For one of my planned trips a few of us decided to go to Crete! We stayed with a Drexel co-op abroad student in Heraklion. This city is the capitol of Crete which is part of the country Greece and also known as Iraklion. Crete is an island that lies to the south to Greece’s mainland so our journey from London was about 3.5 hours. A group of four of us arrived around 11 pm Crete time to the hot weather we were waiting for all summer. Luckily, our host was able to guide us around such an unfamiliar country. London has offered a lot of cultural diversity but in a much more subtle manner than our experience with Greece.
Our first authentic Greek meal was at a Taverna right in the area. Taverna food is served family style so everyone can either pick with their forks out of the dish for the table and put their food on smaller plates. We tried about eight different dishes and yes, real Greek salad! The feta cheese there was amazing and so fresh. The salad had large chopped tomatoes and cucumbers pieces with whole olives and then a block of seasoned Feta placed on top and a light oil dressing on the veggies. We were first given a basket of bread, both soft and toasted cubes and bottles of water since they cannot drink the tap water. Then we had a dish of chopped potatoes in a herb oil (perfect for bread dipping), a version of fried zucchini, beef and mushroom dish as well as a few others. At the end of your meal, the server brings out desserts for the table which included melons, a sweet honey and lemon pastry, and a plate of Greek yogurt with berry sauce. They also conclude the meal by bringing out a vessel of raki which is a Turkish spirit with an anise flavor. Everyone is encouraged to take a shot of the beverage, (on the house), including the waiter.
Desserts on the house were typical for the Greek restaurants in Crete. Even sitting with friends for wine at a restaurant by the water we were given a huge plate of fruit, pastries, and cookies to munch on. While there was some language barrier, our waiters and even a cook asked us about our stay in Crete.
The next day we went to the beautiful beach. This particular beach was right below the hotel that is provided for the Drexel study abroad students. The water was so warm and perfect.
Crete had a lot of vendors for tourists, stores, and coffee shops (including Starbucks). The most enjoyable part was walking around and just exploring the streets. For breakfast one morning, we walked through a street market with clothes, jewelry, fruits and vegetables and then stopped at a local bakery for a treat. Greece is known for all of their sugar and almond cookies but they also have delicious donuts and flakey chocolate croissants as big as your head.
Being on an island, there is always water near by so it was nice to just walk along the coast and docks. The people of Crete would be up early and stay up late. Any time of day or night you could find people out and about, (although Sunday was a less active). People really enjoyed just sitting for a few hours with a coffee or ice cream and spending time with those around them. Crete was a really unique experience. I was able to see some aspects of how a country in an economic crisis survives. There were areas of poverty where things felts quite grungy but also a lot of beauty. The experience has opened my eyes on things I should no take for granted like fresh water.