Visiting these 4 tavernas-cafeneios eastward of Heraklion is like being transported back in time or visiting an open-air museum, except that those are not museums but real and functioning tavernas and cafeneios. Run by energetic elderly Cretans who has lots of stories to tell about 'earlier days' these places have also lot of accessories, decorations and folk art elements hanged on the walls - shepherd's sticks/canes (called 'glitza' in Greek), old passed photos, wall rugs either owned, inherited or collected from the nearby village. While looking at the interior of the place one can get a feeling the time here has stopped decades ago, the cooking pots in the kitchen are juggled with swift and dexterity of modern times and ingredients used in cooking have been picked in the garden.
Cafeneio-tavern of Ethia village
To reach this far-away corner of Crete will require you some driving patience. Seated in the main (and truth to be told the only) square of Ethia village, this place seems like an epitome of authentic taverna - old and authentic in every sense. The elderly Cretan lady running the place seemed to be having a nap in one of the chairs in front of the tavern while her husband had retired himself to one of the chambers of the house to enjoy the afternoon siesta undisturbed. We got a cup of a well-brewed Greek coffee with the spoon sweets and learned that full meals are cooked mostly on weekends or holidays when the chances of visitors are higher. Indeed, during two hours we spent in the village (drinking coffee and walking around), we did not see any other villager (probably because of the siesta peak-hour), not to mention any visitor.
Taverna of Thripti village
This is the only taverna of mountainous Thripti village. Likewise the whole village it closes down during winter time because of too much snow. It opens again in summer season with plenty of visitors during weekends and on special holidays. Indeed, the difference is dramatic - on 1st of May (which is a special holiday) it was swarming with people having come from Heraklion and even as fas as Athens but wen visiting it again on a regular working day of another week we found the place quiet and empty. It has lots of interesting wall decors and evan a small collection of empty bottles local wine.
In Kato Karusanous, a village nestled in the rolling, olive tree-dotted hills of Crete, right there in one of the two narrow village pathways you will find a taverna called 'Lagadia'. It has a terrace that provides a beautiful view over the green lush hills. The taverna is run by hospitable and kind lady - the manager of the place and chef in one person. Food has to be preordered as the taverna is off-the-beaten path and not frequented by occasional visitors.
Seated in the corner building of the main mini-square of Krassi village, it is place you'd always get the unmistaken quality and fair price - your share of raki accompanied with some koukia (broad beens), few slices of cucumber and rusk would cost eur 1. For the sake of convenience and simplicity most of the drinks cost the same - eur 1.
The main church is dedicated to Virgin Mary and according to the inscription it seems to go back to 1864. The Monastery is much older, dating back to the 16th or 17th century; it was active up to 1900. Today the Monastery is in ruins. It has been attached to the Monastery of Aghia Irini, since 1990.
The historic monastery of Halepa is probably one of the most beautifully located monasteries in Crete - seated on the slopes of Psiloritis mountain and amongst vineyards in offers a scenic view. Except - that is is not really functioning as a monastery anymore. The main entrance to the monastery leads to the central yard. On the lintel of the entrance one can read the name of the founder Jeremias Souros and the date 1673.
The monastery has been abandoned for long time but it has revived in past years - the active construction works are ongoing and folks are flocking to enjoy the beautiful view and hospitable atmosphere of the monastery. The church built on the Eastern side of the monastery, has just recently been finished. It was under construction since 1912. At that time it had been decided to knock the old church down and build another one - larger. Yet the misfortunes of the country including Balkan wards, World War I and WW II didn't allow the normal carrying out and the completion of work. Now the unfinished grandeur of the external part of the church hides the humbleness of the old church that finally has been renovated.
The Monastery of Panaghia Halevi is situated on the way to the village Chromonastiri, some 12 kilometers far from Rethymnon at the South. More information in the book "Byzantine Churches and Monasteries of Crete" by NIkos Psilakis.
The experiences of blissful moments I call 'zen' - it is a special, utterly enjoyable, fleeting but beautiful moment that provides an inspiration and revelation. Pefki - a village in South-East Crete turned out to be a 'zen' place inspiring with its stunning view, amalgam of colours, marvellous nature and delicious food.
1 Moment: Zen of the View
Choosing Pefki as a destination for a day trip will give you plenty of opportunities for adventure and nature exploration. History records that Pefki acquired electricity only in 70. That should be quite telling to understand how the pulse of the village beats. The impressive rock called Stavromenos with tiny chapel seated on it and perching high above Pefki village offers this panoramic view over the village, South-East coast of Crete and Libyan sea.
2 Moment: Zen of Colours
The stroll through the alleys and pathways of Pefki village is like exploring an open-air museum - a mix of traditional building styles with the colours, schemes and design elements created by villagers.
3 Moment: Zen of Nature
If you are wondering were to find a lush, green hideaway and natural underground water swimming pool for a meditative solitude and contemplation in Crete than here it is - in Pefki gorge, South Crete. Fresh water spring and pool amidst all the summer heat. A magic place. Having walked quite few gorges in Crete I would compare Pefki gorge with a nature park - it is an easy, utterly enjoyable and beautiful walking path. The walk down the gorge is along a pretty and picturesque route through the pine wood. You will also see plane trees and other common Cretan vegetation, such as thyme and sage bushes. On the south side of the gorge is a spring of fresh drinking water, so it’s a good idea to fill a bottle with cold mountain water to take with you. It takes about 3.5 hours to walk the gorge that is clearly signposted.
4 Moment: Zen of Food
Fresh, home-made, delicious food in not an exception but rather a rule in Crete. Still the element of surprise is always there when finding beautiful, hospitable place with delicious local food just by sheer chance. There seem to be several eateries in Pefki but "Piperia" (that means 'under the pepper tree') is the most beautifully located in the middle of the upper village - traditional tables under the light green dense pepper tree with a scenic view. It is emblemic of the traditional tavern in a best and most friendliest sense - cute, cozy and tasty.
Pefki village in South-East Crete is about 5 km away from nearby Makrigialos or half an hour drive from Ierapetra.
How to make day walking tour around Pefki?
'Erotokritos' by Ross Daly
'Carey' by Joni Mitchell
'Music for Last Temptation of Jesus Christ' by Peter Gabriel
Having traveled for over 30 years, since 6 years now, I have found the whole world in one of the most fascinating and unique places on earth – Crete. It is a diverse, rich and inspiring island which even after so many years does not stop surprising me - its rich history and unique traditions, its people, the delicacies of Cretan cuisine, its landspace and its stunning nature. Here I reveal some of its secrets.
I see Crete through turquoise - pink glasses.