Stepping Back in Time: Agio Nikolous/ Kritsa/ Lato/ Malia

NOTE: My camera’s memory card glitched and we basically have no pictures from our trip until we hit Athens. I may try and find images online, just so you have a sense of what we saw/ are talking about. (And will credit if I do.) But keep that in mind as you read these next posts.

We woke up to another excellent (huge) breakfast from our host and then set off for a day of traveling back in time.

First stop Agio Nikolous, which I’d described in the book I made as: “. . . a medium-size town with a small-town feel, one that has lots to offer. You can walk and enjoy walking here, you have several distinct waterfronts – you can get to know it quickly and feel familiar with the place, like an old friend. The town has three faces to the sea: The Lake and port, Kitroplatia beach and the Marina. Its unique features start with the lake (“Voulismeni”), a folklore-inspiringly deep body of water which is connected to the sea by a narrow inlet. It is surrounded and overlooked by cafes and restaurants – a busy gathering place for local residents and visitors alike. The lake Voulismeni is where the goddesses Athena and Artemis bathed.”

We made our way there with no problem, parked in a tiny lot for 3eu, and walked up the hill to The Archaeological Museum, which I’d described as, “small, easy to navigate museum, exhibiting finds from the whole of Eastern Crete, like the early Minoan cemetery of Mochlos, the Zakros palace, Lato and Elounda.” Very much in our interests. . . but it was CLOSED. Not just for the day, but for two years while they renovate. Which was sort of funny, but also annoying, because I had checked all of the museum websites just a couple of weeks prior to make sure I had the right days for our itinerary.

We shrugged, walked down the hill and looked at the lake. Nice enough, but not as much a lake as a large pond. (Maybe 75m in diameter?) Way to early for a meal, and the town looked very …. touristy. Too much so for our tastes.

So, off to Kritsa we went! Kritsa is a traditional village with old houses and narrow streets on the Lassithi (Dikti) mountains. I had a lovely looking walk through the backstreets from a blog I’d found, complete with pictures. We were a little concerned when the parking lot had room for four tour buses, one of which was just leaving, but gamely pressed on.

We got completely lost. A LOT. Frustratingly so. And there were a ton of tourist-based shops, all selling the exact same ‘handmade’ goods. Ugh.

Feeling a little peckish, we had a meal at a local taverna. (It was fine, I had garlic pizza ’nuff said.) Imagine our surprise when — right through the square — came a veritable train of tourists being driven by a tractor. I mean, literally (http://www.littletraintours.gr/). We got the heck out.

image from crete-guide.info

And headed to Lato! “Ancient Lato is one of the most important city-states of Dorians in Crete, and is considered the most well-preserved city of the classical Hellenistic period. Built between two hills, in a strategic location, offers defensive coverage to the entire city. It is rumored that its name derived from Leto (Doric type of Lato), who was the mother of Apollo and Artemis.”

We arrived about 2pm, made sure we had water, and started to climb. And climb. And climb. This site was lovely, and tough to get to, although you won’t get lost. Just steep. We made it, and it was indeed lovely. Lato is a windswept saddle between two rugged and rocky peaks overlooking a deep blue bay far below and valleys filled with olive trees. All over this area ancient walls built of massive stones can be seen, some well-preserved, others crumbling, some excavated to their foundations, others barely sticking out of the ground between the roots of gnarled olive trees. It was incredible.

The locals call those trees ‘feral’ just in case you needed a different view of that word.

By the time we were done, we were DONE for the day. (We’d hoped to get to Ancient Malia, but it just wasn’t happening.) I was definitely struggling with the heat and sun and borderline not feeling well. So we headed home.

(Sep 7)

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