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Week 2 on our Visit to Crete. Elounda

A Week in Elounda
We managed to get the car into the alley just by our house in Chania and packed it for our get away. We fired up the GPS and headed to the National Road. It’s just over 200 kilometers to Elounda in East Crete.

We planned to do a couple of stops along the way so we stopped in Bali for breakfast. It is a lovely looking village with most of it perched high up in the hills overlooking the sea. It seems to be an ideal place to stay but there are lots of hills which make it unsuitable for us.
For our second rest stop we looked for a beach near the Minoan Palace at Malia. Unfortunately, despite several prompts from my navigator, I missed the turn and ended up driving through the center of Malia. The streets are busy, very narrow with pedestrians wandering along, with one-way streets and heavy traffic. We stopped in Malia and had a lunch beside the beach. Just a side comment, a Gyros Pita is an outstanding snack/meal. Why is a Gyros plate with all the same ingredients so lackluster?
We followed the GPS and it took us along the coast right to Potamos Beach which is the one we were looking for in the first place. We just walked along the beach and discovered formations carved out of sandstone rock. Is it possible this was the quarry for the Minoan Palace?
We arrived in Elounda about 2 PM and followed the directions to our VRBO called The Bolthole. It is actually in Kato Elounda so it is high up over the town and the walk up is steep and on a very narrow lane. We had little trouble finding it, however, to our horror, we realized the instructions on getting the lock box open were missing from the correspondence. Fortunately, the next-door neighbour was working outside and he had the lock box code and let us in.

The balcony has a view over the town and out to sea. The town is not big but caters to an upscale tourist population from luxury resorts nearby.

We had a very enjoyable dinner on the harbour at Vritomartes Greek Cuisine, including lamb fricassee with artichokes and grilled veg. We were treated to an extra glass of wine. We ordered dessert – which included baklava and a plate of honey balls that could have fed 6 people! Then the raki! We had a lot of fun with the servers.

We were not certain of the difficulty or the lighting for our return walk to the apartment. We found a taxi and headed up towards Kato Elounda. When we described where we were going the taxi driver stopped and said there was no way he was driving into Kato Elounda. He pulled over and charged 5 euros. He had driven us about 200 meters. Worst 5 euros I have ever spent. We were able to walk back up and discovered it was well lit and not too steep after all.

We did not have the internet code because we did not have the instruction manual that was in the missing instructions. Fortunately, Lolly found a piece of paper under the microwave and there was the code. The location of The Bolthole is ideal with great views and we spent a lot of time sitting on the balcony admiring the town and the ocean below us.

Next morning, we wandered around Kato Elounda village. There are many renovated homes but sadly there were an equal number of derelict buildings. Personally, I am fascinated with abandoned buildings in Greece. There is an aura of mystery and sadness with these buildings. I find myself wondering about the stories of the people who are now gone.

In the afternoon we walked around Elounda, scouting tavernas we might want to try. We also bought some supplies. Later Lolly had a rest while I went to the beach.

We noted a taverna on the waterfront that had lamb roasting on a spit, so that made the decision where to have dinner very easy. We arrived at Ergospasio Cretan Cuisine just in time to get the last portion of the day’s fire roasted lamb with baked potato. We ordered smoked aubergine with chickpeas and walnuts, and a pureed beet salad as sides. Excellent

Posted by
2934 posts

Saw this good report on one of the other forums... as usual always enjoy your meal descriptions, and only get annoyed because they make me hungry for stuff I can't possibly get here -- smoked aubergine with chickpeas & walnuts for hevvins sake!! Have pity! BTW. so far, confirming my impressions that this is a favored place for people who are not that interested in archeology, Cretan history, or dramatic landscapes ... more emphasis on creature comforts. Perhaps reflects the interests of people who can visit Greece more quickly & frequently than you or me, and who thus regard it in somewhat the same light as Canadians & US residents view our southern states & the Caribbean... mainly as a place with lovely climate & nice beaches. No harm in that, just a difference.

Posted by
3611 posts

I echo Janet’s take on the wonderful food description. The cuisine, the beach, the views, the wine- what more could you ask for! Bookmarking again. Thank you for sharing this wonderful report!

Posted by
1949 posts

You and Beth are both confirming our impression that driving in Crete is not for the faint of heart. Admittedly there are places we won’t be able to see on our trip, using public transportation. But since we cannot rent a car there (due to too many birthdays) we will now be more content with our buses and taxis and will not bemoan the places we will have to miss.

I’m enjoying your descriptions of meals and of spending time scouting tavernas! What I wouldn’t give for a gyros pita right now.

Posted by
1871 posts

Charlene,
The bus system is really good in Crete so you will do well without a car.

We actually parked our car at Knossos and took the bus into Irakio for the afternoon. We just didn’t want to cope with driving any more.

Beth

Posted by
1045 posts

Bethe you are learning much faster than us. Getting around Crete is fairly easy with the KTEL buses. Driving will get you to many places you might not be able to get to but driving is a bit stressful. its bus only from now on for us.

Posted by
1871 posts

I think you said something about kissing the ground when you made it in one piece to Irakio. I decided the bus would have less drama. It was easy to catch the bus outside Knossos and it dropped us across the street from the archeological museum.

Posted by
1949 posts

Thanks for the reassurance about buses. We are getting so excited! And we really appreciate these trip reports.

Posted by
1045 posts

Elunda continued

The next day we took the car to find the Venetian era salt ponds and some windmills as well as one of the beaches across the bay. Unfortunately, the road to the beach was rocky and not in good shape. Our rental car contract prohibits us from off pavement driving so we parked the car and walked up the road and over the mountain to the beach. There are daily cruises to Spinalonga and this is the beach they stop at for picnics so we spend an hour or so with a boatload of young people swimming, sunning and being noisy.

The next morning, we read about a Monastery high up in the mountains behind Elounda. Apparently there is just one Monk still living there. The GPS told us it was just 7 Km away so we headed out to find it. The road switchbacked up the mountain side and the further we went the narrower the road became. Honestly two cars coming in opposite directions could not have had more than 6 inches of clearance. Add switchbacks and blind curves it was a harrowing drive. That was the longest 7 kilometers in my life. The GPS told us to turn right and we were on a rough gravel road. Again, we were not supposed to drive off the paved roads so we found a spot and parked. Then started to walk. Around the first curve we came to a goat farm with a wire gate across the road. Immediately two guard dogs began to howl and strained at their ropes. A man in military style clothing appeared and scowled at us, so we made another dignified exit and returned to the car.
The drive back down the switchback road fortunately was uneventful and both cars that we met were on straight away sections of the road.

After reflecting on this eventful day I informed Lolly that on our next trip we will use the bus to get around.

Another taverna we spotted on our scouting mission was called Rakomelo Cretan Cuisine. We had shepherd’s lamb in wine sauce, stuffed red peppers, and giant beans. It was early season and we were just about the last customers so they gave us a plate of Greek salad and dalmandes.

It is traditional for a host to provide after dinner desert and some Raki. Tonight, we received an extra glass of wine and raki and a great dessert. Manos, the owner, is a character and very entertaining. The walk back to our hotel was a bit steeper and wobbly than the previous night.

For dinner the next day we went to Poulis Traditional Greek Taverna. We had a huge meze plate with shaved fried zucchini. This taverna’s house wine was actually made by the owners father which was great.

When we first went to Greece, tavernas often served barrel wine. It was home made and they were so proud of it and delighted in sharing it with guests. It was not very good, often oxidized and we became quite adept at secretly disposing of it in plant pots, down drains over walls and in gardens.
The house wines that are served now are quite excellent.

Posted by
1871 posts

I loved the watering the plants with the wine!

I just posted under Trip Reports the last two days of our visit to Crete with our own driving mishaps which will reinforce decisions to take the bus!

Posted by
1045 posts

Last day in Elounda
Our last day in Elounda was a day trip to Spinalonga. Its an island that was fortified by the Venetians. Eventually the Turks took it over and ultimately the Greeks took it back. It is pretty remote. It however is famous as the Greek Government turned it into a leper colony. It was used from 1904 until a cure was found and the last person left in 1958. Initially the inhabitants were left to fend for themselves with food and medical supplies delivered by boat. Eventually Greece sent all of their infected people including people from Athens. Some of these newcomers were affluent and had friends in high places and they were able to make improvements including a hospital, better homes, school and Market place. People were married here and had children. It was a moving experience to visit and walk by the buildings and ending up at the graveyard.

Spinalonga https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72177720299808638

The last two evenings we went to the same taverna called Lotus Eater. It is owned by and Australian man and his Greek wife who take the orders and serve the tables. They are desperate for waiting staff but so far this season have not been able to hire additional staff. They do have a chef. It turns out the Chef is English and played hockey. He was a goaltender and his favourite NHL team is the Toronto Maple Leafs. I used to be a goaltender and my favourite team is the Maple Leafs. The chef came out after dinner and we had a few tears over a Raki drink. The Leafs were eliminated from the playoffs the night before.

Oh yes, we had Country sausage, Moroccan Lamb with rice the first night and fried zucchini, baked red peppers and slow cooked beef in an amazing sauce with a bonus half Leiter of wine on the house after dinner.

The red wine was excellent. The owner has a relationship with a winery from the Peloponnese who exclusively supplies the taverna.

Posted by
1949 posts

Once again, your photos are gorgeous and your dinners sound fabulous. I had wanted to include Elounda/Spinalonga in my trip, but I ran out of time. Crete has so much to see!

Posted by
3611 posts

Fascinating story about the history of Spinalonga. Working in the health industry for years this piqued my interest. With additional research I discovered the book “The Island” by Victoria Hislop. Sounds like a good read.

Your photos (as usual) captures the beauty & landscape of the area. Of course the description of the cuisine also adds to one’s senses. Thanks again!

Posted by
1045 posts

Thank you all for your words of encouragement. I too purchased Victoria Hislops book based on Spinalonga. While it is a fiction I believe descriptions of living on the island are fairly accurate.

This is probably our 8th visit to Crete. There is so much to see here Charlene. I think its a good plan to concentrate on one area and truly experience just that area. Most people are drawn back to Crete so there will be more opportunities to see more.

Posted by
1045 posts

Beth where exactly did you post your report. I can't seem to find it.

Posted by
2934 posts

just click on beth's name and up will come a list of her posts... the one woith her as TOpic author... and it's a great report!