To experience collective, uncompromised and unique Cretan spirit? You shall join the village festivity in Crete, known as 'panigiri' (festival, feast) that are organised throughout summer and devoted to the particular Saint of the island. And not only. Those kind of village feasts on Crete are compared to the spice bazaars around the world - your taste buds, flavours and senses boosted, appeal to novelty is aroused, spirit awakened, openness and friendliness unlocked.
In fact, any occasion for celebration that makes the villagers come together is appreciated and welcomed but even better if the centre piece, a very star of the eve are snails - 'chochlios' or 'kohli' (that means a spiral, or a screw) as they are called on Crete - one of the traditional dishes on the island.
'Chochlidovradia' or so called 'snail feast' or 'snail night' though is something unique and unlike 'panigiri' scheduled in almost every Cretan village throughout summer, is organised only in one - Agios Thomas (Saint Tomas) village in Central Crete.
The preparations for the snail feast in the village have started well in advance - provision of food supplies and cooking for hundreds of guests have been planned weeks ahead. As a rule, cretans are respectful about food - the ordering, delivery and savouring procedure.
Here, at the snail feast, if you haven't secured your seat at the table well in advance (advisable!), you have to arrive as early as possible as the chances are hight that the place will be too busy for you to find a seat. Each table is assigned a number. The closer to the improvised stage in front, the more prominent the seating is supposed to be.
There are more than 40 ways of cooking snails on Crete and here, in Ag. Thomas village you get the snails cooked in three different ways - snails with rosemary and wine, snails with cracked wheat or bulgur and snails with vegetables. Delicious and generous!
Note that the snails act only as a teaser as more of the food awaits you. Guests are presented with a simple-looking menu that lists lamb, patatoes, greek salad ('horiatiki'), fava, and roasted peppers, wine (white and red), the list goes on - to choose from and to order for a fair price.
Manolis, Georgios, Takis and the rest of the waitress' army are running all night long to deliver hundreds of plates on large trays to the villagers and the guests. Even the village kids have been recruited and the relatives engaged in the honorary waitressing function of the eve. Only after the hectic ordering process and when the food is served one can finally relax and the festivity can start.
This is the occasion when the Cretans seem one big unique tribe on the world map with its own unique rituals, spirit and identity (that are different from mainland Greece) and no other replace to feel it better as here - in the 'tribal gathering' - collective festivity. Dancing in Crete is a must and no serious festivity is considered without dancing. The courtyard of the elementary school of Agios Thomas village is turned into an improvised festivity place.
It seems that the music likewise waitressing (which rather is food and customer relations business) is strictly man's business. Cretan celebration usually are fast and furious that are intensely challenging even for experienced musicians. In Crete, the lyra-laouto ensemble retains its power and influence as emblematic men’s/ sheperd’s instruments and as the national instruments of Crete. Along the rhythm of Cretan lyra, glasses of wine (and later raki) are raised and "yammas" shouted.
It all might seem like a culinary celebration of the village accompanied by music and dance performance yet it is more than that. An occasion for the youngest and the oldest to get together, to talk, to dance, to feast. Togetherness happens without a pathos, as a matter of fact . Different generations together is not a rare sight in Crete but in this kind of festivities the natural ease just becomes so obvious. And this, just like any other place in Crete, is where generations meet and melt - old young, kinds, parents, gandpas and omas, everyone become a part of festivity.
"Snail night" is organised by the Cultural Association of St. Thomas in the courtyard of the elementary school in the village of Agios Thomas (Saint Thomas). In 2014 the festivity took place on Saturday, August 3.
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.
Skip the group tours, leave your rental car at your hotel and ask Joseph to accompany you on a private tour to these great spots on Crete. We did "Mystic & Rustic Crete" and "Birth of Europe". If you are a first-time visitor he will suggest an itinerary and if you have special requests he will include those. Without Joseph we would not have known about the local culture or the history of the area nor would we have met and chatted with the local people... Read more
"A great tour and experience"We spent a full day with Joseph visiting Chania, Rethymnon and an olive oil farm and we had a great time. Crete is huge so you have to make choices unless you spend a week there. We arranged this tour with Joseph discussing our options and time. Joseph was very flexible with the itinerary allowing us to customize our tour and experience the highlights of some very nice towns. Joseph was very knowledgeable and answered every question. We would definitely use Joseph again to visit the other parts of Crete that we could not get to in this visit.
"Crete showed by Joseph is unique"The experience with Joseph showing us around Crete was absolutely unique. He is Greek and speak very good Hebrew. I don't think we would had seen and experienced half of what we did with him if we'd be on our own. He told us a lot of interesting stories about the Lassithi plateau and the area. His effortless ability to chat up with locals and involve us into conversation (with some translation, of course) was amazing. Funny enough these encounters led to further invitations (for a coffee and local drink - raki). Later on, he took us to an absolutely authentic tavern in a mountain village...
"The secrets never die" Das erste Mal haben wir Joseph Batis mit einer kleinen Gruppe in Chania in einer Fischtaverne kennengelernt. Er sprach Deutsch, Hebräisch, Englisch, Griechisch und soweit ich es richtig vernommen habe auch Spanisch. Ich habe die Gelegenheit genutzt ihn über unsere Ausflugsziele zu befragen. Seine Hinweise und seine Kenntnis haben uns in die Welt von Kreta innerhalb kurzer Zeit eingewiesen. Wir haben Joseph für einen Tag engagieren können um uns zu begleiten. Joseph hat über 30 Jahre in Deutschland gelebt. Seit Jahren führt er private Reisetouren auf Kreta...
יוסי מסיורים בכרתים ויוון, הוא מדריך.... מקצוען, בעל יידע נרחב איש לבבי וסימפטי, טיילנו בשנה שעברה... היה פשוט מדהים כיף... כיף... כיף... ממליץ בחום למי שמגיע לכרתים ויוון להשתמש בשרותיו המעולים. תודה יוסי על הסיורים ,האוכל, הטברנות, היה תענוג גדול ! ! ! מאתנו: אורי אילש, אלי גנט, יגאל גרינשטיין, נטלי גרינשטיין, אור גרינשטיין
כל מי שעתיד לנסוע לכרתים או ליוון, אני חייב להמליץ על חבר יקר, מדריך מעולה, אדם חביב ונעים הליכות שידריך אתכם בכרתים בעברית, אנגלית וגרמנית, מה שתבחרו.... ל- Joseph Batis אתר בו תוכלו להציץ במה שיש לו להציע לכם כולל תכנון הטיול ומלונות וכו' הציון שנתנו לו 10+ שווה מאוד... ביקרנו במקומות שבחיים לא הגענו אליהם בכרתים ! לחצו על השם וכנסו לאתר ! בהצלחה.