A Cretan Christmas

A Cretan Christmas

A Cretan Christmas – 18th –  28th  December 2011

Christmas in Crete sounded idyllic, in marked contrast to the previous winters in England. In the weeks before the flight the weather reports from Crete recorded temperatures in the high teens and no mention of rain. Would it last?

To be fair it lasted just over 24 hours – t-shirts and shorts were in evidence. Wild anemones swayed in a gentle breeze. The December sun was very pleasantly warm. Half of the clothing that weighed down our luggage would surely be redundant.

We were in error. Overnight the temperature dropped, the wind howled, and when it wasn’t raining, there were hailstones and thunder and lightning. The Cretan population retreated to the shelter of home and gazed with incredulous eyes as we set off on our rambles over exposed headlands where potentially stunning views were obscured by mist and rain – but there were some stunning rainbows!

You need no Greek to translate the question that Crete was asking – in one word “Why?” It’s difficult to answer – sometimes you walk for exercise, fresh air, to escape the claustrophobia of Christmas, perhaps, or to experience a country when the tourists have gone. We certainly saw Crete without the crowds. Few of the tavernas were open but Ramblers found some where hospitality was very warm and flavoured with Raki. On leaving our first hotel there were presents for all of us under the tree – bottles of wine from the family – no wonder Ramblers had used the hotel for over 30 years!

One of the walks found us stopping in a small village where home-made cheese and spinach pasties, teas and coffees were enjoyed in what was to be the last of the sunshine – the Greek of our hostess being translated by her ‘helper’ from Cumberland!

Another day we walked down a spectacular gorge under the scrutiny of Griffon Vultures and emerged to find a “cafe” hosted by an English couple who crowded everyone inside as a thunderstorm raged – it was strange to hear a Jarrow accent in such a setting. We were so lucky and grateful for the shelter our experienced guide had found – the self-guided walker would not have enjoyed that day.

In Chania the dining area of one taverna had been a Turkish bath, and even at Christmas was busy with locals – always a good sign. A cake/coffe shop owner only open on Christmas Day for locals to pick up their cakes to take to family they were visiting (as is traditional in Crete) couldn’t believe his luck when 18 ramblers piled in for hot drinks while waiting for the next bus – he could be heard phoning all his mates as we shouted Merry Christmas.

Crete at Christmas was not an escape to the sun, but it was different – not too many people in England were taking photographs of a kingfisher on Christmas Day! The weather in Crete was only marginally better than the UK: I’d go away at Christmas with Ramblers again – but I’d check the meteorological statistics first! What’s Tenerife or Cuba or Cape Verde like at that time of year, I wonder?