On the occasion of our stay in Crete by marriage of our Romanian friends, Stelios proposed to guide us to an area of the island that he likes a lot, as it features one of his favorite routes: the mountain roads of Mt Psyloritis... The motorcycle company that participated was not big. However, it was consisted of Romanians and Greeks. In any case, the place we visited was unknown for all of us!
Early on, we started from the village of Kalyves followed the national road to the city of Rethymnon (40 km). For the most part it followed the coastline. Passing from the ring road of the city of Rethymnon, we enjoyed from above-though fleeting-the view of the largest city of the prefecture and-especially-the old part, the castle and the picturesque harbor.
Continuing to the national road to Heraklion for about 10km., we met the village Stavromenos where we turned right, following-essentially the old national road from Rethymnon to Heraklion. For 10-15km., we drove in a relatively narrow road, which crossed rural areas and small villages to the main village Perama. There we followed the signs to Anogia (27km).
The road began to climb altitude towards the mountains of Psyloriti. The mountain of Psiloriti or else "Idy" is the highest mountain in Crete. It has 5 peaks that exceed 2000m altitude. Continuing for one part of the journey, we were moving to one side of the stream with lush vegetation and then the vegetation began to decrease, the landscape becomes increasingly dry and wild.
Having traveled about 25km., we were found in the "famous" village of Anogia. It has a rich history, both for its patriotism against any invader found before it, and for the artists who came from there, leading Nikos Xylouris. Its name "Anogia" comes from "above" + "earth", due to the location in which it is built.
We headed toward the center of the village and we decided to make a short stop for coffee at one of the quaint cafes in the square. Although tourism has influence enough, the village is trying to maintain its traditional character. What becomes immediately apparent-especially for non-Cretans visitors is diversity of residents. The local dialect has been preserved almost unchanged over time, including these days, verses words of ancient Greek. The Pronunciation is heavy and straight, show characteristic, in particular, the "l" and "p." Maybe it's one of the few places that you can meet most Cretans in traditional costumes to drink coffee at the cafe, making you believe that this is several years back in the past!
We left the beautiful Anogia to "climb" even above, following signs for "Ideon Andron". The sinuous road originally crossed the plateau of Nida and then climbed altitude, offering a unique view of the area. This plateau is one of the key attractions of Psyloritis. It was formed by the dissolution of carbonate rocks in the area of the rainwater. In the wider region caused many geological changes, culminating give this stunning terrain that exists nowadays.
As we drove, the more impressive landscape, which now had begun to look like Lunar: Rocky and vegetation almost nonexistent! After a few kilometers, it seemed from afar a large aperture (hole) on the opposite side of the mountain, "Ideon Antron". We headed there... The road ended in an abandoned stone house, which-as Stelios told us- was an "effort" tourist development of the region... as certain and non-existent, despite being "shot" sign-ski resort!
From there and beyond, for about 500m., it began a relatively passable dirt road that led to the entrance of "Spiliaria tis voskopoulas", as otherwise called Ideon Antron. It is a grand opening of the mountain, which is the beginning of a cave. It is known from antiquity. In Greek mythology, the cave is connected with the birth and upbringing of Zeus. According to legend, at this place, Rhea gave birth and hid Zeus in an attempt to protect him from his father, Cronus. The goat Amalthea nourished the baby's milk, while younger Kourytes causing noise with their shields to cover its crying.
The cave is easily demountable and the admission is free to the public. It is truly impressive with its size, but mainly to the legend that surrounds... Some spots are home to lots of stalactites!
We return to the paved road and heading for Anogia-after a few kilometers -we were to a junction, where a small sign showing “Asteroskopio – Skinakas“. We turn right and driving on a narrow path with constant turns we climbed to 1.750m, where was the observatory of the university.
As it was expected, the view was unique! You could distinguish Heraklion, Rethymnon, the peaks of Psyloriti and many other parts of Crete! You thought you were at the top of the world! It is no coincidence-also-that from ancient times the place had sacred significance for the locals and not only! We stayed long enough to enjoy the panoramic view...
It was time to return to Anogia. We thought it was time to try the local cuisine in one of the taverns. So it happened. Once we finished, Mihai, Florin and Emil, wanting to continue their trip moving east, while I, Stelios and Cristina had to return to our base because of my impending departure to Athens.
Shortly before leaving Anogia, Stelios recommend us to visit the Museum of Woodcarving, we met in our coming. We were attracted interest the impressive wood carvings were on the outside of the museum (=entry price 5€). This is a permanent collection of the sculptor of George Koutantos. Exposed to a two-storey newly built area of 300 square meters, more than a hundred sculptures, handcrafted artwork from a hammer and a chisel.
The 32 year old is a self-taught sculptor. He started his first works of clay when he was 9 years old but quickly switched to wood because of its greater durability. On his website ( www.woodenmuseum.gr) you can find a lot of information about him and about his works. In summary it is worth mentioning that the theme is from his family, the Greek mythology, local folklore but also personal concerns. We had the opportunity to meet him up close, while his brother guided us in analyzing our area with a lot of desire each exhibit separately! The certain thing is that it worth to visit this small museum!
We left Anogia the same route we had come, we returned to Kalyves, impressed with everything we saw... Once again the conclusion was the same: “How many beautiful, unknown corners of Greece are... waiting for us to visit”!!!
Big thanks to the friend Stelios for the tour! It is a Cretan who really loves its place and wants to get to know it so well either him or to meet it his friends... Always be well Stelios! Wish you have good roads!