Altitude can make a big difference to what kind of climate you encounter. After all, Mount Kilimanjaro is only just south of the equator, yet owing to the fact that its summit is over 19,000 ft above sea level, it has a perpetual covering of snow. On a much smaller scale, you can experience a similar effect here on Crete. But, before I get to that, here’s a shot of the island Bar on the town beach taken a few days ago. Nice eh? –
Last year, when we visited friends in Ierapetra and, whilst doing so, found our new house, we’d been taken up to the village of Oreino for an evening meal at the house of some friends of friends. Those friends of friends have since become simply friends, as we’ve been here for almost a year now. But whilst we’d been up there, we’d briefly met some other friends of our friends, and this couple also have become firm friends since we moved here last autumn. Our very first visit to the village was the subject of one of the last posts I did on my previous “Ramblings From Rhodes” blog. Have a look at it if you like.
Last week, our new friends (very ‘friendly’, this post, eh?), Mihalis and Soula, fulfilled a promise they’d made to take us up to the village to a) become acquainted with Mihali’s mother, who is well into her eighties and, although mentally very sharp, physically not able to leave her house any more and b) to see their house, which is next-door to Mihali’s mum’s place, where they often go for a weekend retreat. Also, c) to have a bite to eat while up there. As we drove along the coast, well before sundown, the temperature was around 33ºC. The village is set in a high valley over 2100 ft above sea level, so it’s quite a climb up there from the coast road. As you climb up the extremely winding road to the village, the scenery is simply stunning…
The sharp shadows in those photos give away the fact that the sun was sinking ever lower as we made the climb. Mihalis was worried that we’d be cold, since we turned up at their house for the trip in shorts and sleeveless t-shirts. Of course, I told him I wouldn’t be cold when he told me what temperature I could expect to encounter once we got to the village. I asked him just how much cooler it might be up there, and he suggested a difference of up to 10ªC. Just, though, returning to the photos in the gallery above, did you notice that photo no. 3 shows a sign pointing to a local beauty spot, not far below the village, where there are waterfalls and even a butterfly gorge, putting us in mind of the famous ‘Butterfly Valley‘ on Rhodes. Mental note made – must come up here for hike come the winter time.
You might also notice, in photos number 6 and 7, a beautiful pine tree growing out of the sheer side of the rock. Mihalis stopped the car for us to get a better look. “It’s my favourite of all the trees growing up here,” he told us. It sort of symbolises triumph over adversity, since it has virtually no soil, and yet has rooted right in the crevice of the rock itself and grown there to quite a large size. The photos don’t do it justice, that’s all I can say.
As we neared the village, Mihalis took us around the far side of the valley, so that we could observe the village from a similar altitude, but a kilometre or so away. Entering the village from the more remote end, you pass this house on your right…
The owner was outside watering, something which, I imagine, he does rather often, and you can just see his shoulder to the far left. He turned, and we exchanged a “kalispera“, with him adopting a kind of ‘Can I help you?’ expression, without actually saying anything. So I said I’d just like to take a photo of his garden, the reply to which was another knowing look that said, “Oh, yes, well, that happens all the time.”
When we’d started out from Ierapetra, probably 45 minutes earlier, the temperature had been around 32ºC. Here in the village it was reading 23, and felt decidedly like another season altogether from how it had felt all that way below. Small wonder that Mihalis was worried that we’d be under-dressed for the village during the evening. He hadn’t bargained, however, on the fact that we’re British, and to us this was still like a good summer’s evening.
After a pleasant, although fairly brief, visit with his family, we made our way to the village kafeneion/taverna, where a small selection of locals was waiting to ogle the ‘xenous‘ arriving with Mihali and Soula. Of course, Mihalis knew everyone, and they knew him. So there followed a succession of ‘briefings’ on both sides about how they were doing, who’d been taken ill, who’d died recently, and whose son or daughter was setting off back to university, all that stuff. Plus a few others, getting wind of the fact that a couple of strange faces were seated at table in Taverna Orno, made their excuses to ‘turn up by chance’ and have a good stare. They were all friendly stares, though, nothing like the kind you may have received in, say, the Georgia back country.
Mihalis had suggested we stop by the taverna owing to the superb mizithropitas they do there, but the meal soon became much more extensive than that.
By the time we approached the end of the meal, we’d been served up with a superb dish of fasolakia with cubed potatoes, home-made chips, Mihalis had some stifado, and we all had several other home-cooked dishes, too may to remember. All in all, one of the most enjoyable village evenings we’ve ever spent. When it came time to leave, we had to admit that Mihalis had been right. No, it wasn’t freezing, but we were glad of the extra layer we were able to put on, courtesy of Mihali and Soula’s wardrobe in their house in the village. Strolling back to the car, the Milky Way above us shone like a silk scarf spread across the sky from end to end, since the light pollution away from the sparse village street lighting was virtually nil.
Before we left the village, we were handed a double bunch of freshly picked grapes, humungously heavy and (since we tried a couple there and then) exceedingly tasty. This was how they looked once we got them home…
Climbing back into the car, we had to admit that, yes, although we’d eaten al fresco, by the time it had become really dark, we had got the shivers just a little. It was like going straight into a Cretan winter. By the time we got back home, we were soon back in summer, with the temperature once again reading around 30ºC at something approaching midnight. Small wonder, though, that our friends beat a retreat up to the village as often as they can during July and August.