ΦΕΒΡΟΥΑΡΙΟΣ - February - 2007
February was a month of mixed weather. After a very dry January we have had rain on 12 days, sometimes torrential - even hail stones one day. There was a slight earthquake off North West Crete 4.8 on Richter scale on 3rd February but no damage was reported. When the weather was good we had a few trips out exploring.

Thursday, 1st February - sun, blue skies and 17C and breakfast on balcony.  We    

took a picnic and travelled along the National Road towards the west. We turned south just passed the Rodopos peninsula and headed for the village of Roka. This is about 6 kms from the coast. It is a lovely old village built into and beneath a massive rock with an attractive gorge at the side. We climbed up the hillside and explored the old village and Minoan ruins and had good views of the gorge. We spent quite a while in the warm sunshine in this friendly village. There were excellent view of Rodopos and the Kissamos Gulf to the north. We then travelled further south passing through several villages to a mountainous gorge area where we had our picnic. We wound our way back along the mountain roads near the Deliana Gorge and along the old road back towards Chania. Although this area is only a few kilometres from the National Road you can still see glimpses of traditional Cretan village life. 

The rock of Roka Village

Hillside with Minoan Ruins

Deserted House

Urn Holding Down Branches

Gorge at Roka

Roka Rock in the distance

February has been wild flower month.  When weather permitted we have been searching for orchids and other flowers. Some of the fields and hillsides are covered with anemones, daisies, irises and orchids. To date Roy has identified 15 different species of orchid. They are so varied and very attractive. Photos of these are on Roy's 'Flora' site. We have visited Aptera, Malaxa, Maheri, Xerosterni , Litsarda and Kefalas in the local area.

The rain has fallen as snow on the mountains. It was badly needed to provide for the vast demand for water as the tourist season approaches and more and more houses, hotels and apartments are built.  A recent addition near Kalives, to the west, at Kalami, is a large hotel with swimming pool. This has been built on the last remaining unspoilt beach used by many local people. This is easily seen from Aptera.

New Hotel on Kalami Beach near Kalives on Souda Bay

One day as we drove into Kalives we stopped to say hello to an elderly man tending his land just outside Stilos. It turned out that his name was Nikos and he lived on Akrotiri and this land was his 'garden'.  He insisted that we went with him to pick some oranges. The Stilos area was a place of resistance for the allied troops when the German forces took over the island.  Nikos had been a lad then.  He remembered the English soldiers sleeping under the trees in the olive groves. They also gave him chocolate. He also pointed out the large house just along the road which had been taken over by the German Commander.

Friday, 9th February - we had a text from friends Sue and Colin to say they would be at Agia Reservoir later that morning. We packed a picnic and joined them there for a few hours. It was warm and sunny and they enjoyed birdwatching. We were joined by a Greek/African man who enjoyed a long chat with us.

Saturday, 10th February - Alan and Margaret asked us to join them on a trip over to the south side of the island and then up to the Aradena Gorge. This is always a wonderful trip and the scenery breathtaking. It was 15C on the coast and 9C in the mountains. We stopped at the 'Precarious Cafe' on the road by the Imbros Gorge for some birdwatching. We then had coffee on the way up to the Aradena Gorge with fantastic views along the coast towards the east. As we approached the Gorge area we turned off the road, to the right, and followed a track into the mountains. We were rewarded by the sight of numerous Griffon vultures who were feeding on a carcass.  We had some of the best views ever of these huge birds. We then returned to the road and went on to the gorge, stopping to admire fields of anemones in every hue. Alan drove over the bridge spanning the Gorge and then we walked back over the wooden planks - looking through the gaps to the gorge way below. We drove further along the road to Agia Ioannis. We noticed the fir trees heavy with the huge nests of caterpillars. They only seemed to be hanging on one species of fir tree but there were hundred of them.

On our return we had a lovely meal at Alan and Margaret's home.  When we left at around 11.30 it was pouring with rain. Another great day out and we escaped the rain on our trip. Unfortunately, Roy had to use the memory card from my camera so I have no photos for this day.

Overnight on Saturday and into Sunday we had torrential rain with high winds but on Monday it was warm, 27C in the sun. We enjoyed local walks during the rest of the week - when it was not raining.

One afternoon we called in to see Jennifer and John at Kalamitzi. We enjoyed tea, biscuits and a chat while John kindly 'encapsulated' some posters for Roy. He hopes to display these at birdwatching sites with information of what may be seen in that location.

Friday, 16th February - began with sun but by 10am became dull and cooler. We then had storms and torrential rain. That evening we had been invited to the home of Bert and Koo from Belgium who live in Provarma.  Elfrieda and Hanse (from Austria) were also there.  We enjoyed a pleasant few hours drinking, eating and chatting.

Monday, 19th February - the weather had improved. We enjoyed a walk up in the hills behind Armeni. We then drove to Maheri Gorge, parked there and searched for flowers. Two Cretan men walked by and stopped to speak to us. One of them Dimitri (a teacher in Chania) invited us back to his home in Maheri (his home village) for a drink. This day was Clean Monday - the first day of Lent - leading up to Easter.

Traditionally, during the Lenten fasting (for those who adhere strictly to the rules of the fast) nothing containing blood or any dairy products are eaten on this day or until Easter Sunday. Family groups gather together for a feast of seafood, various salads  and special flat bread (lagana).

We arrived at Dimitri's house to find it full of relatives and friends. We were delighted to meet his wife, his father, family and friends. Children were outside trying to fly kites (this a tradition on Clean Monday). Dimitri had patiently restored the house over a period of years. It had been a store for olive oil and wine etc.  Eventually the roof caved in. Now it is beautiful inside with lovely original features, terracotta walls and golden wood. Over the door is a display of old items including a war time radio and his mother's iron (she had been a seamstress). The family had sheltered a wounded British soldier during the war.  He was hidden and nursed back to health until he was able to escape the island and go to Africa.

We had been invited for a drink but it turned into a feast. The spread of Clean Monday food was wonderful. Various types of seafood including kalamari, huge prawns, taramasalata, lentil puree, numerous salads, lagana bread with wine and tscouthia. We also had delicious home baked cakes.

Once more we had experienced the wonderful Cretan hospitality and really enjoyed the time we spent at Dimitri's home.

Wednesday, 21st February - was a lovely day 18C.  We had a call from Alan and Margaret asking if we would like to join them for a trip to Preveli beach on the south coast. Alan drove south stopping just before the Kourtaliotiko Gorge, driving up towards a small church on the left. We discovered lots of wild flowers there especially irises. We admired the views of the gorge before we continued through it to the south coast.  We headed for Palm Beach (Preveli) by quite a rough winding track (about 20 minutes drive) passing by the ancient (copy) of a Venetian bridge then going over a smaller, cobbled, Venetian bridge. We parked on the windy beach and enjoyed our picnic in hot sunshine. We then climbed the steps, carved in the rocks, to reach Palm Beach where the Kourtaliotiko Gorge reaches the sea. Looking back to the east the views were wonderful. Rounding the rock to the west we looked down on the sandy cove and palm trees of Palm Beach. Now, in winter, it is an idyllic location. There is a church in the cove which we passed as we walked to explore the 'jungle' area and palms. We retraced our steps and then drove back to the north coast - this time by the Kotsifou Gorge. Another lovely day out.

Down on Kourtaliotiko Gorge

Algerian Iris

Patchwork of Fields

Red Rock and Mountain View

Steps in rock to Palm Beach

Looking East from Preveli

Sandy Cove at Palm Beach

Church in Cove

River and Palm Trees

Thursday, 22nd February -
a pleasant day 15C so we decided on a trip westward to ancient Polyrinia.  We turned off the National Road at Kissamos towards Polyrinia
7 kms. inland. This had been a prosperous town down to and beyond Roman times. There are many Roman remains, wells, cisterns and other ruins scattered around the area. The old church, which you reach first on the climb to the to hilltop site, is now a mixture of Greek/Roman architecture probably built on the site of an ancient temple.  Passing the church we continued on the winding track to the hilltop via an avenue of olive trees with nets still in place to collect the olives. As we climbed we saw more and more wild flowers, snake head irises and other varieties. We reached the next more modern church with wonderful views all around and over to the coast, although there was some low cloud. We nearly reached the cross at the top of the hill but the going became rockier and steeper so we retraced our steps.  Another interesting excursion.

Church Ancient Polyrinia

Remains of Roman Cistern

'King' of his Castle

Rock on climb to top of hill

New Church near top

Path through Olive Grove

There were another 4 days when in rained in February. When it was bright we continued with local trips admiring the wildflowers as more seemed to appear every day. We look forward to more trips in the next few months.
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