We are officially in Autumn and lucky enough here in Crete to have the continued pleasure of warm sunny days. The tourist season lasts until the end of the month often running on until the early parts of November when the last direct flights depart from the island. However, finally, it is being recognised that Crete could continue to operate as a year round tourist destination allowing 365 days to explore this wonderful country, and to enjoy the often glorious autumnal weather. Talk and plans for the new airport at Kastelli are underway and will assist in bringing many more tourists to Crete.
As the tourists head for home and the seasonal workers move on many villages quieten down and this gives us time to explore Crete, both on the coast and inland.
In Crete Ecotourism and Agrotourism have encouraged an alternate tourism industry. Places such as Eleonas Country Village near Zaros and Drimos Natural Park in the Amari Valley are local businesses which are well worth a visit and places where you can enjoy the Cretan coutryside, taste local produce and relax.
The Autumn months sees the start of the olive harvest. Driving or walking around we see the spreading of the familiar black nets spread out under the trees and hear the gentle whirring of the olive picking machines, which knock the ripe olives from the branches to the ground. Occasionally, you will still see and hear the families that have gathered together to chatter and to hand pick the olives... or at least bash the tree with a large stick... the traditional way!
A lesser known product of Crete is the carob. At one time carobs were very popular and grown across the coastal villages providing lucrative business for the island. We see the past evidence of this at Triopetra Apotheki taverna, which was an old carob store. In Agia Galini the old weighing machine opposite Bagiartakis supermarket was used for the carobs before they were exported around the world. Today, carobs have experienced a sort of renaissance and are considered a healthy chocolate substitute, which can be used for sweet and savoury cooking.
The carobs can also be enjoyed fresh from the tree, which my Greek friend remembers doing as a real treat when a child, or they can be taken in sacks to the mill near Mires to be ground into flour. In some of the bakeries you see the dark brown paximadia breads and cookies made using the distinctive carob flour.
If you are passing near to Mires stop by the shop Botano at Kousses, a lovely family run shop which sells many herbs and products made using natural ingredients. They have a stock of teas from all over the world including local blends of mountain teas …and with Cretan mountain tea renowned for its health benefits you’d be foolish not to give it a try! So, get the kettle on, pop your herbs in the teapot to infuse and sit back and gently ease into Autumn!
Photo credit: Eleonas: eleonas.gr