Insider Tips for Greece and Crete
Visiting Greece can feel like an old summer love story. The country seduces from first glance through sapphire waters and lavish Mediterranean islands. Walled towns and ancient ruins entice you further. Old-world glamor blends with colorful modern culture. It only takes one visit for you to forge amorous ties. This is a country that you’ll want to return to, year after year. Some of the sights are justifiably famous. Many of the attractions deserve their place in the postcard hall of fame. But the reason you fall in love with Greece is not because of the ancient Acropolis of Athens. Nor a 3000-year-old temple crumbling on the hills.
Greece is steeped in mystery and legend. It’s a country of folklore and tradition, where enigmatic culture has flourished for more than 4000 years. Human heritage blends with the ineffable beauty of the Mediterranean Sea. Magnificent mountain ranges are topped by cute whitewashed villages. And Greece has feeling. An ineffable atmosphere floats across the islands and you’ll quickly discover that the Greece you fall in love with is not just a pretty postcard, but a complex and charming country that knows how to enjoy life.
Spend a few days in Greece and it’s impossible not to be a tourist. Spend a month in Greece and you can celebrate the full Greek experience. Crete is one of the best places to do this. This sublime Greek island immerses you in culture, traditions, food and style. And that is what this blog post is all about. It’s been written to help you settle into the country, overcome any initial culture shock, and ensure you can enjoy the local experience, on the mainland and in Crete.
While the post provides some ideas on what to see and what to do, it is designed so you can savor the feeling of Greece not just the sights. The Crete sections have been written by local insiders, providing some novel ideas for your Mediterranean adventure.
Discovering Greek CULTURE: An Easy Introduction
With their plate smashing and fiery temperament, the Greeks don’t always enjoy the best global reputation. Look beyond the stereotypes and you’ll find that the locals aren’t quite as volatile as some may suggest. This is a country defined by the sparkling colors of the Mediterranean. Even on the mainland there’s a sense of island life, a laid-back culture that suits a salty breeze. On the Greek islands it feels like time has permanently stood still.
Why shouldn’t time stand still? After almost 4000 years of civilizations and conflicts, the last 70 years have finally provided the land with peace. And the locals are eager to enjoy the tranquility. They will be quick to slow you down when you set off walking too fast, and quick to calm if you are too fixated with a timetable or schedule.
The Greek Experience: Adjust Your Body Clock
Greece is on a different time zone. Everything happens about two hours later than you will be used to. There are no 7am alarm calls and it’s rare that you hear anything more than a fishermen’s whisper on the streets before 9am. Cafes don’t usually open until 9am anyway, so there’s no need to jump out of bed. By 11am in North America you will have done and achieved many things. By 11am in Greece you’ll probably have had a coffee. And. Well, what else do you need to have done on an exotic Greek island?
Lunch is late and serves many purposes. You can socialize, escape from the summer heat, and savor the quality of Greek cuisine. In certain cultures, lunch involves stuffing a sandwich into your mouth while doing something else: by dedicating time to food, the Greeks enjoy the flavors far more. So now it’s almost 4pm and not much has happened. But slowly the streets are growing busy, the hours either side of sunset when the country is at its magical best: energy and enchantment on the streets, a gregarious atmosphere that whisks you away, plus a sense that anything is possible, even if nothing has happened all day.
The long sultry evenings are the best time of the day. It’s when everyone travels slowly, including tourists who are exhausted from being in the sun all afternoon. The streets remain busy until midnight, even in small villages. And you’ll soon find that you stay up with the locals, bedtime two hours later then it would be at home. So, when you wake at 9am the next day it doesn’t feel lazy: it just feels like the morning. Pushing your body clock forward two hours is a simple way to grow into the Greek experience. When you are on the same time as the locals, it’s much easier to enjoy the lifestyle and culture.
The Crete Experience: Starting the Day in One of the Excellent Cafes
All the meals of the day should be relished in Crete, including breakfast. These three little cafes are idyllic places that run to the relaxed rhythm of the island, perfect for adjusting your body clock during your first week.
Kafenio Rakadiko, Siteia – Despite the prime waterfront location (and views), this cafe is fiercely traditional.
Kaaren’s, Elounda – If your idea of breakfast is halfway between Greece and North America then this al fresco cafe is for you: it feels Greek, but with some international culinary imports.
Kirkor, Irakleio – Spreading out across the square around Morosini fountain, Kirkor is a timeless cafe for watching the world go by over a two-hour breakfast.
Ready to experience all that Greece has to offer? Click below to learn more about our upcoming 90-day trip to Italy, Spain and Greece in April!