Gary and Sandra

Moving to Crete

Having been to Crete for many holidays we decided early in 2003 to move to Crete. Talking things over with the family their reaction was ‘go for it’, so Gary aged 60, Sandra aged 56 and Sandra’s Mum aged 80 started getting information on moving to Crete. I have to say the internet played an important part. Gary had already taken early retirement and I decided to work to the end of December, we put our house on the market early in December and to our surprise it sold within 10 days. This brought our plans forward as we originally planned to leave in April now we were going in mid February. We used an estate agent in Chania and arranged a three month rental on an apartment in Georgiouplis.

Departure Day

Tearful departure - Family dinner at The Saxon ended with tears and saying goodbye to our grandchildren David and Becky was equally sad.

Sid was spot on time with our pickup and we all had a comfortable drive to Heathrow, he did comment that he tried to find a chauffeurs hat to mark the occasion.

Day 1 (or very nearly)

Heathrow itself was fairly quiet and our flight was the second to last to leave that night and was three quarters full. Inflight meal not worth typing about. Arrived in Athens at around 1.30 am, then had to alter watches up two hours to 3.30 am. The new airport in Athens was built two years ago with the Olympic Games in mind and is a very impressive building and talking to a nice young greek man it is obvious they are very proud of it. Boarded flight to Heraklion at 7 am and after a thirty five minutes we touched down. Now the fun began.

Our taxi driver, who had been arranged by our estate agent in Chania, was there duly awaiting our arrival and you could see from his face he was thinking ‘how on earth am I going to get all that luggage and a wheelchair in the car. (I should add we did try really hard to keep the amount down) It took him and three other taxi drivers to work out the problem, but eventually everything was loaded and the boot tied and secured, although I must add it was hard to see out of the back window. I feel this was actually a blessing in disguise as he could not drive in the usual Cretan way - ultra fast.

Arrived in Georgioupolis at around 9 am, so we had been travelling for over 12 hours. The apartment, as I thought, is very basic - two beds, one table, three plastic chairs, full size cooker and fridge freezer. Sorted the electric out after a short while, so we now have lights and hot water (although cannot get hot water in the kitchen at the moment). Gary and Mum managed to get a couple of hours sleep but I seem to have gone passed it, so will keep going and then have an early night. Walked upto the main square and found to our delight that there are two supermakets, small by our standards, but at least we were able to buy the essentials (beers etc). There is also a bakery and have been told there is a taverna open in the evenings, so you can guess where we will be going tonight. We also found the shop selling a large quantity of kitchen items so we were able to buy a frying pan, pots and bits and pieces so maybe tomorrow will do a bit of cooking. 6pm and we go and find the taverna, this is run by a young couple who are very friendly. Can recommend the fish soup, it was huge and we were told that the fish cooked was from the shark family (a bit of a worry, I kept thinking I wonder where they caught it!!!).

Needless to say after a long night and day travelling, good food and few beers we were ready to put our heads down.

Weather for day 1 - Sunny with scattered clouds, 60F at around 3pm

Day 2 Thursday 12th Feb

Awoke refreshed, weather clear but a little nippy at 7.30 am. Breakfasted on boiled eggs and fresh bread rolls.

10.30 am took Mum for a stroll down to the beach to see the little church and the local geese (very vocal this morning).

Sat and admired the view.

It was now about 11am and coats had to be taken off as the sun is quite warm, couldn’t believe it was only mid February. Gary says the water is warm enough for a paddle but not quite right for a swim. The boat project is still here and I think it may take more than three months for Gary to get it seaworthy.

After a pleasant hour sat in the sun it was time for refreshment. Found a small taverna in the square where we sat for an hour or so. Mum had to move places as she said she was getting sunburnt! Found the local butcher, so its pork chops tonight, couldn’t have lamb as I was unable to remember the greek word, will look it up later and have another go tomorrow.

Temperature at mid-day was around 65F (in the shade).

3.pm weather changing, wind has blown up and looks like rain. 5.30 pm rain stopped

5.50 pm electric off, looks like just us. 6.30 still waiting for Landlord to arrive.

7pm Electric restored.

Ended the evening by visiting internet café (also has a bar) and listened to the locals talking politics - very loud and verbal.

Day 3 - Friday 13th Feb

Awoke around 9.30 am and talked about catching the 10.30am bus to Chania and would you believe it, it has just started to snow. At 11.45 cancelled trip to Chania, snow now laying and we think we have had two inches and its still snowing. Mum thinks we were lying when we told her we were bringing her to a place in the sun.

Noon through to 7.30pm - still snowing, now measuring 7 inches, we are in a state of shock. Not seen a bus for most of the afternoon. Have checked vital supplies, ¾ bar of chocolate, ¼ pint milk, 1 tin milk, biscuits, 1 packet soup, small amount of cheese, 3 chicken fillets and ½ bag mixed vegetables plus 5 potatoes. Beers - none and gin ½ bottle. Have not set foot outside all day and it looks unlikely that we will.

Have just started a rummie tournament.

Cooked dinner of greek sausages potatoes and mixed veg. Decided to stay in as it is still snowing hard and its getting really cold. Weather really bad can’t see across the road and its getting colder, started to thunder and lightning and electric keeps flickering, we are trying to play rummie but its hard to concentrate. Eventually at 9.45 electric decides to pack up , not just us but the whole village. We have no heating at all now and we decide to give up on the night and go to bed.

Day 4 - Saturady 14th Feb

Awake at about 8 o’clock and can’t believe what we are seeing. The snow must have continued all through the night and we now have over 12 inches of snow. Still no electric, so still no heating. Mum and I are wearing double jumpers plus our coats. Gary decides to clear the steps outside leading to the road, the only utensil he has is an oven tray and I must admit he does a good job. Snow now stopped, so Gary and I decide to walk up to the square. It is a scene of devastation. Georgioupolis is renowned for its Eucalyptus trees growing in the square and along the river banks, this morning because of the sheer weight of snow many of the branches are broken and lying across the road, it is strange because you can smell the eucalyptus as you walk by. Everyone is out in force trying to clear the road, there is a lot of damage to some of the tavernas, broken awnings etc.

It seems the electric could be out for some time so we buy a camping stove (one burner) and cooked a casserole in one saucepan, chicken, potatoes and mixed veg. I must admit it as quite tasty.

5pm electric still off and we now go a buy a tilly lamp, we had a candle but decided we might get a little heat off a lamp. Not much heat so at 8.30pm went to bed. It was freezing, getting up to spend a penny in the middle of the night was tortuous.

Day 5 - Sunday 15th Feb.

Made a big decision to go and spend one or two days in Chania, have heard the electric is OK there and we have to meet with our Estate Agents on Monday anyway Booked a local pension hotel near the harbour which promised heating. Walked up to square and booked taxi through the local man at the Kiosk On our journey it became quite obvious that Georgioupolis took the brunt of the bad weather and the nearer we got to Chania the snow was less obvious. Pension, or guest house as we would call it very good, heating excellent, have forgotten what it felt like to be warm. Pension Tereza is an old Venetian building, dating back 200-300 years, stairs a little precarious for Mum but we got her up to the room. We are going out for a meal tonight so will let you know in our next report how we get on.

Early evening in Chania and we decide to go for a meal in one of the harbour tavernas. Nice young greek waiter and good food. The waiters name is Mo and he introduced us to a Canadian/Egyptian real estate agent called Victor, he has said he will look out for a property for us (don’t hold your breath). Mo is also into cars and has said when we are ready to buy he will help us. Everyone is very friendly. Spent to rest of the evening playing cards - in the warm.

Day 6 - Monday 16th Feb.

Popped downstairs to the café and had coffee, mum decided not to come as the stairs in the hotel are pretty precarious, so we asked if we could take a coffee and croissant back for her and they duly obliged. Went and met with the estate agent who arranged our apartment rental to introduce ourselves, picked out two places to go and view, one is a new building and one is older but in very good condition, Martina is arranging the viewing trip for Friday. Martina also telephoned a local solicitor and made an appointment for us. Met with the solicitor whose name is Agapi which means love, she is going to handle getting us a tax number which we need before we can buy a property or car and she will also handle our property purchase when the time comes.

Bought a new mobile phone so it not costing so much to ring home now. Decided to stay one more night as we have to see the solicitor again tomorrow with our birth certificates etc., will probably go back to Georgioupolis tomorrow lunchtime, hopefully the thaw is well underway. Telephoned Kleo in Georgioupolis and she confirmed that the electric is now back on.

Went and got a takeaway of Gyros and chips and spent to rest of the evening playing cards and having a small drink (sandra’s measures).

Tuesday 17th February

Still in Chania. Had an appointment to see Solicitor again to finalise our tax numbers. Filled in the necessary forms and then went with Agapi to a Notary who is like a magistrate to verified the documents. Agapi then arranged to go to the Tax Office and telephone us later with are official tax numbers. So far, so good.

At around lunch time we decided it was time to return to Georgioupolis and because it was still peeing down with rain we got a taxi rather than walking to the bus station.

Georgioupolis still has snow lying around although nowhere near the amount when we left for Chania. Still having problems with the electrics and the burst water meter is still not repaired. Telephoned the landlord who was no help at all (all he could say was that he didn’t speak english). Telephoned agent who recommended we ask a neighbour to show us how to trip the switch outside. Gary found the meter and after some fiddling around, managed to reset the electric. It appears if you put on the water heater and the cooker at the same time it trips everything out. Are adament we will not let it beat us.

Finished the evening with a couple of drinks.

Wednesday 18th February

Decided to chill out today with not a lot planned, did some food shopping and generally relaxed. Weather improving by the hour.

Went to go to our local taverna for the evening as they now have a wood burning stove, which the locals think is a novalty and plus we knew Mum would be warm and comfortable. A villager came in with some chestnuts which were then put on to roast together with jacket potatoes, the owner is really made up with his new burner and can’t keep from fiddling with it. The owner then came over with a small bottle of Somaria Gorge water plus three small glasses, it soon became obvious by the smile on the owners face that it did not contain water but RAKI, the local fire water. I then realised that two locals who appeared to spend most of the day in the bar drinking water where it fact drinking Raki!!!!!

Thursday 19th February

Big day today, house hunting. We are going by bus to Heraklion which is two hours away and are meeting someone who is taking us to view two houses, one in a village called Galipe and another towards the south in Agioi Deka (the house some of you have seen the pictures of).

The house in Galipe is very high up a big hill, hairpin bends and blind corners. House is very large and has been fully renovated, it has three bedrooms plus a guest room with its own shower and toilet. Must admit it is a beautiful house but has no garden and is the top end of our budget. When we walked back to the car we were welcomed by three local village women who told us through the interpreter that they liked the look of us and that we had to buy the house so that we could sit outside and drink with them. The same friendly approach from the local shopkeeper, doubles up as a café plus food and vegetables. Although we both liked to the house we felt the village is quite isolated.

On to Agioi Deka, a drive of nearly an hour through the mountains. The route took us through plateaus which is the major vine growing area, the scenery is breathtaking.

The bungalow in Agioi Deka is just what we are looking for, all the rooms are very large by Cretan standards and there is a great garden full of lemon, orange and manderin trees plus olives and a nut tree (not sure what nut). Further round one side is even more land but it is fenced off for the chickens. The owner who is 78 years old is very friendly and he makes us very welcome, out come the photos of his wife who died four years ago, together with photos of his son and daughter. Next out comes the Raki (we are still trying to look around), we have to stop and take a drink with him. Gary and I continued to walk round, Gary is already making plans what he can do with the garden, especially the bit with the Chucks in. I asked if we have to take the chickens as part of the purchase, didn’t get a positive answer. It then turns out the owner is not living in the main house but in a small building to one side of the property, he showed us his room, complete with woodburner, bed, stove and TV and from what we can gather he will be living there but has promised not to interfere! Eventually got to the other side of the house where there is a storeroom plus stairs to the roof. Just in front of the central heating boiler is a large object covered with a sheet, this turns out to be a wine barrel (full size), again out come the glasses and we have to sample the wine (must admit it was very good).

We eventually finish viewing the bungalow but the owner still doesn’t want us to leave, he tries to explain something to Stella, our interpreter, and starts to cry, not sure why but he keeps saying he wants to give us everything and in the end Garys got tears in his eyes. We are then taken to a storeroom next to his own room where he starts filling up a bottle with Olive Oil from a large plastic vat, this he wraps and gives to us, passing the other storeroom he offers us eggs, but we have to refuse as there is no way we can carry them We try to make it to the car and the owner is filling our pockets and Stella’s bag with oranges, mandarins and lemons. We eventually make it to the car.

Our driver takes us through the village, it is quite large and has everything you could want, supermarkets, vegetable shops, tavernas etc.

We arrive back in Heraklion at 6.15 pm just in time to catch the bus to Georgioupolis at 6.30pm and finally arrive home at 8.30pm. Boy, what a day. Mind you we don’t have to buy any fruit for a few days.

Managed to get a Gyros take away and ended the evening telling Mum all about our day.

Went to bed with a lot of thoughts going through our heads.

Friday 20th February

Woke up to a lovely blue sky and decided to take Mum to Rethymnon for the morning as we had to go to our bank to make sure everything was in order. Spent a great morning just wandering around and enjoying the sunshine.

Telephoned the agent regarding the property in Agioi Deka and asked for clarification regarding the living arrangements of the owner. They promised to get back to us tomorrow.

Viewed another bungalow up in the hills just outside Georgioupolos, similar price to the one in Agioi Deka, but there was no comparison, small rooms, hardly any garden.

Ended up at the local, had a long chat over a couple of drinks. We are going to try and get a second viewing trip to Agioi Deka early next week.

Saturday 22nd February

Quite an uneventful day, just relaxing and generally doing very little. Went shopping for milk etc and dropped into the local. The owners name is Stellios and he says we have to come and have a drink in the evening and to bring Mum.

Agent telephoned regarding second viewing trip to Agioi Deka which is arranged for Tuesday. Monday is a bank holiday and is called ‘Clean Monday’ something to do with the week before Lent and everyone goes Kite flying.

At around 8pm after receiving text messages from Des about Saints we go to the local taverna and what a surprise. Everyone is dressed in fancy dress, grownups and kids and there is a party in full swing (not sure what time it started). Made very welcome, even plates of food. Everyone is dancing, us included, it started with disco music with intermittent Greek dancing. Part way through the evening we are handed a 8/9 week old puppy to look after, Gary and I both look at each other and say no don’t even think about it. It turns out it belongs to one of the local children and after about an hour she came and claimed it.

At around 10/10.30 pm the brandy starts going round, everyone has to take a drink. Stellios is well merry, as are most of the people there.

I must admit it was nice to be part of their celebrations and to see something that was not put on for the tourists and that they were just being themselves and enjoying it to the full.

Sunday 22nd Febuary

A lazy day, Gary went to Stellios’s bar at lunchtime, no cheese but plenty of peanuts.

Not much to report today other than it was quite relaxing.

Monday 23rd February

Bank holiday in Crete (Clean Monday) not allowed to eat meat and everyone goes kite flying. Walked down to the beach and sure enough there were several families flying kites. Popped in to Stellios’ bar for coffee and they explained that as it was a sunny day many people would be visiting Georgioupolis. There was already quite a lot of cars driving in.

Tuesday 24th February

Went out to catch the 08.10 bus to Heraklion but a taxi driver stopped and offered to take us there for 20 euros which is only a little bit more than the bus so ended up an hour earlier than expected in Heraklion. Met with the lawyer who went through the house buying procedure plus the various costs. Mid-day went to Agioi Deka, this time we were able to define the small area the owner wishes to keep and he has agreed to build a wall. Made an offer on the house and was accepted and finalised with a glass of raki. Also made an offer on some of the furniture as we had decided before leaving UK to purchase in Crete. Came away with a bag full of oranges and mandarins. Rhene has all the paperwork and plans given to her by the owner and she is going to pass these on to the lawyer. The lawyer will now check that the property title is clean and free from debt etc and will let us know in a couple of days. So it is a matter of waiting now and keeping our fingers crossed. If all goes well we could be moving in at the end of March.

Wednesday 25th February

The wind has sprung up and is coming from the south so is very warm, they call this the libra wind. Went for a walk and took the road across the river down to the other beach in Georioupolis, was going to feed the geese but decided to feed the crabs instead, there were quite a few of them in the rocks. Walked back to the village via a different road, very quiet with only a few local houses. Came across a field with goats and very young kids, they were only a few days old, couldn’t get close to them as there was quite a large dog guarding them. Still waiting to see the first lizard, not sure if they hibernate but are keeping our eyes open.

Late afternoon/evening saw the wind blow up really strong gusting between 60/70 mph but it was still very warm. Electric keeps going out but coming back after a short while. Temperature around 71 deg.

Thursday 26th February

Still very windy today with temperature of only 69 deg. !!!!

Did not do very much at all just lazed about most of the day and only interrupted with a walk to the local shop. Spent a hour or so at Stellios’s in the evening and were given Tia Maria as they were celebrating Stellios’s father becoming a Grandfather again.

Friday 27th February

Still windy. Decided to go to the local garage with a view to hiring a car somewhen next week. The local car hire firms are not open yet. The owner of the garage didn’t have any hire cars but did have some for sale, so after quite a lot of deliberation ended up buying a Opel Corsa which will be ready to collect next Friday. The garage owner has also arranged to bring a insurance man over that day so that we can insure it. I have to admit the people here are very keen to help you in anyway.

Went to Stellios’ bar in the evening and even the local priest came in for a coffee, the villagers had all been to Church at about 6.30pm for some reason or other, not sure what. The locals spend most of their evenings in here playing cards and watching television, mostly in greek although they keep us informed of local happenings and events such as the Olympics etc in Athens and the problems they are having getting the various venues finished. Stellios and Georgia’s children have now come to accept us and are not as shy as before, the youngest girl still keeps giving us the puppy to play with. We have now met Stellios’s mother and father (he runs the local kiosk), Georgia’s brother and his fiance plus quite a few villagers. When we walk about most of the people greet us with ‘kalamira’ (good morning) or yassus (hello) and I have to admit Gary is getting quite good with the language. When we were in Heraklion it was quite frightening because Gary asked a local policeman (in greek) the way to a hotel where we were to meet our solicitor and they replied in greek obviously he did not realise Gary was English.

I am not getting there as quickly as Gary but feel I have mastered the important ones, like ‘accomo beir peraklio’ - another beer please. Also everytime I go to the butchers I seem to have problems, I look up in the phrase book what to ask for and then find he doesn’t have any and then I’m stuck. Went in today and asked for ‘brazilia’ (pork chops) and ‘balti’ (lamb), he didn’t have either but pointed to a picture of a cow so I realised he had beef, I was overjoyed, it felt like I had won the meat draw.

By the way whenever we leave Stellios’s we are always given the choice of a Raki or Tia Maria on the house. This sort of hospitality is very much the cretan way and we have to find a way of returning it, but you must not do it on the same day as they would be offended. Will probably go there on my birthday in a couple of weeks time and make sure we buy a round for the locals before they are aware of it being a celebration.

Saturday 6th March

Not a lot has happened in the last few days in the way of progress, but we are guessing we are getting there, it seems two steps forward one step back.

Subject: Greek bureaucracy

As you know we bought a car which we were meant to collect on Friday, well called into garage on Thursday only to be told we were missing a special paper, the thing was which paper? Called solicitor who spoke to garage owner and we then discovered that we needed a residents permit to buy a car. It seems here in Crete you can buy a house without a permit but you cannot buy a car. We were told to go to the local police station in Georgioupolis and that they would issue one. Went to police station, no english spoken, the lady from the shop opposite came over and acted as interpreter and told us that they could not issue permit but that we would have to go to Kalvos, 4 kilometers down the road but that they closed at 2.30pm. As it was already passed 1.30 pm decided to give it a miss today and go early tomorrow.

Got up early to catch the bus to Kalvos at 8.10 am, again local taxi took us for same price as the bus, must add here that yesterday it pee’d down with rain all day and when we awoke this morning it was still raining. Had to walk up to the village of Kalvos and find the municipal office and guess what? Do not issue permits here you have to go to Vrisses which is in the opposite direction back passed Georgioupolis. Caught taxi to Vrisses, it is now 9am but the police station does not open until 10am. Have a walk around in the peeing rain and have a coffee to pass the time.

Back to police station and we are in luck we are in the right place. Policeman not over endowed with the english language but we manage. First hiccup is we do not have a receipt showing where we are living. Thank goodness for mobile phones, telephoned the agent who arranged our apartment and she spoke to the policeman and promised to get the receipt to us. He decides we are a good risk and goes ahead with the permits. Believe it or not but the whole procedure takes well over an hour. At last we leave, both with legal residency permits. Return via local garage and are now told the car will be ready on Monday.

I should have known what it would be like as I had read it in quite a few places that you get pushed from place to place when trying to get something official issued. The only thing left in that line is the IKA which is the greek health service and I have heard they are the worst!!!!!!

Ended the day in Stellios’s bar, he and his wife Georgia have gone to Athens with their youngest child who has kidney problems and Kleo is left in charge, Georgia’s brothers’s fiancee. She is left to run the bar and look after the other two older children, although the childrens grandparents live underneath their apartment and will probably help out.

Well I will write a little about the neighbours now. First of all, this morning (Sat.) when I got up I noticed we had a new addition in the field across the road, a new born lamb. Spend most early mornings over a cup of coffee, watching the local shepherd come down to the field and feed his flock (only three sheep), he is probably made up by the new arrival.

Our apartment is on the first floor above a disused taverna, don’t think the place has been used for the last few years, it overlooks the main national road that runs along the north of the island and we spend quite a lot of time watching the coming and goings of the locals. Opposite are two apartments, again on the 1st floor above an estate agents and both occupants give us a lot to muse over.

The first apartment appears to be occupied by two ladies and an occasional gentleman (only see him every few days or so, or it could be he is there but we miss seeing him). Gary says the two ladies remind him or gymnasts by the way they walk, they hold themselves very erect and appear to strut when walking, Gary expects them to do a double selco with half twist at any time. Must add here, one of the ladies wears very tight trousers which is not good for Gary’s dicky ticker.

The next door apartment houses a young couple with a young child and we have made up our minds they are either Albanian or Romanian. The husband comes out on the balcony every morning for a cigarette, whilst the woman, who always has on a body warmer, is for ever hanging clothes of the washing line. This morning Mum noticed she seemed very upset, holding a hanky to her eyes, her husband joins her two or three times on the balcony but she still seems to be crying, will probably never know what it was about, but it helped to while away half an hour, By the way Gary was sure, for some unknown reason, that she was suffering with Neuralgia but as he commented he would never have made a good doctor and probably would have been struck off after a few weeks.

Spent part of the day in Rethymnon as it wasn’t raining which was quite pleasant although the local bus station is a law unto itself but we are learning the ropes and can make it onto the right bus in quite a quick time now.

I must add whilst writing, that the greek translations in my reports are my own interpretations and not as is officially written down in the greek language, so anyone coming to Greece only use them as the spoken word.

Tomorrow is a big day here as it is General Election Day and it is compulsory for all greek people to vote. It will be interesting to see what happens as we understand it is a very close thing.

Tuesday 9th March

Collected car from Garage today, was meant to be at 11 am but eventually all OK at 2.30pm. You will never guess what happened. The number plates, which are the Greeks way of taxing your car, were coming from Chania by bus (quite a lot of things are put on the bus from the main towns and off-loaded on route). Unfortunately our car plates did not get off-loaded and went on to Rethymnon and had to be sent back, missed the next bus and someone had to go a collect them. Could only happen in Greece. Anyway we are now mobile and we have a set of wheels as well as Mum.

Now for a history lesson about the village of Georgioupolis

Around 1880 a man called Miltiades Papdogiannakis came from Athens and was visiting the area of Almyros (now named Georgioupolis). He had the foresight to see that the area could be beneficial in many ways. It had a river with a harbour at its mouth and with the addition of a bridge across the river and being positioned halfway between Chania and Rethymnon, road transport (donkeys and carts) would be make easier.

There was one big drawback, the area was covered in swamps and malaria was rife.

He saw that by draining the swamp areas and cutting the weeds in the river to make it free-flowing, this health hazard could be greatly reduced.

In 1884 he bought some grounds in the ruins of a Venetian Castle and built a small house, at this time he was the only occupant of the area. At his own expense he set about digging ditches to drain the swamps.

He started correspondence with the cretan government and various departments requesting funds to clear the swamps and encourage people to the area. Many health officials were against this but he carried on relentlessly. Eventually small amounts were sent and he formed a small working party to help clear the area. These small amounts never seemed to last the duration of his project and over a number of years he was forced to request more funds and restart the work.

In 1893 he formed a committee and requested that local government officials attend a special day on which he would outline what was necessary to make the land fertile and beneficial to all. This day was very successful and funds were granted so that seeds and saplings could be purchased. He outlined how beneficial the planting of Eucalyptus would be, 1) to help drain and use the swamp water and 2) it had medical benefits against malaria.

He also founded the Agricultural Society of Georgioupolis in 1906 the first of its kind in Crete. This Society, funded by locals and men of commerce, set up a farm, requested all types of seeds from various countries around the world and then distributed them to the local farms free of charge.

Miltiades died in 1934 and is buried in the little church that lies at the end of the causeway in the bay.

Lake Kournas

Lake Kournas lies 4 km from Georgioupolis and is the biggest lake in Crete, its perimeter is 3.5 km and its extent is 1.4 sq.km, its depth is 35 fathoms. It is fed by two springs and it has a funnel (an underground well) which takes the water away and this is why the lake rarely overflows, the same amount of water flows daily out of this funnel as it takes in.

In Cretan folklore there is a story of how the lake was created.

Once upon a time there was a village at the place where today Kournas lake lies. A peasant from that village had a very beautiful daughter.

One Saturday very early in the morning the peasant and his daughter leave in order to go to their fields. On the way there the daughter says ‘father I am going to sit for a while, here on a rock, to have a rest and comb my hair.’

‘Sit my child’ the father answers.

The daughter sat and started combing her hair, all her beauty ravishing through her simplicity and grace. It was as if she was saying to the sun ‘shine for me, so I will shine for you’.

Her father was proud of her, his heart filled with joy for his daughter’s beauty. But suddenly this pride stopped being pure. In his soul a brutal and evil desire was born.

His daughter felt as if the sky had fallen on her head and she said ‘Voula and Voulolimma (sunk lake), and I a ghost in the lake.

She barely finished the last word when the place where she and her father stood suddenly sunk and became a lake.

The villagers of the area believe that those who can see ghosts can see a girl sitting in the middle of the lake on a rock combing her long blonde hair.

Thursday 18th March

Well not a lot has happened over the past few days, the weather has been mixed but the last couple of days has seen the sun out and temperatures upto mid 60’s.

It certainly a lot easier getting about now we have a car. One day we travelled to Souda Bay via Kalives and Vamos, didn’t actually get to Vamos as couldn’t find the turn off even though we tried twice. Kalives is a seaside village but everything was closed except for a few local shops although you can envisage it being very nice in the summer.

Souda Bay is mainly a millitary base, when you first arrive there are signs along the road saying no cameras or photographs to be taken. We had a laugh when we could see the new squaddies out on the drill area, they didn’t have a clue.

Sunday, my birthday, went up into the mountains to a place called Spilli which is known for its spring waters which come out in the main square through 22 lion’s heads. (photo enclosed) Although it was sunny there was a cold wind but found a coffee shop which sold beautiful cream cakes and homemade chocolates.

On Monday drove into Rethymnon, first major town we have tacked driving, only got beeped once. Decided to buy a television to help the evenings go a bit quicker. We find it hard just sitting and staring out of the window, its OK during the day as there are nice walks all around the area. The only way I can describe the scenery is it is like the lake district but we only have one lake. In the foothills we watched what looked like buzzards flying around.

Tuesday good news day. House will be ready to move to on Friday. It will be great having a comfortable seat to sit on and a garden to wander in. Gary is already mapping out plans in his head regarding the garden and is also talking about a roof terrace (the house has a flat roof). Mum is also excited, she has not seen the place yet.

Wednesday, greek drivers beware. I ventured out on the road today, bit strange kept looking for the handbrake on the lefthand side. Drove down the main national road for a while and parked up on the beach to watch the waves crashing in.

Watching television in the afternoon noticed a report saying we had an earthquake at around 7.20 am measuring 6.3 on the rictor scale. Gary then said that when he was laying in bed he felt the bed shake and that he thought I was doing it, I wasn’t even in the room. Neither mum and I felt a thing. Felt sorry for Gary to have the earth move whilst in bed and be entirely on his own.

Whats this island going to throw at us next.

Great news - Soton 2 Liverpool 0 Liverpool 3 Portsmouth 0 (sorry Phil).

Have to start packing now, not all will fit in car so will probably have to make two trips so will take essentials and come back in a few days time to collect the rest. Journey will probably take two hours each way from Georgioupolis to Agioi Deka.

Wednesday 31st March

We have now been in our own house for over a week now and realise we have our work cut out with over half of the garden. Gary has made a start planting broad beans (the locals already have them over a foot high) so have a bit of catching up to do. Everytime we are in the garden Stylianos (we have renamed him ‘Old Ned’) comes and joins us showing us how to prune the fruit trees, where the best soil is and so on. His knowledge will be very useful as we have over 20 fruit trees, twenty or more vines (will be needing labourers with big feet towards the end of Sept) and other things we don’t have clue about.

The old man Stylianos (78 years old) who we bought the house from is living next door and has made us very welcome, he was waiting for us to arrive and was ready with the greek coffee. We met his two daughters and their husbands, two grand-daughters, one grandson and his son on Sunday, we were invited to drink coffee with them and we had the added bonus that the two grand-daughters spoke english. One of his son-in-laws fixed our washing machine and made up a television aerial cable so that we could watch TV. Marina his grand-daughter came round and wrote sticky labels in english for the electricity controls. They are a lovely family. At around two they tapped on the door with a plate of greek salad and meatballs.

On March 25th it was a bank holiday for greek independence day and they arrived again this time with salad and fish. This is greek hospitality at its best.

The village of Agioi Deka is very much a farming community of maybe 500 people. 98% greek plus two belgians and three english (us). There is one main road lined with shops, and the locals homes run behind down small lanes. Our house is one of the last down one of the roads. The daily routine starts with a number of tractors going up and down and the local shepherd takes his sheep passed our house twice a day. The cockerel starts crowing around 5.30 so our day starts early.

We are very near to the archaeological site of Gortyns and from our terrace we can see the remains of the amphitheatre through the olive trees. There is a walk you can do from the old church in the village which takes you through the fields where some of the remains are and then leads you to the main entrance of the site and the rest you have to pay to see.

There is a good size town called Mires (market day Saturday)about 15 minutes drive which has everything you want, including a larger supermarket. Another 15 minutes from there is another town called Tymbaki (market day Friday) which I found has an internet café so hope to make the trip once a week until we have our phone line installed.

Gary decided to explore the coast near here and took us on a trip to Lendas. I am not sure if you know but I cannot stand heights and it was one of the most horrendous trips I have ever had. The road was tarmac which was good but I had assumed (wrongly) that the road would go round the mountains, it in fact went over. The mountains which run between the Massara Plain (where we live) and the south coast are over 680 metres high (this was another mistake I made, I thought they were 680 feet). The road twisted and turned and just kept going up, several hairpin bends, shear drops, some with no barriers and I kept thinking once we get to the top we then have start the descent. Gary and Mum kept saying what great scenery but I was not looking and just held on for dear life. When we eventually arrived in Lendas, what a let down, very tiny seaside village, no tarmac road and no café open. I had promised myself at least two stiff whiskeys before I would be ready to take the same road home (no other road available). Sat in the back of the car behind the drivers seat for the return journey which was better as I couldn’t see the cliffs. Made the decision never to go to Lendas again.

Before going home we then branched off to Matala which is a well known seaside resort, no big mountains to go over and bars and restaurants open, so had the drink I had promised myself. Matala is renowned for its caves in the cliffs around the bay. These caves were inhabited by hippies in the sixes. Gary had his first swim of the year here much to the surprise of those watching, they thought he was mad.

Weather good temperatures averaging 24 degrees most days, had a little rain yesterday and the wind has came up a bit this morning.

Gary went up to the village yesterday evening before dinner to have a drink said he would only be an hour. When he eventually returned, we had already eaten and his dinner was in the oven, but he said he wasn’t hungry. It turned out he had two large amstells and whilst drinking these he was given cheese, tomatoes, olives and bread to eat and when he paid the bill it came to the grand total of 3 euros (£2). This is the difference between living in a working village and living in a resort area, the locals here would never stand paying the prices charged in places like Rethymnon. Also the prices in the local supermarket are lower as well as the locally produced fruit and veg. Mind you we don’t buy much veg as ‘old Ned’ drops by each day with either lettuce, cauliflower and apples. Todays (Wednesday 31st) offering was a little different - a bucket full of sheeps manure!!!!

Three cats have adopted us, we have named them Tibs, Blackie and Honie (greek for snow). They don’t come into the house although Blackie sits in the doorway and I do feed them once a day. Watched Tibs catch a mouse early yesterday evening so they are doing their job.

Life in Agioi Deka

Well it has been nearly four weeks since we moved to our new home. We have are work cut out, garden and house. The house needs minor decoration, painting etc and the garden is a major project.

To give you an idea of the house I will try to explain the layout. You approach the house through double gates under an arch, the path leads to the front door which is inset under a large porch. Once inside the front door you are in a sort of hallway and on the left is the kitchen and dining room (south facing), the kitchen is separated from the hall with a small breakfast bar. To the right is the lounge which faces north and east and there are double doors leading out to the garden. Through the hall is an archway into a small inner hall and off of this are the bedrooms and bathroom. Our bedroom faces south and Mum’s faces north. All the rooms are very large which is unusual for cretan homes.

The garden goes all around the house on all sides. The garden to the north is mainly lemon and orange trees and has a path with leads to another arch with double gates. The garden to the east has lemon, oranges and unknown fruit trees. The garden to the west has nothing in it, or it didn’t have until we started to grow raddishes, lettuce, onions etc. The ground here is not too bad. The garden to the south is very large and is a triangle shape. A door from the kitchen opens up on to a terrace which has metal railings around and from here you can look down the south facing garden. This garden again has lemon, orange, olive and unknown fruit trees. The ground here is rock hard so it is going to be hard work. All around the walls of the gardens are vines and there are also some going over the terrace.

We started out saying that when it was good weather we would work in the garden and when it was not so good we would do the jobs inside, needless to say we spend most of the time in the garden. We have painted the railings, gates and arches and are currently painting the outside walls of the house, it was a weird shade of green and soon it will be cream.

Old Ned (the previous owner) is really helpful, he has shown us how to prune the fruit trees and were the good soil is, the only problem I have is when I am out planting seeds or preparing a small plot he joins me and often takes over, I think he thinks its mans work. Every so often he comes round shouting ‘Sandra, here’ to show me something and I have to follow him to see what he wants. Old Ned we have found out spent some time in Germany so when he speaks with us it tends to be a mixture of both so between us all we speak three languages and understand only our own. He has helped us get the waterboard sorted out and we now have two water supplies one at normal rate and one at agricultural rate (a lot cheaper) for watering the fruit trees.

Have the normal garden pests plus a few. Ants twice the size of those in England and locusts, not that many but ugly looking things. One of the cats has great fun catching the locust and playing with them. Only good thing is no slugs but quite a few snails.

Have been to both the local markets at Tymbaki and Moires. They are quite good with local vegetables at very reasonable prices, although it is not dear in the village, also you can buy seedlings which is useful. Mind you planted melon seeds and they were up in just over a week.

This week we had satellite installed, not Sky, but it picks up three satellites and we are able to view sky news, bbcprime, bbcworld and eurosport to name a few. In fact there are over a thousand channels although a lot are foreign. The installation was done by an english couple who moved here in September and they like us love it here.

I still find it strange not having to go to work, getting up when I feel like it and going to bed when I want to. I still seem to wake up early and quite often watch the sun come up, normally around 6.30am. Another sight is the buzzards that fly around here, they are big, I am saying they are buzzards but I might be wrong but have found out they are known around here along with eagles and falcons. The sheep that go up and down the road outside the house twice a day now have lambs which are lovely to see, the shepherd is fairly young and is obviously the modern type shepherd, he quite often walks past talking on his mobile phone.

Have been trying out the local hostelries, some quite modern and some indescribable, all the locals make us very welcome, in one bar, one of our near neighbours bought our drinks and in another a complete stranger bought us a bottle of Amstell between us. We find that the older folks are extremely friendly but the younger ones are quite shy. When you walk up to the village we pass several houses and normally someone is outside and they always greet us with ‘kalimera’ (good day) and ‘te kana day’ which means ‘how are you’. We reply ‘poly kala’ which means ‘very well or very good’. I think we are still a novelty in the village and not everyone knows exactly where we come from, several times we have been asked if we are German and the other day someone spoke to me in french. Also I think they thought we had bought the house as a holiday home and were really surprised when we said we were living there permanently. One man actually said ‘ welcome to our village’.

I am getting on much better at the butchers now, found out that most people here do not eat meat for lent and that is why I never could see meat on show, as soon as Easter was over, suddenly there were whole lambs hanging up together with ribs of beef.

Easter was a major celebration here and the week leading up to Good Friday was a constant round of going to church, morning noon and night. Even if you didn’t go you could hear it over the loud speakers on top of the church. The Saturday after Good Friday saw the celebrations begin just after midnight, family gatherings and fireworks.

Still awaiting boxes we packed in England to arrive, they have been on there way for nearly three weeks, expected them today (Thursday) but no luck have been told to expect them tomorrow, we know they are in Heraklion and I have a phone number so will ring tomorrow morning.

Now connected to the Internet at home and also have new email address:-

sandra1@otenet.gr

please email us as we love to hear from you.

Cretan Update

Boxes from England finally arrived on Friday, but what a fiasco. Around two had a telephone call all in greek but recognised the name of the delivery man. Could not get him to understand were we lived and finally he gave up on me. Went to find Old Ned but he was out, so went over to another neighbour who I knew spoke a little english. Explained we were expecting a delivery and asked him to speak to the delivery man. He duly obliged and after several minutes finished the call and explained that our boxes were in another village, about ten minutes away, and that we had thirty minutes to meet the driver before he left for Tymbaki. He explained that we should go to the village and when we got to a small supermarket on the left we would find the delivery man a little way up on the right.

Rushed back to the house, roused Gary who was having forty winks, and rushed to the car. We found the supermarket OK and then kept a sharp lookout for a delivery man, bearing in mind we had no idea what he looked like or what vehicle he had. Travelled along for quite a while but no sign of anyone who could possibly fit the bill. Eventually reached the outskirts of Mires so decided to turn round and have another look, got back to nearly where the supermarket was and just happened to see two lorries up a side road, Gary parked while I ran to see if it could be our delivery. Sure enough it was, they had unloaded the boxes into a small building, obviously a half way house.

Next problem was:- 14 good size boxes - small opel car - halfway house about to be locked up. They brought the boxes outside and helped Gary load the car and much to my surprise they managed to get nine boxes in. Gary then departed leaving me to sit with the remaining items. Twenty minutes later five more boxes loaded and we both depart for home, have to add at this stage, it was a really hot day and both Gary and I were worn out, mind you it was like Christmas when we started opening them all.

Culinary Delights

Have been visiting the local restaurants so that we can decide what is worth a visit when people come to stay. There are three restaurants in Agioi Deka but only one has been open until this last week, they have been waiting for the tourist season to start. The one that was open was rated 4/10, meal OK but nothing special, asked for gin and tonic, got gin, no ice, no lemon, no tonic, eventually got tonic. Tried the second one in the village last week, rated 7/10. Only has four items on the menu, but food excellent and well cooked. Will probably try the third one next week.

Also last week we visited Kronos Pirgos, a seaside place just outside Tymbaki, there is a nice restaurant here called the Red Castle and specialises in fish, had a really good meal but it was expensive compared to the others, must be paying for the view out to sea. By the way we were the only people there.

Found another place just outside Agioi Deka called Mylos (means windmill). Popped in on a lunchtime to see what it was like before coming the following evening. It is run by Manolis and Teresa and they are a very likeable couple and they explained the menu to us as they had not put it into english yet. Talked us into trying snails the cretan way, have to say not as bad as I thought and Gary really liked them. Decided to go the following evening, great meal, reasonable prices and good company. Had small jug of wine and guess how much - 2 euros (£1.40), another jug was bought out to us, on the house, together with the dessert which again they did not charge for. Rating 9/10

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.

Gary and I think this should be reworded to ‘be aware of greeks bearing goods’ because they can come from anywhere.

As I have already said Old Ned and his family are always appearing on the foorstep with various items ranging from broadbeans, cake, artichokes, cooked fish and salad.

The other day we were in Mires on market day and when we had returned to the car Gary left us to pop into a shop down the road, Mum and I sat in the car with the doors open because it was quite warm. The car was parked outside someone’s office.

After a few minutes a guy came out of the office and asked us if we would like two grapefruits, well what can you say.

Today went to Mires to sort out house insurance and parked in a small car park which we have used occasionally, when we returned to the car we were just getting ready to drive out when the lady from the ticket kiosk came over with four pieces of cake wrapped in a serviette.

When at the Mylos restaurant last night we actually had to turn down a bag of oranges which were offered to us as we were leaving. We thought we could have actually given them some.

I am starting to wonder if we look underfed.

Holy Water

Old Ned took Gary up into the hills the other day telling him they were going to get the best water on the island and it turns out that there is a small church up in the hills where the water runs through oneside of the church appears inside and then under the church and then comes out the wall the other side. So now we drink holy water most of the time.

Sunday 20th June

Life is still great here in Agioi Deka. Pace has slowed this last week with temperatures in the 90’s. Can only do a little gardening early morning or late evening.

Had a great 14 days with Sharon and Chris here, it was like being on holiday ourselves. Went to Matala a few times and had fun in the water. Ate out most nights showing them our favourite restaurants and found a new one in Matala where we went on their last night. It is a tyical greek restaurant, situated on the beach, but they always invite you to the kitchen where you meet the Chef and he shows you what specials are on offer. We also went hiking from our house through the fields to find the ruins of Gortyns, there is so much near our village if you know where to look.

Sharon and Chris enjoyed eating at the Windmill Taverna until one night when Manolis came out of the kitchen with a big knife and announced he was going to kill a chicken, Sharon looked horrified and we thought he was joking, but he wasn’t, because he disappeared behind the house and then came back with a large cooking pot. He explained that his chickens were being attached by a big black dog and he had tried to shoot it but not been successful so he is killing the chickens off. Chicken was not ordered by us that night.

None of us where looking forward to their final day and needless to say had a tearful parting at the airport.

We actually had some rain on Friday morning with a thunderstorm, it is the first substantial amount we have had since we came to Agioi Deka but it was a real relief after the very hot temperatures.

Gardens progressing quite well, we now have broad beans, runner beans, tomatos, lettuce, cucumber, aubergines and potat0es growing. The grapevines are now full of bunches, god knows what we are going to do with them all. We also found out what a few unknown trees are - they are apricots and we have just started eating them. As we have five trees I have been busy finding recipes for preserving them. Yesterday made Apricots preserved in Brandy and in the next few days will be making apricot jam. The pomegranate tree is full of fruit which I think will be ready for picking in about three months.

We actually tackled the greek health service, the IKA, a few days after Sharon left. It was surprisingly easy, we waited about just over half an hour and noted that people were queuing to see the doctor so we worked we were fifth in line. When our turn came an old man went to go in before us and another old guy came over a gave him a real mouthful and told him we were next. It was a little embassing, Gary wanted to let the old man go in but he other guy would have none of it. Anyway saw the doctor and got prescriptions for Mum and Gary. So another hurdle successfully achieved.

Hospitality still amazing, we asked the local barman his name and introduced ourselves and he promptly bought us a bottle of lager. We walk up the main street and are greeted by many of the shop owners, free biscuit trial at the bakers, we are afraid to ask what something is because they turn round and give it to us.

Went to the beach at Matala today and had a meal at the beach restaurant and guess what when the bill came it showed 26 euros and the waiter, George, then showed us further down on the bill it was 22 euros, he explained as we are now locals we get a discount!!!!

We also found a swimming pool on a hill when Sharon and Chris were here. They charge 1.50 euros to use it and comes complete with a bar. Spent the day there last Wednesday. It must be one of the only public swimming pools built high on a hill with fantastic views on all sides.

Hope all is well with everyone in England have heard you have had a period of good weather so we don’t feel so guilty sunning ourselves all the time.

June 2004

Went for a evening stroll on my own, something I didn’t like doing in the UK as the local youth were always hanging around the local late night shop and harassing people. It feels much safer here. Anyway on the way back came across a dog with two puppies and whilst I stopped and made a fuss of them a man drew up and explained that he had come to feed them, the owner had recently died and he was a little worried about them. Well right or wrong I picked up one of the puppies and asked if I could have him. You should have seen Gary and Mum’s faces when I walked in. We have named him Zaros and are currently having him injectioned with the local vet in Mires.

Sept 2004

Just had four and a half weeks with David and Becky plus Richard for the last two. Had lots of fun at the beach and swimming pool, must have gone swimming every other day. They enjoyed going to Zaros lake where they fed the trout and ducks and also found the terrapins that live in the lake.

We also took them over the mountains to Rethymnon and Georgioupolis and visited Stelios and Georgia in the bar. Bit of a bad day as we nearly lost our exhaust in the mountains, not a good place to try and do repairs but Richard managed to tie it up and we made our way to Rethymnon where we managed to find a small garage who welded it for us, job done in ten minutes flat and all for the amazing price of 10 euros.

Later in the day I was swimming in the sea and guess what!!!!, lost my glasses in the sea. Got hit by a wave and felt them go, they hit my foot and then they were gone. Gary and Rich tried searching for them but with the sea a bit choppy they had no chance. Anyway new pair ordered from local optician in Mires using prescription I bought out from England. I must admit whilst sat in the shop I realised that having an eye test using the chart on the wall would be a problem in the future as all the letters are obviously in greek. Going to have to learn the alphabet.

Since last writing to you we have found a doctor in our village and the best thing is she speaks really good english. We now don’t have to get up early to go to the doctors in Mires.

Greek gifts still arrive, mainly figs and watermelon at the moment. Stelios thought it great to give Becky really large watermelons and watch her struggle to carry it.

Now the children have gone home we are experimenting with sun drying grapes for raisins, we had noticed that the locals were laying something out on the ground and on closer inspection we realised it was grapes. Am going to try the same method with figs and apricots. From what I can gather you need good sunshine, a slight breeze and no rain so here we go.

Whilst Rich was here we showed him the trees with some strange fruits that are growing outside along our garden wall and after picking up one that had dropped off the tree we cut into it and found we had walnuts. Just noticed this morning that the dates are coming on the palm tree, not sure how long they take to grow before they are ready to pick, shall have to investigate.

We have found another nice village with a beach and plenty of tavernas it is called Kalamaki and Dave and Becky enjoyed playing with two of the local children. Best place for a truly beautiful sunset.

Well all for now, have to get the place sorted after the children as we have Gary’s brother-in-law coming in a weeks time and he is staying for a month.

Click Here to read Chapter 2 Visitors Season Over

 

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