11 Mar
Red Eggs

Easter on Kefalonia

If you want to know how to really celebrate Easter, go to Kefalonia. It is possibly one of the most significant periods in their annual calendar. Every year Easter is observed with copious amounts of tradition, passion, reverence, and eventual jubilant festivities.

This year the date for Easter Sunday falls on 1st May 2016.


 

09 Mar
Red eggs

Easter on Crete

What is bigger than Christmas? Well in Crete, it is certainly Easter. Filled with far more passion and fervour, it is a tradition unbroken through generations of families of this island. Each year Easter Sunday will fall on a different date, for 2016 Easter Sunday will be the 1st May.


 


 

10 Sep
Skopelos

Heading to Skopelos this autumn? Make sure you pack your hiking boots and your beach towel!

With the intense heat beginning to subside and the crowds of tourists significantly thinning out, the autumn is the perfect time to go on a walking holiday. But where do you go? In a word ‘Skopelos’.

Working your way round this beautiful island on foot is the perfect way to become acquainted with Skopelos’ unique views, smells and culture.

With a network of paths and trails meandering across the greenest of the Greek islands on the Aegean Sea, there are plenty of walks to choose from.

Sounds appealing?

One of the best walking routes on the island is from Skopelos Town to Agnontas. This walk takes approximately four hours and as it rises and descends fairly steeply, is not recommended for less experienced walkers.

As well as being loaded with lush green forests, Skopelos coastline is equally as scenically-mesmerising.

For those wanting to give up the walking boots for the beach towel, Skopelos is home to many great beaches.

One of the best beaches is Milia, which tends to get a little crowded in the summer months, namely due to the great watersport facilities on the beach. Milia beach is also tentatively nudist on its south end. Velanio is another of Skopelos’ best beaches, particularly for those who enjoy snorkelling. Velanio Beach is located just four kilometres from the island’s main town, Stafylos. Half of Velanio is a nudist beach, which can get fairly crowded in the high summer. However, out of season, Velanio is much quieter with just a handful of bathers lay on the golden sand. For a smaller and quieter beach, head to Glisteri, a beautiful cove that’s set against a backdrop of emerald trees.


 

28 Jun
Paleochora

Why you need to visit Paleochora in south west Crete

“Getting into the Paleochora groove is the greatest sensation – certainly in all Crete – some say in all Greece,” Nancy Snipper, travel writer.

Not enough for you? Here’s why you must visit Paleochora. Paleochora is a beautiful small town in the south west of island of Crete, which sits on its own peninsula jutting out into the translucent water. Rapturous views over the Mediterranean can be lapped up and treasured from every perspective of the peninsula.  The beaches at Paleochora are adorned with soft, golden sand and are a great spot for people of all ages to relax and enjoy.

The drive to this idyllic and bohemian village might be twisty and turning but it’s thoroughly attractive. The roads twist and turn through Crete’s distinctly green and mountainous landscape.

In the 1960s a crowd of young, carefree travellers found Paleochora and formed a fond attachment to it. This Cretan town has clung to a ‘hippy’ presence ever since and today Paleochora is regarded as a hip place to visit and hang out.

As travel writer Nancy Snipper aptly describes:

“Getting into the Paleochora groove is the greatest sensation – certainly in all Crete – some say in all Greece.”

The fragrance of the Bougainvillea sprawling across the white-washed drifts through Paleochora’s streets.  Meandering through these narrow streets and spending an idle afternoon ensconced in a seafront restaurant or bar has to be one of life’s simplest pleasures.

For the first ten days of August Paleochora’s tranquillity is disrupted as the town becomes alive with the excitement of the Paleochora Music Festival. As well as live acts there is a singing contest where locals try and win over the crowd. Tourists are encouraged to join in, so if you consider yourself as a bit of a singer, now’s your chance to prove it – You are bound to be admired for your efforts.


 

12 Jun

The Snake Festival of Kefalonia

Snakes! You either love them or you are frightened to death by them. On the Greek island of Kefalonia they say that snakes have appeared for centuries at the Church of the Virgin in Markopoulo. Not just a few snakes but hundreds of them.

The story goes that the snakes which visited the church were babies that would wriggle their way towards the alter and then disappear mysteriously underground. The baby snakes did this with amazing regularity on the second week of August each year. Some people say that the church was simply on the natural migratory pathway of the snakes but there are other theories. Before the church was built there was a nunnery on the site and the poor nuns were terrorised by marauding pirates. According to the legend God turned all of the nuns into little snakes and the pirates were frightened off.

In 1953 there was a devastating earthquake on Kefalonia and the snakes failed to show up just as they did when the Axis forces occupied the island in the Second World War. These combined truths and fantasies add much spice to the legend of the snakes of Markopoulo.

Nowadays the huge snake festival of Kefalonia takes place on the 14 – 15 August in Markopoulo to celebrate the snakes, the nuns, the Holy Virgin and Barbarosa and his defeated pirates. Greeks from all over the world descend on Kefalonia to celebrate this remarkable snake festival. There are plenty of snakes as people bring them in from off the roads in order to protect the creatures from vehicles and trampling feet.

Asides the snakes, all the usual merriment and frivolity takes place at this popular event as it does at other festivals across Europe. The Festival of the Snakes is undoubtedly a great and unique festival but beware –  if the snakes do not show up by August 15, some imminent disaster lies close by.

The Snake Festival of Kefalonia is the sort of event that makes Europe the great beating heart of the world.


 

03 May

Rethymno and the Crete Wine Festival 2014

Calling all wine lovers… And nope, it’s not to France, Italy or Spain, the internationally-renowned European wine hotspots, it’s to Greece believe it or not.

The first week of July will see the city of Rethymno host its yearly wine festival. This colourful, joyous and popular event will include music, dancing, laughter and of course lots of wine to sample.

This well-attended wine festival takes place in the Municipal Park. The park’s tall, fine trees provide ample shade to keep the wine and its samplers cool from the harsh July sun.  It costs a mere seven Euros to enter the festival and for that price you can drink as much fine wine from the island as you want. There are some decent wines available for sampling too. Kpaoi – as wine is known locally – from the Douloufakis, Dourakis and Miliarakis wineries, are top class wines made from indigenous grapes as well as more well-known international varieties, such as Cabernet and  Chardonnay. The wine-makers of Crete certainly know what they are doing and the festival in Rethymno attracts vino enthusiasts from all over Crete, Greece and beyond.

As Greece is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, it is about time Greek wines started gaining the recognition they deserve. Perhaps then they will start to arrive en-mass on  British supermarket shelves.

Even if you don’t manage to attend the Crete Wine Festival, Rethymno is a fantastic place to visit any time of the year. It is a city of antiquity with many historic reminders of its previous conquerors and inhabitants.  The Turkish Ottoman Empire invaded Crete in the 17th century and stayed for almost 300 years.

It was during this period when the mosques that are still present the island today were built. Despite being virtually rebuilt by the Venetians, there are some architectural examples of the Roman and subsequent Byzantine rulers. The old town was built by the Venetians and the ancient castle – Fortezza – is the best preserved in Crete. There is a whole host of fascinating buildings and ruins to visit in Rethymno, including the Venetian Loggia, the Rimondi Fountain, the Sultan Ibrahim Mosque, and the old Venetian harbour.

There is plenty to see and do all year round in Rethymno. If you are in this architecturally and culturally-inspiring city during the first week of July, visiting the Crete Wine Festival is likely to heighten your love for Greek wine.


 

16 Mar

Experience Easter with a difference on Crete

While Easter celebrations can be somewhat similar around the world, Easter time on Crete and indeed on the whole of mainland Greece, is significantly different from other Western European nations.

This is mainly due to the fact the Greeks use a modified version of the Julian calender instead of the Gregorian calender. In 2014 Easter in Greece falls at the same time as  it does in the rest of Europe. Last year however, Greece celebrated Easter as week later than its European counterparts, as it did in 2009 and 2012.

In short, if you want to experience Easter with a difference this year, heading to the sunshine island of Crete will open your eyes to alternative Easter traditions.

Good Friday on Crete

Good Friday on Crete is a sombre affair which marks the death of Jesus Christ. Church services are held throughout the day. The women and girls decorate the church Epitaphios (the Tomb of Christ) with fresh flowers. The result is a sweet smelling and truly beautiful sight. A cloth with the image of Christ is placed at the centre of the Epitaphios. In the evening there is a candle-lit procession as the Epitaphios is carried from the church to the cemetery and then back to the church. Amid mournful singing and peals of church bells, people kiss the cloth which bears Christ’s image.

Great Saturday

On the stroke of midnight during the Saturday night service the church is plunged into darkness before the priest comes forward with a solitary  lit candle. The candle has been lit from an ‘un-extinguished’ flame that has travelled very carefully all the way to Crete from Jerusalem. The priest then lights the candles of the front row of the congregation and utters the words “Christo Anesti”, which means Christ is risen. Soon the whole of the church is illuminated by a magical candle light as every one lights their candles from the next person. Fireworks are set off outside and there is much handshaking and kissing as the people of Crete bid each other a happy Easter. The fast which many have endured is now over as a party begins to take shape.

Easter Sunday

Following the morning service to commemorate the rising of Jesus from the dead, families prepare for some special family time. To celebrate the end of fast, the people of Crete feast on spit roast lamb. The lamb is turned outside over a fire for anything up to six hours. This is a job for the men and the air on Crete on Easter Sunday is filled with the gorgeous mouth-watering aromas of spit roast lamb cooking with traditional herbs. Much wine will be downed and sweet biscuits eaten on this joyful family occasion.

In case you’re lucky enough to be there, Kalo Pasha means happy Easter in Greek.


 

15 Jul

Panagia Festival 2013, Crete – A night the island forgoes sleep

If you are on the island of Crete on August 15 this year then be prepared for a long night as the island celebrates the assumption of the Holy Mary. The partying usually begins the night before and carries on right until the early hours of the following night.

Similar to how every town and village holds its own version of a celebration in Spain, most of the Cretan villages host their own Panagia Festival, many of which are famed throughout Crete, Greece and beyond and are visited from far and wide by people wanting to experience a traditional Cretan festivity.

So important is the festival regarded on Crete that the Panagia is also a big coming home time for Cretans living and working on mainland Greece or abroad.

One of the most well-known villages for the Panagia is the small mountain village of Mohos, which is not to far from the larger town of Stalis.

The people of Mohos take the Panagia celebrations extremely seriously and their enthusiasm and zest for hosting one of the most colourful, jubilant and ecstatic Panagia party displays on the island makes for a truly memorable experience of the assumption of the Holy Mary.

In fact even if you won’t be able to experience the Panagia Festival, a trip to the pretty mountain village of Mohos any time of the year is recommended. Having been preserved in a traditional character, with atmospheric alleyways, locals sat on doorstep idly chatting the afternoon away, flower-laden courtyards, set within a backdrop of whitewashed churches and chapels, you really do feel as if you step back in time in the village of Mohos.

If you are heading to Crete sometime soon, you may want to learn a little of the language, enough to show that you can say a few words and demonstrate to the Cretans that you have sufficient respect for their language and culture.

Learning a few of the traditional dance steps is a good idea too, as the locals will really warm up to you if you can jig to all those time-honoured Panagia dances that take over the Cretan landscape on August 15.


 

01 Jul

Skopelos International Film Festival for Youth 2013

It has to be said that with high levels of unemployment, high costs of living and an inability to get on the property ladder, it is often younger generations that tend to suffer the most in an economic crisis.

Any move to lift the spirits of youths and encourage them, therefore has to be considered as being a positive step. Despite the harsh austerity measures and financial predicament which has burdened Greece in recent years, it’s good to know that this beautiful country is trying its utmost to encourage, educate and motivate its young.

Part of Greece’s commitment to inspiring young people can be found on the Sporadic Island of Skopelos, which is still attracting plenty of tourists, for the simple reason that natural beauty is unaffected by the unnerving instability of the economy.

From July 28 – August 4, 2013, Skopelos will host ‘SIFFY’ – the Skopelos International Film Festival for Youth 2013. SIFFY was launched in 2009 in order to give Greek students some additional education in the arts, which is widely left out of the curriculum. The main objective of the festival is to give Greek students the opportunity to learn about filmmaking.

Several international film directors are being flown in to assist the youngsters with their filming and movie making skills and to help them reach their objective of making ten movies by the end of the week.

Each year this popular festival has a movie theme and this year’s theme will be ‘clay’. The reason clay has been chosen is that once upon a time many items on Skopelos were made of clay and there was a tradition that stated that water, olive oil and wine could not be moved anywhere without being in a clay container of some description.

As a consequence traditional clay vessels can be found in abundance on Skopelos. Asides learning filmmaking skills, students involved in this year’s SIFFY will learn all about pottery on the island and will visit the old pottery workshop of Nikos Rodios.

If you are lucky enough to be on this stunning Greek island during the last week of July and first week of August, you may feel inclined to support this forward-thinking venture, either by simply showing up and watching the movie making unfold or by simply making a donation.

If you are looking for the very best villas in Skopelos, click the link!