Notable cities are Agios Nikolaos and Sitia which are in the north east,
Zakros and Ierapetra which are in the south east. The majority of the
communities however are still in the multitude of villages that sprout up
everywhere, and their history stretches into antiquity.
Fact is that the west is much more condensed in
population, and has been concentrated on to much greater degree throughout
history by communities of people. The east has for the most part been left
alone and forgotten, and only in the past 100 years has it seen any changes.
Certain differences in views exist between the Eastern
and the Western inhabitants. The westerners are decisive that they are
the “true” Cretans while they believe that the easterners are more Turkish
than Greek. The easterners share the opposite view entirely, boasting
that they are most in touch with Cretan culture and keepers of the old ways
of Crete. Nobody can tell either side any different, for Cretans are
ferociously stubborn in their views!
Westerners are avid keepers of the Vendetta. The
Vendetta is a custom passed down to Crete from the Venetians when they were
occupying Crete. (“aha!” say the easterners. They are keeping a Venetian
custom so they are not true Cretans!) The Vendetta is the continued wars
between certain families. For example back in the 1700’s somebody stole a
donkey from one family, and the insult is never forgotten! Westerners
stoically keep their word and wouldn’t dream of going back on a promise.
The men are far from being “sensitive” and this creates a lot of “macho”
attitudes regarding almost anything. But this is no cause for alarm. No
real hatred exists between them in most cases, however they feel as if they
should prove their masculinity at all times.
Easterners are much more liberated and laid back.
No one can rush an Easterner! Everything has its pace and rhythm.
This can be frustrating to a visitor who is used to the pace of the modern
world. Something that would take an hour to take care of back home,
might even take a full day to accomplish in Crete! That is probably
another reason why the Cretans live to a nice ripe old age (aside from their
healthy diet and lifestyle,) they are blissfully free of set schedules and
stress related to work.
Easterners search for any
excuse to celebrate, and they have many festivals. The wine festival in
August (a custom that comes from the ancient days where the Cretans used to
pay homage to the Olympian God Dionysus), the Raki Making Festival in the
fall, the Kornaria (arts festival) named after their poet Vitzenzos Kornaros,
all summer long, and many other celebrations. One aspect that connects both
areas is the hospitality of the people and friendliness one discovers upon
Now between these two sides of Crete, lies the province
of Heraklion, in Central Crete. It remains neutral in views. This part of
Crete is much more industrious than the west or the east. Where the Eastern
and Western inhabitants are mostly farmers, fishermen, and shop owners,
central Crete is known to be more worldly and business oriented.There is
nowhere on Crete, however, that lacks historical significance.
The west boasts the Gorge of Samaria, the impressive
Venetian ports, and remains of a plethora of Islamic architecture.
Central Crete is proud of the awe inspiring Minoan city,
Knossos, out of which many legends and myths such as the Minotaur, and the
mighty hero Theseus who with the help of the king’s daughter prevailed
against the confusing and dangerous machinations of the famous Labyrinth.
Heraklion has much to offer in the way of entertainment and points of
The east is home to the king
of the Olympian Gods, Zeus. He is said to have been born in a cave up in
the Lassithi Mountains, in a cave that has up to today to have been explored
fully! Agios Nikolaos used to have a bottomless lake and they were quite
proud of it, until a man by the name of Jacques Kousto proved that there was
a bottom to their lake and also many tanks and leftover war machines that
were thrown in there from the Nazi’s! (All the junk has been since cleared
away, and the lake still gives the impression that it is bottomless, and
some say that there is a point at the bottom of the lake the connects to
Sitia is home to one of the
greatest poets of all time, Vitzenzos Kornaros. Kornaros lived in Sitia
during the Venetian rule in Crete in the late Renaissance. His most
significant work is the epic poem Erotocrito, which is said that
Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” was inspired from it. A few miles south of
Sitia lies the famous Itanos, the ancient Minoan city that sunk into the sea
during the eruption of Santorini’s volcano.
Next to Itanos is the most famous beach in all of Crete,
Bai. The largest palm tree forest in Europe opens up to a fascinating white
beach, and it attracts thousands of visitors every year.
Wherever you choose to go,
East, West, or Central Crete, it is assured you will find an abundance of
interesting people and traditions, Cretan hospitality and atmosphere!