This trip to Crete island was a promise that i gave to my dear friends Stelio & Natasa of MotoAdventures club. Despite the not so promising weather forecast, the decision was made without any second thoughts. So, Thursday at dawn the ferry was docking at Chania harbour.
After the warm welcoming directly to a special shop, Stelios knew that i was waiting to try the local mpougatsa (pie with cream) of Chania, made out of local cheese called mizithra (during cheese making, this is some kind of the left over) and additional, if anyone wishes can add sugar. I have to say that i loved it, it was really a special one and it was not another version of the Macedonian mpougatsa.
Rest of the day was spend with topics about motorcycle travelling, food tasting accompanied by the local spirit of Tsikoudia (clear spirit like snaps, rakia etc) and time pass away without noticing among great atmosphere.
Friday morning and the sun was shinning, a brilliant day. A small ride was obviously on plans eventhough was not pre-arranged, couldn’t be something different as Stelios knows every route, every path, every dirt road on the island. Just to make you understand, when i say that Stelios knows...he does knows every single stone lying on Crete.
Stelios offered to ride some mountainous routes, he knew also that I like such kind of routes, towards Psiloritis (one of the mountain ranges of Crete, where Zeus was born). Routing was not pre-arranged as i mentioned but I was trusting Stelios fully. Inside me was wondering if Stelios will take me to any new routes/places.
We left Chania following the main road towards Rethimno, a coastal road with lovely sandy beaches on the north site of Rethimno. The views were different than the summer ones, empty beaches were emitting a special charm which cannot be felt this when the beaches are full of people. After Rethimno we turn right following the signs for Spili. The road initially was passing via olive tree fields, as the elevation was getting higher the vegetation was changing to low vegetation and pine trees. At the entrance of this famous village for its fountains, Spili, we turn left riding a narrow route which was giving us a spectacular view of the area. Passing through Gerakari – Meronas – St. Photini villages we reached the village of Apostolous which we turn again left..
After a few km’s the lake of Potamon as it called showed ahead of us. Its a man made lake builded the last years so its not included in road maps. The name of the lake derived that the lake’s water is collected from 2-3 rivers of the area. A new winding road is covering the lake’s shores making the ride even more enjoyable.
Just before the lake Stelios knew the existence of a small local kind of cafe shop which we were hoping to find it open, and it was luckily for us. The small wooden structure of the cafe shop, Goat-house as is named, we met a small group of locals which already started the local spirit of Raki and wine, further few meter down a pot was poaching with meat in it. Sat on the few tables and we were about to order coffees, the owner with his local hospitality whispered to us.... «wouldn’t you prefer some wine as the meat in the pot will be soon ready???»
We thanked him warmly for his offer and we selected the coffees with the lake view, its mirages and the birds «playing» with the lake, a unique beautiful view!!! Time was passing happily with the locals teasing each other and making fun of each other. When time came to pay for the coffees, the owner said they were from the house and he re-invite us to eat with them. We denied politely as we were having to ride back to Chania, if we stayed there accepting the invitation we wouldn’t be able to return home until next day.
We return back to Apostolous village, turned left and a bit further, at the exit of St. Photini village, followed the sings for Arkadi. The winding narrow road until a monastery was purely an enjoyment. As we were already high up in elevation, we could enjoy some views from the mountains around and especially the peaks of Psiloritis as the atmosphere was clear allowing us to observe. Reaching the monastery, I was very enthusiastic with what my eyes were looking at. The structure of the monastery was like a castle, its size covers 5.200 sq. meters, inside there is the main twin dome church which is dedicated to Christ and also to St. Constantine & Helen.
The monastery is enjoying a long historical background, during the ottoman occupation the monastery was accommodating Greek rebels fighting the ottoman occupancy. The ottomans asked the head monk Gabriel Marinakis to stop accommodating the Greek rebels and throw them out of the monastery otherwise they will destroy the monastery and of course the head monk denied. The ottomans gathered an army of 15.000 soldiers and 30 canons and attacked the monastery. In the monastery were 964 people, 325 were men and the rest women and children. The battle lasted for days but it was an uneven battle, the Greeks knowing that couldn’t last more, so avoiding surrendering to the ottomans they locked in a big cellar full of powder explosive barrels. The huge explosion destroyed the monastery and most of the Greeks locked in the cellar killed as well as many ottomans soldiers. The legend says that the sound of the explosion was heard in Heraclion (capital of Crete). This heroic act was recorded in history and was heard all of over the known world at that time.
Present day, still existing the monk cells, parts of the main church, the powder room, store houses, museum and the cellars. Its a unique place for visiting and a perennial cypress tree is still having marks of bullets coming from that heroic uneven battle We walked the whole monastery for a long time as we were the only visitors. During summer period the monastery attracts many tourists and the whole spirit of the place is lost. Note, entrance for Greek citizens is free.
We left the monastery and took a north-west heading towards Rethimno following another lovely route which passed via a small gorge. Entered the main road for a while and then followed the signs for Kalamitsi and Kefala villages. Our view for now is Almirou bay riding among a winding road making us smiling from happiness until we reach Paleloni. Then we turned into a small road, following Stelios, ending in a small bay with the name Ombro sea. Unknown for many but known of course for Stelios. Empty beach with a nice handmade kiosk made with lots of taste for the visitors during summer was the only establishment and of course closed, only for summer times is open.
We spend some time here to the empty but beautiful bay and back to Chania. As riding back, was thinking that Stelios deserves the name i gave to him....